August 2006  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
08/04/2006           Vol 3 Issue 8   www.offassist.com
Learning something new.

Hi everyone and welcome to August! I hope you have all had a wonderful and productive summer.

This summer has been a time of letting go for me. As OffAssist grows, I've had to step back and let others who are great at what they do take a more active role. This includes Tom, who has been handling our marketing as well as the marketing needs of our clients; Dy, our wonderful editor; Leslee, our amazing webmaster; and many subcontractors that work on various areas of OffAssist behind the scenes. Sometimes it's good to step back and realize that you can't do it all yourself--trust me, I've tried!

As we wind down the summer here at OffAssist, I'm reminded, of course, of school. It's time to send the kids back to school--time for parents to begin the constant stream of volunteering and waking up earlier than should be legal for the sake of our children's education.

Learning doesn't stop with school, though. Any business owner will tell you the most important thing you can do for your business is to continue learning, about your craft, yes, and about yourself as a business person. If you haven't done so already, check into classes or conferences that you can attend in the coming months to broaden your knowledge of your chosen career. Both as a bookkeeper and as a virtual assistant, I find that the time I invest in bettering myself is the best investment I can make in my business each year.

Need an OffAssist fix before the next newsletter comes out? Check out our blog at: www.offassist.com/blog/index.html.

In this issue...
Legalities & Contracts -- The Not So Fun Stuff!

- By Diana Ennen

This year has been my most eye-opening year when it comes to the legalities of running a business. In 2005, I will celebrate 20 years in business. I believe up until now I just sailed though when it came to the legal aspects. Oh yes, I did everything the best I could. Don't get me wrong and I did most things right. But this year it seemed to all hit. This year I learned the importance of "protecting my business" and this year I learned the true meaning of a "contract." I learned the importance of realizing that it's a business and I need to run it as such in all I do.

Contracts--Those all important contracts. If you've read my books on starting a business you know I always say, "Get those contracts signed by the clients before the inception of work." I firmly believe this and stand by it. In fact, I do it 98% of the time, it's that 2% that got me this year. It was that client who said, "You have to produce the work first. We need to approve and accept it." Has this ever happened to you? It did me.

Even as an experienced veteran I fell for it. Attorneys fees I could ill afford, tons of work and long long hours spent, a big, "You should know better." from everyone later. The lesson learned is once they get your product, they hold the Ace card. Keep that in mind. You lose the upper hand, the edge you had, once you deliver the work to the client. Trust me on this ... before you start a project get it signed, sealed and delivered--the contract that is. The good news is I finally did get my contract. But, the aggravation could have been avoided had I done it right the first time.

What about this scenario? You sign a contract only to discover that the project is not what it appeared to be. Something goes drastically wrong and you realize that you need to make chances to the way things are being done. Have you covered yourself adequately for most occurrences or for the unexpected? Your contract just seems like a formality that needs to be completed when signing on a new client. However, when something goes wrong that contract turns into your "BEST FRIEND!"

Designing a Contract -- When I first design a contract, I do the research myself initially. You can find the tools you need on www.nolo.com, Google and the topic, and books and message boards. I do a very thorough search ad extensive research first. Then I write the contract to include everything I need. Think three years from now. Think the worse case scenario. I really don't want to sound pessimistic here, but if you do, you will be protected for all cases. If you have covered yourself for the worse, then you have yourself covered for the best as well.

However, with that said, don't go overboard. You don't need to add everything or your points will get lost. Your clients won't want to read through it either. For example, I just reviewed someone's 15-page contract that was so outrageous boring I could hardly make it though. It had so much legalese and repetitive language, that everything she wanted to state was totally non-existent. You want your points to stand out. You want them to understand what you are saying.

If at all possible, get your contracts and legal documents reviewed by an attorney and let a professional be the one to look over it and see what you are missing. Yes, it's an expense, but a worthwhile one. On my site, www.virtualwordpublishing.com, I offer experts that I feel could help you.

With solids contracts in hand you and your business will be secure and you will be free to do what you do best, make money.

Diana Ennen is the author of numerous books including Virtual Assistant: the Series, Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA, Words From Home, Start, Run and Profit from a Home-Based Word Processing Business & the Home Office Recovery Plan. She specializes in publicity and book marketing and is president of Virtual Word Publishing www.virtualwordpublishing.com and www.Publicity-VA.com.
 
 
Have an article you'd like to write for our monthly newsletter or want to be spotlighted? Have a QuickBooks question or something you'd like to see in the Tech Tip?

Email candy@offassist.com.
 
Important Tax Deadlines
August 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for July issued payroll

September 15 - IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for August issued payroll

September 15 - Final Deadline for Corporate Tax Returns

September 15 - 1040ES Estimated Taxes due for 3rd Quarter 2006

Quickie QuickBooks Q & A
LM from California asks:

Q: It takes forever to enter transaction data into my QuickBooks, to the point where I put it off and it's even worse when I finally sit down to do it. Is there a fast way to enter transactions?

A: Absolutely! The easiest way to make entering your transactions faster is to learn and use the most common QuickBooks keyboard shortcuts. They are usually on the last page of the QuickBooks user guide (depending on your version). This column featured an article on date shortcuts last June that you can access here.

Spotlight On...
This month's spotlight is tracking Tawnya Sutherland and her brainchild, the Virtual Assistant Networking website, "the global meeting place for aspiring and successful Virtual Assistants."

Tawnya explains the origin of the site, saying:

The way the Virtual Assistant Networking forum came about was because I had to research for a client as an internet marketer how I could market a forum environment. The best way to do this is hands-on so I installed the forum software onto my server at Media Mage. (MediaMage Business Solutions, Tawnya's marketing and virtual assistance business.)

I needed to theme it to a group so I'd get some posters and the only thing I knew anything about was virtual assistance. So the forum became a networking forum for Virtual Assistants. Never did I realize in 3 years time we'd almost be sporting 3000 members.

Since August 2003 virtual assistants have been meeting, conferring, and sharing their wisdom via the VAN's forums. For those looking to hire a VA the VAN site also offers a virtual assistant directory, VA search engine, and an RFP system.

To find out more about the VA Networking forum, visit their website at www.vanetworking.com. To find out more about this Canadian entrepreneur and public speaker, visit her on the web at www.mediamage.com or check out her press page at www.vanetworking.com/virtual-media-room.htm.

Tech Talk with Tom...
Making Defragging Less Demanding

One of the simplest, and free, things you can do to keep your computer running at peak efficiency is to de-fragment your hard drive. However, it's also one of the easiest things to forget to do.

So, how do you set up an automated task to ensure that your hard disk gets the attention it deserves?

If you're using Windows XP, here are the steps to set up your computer to take care of this task by itself:
  1. Under your "Start" Menu, click "Settings", open "Control Panel", click "Performance and Maintenance", and then click "Scheduled Tasks".
  2. Double click "Add Scheduled Task" to open the Scheduled Task Wizard, and then click "Next".
  3. Click "Browse", navigate to c:\windows\system32 folder, select defrag.exe, and click "Open".
  4. Use the wizard to set a schedule for when to run the de-fragmentation program, and be sure to supply a password for the account on which you want the task to run.
  5. Check the box for Open advanced properties for this task when I click Finish.
  6. On the Run line, add the drive letter for the drive to be defragged.
For example, c:\windows\System32\Defrag.exe C

And there you have it! Your hard drive will be kept at peak efficiency, and you don't have to worry about remembering to do it yourself.

Tom Beauchamp is the marketing and tech expert behind OffAssist. He can be reached at tom@offassist.com.

"Three Wishes"
The owner of a small New York restaurant was being questioned by the IRS about his tax return.

"Why don't you people leave me alone?" the deli owner said. "I work like a dog, everyone in my family helps out, the place is only closed three days a year. And you want to know how I made $80,000?"

"It's not your income that bothers us," the IRS agent said. "It's these travel deductions. You listed six trips to Florida for you and your wife."

"Oh, that," the owner said smiling. "It's a legitimate business expense--we deliver."


Backpack: Get Organized and Collaborate