10 Reasons To Target Your Favorite Small Business This Saturday

In recent years, the Saturday after Thanksgiving has become known as Small Business Saturday – the one day each year when American consumers are encouraged to ditch the big box stores, go off-line, and support their local small businesses.

Started as a promotional event by a not-so-small credit card company, Small Business Saturday has grown into something of a movement with an estimated 95 million Americans shopping at small businesses on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving last year.

And why not? Small businesses represent a major part of the American economy. Nearly 29 million small businesses employ over 58 million people – almost half of all private sector employment.

In fact, 60% of net new jobs created since the Great Recession have come from businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Why I Love Platform University

Platform University's Checklist

Platform University’s Checklist

Reach more people. Create more impact. That’s the tagline from Platform University, a subscription based, online resource where I learn how to blog better, lead better, and communicate my message more effectively using the modern technology available to us today.

Michael Hyatt himself is reason enough to love Platform University. A father of five daughters, New York Times best selling author, and former CEO of a major publishing company, Hyatt knows a thing or two about leadership, management, and the art of getting things done. These days he’s a successful entrepreneur who built his online business using a model and formula that solopreneurs like you and I can easily replicate.

Rather than gush about Michael Hyatt in general – the blog, the books, the website, the podcast, etc. – I’d like to focus on Platform University specifically.

Below are 5 reasons why I love Platform University and how my membership to Platform University helps me reach more people and create more impact.

Master Classes. Master classes are online video tutorials that walk you through the “how-to” of building your platform. They include interviews of world-class experts in their field like Amy Porterfield, the world’s leading expert on Facebook marketing or Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, and nationally recognized branding expert Donald Miller. Best of all, the Master Classes give you specific, actionable steps you can take as you create and build your online platform.

Backstage Passes. Backstage passes go in detail on how Michael Hyatt and his team get things done. Personal and professional branding can go out of style faster than a pair of animal print Zubaz. In “Behind the Scenes of the MichaelHyatt.com Rebrand” Michael goes into detail about why he decided to rebrand his already successful website and how he did it. He shares specific steps you and I can take to “get wow results”, and advice on how to get affordable design help. In fact, I will be referring to this backstage pass frequently as I consider my redesign later this year.

Platform U How To. It’s really the “How To” that I love most about Platform University. Unlike other websites and tutorials I have followed, Platform University provides high quality, realistic how-to advice that I can use. My personal pet peeve (well, one of the many) is when so-called experts provide advice that is so commonplace as to be meaningless. Did you really not know that sugary drinks are a bad idea for your diet plan? Tell me something I don’t know already! That’s what Platform U How To does. Upcoming How To events include, “How to Generate Recurring Revenue for Your Site” and “How to Get 1,000 People to Read Your Blog Post” (I need that one).

Live Q and A. Platform University is super affordable, in part because you don’t have a lot of one-on-one time with Michael directly. But there are opportunities to ask questions and learn from others including members of Michael’s team and experts featured on the Master Classes. If you can’t make the live Q and A, no problem. A replay is always available.

Practical advice from one who has been there before. This is really the best part about Platform University. Michael built his blog and platform one subscriber at a time, just like you and me. Ten years ago his subscribers numbered in the hundreds. Today they number in the hundreds of thousands.

During one of his online events, I asked Michael if his blog success was due to the success he’s had as a NY Times best selling author and social media expert. He responded that he was only able to become a NY Times best selling author and social media expert because of his blog and the platform he has built.

Platform University is your opportunity to learn from his successes and mistakes, and shorten your learning curve as you create and build your own online platform.

Why Platform U

One of my goals with my blog is to share information with clients and others to help them reach their retirement and financial goals more effectively. For many of you, that means becoming self-employed, generating additional sources of income, or redefining the concept of “work” as you enter the next phase of your life. Developing your own on-line platform is a great way to do that.

Whether you have a product, a service or an idea to sell, Platform University will help you understand how to reach more people and create more impact in today’s increasingly noisy world — especially if you are self-employed or own a small business.

To learn more, visit Platform University where you can opt in for additional free information.

PLEASE NOTE: The views expressed in the recommended publications are not necessarily the opinion of Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. and should not be construed directly or indirectly, as an offer to buy or sell any securities mentioned herein. We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided in these publications. Nor is the company liable for any direct or indirect, information and programs made available in reading this literature. When you consider reading any of these recommended publications, you assume total responsibility and risk. These legal advisors/tax professionals are not affiliated with Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. or the broker dealer. The information that may be provided is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or estate planning advice.

Why Self-Employed People Should Think Twice About LinkedIn

Kari Switala Linkedin Marketing Strategist

Kari Switala
Linkedin Marketing Strategist

Many of my clients are self-employed individuals or if you prefer the latest lingo “solopreneurs”. They derive at least part of their income from their own entrepreneurial efforts.

For others part-time income through consulting or owning their own business is a big part of their long-term retirement income plan.

If you work for yourself, it’s hard to ignore the potential of business networking sites like LinkedIn. LinkedIn boasts over 250 million users; over half a million here in the Twin Cities. Yet many self-employed people underestimate the potential of LinkedIn to help them grow their business.

When I talk to self-employed people about LinkedIn many of them tell me they are too busy or that it doesn’t apply to their business or, more honestly, they admit they just don’t get it.  If that describes you, I encourage you to think twice about LinkedIn and what role it should play in your marketing plan.

Over the past year or so I have tried to understand LinkedIn better. I am far from being an expert, but as my mother likes to say “ I do know a few things”.

Following are a few things that I know about LinkedIn that you might find helpful. At the end of the blog post is an invitation to learn more about how LinkedIn can help you grow your business.

First, you might not be active on LinkedIn, but your prospects and competitors are. Last fall I met with a new referral for the first time.  Helen was referred to me by my client, Karen. Helen mentioned that after she got my name from Karen, she went straight to LinkedIn to learn more about me – not to my website.

Only after doing her research on LinkedIn did Helen decide to contact me for an appointment. Had I not been active on LinkedIn, this referral would have never reached out to me. How many referrals are you missing out on?

Second, LinkedIn is a great search tool. OK, so maybe you are a referral only business and don’t need LinkedIn to find your next client. Congratulations. But what if there was a very specific group of people that you were especially well suited to work with? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way you could not only define this target market, but actually see who these people are and get to know a little bit about them before you begin your networking? Not only can you find them on LinkedIn, but you can save your search for later use.

Let me give you an example. I work with a wide variety of clients, but one of the niche areas I really enjoy is self-employed people. Whether they are artists, sales people or consultants, solopreneurs share a unique set of financial needs that I understand very well – especially since I am one myself.

Using LinkedIn I can identify 781 people within 10 miles of my office who are 2nd degree connections in my network, meaning we know at least one person in common.  These people also describe themselves as “owners” of businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Another plus.

781 people is way too many to deal with, so I focused my search on those who also list “Management Consulting”, “Design” or “Information Technology” in their profile.  Now I am down to a more manageable list of 111 individuals that may fit my target market.  Now the real networking can begin.

On the flip side, your next client may use LinkedIn to search for you. How will they find you and when they do, what will they see?

Third, LinkedIn can help you communicate with your target market.  Even if your prospect pipeline is full and you have more business than you can handle, LinkedIn is a great way to define your brand and stay in touch with your existing clients and prospects. Every time I post to my blog, the post is pushed to LinkedIn. From there it goes to my 500+ contacts for them to read and share.

I imagine most of the time it probably doesn’t go too far, but it could. According to LinkedIn, my 566 connections link me to 10,631,891 other professionals. I have to believe that somewhere in that 10 million is a person who just may be in the market for a financial planner that helps self-employed people cross the bridge to a confident retirement.

More importantly, my list of connections includes a growing number of people who fit one of the niche areas that I serve best – including solopreneurs. Even if it’s a long shot, LinkedIn puts me in a position where I have a chance to be the right person in the right place at the right time.

How to learn more. To learn more about how LinkedIn can help you grow your business, join me on Thursday, May 15th from 11:30 a.m as I host Powerhouse Profiles & Profitable Prospecting with Kari Switala of Wild Fig Marketing.

In this free workshop you will learn:

  • How to create a powerhouse profile that speaks directly to your IDEAL client
  • How to use advanced prospecting strategies
  • How to increase the number of referrals you receive

Seating is limited. Lunch is provided. For more information or to register, click here.

 

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Why You Should File for an Extension on Your Taxes

shutterstock.com

shutterstock.com

The deadline to file your 2013 tax return is just days away. Despite your best intentions, and that New Year’s resolution that this would finally be the year you get your finances organized, your taxes are far from being done.

Maybe you didn’t get that 1099-DIV from your brokerage account soon enough. Or you’ve been too swamped with work or other personal issues to find the time. Perhaps you just let time get away from you. That’s OK. It happens. What with the wonderful weather we’ve had this past winter, it’s completely understandable that you haven’t gotten around to doing your taxes during the past 105 days.

If you haven’t filed your 2013 taxes, you are not alone. According to the IRS, more than 11 million Americans filed for an extension of their 2012 taxes last year. I expect a similar number will do the same this year.

Frankly, there is no shame in filing for an extension. Most CPAs and tax preparers file extensions every year. Many self-employed people file extensions as well. I even know of at least one financial advisor that typically files for an extension on his taxes (the guy down the hall never gets his stuff done on time).

Four reasons to request an extension to file your 2013 tax return.

There are many reasons why you might need more time to file your taxes. The IRS doesn’t require anything specific or even ask why you need more time. Below are four possible reasons why you might need an extension to file your tax return.

  1. You simply need more time. If you are reading this now and still haven’t done your taxes, the odds of getting them done correctly and on time are getting smaller every day. Filing an extension gives you until October 15th to complete your taxes. However, you don’t have to wait until October 15th. Maybe you just need an extra weekend or two to get your paperwork together and double check the accuracy of your return. Filing an extension takes the pressure off getting everything done by April 15th and gives you some extra time to get your tax return done correctly.
  2. You don’t have the cash to fund your SEP. An extension gives you more time to come up with the cash to fund certain retirement plans. Simplified Employee Pensions, for example, may be funded up until your tax filing deadline plus extensions. For self-employed people who have SEPs this means October 15th. So, if the only thing keeping you from taking your maximum SEP contribution is an outstanding account receivable (or two), filing an extension may give you the time you need to fund your 2013 SEP and save thousands on your tax bill.
  3. You have had extenuating circumstances. A lot can happen over the course of a year. Health issues, family issues, a surge in business or work activity, maybe you bought or sold a home or small businesses, all these things take time and could prevent you from filing your tax return by the April 15th cutoff. Filing an extension is a legitimate and reasonable way to give yourself the extra time you need to complete your tax return.
  4. You recently decided to have a professional prepare your taxes – perhaps very recently. Of those who consider hiring a CPA or other professional to do their taxes, most probably don’t actually contact that CPA until March or so. By then most tax preparers are up to their eyeballs in tax returns for existing clients. Many won’t take new clients that late into tax season. Frequently they haven’t had a day off since mid-January, and they have tickets to get out of town for two weeks starting on April 16th . The only way to get them to do your taxes at this late date is to file an extension and ask them to complete your return when they get back. My advice would be to file your extension now, and try to get on their calendar for May.

If you decide to request an extension of your 2013 tax return, the IRS recommends Free File  as an easy way to electronically file form 4868. If, like me, you prefer to file with paper, simply download form 4868 from the IRS website, print it, and mail it in with a check for your estimated tax liability.

To complete the form, you will need to do an estimate or rough draft of your taxes. Remember, filing an extension to do your taxes is a request for more time to complete your return. It is not a free pass to delay paying your taxes. Whatever tax you owe is still due on April 15th, whether you file an extension or not. Penalties for not paying on time are 0.5% per month, plus interest. That’s not a huge amount for a single month, but it adds up if your tax bill is significant and you wait until October to pay.

Don’t forget about your state tax return. Generally, if you are going to file an extension for your Federal income tax return, you will file an extension on your state return as well. Minnesota residents need to file form M-13 which can be downloaded on the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s website.

If you haven’t completed your 2013 taxes yet, don’t worry. Take your time.

 

Neither Royal Alliance nor its representatives or employees provide legal or tax advice.  If legal or tax advice is required, the service of a currently practicing professional should be sought. The link(s) in the materials above are being provided strictly as a courtesy. When you link to any of the web sites provided here, you are leaving this web site and assume total responsibility and risk for your use of the web site you are linking to. We make no representation as to the completeness or accuracy of information provided at these web sites.

How To Reduce Last Year’s Tax Bill by 25%

biz man showing lady somethingImagine being able to reduce your 2013 taxable income by up to 25%. If you are self-employed, a solopreneur or a small business owner, you may be able to reduce last year’s taxable income by as much as 25% or $51,000 whichever is less. Here’s how:

The IRS allows small businesses, even those with as few as one employee (you), to establish retirement plans. Maybe you are an artist, a consultant or have a side business. Depending on the type of retirement plan you set up for your business, you may be able to make a tax deductible contribution for the previous year at any time between January 1 of the new year and your tax filing date – April 15th for most people.

There are many types of retirement plans a small business can set up. Which plan is best for you depends on the size of your business, how much you intend to contribute, and other factors. This post focuses on the Simplified Employee Pension or SEP.

Simplified Employee Pension

A SEP is a small businesses retirement plan that allows employers to make pre-tax contributions of up to 25% of the employee’s salary. Contributions may be made at any time during the calendar year. Contributions may also be made in the following tax year right up to the tax filing deadline.

For many self-employed people the tax filing deadline is April 15th. If you file an extension, you have six more months to submit your tax return and fund your SEP retirement plan.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume you file on time and that your tax filing deadline is April 15th. Let’s also assume that you are a true solopreneur or self-employed individual and have no employees. SEPs make great plans for larger small business as well, but to keep this post from getting out of hand let’s focus on a business that has just one employee – you.

Contributions to your SEP cannot exceed 25% of your net business income subject to a maximum contribution of $51,000. Here is how the math works: You make $100,000 in commissions, fees or other earned income from your business. Your contribution can be up to $20,000.

Yes, $20,000. Why $20,000 and not $25,000? Because the contribution limit is based on net income which includes gross income less business expenses. Your SEP contribution counts as a business expense. So… $20,000 is 25% of $80,000, your net business income after subtracting your SEP contribution from the original $100,000 of gross business income. Does that make sense?

Let’s say business in 2013 was good. Cash flow was no problem. In that case, you could contribute up to $51,000 as long as your gross business income is $255,000 or more.

If you have employees, they can contribute a straight 25% of their gross compensation. So, a $100,000 employee could contribute up to $25,000 to their plan.

Like 401k and other retirement plans, your contributions are tax deductible and they grow tax deferred until retirement. Distributions from a SEP are taxable and those made prior to age 59 ½ may also be subject to a 10% penalty.

Best fit

Who does this strategy work for? Anyone with self-employment income from their business can start and contribute to a SEP. It’s great if you have the cash flow to fund a $51,000 contribution, but what if you have less?

SEPs are a great retirement plan for self-employed people and small business owners who wish to contribute more than $5,500 to their retirement plan. If you can only contribute $5,500 or less, it may be easier and simpler to contribute to an IRA.

SEPs work well for self-employed people and small business owners who fit one or more of the following. You are…

  • Self-employed with earnings greater than $27,500 (if your income is lower than that, you may be better off with a traditional, tax-deductible IRA if you qualify to deduct your contributions)
  • Able to fund a SEP contribution
  • Ineligible to contribute to a tax-deductible IRA or Roth IRA
  • Looking for a tax deduction you can do right now, for last year’s tax return

A SEP contribution could shave thousands of dollars off your tax bill. As always, consult with your tax advisor before making any tax-related decisions. To discuss whether a SEP or other retirement plan might be right for your business, contact me directly.