How to Make Tax Time Less Taxing (And Less Time-Consuming)

Oh boy. It’s that time of year again. Time to pull the shoe box full of receipts out of the closet and gather up the many different places you’ve stored your business revenue and expense information to get ready for tax preparation. For most, this is a dreaded distraction from the flow of revenue producing tasks in exchange for a mind-numbing pile of admin. Since your time is money, we decided to put together a few tips on how to make your next tax year much smoother.

  1. Don’t overestimate the challenge. Tax time should require no more than a summary of your income and expenses. If you’re keeping them up to date each week, manually or otherwise, then tax time should be nothing more than transitioning the summary of your revenue and expenses to CPA or into your own return if you’re self-preparing. Check out these IRS guideliness for the form you’ll need to complete.
  2. Track your expenses in categories that match those on your tax return. It’s tempting to create 200 different expense categories but it’s only going to make your life difficult when you need to compress them back into the categories offered on Part 2 of Schedule C for your tax return. Use the same expense categories on the tax form all year and you’ll eliminate the headache of trying to consolidate your categories later. See the categories now on Part 2 of this form.
  3. Use fewer tools to run your business. Less truely is more when it comes to running a solo business. Try to consolidate your daily business operation, purchase transactions, and expense tracking into one place so that you’ll only need to manage a single source of data. For many, this means ditching the three ring binder with clients notes, the mobile payment swiper, and the clunky accounting software, in exchange for a single solution that captures everything in one place. Yes, we are seriously biased in this category but even if you’re going to go with pen and paper, at least keep everything in one place. If the IRS decides to flag you for an audit (ugh), would you rather pull out 10 years of shoe boxes, apps, and handwritten notes or fire up your business platform and answer all the questions quickly?
  4. Use automation. Sound complicated? Well, it’s not. Today, so many tools online offer automation that converts previous manually tasks into automated tasks. Do you have a client on a regular schedule, automate the collection and recordation of the revenue. The same is true for expenses. If you’re business tools don’t offer these features, it’s time to shop around. Automation converts admin time to billable hours which means more income for you. Some business platforms even send a year end tax summary without asking you to lift a finger. Wink wink. Interested now?

Let’s face it, tax time is taxing for all of us but it doesn’t need to consume billable hours. Commit to streamlining your business management tools, thinking ahead about the simple info required for your annual return, and keeping records up to date and watch the stress melt away.

Try Artichoke for free!

Automate Client Discounts

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Sometimes offering discounts can serve as a good incentive to promote referrals, repeat business, and add-on sales. However, as soon as you’ve got a few different deals floating around, it gets tougher and tougher to keep track of them all. Military, fire police, students, and loyalty are just a few examples on discounts that you may want to keep track of today.

Artichoke now has a feature which allows subscribers to create custom discounts and assign them to specific clients so that they are automatically added to the shopping cart at check out. Each time you create a discount, it will appear as an option in the discount list for future clients making it quick and easy to select.

To create a custom discount, just follow these steps:

CLIENTS / Select Client / Edit / Scroll to “Discount” / “Add New Discount”

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Need help? Let us know and we’re on it. support@getartichoke.com

Artichoke Connects

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Artichoke can now be connected with over 500 apps, making your business an unstoppable force with clients and prospects. Although Artichoke is an all-in-one platform and many will not need to work with any outside apps, some clients have popular apps which they would like to connect with Artichoke for email marketing, accounting, intake forms…..etc.

For some of the most popular intergations, we’ve created shortcuts directly on your Settings / Integrations page.  All of the instructions are shown on this page.

 

One of the coolest new capabilities is the automation of online in-take forms.

– Create an intake form using Google Forms

– Automatically send a link to this form when a new client is scheduled

– Form responses are autiomatically added to the client’s notes and profile

Can you imagine taking all of that admin off your plate before a new client appointment?

Another popular integration is with Google Calendar which gives users the abiity to view all work and personal calendars in one place. You’ll still need to manage your appointments inside Artichoke, but now you can keep track of everthing in GCal too.

To get started, go to SETTINGS / INTEGRATIONS.

Feel free to contact us if you need any help. support@getartichoke.com

NEW! Recurring Classes, Courses, and Events

NEW: Recurring classes, courses and events!

Do you offer regularly scheduled events to your clients?

That might mean…

  • Regular group sessions or classes
  • Recurring office hours
  • Daily, weekly or monthly meetups or programs

If so, then we’re excited to announce a new feature that we think you’re going to love.

It’s now possible to schedule recurring programs in Artichoke such as classes, courses, or regularly scheduled events which your clients can book online.

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You just set the times and maximum group size, and your clients will be able to book (until the maximum number of spots has been reached).

This is the easiest way to book scheduled group appointments online.

Once you spend 10 minutes setting up for booking page, you can start adding scheduled classes, programs, and other events.

When clients select the program from your list of services, Artichoke automatically generates a list of the next few dates which have spots available.

That means no more clicking around different dates to find an open spot or going back and forth with phone calls, emails, and text messages to get everything coordinated for multiple clients in every session. This feature is going to save you time and help you get your life back!

 

Here’s how it works:

  1. First you need to make sure you have published “MY WEB PAGE.”
  2. Make sure the service you want to schedule is in your services list with “Book Online” enabled and “max participants” set as needed.
  3. Go to Appointments
    1. Add “Schedule”
    2. Complete form and Save
  4. That’s it. Clients can now book your scheduled events online so you can breathe.

This big step in making your life easier couldn’t have been possible without you.

We’re always listening to our customers’ amazing feedback, which is exactly how this feature was born.

A huge thanks to the Artichoke community for your continued support, feedback, and business!

Artichoke Partners With 6 Small Business Organizations to Support the Growing Freelance Economy

Artichoke is proud to announce 6 new partnerships that will provide resources for organizations supporting freelancers and small business owners.

Through new deals with Associated Hair Professionals, Associated Skin Care Professionals, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals, Associated Nail Professionals, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and National Association of Senior Move Managers, Artichoke will help tens of thousands of small businesses get discounts on Artichoke’s easy-to-use tools to help them manage appointment bookings, client relationships, billing and more. Members will also get access to a library of professional development content to help them grow their businesses. library  

“We’re thrilled to have these new partners on board,” said Artichoke CEO Justin Shelby. “They already deliver incredible value to their members, and we look forward to helping them go even further in empowering their members to pursue their dreams of building sustainable, profitable small businesses.”

The Immense Opportunity to Support the Growing Freelance Economy

 

There is an immense (and growing) opportunity to serve the freelance community.

50 million American workers perform some kind of freelance work today (either full time or part time). And the numbers are rising rapidly.

By 2020, the number is expected to reach 70 million—close to 50% of the U.S. workforce.

“We’ve seen the growth in the freelance economy first-hand,” Shelby said. “More and more people are realizing that starting a solo business is a great way to supplement their income or earn a full-time living.”

The new Artichoke partnerships will help to build relationships between organizations that are already working to serve this community.

“These are organizations that are already doing great work to support freelancers and small businesses,” Shelby added. “We hope that this will be just one more way they can bring value to the business owners they serve.”

Artichoke’s History of Supporting Freelancers

 

Artichoke was born when CEO Justin Shelby was running two urban health clubs.

He saw how difficult it was for his trainers to track appointments, progress, and payments for their clients, so he created an in-house, cloud-based solution to solve the problem.

After thousands of transactions and feedback from hundreds of users, the solution has now become Artichoke, a complete business solution for the rapidly growing community of freelancers, independent practitioners, and moonlighters operating in the U.S.

“Starting a solo business is a tremendous amount of work,” Shelby said. “Many people feel overwhelmed, especially at the beginning.”

Artichoke brings marketing, scheduling, invoicing together in one easy-to-use application. It’s the first mobile, appointment-based tool that allows freelancers to start running their business in minutes.

“Our product gives people an easy way to get — and keep — their business up and running quickly,” Shelby added. “And now our new partners will work together to provide business owners access to resources and connections to help them succeed in every area of their business.”

Invite Clients to Write Reviews – Build Your Reputation Online

Product Update: Take control of your reputation online, starting today.

Managing your reputation online is critical these days. Do you buy anything online without checking the reviews? Probably not too often.  We live in a world of transparency and it’s important to embrace it if you want to grow your client base.

Artichoke has always had a review collection feature which uses your client activity to ask for reviews at logical times.  However, now it possible to invite your clients to write reviews proactively instead of waiting for the logic to kick in.

Where are client reviews displayed?

On the REVIEWS page on MY WEB PAGE

Reviews on Booking Page

New reviews will also be shown on your Artichoke dashboard

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What should I do if a critical review is submitted?

This is very important.  Anytime a review is submitted, good or bad, you should ALWAYS comment on the review professionally so others can see how responsive you’re likely to be with them.  When you see a new review on the dashboard, always use the “comment” function so you can write a public response.

 Comment on Reviews

How can I invite clients to write reviews?

Watch the video below or follow these simple steps:

  1. Go to Dashboard
  2. In “Reviews” block select “Send Invitations”
  3. Select clients and “Send”

Review Invitations

A $302 Fine!!

(What Freelancers MUST Know About Business Licenses)

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Starting a business? You need to research business licenses.

Why?

Because if you don’t, it could cost you.

Why You Need to Know About Business Licenses
Ignorance is not an excuse.

Failing to get a required business license can result in fines and penalties, as happened to Liz Swain, a freelance writer who worked from home.

Swain was operating in San Diego, which required a $34-per-year business license.

When the city learned of Swain’s operation through her taxes, it promptly issued a $302 bill—$102 for three years of the license plus $200 in fines and processing fees.

Don’t let this happen to you.

If you’re starting a freelance business of any kind, here’s what you need to know about business licenses:

1. You Might Need a Business License, or You Might Not

Business licenses are issued at the state and local level. You’ll need to research whether you need a license for one or more of the following:

State
County
City
Bottom line? It depends on your location. You’ll need to do your research.

2. Find State Agencies that Help Small Businesses

Each state has one or more agencies that help small businesses.

In California, for example, the Secretary of State’s office and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development are great starting places.

The U.S. Small Business Association has links to many state agencies, and a few Google searches can also help you navigate both state and local government requirements.

3. Check With Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Call your local chamber of commerce to ask about local government requirements.

They’ll have a list of contact information for local agencies. They’ll also be able to connect you with business owners in your area for help and advice.

4. Local Tax Attorneys Can Help

Find a tax attorney that specializes in helping small businesses. You’ll find them to be a wealth of information for freelancers and self-employed professionals.

Even if you don’t plan to work regularly with a tax attorney, hire one for an hour and discuss your situation. Doing so can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines down the road.

You Need Epic Reviews on Your Website (4 Startling Reasons)

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Here’s something true about online reputation management:

Where your reviews live is just as important as what those reviews say.
Here are 4 reasons why:

1. The Best Defense Against Unfair Reviews

You have zero control over business reviews on Google or Yelp.

As the business owner, you can (and should) engage with users, but you have no power to take down unfair reviews. If a competitor posts a fake review giving you a bad reputation, you can flag it (Here how in Google and Yelp).
But even then, you won’t know if fake reviews will be taken down, or how long it will be until something happens.
By putting reviews on your own website—however–you give potential customers a chance to see an authentic reviews—ones you can verify.

2. Customers Trust Reviews

The stats around reputation management are overwhelming:

92% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses
73% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-6 reviews
69% of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
Bottom line? You need customer reviews. And you need to keep them fresh. Potential customers don’t trust them beyond three months.

3. You Can Keep Prospective Clients Away from Google and Yelp

No matter how good your reviews are on Google or Yelp, those websites present you as one of many businesses your potential customer could choose.

That’s not what you want. You want to be the only business in consideration.

If you get a potential customer to your website, including customer reviews helps you keep them there, instead of losing them to Google or Yelp.

4. Reviews Increase Conversions

Finally, don’t forget the end goal of any business’ website: to make sales.

Almost 90% of customers say they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

By including reviews on your website, you increase the chances of making a sale. And isn’t that the point of your website?

3 Myths About Business Grants (Busted!)

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Starting a business? Growing one you already have?

A grant can help.

First, a quick disclaimer:

First, it’s not easy to find legitimate business grants. Watch out for scams and misinformation—because there’s plenty floating around.

With that out of the way, here’s what you need to know:

Myth #1: The Federal Government Provides Grants for Starting a Business

Despite what you may have heard, the U.S. Federal Government does not offer grants for starting a small business. Here’s what the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) states on its website:

“The federal government does NOT provide grants for starting and expanding a business.”

That doesn’t mean you can’t find government grants.

It just means starting a small business—by itself—is not enough to qualify for a federal grant.

Myth #2: You Can Use Grant Money for Whatever You Want

Grants almost always have restrictions about who can receive grant money and how it can be spent.

For example, NASA awards grants to private businesses. But only for companies involved in developing technologies for NASA’s needs.

Most grant programs are similar. They exist to help an organization develop new products, services, or technologies.

Most don’t exist to help aspiring business owners pursue their dreams.

Myth #3: Startup Grant Offers Are Always a Scam

Not true!

There are legitimate grant programs available for small businesses. You just need to know where to look.

Be wary of those scammy websites that promise “millions in government dollars waiting for you to claim!!” Those ARE almost always scams (usually trying to sell a book or a training program). You should avoid them.

Instead, try the SBA website for an unbiased look at funding options, loans and grants included:

Small Business Administration loans and grants page
And here’s one other resource we came across from Fundera:

107 Best Small Business Grants

UPDATE: Calendar Views

Change calendar views on desktop

On a desktop, laptop, or tablet, you’ve got more screen real estate to play with so one Artichoke user wanted us to do a better job using it to display a full week of appointments.  Having the ability to see a full week can quickly help to identify gaps and opportunities in addition to just help you get generally tuned into what’s ahead.

Thanks to the feedback above, it’s now possible to change your calendar view on desktop to display an entire week in columns for each day in addition to the typical list view. Best of all, you can select which one of these views you’d like to show by default each time you visit.

Locate the list view selector in the right corner.

Note: Only applies to desktops, laptops, and tablets.

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Check out the week view.

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Set your favorite to be the default view.

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Please keep the great ideas coming! We love to hear from you and often put ideas into action quickly.