February 22, 2009

It's Tax Time Again

Well, it's that time again. You've received your W2's or 1099's and you're getting ready to file your taxes. But before you do, take note of these tips that can save you money and help you avoid audits by keeping your return off the IRS's "radar screen."

File Your Taxes for Free
Was your gross income for 2008 $56,000 or less? If your answer's yes, you can take advantage of a new service provided by the IRS that allows you to use TurboTax, TaxAct, TaxSlayer or other tax preparation software to file your taxes for free. If you qualify, you get full use of these products without paying a cent! So before you pay for tax software, go to www.irs.gov and click on "Free File is Now Available."

If you click on "I Will Choose a Company," you get a list of all the companies that offer free tax prep. But since each of them have different requirements, choosing this option means you have to check out each company to see if you qualify.

The easiest way to find out which companies will do your taxes for free is to click on "Help Me Find a Company." You just fill out a form that asks stuff like your age, your state of residence, your adjusted gross income, etc., and click "Submit" to get a list of companies you can use based on your answers.

So check it out. Tax software isn't expensive, but why pay if you don't have to?

Avoid Audit "Red Flags"
The latest issue of the AMTA's Massage Therapy Journal (MTJ) has a GREAT article called "Taking Care of Your Taxes." You can even get 2 CEUs for completing it! Cool!

If you're self-employed or work at a clinic or spa as an independent contractor and fill out a Schedule C, this article is a must read. I thought I knew what I was doing with my taxes, but I learned that I was actually raising some red flags based on how I was categorizing some of my expenses. For example, an accountant told me that the expenses for my web site should be put under Advertising, on Line 8 of my Schedule C, and that's what I've been doing for years. Well, that's not exactly wrong, but I found out from this article that advertising expenses average about 3.8% of total income for a typical small business like mine. By grouping everything that could loosely be classified as advertising in this category, I was exceeding this percentage and potentially causing the IRS to take a closer look at my return. BUT, without doing anything sneaky, if I just move the web expenses and a few other things to the Other Expenses category (which is perfectly legitimate), my expenses fall in line with the IRS's averages and I'm less likely to be audited.

This article has tons of tips like that. So get a couple of CEUs and take the stress out of filing your taxes, all at the same time!

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I'm off to file my taxes (for free of course). Bye for now!
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February 15, 2009

Renew Your Commitment to Succeed

Tough times. And we're all affected one way or the other. One of my clients worked for the Seattle PI for 27 years and will be laid off when the paper closes in a couple of weeks. Every day you hear about another Bernie Madoff or seemingly conscienceless Wall Street banker. And no one really has a solution. So where do you find the positive in all this? And how do you find the energy and motivation to move forward?

How about by looking inside and taking stock of your commitment level? Sounds trite, but you're the only one who can turn your personal situation around.

Whether you have your own practice or are employed in a clinic or spa, I think you'll find the following article (written by our terrific graphic designer) inspiring and motivating.

The Greatest Determining Factor
I have something inspirational to share this month. It’s not about marketing or improving your design techniques. It’s about you. How are you doing? What is happening in your business right now? Where are you focusing?

I recently met with a new client and she asked how our business was doing. She was a bit shocked to learn that not only is our business increasing in momentum and acquiring a mixture of new clients and returning clients, but—and maybe even more importantly, we are feeling hopeful and encouraged about 2009!

She inquired with a tenor of distress, “Why are you feeling so excited about 2009? I mean the world is in upheaval, the markets are tumbling, the sky is falling, there is fear and doom being peddled at every corner….how can you feel so positive?”

I told her that Magrit and I had decided that we would do whatever it took to build our business this year. We were committing; not just hoping, not just daydreaming, not just wishing, but committing, with absolute conviction that we would do everything in our control and in our power to grow at all cost—within integrity, of course.

I see so many people and their businesses struggling right now. I asked myself who among these people has renewed their commitment to greatness and success? Who among them has decided, truly decided to do things differently; to go outside their comfort zone, whether by starting a blog, hitting the streets with business cards, or agreeing to a public speaking gig… I mean as scary as some of these things are, what is at stake?! What is the cost NOT to do these things?

Can you, no, will you, commit to your business and do whatever it takes to succeed for at least the next 90 days? At the end of 90 days you can evaluate your actions and decide where to go from there. Are you willing to step into your power and own it? That is what it is going to take to succeed. You are the greatest determining factor of whether your business grows or whether you will ask your customers, “Would you like to make that a value meal for an extra buck?”

Remember, the Greatest Determining Factor is You!

Written by Mike Rosario ~ Core Creative Team ~ Mike@CoreCreativeTeam.com ~ www.CoreCreativeTeam.com

February 9, 2009

Are You a Massage Entrepreneur?

Time to Go Out On Your Own?
OK. You graduated from massage school with flying colors. Everyone tells you you have mad skills and that you're the most fabulous therapist on the planet. So... does that mean you're ready to start your own massage practice?

Not necessarily.

Do I Have What It Takes?
Working for yourself takes special skills and personality traits. Before you make your decision, ask yourself these questions:
  • Am I a risk-taker? (That doesn't have to mean bungie-jumping - just that you're willing to step out of your comfort zone).
  • Do I have business experience or at least "a head for business" (and am I willing to learn whatever business skills I need)?
  • Do I have the resources to support myself while I build my practice?
  • Am I willing to put in the time it'll take to market and build my business, working long hours if that's what it takes?
  • Am I organized? I mean really organized?
  • Am I self-confident?
Here are a couple of good articles that go into more detail about the qualities a good entrepreneur needs:

Entrepreneurs: Nature or Nurture?
Top 10 Ways You Know You're an Entrepreneur

Test Yourself
And here are a couple of quizzes you can take to see if you pass the "entrepreneur test":

The Entrepreneur Test for a Small Business Owner
Entrepreneurial Self-Assessment

Don't be discouraged if you don't "pass" these quizzes. Arguably, the MOST important component is passion. If you are truly inspired to start your own business, you can acquire the skills you need.

It's a Business
But realize that a massage therapy practice is a business just like any other. If you choose to be self-employed, your business and marketing skills will be just as important as your massage skills. Here are just a few of the shoes you'll need to fill (either on your own or through outsourcing):
  • Accounting
  • Marketing and sales
  • Operations management
  • Customer service
  • Billing (if you take insurance)
  • Information management and record-keeping
  • Human resources (if you plan to be more than a one-person operation)
As a general rule of thumb, if you spend 20 hours a week actually performing massage, you can count on spending at least an additional 20-25 hours performing the other duties involved in running your business. So if you're charging $70 for an hour of massage, you're really making a maximum of $35 per hour when you consider the time spent managing your business.

Then there are the expenses (and this is by no means a complete list):
  • Space rental
  • Advertising and networking
  • Self-employment taxes
  • Laundry
  • Accounting (either the cost of a program if you do it yourself, or the cost of using an outside service)
  • Office supplies
I don't want to discourage you from starting your own practice. Lots of therapists do it very successfully. If you truly have an entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for "doing it yourself," and the stick-to-itiveness to carry out your plans, you should do great!

But if some of the above gives you pause, no biggie. There are many ways to make a good living as a massage therapist.

If you choose to work for a massage clinic or spa, they'll usually pay you either a set rate or a percentage for each massage you do. For example, if they charge $70, they might pay you 50%, or $35.

I hear you thinking - “But I'm doing all the work!! Why does the clinic get so much of the money?"

Wait. That 50% is actually not bad. You have to look at what they're providing. Do they do all the scheduling and promotion? Do they provide all of the supplies and laundry facilities? Do you get paid time off? Some clinics will even contribute to your continuing education. In other words, do you just have to walk in, do your sessions and leave? If that's the case, you're in pretty good shape.

If you're on your own, you have to pay for all that stuff. So if you decide to get a job, make sure you know what's provided, what's not, and whether you have to do any of your own promotion and marketing (which is not that uncommon).

So it's just a matter of deciding which works best for you. If your passions and personality don't lead you to strike out on your own, you can find a happy "home" in a clinic, spa or office setting.

I wish you success in your journey, wherever it takes you!

February 2, 2009

Relieve Stress with Virtual Bubble Wrap

I just had to share this one with you guys. As the creator modestly says, it's only the most fulfilling experience on the World Wide Web!" How can you possibly top that? "All the fun of ordinary bubble wrap, but when you're done, you can start over!!!" It's a "silly, strange, bizarre, weird, useless, funny, silly, mindless time waster and stress reliever" and I LOVE IT!!

Full sheet of virtual bubble wrap

Use this fun time waster yourself and pass it along to your stressed-out clients. Make sure you have your speakers on! And be sure to check out "Manic Mode" and listen to what happens when you choose "Fresh Sheet."

If you want to explore this addictive pastime further (and who wouldn't ;-), check out

Virtual bubble wrap's home page

You can:
  • Add virtual bubble wrap to your homepage
  • Learn bubble wrap etiquette
  • Get techniques for popping "real" bubble wrap
  • Try the "insane" version (only if you're into fart humor)
Have fun, go wild, and start popping!

p.s. A belated Happy Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! This momentous event occurred on January 26th.