Category: Build A Lifestyle Practice

30-Day Tax Firm Marketing Challenge: Day 17

 

Online Marketing

Priotize lead magnets ideas and outline one.
Estimated Time: 60 minutes

Grab your brainstorming list of lead magnets yesterday.

For each item on the list, you’re going to give it a score of 0, 1, or 2, across three different categories…

Interest: Your interest in actually creating this particular lead magnet. If you cringe at the thought of having to do the work to actually produce it, then give it a zero. If you think could actually be interested in making it, give it a 2. If it could go either way, give it a 1.

Ability: Some things are simply easier to create than others. A book, for example, is a big task, even though one can literally be written in a weekend (it’s not a fun weekend). Even a one page PDF can be a lot to create, if it’s a flow chart or infographic. Those require more time and effort than some people realize. So consider your ability to create this in a timely manner. Assign a score of 0 for something you don’t think you could actually get done, and a 2 for something that would be easy for you to create.

Value: What will be the perceived value of this lead magnet to the prospect? Things that provide a precise solution to a very specific problem will always have the highest value. Be sure that you’re looking at this from the public’s perspective, not yours. With a critical lens, assign a zero to those items with the least value, and a 2 to the items with the highest perceived value to the public.

Now add up those scores. The maximum score is obviously six. How many sixes do you have? Any fives? Fours? I wouldn’t consider actually pursuing anything less than a four, for what it’s worth.

Take your highest one or two scoring items, and start to create an outline for the lead magnet. I find the easiest to do this is by stating the problem and the desired solution up front, then creating a series of questions I can answer that bridge the gap between the two. Don’t get bogged down in minutae today — just sketch out an outline.

 

Offline Marketing

Prioritize lead magnet ideas and outline one.
Estimated Time: 60 minutes

The challenge here is identical to the online marketing chalenge, above, except applied to your physical lead magnet brainstorming list from yesterday.

Do I know how to phone it in or what? 🙂

 

Practice Management

Prioritize your list of tasks to offload.
Estimated Time: 60-90 minutes

Similar to our challenge for lead magnets, today’s practice management challenge is to prioritize our list of tasks to offload. The difference here, however, is that I really believe that if something made it onto this particular list, it really should go.

There are essentially three ways to get rid of tasks that cause drudgery for you: Eliminate them, delegate them, or automate them.

First and foremost, go through your list and see if you wrote down any services. I’m talking “payroll” and “bookkeeping”, for example. The easiest way to offload a service you don’t enjoy doing or that isn’t profitable is simply to eliminate it. This goes for any and all services, without exception. Yes, even 1040 preparation. If you don’t want to do 1040 prep….if you despise tax season…then just stop doing it. Eliminate the service from your practice — refer that work out, or hire somebody to do it. Certain services, such as payroll, have entire industries and infrastructures unto themselves that already exist for you to offload that low-profit work. Just do it.

So for these services on your list, spend 10-15 minutes brainstorming how you can offload them. Think outsourcing, staffing, contractors, service providers, etc. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Next up: Mundane, routine tasks. This is the second biggest priority I think you should tackle. Look through your list from yesterday, and look for these tasks. We’re talking about answering the phone, taking out the trash, sending tax organizers, etc. For each of those tasks on your list, determine whether it’s easier to eliminate, delegate, or automate it.

For example, tax organizers. Do your clients actually fill them out? A lot of people tell me “no”. If your clients don’t, then just stop sending them. Eliminate. Done.

Answering the phones? Refer back a few days to our challenge about checking out some answering services. If you’re personally answering your own phones in your business — as in you, the CPA, EA, or attorney — then you are not operating at your most profitable efficiency. Delegate this out to a staff person or answering service.

Still entering all transactions by hand? Automate this. Technology is your friend.

These two categories — services and routine tasks — will probably cover the majority of what you brainstormed. For anything else on your list, it will probably take more time to sort through them, but it’s time well spent. Time block a few hours over the next few weeks to revisit items on this list in order to determine how you can eliminate, delegate, or automate them.

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The “Pursue Your Passion” Generation

There is a lot of rhetoric out there about chasing your dream and crossing the chasm and creating a “muse” business.

But, here’s the harsh reality: It’s all complete BS.

There are many, many “experts” out there trying to sell you a particular paradigm. Essentially, some publishers and organizations, including your state and national societies, are trying to convince you that our profession is an island, and wholly isolated from the risk of job losses and business failure due to advances in technology. We’re not manufacturing, they say, so the robots can’t displace us.

Fast forward to this pursue your passion nonsense.

Let’s be real here. It doesn’t matter if tax, accounting, bookkeeping, etc. is your passion or not.

Trust me, tax is not my passion.

Whaaaaaaaattttt?

Never, ever forget: I got into the tax resolution world as a means to an end.

I was bankrupt and homeless — literally living in my vehicle. When I entered the tax profession, it was merely a J.O.B., intended to put food on the dashboard. At the time, I really didn’t care what I did to earn money.

But I learned to love it.

I found pieces of this business that I could be passionate about. The statistics, the marketing, nuances within the IRM and IRC. Basically, all the stuff I could geek out about.

I found a place within taxation to exert my true passions.

You need to do the same. We work in a fairly thankless profession, but you don’t have to love the tax work itself. In fact, you don’t even have to do the tax work. All tax and accounting work is a technical skill with plenty of knowledgeable (and licensed) practitioners looking for work. You can hire people to do the grunt work for you, and focus on the aspects of the business that you’re passionate about.

I recently spoke to the cousin of a close friend that is considering changing careers. She’s worked in bookkeeping for a long time, and thinks that she can be successful in sales. When we first started talking, she was talking about retail sales, because that was something she could get passionate about.

I told her to put the brakes, and not make such a drastic career change. I suggested that she shadow some sales reps for a few days, and see how a sales job actually works on a day to day basis. If she liked that, then I suggested a sales job within the accounting realm. Perhaps software sales, or business development for an accounting firm. This had never dawned on her as an option.

If you don’t like what you’re doing, then definitely change it. Pursue your passion — but within limits. Don’t change careers entirely, especially if you’ve invested decades into your tax or accounting career.

Our profession is changing rapidly. New opportunities are being created almost every month. The core members of our profession are starting to retire, so there is plenty of upward mobility for those of us in our 30’s and 40’s. There is no shortage of regulatory and technological change that will drive innovation and revolution in what we do. Look for opportunities within those changes, and try to match your passions to some of those changes.

Are you fascinated with the idea of dropping everything and becoming a life coach? Don’t do that… Just don’t. Teach CPE instead, or become a training manager at a large accounting firm. Or get into the recruiting side of accounting or law. All of these are fairly similar to life coaching, but without the drastic professional change.

Passionate about surfing and dreaming of opening a surf shop in Cost Rica? There’s nothing wrong with that, but understand the financial limitations and the realities of things like business visas in foreign countries. How are you going to support yourself while growing your surf shop? This is where services like tax resolution really shine, because you can make some serious money working 100% remotely from your clients.

Are you a recent accounting graduate and only 3 months into your first auditing job at a large CPA firm, and already hating your life? Well, you’re financially committed at this point — suck up the next nine months to get your one year of minimum experience to punch your CPA ticket. Get that license, then strike out on your own. That CPA license is a golden ticket that’s worth having, so don’t throw it away.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing your passion. I’ve done it myself on multiple occasions, and continue to do it to this day with Prolaera (I’m passionate about making CPE not suck anymore). But you’ll notice that I’ve made my passions work within the confines of my existing background and skills — everything has been an offshoot of something else, never starting from scratch.

So sure, pursue your passions. But don’t burn down the house as you walk out the door. That goes double for you Millennials.

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How (and why) to Become a CPA Late In Life

Sometimes in life, you need to take the road less traveled — and never look back.

If you’re already a CPA or attorney, you can tune out. This article won’t be of any interest to you.

Last year, I wrote a post about why all unenrolled preparers should become Enrolled Agents. If you don’t want to read that whole thing, it basically boils down to this: The simple ability to sign a Form 2848 can rapidly double or triple your income.

Today, I’d like to make the case for becoming a CPA, even if you’re a late-career professional.

Why You Should Consider Becoming A CPA

Let’s start with the most obvious reason: Despite the fact that the EA license is actually older than the CPA license (1884 vs 1896), the CPA community won the war for American “mindshare” when it comes to professional status and relevancy in relation to tax matters. It doesn’t matter that only 1/3 of American CPAs have a PTIN, typically only take one college class on federal taxation, and are never vetted by the federal government in regards to their actual tax knowledge and competency.

What matters is public perception. Whether us EAs like it or not, we will always be stuck explaining what we are and where our license comes from. If you ask any member of the public what profession/occupation a tax professional is, they’ll all automatically answer, “CPA”. That’s what I mean by them winning the war for “mindshare”. Simply put, the CPA community did a better job of branding and marketing themselves in the early 20th century, and EAs didn’t.

So, there is an automatic and very tangible marketing boost that you get from being a CPA that EAs, let alone unenrolled preparers, just don’t have.

I will say that this has not been a hindrance for me in marketing my tax resolution services. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had to provide the full, lengthy explanation about what an EA is. So, if you market yourself properly, and position yourself on the right side of the desk, it’s not a major issue. But if you’re not positioning yourself as an authority in a specific niche, the CPA designation can help provide a massive boost to your credibility and authority status.

Here’s reason number two: Career opportunities. If you don’t want to run your own business, and would rather work for somebody else, it’s going to be far easier with a CPA license. There are simply more jobs available for CPAs than EAs. This is partly due to the profession protecting and reinforcing itself, and partly due to state laws (in many states, you can’t use the word “accountant” at all unless you’re a CPA). Also, if you want or need to continue working part-time in retirement, it’s going to be easier to find work as a CPA than an EA.

And here’s the final, and probably least important reason to many of you, but the most important reason to me: Any national tax license is country-specific, whereas public accounting licenses are transferable internationally. In other words, because my EA license is obviously specific to US taxation, the Australian government won’t give me a TA (Tax Agent) license, and there is no bridge path – period. Contrast that with a public accounting license — be that a CPA or what many countries refer to as a Chartered Accountant (CA). Accounting, unlike tax law, is universal. GAAP and FASB are global standards, and thus there are license reciprocity pathways. As a US CPA, I can become an Australian/New Zealand CA with just a little bit of paperwork and a few months time, after which I can obtain a work visa and migrate. Again, not important to most of you reading this, but such things are important to the 3-4 million Americans that vagabond abroad (which I used to do, and intend to return to within a few years).

Now, I also have a fourth reason that’s probably not of interest to anybody else, but I’ll mention it anyway: NASBA requires all A&A CPE courses to be reviewed by a licensed CPA. In the wake of my bankruptcy and homelessness after the real estate crash, I have become one of those people that takes onerous steps to mitigate the risk of loss and creates multiple backup plans. Since I’ve put a lot of time, money, and opportunity cost into the CPE tech startup, I can’t afford for it to ever truly fail. I also feel a personal responsibility to return either capital or a dividend to our investors, no matter what. So, my “Plan C” for Prolaera would involve running it as an advanced CPE provider by myself, making possession of a CPA license almost mandatory.

So, with all that said, on to the next piece of this puzzle…

How To Become A CPA Late In Life

There used to be some states that had very minimal requirements for becoming a CPA. For example, New Hampshire used to only require an associate’s degree and 12 semester hours of accounting to sit for the exam.

Over the past 5 years, however, such loopholes to punching your CPA ticket have been dissolving. Now, all but two states require at least 150 semester hours of college just to sit for the Uniform CPA exam. There are also only … Continue reading

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Build Your Ideal Tax Practice

Your tax practice should reflect your deepest values and priorities. Your tax practice should be a tool to accomplish whatever it is in life that is most important to you.

So, do you control your tax practice, or does your business control you?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it –Build a Better Tax Firm

I’m a firm believer that, as tax professionals, we have a profound opportunity to live a life that most people only dream about. As a CPA, tax attorney, or Enrolled Agent, you have a magical ticket to anywhere you want to go. That license to practice allows you to offer a wide variety of lucrative services to clients, to choose how and when you work, who with, and from where. I don’t know of any other professional service that allows somebody the freedom to choose their desired lifestyle in the same way that ours does.

When you take firm control of your tax practice, you get to choose:

  • How much income you want to earn.
  • How many hours you want to work.
  • Where you want to work, including on a beach sipping a mai-tai.
  • Precisely what services you offer, and which services you dislike and don’t offer.
  • The kind of clients you want to work with…and those you don’t.

Your tax practice is a vehicle to living the lifestyle you want. Your practice should be putty in your hands, malleable to whatever condition you want it to be.

If your tax practice isn’t what you want it to be, then it’s up to you to change it.

Everybody’s idea of the “ideal” tax practice is different. Whether your goal is an eight-figure annual revenue with twenty staff members, or a six-figure tax practice with just yourself working half-days from the beach, you can have the tax practice you want.

On this web site, the podcast, on webinars, and in seminars… I’d like to share with you the story of how I created my own ideal tax practice, and how it allows me to explore the world and go on zany adventures. Along the way, you’ll also discover how you can create a tax practice that does whatever it is you want it to do.

To change your life, change your tax practice.

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“Tax Day” is finally here!

If you specialize in something other than tax return preparation, then today is just another day for you.

But if a significant portion of your annual income is derived from return preparation, then today is obviously a momentous day.

You’ve endured the long days and even longer weekends. The cranky clients, the slow-payers, the procrastinators.

Today is when everything gets tidied and up with a pretty little bow on top and sent off to our Uncle Sam, for tomorrow we party!

Or, at least that’s the fantasy world that the general public believes we live in.

You and I know that’s not really the case.

You have a pile of extensions. You have bookkeeping to catch up on. And every month we have FTD deadlines and other various filing deadlines, through every month of the year.

Which brings me to my main point for you today: If you’re in private practice or at a small firm, and are looking to absolutely maximize annual revenue, then the best thing you can do is maintain the intensity and productivity of tax preparation season all year round.

If you’ve ever worked at a really large firm, or a specialized, niche type of firm, then you know this is how they operate. Tax prep season is nothing special — it’s a just a minor extra blip in the year.

I know you want to relax, soak up some sun, maybe throw back some margaritas. And a little bit of that is good. But now is not the time to rest on your laurels.

As you probably know already, I spent the past 8 years as a one-trick pony, doing mostly IRS Collections representation. No bookkeeping, very little tax preparation, no Examination representation. Even more, I specialized in a narrow arena of Collections representation: 2290 and 941 liabilities for mom and pop trucking companies in five western states.

I did this work year-round, including for over 3 years at reduced yet steady volume while traveling 100% of the time.

More important than the niche specialization was the fact that I had no seasonal mentality about my business.

There are “riches in niches”, but the year-round consistency was a far more important factor for me having my dream lifestyle and a great tax practice.

So even though “Tax Day” is here, I want to encourage you to keep on truckin’. Be that one person in your local market that keeps charging hard through the spring and summer. Take advantage of the fact that your competitors will be coasting for the next eight months, and crush them.

I’m obviously biased, because doing tax resolution work was my ticket to the good life, but if you choose to, you can simply roll from tax preparation season to tax resolution season, and then later into tax planning season. If you want a 1040-focused practice, this is my Three Season Tax Practice model in operation. Three seasons that just repeat forever and ever.

If tax resolution season is on your mind, then I invite you to attend a 2 CPE hour webinar I’m presenting tomorrow, the 2016 Tax Resolution Update. Not as much changes every year in the Collections world as does in the return preparation side, but there are still changes you should be aware of, and this update class will cover those changes.

Above all else, remember this one key point: Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.

Your unsuccessful colleagues will choose to shift into neutral and coast for the rest of this year. You can choose to keep your engine revved and plow on, and punish your competitors for their complacency.

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A better use for your “Black Friday” dollars

Minimalism.

It’s a concept that I’ve embraced for most of my life, in one form or another.

When I was traveling around the world, I took only what I genuinely needed. I reached the point where I could travel indefinitely with just a 9 pound carry on.

Even now that I’ve bought a house and “settled down”, I’m still a minimalist. The house I bought is actually a duplex, and I live in the smaller of the two units. And I have no furniture. The living room is simply the dog’s room.

The dining room displays the only sense of human habitation, due to the three computers, five screens, video equipment, etc. In other words, my office.

Now I realize that this sort of minimalism isn’t for everybody. I get that I’m a rare kangaroo on the landscape of American materialism. So I’m not going to get preachy about it.

But here’s what I will get preachy about: What you spend your money on is a direct reflection of your priorities in life.

Personally, I value life experiences over possessions. Thus, I try to spend my time and money accordingly.

“Hey Jassen, what does this have to do with tax and accounting practice marketing?”

I’m glad you asked. Or, I asked, and I’m answering myself. Maybe that’s a bad sign.

If you actually read the TaxMarketingHQ.com blog, actually read the emails, belong to any of my programs, then you’re indicating an interest in a particular subject: Marketing your practice.

What do you do with this information? What actions do you actually take with what you learn from being part of Jassen’s World?

As you’re being pounded with Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday, and Cyber Monday promotions, I’d like you to think carefully about the material possessions that you’re spending money on. Ask yourself an important question: Does this purchase further my real objectives in life?

To be more specific: Could this money be better spent on something that creates revenue?

Before you spend $950 on that new Sony 55-inch 4k moving picture box (an actual deal on Amazon right now), give some consideration to whether or not that money could be applied to multiplying itself.

For less than that new TV, you can get started with a program like Gruntworx, which eliminates the manual data entry for tax prep. How many additional returns could your team do if you eliminated this manual grunt work?

For less than this TV, you can purchase a year of Canopy, which will allow you to significantly increase your tax resolution case load, significantly boosting your revenue capacity.

For less than $950, you can buy a new homebuyer list and send direct mail to upper-income homes in your area. To people that just moved in. That need a new accountant. If you do no other 1040 season marketing, at least do this.

For $950, you can get a lot of new eyeballs through PPC ads to your free report or webinar registration landing page. That’s a lot of new people into your sales funnel.

If you’re serious about growing your practice, and making more money, you have to start thinking long term. Seriously, is your current TV really all that bad? I watch Hulu on a 10.4-inch laptop screen because I haven’t owned an actual TV since 2007, and I get by just fine.

Purchase decisions that you make TODAY, on this busiest shopping day of the year for Americans, can literally have an impact on your future revenue.

I’m all for spending money on personal gratification. I’m just as gluttonous as anybody else — spending three months at a time in western Europe isn’t cheap.

But I’m also willing to accept a tiny bit of personal discomfort to make bigger things happen, and I would encourage you to be willing to the same. I’m not saying you need to live in a van down by the creek in order to get ahead, but doing so definitely worked well for me!

So give this some thought today while you’re shopping, and instead of that new big screen TV, give consideration to investing some capital into the future growth of your business. The payoff only needs to be delayed by a few months, and I think you’ll come to enjoy the thrill of multiplying your money.

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5 Reasons Your Tax Practice Isn’t Giving You The Lifestyle You Want

Originally posted yesterday on LinkedIn.

Today is Saturday Sunday. If you’re at the office working on extended 1040 returns, then you’re doing it wrong. (Edit: Even more wrong!).

CPAs, EAs, and attorneys go into private practice for many reasons, but for most of us, those reasons can be boiled down to one word: Lifestyle.

While that word has become overused, hyped up, trampled on, and beaten to death in recent years, the pure intent of going off on your own in the tax, accounting, or legal world is generally lifestyle driven. Whether that means you’re looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, outside the pressures of a corporate firm or the bureaucracy of working in industry, or you’re after the financial rewards that come from being your own boss, we generally go into private practice in order to achieve a certain lifestyle.

Unfortunately, most of the accounting and legal professionals I work with on a coaching basis are simply not achieving the lifestyle goals that they set out to for. As somebody that literally lived the Four Hour Workweek life for over three years while traveling around the world two and a half times, I can attest to you that it’s possible. And it’s awesome.

So what holds practitioners back from achieving the lifestyle goals that being in business for ourselves is supposed to bring? Here are the five most common reasons I see on a regular basis.

1. Failure to focus. There are many things you need to focus on in order build the type of practice that will drive a lifestyle. Two specific arenas where I see lack of focus is in service offerings and client selectivity.

The most successful practitioners are those that are specialists, not generalists. Specialization can exist in both the services you offer, and to whom you offer them. For example, while traveling full time, I offered one service, and one service only: IRS collections representation (more commonly referred to as “tax resolution”). I didn’t do anything else: No tax prep, no bookkeeping, no payroll, not even examination representation (audit defense). I was, and largely still am, a one-trick pony.

When you try to be all things to all people, you’re spread thin. You’re unable to build high-value expertise in any one specific area. This means you can’t charge premium fees for your services, and you end up being stuck with clients that want everything.

For most of my coaching clients, I suggest that they pick a core suite of services that are important to a highly targeted client market, and focus 100% on that, and nothing else. This enables you to laser-focus your marketing efforts, the CPE you take, creates a stronger referral pool, etc. Focusing your practice is liberating, and powerful.

2. Working with crappy clients. Let’s face it: Some clients just straight up suck. There are the time vampires that think you should be available 24/7. There are the accounts receivable nightmares that always need just one more week to pay you. There are the grating, annoying, or boring people that you simply dread taking calls from.

I believe that life is too short to put up with people that annoy you, don’t pay you, and take up too much of your time. Fire these clients. Immediately.

Every single practitioner reading this article has at least a few clients that come to mind right off the bat when this subject is brought up. On Monday morning, send them all a letter explaining that you’re taking your practice in a different direction and will no longer be able to service them. Provide them with references to two or three of your competitors, and cut them loose.

Even better, make an evaluation of your own A/R aging, and your time tracking logs. If you’re still servicing clients with obvious A/R issues… WHY? Same with the time leeches. Cut ’em loose.

Then, applying the focus tips above, engage in marketing to replace those clients with better ones. Clients that fit your IDEAL Client Profile, and rebuild your practice around better clients.

3. Lack of systems. Systems, processes, procedures, checklists. Whatever label you choose to apply, systems accomplish many things for your small business:

  • Increased efficiency
  • Improved customer service
  • Reduced waste
  • Fewer errors and omissions
  • Increased client capacity (which equals more revenue)
  • Reduced work hours

The application of written processes to just about everything in your office will make everything in your office run smoother, and eliminate much of the time-wasting “fires” that creep up.

My rule of thumb is that anything I do more than three times in a year within the business should have a written checklist attached. Everything from how the telephone gets answered to the timing and structure of marketing campaigns has a checklist. Many of these checklists for operating a tax resolution practice can be found in my Tax Resolution Systems manual.

4. Fear of hiring staff. Much like systems, adding staff to your practice liberates you from many tasks. Staff provide leverage, allowing you to expand your business beyond your own billable time. Staff are also key to stepping away from the business for any length of time (or even all the time).

The first staff person you hire is arguably the most difficult hiring decision you’ll ever make. It’s also the most stress-inducing.

Your first staff person will most likely where many hats, ranging from receptionist to … Continue reading

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Four years later, it’s the end of an era

Today marks a special anniversary for me: It was four years worth of Mondays ago today that I made a life-altering decision. I walked out on my day job to enter the world of private practice and become a nomad.

Six weeks later, I was traversing a still-slick Vail Pass on a heavily overloaded motorcycle, threading the needle between two major snow storms. I remember stopping for gas along I-70, and people looking at me like I was nuts. I was also freezing my butt off.

But it was all worth it. I managed to rapidly build myself a successful, “stereotypical” tax resolution practice, and then just as quickly scaled it down to “boutique” size. While doing that, I’ve literally circled the globe, spent a decent amount of time in 13 foreign countries, met wonderful people, and experienced amazing cultures.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

I’m a firm believer in living the life that you want to live right now. The whole fantasy of working your tail off for 40 years so that you can retire at 40% of your previous earnings and then going off to travel the world is exactly that: Very few people accomplish it.

Either they don’t have enough money, or they’re in poor health, or they’re simply dead. Yes, that’s right: It’s amazing how many stories are out there of people that wanted to travel the world “when they were able to”, but then kicked the bucket before everything was “perfect” for them to do it.

Not this guy.

Maybe I’m an odd duck. OK, I’m definitely an odd duck. But I’m OK with that. My life has had it’s ups and downs, just like anybody else, but I’ve made the best of it, I think, and it’s worked out well. But the single best decision I’ve ever made was to live life on my own terms, rather than what’s expected of me.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this. There is an entire world of lifestyle design and location independence enthusiasts out there. The other nomadic types that I have met in my travels, and the “famous” ones I’ve chatted with online, all say that eventually they get burned out on being a nomad.

I’ve always been incredibly conflicted between the nomadic life, and having a home. It drives me nuts at times, because after a few months on the go, I’m ready to settle down. But inevitably, after a few months in one place, I’m itching to go again. My incessant indecision on this matter has been particularly frustrating to my mentor and my family.

Recent relationship events have made me examine this even more closely, which I actually didn’t think was possible. In case you weren’t already aware, I got married a month ago. We were ready to settle down, start a family, start two new brick and mortar businesses — everything that was the antithesis of the life I’ve been leading for the past four years (some analysts would say even longer, in some regards).

I’ll spare you the details, but the fantasy didn’t last long. I had found somebody that met every criteria on my 37-point checklist. What I never considered was that such a person might have itchy feet syndrome, too. We’re both traveling in from out of the area to file our annulment petition in what is legally my home state on Thursday.

Am I done being a nomad?

Alas, the answer is no. I don’t think I ever will be. When I look back on my very early childhood, my nomadic ways make a LOT of sense.

But at the same time, I want the best of both worlds. It’s nice to be in one place for a few weeks or a couple months. It’s nice to sleep in your own bed now and then. It’s nice to have a sense of community somewhere — to belong to something. Being a solo permanent traveler can be a lonely life.

As most people know, I’ve recently set up shop in Port Orchard, WA. This was going to be where I planned on being for three solid years. We had grand designs, but they just weren’t meant to be. My original business plan (available in the members area for Platinum Inner Circle members) called for extensive, personal one-on-one relationship building between myself and local high-end clients.

I sent an exhaustive explanation to Platinum members about this last week, but the bottom line is this: The business plan is changing, but the market area is not. In fact, I’m also giving consideration to adding one or more market areas.

At the same time.

For the same first tax season.

In different states.

Plus maybe Japan.

What on Earth am I jabbering on about?

I want to have my cake, and eat it, too. I want the best of both worlds. I want a home base, a place to call my own, but I want to keep traveling, also. And I’m recognizing the fact that I wouldn’t be happy with my original business plan, which essentially allowed me to take 2 or 3 trips per year of about two weeks each. That just ain’t enough, folks. Not for this guy.

This whole train of thought had a mid-air collision with one of those light bulb idea bubbles: What if I remove myself from face time with clients?

Kind of … Continue reading

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What’s *actually* important in your tax practice?

“Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been.” –Robert Hunter, “Truckin'”

Going to Burning Man is like spending a week in an alternate universe. It’s an event that is almost indescribable to somebody that hasn’t been there, and it’s even more difficult to define exactly what it’s all about.

Having been to Burning Man before, I experienced this year’s festival through a slightly different lens. In fact, this year’s week in the desert turned into more of a business planning retreat than anything else.

Some readers from the accounting world may be familiar with the concept of an annual retreat. Traditional, this consists of several days each year wherein the partners of a CPA firm disappear into the wilderness together in order to evaluate the hits and misses of the previous year. This is usually conducted shortly after tax season.

Due to the cost of such retreats and the questioning of results obtained from them, this practice has seen dwindling popularity in recent years. I think this trend is a mistake — particularly when the annual retreat is properly applied.

DUring my week in the desert, I had zero access to the Internet. There was no temporary cell tower erected off-site this year, so nobody had cell service. It was 8 glorious days of absolute communication blackout.

When we disconnect ourselves from the constant ringing, beeping, and blinking of our modern digital universe, we can obtain a clarity of thinking that is simply impossible to achieve otherwise.

From this year’s Burning Man event, I don’t have any super-crazy tales to share. I even kept all my clothes on for the entire week (which my camping companions were very grateful for!). In fact, by the standards set by almost any other burner, this was a boring Burn. I didn’t imbibe to excess, and spent a significant amount of time actually in the RV. Defeats the purpose of going, some would say.

I’d say quite the opposite. By taking the opportunity to unplug and disconnect from the default world, I was able to make monumental leaps in my business life. I had the time to work ON my businesses, rather than just IN my businesses.

I was able to take the time to formulate my zero-to-hero marketing strategy for the new tax office in Washington. I was able to determine what I really want out of that tax office, and how it works with my existing boutique tax resolution practice. I was able to outline the future of Tax Marketing HQ, and came to several decisions regarding related projects. I solidified my strategy for returning to real estate investing, and assigned realistic yet aggressive targets for achieving specific financial goals.

Taking the time to step out of the “real world” was a blessing. I’m now much more focused on what I want to achieve. I’m far more comfortable now with the notion of hanging up my nomadic hat and being in one place for a while. And through a strange set of circumstances, I was introduced to a completely unrelated, brand new entrepreneurial endeavor that may or may not come to fruition, but will be an interesting adventure no matter what (I may or may not share more about that in the future…we’ll see).

Perhaps the most important thing, however, is that I was able to eliminate a number of distractions. I tend to have a short attention span, and suffer from what is commonly known as Shiny Object Syndrome. Focusing on just a few things that actually matter is really the secret to success, but many of us get tugged in various directions by all the available options out there.

By eliminating what wasn’t gaining traction, or that no longer really interested me, I can instead focus on things that drive real results. My time at Burning Man this year yielded three basic tenets for my business life that I’ll be referring back to extensively for at least the next two years. These were ideas that I was already aware of, and understood, but it took being away from the business for a week to make them truly clear to me.

What does this translate to in practical terms?

You’re going to see a lot of new things from me here at Tax Marketing HQ. You’re also going to see a few things go away. In my discussions about building the new tax office from scratch in Washington, you’re going to notice a theme. In fact, you’ll notice an overall theme so prominent that you’re going to get tired of hearing about it. You’re going to see me step away from a couple things that may surprise you, and you’ll see me moving forward on some projects that may leave you scratching your head.

All of these actions, however, will be based on reason and logic for the purpose of achieving specific objectives. This alone is the true power of disengaging for a while to focus ON your business. The level of clarity I now possess on a number of important matters is staggering, compared to before my “retreat”. In the future, I will likely refer to these as my “Burning Epiphanies”.

I’ve become so passionate about the power of taking time to work ON your business, that I’ve decided to put together a free webinar to help you explore the process and organize your own retreat. You don’t need to … Continue reading

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Setting Revenue Goals For Your Tax Practice

The most common answer to the question of “How much money do you want to make?” is “As much as possible.”

Anybody that is in private practice for themselves, either as a solo practitioner or with a small group of partners, has to take a serious look at this question, however.

Obviously, different revenue levels require vastly different levels of work, commitment, infrastructure, marketing, etc. The decision to make X dollars is not as simple of a decision as what you might think.

I believe in two approaches to this decision process. The first is to decide how much TIME you want to put into your practice, and make revenue and expenditure decisions from there. The other approach is to determine how much take-home income you want, and work backwards from there.

I personally make the decision more from a time standpoint. My lifestyle design objectives are somewhat unique, as I am willing to sacrifice significant financial gain in order to have extensive freedom to travel around the world. You may be more interested in earning a certain income to support a specific lifestyle.

If you want to make $500,000 per year in take home pay, then you are going to need a certain size organization, as it is unlikely you can achieve that income goal completely on your own. That size of organization is going to require infrastructure, employees, office space, etc. All these factors need to be taken into account.

If you want to work as a solo practitioner, and only work 40 hours per week, then this is going to create an income limit for you. You can increase this limit by focusing on niche clients, charging premium fees, performing high end services, and doing specific styles of marketing.

Keeping in mind the various challenges and limitations that come with having certain income goals is important. Keeping an open mind, and having realistic expectations about how much money you can make, and what it will require, is critical to your success as a firm.

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