This Is How You Prepare Your Home For Winter

Some people live for the summer and the warm weather it brings. Others cannot wait until the weather starts to cool in fall. Regardless of how you feel about it, the weather will soon start to get cold. Winter really is coming.

winter

That means you need to do a little work now to prepare your home for the cooler months. Doing so can save you money on heating, but it can also make sure you don’t have expensive and annoying repairs come spring. You should start by looking at the outside of your home.

Preparing The Outside Of Your Home

In any season, leaky roofs or doors are a problem. You pay good money to control the temperature of your home, and these gaps make it more expensive. That’s why neamb.com recommends taking a look at your roof. Any shingles that are loose can easily come off with a big snowfall. Along the same lines, check your doors and windows for drafts. If there are any, use silicone caulk outside to seal them up.

Because the weather will get seriously cold in winter, you also need to prepare your outside faucets. Start by removing garden hoses and storing them for spring. Then check the faucets themselves. Look into the spout for a metal stem. If you see one, your faucets are likely frost-free and don’t need anything. If there is no stem, you should shut off the water completely to the outside or install a sillcock with an integral vacuum breaker.

Closing Down Your Pool

Speaking of water, you have some extra work to do if you own a pool. Whether it’s above ground or not, you will need to winterize the pool so you can protect it. A treated pool is much less likely to give you problems next summer when you just want to get in the water.

In The Swim has an excellent page of winterizing kits for your pool, including:
● Winter “pills” that have a mix of enzymes and clarifiers to keep the water clear through winter.
● Covers for the whole pool and pumps to remove excess water from the top of the cover as the snow melts.
● Solar blankets that also act as covers.
● Patch kits for covers that develop small holes due to the weather.

What To Do Inside Your Home

Now that you’ve taken care of the outside and the pool, you need to look inside your home. Popular Mechanics has a great list of interior winterizing tips, such as:
● Changing your furnace filters so your heated air is clean.
● Turn any ceiling fans to reverse. (This pushes rising hot air back down to your level.)
● Consider installing storm doors and storm windows, as these can increase your energy efficiency for more comfort and lower costs.
● Hire a certified HVAC maintenance crew to make sure your furnace is working correctly.

If you have two homes and are leaving your summer residence, you should read this checklist from Travelers about preparing your home. Not only should you make sure your home is free of drafts and has a maintained furnace, you also need to drain your water pipes so they don’t freeze while you’re away.

Winterize Now To Save Time & Energy

The thing about fall and winter is that they can be here before you realize it. That’s why it’s so important to start preparing your house for cooler weather while it’s still warm. Check the outside of your house for problems with your roof, windows, and water system. Winterize your pool if you have one, then do some maintenance on the inside. This can go a long way to making sure you’re warm this winter.

Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

Disclaimer: Gabriel Nwatarali, from Tech Help Canada, submitted this entry. The author’s views are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of Cloud Books.

22 Awesome Productivity Tips for Small Business Owners

In an age where distractions reign supreme, staying productive has become a lot harder to do. This is particularly evident for business owners or entrepreneurs who are responsible for most of their day-to-day operations. These 22 actionable productivity tips for small business owners may be just what you need to take your productivity to the next level.
In truth, many of us try several times to become more productive and fail at it before we got it right. Implementing just some of these productivity tips will be beneficial.

1. Commit to Becoming More Productive
The first step in any goal is to commit and productivity is no different. You have to commit to becoming a more productive person.
You’ll need to be dedicated to your goal and the activities that are necessary to meet it.

2. Focus on Income Producing Activities
What are the activities that can make you money?
Focus on the activities that are needed to generate revenue for your business. Income producing activities may not generate income all the time but you have to be consistent.
Do you need to make cold calls? Can you reach out to potential clients on social media? Should you be sending “InMails” on LinkedIn?
These are only some examples of income producing activities.
Your focus should be balanced. There should be at least 50% focus on income generating activities and the other 50% on everything else.

3. Use The 2-Minute Rule
The two-minute rule crushes procrastination and can help you stick to good habits.
The general idea is that anything that will take 2 minutes or less should be completed right away. Whether it’s papers that need filling or a quick response to an email, you should do it if it will take 2 minutes or less.
Most of the tasks that we procrastinate about aren’t actually as time-consuming as we think they are. The 2-minute rule will help you start and finish tasks that you would normally put aside for later.

4. Set SMART Goals
SMART is an acronym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.
By setting SMART goals, you can manage expectations and increase the likelihood of being successful.
Specific – Your goal should be well defined.
Measurable – You should be able to measure success in some way.
Attainable – Make sure that your goal can be accomplished.
Realistic – Your goal should be within reason, available resource and time.
Timely – Make sure that you have enough time to archive the goal but never take too much time.

5. Use a Checklist
Checklists are old school but they still work. Before you start your day, make a checklist of the most important things that you need to do that day.
As you cross off things in your checklist, you may find that you get a huge sense of accomplishment. This is a good thing because it’ll make you happier throughout the day.
A checklist should keep you consistent and ensure the completeness of each task.

6. Make Time for Critical Things
This seems simple enough but more often than not, we fail to set time aside for really critical things like taxes. The result is that we end up having to rush our work.
Develop a habit of setting time aside for urgent or critical activities.

7. Create a Plan for Managing Your Time
No matter what kind of business you run, you should have a plan for managing your time. Decide on your day-to-day business operations and manage it effectively to increase productivity.

8. Use Tools to Boost Productivity
Use software like cloud books to help you improve productivity. Software tools are great for increasing the overall productivity of businesses.
Truly productive small businesses use tools to prioritize tasks, communicate clearly, delegate, for invoicing and record keeping. Tools also help employees produce more for the organization.

9. Schedule Things
You should schedule most things and only change your schedule if it’s important. Having a schedule will help you stay on track for completing your most important tasks for the day.
Give yourself some extra time to complete each task because as a business owner, you’re probably in the public eye and people may just want to talk to you.

10. Track Your Results
Tracking your results will help you measure your success and change things that may not be working.

11. Use Email Strategically
Do you need to respond to emails as soon as they arrive? Should you send an email or make a phone call?
Emails can take up a lot of your time if you don’t set boundaries. It may be a good idea to setup a very good auto responder and only check email once a day.
For other business people, it’s a good idea to ensure that you’re not sending out emails for things that can be easily solved by walking to a cubicle or an office.

12. Pick One Thing and Do That
Having a down and out day? Well, we all have these moments once in awhile. On days like this, you need to pick one thing and do it!
Pick the most important thing that you can do for your business that day and focus on that.

13. What’s Your Work Environment Like?
You can’t time manage effectively if your environment invites chaos.
Try to work in an environment that invites creativity and organization. If your work environment makes you feel like working a whole lot, it’s a good thing.

14. Create Sustainable Habits
Pick habits that you can sustain. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll be in every networking event in your city but is it sustainable?
When picking habits that will benefit your business, make sure that you can be consistent with it. Many things lose their effectiveness when they’re inconsistent.

15. Delegate Tasks
Delegation is arguably the earliest form of automation. By delegating tasks that are important or mundane, you can create time for the really important stuff like generating business income.

16. Avoid Procrastination
Easier said than done but procrastination can kill a business if it persists. As mentioned earlier, use the 2-minute rule to avoid procrastinating on those small but necessary tasks.
Whenever you feel like putting off an important task for later, remember that time doesn’t wait for you and tomorrow is never certain. This alone is a good enough motivator to start for most people.

17. Take Breaks
This is where many small business owners struggle!
As owners of businesses, we’re so accustomed to working that we often forget to take breaks. Whenever possible, take breaks after each task or set aside time for it.
Breaks can serve as creative fuel, a way for you to step back and give your mind room for more creativity.
If your work involves a lot of sitting down, breaks can help you avoid mental stagnation and being physically inactive.

18. Stay Organized
Organization is very important, especially in business. Avoid spending too much time looking for things by keeping your office space organized.
Additionally, a cluttered work environment can quickly make your mind feel cluttered too.

19. Prioritize Tasks
Prioritization allows you to focus on the most important tasks first. A good rule of thumb is to do the hardest tasks first.

20. Working “On” Your Business vs. “In” Your Business
Are you working on your business or in your business?
For many small business owners, they’re doing both and you may be too. Working in your business is necessary but spend at least 1 to 5 hours a week working on your business.
Working on your business involves making long-term investments. Things like finding ways to make your processes more efficient, developing systems and creating a vision.

21. Set Aside Time for Yourself
A business is a reflection of the owner or entrepreneur and if you’re not happy, it can hurt how you conduct business.
You should make time for yourself. Designate one day of the week where you can go and have fun doing something else. Whether it’s fishing, boating or binge watching your favorite TV shows, do it if it makes you happy.

22. Manage Your Expectations
Finally, you should manage your expectations!
We often want to accomplish a lot of things in one day but the reality is that we can end up hurting our productivity because we lose some focus.
Rushing to complete things quickly, often removes the focus required for it to be remarkable. Remember this whenever you’re tempted to over fill up your day.

Author Bio

Gabriel Nwatarali is a digital marketer and designer. He works as a consultant for businesses that want to improve their web presence. He is the founder of Tech Help Canada, a design and marketing agency. He currently resides in the beautiful city of Ottawa, ON. When he is not working, he is having fun with his passions – SEO, websites and logo design. (more…)

Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

When you first start chatting with a new client, one of the first things they’re going to ask for is a quote regarding your services. Creating and sending a quote has never been easier! We’ve found that the best method is to create a couple standard quote templates, all of which can be modified if you need to customize for a specific client.

When creating a new quote, you’re met with a very easy to follow system. You have 3 options for adding pieces to your quote: Standard Quote Items, “Choose One” Options and “Choose Any” Options.
Creating and sending a quote has never been easier with

Standard Quote Items are for items/services that the client must have. For example: if you have a certain travel radius and this project would require additional travel expenses, you would enter those as a Standard Quote Item. Anything the client has no choice on when working with you would go here.

Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

“Choose One” Options are for items/services that your client gets to choose between when working with you. For example: if you offer several different photography packages, you could create a different option for each package and your client would need to select only ONE of them to complete the quote.

“Choose Any” Options are for extras, add-ons and are not required. For example: if you offer additional hours of photography, add-on albums, extended engagement sessions, etc., this is the perfect place to add them and your clients can select all, some or none of these when completing their contract.
Creating and sending a quote has never been easier

Is your brain swimming with all the possibilities yet?! CloudBooks is seriously loaded with everything you need to make your business work smarter, better, easier and faster for you, giving you back the time you’ve been spending on so many tasks by automating them and allowing you to put more time into focusing on the parts of your business (and personal life) that you love.

A Freelancer’s Journey to Finding a Workable Billing Software Solution

A Freelancer’s Journey to Finding a Workable Billing Software Solution :

What started out as a side income for Mandy about three years ago, eventually became a full-time career. This career consisted of her writing as a freelance writer. She wrote at times as a ghostwriter and sometimes under her own name, but after awhile her lack of business and accounting skills became a roadblock to her success. This is Mandy’s journey to finding a workable billing software solution for her new freelance career.

Freelance Writer Doesn’t Equal Business and Tech Savvy
In the beginning, Mandy worked through broker sites creating content for clients, which was easier for her because the billing and accounting part was already taken care of. After some success there, she began to branch out to freelance job boards and forums. This is where she found a few personal clients who liked her writing on certain topics. At first, billing was easy enough to manage through PayPal, but when work picked up she began to get overwhelmed with the holistic business aspects of her budding career.

See, just because Mandy was a great writer and could satisfy her clients in that department, she really wasn’t business or tech savvy. After six months of branching out on her own and gaining a few of her own personal clients, she began to understand her freelance writing work resembled a business.

In fact, she realized her freelancing writing efforts had become a full-time business. Yet, Mandy was becoming disorganized with billing, invoicing, time-tracking, deadlines, expenses, and overall organization. She was beginning to think she would have to scale down, or simply go back to a broker site.

Mandy Found a Solution
Although Mandy wasn’t the most tech savvy or business minded person, she put forth the effort to find a workable billing, invoicing, and time-tracking solution. After sifting through complicated solutions, which were basically overkill for her situation, she found CloudBooks.

CloudBooks was a comprehensive billing, invoicing, and time-tracking SaaS solution. The simplicity and 30-day free trial offer attracted her to signing up and using it. Right away she realized this was the exact solution she needed to organize every aspect of her promising freelance career.

How CloudBooks Transformed Mandy’s Career
Mandy never thought she’d have a career as a freelance writer, and even with the success she was having for a few years: the business and tech aspect seemed out of her ability to manage. She thought she was simply going to be limited to a mere elementary type of business persona, rather than a fully functional business with a successful brand.

Finding CloudBooks began to change her mind-set around these thoughts of limitation. Her few personal customers responded very well to her professional estimates and invoices, and the time and expense tracking features of CloudBooks began to give her clarity around all aspects of her daily work. She began to become so organized that she was able to take on many more clients and make more money.

CloudBooks transformed Mandy’s mindset and business ability, and through the easy-to-use tools: she was able to organize and manage her freelance career in a professional and successful manner. She expanded her abilities to take payments, track expenses for taxes, track invoices and estimates, and meet deadlines. The best part is she had a central place to access all these tools, while before she was using her memory and sticky tabs!

A Bright Future Began for Mandy
Putting the puzzle pieces together for a successful career as a freelance writer was a slow process at first, but was accelerated when Mandy found CloudBooks. By not having to spend so much time and effort on keeping track of the business aspects of her career, she was able to create a portfolio and a website. After some time she built a successful brand, and was able to even hire a crew of 5 freelance writers to help satisfy her customers’ needs.

CloudBooks remained the solution she used, helping her to comprehensively organize her employees and customers with simplicity and clarity. Through the insightful expense and time-tracking reports, she was able to manage employee productivity and the business’s profitability. And through the organized billing, invoicing, and estimates, she was able to keep track of deadlines and payments due.

Summary

Mandy went from a part-time freelance writer working for content broker sites, to a freelance agency employing five writers and satisfying dozens of clients and hundreds of orders every month. A big part of her successful journey was finding CloudBooks, which gave her the tools, insights, and ability to turn her talents as a writer into a viable business.

CloudBooks is a great billing and invoicing solution for small businesses of all sorts. It’s designed in a way to take the complications out of the billing process, and to give businesses the tools they need to comprehensively manage the vital aspects of their businesses.

By using this innovative SaaS solution, freelancers like Mandy can find the efficient tools they need to upgrade their businesses, satisfy their customers, and use their time more productively. If interested in knowing more or to start your free trial, please contact us today.

What Our Quote Software Can Do For Your Business

While usually not the first impression one makes with a client, a quote or estimate to a client is usually the first formal document they receive. Additionally, the estimate is implicitly a call-to-action to a client and represents the last step before a deal is reached. As such, it is of incredible importance that your quotes present your company in the best light by looking clean and professional, as well as presenting information in an easily readable format for your prospective client’s consumption.

The creation of estimates was once a tedious process that required the painstaking entry of information into spreadsheet software and then its meticulous transfer to a word processor for formatting. In 2016, however, the use of quote software can both speed up the process, as well as ensure that each estimate your company sends out is beautifully formatted and without the typos and errors that can be produced as a result of repeated, manual quote creation.

Speed & Efficiency

Our CloudBooks software is built to allow your company to generate estimates quickly. This means that we attempt to reduce the amount of work your company needs to do, as often as possible. When you enter into the estimate generator, everything from the client’s name to items included in the estimate to tasks your employees will be performing can be selected from predetermined lists. This means that, rather than entering information over and over each time an estimate needs to be sent out, any standardized or regularly used items can simply be added to the estimate in seconds flat and without referring to price-books or calculating labor-hours for some task. Additionally, specific tax rates can be applied to items or tasks on-the-fly from our easy drop-down lists, while a client-specific discount can be added simply by inputting it in a discounts cell at the top of the generator.

More Details

Our goal with CloudBooks estimate generator was to produce quotes quickly and efficiently to save companies on administrative time and let them get back to doing the important work of running a business. What we did not want, however, was for that goal to lead to uninspiring estimates with little information on them; the goal was to attain both detail and speed. As such, the estimates our software generates contain not only an itemized list of goods and services to be provided, as well as a detailed breakdown of quantity, taxes and totals, but also a full set of administrative information such as the date the estimate was issued, as well as the mailing information for both the prospective client and your business. You can even add your company’s logo if you so desire!

Estimate Management

Anyone who runs a successful business knows that it can often be hard to track all of the different estimates you send out. Sometimes it can be difficult to match customers to their proper estimates when they call for more information, and sometimes quotes are misplaced or lost forever. This difficulty can cause any number of headaches, especially if you are trying to negotiate with a customer while only guessing at what items are on the estimate which they received. For this reason our CloudBooks software is built to create an easily searchable database of all the estimates that you send out. You can sort it by name, by number, by the day it was sent out, or even the total amount. It also keeps track of the status of each invoice — whether it is a draft or whether it was sent — so that you can more readily gauge what you have out to prospective clients.

Please contact us to learn about what our CloudBooks software can do for your company, from quotes and estimates to invoicing and expense management.