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Beta Blog 3: Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs – ProWritingAid

Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs.

Welcome to our series of blogs on “Essential Virtual Business Tools for Entrepreneurs.” In this series, we share outstanding tools that we rely on each day to save time and be efficient. Many of these applications have both paid and free versions. Check them out to see if they can save time for you.
PROWRITINGAID – Affiliate Link: https://prowritingaid.com/?afid=8259
Do you produce written content? Do you compose emails? Do you want to be better with your written communications? There are several good virtual tools to help you write. I have tried many of them. My favorite (by far) is ProWritingAid. In fact, I composed this Blog in my ProWritingAid account.
ProWritingAid has both free and paid versions. If your writing is under 500 words, the free account is full of great tools. When I finish writing this blog, I will check it for:
  • Readability: Confirming that this column is readable at a 5th-grade reading level.
  • Length: Sentence variety and length.
  • Overused Words: Showing me how to use a better variety of terms.
  • Thesaurus: Looking for stronger wording options.
  • Grammar: Making sure that I punctuated, spelled, and had the proper word usage.
  • Summary: Putting together a summary and score for the document.
I use ProWritingAid for all of my content. I encourage you to use this application for any of your writing.
or click on my affiliate link https://prowritingaid.com/?afid=8259.

The Cost of Convenience

I received a letter in the mail this morning that got me to think about the cost of convenience. The letter was a “Notice of Toll Violation” from the Illinois Tollway. Living in Wisconsin, I do not keep toll money in my truck. We do not have a tollway. If a trip to O’hare was a normal thing, I would probably get an I-Pass and never have to worry about a toll. What really bothered me about the ticket was, I paid my tolls online, the day after my trip. I had seen the signs with the web address and the idea of paying online sounded like a good idea. Now, I would have to waste time disputing the ticket.

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Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

Although my customer service experience was very pleasant (much better than I hoped for), I had to call 1-800-UC-IPASS twice. The first time I got cut off mid-sentence as I was describing my issue to the operator. This didn’t raise my expectations for a good service experience. The second time the guy was great. He looked at my notice and my payment and explained why my payment hadn’t been applied to the account. He saw that I had actually overpaid on a couple of the tolls. I was more than willing to give the state the $2 to be through with the process.

Then he hit me with the cost of convenience. One toll recorded my Ford F150 as a triple axel vehicle. This meant that I had underpaid the last toll leaving Illinois. In order to get this violation removed, I would have to request a hearing and appear in person or mail in my dispute.icons8-team-r-enAOPw8Rs-unsplash

Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

I didn’t yell at him; the violation was only a $23.00 ticket. $23.00 is enough to be annoying and cause frustration, but it is not enough to get that upset. It isn’t enough to justify driving over an hour to appeal in person either. I thought about mailing in my dispute, but I didn’t feel comfortable trusting that a letter would resolve the issue. So I paid a $23.00 convenience fee to the Illinois Tollway.

Would you have paid it? We pay for convenience all the time. Last night my wife and I didn’t feel like cooking so we ordered a pizza. Can you make a good cup of coffee at home? Coffee shops have built an industry out of providing excellent, convenient cups of morning goodness. I am not against paying for convenience. Our lives are busy, and the ease of living is a benefit to living in one of the richest cultures in history. I’m just saying that there is a cost to this lifestyle. If I didn’t have the $23.00, I would have gotten over my concerns and put my dispute in the mail.

I do have a challenge for you. Before you drop that cash, ask yourself:

  • Is this service and convenience going to create enough benefit for my life?
  • Was it worth working that side job last night so you could buy pizza tonight?
  • What’s the alternative? It may not be as convenient.

If it was worth it, that’s great. You know yourself. You know what you want. You know what you need. Most importantly you know what you are willing to give to get.

If you are not sure if the service was worth the expense, evaluate your spending.

  • Look at what it will take to make you happy.
  • Define your needs.
  • Are your habits are keeping you from reaching your best life?

At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up for yesterday, paying for convenience is not wrong. It just costs money and effort. Just recognize that continuing to pay for convenience tomorrow may cost you the happiness that is in your reach.

Remember, its your life. The ROI on life is happiness. How can you improve on your return?

Live Blessed,

Scott Nielsen

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ESSENTIAL TOOLS FOR VIRTUAL ENTREPRENEURS. Episode 2 Mind Mapping

Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs.

Save time and be more efficient with these inexpensive and free applications.

Welcome to our series of blogs on “Essential Virtual Business Tools for Entrepreneurs.” In this series, we share outstanding tools that we rely on each day to save time and be efficient. Many of these applications have both paid and free versions. Check them out to see if they can save time for you.
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Where do you brainstorm business ideas and map out your processes? Do you outline your ideas? Maybe you enjoy creating process maps? In my office, I have notepads, calendars, whiteboards and the post-it notes covering the walls. These physical tools give me a place to park ideas while I focus on the job at hand.
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Beyond the physical tools, I depend on a couple of great virtual tools to collaborate remotely with my team.
  • Whiteboard Fox is an online whiteboard. This application allows you to use a mouse or touchscreen to draw on the board like a physical whiteboard. When you want to work with your team, you can share your board with them. The team can collaborate from anywhere with network access. To work with your team, Whiteboard Fox has two sharing options. Leave the board open to real-time team edits, or lock the board so only you can make changes.
–  Coggle
  • Coggle is a collaborative mind mapping application. It allows me to build hierarchically structured diagrams or flow charts where I can organize, plan, and share complex ideas with my team. I am not a strong artist, so I prefer to type rather than draw. Coggle is the perfect app for me. There are a number of robust features. Like Whiteboard Fox, I can share Coggle with my team and allow them to make edits in real-time, but with Coggle I can export my projects as a pdf. Coggle has become my go-to application to map out new campaigns, processes, or direction for our business.

BETA Blog Series – Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs.

Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs.

Welcome to the first of our series of blogs on “Essential Tools for Virtual Entrepreneurs.” In this series, we share some outstanding virtual tools that we rely on to manage our business. Many of these applications have both paid and free versions. Check them out to see if they fit your needs.
Recording and Transcribing your meetings – Otter.ai (referral link: https://otter.ai/referrals/REN1JU27)
When I meet with clients, I like to have a pen in hand to jot down a couple of key points. At the same time, I don’t want to spend the meeting staring at a sheet of paper, frantically scribbling the important details being discussed. With Otter.ai I never worry about forgetting meeting details. It records and transcribes my meetings, so I can give my whole focus to my customer. When the meeting is over, I stop recording and export the note as an email attachment. Later, I playback the recording as I review the transcription, confirming the details of the discussion.
The free version of the application allows you to record 600 minutes of content each month. If you would like greater recording time, the paid version extends the limit to 6,000 minutes monthly.
All versions include robust features:
– Adjustable playback speeds
– Real-time transcription
– Summary of keywords and word cloud generator
– Group sharing
– Sync Zoom cloud recordings.
If you want to try it out, here’s my referral link: https://otter.ai/referrals/REN1JU27 
Our next blog in this series will talk about Mind Mapping and the fantastic tool we rely on to map our processes and ideas.

Have you ever been distracted? Here’s my tool to avoid the distractions that impact my day.

If you have ever stepped out and started something new, you have probably experienced the doubt that most entrepreneurs experience regularly. You may have started a new business, changed how you take care of your body, began playing an instrument, went back to school, or embraced any of the thousands of other opportunities to improve your life. I have great respect for anyone who reaches out for more (any way you may define it.)

Did you stick with it? Is it still a part of your life? How long did it take to become distracted? Was the new hobby a distraction from the last new thing? I am an idea guy with an entrepreneurial spirit. I love change and am great at responding to crisis situations. I will become distracted by the next great idea if I don’t hold myself to a standard.

About 15 years ago, I started using a tool that has helped me maintain focus and direction in my business ventures. Its pretty easy. As I go through my day, I ask myself 3 questions that apply to any arena of my life and keep me moving toward my goals.

  • Where am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • How do we get there from here?

These are simple questions if you are looking at them geographically. How about spiritually? Maybe apply the questions to your family. Do you need to change direction to arrive at your intended location? Is your business on the right path to reach your goals?

Distractions happen. Some distractions can help us walk away from our daily stresses and give us a chance to recharge. Other distractions will pull you off track and hurt the pursuit of your dreams. I use this quick self-assessment tool throughout the day to stay on track.

While distractions can set us back, the real danger is how we deal with the effects of the distraction. If we get caught in guilt and defeat, the damage can be catastrophic. The distraction becomes a failure and a justification for straying from your goals. Many times, this is all that we need to give up on our dreams of self-improvement. The last step in my process is simple. That doesn’t mean it is easy. I lean on a simple statement. I remember sitting with my son watching Meet the Robinsons and hearing “Keep Moving Forward!” I had already been saying this for years.

KEEP MOVING FORWARD! 

Although it is such a simple statement, I lean on it as a mantra to overcome distractions and the feeling of failure that will destroy your progress.

If you would like to read more about how I break down my process, please visit my site at https://atomicbookkeeping.wordpress.com/our-business-philosophy/

 

Just a quick note about social media networking.

In today’s social media world, business owners are constantly learning a new technology to share their vision. For some keeping up with the tech is no big deal. Others of us find it to be a distraction.

I normally tell entrepreneurs to outsource any process that is not revenue-generating, distracts from the vision, or wastes mental energy. This networking may take mental energy and potentially distract you, but it is a valuable revenue generator.

So my advice is to do some soul searching and decide how much of your media you can handle without it costing you. Then find someone to help you manage your media presence. Maybe they can help by educating you on a better system to share your thoughts. Or they might be the best sales professional your business could hope for (Other than yourself).

Thank you

Scott

Atomicbookkeeping.com

https://www.facebook.com/atomicbookkeeping/

Regular Monitoring of Your Financial Health

Good morning,

I had an experience this week that most of us can probably relate to. My friend mentioned a recent injury. It was one of those situations where all I could say was TALK TO A DOCTOR. I mean the bone wasn’t sticking out of their leg, but come on man, get that thing looked at. His response “Yeah I should get it looked at.” The guilty look on his face said that he knew the importance of seeing his doctor, but didn’t want to. I started thinking, I see that same look when I talk to entrepreneurs about their bookkeeping processes.  Although there are exceptions to the rule, almost every conversation I have with entrepreneurs (who don’t have a bookkeeper) goes something like this:

  • We start out talking about their company and they are confident and passionate about their business. Then they ask me what I do.
  • I explain that I provide Financial Evaluation, and Business Coaching based by Managing the companies Bookkeeping functions, Focusing on their Financial Health and Looking for Process Improvement opportunities.
  • They are very supportive of what I do. They recognize the need for a good bookkeeping process for a company to be healthy.
  • Then we talk about their bookkeeping processes. Usually, I see the passionate entrepreneur lose confidence and take on that same guilty look my friend had last week. Their response is some version of: “I have some bookkeeping questions sometimes, but I do my own bookkeeping. I will be interested in a bookkeeper when I grow a little more.”

I look at the relationship between the business owner, bookkeeper, and accountant much like an HMO. The business owner (or more accurately the business itself) is the patient.  With today’s technology, the Bookkeeper should be more than the nurse who receives your information and enters it into the computer for your doctor to evaluate.  The Bookkeeper should be able to collect current information, report on financial health and provide their opinion on the health of your business as both nurse and doctor. The Accountant is the specialist, the surgeon who takes the information from the doctor, evaluates it, makes their own observations and surgically manages your taxes and legal representation with the IRS. Like the HMO process, having a separation of duties between the Bookkeeper and Accountant saves you money and allows you to have multiple advisers reporting on your business health.

In today’s world we are on a fast track where everything moves rapidly. Right now your business might be on the upswing looking like you are on the verge of being on top of the world. Then in a few months an unwatched financial health issue (such as an imbalance between your income vs. expenses during your recent growth) may explode into a full-blown cardiac event. Although you are the expert on your business and have a firm grasp of your business plan, it is wise to have an adviser who has access to your business’s health history.