Five Money Moves for Gig Entrepreneurs

As a freelance writer, I like the independence that comes with gig work. I also like interacting with a variety of clients, setting my own schedule and working from home in jeans and a t-shirt.

But I’m not so crazy about the administrative, record keeping and money management tasks that are part of the picture. I’d much rather devote time to the actual work I enjoy doing.

Sound familiar?

The reality is that any entrepreneur – gig or otherwise – needs a back office of some sort. January is an ideal month to look at where you are and make adjustments for the year to come. Consider these five tips to get the money side of your business in good shape:

1) Find a good accountant. This advice came from just about every 40-and-older entrepreneur I interviewed for my book. It isn’t enough to locate someone who can prepare financial statements, however. A “good” accountant is someone who understands your business and gives you a strong comfort level. Trust your gut. It may take some digging and a few meetings to find the right person.

2) Set up systems. Think about how to accept payments (a good problem) and keep track of time, invoices and out-of-pocket expenses, among other things. These systems don’t have to be fancy. I use Excel spreadsheets to log hours and make notes. Bruce Summers, a Northern Virginia-based personal historian and Collaboration/Community Practice Coach, uses a combination of methods. For his personal history gigs, he uses Flash drives, digital file folders and project boxes to store hard copies of photos, letters and other family mementos. For his collaboration work, he maintains chronological hard and digital file folders for each client or project, along with folders and subfolders for email. Says Summers: “I have multiple, concurrent projects for each consulting line so I have to stay organized.”

3) Pare expenses. Frugality can help you to weather erratic cash flow and lean times, which are inevitable parts of freelancing (especially at the beginning). Most gig entrepreneurs work in a home office, which saves money on rent and commuting. Others, like Summers, use coffee meetings and virtual conferencing as inexpensive ways to serve clients and develop new business. “I use professional membership discounts when possible,” says Summers, who also comparison shops to save money on office and telecommunications equipment. Bartering is another good way to control costs while obtaining coaching, writing or other valuable support.

4) Decide on pricing. What to charge for your services can be a tricky question. Price them too low and you may not make enough income, or be perceived as “cheap” in more ways than one. Price them too high and you may lose business to less expensive competitors. Contact trade associations in your industry for data and research competitors’ prices. Just keep in mind that location is a big factor in pricing. A freelancer in Manhattan or San Francisco may charge more than one in the Midwest, where the cost of living is often lower.

5) Avoid commingling business and personal funds. Have separate bank accounts for each. “The IRS frowns upon mixing the two because the potential for fraud is much greater,” says Astrid Reeves, owner of Astrid’s Bookkeeping Co. and Services, Inc. in Fairfax, Virginia. “If the money trail is not easily discernible, that does not make them happy. It raises a red flag.” If you must take money out of your business to cover personal expenses, write a check to yourself from your business account and deposit it into your personal account to create a clear paper trail, recommends Reeves.

Bonus tip: Check your credit report. Should you ever need a business loan from a lender, your financial history will be a factor that determines approval. Negative information may result in a loan denial or high borrowing rates. If you don’t know what’s in your report, head to www.annualcreditreport.com and request a copy. You can get one for free every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion).

Any gig entrepreneur who wants to build a successful business has to pay attention to the financial side. This doesn’t have to bog you down, however. Follow tried-and-true steps, get good help and devote time each day to your back office. That way, you can manage your money, rather than your money managing you.

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8 Inspiring Quotes from 40-and-Older Entrepreneurs

The end of the year presents an opportunity to look back at some of the most memorable quotes about 40-and-older entrepreneurs that appeared on this blog in 2017. I hope you find wisdom and inspiration from these eight quotes – especially if your 2018 goals include starting or expanding a business.

Happy New Year!

Lynne

*********************

1) “Go after what you feel deeply about. And be willing to take a risk. If you feel strongly about something, just follow your heart and do it.” – Bob Hamrin, Great Dads

2) “If I had started at age 30, I could not have survived. I had no experience or connections. And connections are very important, especially in this business.” – Edward Kim, Buying Together

3) “You cannot live to be 45-plus and not have something to offer the economy.”— Angela Heath, TKC Incorporated

4) “After a 35-year career managing systems integration and software development projects, I found myself about to be laid off and decided to pursue my passion for hot rods, sports cars and all things automotive. I was presented with an opportunity to become a business partner at a high-end automotive restoration shop….and I haven’t looked back. I love what we do and look forward to going to work every day.” – Paul Vorbach, HV3Dworks

5) “I believe my age gave me an edge. I was born level-headed, I was more apt to stick to it and I was more determined.” – Jeannette Hughes, Hughes Barney Investigations

6) “Business is first and foremost about people. Pick up the phone and call people in your tribe. They’ll introduce you to people in their tribes. That’s how you go from an aspiring entrepreneur or author to a successful one with a sustainable business.” – Jim Horan, The One Page Business Plan Company

7) “I have probably picked up one-third of the income I enjoy today from work I never expected to do.” – Jeff Williams, Bizstarters

8) “I am doing the most rewarding and meaningful work of my life right now.” – Paul Tasner, PulpWorks

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This 70-Something Entrepreneur is Passionate about Eco-Friendly Packaging

Paul Tasner used to be a director of operations for a consumer products company in San Francisco – until he was fired in 2009 at age 64.

Two years later, Tasner became a first-time entrepreneur. He’s now channeling his concern for the environment into Pulpworks, which designs and manufactures biodegradable, planet-friendly packaging for consumer goods.

“I am doing the most rewarding and meaningful work of my life right now,” he says in a TED Talk titled “How I became an entrepreneur at 66.”

Tasner cites data from the Chartered Management institute (CMI) that shows older entrepreneurs have a 70% success rate for launching new ventures versus 28% for their younger counterparts.  Still, late-blooming entrepreneurs don’t always receive the recognition or support that they should.

“That’s why I’d like to make the expression 70 over 70 just as commonplace as 30 under 30,” says Tasner, who’s started a new forum to generate discussion about people who begin businesses later in life.

Watch Tasner’s TED Talk by clicking below.

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Lessons Learned from an Accidental Author

Jim Horan

By Lynne Beverly Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs 

Jim Horan never expected to own a business or write a book. Much to his surprise, he ended up doing both in the second half of his life. 

As explained in this 2013 blog post, Horan started The One-Page Business Plan Company in 1990 when he was nearly 40. His goal was help entrepreneurs construct their business plans with a single page. Seven years later, the Berkeley, California-based innovator published The One-Page Business Plan® at age 45. It became an Amazon bestseller, spawned five more books and triggered a host of new products, including an Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit, workbooks and cloud-based software. It also led to consulting and speaking opportunities with a long list of corporations, associations and nonprofits.  

In this interview, Horan – the keynote speaker for this week’s Nonfiction Authors Association Fall 2017 Writers Conference – provides insights on his “accidental” publishing experience. He also offers suggestions for other entrepreneurs who aspire to write a business book.

What led you to write your book?

Actually, the idea came from other people, which is often the case with good ideas. Back in 1990, I thought my career was over when I was booted out of the corporate world at age 38. I was depressed and had lost most of my confidence. I realize now I wasn’t a loser. I was just temporarily lost.

I began picking up consulting jobs with organizations that didn’t have a strategic or business plan. All entrepreneurs need a network because no one builds a business alone. We need a place to go and learn from other aspiring entrepreneurs. I belonged to multiple entrepreneurial support groups, which is what kept me going.

In 1994, I took my idea for the one-page business plan to my mastermind group for feedback. Great idea, they said. You have something. Now go out and speak about it. When I said I was afraid of public speaking, they told me to get over it. So I started speaking to chambers of commerce and professional organizations, among other groups.

After about five speeches, audiences started asking if I had a book. That question terrified me! I’m the guy who got Cs and Ds in English. I asked my support group what I should do. They recommended that I go to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). I liked the idea of self-publishing because I am not into asking permission and I wouldn’t need a literary agent to represent me.

BAIPA had me test three editors. The third one, Rebecca Salome, liked my writing style and gave me the confidence to move forward. Rebecca became my book coach and the editor of all six of my books. After three years, I published my first book in 1997.

How has writing a book benefited your business? 

It was like an “on” button. Publication of the first book really ignited the business. Things began to happen at a much faster pace. People seemed to like the fact that I had come up with a simple solution to a common problem. It can take weeks or months to write a business plan. As a result, many people give up. Entrepreneurs, business owners and executives not only bought my books, they wanted my consulting services. They asked me to keynote conferences and lead workshops. Eventually, they wanted my cloud-based software.

You advise authors to view their business books as a starting point. What does this mean?

A book is a great way to become visible and introduce yourself as an expert. Nonfiction authors may not think of themselves as experts and teachers but that’s what they are. Writing a book makes you special. Once business executives and owners read your book, they are much more likely to enlist your professional services and buy your other products.

The key to turning your book into a business is to hang out in the same places as business people. Be curious and ask questions. What makes their business successful? What’s their next or hottest idea?  They will begin to ask you questions, which is magical. It gives you the opportunity to talk about what problems you will solve, and how you solve them.

What’s enabled your book to succeed when so many haven’t?

It certainly helped to have a simple concept and a foreword written by business guru and author Tom Peters. But more importantly, I always did something with my book for 23 years. Constant marketing remains critical. I still do something with my books every day and encourage all authors to do the same.

A big factor was leveraging the power and magic of associations. Just about every industry has one. A turning point occurred when the CEO of GAMA International called and said, “My industry needs One-Page Business Plans. Would you create a special edition for our industry?” That CEO and his association put us on the map.

Could you have written a book when you were younger?

No. I didn’t know who I was back then. When I was in my 20s and 30s, my world was small. I lived within the four walls of corporate America and had very little involvement with my local and professional communities. There were topics I could have written about but I didn’t have the audience.

What advice would you give to others who want to write a business book?

Get started now. Don’t wait or play it safe. Do it your way and break the rules. You’ll find it energizes you, which will energize others.

Join a support group for authors. They need your support and you need theirs.

Find an editor who captures your voice – and who encourages you to keep going and finish the book.

Go to new places and meet new people. Listen to what they want and need. They just might tell you who needs your products or services. Keep in mind that the best ideas come from the marketplace.

And finally, remember that business is first and foremost about people. Pick up the phone and call people in your tribe. They’ll introduce you to people in their tribes. That’s how you go from an aspiring entrepreneur or author to a successful one with a sustainable business.

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This Parent of 10 has Big Plans for her Investigations Business

It takes grit. commitment and strong support to start a business later in life while managing the demands of a family. One entrepreneur who understands this very well is Jeannette Hughes.

Hughes and her husband, Dale Hughes Sr., are the parents of 10 children, including six who are adopted. Three are handicapped and need lifetime care.

Jeannette and Dale Hughes wanted their children to be financially secure. The best way, they decided, was to start a long-lasting business that would provide for their family.

In 2005, the couple launched Hughes Barney Investigations, a Largo, Maryland-based firm that provides fingerprinting scans, polygraph examinations and background checks, among other security services. Jeannette Hughes serves as the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Like most startups, Hughes Barney Investigations struggled at the beginning. Jeannette Hughes realized she needed help to navigate the process of contracting with state and federal governments. At a friend’s recommendation, she contacted SCORE, a nonprofit association that helps small businesses get off the ground. SCORE, in turn, provided a volunteer mentor who showed Hughes the steps needed to secure federal contracts.

Hughes’ hard work paid off. Over the years, her company grew from fingerprinting three people a month to servicing 400-600 people per month for the state and FBI. This year, Hughes Barney Investigations won SCORE’s Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur Award.

“I believe my age gave me an edge,” says Hughes in a video about the company. “I was born level-headed, I was more apt to stick to it and I was more determined.” In five years, she sees her firm becoming “a powerhouse when it comes to security.”

Here’s the video that tells more about Hughes Barney Investigations story.

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10 Twitter Accounts for Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs to Follow

If you’re looking for inspiration, tips or ideas for your next act as a 40-or-older business owner, here are some Twitter accounts to follow:

1) Angela Raspass (@AngelaRaspass) – Helping women 40+ create, launch and expand into Your Next Chapter Business with clarity and confidence.

2) BoomerCafe (@BoomerCafe) – An online magazine for baby boomers with active lifestyles and youthful spirits.

3) Boomers in Business 2.0 (@SmBizBoomers) – Goes by this motto:  “You’ve got The Time. The Wisdom. The Experience.  What ARE you waiting for?”

4) Debra Eve (@DebraEve) – A late bloomer celebrating fellow late bloomers and their art, books and adventures.

5) Encore.org (@EncoreOrg) – Building a movement to advance second acts for the greater good.

6) Growing Bolder (@growingbolder) – Hope, inspiration and possibility for the 45+ generation.

7) Kerry Hannon (@KerryHannon) – Retirement, career and personal finance columnist.  Author of Getting the Job You Want After 50 and other books.

8) Kristen R. Edens (@ScribblerKris) – Copywriter, blogger and content developer for Boomers and GenX. Founder of Grandparents in Business blog.

9) Next Avenue (@NextAvenue) – Provides stories, information and advice for America’s 50+ generation.

10) Rick Barlow (@YouRenewed) – A retired entrepreneur who is exploring stories of personal reinvention in midlife and retirement.

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Why Exercise Can Help You Succeed

View from a bike ride along Virginia’s Skyline Drive

January has the honor of being the most popular month to start or renew an exercise program. But the best time of the year to do this is right now.

Why? We’re on the verge of the holiday season. For business owners, this means lots of open houses and tins of cookies from clients. You’ll be better positioned to ride out this caloric tidal wave if you’re in the exercise groove before the kids bring home their Halloween candy.

For those who need additional motivation to hit the gym, here are five more ways that exercise can help you succeed in both your entrepreneurial and personal life.

1) It increases stamina.  Physical activity builds cardiovascular and muscular strength, which in turn creates more endurance and energy to handle the demands of business ownership.

2) It builds discipline. You need a certain amount of resolve to keep going when your muscles ache. Once you get into a regular exercise routine, you’ll find that you miss it if it’s disrupted for some reason.

3) It provides a mental break. A walk or a bike ride is a great way to relieve stress and clear your head.

4) It encourages goal setting. Many entrepreneurs enjoy the challenge and satisfaction that comes from setting and meeting fitness goals. Graphic designer Donna Herrle, for example, is a cyclist who strives to complete at least one century (100-mile ride) each year.

5) It teaches team building. With softball, basketball and other team sports, you and your teammates depend on each other to achieve a common goal. You learn how to develop a support system, build trust and motivate people with different abilities. All of these skills carry over to other areas of your life.

If you’re pressed for time, keep in mind that even short periods of physical activity can go along way. “For busy entrepreneurs, thirty minutes of exercise three times a week will do it,” says fitness coach Patti M. Hudson.

So go ahead and lace up those running shoes. It could yield big returns – and help avoid weight gains this holiday season.

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