A native of Colorado, Mrs. Yolanda M. Johnson-Bryant, currently resides in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, with her husband. Mrs. Bryant is a published author, freelance writer, novelist, editor, ghostwriter and a literary and entrepreneurial advocate. She is the founder and owner of YolandaMJohnson, Literary Wonders! and Bryant Consulting. She is a columnist for Examiner.com, RAW Sistaz Literary Services and other literary venues. Mrs. Johnson-Bryant is a member of The Nussbaum Entrepreneurial Center, Women of Leadership and Learning (WELL Women) and Toastmasters. She also conducts workshops and classes on writing and entrepreneurship and is also a member of several reading and writing groups.
Happy New Year! The year 2011 is now in the history books, and several people are, frankly, glad to see it go. For many of us, 2011 provided great opportunity, yet for others it proved to be challenging—or both.
Now take a deep breath. Can you smell that? That’s that new car smell—well actually, that’s that new 2012 smell. Embrace it. The great thing about newness is that we can learn from the past and live in the present to prepare for the future. So let go of 2011 and embrace 2012.
With a new year comes fresh innovation, new opportunities, and a chance to reinvent yourself, your brand, and your business. Here are a few tips on starting 2012 in the right direction.
To many, this is a dreadful word—an elephant in the room, if you will. It is my hope that you kept clear and accurate records that are separate from your personal records. If you are a pro at this, then you’ve saved all your business receipts. If you are a novice, put these practices into place today!
Keep every receipt that involves your business. Although not all expenses may qualify for tax deductions, what is allowed changes yearly. It is better to keep your receipts and later throw away those you can’t use, rather than throw them away and later realize you could have used the deduction.
• Business cards
• Writing utensils
• Membership dues
• Industry magazine subscriptions
• Industry-related publications
• Industry-related books and manuals
• A portion of rent for your home office space
• A portion of your utilities
• Phone service
• Internet service
• Conferences and workshops
• Hotel and other travel-related expenses
• Tax preparation
These are only a few deductions allowable for authors. Check with the IRS or your tax preparer annually to find out what you do and do not qualify for.
If you have even little
experience with spreadsheets, keep a list or record of all of your
expenses on monthly basis. Your spreadsheet should include:
• The specified expense
• The date the expense occurred
• The origin of the expense
• The amount of the expense
• The quantity (if applicable)
• The percentage of the expense (in the case of rent, mortgage, utilities, etc.)
• Warranty, return and replacement info (if applicable)
In addition, create a second
book within the same worksheet that includes:
• Payment amounts made
• To whom payments are made
• Payment date
• Payment Purpose of
• Payment Form of
• The account the payment was made from (if applicable)
In the same worksheet, include
receipt of payments:
• Amount received
• Payment source
• Date the payment was received
• Purpose of received payment
• Form of received payment
• The bank account to which payment was deposited
If you are super organized, you can scan each receipt and place it in a folder on your computer and name it so that it corresponds with each monthly spreadsheet. If you are a Microsoft OneNote user like me, you can merge the spreadsheet within the program and attach the receipts as thumbnails. This is extremely helpful as you can print one file with everything in one place.
If you are old school, I still would advise you to keep electronic records; however, you can print a copy of the spreadsheet or keep a record book with your transactions, and store your receipts in a manila envelope or shoebox.
Don’t comingle your business funds with your personal funds. If you have declared yourself a business, sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or partnership, you may pay a different tax rate on your business than you pay on your personal finances.
This is also important in cases involving liability and lawsuits. If you have a sole proprietorship and you are sued, your personal wages can be attached because, even though you may have a tax identification number, the IRS will recognize your personal social security number.
Should you have a limited liability structure and you are sued, in most cases your personal finances cannot be touched, only those of your business. Keep this in mind when deciding on a business structure, or perhaps you may want to rethink your current structure.
You may need to pay estimated taxes quarterly rather than annually. Again, check with the IRS or your tax preparer to learn the current tax rules.
There, that wasn’t so painful was it?
While you’re in the planning phase, this is the perfect time to reflect on what worked the previous year and what didn’t. Enhance what worked for you and learn from what didn’t.
Now that you are armed with tools and experiences, it’s time to add new ones. Any person, brand, or business that is not continually seeking renewal or recreation is a person, brand, or business that is either going in circles or going backward.
Keep up with research to be up-to-date on industry news so that you are not using outdated information. Brush up on the newest trends and technology and learn a new skill.
It is important to have a yearly plan in place. This will keep you on track and reduce confusion. Have you ever gone to the grocery store without a grocery list? More times than not, you walked out with more than you intended and forgot what you went for in the first place. This is what can happen if you don’t have a plan in place.
A plan can be simple or broad. If you plan to release books this year, decide how many and when. If you are going to attend conferences, book fairs, signings, and workshops, decide how many, where these events will take place, and the cost of each. If you provide business services in addition to being an author, decide how many projects you’ll take on for the year, how much you’ll charge, and how many you’ll do pro-bono.
Trust me when I say you’ll be busy about your business as it is without having to stop several times along the way to figure things out. Have this plan in writing either in a business plan or in addition to a business plan. And revisit it to see how you’re doing and if you’re on track with your goals. Update your business plan as needed.
This is the time to update that outdated and bland Website. If you haven’t been able to keep up with your old html and coding skills, consider converting your Website to a blog format. They are easy to use and require very little coding. Most of it is done for you in the form of themes. I strongly suggest WordPress. If you are a complete beginner, then I would suggest Blogger.
Update your site with new content on a regular basis. If visitors to your site visit more than once or twice, only to find the same outdated information, chances are they won’t be back for a repeat visit. This includes your tour or event section. If you fail to update your Website with the information, your number one fan is not going to be happy to find that you visited her city last weekend and she missed you.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if you are not using social media, shame on you! In this day and age, technology and social media are essential to an author’s survival. True, social media can be overwhelming. Pick two or three and stick when them. At your leisure, venture out and experiment with other social media platforms.
Let’s talk about appearances. The saying you never get a second chance to make a first impression often rings true. So update your photo. The twenty-year-old high school or college photo that you are using to market yourself is false advertising. Let go, embrace yourself, and take new professional photos. Many of you know one of my biggest pet peeves is cell phone photos. Far too many resources are available, many at little or no cost, for us not to have a professional photo. Smile—literally.
Get out there and let the world see who you are and what you’re about. Schedule book signings, conduct workshops, attend conferences, participate in interviews, and the such. This is your breakout year as an author; your time to shine. Get out there and show ’em what you’ve got!