Brilliant Business Moms with Beth Anne Schwamberger

Crystal Paine, the MoneySavingMom shares the Facebook and Pinterest strategies that she's using right now to drive more traffic, get more engagement, and grow even more.  Her step by step list of strategies is easy to follow and implement.

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just learn the strategies that the most successful women are using, I’d follow those exactly and finally get some results.”

Today we’re giving you the opportunity to put that theory to the test. Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com shares the Facebook and Pinterest strategies she’s using right now to increase her traffic and engagement. She also shares the top 3 ways she’s grown her blog.

Crystal lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband, and three children. Despite a wildly successful blog and best-selling book, Crystal still loves bargain shopping, freezer cooking, and putting her faith and family first. She is truly a Brilliant Business Mom who has found a way to make it all work.

On the Podcast

01:38 - Turning a Debt-Free Focus into a Popular Blog
03:04 - How the Teen Years Shaped Crystal
04:00 - Knowing When to Move On
05:42 - The Top 3 Ways Money Saving Mom has Grown
08:14 – Why Planning can be Misleading
10:10 – The Early Days of Blog-Building
10:55 – 6 Facebook Strategies that Crystal is Using Right Now
15:30 – 6 Ways to use Pinterest to Drive Traffic to your Site
18:41 – Crystal’s Adorable Mom Moment
20:11 – The Best Book on Blogging

Turning a Debt-Free Focus into a Popular Blog

Crystal and her husband Jesse made an audacious goal of staying out of debt while Jesse went through law school. At the same time, Crystal became very sick with her first pregnancy and had to quit working. Knowing that they couldn’t pay the bills with Jesse’s part-time job, Crystal had to find a way to keep making money from home.

Crystal learned everything she could about making money online and discovered the world of blogging.  She started a mommy blog where she wrote on many different topics. Her readers were most interested in saving money, and her Frugal Friday blog posts became very popular.

Crystal Paine, the MoneySavingMom with her husband Jesse.  Crystal talks blogging, how she got started, and social media on the brilliant business moms podcast.

How the Teen Years Shaped Crystal

While other teens were busy avoiding chores and responsibilities, Crystal was learning real-life skills that ultimately shaped her blog and career.

She grew up in a family of nine, and her Home-Ec experience as a home-schooled teen involved recipe planning, grocery shopping, and cooking for her large family.

How to Know When to Move On

Crystal urges other women not to do what she did! At one point, she had 3 blogs that she was trying to run all at once. This was too much stress for a mom with 3 young children.

Her advice for starting anything new is to make sure you have the capacity in your schedule to add in that new project, and if you don’t, you’ll have to find something that you can subtract first.

(Great advice from Crystal! How many times do we assume that we’ll magically find extra time for something new that we’re pursuing?)

Crystal also encourages other moms to realize that “There’s nothing wrong with changing course.”

She advocates for jumping out and trying new things, and in this way, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.  "Go with those things that you really love and that are working really well for you."

Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom shares blogging advice on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.  "There's nothing wrong with changing course." Crystal says of wanting to try new projects.  She just urges women to make sure they subtract something else or have a clear place in their schedule to add something new.

The Top 3 Ways MoneySavingMom has Grown

(plus advice for you on growing too!)

  1. Build a community and listen to your readers. “The blog was never about me," says Crystal.  She advises others to listen to their community: What are they asking for? What do they find interesting? What are their needs and how can you meet them?
  2. Keep your integrity in the process.  Crystal has been offered numerous opportunities that would earn her thousands of dollars, but they weren’t in line with her readers or her beliefs.
  3. Use Social Media, especially Facebook and Pinterest. Learn what works, rinse and repeat. When it stops working, experiment, learn, and try new things until you find a new formula for success.

Why Planning can be Misleading

Despite being Type A, very organized and driven, Crystal says one of the best things she’s realized is that there is no “typical day”. You can make elaborate plans, but they don’t always work out.

Just the other day MoneySavingMom was under attacks from Nigeria, and Crystal couldn’t access her site. She had to drop everything and just focus on that problem.

(Wow, what a great reminder that no matter how successful you are, no one is immune to stress and difficult circumstances!)

Despite being prepared for nearly anything to happen, Crystal does have a general schedule for each day:

  • Wakes up before her kids, reads the Bible, prays, and begins planning for her day.
  • Goes online, gets some blogging done, exercises, shower, and then the kids are up.
  • Kids wake up, do chores, and have breakfast.
  • School starts around 10 AM, and Crystal begins work on writing her book or blogging.  (Crystal's husband Jesse is doing the homeschooling while she writes her new book.)
  • At 3 or 4 in the afternoon, Crystal wraps up her writing and works on some projects around the house.
  • The evenings are focused family time for the Paine's.

Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom taking silly selfies with her kids. Crystal shares tons of great advice for blogging and online moms on the brilliant business moms podcast.

The Early Days of Blog-Building

In the early days of blogging, Crystal admits to not having good compartmentalization because she didn’t have any help with her online work. She had taken on way too much for herself.

She’d wake up extremely exhausted because she hadn’t gotten enough sleep the night before, put out fires all day, and then repeat again for the next day.

“It was not a healthy place” Crystal admits.

Crystal Paine on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast - she talks about the early days of blogging and putting out daily fires.  Now, her life is much more balanced.  Great advice for moms wanting to start and grow a business here.

6 Facebook Strategies Crystal is Using Right Now

Crystal's blog traffic from Facebook took a huge hit recently.  So she began experimenting with ways to get those traffic numbers up again.  Here is what is working for her:

  1. Post Round-the-Clock. The MoneySavingMom page puts out a new Facebook post every hour.
  2. Post at Night. Posts that are scheduled to go live at night often get more views than those during the day. The reason? It takes a few hours for Facebook to show posts to most people in their feed. At night, there’s not as much competition so Facebook automatically bumps up the relevancy of that post, shows it to more people, and then as those people engage, it gets shown to even more people.
  3. Don’t Share Every Blog Post on Facebook. Crystal used to share every post on Facebook but now makes more strategic choices based on which posts she believes will go viral and do well on the platform.
  4. Upload 3-4 Pictures and a Link versus using the Post Share Feature. Crystal uses a one-line, catchy title in all caps, adds the link, and then uploads 3 -4 photos for a given post. Many of her posts are how-to topics such as frugal tips or recipes. They’re very photo-oriented so posting a group of photos is more effective and helps the posts to receive more views.
  5. Share the Posts of Others too. Crystal shares a ratio of 50% her own blog posts, and 50% others’ posts. If you share directly from Facebook pages that have high engagement, Facebook will show those posts to more of your readers compared to pages with low engagement.
  6. Use Facebook “Pages to Watch” to make Sharing Popular Posts much easier. You can set up pages you want to watch in Facebook Insights. From there, you can see the top 10 posts that page put out from the last week.  You can share those posts directly from that dashboard. (Wow, genius! We had no idea!)

Crystal Paine shares her social media strategies on the Brilliant Business Moms podcast.  Great, actionable steps you can take on both Facebook and Pinterest to get more results are shared.

6 Ways to Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic to your Site

  1. Focus on Beautiful Photos, Well-Crafted Titles and Taglines in order to get Clickt-hroughs versus just Re-pins.
  2. Join Group Boards. Crystal is a member of multiple group boards.
  3. Pin many times each day and schedule them out if you can. Crystal pins 60-90 pins every single day, scheduled out, and most of those go to group boards.
  4. You can pin the same item multiple times a week to the same group board because many active group boards are updated very frequently every day. No one will ever be able to tell.
  5. Don’t worry about pinning  too frequently when you use group boards. Your followers don’t see your group board pins; they only show those to the followers of those group boards. So they won’t be barraged with tons of copies of the same pin. They just see the pins you choose to put on your non-group boards.
  6. Find out which pins are your top 100-200 site-referrers based on Google Analytics.   From there, make sure they're evergreen (not tied to a particular year or season, but instead, always relevant).  Pin those over and over to the group boards.

Crystal’s Adorable Mom Moment

Listen to the podcast to hear how Crystal sets an example for her children by finding ways to stay creative, refresh and refuel.

Crystal Paine shares an adorable mom moment on the Brilliant Business Moms Podcast.  She likes to fuel her creativity and find ways to unwind.  Coloring with her kids (and by herself!) is one of the ways she de-stresses.

The Best Book on Blogging

Crystal highly recommends How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup. Ruth shares loads of Pinterest advice and strategy, and Crystal says that everything she learned about Pinterest, she learned from Ruth.

(With more than 265,000 Pinterest followers between them ....'nough said!)

Crystal Paine's daughter writes her a note to congratulate her on her book:  Say Goodbye to Survival Mode.  Happy Book Day!

(I couldn't help but share this adorable note that Crystal received from her daughter when her book, Say Goodbye to Survival Mode was released.  How sweet is this?!)

Of course, you can find Crystal at MoneySavingMom.com

Why not send her a tweet to thank her for such a great podcast?! 

What will you change as a result of hearing Crystal's advice?  I'm trying the multi-picture Facebook post and posting at night first.  One step at a time!

~ Beth Anne

Direct download: Episode205220Crystal20Paine_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:11am EST

How to Guest Post Well - 10 Best Practices for Getting Your Guest Post Accepted, Gaining New Readers, and Building Relationships #blogging #guestposting

Guest posting is consistently touted as one of the best ways to grow your blog.  Yet so many of us put the whole thing off.
(Do you see me raising my hand right now?  I'm so guilty!)  

Building off of Amy Lynn's killer advice in episode 50, I'll share a few more best practices so there are no more excuses.

You'll have to press play to hear the tip that will save you loads of time.

Pin this post so you don't forget to keep guest posting as a top priority.  We can't wait to hear about the new doors it opens for you!

Guest Posting 10 Tips for Doing it Well and Making the Most of the Opportunity #bloggingadvice #guestpost

~ Beth Anne

Resources Mentioned:

How to Use Open Site Explorer to Find Great Places to Guest Post

Tips on Reaching out to a New Audience

Kate Erickson from Entrepreneur on Fire on How to Request to Guest Post and Get Accepted

Kissmetrics Guide to Guest Blogging

Jeff Goins:  How Guest Posting can Help Grow your Blog

 

Hey Brilliant Business Mom! Are you tired of spinning your wheels and leaving so many items on that to-do list unchecked each day?  Check out the 8 Apps Work-at-Home Moms are using to get more done!

Direct download: Episode205120guest20posting_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Amy Lynn Andrews on E-books on Amazon and Guest Posting #momblogger #podcast

How do you become a successful blogger, and even more than that, a well-known expert in your field?  By being insanely helpful and putting yourself in your reader’s shoes!  Amy Lynn Andrews does just that on her website: AmyLynnAndrews.com

Amy started blogging in 2004. At the time, she was a struggling pastor’s wife with two small children. Her blog was a much-needed outlet for coping. In 2010, she started the site that is now AmyLynnAndrews.com where she shares blogging tips and tutorials. (Boy, does she! Amy’s blog is just about as comprehensive a resource on blogging as we’ve ever seen! She does it with no hype, no fluff, and in a down-to-earth manner.)

Amy is married with four kids, and she and her husband both work part-time online while tag-teaming their kids’ education. This is my favorite part about Amy (ok, maybe second favorite part after all of her awesome blogging advice!): She’s a couponing dropout, and is terrible at crafting, cooking, and all domestic tasks that start with “c”. (I’m right there with you, Amy! Give me a blog post to write or a math problem any day!)

Amy Lynn Andrews on being authentic and empathy online

Press Play to hear Amy’s best advice on growing her blog, finding content for the Useletter, selling e-books on Amazon and via affiliates, and making the most of guest posts. This episode is chock full of great content!  Consider it a free coaching call with Amy –-we certainly did!

On the Podcast

  • Making the Switch from Consumer to Producer
  • The Top 3 Ways Amy has Grown an Audience (they may not be what you’d expect!)
  • Why You Can’t Hang Your Hat on Traffic
  • How to be a Curation Queen
  • The Stat that Matters Most
  • One E-book’s True Story
  • Sales Strategy: 3 Tips from Amy
  • Amazon versus your own Site: Deciding Where to Sell
  • 8 Tips on Guest Posting (from the guest post gatekeeper herself!)
  • How to Make the Most of Your Guest Post

Making the Switch from Consumer to Producer

Amy was an avid consumer of online content by the early 2000’s. She’s a learner at heart, so she loved being able to find information quickly and stow it away easily.

She assumed (as many of us did!) that you had to be a computer guru to start your own website. One day, she got an email from her cousin telling her to check out the new website he had created for his newly formed non-profit.

Amy was amazed at what she saw, and knowing that her cousin was not a guru, she realized, “If he can do it, then surely I can too.”

This was the turning point for Amy’s online career. She switched from seeing herself as a consumer of the internet to a potential producer of content online.

The Top 3 Ways Amy has Grown an Audience

  1. Be as helpful as possible. Amy acknowledges that she started with absolutely nothing. It was the generosity of others that taught her how to get started, so she loves that she can now be generous in helping as well. Every piece of content Amy puts out into the world has a main goal of being really helpful to those who read and apply it. Amy loves to help others who lack a technical background but still want to figure things out themselves
  2. Be patient. Building solid relationships and a solid reputation online is important, and it’s a process that takes time. People will stick with the individuals they trust. “Building a reputation of trustworthiness… you can’t short-cut that,” Amy says.
  3. Be empathetic. Empathy comes easy to Amy who describes herself as a deep feeler, observant of others, and interested in their lives. She describes her empathy as being hands-down the most useful quality in growing a successful business. She puts herself in her readers’ shoes and imagines how she would feel if she were sitting on the other side of the screen. She checks everything she does by asking questions like, “would this make sense to me? Does this feel too sales-y? Is this too much promotion?”

  Amy Lynn Andrews on trustworthiness #momblogger

Why You Can’t Hang your Hat on Traffic

There used to be a much higher emphasis placed on traffic. The old blogging formula was simple: Get tons of people to your website and serve up ads that will make you money.

With Google algorithm changes, Facebook changes, and so many other factors outside of our control, it no longer makes sense to rely on traffic-dependent sources of income.

Amy realized that she needed to own as much of her online presence as possible and not depend on other sites to send people her way. She took some of her eggs out of the traffic basket and began building her email list.

Amy cites Seth Godin’s principle of permission-based marketing. Email means that others are giving you permission to decide when you want to pop into their inbox.

amy05

How to be a Curation Queen

Amy knew that in order to stay front-and-center in her subscribers’ inboxes, she’d have to deliver super helpful tips and trustworthy content. The concept of bite-sized, use-able tips became “The Useletter”

Anyone who’s on Amy’s list knows how valuable the Useletter is. Amy clearly spends a lot of time curating the best content and tips to share with her subscribers.

How did she become such a well-known curation queen? Amy breaks it down for us.

Amy naturally reads a lot, and the Useletter gives her a great excuse to feed her reading addiction! She uses Feedly to keep track of the blogs she follows. She organizes each blog according to the main topics she usually shares about in her emails.

She tries to hit about 4 of those main topics each week, alternating week by week so that her subscribers grab tips in different “flavors” each week.

As Amy scours the web and her favorite blogs for the best content, she’ll highlight the tip, write a quick comment, and send it to Evernote. Within Evernote, she tags all the tips that fall under the same Useletter category. This way, when she’s building her Useletter for the week, she can grab from the topics she wants to cover that week and she already has a stack of great tips ready to go.

Watch Amy's video on how she uses her editorial calendar.

The Stat the Matters Most

Amy is so honest and upfront, we just love it! She shared with us that her email list is approaching 11,000 subscribers, but there’s a stat she cares about far more than that one.

Which stat is it?

The open rate.

Amy aims for an open rate of 35-40% (This is so far above average industry open rates, it’s ridiculous!)

For this reason, she frequently deletes unengaged subscribers. This not only saves money by not paying for people who aren’t opening your emails, but it also increases your open rate. There’s no reason to pay for unengaged subscribers.

Amy’s tip for those wanting to increase their open rates?

Provide consistently good content and make sure that the people on your list know what to expect and look forward to what you’re sending out each week.

Amy Lynn Andrews #momblogger

One E-book’s True Story

Oftentimes, a successful product doesn’t spring from a burst of creativity, but from those around us seeing its potential and encouraging us to move forward.  This was the case with Amy’s book: Tell Your Time.

At the time, Amy was working as a VA for Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom.com.  Crystal encouraged her to turn her valuable time-saving strategy into an e-book.

Although writing isn’t Amy’s first love, she realized that putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard!) would not only get her information out to others, but allow her to experience the e-book process from start to finish. She’d learn more about writing, marketing, and selling, and then share all of that information with her readers.

Sales Strategy: 3 Tips from Amy

  1.  Choose to be on the front-end of new trends in business. Dive in and learn as you go. Don’t wait for others to show you how to sell an e-book, launch a podcast, or whatever the case may be. You might miss out on a big opportunity if you don’t latch on while it’s at its peak.
  2. Establish relationships with other bloggers and set up an affiliate program for them. Amy used E-junkie to create an affiliate program for her e-book. All of her affiliates received 50% of the sale price when they referred a sale to her. She sold many more e-books through affiliates than she ever could have sold on her own.
  3. Offer content that solves a problem or changes a life. When you can truly help someone else, they’ll pass that information along to others they know. They’re also more likely to take the time to thank you in the form of a positive review. Amy believes her relationships with bloggers and writing helpful content played a large role in getting so many reviews on Amazon.

Amazon versus your Own Website: Where to Sell

Amy shared some invaluable tips on the ins and outs of selling on Amazon versus your own site.

It is possible to sell on both your own site and Amazon at the same time, but you must be careful. Below is a breakdown of the rules and requirements.

  1. Amazon has a program called kdpselect. This is something you may choose to sign up for and be part of as an author. If you choose to go the kdpselect route, you give Amazon the exclusive rights to sell your book for 3 months. During that time, you may not sell your book on your own site, or anywhere else, for that matter. However, kdpselect gives you several perks such as higher royalty rates on sales, inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, and the ability to offer countdown deals or your book for free for a period of 5 days.
  2. If you choose not to participate in kdpselect, you may put your book on Amazon as a regular e-book author, and you’re then free to sell your book anywhere else as well. The one caveat is this: you must never offer your book anywhere else for a lower price than Amazon’s price. Amazon’s price must always be the lowest price available.
  3. Note: this means that if your book is for sale on Amazon, you may not offer that same book as a freebie, lead magnet, or bonus of any sort. This would violate Amazon’s terms of service. If your book is for sale on Amazon for 2.99, that book should never be available anywhere for less than 2.99.
  4. Amazon will automatically figure out if your book’s price on other websites, such as Barnes&Noble, has lowered, and they will lower the price on Amazon to match the competitor’s price.

amy03

8 Tips on Guest Posting

When Amy worked as a VA for Crystal Paine, one of her jobs was to filter through all the guest post requests and select those that would be a great fit for Crystal’s audience. With that experience and her own blogging knowledge in mind, Amy shares 8 fabulous tips for successfully navigating the geography of guest-posting.

  1. If you want to guest post somewhere, read the blog first. Read many articles until you have an excellent idea of what topics are discussed and the overall style of the blog. Your goal is to build relationships, not just grab some cheap link juice.
  2. Read the guest post guidelines before you send out an email request. A lot of your questions will be answered, and you may be able to give the blogger exactly what they’re looking for. Search “guest post guidelines” or look at previous guest posts to find a blurb there on guest posting.
  3. If the guidelines are nowhere to be found, send a super short email explaining that you’d love to guest post on topic xyz, because her readers might appreciate that, and does the blogger have any guest post guidelines?
  4. Provide absolute value to the readers of that particular blog. Help them; focus on them.
  5. Ensure that your content is extremely high-quality. Proofread everything, check all links, include excellent photos, and write in a compelling manner that fits the feel of the blog.
  6. Make sure your guest post is not published anywhere else online. The post should not be re-published on your own blog. You could perhaps share the first paragraph of your post and then link to where you guest-posted, but do not re-publish the article in its entirety.
  7. Be very careful about putting your own links in the body of the post. This is considered bad etiquette by some bloggers.
  8. The exception to linking is your bio. You absolutely want to include a short bio with an excellent link back to your site at the end of your post.

Get more tips from Amy on Guest Posting!

How to Make the Most of Your Guest Post

We all understand that guest posting is not just about doing  random acts of kindness for other bloggers. Our goal is to reach a new audience and build new relationships. Hopefully, we’ll land on a few new loyal readers and grow our own website in the process.

With that being said, there are right and wrong ways to make the most of a guest posting opportunity. Amy shares excellent advice on guest posting so that your relationship with the other blogger as well as your new readers is strengthened and off to a great start.

  1. Make your bio interesting and compelling but completely natural. Don’t say, “hey, head over to my site” but rather “Beth Anne and Sarah blog and podcast about growing a business as a stay-at-home mom at BrilliantBusinessMoms.com”
  2. From that bio link, don’t link directly to your homepage, but rather a landing page specifically designed for that new audience coming from your guest post.
  3. Put yourself in a brand new reader’s shoes and pretend that you’re a tour guide. Thank them for stopping over and let them know that if they liked your post on X’s site, they may be interested in X, Y, and Z articles from you.
  4. Nail down the main goal for new visitors to your site. Is it to get them onto your email list? Is it to sell them your e-book, course, or some other product? That main goal dictates where you want them to go and what you want them to do.
  5. With your goal in mind, your landing page may gently lead your new reader towards a product or a freebie that compels them to join your email list.
  6. Again, though, your goal is to be insanely helpful and provide great content. Gently steer; don’t be pushy or sales-y. You want your new readers to stick around for the long haul, so treat them with care.

Wow, Sarah and I are still in awe of all the incredible tips Amy shared with us on the call! Did you feel like you were listening in on a coaching call with an online business expert? We sure did!

Stay in Touch with Amy!

AmyLynnAndrews.com
You can find her as Amy Lynn Andrews on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter too!

Direct download: Episode205020Amy_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

defining your target market

Most of us have heard the term "target market", but how many of us have taken the time to actually sit down, with pen in hand, and define our target market?  Lets change that today.

A target market is a specific group of consumers at which a company aims its products and services.  They are the target market because they are most likely to respond to your product, service, or information.  By "respond", we mean that they are most likely to buy, consume, sign up, read, or otherwise be engaged with what you disseminate.  Your target market is most likely to be a sneezer for you.  And because what you have to offer resonates with them, your marketing efforts will be most effective with this group.  You will get the highest ROI (return on investment) with this group, in terms of your time and money, than with other groups.

So this target market sounds pretty great!  How do I define who they are?

In the marketing world, there are different segments that are used to define a target market (adapted from smallbusinessnotes.com):

  • Demographic Segment - Age, income, occupation
  • Geographic Segment - Location
  • Psychographic Segment - Lifestyle preferences
  • Use-Based Segment - Frequency of usage, ex. travel
  • Benefit Segment - Desire for same product benefits, ex. luxury

Not all of these factors will be applicable to your target market.  For instance, here at Brilliant Business Moms, a main element of our target market is that they are female (and most likely, moms!), however geography is not really a factor.

In his book The $100 Start Up (affiliate link) Chris Guillebeau helps us to understand our target market by asking, "Who are your people?"  Chris found that his target market didn't fit into a traditional demographic segment.  Instead, they were people of all types, with the common thread of wanting to live their life unconventionally.  They were big dreamers who wanted to make a difference.

So what about you?  How can you define your target market?  Lets brainstorm and come up with a nice long list of possibilities.  Start out by just thinking about what makes sense to you.  What type of person would want what you have to offer?  It might even help to write out a persona about who this person is, and what they might be like.  Dig in deeper and actually think of a person you know that you think would be part of your target market, and ask them questions about themselves.  Write down anything that you learn or anything that comes to mind.

If you are already in business, you may not realize that you already have some data on your target market.  If you are an Etsy shop owner, take a look at your past customers, your convos, and your reviews.  Is there a demographic or geographic trend among your customers?  In your reviews, do people mention how they used your product, what event it was for, or if they gave it as a gift to someone?  Comb through past communications with customers, and jot down things they mention.  You may begin to see a pattern you hadn't realized was there.

If you are a blogger, you can do something similar.  Take a look at comments that people have left on your website or on social media.  Begin to jot down things you glean from their comments and communications, and look for patterns there.  Use all of this information to define your target market.

If you already have an audience, conducting a short survey to learn more about them can be extremely helpful.  Take that opportunity to learn who they are as people, what their values are, what their struggles are.

Are you a member of your own target market?  Chances are you might be!  Write down your own values, demographics, lifestyle choices, and more.

Now that you have quite a long list of thoughts and data, begin to look for patterns and trends.  Circle the items on your list that keep popping up.  These items define your target market.

There's one other point to consider.  Your product may be for a certain target market, but it may be purchased by another set of people entirely.  For instance, if you sell something for children, it's almost as though you have two target markets to consider: the children who will use your product and the parents and grandparents who will buy it.  The same holds true for an item that is most often purchased as a gift.  In these instances, keep both target markets in mind during the product creation phase and the marketing phase.

Defining your target market is not a static process, it may take refining as you learn more along the way.  For instance, in Episode 48, Melissa Kaiserman initially thought that her target market would be other very thrifty people like herself.  She advertised on frugal-living blogs, but that didn't pan out very well.  When she advertised on organizing blogs and began to see results, she knew she was onto something.  Her target market was a little different than she initially thought, and so she tweaked her vision. 

If you have multiple products, your target market may be slightly different for each product.

Fizzle.co put out a great resource for defining your target market but also for determining new product ideas based off of your target market.  This is a free resource you'll receive by signing up for their blog newsletter.

Use those little gray cells of yours, pay attention, and define your target market.  Describe this person in writing and use it to help guide your marketing and product development decisions.  When you do, we want to hear about it!  Let's chat in the comments!

 

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode204920target20market_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

Melissa Kaiserman of A Time for Everything shares her story of growing her Etsy Shop into a full-time business that supports her family #mompreneur #etsy

Melissa Kaiserman has a business that makes perfect cents (quite literally!) An avid believer in the cash envelope system of budgeting, she created something more durable than her paper envelopes. Her solution was not only practical, but beautiful too! In solving her own problem, Melissa quickly discovered that there were many moms out there looking for the same thing. They practically begged Melissa to create a solution for them, and after some time, she finally agreed!

In case you’ve never heard of this system, it works like this: take out cash for all of your daily expenses such as food, clothing, entertainment, or fun money. Many people pay their mortgage and utilities online, but for everything else, they use cash. Separate your cash into different envelopes to represent each category. When your money is gone, you can no longer spend on entertainment, or whatever the case may be, for that month. The system is a way to stay disciplined and ensure that you stick to your budget.

Listen to hear how Melissa turned a cute little cash envelope system into a thriving business that supports her family.

On the Podcast:

How a 10-Hour Blog Project Turned into a Business
Factors that Led to Melissa’s Early Etsy Success
The Lightbulb Moment that Changed Her Business and Family Life
When Setting a Low Pricepoint is a Good Idea
Finding Your Ideal Audience
Growing Through Authenticity
How to Migrate from Blogger to Wordpress (plus plugins for shop owners!)
A Time For Everything’s New Focus
An SEO Tip You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Etsy Christmas Tips
Tips on Shop Workflow and Staying Organized

How a 10-Hour Blog Project Turned into a Business

After starting a blog soon after her third child was born, Melissa later decided to dig out the old sewing machine her mom gave her and work on some simple sewing projects. Her old sewing machine had traveled with her through college and marriage, and she finally decided to quit being afraid of it.

In 2010, she found a tutorial for an oilcloth wallet meant to be used with the cash envelope system. She decided to attempt the project, although it seemed a bit outside of her skill level. Her first cash envelope wallet took about 10 hours to make!

Melissa shared the project on a her blog with a link to the tutorial. After being deluged with comments, emails, and real-life friends begging her to make them one, she finally gave in and took orders for about a dozen envelopes.

It didn’t take long for her to feel completely burnt out making them. Those first twelve envelopes took her a really long time to make.

3 months passed, and Melissa quickly forgot how painful the first batch of envelopes had been to create (just like childbirth!). She was ready to start again. She added pages to her blog and sold a simple design.

It wasn’t until she attended a craft retreat, made several wallets all at once, and had extra inventory that Melissa finally decided to try Etsy.

Melissa Kaiserman Etsy Shop Owner Workspace and Sewing Room

Factors that Led to Early Etsy Success

On October 14th, 2011 (If you’re reading this on the podcast air date, today is Melissa’s 3rd Etsy-versary!) Melissa listed her first item.

She had a sale within 24 hours!

Melissa attributes 3 factors to her early success on Etsy.

  1. Low competition – Only she and one other seller (whose products looked very different) were selling handmade cash envelope systems on Etsy.
  2. The Economy – In 2011, many people were still choosing to downsize and live more frugally. The trend for cash envelope systems was still on the rise.
  3. A giveaway on ABowlfulofLemons  - In January of 2012, Melissa did a giveaway here and offered free shipping on all orders during the giveaway time period. The event drove a lot of sales, and Melissa still gets Etsy traffic from that one blog post from almost 3 years ago!

The Lightbulb Moment

Melissa’s husband, Dave, had a really stressful job. They both felt that he should resign, so they began putting Melissa’s Etsy earnings into savings to build up 3-6 months of living expenses.

After Dave resigned at the end of summer, 2012, he was applying to several jobs, and made it to the final round of interviews for 3 different positions for which he was well-qualified. In all 3 cases, he didn’t get the job.

In the meantime, Melissa received an $1800 order for a credit union who needed door prizes. She had to close her shop for a week just to get the large order done, and she never could have finished it without her husband’s help.

Finally, the lightbulb went off for both of them: they should be doing the business together. If Dave had gone back to work, Melissa would have had to scale back the business and not accept as many orders. Instead, they were working well as a team, and everyone in the family loved having their husband and dad home.

Frugal to the core, Melissa shares that she and Dave have no debt except for their mortgage. If they had more expenses, they wouldn’t be making enough from the Etsy shop to do it full-time.
“Our lifestyle is worth it enough for us to live frugally to be able to keep doing this together,” Melissa says.

A Time for Everything Blogger Melissa Kaiserman with husband Dave

When Setting a Low Pricepoint is a Good Idea

Melissa keeps an $18 envelope design in her shop at all times. She’s never raised the price of that item, because she wants to have an affordable option that even the strictest of budgets could accommodate with a few months’ of fun money.

(We love this idea! Melissa truly understands her audience, and although she can branch out to higher-priced products, she acknowledges that she has a core customer who is often on a tight budget!)

Finding Your Ideal Audience

Melissa had to think outside the box to find out where her ideal audience hung out. It took some experimenting too! In the beginning of her business, she assumed that most of her customers would be those who followed frugal living websites.

What she discovered instead was that those who are extremely frugal have the mindset, “Why would I pay for something to help me get out of debt?”

Instead, she discovered that organizing blogs tend to have her ideal customer as followers. People who like to organize usually like pretty things, and they’re often moms on a budget. Hosting giveaways on organizing blogs has proven to be an excellent way for Melissa to attract her ideal customer and grow her business. She admits that the only two giveaways that didn’t have a great return were on frugal living blogs.

The one exception? A giveaway on MoneysavingMom was her most successful ever, but this is because her readership is so large. So even though the focus is on frugal living, there is a lot of overlap with other topics as well.

Growing Through Authenticity

Melissa is someone who lives the business she’s created. She’s not just a crafter who makes wallets because she can, she’s been an avid user of her own product for years. She’s passionate about helping others to get out of debt and live on a budget. She’s earned the trust of her customers because they know she doesn’t have a secret stash of credit cards on the side.

Melissa's son helping her work on the budget!
Melissa's son helping her work on the budget!

Melissa shared this story with us to illustrate:

In March, a potential customer just starting her Financial Peace journey wanted to place an order and asked if I would allow her to pay half up front and half when it was finished since she didn't have the full amount available right then. At the risk of losing the sale altogether, I had to say no. I explained that I am so passionate about people living debt-free and within their means that I could never in good conscience put myself in the place of a lender. I encouraged her to save up for it and that the freedom she would experience from following a budget and making those little decisions along the way to becoming debt-free would be worth it.

Yesterday I received an order from that very same gal with this note:

"Hi Melissa!! I FINALLY was able to save up enough money to make this purchase...thank you, Jesus!! I appreciate your not being willing to let me make payments on it a few months back {I just realized now that I never responded to your response; I totally forgot - I'm sorry!!}. The purchase is going to be even more special, now that I've had to work for it! "

I was reminded of two things:
One, standing by your convictions and doing what is right always bears fruit, even if you don't see it right away (or ever, as is sometimes the case).
Two, there really is great freedom and joy in choosing to delay gratification and avoid debt. It's like giving yourself two presents!

Melissa shared a favorite quote that sums up her philosophy: “Activity follows identity.” - Jeff Goins

Etsy Shop Advice from Full-Time Etsy Seller Melissa Kaiserman #mombusiness #etsyadvice

How to Migrate from Blogger to Wordpress

Melissa took the 5 best How-to posts on the topic, compared them all side-by-side, and went through the process systematically, step-by-step.

She then developed her site on a test URL so she could do things one at a time, and no one saw your site as she was working.

Finally, she pointed servers to her domain, put her site in maintenance mode, and then took 24 hours or less to make sure everything was working fine before going public.

For someone who’s not interested in learning the step-by-step process, Melissa recommends hiring from GretchenLouise.com

Gretchen also has a new 31 day series on becoming savvy with Wordpress!

Shop Plugins

Etsy 360 – provides a shop link in the navigation menu that brings up a visual form of your Etsy shop on your own website, while payment transactions still occur on Etsy itself.
Woo Commerce – This free plugin allows you to create your own shop right on your Wordpress site. You’ll pay normal paypal fees or fees for shipping program, but the Woo Commerce plugin will match the look and feel of your blog’s child theme to create a great fit. Melissa says installing Woo Commerce was easy, but it’s a lot more work to list each product compared to Etsy.

A Time For Everything’s New Focus

Ever since she began selling her own products, keeping up with her blog became difficult to manage. Melissa misses that connection with her readers, so she’s starting her new website with a new focus.

She admits that when she starts a new project she’s often overly optimistic, not able to keep up, and then gets discouraged and gives up altogether. This time, Melissa says she will, “Do it Afraid.”

Lucky for us, she’s kicking off her blog’s new focus with 31 Days to Managing Your Time Talent, and Treasure.

Her blog’s new tagline is Managing Time, Talent, and Treasure for His Glory.

How did she come up with this?  She asked her readers to figure out what they wanted to see most!

melissakaisermanatimeforeverythingbanner

Reader Survey

Melissa used a Form in GoogleDocs with multiple choice questions as well as "Rate from 1-10 based on interest."

She linked to the form in her email newsletter and on Facebook.

She received about 100 responses, which was not as many as she had hoped for. Melissa chose not to offer an incentive or giveaway, but she’s encouraged that those who did take the time to complete the survey are her ideal readers – the most committed and interested.

An SEO Tip You Can’t Afford to Ignore

Focus on the titles of each product. Put relevant information at the very beginning of the product listing. Ex. Cash Envelope System versus Cute Blue Wallet. Use words people actually search for when they’re ready to buy, and use Etsy’s search bar for related suggestions.

We’ve got more info on Etsy SEO and finding the right Keywords right here!

Etsy Christmas Tips

  • Participate in Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or other sales with relevant tags to attract more customers.
  • Set a firm shipping deadline. Make it clear in your shop announcement that all orders must be placed by X date in order to be shipped on Y date.
  • Melissa recommends never saying “in order to guarantee arrival by Christmas” because in all honesty, the package is out of your hands once you send it on its way. However, you can provide a firm guarantee of the date that you will ship the package and let your customers evaluate the probability of arrival.
  • Be realistic in what you’re able to do. If you receive too many orders, can’t complete them, and you let people down who are depending on those gifts, those bad experiences will be reflected in your reviews.

Shop Workflow and Staying Organized

Use the Print Edit Function in Firefox. It’s right in her toolbar. Melissa goes to the sole order, hovers over a sale, clicks and it will isolate just the orders she wants to print.

Melissa prints orders according to the day they’re scheduled to be shipped. She staples together all the orders for each day, cuts fabric for that shipping day, and then has a system to keep all the orders together that ship on a given day.

At one point, Melissa was so overwhelmed with orders from a blog mention on IHeartOrganizing that she had to shut down her shop for a weekend. She realized that she was catering to her customers by relisting orders that had sold out and spending 2 hours a day just on convos and making listings.

Now, Melissa has a listing called the Divide-It Wallet in Your Choice of Fabric that includes longer turn-around times. This allows customers to purchase a custom item that’s not pre-made, but it saves Melissa hours on convos and custom listings. Now when Melissa hosts a hugely successful giveaway, she doesn’t have to shut down her shop to keep up. (Genius idea – Melissa!)

Melissa Kaiserman's cash envelope system wallets in fabric of your choice on etsy

Stay in Touch with Melissa!

ATimeForEverything.net
Facebook: ATimeforEverything
Instagram: ATimeforEverything
Twitter: Atime4everythng
Pinterest: MKaiserman

What are your takeaways from Melissa's interview?  Is there a problem of yours you can solve that would help others too?  (Like Jocelyn?) Do you have a passion you live out daily that could also be a business?  (Kristen and Amanda do!)

Maybe you're just feeling more equipped to tackle that tech issue on your blog.  (I know I am!)

Let's chat in the comments!

Direct download: Episode2048_mixdown20final20220Melissa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

How an E-book became a Movement, and other ways to change the world with Kat Lee of HowTheyBlog and InspiredtoAction #podcast #momblogger

When you add up all of her accolades, you might feel a bit inadequate in comparison. Kat Lee is a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and writer. Yet, despite all of this, she’s insanely humble and fun! The last thing Kat would ever want to do is make someone else feel “less than”. She’s an encourager by nature, and after learning some of her productivity tips, you may find that you can get more done too!

Interviewing Kat was incredibly refreshing, because she never focuses on the numbers or the bottom line, but rather, how she can help and encourage others.  Kat has traveled with and is an advocate for Compassion International. Her e-book, Maximize Your Mornings has been downloaded over 15,000 times. The book launched a movement called HelloMornings. It’s a thriving community centered on keeping one another encouraged and accountable to waking up early, exercising, spending time with God, and being intentional about their days.

Kat and her husband live in Texas with their three children. Besides writing, podcasting, and encouraging others, Kat loves running, God, and Tex Mex food.

On the Podcast

05:59 – How an E-book became a Movement
06:58 – Accepting Help and Acknowledging your Strengths
08:30 – How Kat Does it All (Plus 3 Apps that help!)
12:23 – How to Blog Like a Ninja
16:06 – Fake it Til You Make It
19:00 – Masterminds: Tips for Forming them and a Helpful App
23:53 – Kat’s Life-Changing Trip
27:36 – The Foothills of Success (and other thoughts on low points)
32:58 – What Matters Most
35:48 – Why Kat Doesn’t Rely on Her Blogging Income
39:31 – Favorite Biz Books and a Quote to Keep you Going
40:04 – Uncommon Focus

How an E-book became a Movement

When Kat wrote Maximize your mornings, she never expected that an e-book on waking up early would become so popular! Women were resonating with the idea of starting their days with intention.

Fellow blogger, Katie Orr, approached Kat about turning the blog post series, HelloMornings into a group challenge. Women signed up and were placed in groups to hold each other accountable to waking up early, spending time with God, exercising, and planning their days.

The first time around, a couple hundred people joined the challenge. The movement has now grown into several thousand women who are connecting and encouraging one another. Over 40 countries are represented in the HelloMornings community!

HelloMornings - Daily Accountability for Women from Kat Lee of InspiredtoAction

Accepting Help and Acknowledging your Strengths

Kat quickly realized as she was trying to match women to the right accountability groups that she is not a details person. As she put it, her brain was exploding!

Kat took a step back from HelloMornings and allowed Katie Orr to take it over and get things in order. Now she’s come back in, but with a renewed vision for what her role should be.

Inspiring people, casting vision, encouraging others, and leading well are among Kat’s strengths. Stepping away from the details is a smart move for her.

(What a great lesson for all of us:  If we’re not gifted at something there’s no need to struggle through it; just surround yourself with others who can shine in that role.)

How Kat Does it All (Plus 3 Apps that help!)

Kat wakes up at 5:30 each morning. Right now with her children starting school early, this only gives her about 30 minutes to spend time with God, order her to-do list, do a tiny bit of exercise, and then she’s off to get the kids up and out the door to school.

Kat heads back to the office around 8 AM to start her work day. She has about 5 hours to work until her kids get home from school. After those 5 hours, she tries not to do anything work-related. She spends time with her kids, has dinner with her family, and relaxes with a book before bed.

3 Apps to Stay Productive

ToDoist.com – The app allows Kat to organize all of the items on her to-do list, break them into smaller tasks, and keep track of them no matter where she is.

30/30 App – Kat can list tasks, allot time to each one, then press play to start the timer and race against the clock.

Coffitivity – The app provides coffee shop background noise. Kat also likes to play classical music on Pandora.

Kat says her 3 favorite apps + Pandora combine her love for people, classical music to make her feel smart, and her love of sports and competition in racing against the clock!

Kat Lee on How to Blog Like a Ninja and her favorite productivity apps #podcast #productivity

How to Blog Like a Ninja

Kat asserts that we can eat up far too much time just trying to decide what to do or what topic to write about. Instead, she recommends a 3-Hat system.

  1. CEO Hat – Once a month, sit down and evaluate where you’re headed. What are your long-term goals?
  2. Manager Hat – Figure out how to turn those goals into a reality. Break down all the steps you need to take to get there. Prioritize projects by importance.
  3. Writer Hat – When it’s time to create content, there shouldn’t be any distractions. Simply sit down and write. Trust that the CEO and Manager know what they’re doing and picked the perfect topic to write about. During content creation, you shouldn’t have to make important decisions.

Fake it Til You Make It

As a beginning podcaster, Kat decided to just fake it til she made it. One of the first interviews she did was with Andy Andrews. The more she researched him, the more she realized he was kind of a big deal. He’s given talks for NATO, met with presidents, and written best-selling books.

“Here I am sitting in my little closet office, a stay-at-home mom interviewing him,” Kat says.

Kat Lee of HowTheyBlog with her best podcasting advice

Before they got on the line she just thought to herself, “He doesn’t know any different. For all he knows I’m a highly professional podcaster who has done this for years.”

Kat planned everything out and let Andy know what her goals were for the interview, how they would help the listener, and how she was going to do things. (It went great!)

Masterminds: Tips for Forming Them and a Helpful App

Kat recommends that you put together a wishlist of the people who really inspire you and who you connect with. She notes that you shouldn’t feel timid about asking people who appear “much bigger than you” online. “You really never know how much of a community they may have online.” Maybe you’ll be just the support and encouragement they need.

“The more no’s you get the more likely you are to get some great yes’s”

Kat loves using Voxer for her mastermind groups.  (We looked it up because we've never heard of it!  It's a walkie-talkie like system with live voice, texts, and photos.  I think if I got this app, Sarah would murder her phone with all the live voice messages she'd get of all my crazy ideas!)

Kat’s Life-Changing Trip

Kat is part of the Compassion Blogger program. Compassion is a child sponsorship organization that provides food, clothing, and education for children around the world in need. A few years ago, Kat had the privilege of going on a Compassion Blogger trip to the Philippines.

Kat is half-Filipino, but never had the chance to know her mom. She grew up with her All-American Dad with no connection to her mom's side of her family. She was able to connect with a cousin via Facebook, and on the same day that she met the child her own family was sponsoring, she arrived back at the hotel to see 18 members of her family there waiting to meet her for the first time.

Wow! There are just no words to express this life-changing trip. It impacted Kat’s life forever, but through her blog, she’s been able to impact so many other people as well.

Kat is pictured below with Maricor, the child she and her family sponsor through Compassion

Kat Lee of InspiredtoAction.com shares about her trip to the Philippines with Compassion International #blogger #makeadifference
“To think that my words could actually impact the lives of children on the other side of the world that maybe I would never be able to go and help – maybe I would never meet them….but the things that I shared could completely transform their lives, just completely blew my mind.”

The Foothills of Success (and other thoughts on low points)

Kat’s lowest point in blogging came just before one of her highest points. As she was preparing for the Compassion Blogger trip to the Philippines, she was utterly overwhelmed. She was about to fly around the world, barely knowing a single soul on the trip, and getting ready to meet her family for the first time.

Just before the trip, she was insanely busy matching women with accountability groups for HelloMornings. Finally, her last straw was broken in two as she was told during church small group that it was her turn to watch the kids.    Meltdown.    It was too much in that moment!

Yet just a week later, she’d have the most amazing experience of her life.

“Sometimes I think our lowest points are actually just the beginning – the foothills of our highest successes.” ~ Kat Lee #quote #inspiration

(Kat also learned through this experience the importance of delegating and playing to her strengths. There’s a purpose for every struggle!)

What Matters Most

Kat isn’t particularly motivated by money or traditional standards of success.

“If somebody’s life is changed – that’s really to me what matters the most.”

Kat Lee from the HowTheyBlog Podcast on What Matters Most to Her #podcast #momblogger

(Wow, we’re so inspired by Kat’s passion to encourage others and make a difference! I hope that all of us can get back to that singular focus of helping others.)

Why Kat Doesn’t Rely on Her Blogging Income

Kat doesn’t want her family to ever feel like her blogging income is something they need to depend on. Her priority is ultimately her kids and family, so she wants to be able to step down at any time if her family needs more of her attention.

Right now, the money is just being saved in an account, and they’re not sure what they’ll do with it.

Kat also shares a funny story about how committed she and her husband were to paying off debt in the early years of their marriage. Tune in to hear it!

Favorite Business Books

Anything by John Maxwell

Kat confesses that she reads his business books just as much to learn about being a good mother as to learn about growing her blog and podcast. Leadership is so applicable to our roles as moms!

Uncommon Focus

“The successful warrior is an average man with uncommon focus” ~ Bruce Lee

The playing field is wide open with this quote. Anybody can be successful if they narrow in, and don’t let the distractions take over.

Stay in Touch with Kat!

InspiredtoAction.com
HowTheyBlog.com
Instagram is her favorite: InspiredtoAction

Another Pinnable Quote for you below.  Kat had so many words of wisdom to share!

Kat Lee "If somebody's life is changed; that's really to me what matters the most." #quote #inspiration

 

Direct download: Episode2047_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30am EST

The IRS and Small Business

Dealing with the IRS when starting a small business sounds really intimidating!  But I'm here to walk you through the basics of what you need to know, and set your mind at ease!

As a caveat to this discussion, I am an accountant, and I do have my CPA (certified public accountant) license, although currently I have put my license on inactive status.   My professional experience mostly consisted of government and non-profit audit, not tax law!  The guidance I am giving below comes directly from the IRS website, but is summarized for your ease of use.  However, please keep in mind that your particular tax situation may require the advice of a tax professional.  The tax code is lengthy and complicated, and I do not presume to know everything about taxes.  I am always happy to answer any questions that I can, but a complicated situation will need the advice of someone who works with taxes professionally.

For the purpose of this discussion, we are also assuming that your business structure is most likely either a sole proprietorship (just you) or a partnership (more than one person).  These are the simplest business structures, and the most likely choice for a new small business.

My first piece of advice when starting a business is to keep your business transactions separate from your personal transactions.  A separate credit card and bank statement will keep the IRS happy, and will make record keeping and taxes much easier to deal with.  These separate accounts can either be personal accounts in your name or business accounts in the name of your business.  Just as long as you reserve them for only business transactions you will be good to go!  Elizabeth Potts Weinstein, a small business lawyer, mentioned this in her Episode.

If you are just starting out in business, the next thing you might want to know is if what you are doing is a business or a hobby in the eyes of the IRS.  The IRS has 9 points for you to consider when making this determination, but the main point would be, are you conducting this activity for the purpose of making a profit?  If that is your purpose, you are a business.  If this truly is just for fun, you might be a hobby.

If you are a hobby,  you still must report your income on your tax return, but you can also deduct your expenses up to the amount of your revenue.

If you are a business, you can deduct all of your expenses, even if they exceed the amount of your revenue.  This excess loss can offset other types of income that you might have on your tax return, such as W-2 income.

The IRS does have a rule that may force you to be either a hobby or a business.  Lets say you are a hobby, but you have had profit in 3 of the last 5 tax years, then the IRS determines that you are not hobby, you are a business.  The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit (as a business) if it makes a profit during at least 3 of the last 5 tax years.

The rule works the other way too.  Lets say you are a business, but you have not had a profit in 3 of the last 5 tax years, then the IRS determines that you are not a business, you are a hobby.  This rule applies to sole proprietorship, partnership, and S Corps.  So basically, if you are a business, you can only have expenses in excess of earnings for 2 of the last 5 tax years.  If you have more years of losses than that, the IRS says that you are not a business, only a hobby.

Material participation is another rule to consider.  If you are a business that has a loss, you must have materially participated in the business in order to deduct that loss against other income.  In general if you are the only one working on the business, or you have put 500 hours into the business, then you most likely have materially participated.  The material participation rules are actually a bit complicated, but in general, these are the most common standards that apply for material participation.

If you are a business, I would recommend getting an EIN number with the IRS soon.  An EIN number is an identifying number for each business, similar to a social security number for a person.  The process of getting an EIN number is super easy.  The IRS has an online form that spits one out for you right away after asking a few question about your business.  This is the only form of business registration required with the federal government.  So the federal end of registering your business is super easy.  One huge advantage of having an EIN number is that you can buy wholesale.  Many vendors only sell wholesale, and require you provide your EIN before they will sell to you.  If you are in a business where you buy raw materials, the ability to buy at wholesale prices will save you lots of money, and increase your profit margin.  So if you know your a business, don't hesitate, get an EIN number with the IRS.

One question I get a lot about tax deductions concerns mileage.  Every year the IRS puts out a business mileage rate.  In 2014 it's .56 .  So every time you drive your personal vehicle for a business purpose, you can deduct that mileage as a business expense.  I'm sure you are constantly running to the post office for your business, or driving to the office supply store, all of the miles are a business expense, roundtrip.  I recommend keeping a log of all your roundtrip business miles driven, record the date, and miles driven, and where you went.  And at the end of the year those miles x .56 in 2014, is the amount you can deduct as an expense.  If you forget to keep a log, look at your separate business credit card or bank statement for the year, and jot down every time you were at the post office or office supply store, or whatever the case may be.  Determine roundtrip mileage to these places and calculate how much mileage you can deduct for the year.  Mileage is a legitimate deduction that can really add up.  Many people think that if they use their personal car for business purposes that they can deduct car repair bills as a business expense, but that is not the case.  The mileage rate is designed to cover the expense of gas plus wear and tear on your vehicle.

We have covered a lot of issues that deal with the IRS, but what about state registration?  Unfortunately, I can't give a lot of guidance here, because every state is different!  Each state handles business registration in different ways with different forms.  The IRS does have a great page that will take you to your state's information on business registration.  Determining what you need to do to register your business in your state is not fun.  But I would encourage you not to put it off.  If you know your a business, don't wait to register your business, get it done right away.  States don't look kindly on a business that has been collecting revenue and not paying sales tax or income tax!

It may seem like if you are starting a business, that you are not going to have to pay someone to do your taxes.  Not necessarily!  A sole proprietorship or a partnership business income is "passed through" onto your personal tax return.  As long as you can add up your revenue and expenses, and answer some questions you should be ok to continue doing your taxes on your own.  I would recommend getting tax software that can handle business income.  Many cheap tax programs only handle simple W-2 income.  So pay a little extra for a program that can handle business schedules, and you should be all set.  I use H&R Block Home & Small Business.

The IRS has a nice small business section of their website which can help guide you as you begin your small business.

I hope you found this information helpful.  Follow the links to the IRS website for further guidance.  But don't put off business registration!  Eat That Frog and you will feel much better!  Leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

 

-Sarah

Direct download: Episode2046_mixdown20final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:34am EST

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