January 2010  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 7 Issue 1  www.offassist.com

The New Year...

Wasn't it just yesterday we were celebrating the turn of the millennium? When everyone was up in arms about Y2K and waiting for the end of the world as we know it. Not so much, eh? Hard to believe that was an entire decade ago. Wow!

I sit here now, thinking about everything that has happened and everything I've accomplished (or not) in the past 10 years. Next up is planning. It's nearly impossible to think about the past without looking toward the future. It's time to use what I've learned to move forward, not only in business, but in my personal life as well, and I hope you're all out there planning to do the same.

Wishing you and yours a happy and prosperous 2010!

In this issue...

Should you join a professional association?
by Dyanna Larson

The only good answer to that question is the one you find for yourself. If you're on the fence, here are a few things to think about before you make your decision.

  • Membership Fees - Fees run from free to astronomical, with most falling in between. Before you sign up, do your homework. It may be free, but are there benefits beyond being able to say you're a member? It may be expensive, but does it offer good value for the investment?
  • Credibility - Membership in a professional organization can create confidence in prospective clients and lend your business an air of credibility.
  • For Profit versus Nonprofit - An association can be nonprofit and still have paid employees and expenses. However, if a professional group is for-profit, you might want to find out why.
  • Skill Certification and/or Continuing Education - Many professions have annual continuing education requirements and some associations offer the courses to fill this need or testing to validate skills.
  • Discounted Products or Services - Professional associations frequently partner with vendors and service providers to offer exclusive members-only discounts or deals.
  • Networking - There's a reason the saying, "It's not what you know but who you know," is a cliche; connecting with people can only help your business.
  • Is it the right group for you? Very few businesses fit neatly into a single category. An association may be right for one aspect of your business, but not fit your goals and main focus.
  • RFPs - One of the most powerful incentives to join a professional group is the members-only request for proposal system. Association RFP systems offer opportunities that may not be advertised in other places and many even pre-qualify the lead.
  • Referrals or Subcontracting Opportunities - When association members need to refer a prospect to someone else, or are looking to take on a subcontractor, they often look to their fellow group members first.
  • Community - An active professional group is a valuable way to stay in touch with people and trends in the industry.

Professional associations have a lot of benefits, but they're not for everyone. Do your homework before you fill out that membership application.

Article source: Dyanna Larson is the woman behind the pen at Ink Think, a freelance editorial firm that specializes in writing (and ghostwriting) for businesses.

QuickBooks Tip

Entering transactions in QuickBooks

Q: We have two people entering transactions and balancing accounts in QuickBooks. What’s the best way to figure out which of them entered a specific transaction?

A: QuickBooks is capable of all changes made to transactions with the Audit Trail feature. Each time a transaction is created, modified, or deleted, QuickBooks keeps a record of the change within the data file. A record of the user who made a particular change is also maintained. All of this information is accessible by running the Audit Trail Report.

To activate the audit trail feature, the administrator must take the following steps:

  1. From the "Edit" menu, choose Preferences.
  2. In the Preferences window, Select Accounting in the scroll box.
  3. Select the Use Audit Trail checkbox.
  4. Click OK.

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


New Year Resolutions you won't be able to keep if you're a nerd

14. I resolve to get my off-line work done, too!

13. I will stop checking my e-mail at 3:00 in the morning; 4:30 is much more practical.

12. When I hear a funny joke I will not reply, "LOL... LOL!"

11. I will stop sending e-mail, and instant messages to people while on the phone with them, too.

10. I will figure out why I *really* need 9 e-mail addresses.

9. I resolve to spend time with neglected children: mine.

8. I will answer my snail mail with the same enthusiasm I answer e-mail.

7. When I subscribe to a newsgroup or mailing list, I will read all the mail I get from it.

6. I will stop using, "So, what's your URL?" as a pickup line.

5. No more downloads from alt.binaries.*

4. I will back up my new 400 GB hard drive daily. Well, once a week. Monthly, perhaps?

3. I will spend less than five hours a day on the Internet.

2. I will limit my top ten lists to ten items.

1. I will read the manual. (Just as soon as I find it.)

Tax Deadlines

January 15
- IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for December issued payroll

January 20
- State Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly, quarterly and annual filers

January 30
- Employer's Quarterly Payroll Tax Report(s) Form 941

- Employer's Quarterly TWC (Texas Workforce Commission)

- Employer's Annual FUTA (Form 940)

- Forms W-2, Annual Wage and Tax Statement must to recipients

- Forms 1099-Misc, Miscellaneous Income to recipients

- Forms 1099-B, Interest Income Statement

- Forms 1099-Div, Dividend Income Statement

February 15
- IRS Monthly payroll tax deposits due for January issued payroll

February 20
- State Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly

February 27
- Forms W-2 and W-3, Annual Wage and Tax Statement to be submitted to the Social Security Administration

- Forms 1099 and 1096, Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns to the Internal Revenue Service

Tech Talk With Tom...

External Storage

When I was a kid, I remember a 2,000 square foot house being huge. But these days, at least around here, houses are getting even bigger. I have several friends that live in houses that have 3,000 square feet or more. When I was 10, a 3,000 square foot house was for rich people.

But houses aren't the only thing getting bigger. So are computer files. In 1993, Windows 3.1 was about 9 mb on my hard drive. Windows 7 take up 9 Gigabytes of hard drive space. That's quite an increase! Computer games and software used to come on one or two 1.44 mb diskettes. Now they come on 2 or 3 4.5gb DVD's.

As file sizes get bigger, so do hard drives. Not everyone can just open up their computer and pop in a new drive whenever they need to. Luckily, external hard drives have come a long way from those that were first available. Today's external drives are just as big, and nearly as fast, as available internal drives.

If you need additional space, but don't want to go fiddling around in your computers guts, here are some tips to selecting the right external drive for you:

1.) Don't buy an "off brand." The money you save buying a no-name external drive will so be wasted on tech support calls and pure frustration. Toshiba, Seagate, and Western Digital are all great brands that provide first class support. If in doubt, ask someone.

2.) Read reviews. Even name brands will sometimes produce a lemon of a product. Stick with 5 star rated products. Google can be your friend here. Amazon and New Egg both offer customers the ability to read and write their own reviews. Always make sure you look at reviews for exactly what you are buying and not just a similar product.

3.) How does the drive connect to the computer? USB 2.0 is pretty much the standard way to connect an external harddrive. However, FireWire is another (and faster) option. Make sure that your computer supports whichever connection you choose and stay away from USB 1.0 only drives.

4.) Check the specifications. Just as with an internal harddrive, you want your external drive to meet at least the following: 7200RPM, 10ms (or less) seek time, 4MB (or more) buffer.

5.) Bigger is Better. Remember, you once thought that 40 GB harddrive would be enough to last you forever. Now you need to get something bigger. Make the most of your purchase and plan ahead. 1TB external drives from good brands are available for less that $100. I try to stay away from naming a specific product, simply because technology changes so rapidly.

Hopefully this quick guide will continue to be useful for the foreseeable future.

Next month: How to share your nifty new external hard drive for sharing files and backing up computers on your network!

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

Spotlight On...

Texas Virtual Assistance League (TexVAL)

IVAA (The International Virtual Assistants Association) is a great organization. Sometimes, though, people want a group with with a similar ideal that can focus on local issues. There are a number of local or state VA groups in the United States, but none in Texas. Until now.

After talking to VAs all over Texas, Candy Beauchamp (yes, our Candy!) decided to put her experience as a board member and past president of IVAA to good use in her home state. On October 16, 2009, TexVAL, the Texas Virtual Assistance League, opened it's (virtual) doors. Finally, a place for Texas VAs to get together and talk about what it's like to work virtually in the land of ten-gallon hats!

For more specific information about TexVAL membership, benefits, RFPs, and more, visit them on the web at www.texval.com.

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 Candy@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.