Software for Professional Billing

Software for Professional Billing

time is money!As a business owner, you will need to send invoices to your clients in order to get paid. Sending a professional-looking invoice not only creates a good image for your business, but it also aids in helping you get paid on time.

Clients are going to treat you in a more professional manner if you treat your business in a more professional manner. Plus, as a business owner it is imperative that you are able to manage invoicing and billing in an organized manner to keep your business running smoothly.

One way to manage invoicing is to use invoicing software. Today there are a variety of different invoicing software options available that you can use to manage your invoicing in a professional, organized way. There are both free and paid options around. Here are a few that you can consider.

FreshBooks

This is cloud-based professional invoicing software that allows you to send professional-looking invoices no matter how your client likes them - by email, in the mail, or even directly to their Freshbooks account. It also allows you to track time and manage expenses on each project so that you can track profitability of everything that you do. FreshBooks syncs with a variety of other systems such as Outright.org, Basecamp.com and Zendesk.com to help you manage your entire business.

QuickBooks

Available both as cloud-based software and as local software on your computer, QuickBooks offers advanced invoicing options. If you often send estimates first to your clients, you can convert your estimated invoice to a regular invoice automatically. You can also schedule automatic invoices to be created and sent to clients on a particular date. You simply keep track of all the work you do for that client and the system will grab it and make the invoice for you.

Wave

This is a free unlimited invoicing software that allows you to create professional-looking invoices. You can customize your invoices by altering the template with your own logo and colors. You can even add a pay now button to your email invoices that allows your customers who use credit cards to pay your invoice automatically. This free software is also totally mobile ready and completely in the cloud.

PayPal Invoicing

Many people don't realize it, but you can also use PayPal's free invoicing tool to send professional invoices via email to all your clients. If you have a business account, you simply go to "Request Money" then choose Create an Invoice. You can save invoices and client information so that each time you create them you don't have to re-enter all their information. You can't customize them as much as the other offerings but you can add your logo to them. They are free and a lot of people like them.

No matter which software you choose to use, you'll be sure to look more professional if you use a professional program for invoicing. Not only that, you'll be more organized because you'll know who owes you and who has paid you at a glance.

References:

FreshBooks
http://www.freshbooks.com/

QuickBooks
http://quickbooks.intuit.com/invoicing/

Wave
https://www.waveapps.com/invoicing/

PayPal Invoicing
https://www.paypal.com

Ten Ways To Balance Work and Family

balanceBalancing a work life and a home life can be difficult, but with a little knowledge and planning, you can make it work for you.  Here are ten tips that will help you balance your work life and home life.

1.  Set realistic goals.  It's pretty much a given fact that if you want to achieve something big, you have to make some sacrifices.  While the select few can manage, most people can't become a CEO and run a successful household.  When setting your goals, be realistic and don't stretch yourself too thin.

2.  Make schedules.  Keeping track of work and your family can be difficult to plan.  Try to keep a set schedule from day to day and week to week if you can.  Always remember to make a written schedule and give everyone a copy.

3.  Take time for yourself.  It's a natural instinct of mothers to sacrifice themselves for the good of their family.  However, it's important to remember that if you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anyone else.  Try to schedule in at least a few minutes of "you time", whether it be going for a run, watching your favorite TV show, or just sitting in a room by yourself to relax for a few minutes.   

4.  Work from home.  If you can do your work over the Internet or phone, you may be able to swing working at least part of the time from home, giving you more time to spend with your family.  Just remember that there are a lot more things at home to distract you from getting your work done.

5.  Get some exercise.  Working out is not only a great way to stay healthy and gain energy, it's also a great way to spend time with your kids.  Instead of hitting the gym, go play ball in the park or take them for a walk.

6.  Take advantage of leave.  Most jobs allow you a certain amount of leave, but a lot of us end up not using it.  Make sure you know how much time you have and take it, whether you go on a vacation with your family or just use it to take a well-deserved rest day every so often.  

7.  Prioritize.  When making your to-do lists, figure out the things that are most important for you to do and get them done first.  If there isn't enough time to do everything, you won't feel as bad about what you have to cut.

8.  Take classes.  As many people will tell you, there's no manual on how to be a good parent and have a successful career.  But if you search around your community, you can find classes and seminars from people that have been where you are and managed to do well.  They can give you inspiration along with helpful tips and tidbits to get through your day.

9.  Watch for burn out.  Even if you schedule everything, take breaks, and do everything else above, what you're doing may just be too much for you.  Watch yourself for changes in mood or physical problems.  They could be a sign that you're burnt out and need to make some changes to your plans.  Remember, your health is important too.

10.  Learn to say no.  If you want to have a successful career and family life, you will have to learn to say no occasionally.  If you try to do everything, you're going to burn yourself out and not be able to take care of anyone.  Being a good employee and a good parent doesn't mean you need to do everything you're asked.

Avoid "Burn Out" by Balancing Work and Family

work-lifeMany people turn to a home business in an effort to be able to spend more time with their family while earning an income. While it is never easy to be a full-time working parent outside the home, it can be just as hard, if not harder, to be a full-time working parent from home.

When your family sees you at home, they may automatically feel that you are at their service. One child may need a ride somewhere, another child wants you to find something they are looking for, and your spouse wants you to run to the store and buy something for dinner. On top of all of that, you have clients expecting you to complete various projects for them, as well.

You may want to hold a family meeting and explain how important it is to your family that you have time set aside for your business. It doesn’t matter if you leave the house and work from an office, or if you work from the kitchen table, work is work. Your family wouldn’t come to an office outside the home and ask you to do all those miscellaneous tasks, working from home should be no different.

Of course, you will want to set aside time for your family, just as you would for your clients. Working from home will allow you to have a flexible schedule and that gives you the opportunity to attend school functions and other activities.

While it can be easy to procrastinate and not get your work done, it can be just as easy to over schedule yourself and spend too much time working. Your family needs to have some quality time with you; and you will need their support, too. Starting a new home business can be draining.  It will be a lot easier with the support of your family.

You can also ask your family to help you with the household chores. Set up a schedule where everyone pitches in with various tasks. Depending on the age of your children, they may be able to help with things such as emptying the garbage, vacuuming, doing laundry, preparing their own lunches for school, or even preparing dinner for the family. If you have a spouse, make sure that they are involved, too.

Another option is to ask a young teenager in the neighborhood to come over and “entertain” your children while you work for a few hours. A younger teen without a lot of prior babysitting experience will charge less than an older teen. Since you will be in the house, you can take over in case of an emergency. Your young sitter can play with the kids, read stories to them, etc – and you can have three or four hours of uninterrupted work time.

Balancing work and family will never be easy, but with practice – and patience; it can be done.

Be Honest About Deadlines

deadlinesWe all know what it’s like to have a deadline looming over our heads.  We spend most of our time feeling like we’re being pushed, often unwillingly, toward the goal line of one project or another.  We also all know what it’s like to miss a deadline.  However, with time and effort you can reduce your stress and meet deadlines more efficiently.

The first part of meeting goals is setting them.  This part is far more important than it seems.  When setting goals, you need to be realistic.  Not only with whether or not you can meet a timeline, but also with whether or not you have the ability to get the job done - period.  Once you have an overall goal, set smaller goals and a calendar for achieving them.  Assign specific goals and duties and make sure everyone not only knows their part, but everyone else’s as well.

Even if you’re setting realistic goals and deadlines, that doesn’t mean you’ll always meet them.  When setting up your plan of attack, it is important to realize that sometimes things go wrong.  One of your co-workers may call in sick, the copier might break down in the middle of a large print job, or bad weather might trap your supplier out of town.

You can’t prepare for every eventuality, but you can set up a Plan B in case of common problems.  This is often as simple as having alternate companies’ phone numbers on hand or making sure someone knows how to do a task if someone else is sick.  Occasionally, something is going to happen and you won’t meet a deadline, but you can still make this a rare occasion.

When managing a team, always set their deadlines well before the deadline for the final project.  Even if someone does exceptional work, you may end up with a bad final product because you were in a rush to get everything together.  If the people you work with spend a lot of time procrastinating, you may just want to set a deadline they need to have it done by and leave it at that.  If they don’t know the final project deadline, it may get their part to you sooner.

For a team to meet a deadline, the leader needs to be involved in the entire process.  No, they don’t need to check up on everyone every step of the way, but they do need to see if everyone is on schedule and if they have any problems.  Often people will try to handle it themselves when they hit a snag, delaying their part and possibly the whole project.

When you’ve met a big deadline, reward yourself and your team with some kind of treat.  Depending on your options and on the importance of the deadline, it could be something big, like a group outing, or something small liking bringing in bagels one morning.  If you have something to look forward to, you’ll be more likely to get things done on time.  Plus, this will give everyone the energy boost to get started on your next big project.

How to Keep Confidential Information Safe

keep it safeWhile technology progresses, it has become easier and easier to get a hold of people’s personal information and other important documents.  There are many ways to help keep ahead of these people and keep your information safe.  The key is knowing what they are and keeping yourself protected.

When it comes to computers, it can be difficult to keep your information safe from potential hackers and other dangers.  That’s why it’s important to have a quality antivirus program.  But, contrary to what many computer salesmen tell you, you don’t have to pay a lot to get a virus protection program that works.  In fact, some of the better programs are free or require less than $20 for a 6-month license.  If you just want to get a more expensive software program just in case, you can always run it and a free or inexpensive program as well.

In addition to protecting yourself against viruses, you also need to keep out other threats that virus checkers may or may not cover.  There are several good spyware programs that are free and effective.  A good rule of thumb is to look up the product and what it protects against.  If you’re not already protected, it’s probably a good idea to buy or download the program.

In addition to keeping information safe while it’s on your computer, it’s also important to keep it safe while sending it.  If you’re sending confidential information or requesting it from someone, always be sure to use a safe, proven encryption program to protect the data from getting into the wrong hands.

Hackers aren’t the only danger to your electronic files, however.  While it may be less devastating than having the information stolen, losing it to a computer failure or natural disaster can be very harmful as well.  Be sure to back up your information and keep it somewhere safe.  Just remember if you protect by keeping information on a separate drive or CD, etc, it could still be destroyed in a fire or flood if it’s in the same place as your computer.

While you hear a lot about people losing important information and documents from their computer, paper documents can still be lost or stolen just as easily.  It’s just as important to protect these as it is your computer.  To protect against thieves, you can get a safe or other locked storage device.  What you get depends on what information you have and what you are able to spend.

While a safe may be great for keeping your documents out of the hands of other people, it may or may not be secure in case of fire, flood, or other disasters.  That’s why it’s important to get a safe that is, or find another way to protect documents.  There are containers that can do this for you that are relatively inexpensive, or you can back up the information securely online.

Remember that no matter what you do, there is no 100% sure way to keep private information private, but you can take major steps to protect it.

Easy Tips for Managing Your Business Hours

Time management is one of the biggest challenges Virtual Assistants and their clients face. 

New technologies have given us more freedom to have flexible schedules and many more opportunities to slack off. 

Here are a few tips you can use to get yourself on track to being more productive.

To Do List

Write a to do list and keep it in a prominent place.  It is also a good idea to prioritize your list and do it in (or close to) that order so you know the most important things are getting done.  Or, if you know when you’re most productive during the day, do the #1 item during that time.

Edit Your List

Once you’re done making your list and putting it in order, cross off everything below #5.  If something is #8 on your list, it’s probably not going to get done that day. 

And if it’s not important enough to be high on the list, you probably don’t need to do it that day.  It will probably just sit there, looming on your to do list, making you feel unaccomplished. 

Besides, if you get everything done on your list, you can always make a new one later in the day.

Do The Hardest Thing First

Take care of your most difficult task first.  Often we spend a lot of our day coming up with ways to avoid tasks we don’t want to do.  We may do this by getting other tasks done, or we may just play solitaire on the computer instead.  If you get your worst task done first, you’ll not only get to your other tasks rather than avoiding them, but you’ll also have a sense of accomplishment to help motivate you through the rest of your day.

It’s always been accepted that you should keep your mind on your work and not let other things distract you or you won’t get any work done.  However, recent research has shown that this isn’t true.  In fact, it’s the opposite of the truth.

Take Breaks

Taking short breaks by doing something you really like doing actually increases your productivity when you get back to work.  The problem with this is that many people have problems getting back to work at the end of their break.  If you do take short breaks, you should set a specific time limit and stick to it.  You should also pick your activities carefully and stay away from those you know you won’t be able to stop doing once break time is done.

Focus on Working Time

While it’s good to take breaks, you need to work to make working time only working time.  This means clearing your desk (and computer desktop) of distracting things.  If multitasking helps you get stuff done, then go ahead and work on several projects at a time, but don’t multitask between a project and an internet conversation or reading a funny website.  Keep your fun time away from your work time.  Otherwise you’ll find you have very little actual work time.

Be Careful With Multi-Tasking

If you are multitasking different projects, watch what things you do together.  While working on a supply list and a budget at the same time might be useful, constantly interrupting your work to answer the phone or respond to emails is only going to slow you down.  Save things like phone calls, emails, and checking on projects with co-workers for a few times a day.  This way you can get your work don’t without interrupting your flow.

By just making a few small adjustments, you can drastically increase your productivity.