Financial Organization, Here We Come!

Did you know that you can get an automatic six-month extension on filing your taxes just by filling out a short form? You don’t even have to give a reason, you can just take six more months to do it. You still have to pay your taxes by April 15th of course (Uncle Sam doesn’t like waiting for his money), but since you pay quarterly anyway, that’s no big deal, and — 

Wait, you didn’t know that you have to pay quarterly estimated taxes as a small business?

Yes, federal and state income tax. Not sales tax, though. You can still pay that annually, but — 

Yes, you have to pay sales tax! You collected it from your customers, didn’t you?

You didn’t know you had to?

And you thought you got to keep it?!

You’ve just overheard me on the phone with my 2004 self. When I started my first business ten years ago, I didn’t know any of these things. I didn’t pay quarterly taxes my first two years. I didn’t know I always had to pay sales tax — even when I didn’t collect it. When Etsy or my online shopping cart collected it for me, I thought I just got to keep it. Luckily I was able to correct these things before they came back to bite me, but I can do you one better.

At the Craftcation Conference next week, I will be launching a small selection of financial organization services to get you on the right track. If you’re at the start of a new business and you want to make sure you’re doing everything correctly, but you still have a lot of “unknown unknowns,” I can help you get organized.  I’m not a CPA or a tax preparer — I won’t be doing your bookkeeping or taxes for you. What I will do is set up a customized financial system for your business and teach you how to use it. Not only will all your i’s be dotted and your t’s crossed, you’ll be able to see the health of your business at a glance, as well as what you need to do to make it more profitable — all for the cost of preparing one tax return. Here are the goods:

  • Squeaky Clean Books ($500 for service-based businesses/ $650 and up for product-based businesses): get a one-of-a-kind, customized Excel bookkeeping ledger that contains exactly the features your business needs and nothing extraneous, plus three hours of private tutoring in proper bookkeeping techniques, using your ledger and your receipts. The ledger is sweet — it does all the calculations for you automatically. Come tax time, all you’ll have to do is print the front page! (does not come with Excel software)
  • My First Quickbooks ($650 for service-based businesses/ $800 and up for product-based businesses): get your Quickbooks software (Pro or Premier Manufacturing & Wholesale edition) set up specifically for your business, plus five hours of private tutoring in proper bookkeeping techniques and how to use the software. (does not come with Quickbooks software)
  • Price Hacker ($300 and up): I will help you set sustainable, market-appropriate prices that you can feel confident about for all of your products and/or services.
  • Wealth Builder ($450): get a personalized financial plan for saving, investing and/or paying down debt, based on your life goals, plus three hours of private tutoring on how to build wealth confidently and painlessly.
  • Sales Tax Master ($200 and up): I will walk you through filling out and filing your California Sales Tax return, and help you set up your records so that it’s a breeze next year.

If you’re looking for something a little different, you can contact me to customize a package just for you. I am also available to consult on specific topics on an hourly basis. If you will be attending the Craftcation Conference in Ventura, you can take my personal finance and/or bookkeeping workshops to get a sense of how I structure things. I’ll also be speaking on a panel about pricing and offering personal office hours for your financial questions. Let’s get in touch!

 

200 Yards Photos

Just found out today that one of my photos made it into the 200 Yards exhibition at Rare Device! The opening reception is on my birthday, June 1st, which makes it doubly exciting.  I took a ton of photos and whittled it down to five submissions.  I won’t spoil the surprise by showing the photo I’m exhibiting just yet, but here are the other four I really liked that didn’t make the cut:

Through the corner windows of Rare Device

Bus Shelter Reflection on Hayes (I think this one might be my favorite)

Flat Old Pick-up on Scott

And here are a few that I didn’t submit, but still kind of like:

Starling Perch

Automotive Service

Planter on Fell

Craftcation Recap

It’s been almost a week and I’m still not sure I’m fully recovered from the Craftcation conference.  I was scheduled to run three sessions in three days, but then added a fourth at the last minute when another speaker had to cancel.  Having been a middle school teacher for six years, where you teach 4-5 hours a day, I didn’t think it would be a big deal, but I was exhausted at the end of every day.  I forgot how tiring it can be when all of your down time between sessions is spent networking, even meals!

Moving your Business Beyond the Kitchen Table panel at Craftcation with me (moderator), Angharad Jones, Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson

Despite my exhaustion, I had a really good time.  I love helping other creatives (especially women) get their businesses on the right track, and I got to spend a little quality time with other energizing crafty business ladies.  I had one particularly raucous dinner with Steph Cortes from NerdJerk, Rosalie from Unanimous Craft, Marlo Miyashiro, Danielle from Etsy, Ashley Jennings, and Rena Tom that I will not soon forget.  I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Marlo, Rena and me

I was really pleased to see such great attendance at Craftcation, though some of my sessions didn’t run quite as smoothly as I’d hoped.  The session on pricing was so popular that the room became a fire hazard and we had to start turning people away.  We also didn’t have a working projector, but the attendees all rallied their technology so that each table could view the slides on a shared iPad.  The marketing session was also a full house and we ended up running out of handouts halfway through, but my helper for that one, Stephanie, was freaking amazing.  I understand that you can never quite predict session attendance, and besides, shit happens, but I want to make sure that anyone who couldn’t attend or take home handouts has a chance to access the materials.  Y’all paid good money to attend the conference after all, so here are the links to the materials from my three solo sessions (the panel didn’t have materials):

Full house at the Marketing on a Budget Session at Craftcation

One thing I’m having trouble with is measuring the ROI of this conference to my own business.  The benefits are so intangible for the most part that it’s tough to tell whether offering three days of (essentially) free teaching will pay for itself in the long term.  I really like teaching, so there’s that intangible benefit right off the bat, but does it make up for the three days I couldn’t work on any of my own projects?  Right now I’m leaning towards “yes”, but I couldn’t give you any hard evidence for why I’m leaning that way.  Right now it’s just a gut feeling surrounding the concept of “networking”.

How do you figure out when to take on projects that are peripheral to your creative business, like speaking, writing and teaching?  I could honestly really use some help with this one.

Ventura, Here We Come!

Headed down to Ventura this morning to spend the weekend at the Craftcation Conference. I’ll be teaching three four sessions there:

  • Moving Your Business Beyond the Kitchen Table (panel)
  • Marketing on a Budget
  • Pricing Your Handmade Work
  • Accounting/Bookkeeping for Crafters

I’m excited to see far-flung friends Jenny Hart (at a conference I’m NOT organizing, for a change!) and Danielle Maveal (see this video Q&A we did together last month), and to spend time with fellow SF crafty-business ladies Stephanie Cortez from NerdJerk and Rena Tom.

For a little pre-conference recommended reading, please peruse this article I recently posted to design*sponge on approaching other business owners for advice.

Looking forward to trading business cards with y’all.

CCE 2011

I realize that I haven’t posted much lately, nor will I get through the mountain of no-longer-relevant items that I meant to post until mid-August at the earliest.  Why?  Because I have been eating, sleeping, and breathing the Conference of Creative Entrepreneurs.

Not to toot my own horn, but our schedule and speaker line-up has tuned out pretty kick-ass, don’t you think?  I’m especially excited to hear Jeff Rudell’s keynote address.  He is one of my personal heroes and it felt like a real coup to get him on board.  I’ll be posting an interview and sneak peek with him in the next week or two.  Other amazing speakers include:

  • Meg Mateo Ilasco, author of Creative, Inc. and Craft, Inc. and creator of Anthology magazine
  • Diane Gilleland, Editor-in-Chief of Craftzine.com
  • Erin Loechner of DesignforMankind.com and Uppercase magazine
  • Christine Schmidt of Yellow Owl Workshop
  • Derek Fagerstrom and Lauren Smith of The Curiosity Shoppe, authors of two Show Me How books, and creative directors of the Pop Up Magazine events
  • Artist and Illustrator Lisa Congdon
  • Cathe Holden of JustSomethingIMade.com
  • and more than 40 other generous and helpful experts

But seriously, check out the schedule and then register for all three days because it’s going to rock the free world and I want you all there with me.  You can RSVP for the CCE 2011 event on Facebook (and invite friends as well) or “like” the conference page.

The Creeps are Coming!

Leonardo the Octopus, my very first Deep Creep, will be making his debut in the Bazaar Bizarre pavilion at the Bay Area Maker Faire.  The Maker Faire takes place at the San Mateo Fairgrounds next Saturday and Sunday, May 21st-22nd.  If you’ve never been to the Maker Faire before, grab your friends and/or your kids and make a day of it.  Never will you see so much human creativity, ingenuity and fun in one place.

At the Bazaar Bizarre, I will have exactly 24 Leonardos.  No more.  Once they’re gone, you won’t be able to get your hands on one until they appear in stores at the end of June.  This is also the only time you will be able to purchase the Creeps directly from me, since I am getting out of the retail game.

Also at the LOV table will be the last of the Sweet Meats, and an event-only deal on Mitch the Monster.  I’m also considering offering some decorate-it-yourself plush misfit blanks, but I’m hoping the real coup de grace will be the display itself.  Come check it out!

WonderCon 2011

While last year I also spent most of WonderCon weekend behind my “small press” table, this year I was tasked with taking some photos for RottenTomatoes.com.

As is the case at all “cons,” the highlight is the attendees who come in costume (if I change the name to “Creative Entrepreneur Con,” do you think I can get people to come to CCE in costume?).  Below are a few of my favorite WonderCon things:

People who really sell it

Although I have to give props to Leah for trying to exude some major Carrie Fisher ‘tude, the clear winner here is definitely Lando Calrissian.  Look at that Billy Dee Williams point-and-smirk!  Classic.

Spidey really wanted to look good for the camera.  He took off his backpack and shoes for maximum authenticity, and then gave me multiple amazing and spiderrific poses.

Enthusiastic children

How psyched are these kids to be wearing their Halloween costumes in April? In public?!

Almost as psyched as this kid is to be eaten by the Alien.  Why are Leather-Spidey and Batman ignoring this perilous situation?

Non-human characters

Not to continue to harp on the awesomeness of the Alien, but he just roared so hard it blurred this guy’s face off!

I love love love R2.  He rolls around the hall all day, bleeping and blooping sweet nothings and hugging children armlessly.

DIY Amazingness

I’m not sure who this character is, though I want to say it’s the evil slave lord from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  But check out his awesome skull hat — he made that himself with tinfoil and model magic.  Tin foil!  I wonder if he got the heart from I Heart Guts, who also had a booth.

Group costumes

Picture Day aboard the Death Star:  “Okay now, troopers to the right, officers to the left…yes…now everyone remove your helmets and say ‘Hail Vader!’ Wonderful! That one’s going on the company web site.”

I have no idea who these insect-guys are, nor why they’re traveling with a 60s flight attendant, but they sure make for an intriguing tableau as they buzz by.  They remind me a little bit of Arthur the Moth from The Tick.

Inexpensive Marketing and Promotion (Part 4)

And finally….

Swag bags: (Cost: ~25 cents per bag) Swag (a.k.a. schwag, freebies, giveaways, promos) are small promotional items you donate to attendees of an event. They range from the cheesy pens given away at auto sales to the luxury swag bags containing diamond watches and designer perfume given to presenters at the Oscars. Most trade or craft shows will solicit swag from their exhibitors to give to the earliest or biggest buyers, but there are other places to give away swag, too. Some businesses include a piece of swag with every order. Some set up giveaway or raffle tables at block parties or other neighborhood events, and some others just pass them out on well-trafficked street corners. There are even swag subscription companies like The Sampler, who will send your stuff out to folks who love free stuff so much, they’ll pay for it!

I’m personally a fan of swag that is cheap and does double-duty as advertisements, like stickers and buttons. You can produce a gagillion of either for relatively little money, and if your sticker or button has an awesome image on it (in addition to your company’s name or web site), you can get lots of people to do your marketing for you, giving you real bang for your buck. You can certainly go with less conventional media, like barrettes or zipper pulls, but the key is to get the most number of people to notice your brand for the least money possible.

When it comes to freebies, I like to stick to giving them away to friends and paying customers. These are the people who are the most likely to put your swag to good use, because they either already love you, or love your stuff. Also, in my experience, I have found that the best way to get people to not buy any of your merchandise is to put free stuff out on the table.

Coupons and Discounts: (Cost: possible printing costs, discounts people actually use) Coupons and discounts are tricky things. On the one hand, they can often be that extra little push between considering an item and actually buying it. On the other hand, you don’t want to overuse them or people will think you are having a hard time getting people to buy your stuff.

I sell very specific and unusual gift items, so the rules that apply to my business may not apply to yours, but here’s what works for me: I find that coupons work best for limited times, such as a semi-annual sale when you are discontinuing old merchandise and releasing new designs, or to get people from your mailing list to come to a show or event. Other good coupons are the ones you give to customers with their completed order, which encourages them to become repeat buyers.

As far as discounts go, I find that quantity discounts are the best kind there are. I used to sell (and will probably sell again soon) a “meat medley,” which was a collection of my three most popular plush designs, discounted to $80 from $84. It was a savings of less than 5% but I sold more of those collections than of any individual toy.

And that’s all she wrote.  Of course, there are other inexpensive ways to promote yourself, like having a web site, leaving postcards in neighborhood haunts, and going to networking events but this list is already four posts long, so perhaps I’ll save those for another time. If you have any other ideas that you’d like me to add or expand upon, please let me know in an e-mail or comment.  Happy hawking!