September 2007  
All of your business needs. One easy solution.
Volume 4 Issue 9   www.offassist.com

As part of the virtual assistance industry, one of the neat things I've noticed over the past couple of years is that everything cycles.

What do I mean? Well, I am writing this newsletter in early August. I know that by the time this issue comes out in September there will be loads of people asking me and other VAs about marketing and how to market their businesses.

Why?

The kids will be back in school and home-based business owners will be ramping back up from the summer. It's always interesting to watch the life cycle of any business and this one is no different.

As far as the marketing advice goes… I have to say that these days most of my clients are referrals. My current clients are absolutely wonderful people whom I adore working with and I’m lucky that they refer me all over the place. Beyond that you just really have to believe in yourself and what you are doing.

Of course, I am also very lucky that Tom works with me. Tom is the marketing guru and has ideas—big ideas. His ideas have always paid off. Sometimes they bring in new business, but they always help me maintain a good relationship with my clients and prospects.

Sometimes seeking advice from an expert may be just the push we need to take our marketing efforts to a whole new level.

In this issue...
Organization Lasagna
by Ragen Chastain

Imagine what might happen if someone wanted to make lasagna, but they didn’t have a recipe and the only experience they’d ever had with it was eating out at a restaurant. So, they get a big pot, some elbow macaroni, marinara sauce, spices and some cheese. Then they cook it for a couple of hours. They get something that has most of the ingredients you need to make lasagna, but it doesn’t have any of the form and function that actually make lasagna work.

Many filing systems have been created in just this way. We know that we are supposed to have files, so we get some and start labeling. Pretty soon we have files, but can’t remember what we named things or where we put them and we have four files for our one car. We have a cabinet that has most of the materials you need for a filing system, but none of the form and function that actually make a filing system work. We have Organization Lasagna.

So, what is the alternative? In a successful filing system the person using it can find their stuff easily and can add to the system without creating chaos. To do that, avoid the Frustrating Five Filing Faux Pas:
  1. Using someone else's systems. In my experience this has about a negative 200% chance of helping you. Create (or customize) a system to suit your personality and work-style.
  2. Creating files before you have all the paper organized. This is how we end up with five folders for our dog. Create piles with your paper, divide those piles down until they are in the smallest useful increments and then make files for them.
  3. Naming your files something other than what you actually call things. If you call it your Visa, don’t call the file “CitiBank”. Label files what you call them in real life and save yourself some time and stress
  4. Creating your mother's filing system. If you are creating a filing system that will please your mother (father, teacher, partner, spouse etc.) then you are setting yourself up for failure and resentment. Create a system that works for you.
  5. Putting form before function. At the end of the day, if your filing system doesn’t work it makes no difference that it is created with fabulous furniture and all of the drawers are aroma-therapied. Start by making the system work, then make if fabulous.
Ragen Chastain is The Renegade Organizer, shattering myths with an organization style that is anything but traditional. She is the author of “The Renegade Organizer’s Easy Guide to Paper Management” available from the publisher at http://www.lulu.com/content/873587. In it you will find a detailed process for creating a filing system as well as solutions to your toughest paper management problems. You can find Ragen at www.RenegadeOrganizer.com.

QuickBooks Q&A
Q: When I go to make a "backup" of my QuickBooks file, I get the option to create a portable company file. What is the advantage of the portable file versus the backup?

A: The backup file is a true and exact copy of your QuickBooks data and history. If you were to ever have to recover your data, you would need to rely on your backup copy.

The portable company file is a copy of your QuickBooks file for sharing with your CPA, bookkeeper or another computer. This copy contains your data, but does not contain the QuickBooks database indexing. This option was designed to allow users to create a smaller copy of their data file for easy transfer or emailing.

A portable company file is not a replacement for a full backup copy. Intuit’s support team can usually help users restore their data when a full backup is available, but not necessarily from a portable company file, so continue to make a backup copy.

The portable company file option is only available to users with QuickBooks 2006 or a later version.


Which Form?

There are two forms, a short form and a long form, that you can use to file your taxes.

How do you know which one you need? Simply decide who you want to pay.

If you use the short form, the government gets your money.

If you use the long form, the tax advisor gets your money.

 

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

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 2007

October 15 - U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040 final due date

October 15 - U.S. Partnership Return of Income, Form 1065 final due date

October 15 - U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, Form 1041 final due date

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

October 20 - Texas Sales & Use Tax Return due for monthly and quarterly filers

October 31 - Employer's Quarterly Payroll Tax Report(s) Form 941 and TWC (Texas Workforce Commission)
Spotlight On...
Total Administrative Solutions

Ragen Chastain started her Austin-area virtual assistant firm, Total Administrative Solutions, over two years ago. She initially offered business organization and administrative services. Things went so well that the administrative support services end of TAS are now their own business, Cloud Nine Staffing (www.cloudninestaffing.com).

Total Administrative Solutions' focus has shifted to business organization and publishing. In fact, she recently published her first book, The Renegade Organizer's Easy Guide to Paper Management. In the book she gives advice on how to get control over the paper that quickly takes over any office, even a virtual one.

Ragen says she wrote her book because, "...many times I would go out for a free consultation and find that the possible client didn't really need my full services. I started looking for a book to recommend to people in that situation and I couldn't find anything that I felt was practical (short, to the point, easy to follow) so I created my own."

To find out more about Ragen's new book, check it out here. To contact Ragen about wrangling your paper, visit her on the web at www.renegadeorganizer.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 in 2007.

Tech Talk With Tom...
Making the Most of Your Dual Core Processor

So the salesman played up that new AMD Dual Core processor and you just had to buy it...

Now you've gotten it home and it seems to be working great. You wonder though, how much of that is the new, faster processor speed and how much is the dual core?

Very few people know that in order to take advantage of many of the perks of these new processors you need special drivers and even a special Windows XP patch. In a recent study that tested 100 notebook computers and 100 desktops, all purchased with AMD dual core processors, not a single one had both the drivers and Windows patch. Only 10% of the systems tested had one or the other.

Luckily this is very easy to remedy, even for the least technical of computer users. To make the most of that dual core processor, here's what you need to do:

For AMD Dual Core Processors ONLY:

Go to http://www.amd.com. You need to download the AMD Dual-Core Optimizer. The installer should update your drivers and tell you to reboot when it's done.

For ALL Dual Core Processors:

Go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/. Follow the instructions to download and install Windows XP Update KB896256. A restart of your computer may be required.

Once you have installed these fixes your computer should now be taking full advantage of your new dual core processor. Hopefully this process will become automatic in the near future, but if it doesn't, you'll still be able to do it yourself.


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

Accountants vs. Engineers

Three engineers and three accountants are traveling by train to a conference. At the station, the three accountants each buy tickets and watch as the three engineers buy only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asks an accountant.

"You'll see," answers an engineer. They all board the train. The accountants take their seats but all three engineers cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.

When the conductor comes around collecting tickets he knocks on the restroom door and says, "ticket, please." The door opens just a crack and a single arm emerges with a ticket in hand. The conductor takes it and moves on.

The accountants saw this and agreed it was quite a clever idea. After the conference, the accountants decide to copy the engineers on the return trip and save some money—being clever with money, and all! When they get to the station they buy a single ticket for the return trip.

To their astonishment, the engineers don't buy a ticket at all. "How are you going to travel without a ticket?" says one perplexed accountant.

"Wait and you'll see," answers an engineer. When they board the train the three accountants cram into a restroom and the three engineers cram into another one nearby.

Shortly after the train departs, one of the engineers leaves his restroom and walks over to the restroom where the accountants are hiding. He knocks on the door and says, "Ticket, please."