February 2011  
Real Bookkeeping. Virtual Assistance.
Volume 8 Issue 2  www.offassist.com

Saying Thank You...

In late January, I was sitting at my desk feeling pretty lucky. I get to do what I love and I get to do it on my own terms. How many people can really say that? I had several emails to deal with; business is good with new folks interested and old ones expanding. The thing that struck me most? A client who emailed me simply to say thank you for making such a difference in their life. Who knew bookkeeping could be so powerful?

It reminded me that I needed to spread the love myself. I'm constantly looking for ways to thank my team members. Chocolate, flowers when they're sick, a gift card on their birthday, etc etc. But sometimes I forget that just the word "thank you" carries a lot of weight in and of itself. So, this February, I want to say a huge thank you to Lanel, Susan, Tom, Patty, Dyanna, Justin, Angela, Dian, Melinda, and Rebecca. You all make OffAssist into what it is - an amazing bookkeeping firm with heart and clients who love us. Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. You guys are more than just my team, you're my extended family as well.

In other news, my daughter, Cassie, turns 8 this year. Yes, I said EIGHT. I know, I do this every time one of my kids has a birthday. But, it's my newsletter and I can gush if I want to! *laughing. Cassie is an amazing kid who loves to play violin and participate in robotics club. She also makes all As and yes, we're very proud of her.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. Make sure to send some love to not only your family, but to those that make a difference to you every single day.

In this issue...

We were going to post something about disaster preparedness in the wake of Austin's great Snowpocalypse, but we couldn't find anything to fit the bill. Instead you get a few thoughts from our editor on how NOT to practice article marketing.

Article Marketing Isn't for Dummies
By Dyanna Larson

I originally wanted to call this article, "Article Marketing for Dummies," but, copyright issues aside, I couldn't agree with the idea. Article marketing isn't for dummies. It's not rocket science, but it's not something you should do because you're bored on a rainy weekend afternoon, either.

I spend hours every month on the various free article resource sites in my capacity as a freelance editor. One thing I see more and more of is people just plain doing it wrong. With that thought in mind, my top 4 ideas on how NOT to practice article marketing:

1 - Spell Check is for Wimps! No one cares about that stuff. If someone using an article finds an error they can just fix it themselves, right?

No. Most article resource sites spell out in their TOS that the content cannot be altered in any way. Which means if I want to use your article I have to take it typos, poor grammar and all. I don't want my clients to think I'm a bad editor, so, no matter how good your content, if your writing is sloppy I can't use your article.

2 - It's All About You. The Author/Resource box is the place to tell people everything they need to know about how you became an expert in your field, right?

Sorry, nope. People using free article content are trying to enhance their own newsletter or blog to promote their business, not yours. Giving credit where credit is due is one thing, requiring bloggers and business owners to use a 24-line bio box is another. I have rejected more than one well-written and nicely edited piece for this problem, including the disaster preparedness article I wanted to use this month.

3 - Be a Tease. Write just enough to get people hooked then make them click through to a blog or website for the rest.

You can do this; I see it a lot. Of course, if you do no one will ever reprint your article. The more time people spend on a site the more likely they are to become buyers. Why would anyone reprint an incomplete article that requires readers to leave their site or stop reading the newsletter that just arrived in their inbox? Yea, I can't think of a good reason either.

4 - Sell It, Baby! You're not writing these articles for your health, they're marketing. Make sure you include a pitch for your products or services in every article.

Umm, no. Just no. I see more garbage articles that are basically sales pitches with altered headlines than I care to think about every month. The purpose of article marketing is to market YOU, your brainpower and expertise, not a specific service or product. Write good articles to establish your expertise and people will notice and seek you out for your knowledge. That's when you make your pitch.

Now you know what not to do.

Want to do it right? Sit down and write articles that give people value for the time they took to read them. Take the time to make sure your grammar are spelling are correct. Add a small 1-2 line bio and a link to your website. Then relax and let article marketing work for you.

Dyanna Larson is the editor of the OffAssist newsletter and woman behind the pen at Ink Think VA. Check out her website at www.inkthinkva.com for more info.

QuickBooks Tip

How do I Handle Warning Pop-Ups?

Q: I'm entering data for last year, catching up my books, and it keeps warning me that it's over 90 days old. Is there a way to turn off that pop up?

A: That warning can be helpful to make sure you are entering current information. But, if you are playing catch-up, it can get a little annoying.

To turn it off you need to be logged in as the administrator, then go to Edit: Preferences. Choose Accounting, then the Company Preferences tab. Then uncheck the box that says “Warn if transactions are 90 days in the past” and “Warn if transactions are 90 days in the future.”

If you do this, make sure to turn it back on when you've completed the previous year's entries!

Note: Check with your accounting professional before doing this to be sure that's how they'd like it done. YMMV!


This was on TaxMama.com and I thought it was cute. You can read more here: http://taxmama.com/category/asktaxmama/money-funnies/

Money Funnies

Someone out there either has too much spare time or is deadly at Scrabble.

When you rearrange the letters:

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Definitely! Someone has far too much time on their hands! DON’T FORGET TO SHARE IT!

Courtesy of Blakely Sanford, EA of San Diego

Tax Deadlines

February 15

- Employees to File new W-4 with Employer
- Employers make monthly payroll tax deposit on the 15th of each month

February 28

- File Paper copy W-3's with Social Security Admin, including copies of W-2's
- File paper copy of US transmittal of US information Returns
- Farmers & Fisherman - Use Personal Income Tax Return - Sole Proprietor

NOTE: 2011 Mileage Rates Released

Despite the fact that many predict that the cost of gas will inch up to $4 per gallon by the holidays, the standard mileage rates for 2011 are just slightly different than those for 2010. The IRS has announced the standard mileage rates for 2011 as follows:.

  • 51 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Rates are adjusted by the IRS each year to account for increasing (or in some cases, decreasing) costs of operating a car, truck or van for various purposes. The one exception is the lower rate for miles for charitable purposes: that rate is fixed by Congress and hasn’t been adjusted since 1998.

Tech Talk With Tom...

It's that time again...

It’s that time again! No, not taxes…you’ve got a couple of months for that. It’s time to get out that can of air and a brush and clean out your computer!

As a rule, most computers should be cleaned every 5 months. Why? All that dust and dirt can do bad things to computer components. The dust restricts air flow inside the case and causes the computer to heat up. Hot computers tend to run slower and have shorter life spans than cool computers. Dust can also hold condensation that can cause your case, and important electrical connections, to corrode.

Here is a list of cleaning tips to help get you started:

  1. If you need to spray, spray a cloth. Never, and I really do mean absolutely never, spray liquids into a computer, or onto any component.
  2. Use fresh water or rubbing alcohol to clean. Solvents may leave a residue or corrode sensitive components.
  3. Never get a component wet, or leave standing water in the case.
  4. Make sure the computer is off and unplugged before starting a cleaning session.
  5. If you unplug peripherals from the back of the computer, make sure you mark where they go.
  6. Never use a standard vacuum inside the computer case. If you feel you must vacuum, use a special, battery-powered vacuum designed specifically for this task.
  7. When cleaning fans, do not let them turn. This can damage the fan or, in rare cases, damage the computer itself.

Ok, I admit it: I mostly write this column every 6 to 9 months to remind myself to clean out our computers. But, hey, you get a nifty reminder as well! Get to cleaning those computers and know you are in good company when you roll up your sleeves and jumpstart on your spring cleaning.

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

Spotlight On...

Spotlight: YOU (why not?)

This column is my baby. When I was first starting out I was, like most new business owners, eager to get my name out there, to tell people who I am and what I do, and so I started a newsletter.

From the beginning I've made an effort to promote not just my business, but other VAs, business partners, clients, and even products we love here at OffAssist. I love that this column allows me to give something small back to the community of clients and entrepreneurs that helped me get where I am today.

Now, though, I have a dilemma. No one wants to be in the spotlight?! Can that be right?

I don't think it can.

If you've been a spotlight subject in the past, that's okay -- as long as it's been more than twelve months since the last time we featured you, your business, or your product, we'd love to do it again! Have a new service or product offering? Branching out or narrowing your focus? Congratulations! Let us help you spread the word!

We only say positive things. This column follows one of Mom's old adages, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

And so I ask, once again:

Have you nursed a secret longing to be in the spotlight, center-stage, all eyes on you?
If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Patty@OffAssist.com and we’ll see if we can put you in the limelight!

That's right -- we want to talk about you! (But only in a good way!)

Fine print: We do reserve the right not to feature anyone and a request is not a guarantee that you will make it into the newsletter. Also, if your news, announcement, etc. is time sensitive or tied to a specific date, please let Patty know in your email.

If you would like to be featured in the OffAssist spotlight column, and have not been featured in the past twelve months, contact Patty@OffAssist.com and we'll see if we can put you in the limelight.

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.

The OffAssist newsletter is made possible by the copywriting/editing skills of Ink Think VA, and the coding talents of Time Is Of The Es-Cents.