FreshBooks Blog A blog about our thoughts on entrepreneurship, teamwork, our services, the Web and anything we find interesting. Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:30:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why I stopped compromising with clients Mon, 15 Sep 2014 13:30:58 +0000 Andy Haynes At times in my career I have found myself sitting across from a client trying to figure out how to resolve a sticky situation—one in which we seem to have completely opposite needs. ...]]>

How compromise messed up a great relationship

At times in my career I have found myself sitting across from a client trying to figure out how to resolve a sticky situation—one in which we seem to have completely opposite needs. Early on I followed advice from a veteran salesman who always stressed that relationships were based on give-and-take—that both sides needed to make sacrifices for them to succeed.

Most of the time that worked.

But there were times when I followed his advice only to find the client giving future work to a competitor.

Compromise—a lose-lose situation

My breakthrough came when I partnered on a job with Angela, a new associate in our firm. The client wanted a planning module to integrate into their sales training and were really pushing for a one-week delivery. Trouble was we saw it as a two-week job.

I favored a compromise and suggested a ten-day deliverable. But Angela had a whole other way of thinking about situations like this—one that came from her previous work as an arbitrator.

Angela had found that compromise could be a relationship killer—because both sides give up what they most want and pursue a third option that’s not best for either side. In this case a ten-day deadline would hurt us because we’d have to use more resources and that would eat profit. And the client still wouldn’t have the solution on time—which would create frustration.

And that’s what can cost you clients. When they give something up, they—consciously or not—will blame you. And on the next project, they’ll be more likely to look elsewhere for a vendor who can deliver what they want.

Negotiation is the solution

Instead of compromise, Angela favored negotiation—which is about finding a win-win solution. She explained that compassion is a key to good negotiation. We needed to try to get inside our client’s world and understand the levers that motivate them to make decisions. We needed to ask why the deadline was so important. Try to understand the value to the client of hitting or not hitting it.

When we spoke to the client we learned that they had a deadline with their own client—and missing it would mean huge penalties. Their potential revenue loss was far greater than the premium we would have to charge to deliver on time. From there we were quickly able to agree on a new price for hitting their date.

They made their deadline, we got well-compensated—and we ended up with a stronger relationship with a grateful client.

The last word

Although taking the middle road between two extreme choices sometimes feels like the safe route, in reality it’s an outcome nobody wants. And it can produce frustration and damage a client’s confidence in you. Since I started to find win-win solutions through a compassionate understanding of my client’s situation I’ve been building stronger relationships that have increased my revenue.

About the author: Andy Haynes is a writer for FreshBooks. He is the co-author of two best-selling business books, a successful entrepreneur and business consultant.

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Inbound marketing: 10 ways to get clients to come to you Fri, 12 Sep 2014 13:30:46 +0000 Kristi Hines Do you enjoy searching for customers on a regular basis? If not, then inbound marketing may be your solution. Inbound marketing is simply the strategy of helping your ideal customers find you. The freelancers that I know who do it well get to ...]]>

Inbound marketing

Do you enjoy searching for customers on a regular basis? If not, then inbound marketing may be your solution. Inbound marketing is simply the strategy of helping your ideal customers find you. The freelancers that I know who do it well get to sit back and watch the leads for their business roll in, taking a lot of pressure off of having to go out and find clients. As a freelancer, I have used inbound marketing as a way to gain clients since I started my business, and am happy to say that all of my business comes to me. In this guide, I’ll take you through the 10 steps inbound marketing experts follow to drive people to their office, phone, or inbox.

Step 1: Create an awesome elevator pitch

One big difference between successful and not-so-successful inbound marketers is that the former have an awesome elevator pitch, while the latter either have a poor one, or none at all. An elevator pitch is how you would introduce yourself to a potential customer in an elevator in 30—60 seconds. When people come across your online presence, they’re not likely to spend more time than that, so you need a short and hooky sentence to inspire people to want to know more.

While you can’t measure the time people spend on your social media profile, you can use Google Analytics on your own website. I find that the average visit duration on my freelance business site is 1 minute, 16 seconds. That’s effectively how long I have to make a first impression on a potential client.

Coming up with that one killer sentence can be challenging, but it can make a huge difference to your business.

A great elevator pitch communicates three things in one sentence—who you are, what you do, and why someone should hire you. A couple examples:

  • I am a freelance writer who helps businesses develop high-quality blog content to attract their target customers.
  • I am a freelance web designer who turns business websites into conversion machines.

Actionable Takeaway: Create a one-sentence elevator pitch to use on your online profiles. It should tell people who you are, what you do, and what benefits you would provide them if they hired you.

Step 2: Treat every online profile as a lead generating tool

A lot of freelancers expect their potential customers to first discover them via their website, so that is the one (and sometimes only) platform they fine tune for conversions. But the truth is, potential customers find freelancers in so many places, from their website to their Twitter to the profile they use to review books on Amazon.

This is why top inbound marketers treat every online presence they have as a lead generating tool. No matter where someone discovers you for the first time, they should be able to find out in just one sentence who you are and what you do. If you are a freelance web designer, photographer, writer, consultant, etc., then make sure that is obvious on each of your online profiles.

There are two ways to approach the editing of your online profiles. The first is to search for your name and/or your business on Google. Any profiles that come up in the first couple of search results pages should be edited to include your elevator pitch.

The second is to start with the profiles you use the most on a regular basis. When you sign into Twitter, Facebook, your favorite forum, a blog you write for, and similar sites, edit the areas where you can tell people about yourself—your profile, your forum signature, your author bio, etc. by adding your elevator pitch.

And of course, if you have any blogs of your own (personal or professional), make sure your about page tells visitors what you do for a living. You never know when someone looking to hire a freelance web designer will be excited to work with someone who shares their same love of Doctor Who when they discover it in your fan blog. I’ve actually gained a few clients from my photography blog, one that I rarely update, but still has my author bio identifying me as a freelance writer. Since I added that bio to my photo posts, I have received requests from other photographers who want to hire someone to build up their content.

Actionable Takeaway: Edit your top online profiles to include your elevator pitch so that people who discover your most active profiles will be able to learn more about your business.

Step 3: Join professional networks

Almost all the top inbound marketers I know are active members of professional networks. So, if you’re not already a member of the professional networks that your potential customers are most likely using to discover service providers like yourself, I suggest making the effort to join them. Just having a profile on them can open the door to more lead inquiries.

LinkedIn is the most notable social network for professionals, and it’s a hotbed of leads for any B2B service provider. If you don’t have time for any other professional network, this is the one to go with. I’ve personally gained several clients on LinkedIn by simply having “freelance writer” in my profile and being active in the professional LinkedIn groups. As mentioned in our guide to great ways to find freelance work, consider creating profiles on the top freelance networks (see Tip #3) and professional directories (see Tip #6).

Actionable Takeaway: Create a profile on LinkedIn along with other niche and local professional networks. Be sure these profiles contain your elevator pitch and the top examples of your work.

Step 4: Connect your Facebook page to your profile

In addition to adding your elevator pitch to your personal profiles, be sure to connect professional profiles to your personal ones. For example, you can’t always guarantee that visitors to your Facebook profile will go to your About tab and read your bio information. If you link your Facebook page to your profile, however, it will be upfront when people visit your profile, or just see it in search results.

Inbound marketing 1

To do this, go to your personal profile’s About tab and click the Edit button next to Work and Education. Start by entering your business name (or the name your Facebook page is listed as).

Inbound marketing 2

Then enter your position (such as Freelance Writer), location, and description. Most importantly, make sure the “I currently work here” box is checked. This will put your title and link to your Facebook page in a visible, public spot on your personal profile. Any potential customers who might be friends with you on Facebook or those who might be searching Facebook for people in your industry will be able to easily discover you.

To receive freelance work inquiries on Facebook, you need to do two things. First, check the “Other” inbox for your personal profile. Messages from people who are not friends with you (i.e., potential clients) might end up in there. Second, turn on the option for your Facebook page to receive messages.

Inbound marketing 3

I’ve received new clients through both of these avenues, and you just might too!

Actionable Takeaway: Connect your Facebook page to your personal profile using the Work and Education section of your profile’s About tab.

Step 5: Claim credit for your work

One of the best ways top inbound marketers get leads for their business is through living examples of their work. If your work is published online, and your clients are okay with it, look for ways that you can be credited for that work. Freelance photographers can get this credit by including their watermark on photos they share online. Freelance writers can get this credit by having their author bio included in content they create. Freelance web designers can get this credit by having their business mentioned in the footer or websites they design.

Why is this powerful? People who are shopping for services are always looking for inspiration. For example, when a friend of mine was looking for a wedding photographer, she would peruse magazines to find photographers that fit her style. When she found a photo she liked and saw the name of the photographer on it, she would contact them. I also know lots of businesses that find writers for their website or blog by connecting with writers they come across on other sites. Many of my clients first came to me by sending an email saying, “I loved your work on FreshBooks and would like to get similar content for my website.”

Actionable Takeaway: When possible, make sure your name is included with any examples of your work online. If you can include your elevator pitch nearby, be sure to do so.

Step 6: Create content that converts

Running a blog on your website is another great way to get more leads. Blogs work as lead generators because they can help you overcome the fact that it’s tough to rank for your main keyword phrases in search—like freelance web designer—on your website itself. But with a blog, you stand a good chance of ranking well for longer keyword phrases that can draw your customers to your site.

When considering what to write about on your blog, think about all of the things your customers will search for online prior to hiring someone like you—then create content for those searches. Here are some examples of what a company might search for when they are planning to hire a web designer, and how you can create content for them to discover.

  • Web design ideas for businesses—Take your best business web designs and put them in a blog post entitled 50 Web Design Ideas for Businesses.
  • How to find a web designer—Help your customers by writing a guide on how to find web designers entitled How to Find a Web Designer for Your Business.
  • How to choose a web designer—Help your customers qualify great web designers by writing the best things to ask a potential web designer candidate in a post entitled How to Choose a Web Designer—10 Essential Questions to Ask.

Not sure what kind of questions your customers might be asking? Find out by searching for your title on Quora, a popular question-and-answer website.

Inbound marketing 4

As you can see, there are lots of great questions that you can base some blog posts on. By answering them on your blog, you’ll be leading your ideal customer from search to your website.

You can also post your answers directly to networks like Quora, so people there can find you too.

Actionable Takeaway: Figure out what your potential customers are searching for and create content to help them find the answers that will turn them into your customers.

Step 7: Guest post to your target customer base

A lot of freelancers generate leads through guest blogging—writing posts for other websites. This step is well worth your effort, especially when you’re having a hard time getting traffic to your own website. Guest blogging works best when you demonstrate your expertise on popular blogs that your customers already read. For example, a freelance consultant I know who helps businesses manage their Facebook presence, regularly writes guest blogs on prominent sites for business owners, such as Social Media Examiner, Business Insider, Small Biz Trends, and Mashable.

Successful guest bloggers avoid falling into the trap of “guest blogging for links.” They don’t try to get as many links on as many sites as possible. Instead, they build their authority in their industry in front of a target audience that includes their customers. For example, with the consultant mentioned above, if a blog is geared toward other social media professionals, such as people learning about Facebook for personal use, or if it simply has no audience at all, then it’s not worth his time.

Actionable Takeaway: Find blogs whose audience includes your ideal customers and seek guest blogging opportunities that will help you demonstrate your authority in your industry in order to gain leads from your content.

Step 8: Provide the best answer

Going back to the questions that your customers are asking, there are tons of communities—particularly Q&A networks, and forums—where your ideal customer is going to get information. These are the types of groups that top inbound marketers not only participate in, but also provide highly valuable answers for.

Why is this important? On sites like Quora (as shown in Step 6), people search for questions that have already been answered before asking them again. This means that if you answer a question, there’s a good chance that other people will view the answer, not just the original person who asked the question. This makes it another good way to create something once and have it drive leads to your business regularly.

The best place to start is to search questions your customers might be asking, see which questions come up first, and then answer any questions that are still open to answers. Since these questions came up first to you, they will likely come up first for others as well.

Also, start looking into social groups (Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and Google+ communities) and forums used by your customers. On LinkedIn especially, you will start to see the leads coming in when you provide valuable answers.

Actionable Takeaway: Take 10—15 minutes a day to answer questions asked by your customers in Q&A networks and social media groups.

Step 9: Publish testimonials

Testimonials equal leads. I have several clients who first contacted me because of a testimonial they read. So I know first hand how powerful testimonials can be to help win business. So, anytime someone leaves you a testimonial, be sure to use them on your website, service sales pages, and anywhere else you are likely to gain a customer. If possible, publish testimonials by well-known people and businesses in your industry, i.e. testimonials by people with a lot of authority.

Some places to capture testimonials include the following.

  • Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. To obtain these, ask your most satisfied clients to write a review of your services on LinkedIn.
  • Tweets on Twitter. If someone writes 140 characters of praise about your services, use the star icon beneath the tweet to favorite it. When ready, use the embed option for the tweet to embed it on your website.
  • Praise on Facebook. When people post to your wall on Facebook, you can go directly to the post and click the dropdown arrow by it to embed the post on your website. This is a great way to publish recommendations about your business on Facebook. This also works for public posts customers leave on your personal Facebook profile.
  • Praise in the media. Did you get mentioned in a notable blog or media outlet? Bookmark those articles, take out the best testimonial snippet, and post it as a testimonial, linking back to the original post.

These types of social media endorsements are powerful because people can click to the original source and verify that the testimonials are, in fact, legit. With so many businesses faking testimonials (either by purchasing them or making them up), having testimonials that can be associated to a real person is a big plus.

Actionable Takeaway: Be on the lookout for any praise about your services online and bookmark it. Then add it to your website’s testimonial page, services pages, and other areas visited by your customers.

Step 10: Market to your casual connections

You never know when you might be corresponding with a potential customer. This includes your personal email. The best set-it-and-forget-it marketing tool you have is your email signature. It can be as simple as including your title and a link to your website beneath your name. I’ve personally gained new business from random emails confirming tennis matches, responses to emails sent to groups of people, and emails that were forwarded from a friend to their coworkers.

Actionable Takeaway: Create an email signature for all of your outgoing emails— personal and professional—to let recipients and potential customers know what you do.

Bringing it all together now

Inbound marketing is a great way to get business coming to you instead of chasing it all of the time. If you do the following, you are sure to see your business leads increase in no time.

  1. Create a strong elevator pitch.
  2. Let visitors to each of your online profiles know what you do.
  3. Join professional networks such as LinkedIn and those in your industry where your customers search for people to hire.
  4. Connect your Facebook business page to your personal profile.
  5. Claim credit for your work online when possible so potential customers can see what you do.
  6. Create content that attracts your customers and converts them into leads.
  7. Guest post on the blogs your ideal customers subscribe to.
  8. Provide highly valuable answers to potential customers’ questions in Q&A networks, social groups, and forums.
  9. Collect testimonials from a variety of sources to include on your website including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs.

10. Market your business to everyone, even your personal connections via your email signature.

What inbound marketing strategies do you use for your business? Please share in the comments!

About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, professional blogger, and social media enthusiast. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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New: Update to FreshBooks for Google Apps Wed, 10 Sep 2014 15:18:11 +0000 Rob Guenette Great news for Google Apps users! The FreshBooks for Google Apps integration has been updated and is now available in the Google Apps Marketplace. If you were using the older version of the Google Apps integration you will have already ...]]>

Google Apps

Great news for Google Apps users! The FreshBooks for Google Apps integration has been updated and is now available in the Google Apps Marketplace. If you were using the older version of the Google Apps integration you will have already been moved to the new one.

What’s New?

The app still has single sign on so you don’t have to remember multiple user names and passwords – log in directly from your Google Apps account.

With the update you can now also say goodbye to adding clients manually or dealing with messy CSV files. Now you can import all your Google contacts into FreshBooks as clients as well as your Google users as staff.

I’m not a current user of the FreshBooks for Google Apps integration. How do I get it?

Click here to go to the FreshBooks listing in the Google Apps Marketplace and click the “Integrate with Google Apps” button in the top-right – you’ll need to login to your Google Apps account if you haven’t already.

In the new window click the blue “Continue” button.

Click Continue


Check the box to agree to the Terms of Service and hit the blue “Accept” Button

Agree to Terms


Click the “Additional app setup” link.

Click Additional App Setup


This new screen allows you to link your FreshBooks account. If you’re currently logged into FreshBooks, it should automatically find the account. Otherwise, to connect an existing FreshBooks account, click the blue “Log In” link below the green button.

Click Login


Enter the administrator’s email address for your FreshBooks account and click the “Find My Account” button

Click "Find My Account"


Select your Account and hit the green ‘Login’ button.

Click Connect


Enter your username and password, and click the green ‘Connect My Account’ button

Click Connect My Account


You’ll be brought into your FreshBooks account. A new window will open giving you a list of all your clients. Select the clients you want to import and click the “Add Clients to my Account” button. Don’t want to import clients? Click the blue “skip this for now” link.

Import Clients


The next window allows you to import the Domain Users in your Google Apps account as Staff. Check off the ones you want to import into FreshBooks and click the “Add Staff to my Account” button. Don’t want to import staff? Click the “skip this for now” link.

Import Staff


Now you’re set up and good to go! The next time you’re ready to login using Google Apps, either select the FreshBooks App from your Google Apps launcher, or click the ‘Login with Google Apps’ button on your FreshBooks login page.

Ready to install the FreshBooks App? Head over to the Google Apps Marketplace. Have any questions or comments? Let us know! Give our Support Rockstars a shout at 866-303-6061 or send us an email.


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Are you too nice to succeed in business? Mon, 08 Sep 2014 13:49:42 +0000 Ritika Puri “You’re too nice.” These three words have haunted me for as long as I can remember, from my first professional performance review to my first days as a manager at a ...]]>

Are you too nice to succeed in business

“You’re too nice.”

These three words have haunted me for as long as I can remember, from my first professional performance review to my first days as a manager at a public company and even today when fellow entrepreneurs try to give me helpful advice.

My mentors, peers, and friends are all correct in their assessment of me – that I am, most definitely, too nice. I have a tendency to over-deliver and take calls at 11PM when realistically, I should do neither.

If I were less nice, I’d have an easier time as an entrepreneur and be more successful. That’s the explicit or implied advice I’ve been getting.

But “cutthroat” isn’t me. Yes – as an entrepreneur, I need to be competitive, and I am. I enjoy pushing myself to new heights, challenging my limits,  and pursuing aggressive milestones. Last November, I challenged myself to quit my day job and pursue my growing side-business full time. Now, I’m pushing myself to scale my efforts and achieve steady, sustainable growth.

But when it comes to reducing how nice I am, I’ve refused to do that. The good news—one of the milestones that I am most proud of is that I’ve learned how to reposition what some people consider my biggest personal weakness – my niceness – into my biggest business strength. Here’s what I mean:

1. The nice way to eliminate your competitors

I know several entrepreneurs who refuse to reach out and build relationships with their competitors. They worry that others will steal their secrets or move in on their clients. People like that think I’m crazy for building close friendships with many founders and consultants who do exactly what I do – create educational content for B2B software companies. It may sound weird, but I firmly believe that these individuals are my strongest allies. We are one another’s eyes and ears into the marketplace. We’ve even joined forces to team up on projects. Two of us are even working on a book together.

This year alone, this ‘ecosystem’ has generated a mid five-figure revenue stream to me (and them).

I care about the success of my so-called ‘competitors’ tremendously. I respect their work, enjoy learning from them, and could never imagine ostracizing them. It makes more (business) sense to keep them close and to support their growth – so that our businesses evolve together. My revenue stream proves that our target market can support – and fully embrace – us all.

2. Free marketing

I regularly work 14-hour-days on my business, which stretches me pretty thin, but because I’m too nice, I always manage to squeeze in time to help people. I am always willing to take a meeting (or phone call), join a late night brainstorming session, or provide advice to my fellow solopreneurs. My biggest wish is that there were more hours in the day for me to accommodate everybody. I’ve actually scheduled “office hours” to accommodate demand for my time, and unfortunately, these book out weeks in advance.

I’ve been advised to raise my rates or charge money for my “free” consulting time. I’ve thought about it but can’t bring myself to do it. If someone – even a complete stranger – needs something from me, I’m more than happy to be a resource.

And believe it or not, my “free” consulting time has been a driver for my business. Some of these ‘random connections’ have become long-term paying clients. Others have become steady sources of referrals and introductions. I’ve also landed teaching and speaking gigs from helping people.

I have never spent a dime on marketing or advertising my business. Instead, I focus on maximizing my opportunities to add value – even during unbilled consulting sessions.  The referral ecosystem is my engine, and my ‘niceness’ is my fuel.

3. The anti-sales

In 2012, I interviewed for a sales role at an up-and-coming Bay Area startup. Part of the process involved an analysis of how I’d handle a negotiation situation. After saying what I wanted to say, I asked for feedback. The company’s response?

“You did great, but you could have pressed the customer much harder by doubling the hypothetical commitment.”

I ended up getting the job, but I felt super uncomfortable with this philosophy. The fact is that I don’t like selling unless I’m offering my customer a clear ROI on what they’re spending. Any other “hard” sell feels awkward.

I came to the conclusion that I am absolutely, 100% the opposite of a sales machine.

But when I started my business, I realized that I was exactly that – a sales machine. I’ve generated more than $500K in sales without feeling like I’m selling. My secret is no secret – it’s the fact that I genuinely care about providing value and helping my customers grow.  And if they don’t want to do business with my company? That’s fine too. I completely understand company revenues ebb and flow, and at the end of the day, it’s the macro-level metric that counts.

I have all my customers sign contracts, but only 5% of my revenue comes from retainers. Even those customers, if they want, can fire me on the spot. I’ve been told that retainers are an absolute must in my industry (and by not forcing people to accept a double-digit retainer, I am essentially, making the stupidest decision on earth), but I’ve decided to ignore this advice because I feel good about giving my clients flexibility. The result has been double-digit month over month growth.

Rather than talking about money, we focus on solutions and projects that we can tackle together. We focus on the ROI of each specific initiative to ensure that my customers are deriving value from what my company provides.

The blunt truth is that the freelance model is not for the weak of heart. I am constantly dealing with moments of uncertainty, which make me feel immensely stressful. My clients could fire me and I would have zero recourse or protection. But the key to driving growth for my business, however, has been to embrace — rather than react — to this uncertainty with strict retainers.

Despite moments of frustration and uncertainty, it’s empathy that keeps my business going — and growing.

4. Thinking with my head

I take pride in being a kind, genuine person — but I’m not naive. People try to take advantage of me. People overstep their boundaries and have even cursed at me.

I’m nice, but I’ll never be a doormat.

A fellow entrepreneur once told me that I should  — logically — define a line that I will never let clients (or anyone else) cross. I defined this line and when someone crosses it, I cut them from my life and business — permanently.

This process has taken significant patience and practice, but it’s been invaluable to keeping my ‘niceness’ — my best and worst strength — from getting the best of me.

But I’m not always ready to cut the cord.

I work with people who are constantly under pressure — the stakes are often high, especially for entrepreneurs who put their entire lives on the line. When somebody frustrates me, I ask myself:

1. Does our relationship, mutually, continue to create business value?

2. Is the business relationship an opportunity cost for better and brighter opportunities?

3. What, personally, could be inciting this behavior?

People are complex, and even the most kind-hearted sometimes act in frustrating ways. I deal with these situations by focusing heavily on the long term.

Your thoughts

What has been your biggest weakness in business? How have you re-positioned this “disadvantage” into a growth driver for your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. We’d love to learn more and for you to continue the dialogue.

About the authorRitika Puri is an entrepreneur, content strategist, and freelance business writer. She runs a content production studio and enjoys writing about business. Follow her on twitter, or connect with her via LinkedIn.

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September Caption Challenge Thu, 04 Sep 2014 13:35:25 +0000 FreshBooks

UPDATE: This giveaway is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated. By random draw, Bayworx was selected as the winner. And thanks again to everyone for playing!

For many, September feels like the start of a new year – kids going back to school, office supplies are on sale and of course a change of season. With all this change, it’s no surprise that September is also the most popular time of year to start a new business. To mark one of our favorite times of year, we’re bringing back our caption challenge.

Share with us the best advice that you were given when you first started your business.

Leave a comment or tweet us @freshbooks with your advice by 12PM EST Monday September 8, 2014 and earn your chance to win a shiny $50 itunes Gift Card! We’ll announce the winner on September 9th


Every wondered where all our amazing illustrations come from?

Meet Jesse our in house illustrator and the hand behind all of our imagery. His favorite foods are rotis, tacos, bananas and zoodles. He’s also a big fan of music and movies.


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A pretty cool way to win business Tue, 02 Sep 2014 14:00:29 +0000 Andy Haynes Angie, a freelance nutritionist, once came to me for advice on developing a relationship with the owner of a gaming company she’d met recently. Her goal was to eventually win the contract to plan the catered lunches that the company provided ...]]>

The Consistency Principle

Angie, a freelance nutritionist, once came to me for advice on developing a relationship with the owner of a gaming company she’d met recently. Her goal was to eventually win the contract to plan the catered lunches that the company provided for all its employees. Trouble was, she hadn’t been able to break through and open up anything more than a social relationship with the owner. I explained to her that in situations like that, I’d had a lot of success with a powerful psychological effect known as the consistency principle.

The power of consistency

The consistency principle comes from research done back in the ’60s that revealed our built-in need to be consistent over time in our attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Basically, the principle shows that once we make a decision or a statement of belief we try to remain true to that belief in the future.

That happens because we all tend to have a healthy image of ourselves built up from the things we say and do. We also place a lot of value on maintaining that positive self-image. It’s like we create the best possible story about ourselves, and then try to behave in ways that are consistent with that story. Over the years various people and organizations have put this truth to work.

For example, lots of fundraisers use the power of consistency by including questionnaires in their appeals. When someone answers the questionnaire they end up making statements about their beliefs—which creates a self-image that they’ll want to maintain going forward. The need to act consistently means they’ll find it harder to say no to an appeal based on those beliefs. In short, they’re more likely to make a donation if they’ve previously stated they believe in the importance of the cause.

Some salespeople apply the principle by asking the prospect to take a small action. When a client makes a commitment, even if small, down the road they’ll try to act in ways that are consistent with that commitment. For example, if you want a prospect to say yes to a big project—like a year-long coaching program for example—you might want to start by suggesting a small action, like one consulting session to sort out a single issue.

Making it work

Angie, who agreed the consistency principle could probably help her move things forward with the gaming company, decided to combine the fundraiser and the salesperson approaches. First, she sat down with the business owner and asked him to complete a survey on executive attitudes around nutrition and health. In his responses he stated that he agreed with the statement “Diet is important to job performance,” and also with the statement, “I don’t always have time to eat well.” Expressing those attitudes created an anchor—a self-image that was in-line with what Angie had to offer. Angie then offered to plan the owner’s lunches for the next two weeks as a test.

Because the lunch test was a small offer consistent with the owner’s stated beliefs, he easily agreed. And once the test was over, he also easily agreed to make another consistent commitment—this time a much larger one—to Angie’s proposal to provide a similar service company-wide.

The final word

Most prospects are defensive when we approach them about our services. Instead of asking someone to commit to a large decision right out of the gate, you can open them up gradually by encouraging them to state their beliefs and/or make a small commitment. Then, if those beliefs or small steps are in line with how you can help them, you’ll find a much smoother path to building a long-term relationship with them.

About the author: Andy Haynes is a writer for FreshBooks. He is the co-author of two best-selling business books, a successful entrepreneur and business consultant.

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Virtual assistant: your secret weapon to scaling your business Thu, 28 Aug 2014 13:30:24 +0000 Ritika Puri After almost five years, I recently reached an exciting, but scary stage in my content production business—the scaling stage. My scaling strategy involves building out a comprehensive marketing education ...]]>

Virtual assistant: your secret weapon to scaling your business

After almost five years, I recently reached an exciting, but scary stage in my content production business—the scaling stage. My scaling strategy involves building out a comprehensive marketing education portal. That’s the exciting part. The scary part—I can’t get to it because I’m so strapped for time.

What’s sucking up my time? Locking down meetings, formatting things in WordPress, scheduling and chasing contracts. I sometimes spend four hours a day getting organized. This type of work is important, but it’s a time sink that’s costing me the opportunity to scale my business, an opportunity that I believe could mean big growth for me.

I could do it all, if I brought on a full-time hire. Unfortunately I’m not ready for that. But, as I learned from friend and fellow entrepreneur Julia Cox Tunstall, there is another way. Her secret weapon for scaling her business is a virtual assistant (VA). Julia has been working with VAs for more than five years to help with her projects—most recently, to help manage A Bar Above, a mixology and cocktail education portal.

I have long wondered about whether a VA could really help me. Would they really save me time? Would they be reliable? I recently asked Julia these and other questions to discover how she has managed to grow with the help of VAs.

Here’s how our conversation went:

Ritika: What is your experience with virtual assistants?

Julia: I’ve used virtual assistants for a couple of years, across all of my businesses. We have virtual help for our real estate investment company and for both of our online businesses—one focused on bartender training and the other intended to help entrepreneurs find and connect to each other online.

Ritika: How have virtual assistants been important to your business?

Julia: Having virtual assistants made all the difference in the world for our businesses. It was the single change we made that resulted in allowing us to stop “treading water” and start building and growing our business.

Ritika: How has the experience been? What have been the challenges. What has surprised you?

Julia: We have hired five different VAs over the years and learned a lot in the experience. I was quickly persuaded by Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour Workweek that a VA was the silver bullet we needed, so we hired our first VA in 2010. It was a disaster that taught us these key lessons:

  • If you don’t have the time to document your processes before you hire your VA, you won’t have the time to adequately train them.
  • Without established, recurring processes that you can delegate, keeping a VA busy for even an hour a day can be a lot of work. If you want help every once in a while, hire on a flexible hourly contract.

Since that time we have worked with several more VAs and have two long-term team members right now. I have learned that the biggest challenge in getting a VA who will save you time is all about your own preparation and commitment as a business owner.

Be wary of underestimating the time commitment in training and onboarding your team. Even the best hire will not know your business until you explain it.

Ritika: What does training entail?

Julia: For us, it took three weeks of daily video meetings to get up and running, plus the time associated with fully documenting every task before delegating it.

Ritika: How do you identify the traits of a great VA?

Julia: In our experience, the best VAs were the people who had the strongest communication skills. This is beyond just English fluency, it’s cultural understanding as well. For example, VAs from some cultures aren’t comfortable asking for help when they need it, even if you tell them to do so. And sometimes you want your VAs to think creatively and to make at least one attempt to solve a problem before coming back to you for help. Again, some people need encouragement to step outside their comfort zones.

I also suggest trying to get a sense for how the VA feels about the job—is it a job or a career for them? A team member who sees it as a career is far more likely to take ownership of their role and their place on the team.

Ritika: What final points of advice would you share with business owners looking to hire a VA?


  • Hire the right kind of VA for the position. If you’re looking for help with personal tasks every once in a while, I’d recommend sticking with a domestic company that charges by the task. They are more likely to understand your needs and won’t result in you stressing about “keeping your VA busy.” If you have a long-term need for support with recurring tasks that you can fully document, then dedicated help may be a better option.
  • Be committed. If you’re looking to hire a long-term team member, know that effective delegation takes practice. I strongly recommend hiring hourly help on a site like, or to start. Document as you delegate and use this as a way to get better at giving effective and actionable instructions. 
  • Use a task manager. Relying on email is a very difficult way to keep track of all of the different things you may be trying to delegate. We use as our task manager and document the details of the tasks right in the tasks themselves.
  • Build a team. If you’d like your VA to be a part of your team for the long-term, let them know it. There are many ways you can show a teammate that they are valuable to you.  Ask them to spend a small part of their week learning about your industry, and make it clear that this is because you value their input and want them to have a solid understanding of what you do. They will notice that you are investing in them, and are more likely to take ownership of their role and stick around.
  • Keep an open mind. Last but arguably the most important: know that you have just as much to learn as the VA does. Hiring is the best way to learn to be a better communicator, a better system designer, and a better trainer. Did your VA do the task wrong? Your first thought should be “How could I have given better instructions?”—not criticizing the VA (even to yourself!)  You have a lot to learn, and that’s okay!

Final Thoughts

Julia’s interview helped me realize something important—that I can’t just hire a VA. I need to take the time to implement the right training procedures and processes that will empower my VA to succeed. I’m confident that a VA will be critical to helping my business scale, but I need to take a step back to fully guide—and get to know—the person that I’ll ultimately hire. I’m looking to learn from as many fellow founders as I can. What have you learned from working with your VA? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

About the authorRitika Puri is an entrepreneur, content strategist, and freelance business writer. She runs a content production studio and enjoys writing about business. Follow her on twitter, or connect with her via LinkedIn.

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6 ways your accountant can help you achieve your business goals Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:30:48 +0000 FreshBooks Accountant Do you think of your accountant as just someone who you send your receipts and reports to at tax time? Do you limit your contact with your accountant to a few tiresome weeks in the spring? And then wait a year to speak ...]]>

Do you think of your accountant as just someone who you send your receipts and reports to at tax time? Do you limit your contact with your accountant to a few tiresome weeks in the spring? And then wait a year to speak to them again?

If this sounds like you, you’re missing out on a big part of what your accountant can offer you and your small business.

Your accountant is already helping you document the past via your yearly tax return. Did you know your accountant can also help you plan the future?

Accountants have the training and expertise to help you set goals and get the most out of your business. They can help you put together a solid plan for where you want your business to be next week, next year, or 20 years from now. All you have to do is share some key information.

Unfortunately, most accountants aren’t psychic, and there isn’t a set of general advice that will fit every business owner. The advice your accountant gives a solo entrepreneur working from home isn’t the same as they’d give a 30 person team looking to be acquired. The more information you can share with your accountant about your goals, both short and long term, the better equipped they are to provide valuable advice for building the business of your dreams.

Here is a checklist of topics to discuss with your accountant and how they can help you achieve your goals… all year ’round.

What is your end goal for the business?

Before setting out on a trip, it helps to know the destination. The same is true for your business. What is the ultimate goal for your business? Do you want to build it up so that a bigger company will acquire you? Do you want to run it for the rest of your life, and then pass it on to your kids? Building a business to get acquired is very different than building a family legacy.

Each scenario requires a different approach. Whereas building a family business might favour slow, steady growth, the opposite is true if your goal is to sell. Let’s say you’re building a software company you hope Google or Apple would be interested in buying. In this case, your goal is very rapid growth with less attention paid to profitability. Your accountant can use this information to help you set financial goals along the way. In this case, they might want to make sure you’re adding a large number of new customers every year, but putting less stress on profit and loss.

How much growth do you want to see?

This goes beyond “make me rich as quickly as possible.” Do you want to stay solo or have a large staff?  Do you want a home office or multiple locations across the globe?

It’s not always a given that people want to grow their business into an international chain with hundreds of locations. Working from home means less overhead, especially when running solo. That means you can charge less in the beginning, or simply balance fewer clients than if you had to pay for an office and a small staff. Your accountant can help make sure you’re spending your money on the right parts of your business in order to grow at the pace that matches your goals.

How soon do you need it to be profitable?

I know what you’re thinking, but “immediately” isn’t always realistic. If you’re running the kind of business that takes time to build, it may take a few years before you’ve got the client base needed to start turning a profit. This is also a question people will ask you if you need to borrow money to get started.

Let’s say you have a spouse and kids and you’re starting up a new business after a layoff. You’ve got a mortgage to pay and for the next few years, you will be the only wage earner in the family. You need the business to run a profit yesterday. Your accountant will make sure you focus on keeping costs low, quickly building up a solid customer base, and improving cash flow by limiting how long customers take to pay you. You won’t be able to put a lot of money into the business in the beginning, so starting a business that requires a lot of upfront money for equipment or staff might not be ideal.

How much money do you need to make each year?

Paying yourself 100% of the profits your business generates isn’t always a good idea. If you’re just getting started, sometimes taking a smaller salary now means a much bigger business down the road. The money you don’t spend on yourself can be spent on new equipment, advertising, or additional staff. Figure out how much you need to survive, and your accountant can work with you to find the right balance.

If we look at the last example of that new business owner who needs profits right away, they can’t afford to put a lot back into the business until it’s making enough to cover the family’s expenses. Once that happens though, it’s a good idea to sit down with your accountant to make a plan. This might also be a good time to look at switching from a sole proprietorship and incorporating the business. Depending on your long term goals, it could also be a good time to hire staff and take a smaller role in the day to day operations. Your accountant can help you make the best choices at each stage.

What role do you want to have in your business?

Do you want to be the CEO, receptionist, and caretaker forever? Do you want to eventually take a smaller role in the company as you get closer to retirement? Maybe you just want to get it up and running and then stay away from daily operations as quickly as possible.

Every business is different. We all know the restaurant that has been run by the same family for decades. The mom and dad have been there for 30 years and will probably be there 30 more. They love working in the business every day. Other businesses are less owner-centric. Many entrepreneurs will open a string of businesses and only drop in from time to time to make sure things are running smoothly.

You should discuss the role you want in your business with your accountant whenever you meet. If you’re getting close to retirement age, you’ll need to discuss changes to the business. You might want to work less hours each week but still be able to earn the same amount of money. With the increased cost of hiring people to replace you, your accountant can help you come up with a plan to offset those new costs.

What role will your family play in your business?

There are so many factors to consider when creating a “family business.” There are certainly tax incentives to bring on family members, providing they’re really working in the business. Having your entire family’s income reliant on one source of revenue will also determine how you plan for growth, so discuss these options with your accountant.

Partnering with a key professional

The most important thing to realize about being a small business owner is that going out on your own doesn’t mean being on your own. Even if you never hire an employee, that doesn’t mean you won’t be working with people along the way. You owe it to yourself and the success of your business to partner up with key professionals. One of the most important of these is a good accountant. If you share your goals and dreams for your business with them, they will provide you with the advice and plans you need to reach those goals.

 About the author: Eric Matthews is the author of, a blog dedicated to helping small businesses get the most out of their resources, with a focus on bookkeeping.

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Don’t Sweat It: Your ragtag marketing and branding Thu, 21 Aug 2014 13:30:15 +0000 Evan Horowitz Business plans are overrated Do you feel guilty you’re not doing everything you think you “should” for your business? The Don’t Sweat It series is for you. You’ll get clarity about the best use of your time to grow your business faster ...]]>

Business plans are overrated

Do you feel guilty you’re not doing everything you think you “should” for your business? The Don’t Sweat It series is for you. You’ll get clarity about the best use of your time to grow your business faster and restore peace of mind.

I have a confession. I’m sometimes embarrassed to hand out my business card. I picture the potential client looking at my card, typing in my web address, and wondering why my site looks completely different from my cards. The logos look nothing alike, the colors don’t match (orange vs. blue), and even my tagline is sometimes askew. Will this person think my business is a mess? Will they not call me because of it?

I know I’m not alone. Many of my small business owner clients are embarrassed by some part or another of their marketing & branding. Maybe you can relate with some of them: the telecom consultant who stopped handing out his brochures because they’re so out of date, the marketing agency who directs clients to their Facebook page since their website was built in the Stone Age, or the architect who hated networking because her elevator pitch no longer reflects her work.

Today I want to tell you: great branding is important, but it’s OK if it’s not 100% perfect and coordinated at all times. There’s no need to be ashamed; in fact, ragtag branding is a normal phase of a growing business.

I do recommend major branding overhauls by skilled professionals, but time and budget constraints mean a lot happens between these big projects. Today I’m going to share some secrets for keeping your marketing effective at every phase along the way.

Businesses are always evolving

To state the obvious, every small business is in a constant state of change. You’re facing both internal and external factors.

Internally, it’s normal to see an evolution both in the work you’re doing, and the way you’re talking about it. Perhaps you’re working with a different type of customer than you used to, or you’re focused on a different product or service. And you’re probably getting smarter about how you market yourself, updating your value proposition and selling points.

Externally, design and technology are changing whether you like it or not. In website technology, for example, mobile-friendly and social-friendly are must-haves now, while just a few years ago they seemed much less important.

The question is, how do you keep up with these changes?

Evolve your branding organically

I worked with a boutique law firm that had fallen into a very common trap. They were waiting for an upcoming major brand overhaul to update their marketing materials. Each tweak they considered seemed minor by itself, and they didn’t want to mess up the overall look of things. The big new website and logo update was just around the corner, they thought. But with a crazy client load and a constantly tight budget, the branding project got pushed out, and pushed out again, and again.

I encouraged them to make some ad hoc updates, and be OK with some mismatch and a little less polish. For example, they posted information about a new service offering in a blog post, rather than integrating it into the “Services” section of their site. To their relief, clients responded positively, grateful for more accessible and updated information. It became easier for them to close potential clients into paying clients.

As your business evolves, it’s natural for your marketing and branding to evolve organically as well. Savvy entrepreneurs see marketing mismatch as a normal step in their business’ growth, and not as something to be embarrassed by.

Quick branding wins

Here are some tips for keeping your marketing as functional as possible as your business changes. By doing one of these every few months, you’ll keep your marketing sharp between major brand/website overhauls. Sharp marketing means easier client attraction.

1. Update Your Elevator Pitch

Your elevator pitch should always reflect the exact client you want, with the message you’ve refined over time and experience. There’s no technology or graphic designer or anyone else involved, so no excuse for letting this languish. You can get my simple, powerful elevator pitch worksheet here.

2. Tweak Your Homepage Copy

As your pitch evolves, your homepage should reflect this. No, you don’t need to hire a web guru to overhaul the page. Here’s the DIY version: look at the first paragraph of text on the page, and update it to resemble your elevator pitch. You want the first thing a potential client reads to entice them to keep reading.

3. Print New Business Cards

You can get a new batch of cards for twenty bucks, so there’s no excuse not to have the latest information on your cards. When your tagline, title, or contact info change, print a new batch. It’s okay if you’re still using an old logo or design; just keep the text updated.

Share your tips & questions

Have a suggestion for a branding update? Have a question for me or the community? Leave a comment below!

About the author: Evan Horowitz empowers successful small businesses to grow much faster than ever before. His clients have a dream that’s bigger than their business experience, and Evan brings his experience: his Harvard MBA and 10 years running businesses as big as hundred-million dollar global businesses. With Evan’s help, small business owners become smarter CEOs, and grow their businesses faster, with less stress, than ever before.

Get a free copy of Evan’s “Four Secrets to Grow Your Business Like a CEO” on his website:

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New: An easier way to share reports with your accountant Tue, 19 Aug 2014 13:26:33 +0000 Himali Tadwalkar Starting today, you can invite your trusted accountant or bookkeeper to create their own Accountant Center, a portal that gives them read-only access to your Reports and Journal Entries whenever they need them. Note: The way you export your journal entries has changed with Accountant ...]]>

Starting today, you can invite your trusted accountant or bookkeeper to create their own Accountant Center, a portal that gives them read-only access to your Reports and Journal Entries whenever they need them.

Note: The way you export your journal entries has changed with Accountant Center. Read on to find out how.

Why should I care?

Now you can spend less time going back and forth trying to get your financial information into your accountant’s hands (especially during the busyness of tax time). Your accountant will love that you’re keeping your business transactions organized in FreshBooks, and can easily give them secure access to the information they need anytime. Wouldn’t it be nice if your accountant spent less time on data entry and more time on services that add value to your business?

How do I invite my accountant to connect in FreshBooks?

To invite your accountant, log in to FreshBooks and head over to the new Accountant tab (under the People tab). Once there, click Invite Your Accountant.

Next, you’ll be able to generate an email invitation to send to your accountant. Enter their email address and hit Send Invitation.

When your accountant receives the email invitation, they’ll be able to log in or create their own Accountant Center. As soon as it’s created, your accountant will have read-only access to your FreshBooks Reports anytime, anywhere. You’ll always have the option to remove your accountant and can add a new accountant when needed.

Presto! In just a few steps, you’ve sent your accountant what they need to make both of your jobs a little less hectic.

An accountant’s view

Wondering what your accountant will see when they connect? They’ll have an organized display of all of their connected FreshBooks accounts where they can view and export clients’ Journal Entries and Reports (like Tax Summary, Expense and Profit & Loss). Now that all of their clients are in one convenient place, there’s no headache of remembering multiple passwords.

If you’re looking for an in-depth walk through, check out the Accountant Center FAQ page.

But wait, what happened to my Journal Entry export?

Previously, you may have sent your accountant Journal Entries from the Reports tab. With Accountant Center, you’ll no longer need to remember to email them since they can log in on their own and export the most up-to-date information in formats they can use.

This sounds great, but I don’t have an accountant yet

Fear not! Use the FreshMap to find a FreshBooks Certified Accountant. With thousands in North America and around the world, there’s likely someone close by who can help you with your more advanced accounting needs.

Are you an accounting professional?

If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper, join thousands that have become FreshBooks Certified and enjoy some great benefits like free CPE credits, a spot on the FreshMap and more!

Ready to take Accountant Center for a spin?

Hop over to your FreshBooks account and invite your accountant to connect. If you need a hand along the way, don’t hesitate to call at 1-866-303-6061 or send an email to Support Rockstars are always eager to help.

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