TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Reasons Why Your Job Is Rough and How You Can Fix It

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If you wake up dreading work, it’s time to reflect on what changes you can make

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Many people are working jobs they don’t enjoy. They’re bored, they aren’t working on things that matter to them, and are possibly even miserable. They lack the freedom and control necessary for daily happiness and self-esteem.

In this article, I’m going to describe five reasons why your job is so rough, and then a few solutions to help. My hope is that by describing them here, you will have more power in your situation, and the confidence to change it.

  1. You don’t decide your schedule. Maybe you’re a morning person; maybe you’re an evening person. It’s not that you’re lazy or you don’t want to work, it’s just that you want to work when you choose to. However, you can’t always work when you know you work best. So each day you wake up and hear that alarm as a reminder you are on someone else’s time.
  2. You don’t decide what you wear. Few people are happy to be stuck wearing a tie every day. I’ve heard even worse from a friend who used to be stuck in a dead-end job. Now he’s working on his own terms at a startup. This lack of freedom is another killer of the human spirit.
  3. Your boss is not who you want to become. It’s hard to show up to work for a boss you don’t respect. If you look at your boss and don’t want to be them — what are you working towards? Speaking with them only leads to frustration, especially since they are your direct superior.
  4. You leave feeling drained and exhausted. Maybe your co-workers are difficult or unenjoyable to work with. If you work on a team with people who make your life difficult, it doesn’t matter how positive you try to be yourself. At the end of each day, you’re left feeling exhausted and drained. Thankfully, I work with the most brilliant and considerate team I could imagine. And I hope others can find these teams as well.
  5. You can’t change anything. You want to make an impact and help your company, but you can’t. It’s hard to be stuck in a situation where you can’t change the rules, and you wonder why you’re there anyway.

If you want more freedom and a happier work life, look for a job you enjoy with a team or company culture that doesn’t have these conditions.

How to Fix It

It’s important to know that most companies really want you to be happy. Most companies care about you and don’t want you to leave. As an employee, you hold far more power than you realize. So if you’re unhappy, share this with your boss. Work with your manager to figure out terms that are better for you.

  1. Schedule an appointment with your boss or higher up. Mention that you have a few things you’re unhappy with, and you’d like to have a private conversation. This message will get any boss’ attention.
  2. During the meeting, share your feelings. Not just your opinions, but your experiences and emotions.

Simply by doing this, you’ll feel better because you are sharing honestly. You’re being proactive about making changes. You’ll also notice that if your company is worth working for, they will make changes to improve your happiness. As an alternative, you can become an entrepreneur, but this certainly isn’t for everyone.

Dane Maxwell is the creator of The Foundation, a no-nonsense approach to finding painful problems and solving them with software. You can learn how to find a profitable business idea for your next venture at our website.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Simple Ways to Increase Your Happiness at Work

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Happiness at work can come from a number of things — both in and out of the office

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Question: What is one simple practice I can adopt to be happier at work?

Leave the Office

“There are ample opportunities to get up and go for a quick walk throughout the day. Disagree? Then you need to learn to delegate. If you have a scheduled call that doesn’t require you to be on a computer, plug in your headphones and take the call while walking around the block. There is also an Internet hotspot about every 15 feet; you might give them a try from time to time.” — Adam Callinan, Beachwood Ventures

Form Morning Rituals

“In the morning, do you get on top of the day or does it get on top of you? Solid morning rituals can help ensure you get on the right track — and stay there. I meditate, exercise, have a healthy breakfast and write out the things I’m grateful for all before I get into the office. I find that these rituals center me and help keep a smile on my face for the entire day.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Incorporate Family

“Whether it is working with family or doing activities with employees and their families, this is something that shows that each person is a member of a family working together. Also, it will make people more comfortable and therefore, more productive.” — Bryan Silverman, InStall Media

Think About Your Team

“Thinking about the members of my team makes me happy. These are the people I enjoy working with who are really motivated, recognize problems and opportunities and take action. I just try to remember each and every one of them and how grateful I am to have them in my life. I also think of our customers as individuals and how grateful I am to have these great people in my life.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Meditate

“Meditation is a key tool I use to work happy, and there are so many benefits of a daily meditation practice. In its simplest form, it’s about taking a minute to close your eyes, tune into your body and focus on your breath. Even Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll incorporated meditation into training leading up to the Super Bowl. And you know how that game turned out…” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Outsource

“Figure out the things that are sucking time and making you miserable, and find a way to outsource them. Whether you hire support staff or outsource to freelancers, figuring out what you like to do and focusing on those things will make you infinitely happier and more productive!” — Alexis Wolfer, The Beauty Bean

Be Grateful

“Say “thank you” every day to your staff, your partner and your family. Show gratitude and appreciate what you have.” — Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

Try Improv

“For the past few years, I’ve been sneaking off to musty classrooms and tiny theaters to learn and perform improv comedy. Initially, I started this as a fun hobby, but it’s turned out to have an enormous impact on the way I work. It taught me tricks such as “Yes, and,” along with the importance of stating the obvious. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to be happier and have more fun at work.” — Robert J. Moore, RJMetrics

Keep Your Team Happy

“Don’t be caught up in the traditional 9 to 5. It’s okay to have your staff start at 10 a.m. on certain days or end early on Friday. Reward yourself and your team for hard work with small perks. Keeping a happy team keeps you happier at work and makes working long days worthwhile. ” — Amanda L. Barbara, Pubslush

Learn Every Day

“Work can get mundane when you’re doing the same thing day in and day out. An easy way to make work more engaging is to learn new things as you contribute to the company. Grow your mind as you help your company grow. Don’t be afraid to be open with your employer about learning. Bosses love employees who want to build skills, and many of them will bring you into the fold if you show promise.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Take It One Day at a Time

“Take it one day at a time. Each day has its own problems, so why stress about tomorrow?” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

11 Ways to Maximize Your Creative Brainstorming Time

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Creative brainstorming can lead to success — if you make time for it

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Question: How can leaders carve out time/space for creative thinking each week?

Walk Away

“Get out of the office and into nature, engage in a hobby or just go to the grocery store. Raise your head up to experience the world while you’re in it. The world has so much to offer you creatively — if you’re open to it. But it won’t present your best ideas to you while you’re on the computer or at your desk. It will present them while you are away from the grind. So, give yourself space.” — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

Wake Up Early

“At the beginning of a day, all the responsibilities of work can have a very strong gravitational pull. It’s usually hard to break away once you engage. Waking up early and taking time to meditate, write and think of creative ideas is a great way to avoid the inertia of your work because, chances are, no one is trying to contact you at that time.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Put an ‘Hour of Power’ in Your Calendar

“One of the secrets to carving out time for creative thinking and goal setting is by physically scheduling it as a reoccurring weekly event on your calendar. I call it my “Hour of Power,” which takes place on Sunday evening, and I haven’t missed it in four years.” — Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

Timebox It Every Week

“The only way that’s worked for me is putting a three-hour time block on my calendar every week and sticking to it. That’s easier said than done, but a way to make it even more real is to communicate it openly to your team and encourage them to do the same!” — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Meet With Thought Leaders

“It’s important to meet with a wide variety of thought leaders. Ask people you find interesting to meet for coffee before work. It’ll give you a different vantage point and will get your wheels turning. Being internal and insular within your industry or company creates tunnel vision and acts as a barrier to great ideas.” — Luke Skurman, Niche.com

Draw It Out

“Take out a big sheet of paper and simply draw out all your ideas for an hour per day or week. Don’t use a computer. Feel free to draw pictures of words or branch out tree limbs filled with every problem — business or personal — you have. By drawing out your ideas, you can find hidden solutions from your subconscious. Collect these papers, and review them regularly.” — Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

Take ‘Walkies’

“Me and my creative team go on walks for 10 to 15 minutes every day. We like to refer to these as “walkies,” and everyone in the office knows that it’s time to drop everything and go for a walk. Around half the time we are just talking about our lives and getting to know one another better. The other half of the time, we have the best creative thoughts. Our best ideas have come out of these walks.” — John Rampton, Due

Adjust Your Sleep Schedule

“Start going to bed and waking up an hour earlier. Don’t check your phone when you first get up. Use the extra time to work out for 20 to 30 minutes, have a healthy breakfast and then do some active thinking about your day/week. I like to take a walk or just pace inside if the weather’s bad. Make this a non-negotiable item on your schedule. Afterward, begin your normal morning routine.” — Nick Lavezzo, FoundationDB

Have ‘Think Tanks’

“One thing we do at GothamCulture is something we call “Think Tanks.” It’s not something that’s reserved for leaders. Anyone can call a Think Tank. If employees have an unusual situation they’re grappling with, they invite the entire team to an optional meeting where they provide the context and the need, and the participants collaborate to come up with creative solutions.” — Chris Cancialosi, GothamCulture

Make It a Priority

“Schedule weekly recurring blocks in your calendar to keep creative thinking a high priority by either working alone or with others. Working alone can be very productive, and collaborating with colleagues or professionals from different industries is a great way to absorb new perspectives. I schedule these sessions three mornings a week and consider it a win when one or more yield results.” — Lauren Perkins, Perks Consulting

Know Yourself

“First, everyone has different times and circumstances when their creativity is at its peak. Chart a week, and you’ll learn your peak times for strategic and creative thinking and your less-than-peak times for emails and administrative tasks. You will also learn what distracts you, so you can determine the best approach to staying in the creative zone.” — Suzanne Smith, Social Impact Architects

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

5 Ways to Make Your Workday More Productive

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Eliminate distractions in your daily routine

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It’s easy to get distracted given the countless details that come with running a successful business. If you’re ready to outshine your competitors and take your business to a whole new level, there are five things you need to start doing today:

Outsource

Proper investment of time versus money is an art. Smart outsourcing ensures that a qualified professional handles every aspect of your business and frees up your time to focus on the parts of your business you’re best at.

If you’re used to running a one-person operation, it’s natural to feel anxious about giving up control and trusting others with your hard-earned money. The beauty of outsourcing is that it doesn’t have to come with high financial risk — since you don’t have to commit to hiring full-time or permanent staff, you can try it out in small steps.

Try an experiment: Identify one relatively simple task and outsource it to an independent contractor for a temporary position of a week or two. Commit to using those extra hours to work on something you’ve been putting off. At the end of the week, evaluate your results. You might be surprised at the time you end up saving for a minimal investment.

Automate

Evaluate your current strategy to ensure that you’re automating everything you possibly can without detracting from the quality of your product or service. If you’re still struggling to keep on top of everything but you’re not sure what to change, you may need to consider adjusting your business model or product offerings.

For example, if you find yourself spending intensive hours each day addressing queries about minor items, you may benefit from trimming back your product line, instead investing in a PPC campaign to promote higher ticket items that require less customer maintenance. In many cases, less is more.

  • Use an autoresponder to send out pre-written email blasts to your subscribers.
  • Introduce a policy to curate a higher percentage of your content.
  • Use HTML forms to streamline staff intake processes.

Improve

Successful entrepreneurs learn by doing. It’s entirely possible to build a multimillion-dollar business without ever having gone to college, but if you really want to maximize your long-term potential, you can’t neglect to invest in self improvement.

There are an abundance of quality learning resources available online. Sites like CourseBuffet make it easy to browse an array of free courses offered by top universities. You can also try out subscription-based learning services such as Lynda.com. If you’re interested in improving your skills in SEO, social media marketing or web analytics, check out Udemy for a wide variety of affordable courses to help boost your business.

Simplify

Perhaps the most common obstacle to success for today’s entrepreneur is lack of focus. Allowing yourself to become distracted at the most critical times of the day can be detrimental. Try out these tips for eliminating distractions in your daily routine:

  • Check emails only at certain times of the day.
  • Resolve to put aside any interesting blog posts or articles you come across during the day.
  • Each morning, identify one major task and assign the best hours of your day to work on getting results.

Re-energize

We all do our best work when we’re feeling inspired. It’s crucial to take some real time off every now and then — that is, time spent thinking about anything other than your business.

Often, all it takes is a change of pace to break the cycle of monotony and get re-energized. For example, if you’re an extrovert, attend after-work meet-ups with locals who share your interests. If you enjoy reading, ask your friends what books have inspired them lately and set aside some reading time during your daily coffee breaks. Once you’re feeling rejuvenated, take advantage of the opportunity to tackle that big fish you’ve been putting off.

Old habits are hard to break, so don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to find your groove. Once you do, you won’t look back.

Robert Sofia is a best-selling author, award winning public speaker, and financial industry thought leader. He has developed marketing strategies for Fortune 500® companies, consulted with over 1,000 companies nationwide, and is the cofounder of Platinum Advisor Strategies – ranked #362 on the INC 5,000 list of America’s fastest growing privately owned companies in 2013, and #10 on the Agency 100 list of the nation’s fastest growing agencies.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

10 Networking Tips for Entrepreneurs in Between Jobs

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Making a positive impression at networking events is all in how you position yourself

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Question: I am an entrepreneur in between companies. How can I succinctly explain this in networking situations?

Explain a Positive Past, Optimistic Future

“In one sentence, explain a positive portrayal of your past experience. Transition to one sentence on what you look forward to doing in the future or what opportunities you’re seeking. It’s always important to keep it light and positive.” — Darrah Brustein, Network Under 40 / Finance Whiz Kids

Appear Goal-Oriented

“Even if you haven’t solidified your next move yet, prepare a few concrete business or personal development goals that you can rattle off when attending networking events. Basically, you want to sound like you know what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to appear like you are simply drifting from one company to the next.” — Alexandra Levit, Inspiration at Work

Say You’re Looking for Your Next Venture

“The phrase “looking for your next venture” implies a previous venture and also implies an amount of choosiness (as opposed to desperation) while getting across the fact that you are not currently working on a project.” — Brennan White, Cortex

Own It

“Rare are those with a clear career path or the entrepreneurs who have not seen deals fall through. Partnerships fail or simply decide to do something different. If you can articulate with intelligence what brought you to this transition point and where you are trying to go next, then maybe your conversation is about to get interesting.” — Henry Glucroft, Henry’s / Airdrop

Give Your Elevator Pitch

“In any networking situation, you should present yourself in an assured, positive way. You knew how to give the elevator pitch for your last venture, so what’s the pitch for where you are now? What did you learn from your last experience? What is your next goal? Thinking through these things ahead of time will help you network with confidence.” — Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares

Be Real

“Every entrepreneur has been in your situation. Whether your past business is boring you or just went bust, networking is all about connecting for new opportunities. Be genuine about your past experience. Others will be grateful if you share something they can learn from or may offer feedback to help your situation. My best advice has been given to me when I needed it most.” — Robert De Los Santos, Sky High Party Rentals

Be Yourself and Listen

“Be yourself, and when in networking situations, make sure you listen and make eye contact. Feel out the person or group you’re talking to. Find ways to present your past experiences when they fit into the conversation. Be positive. There is always something that people can relate to in most conversations. Listen and learn what that is, and you will be fine.” — Jason Grill, JGrill Media | Sock 101

Explain That You’ve Structured Your Startup

“It is important to put the emphasis on your entrepreneurial spirit. Explain that you have already structured your startup and established a team that is running the business as if you are present with minimal supervision, and you are now ready for your next passion/challenge.” — Evrim Oralkan, Travertine Mart

Say Just That

“People understand that entrepreneurs sometimes switch projects. To say that you’re an entrepreneur in between companies makes people think that you’re still working just as hard as when you are at a company and inspires confidence that you’ll be an entrepreneur at a new company soon. When networking, remember that it’s more about the other person and how you make him feel than it is about you.” — Mike Seiman, CPXi

Be Proud

“Be proud of your situation. Embrace the lessons learned from each venture and articulate how it helped shape your current view or developing view. At the end of the day, it is about telling the evolution of you as a brand. Don’t be short, hide it or shut down. Most people are afraid of starting and failing in business; you have a powerful story to tell.” — Ilya Bodner, The Shipyard

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

13 Reasons to Give an Employee a Raise

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"If you choose not to give employees raises, you risk losing them mentally, which will lead to losing them physically"

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Question: What was the determining factor that led to the last raise you gave to one of your employees?

Value Creation

“I give raises when someone exceeds my expectations, usually when employees take something on that wasn’t originally in their scope of work. I’ve had people ultimately create a position for themselves by making a suggestion, implementing it and taking ownership over it. Suddenly, the value they create for my business has gone up, and I feel it’s only fair to increase their compensation.” — Mark Krassner, Knee Walker Central

Accuracy and Timeliness

“Having employees complete tasks consistently on time and with great accuracy is always a marker for me to give raises. Unfortunately, employees who get the job done are often overlooked in lieu of those who are overly political when, in fact, they are what makes the business progress day to day.” — Phil Chen, Systems Watch

Willingness to Do More

“We love employees who continually do more than they are asked or who are constantly looking for ways to help grow the business. Employees who have fresh ideas and aren’t afraid to take on the job of implementing new ideas are often awarded raises.” — Laura Land, EMPIRE Cell Phone Accessories

Confidence and Growth

“If employees have the confidence to ask for the raise and the foresight to explain exactly how they will grow their skills to deserve the increase, I usually give it to them right there. In the most recent example of this happening, the employee asked for a raise far above his title. I laid out a three-month plan for the employee to prove his ability to work at that level; he did it in two.” — Brennan White, Cortex

Independence

“The last raise we gave to an employee was due to his success in operating more independently. We encourage our team to accomplish great things, and employees never need our permission to do so. Operating independently to accomplish things for themselves — and also for the team — is always rewarded and always appreciated.” — Parker Powers, ParkerPowers.com

My Beliefs

“In my opinion, everybody you value should be getting regular raises to the extent you can afford it. If they’re not getting regular raises and you’re not providing some opportunity, employees could begin to question if you really value them. For me, I’d say the determining factor of the latest raise I gave was just my philosophical belief.” — Dan Price, Gravity Payments

Team Success

“Our raises aren’t tied to the performance of the individual, but to the performance of the company as a whole. That’s, on the one hand, because when the company is doing better, we can afford it! On the other hand, it drills home the right incentives for team success.” — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

Risking Value

“I gave someone a raise to keep him so interested in my business that he would do anything to stick around. If you choose not to give employees raises, you risk losing them mentally, which will lead to losing them physically.” — John Rampton, Due

Good Attitude

“Having the right attitude is the first step to getting real results that will lead to a raise.” — Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME

Ability to Learn and Grow

“In every weekly report, I ask employees for a suggestion to improve their role or the company. The great responses have saved money and boosted revenue through product improvements. One employee in particular had suggested many improvements with quantifiable results. She embodied our core values by continuously growing and learning in her role and also as a leader.” — David Hassell, 15Five

Responsibility

“By taking ownership or seeing something that needs to be fixed, doing something about it and owning the results, employees show they’re transcending their job and thinking about what it takes to grow the company. They know they are accountable to the team, so they make good choices and follow through.” — Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

Initiative

“Any employee who takes initiative to make the company better or more efficient needs to be rewarded. I have an employee who works hard to improve the company in several respects, and I’ve given him three raises this year when he did not expect any.” — Andrew Howlett, Rain

Preparedness

“When my employee approached me, he had a very detailed list of all his accomplishments. He explained exactly how he helped the company be more profitable and that he was dedicated to our mission. It was an easy decision after that.” — Michael Quinn, Yellow Bridge Interactive

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

4 Tax Write-Offs Freelancers and Entrepreneurs Need to Know About

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Add to the list the cost of a good CPA

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If you’re new to the world of freelancing, contracting, entrepreneurship or small business ownership, getting a CPA in your corner is a must. You’re about to delve in to a world brimming with tax write-offs, and since the IRS can (and does) change the rules each year, having a pro on your side ensures you keep as much of your profits as possible. (Worried about the cost of a good CPA? Don’t be — their services are also a tax write-off.)

While I’m not a tax expert and you should consult with one before making any tax-planning decisions, I’ve found these tips to be useful in my own businesses.

2 Rules All Entrepreneurs Should Follow

There are two major rules entrepreneurs need to follow:

  1. Never mix business with your personal life — it’ll become an accounting nightmare and will throw up red flags for an IRS audit.
  2. DO NOT try to do this yourself. Just because it seems like a write-off is legal, it might be a hot button for the IRS, and a great CPA will let you know whether it’s worth it or not. There are tons of places to cut costs — this isn’t one of them.

4 Avenues for More Tax Write-Offs

Ready to start organizing those receipts and capitalizing on your expenses? Here are some of the major tax write-offs every entrepreneur should look into:

  1. Office Space: Whether you rent commercial office space, use a hot desk occasionally or have a home office, you can write off 100 percent of your “business space” as long as it’s reasonable. However, the IRS is looking really closely at home offices. You’re only allotted to use a certain percentage of your home for business, and it has to be exclusively for work. In other words, you can’t write off the space the couch takes up even if you do all your work from there (because you likely sit there when watching TV, too).
  2. Food & Entertainment: When you travel for work, such as heading to a weekend conference, you can write off 50 percent of food and entertainment costs— again, within reason. You might be able to get by with going to one of the most expensive restaurants in the world and writing off half your tab, but it might not be worth the risk.
  3. Office Product Purchases: From printers to ink, new laptops each year to smartphones just for business use (you may need to prove you have a personal phone, too), if a gadget or product is solely for business, it likely qualifies as a write-off. Some people try to get really creative and make a case for needing a new curved TV even though they’re a freelance accountant. Don’t be greedy — the IRS is surprisingly already generous enough with office write-offs.
  4. Professional Services: Your bookkeeper, outsourced HR company, CPA, small business attorney, web host, web developer, SEO guru and anyone else who contributes to your business gives you an invoice for a reason. This is tax write-off gold. It means you can spring for that better graphic designer, so make the most of your service providers.

The life of an entrepreneur is often a stressful and demanding one, but it can also be pretty sweet. Most unnecessarily take on the brunt of financial burdens for no reason. The money is yours, why give it away?

John Rampton is the founder of Palo Alto, California-based Host, a free Joomla hosting company specializing in helping businesses with hosting their website for free, for life. He currently teaches entrepreneurship at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. You can connect with him @johnrampton.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Ways to Save Time During Tax Season

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Don't do everything yourself and hire others for help

startupcollective

Question: What is one thing I should do this year to make dealing with my taxes less of a hassle?

Keep Great Records

“Make sure to keep records of anything that could have a tax impact. It takes a few extra minutes each day to save emailed documents or scanned paper documents, but having that information readily available for your bookkeeper and tax accountant will save a lot of time and money come tax time.” — Brooks Kincaid, Imprint Energy

Separate Your Business and Personal Finances

“To simplify tax season, separate your personal finances from your business finances. So many startups mix up the two and find themselves in a mess. You must have separate accounts, keep costs separate and maintain separate income statements and balance sheets. When you blur the lines, you create major hassles, which can lead to serious expenses, legal issues and additional taxes.” — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

Use CamScanner

“After every business expense, I capture the image of the receipt via my CamScanner app. Then, I upload it to a Dropbox folder with the date.” — Shane Adams, Sagacious Consultants

Hire a Dedicated Bookkeeper

“Whether outsourced or in-house, make sure someone is 100 percent on top of the books at all times. I make sure to maintain our company books on a daily basis, and when tax time comes around, I spend no more than 15 to 20 minutes getting everything ready to send to the accountant.” — Laura Land, EMPIRE Cell Phone Accessories

Get Shoeboxed

Shoeboxed is a tool I can’t live without in my business. All my receipts get mailed or emailed to it, and it scans and sorts them for me. I can see all my receipts organized within its interface, and then my accountant can export the expenses to QuickBooks. It’s an affordable service that has saved us so much time and money.” — Natalie MacNeil, She Takes on the World

Start With the End in Mind

“Know exactly what you need to walk into your CPA’s office with at the end of the year, and start the year building a system of organizing such things daily or weekly. Enter transactions, and organize the paper trail little by little, so at the end of the year, you can walk in with everything ready. The few extra minutes every day will save hours and days as tax time approaches.” — Matt Shoup, MattShoup.com

Stay Organized

“File your receipts as they arrive according to the particular deduction they pertain to in an organized filing system or via a document storage service for electronic invoices.” — Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

Keep Receipts on the Cloud

“Staying organized all year might sound cliché, but it’s a mantra because it’s true. Be sure to keep receipts organized. In particular, create a set of file storage on the cloud, so you can keep your accountant updated throughout the year. Set a date each month to take care of this type of work so that staying organized and keeping your paperwork accessible won’t be a cumbersome process.” — Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

Ask Your Tax Professional for a Planning Session

“If you can sit down with your accountant or tax preparer (perhaps after this year’s tax season ends), you can discuss how to improve your tax situation in the coming year. You can also discuss what strategies they would recommend for making tax preparations easier next spring.” — Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

Don’t Do Everything Yourself

“Focus on the areas where you can be the expert, and hire others to help you in the other areas (e.g., taxes, accounting, legal work, etc.). I tried to do my own taxes in the early days of my business to save money, and it ended up costing me more time and money to fix everything in the end.” — Allie Siarto, Allie Siarto Photography

Sign Up for Xero

Xero automatically takes all of your expenses from credit cards and bank accounts and organizes them. It’s a huge time saver.” — Josh Weiss, Bluegala

Make It a Game

“From Easter egg hunts to Halloween as kids, we are triggered to discover and collect things. I make a game of collecting all of my bank statements and paperwork for tax season. When I collect all of the “pieces” and the basket is “full,” I reward myself with something fun like a nice bottle of wine or a massage. Nothing helps me stay more organized or more aggressive in collecting my paperwork.” — Kim Kaupe, ZinePak

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

12 Simple Ways to Improve Your Website

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Try redesigning your home page

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Question: What is one simple way I can improve my business website this year without totally overhauling it?

Try LiveChat

“We’ve been using LiveChat on many client projects and absolutely love it. It conquers a few key areas with one app — instant sales insights to know what a prospect is most interested in, real-time feedback on what’s confusing with your current site and an easy-to-use messaging system to contact you for support requests if you’re offline.” — Patrick Conley, Automation Heroes

Experiment With Video

“We found that integrating well-produced videos into a page can dramatically increase conversions. Integrating video is generally simple and can be done without redoing the basic design or navigational structure of your site. Of course, the hard part is generating great video content!” — John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

Create Clear Calls to Action

“Many businesses lose customers because they do not provide a clear path for customers to navigate through their websites. Having clear calls to action that explicitly state what you would like the customer to do is an easy way to raise revenue with little work involved. Think about the most important business objectives you have, and then place logical CTA buttons throughout to support the goals.” — Lawrence Watkins, Great Black Speakers

Include Testimonials

“Putting up customer testimonials greatly improves your conversion rates and social proof. If you can add a few killer testimonials — in the form of tweets, videos or quotes — it will really increase your business website’s impact.” — Vanessa van Edwards, Science of People

Rewrite Web Copy From Your Customers’ Perspective

“So many business websites are written in a language that’s not relevant to their customers. Take a step back and look at your website copy through your customers’ eyes. You should first slash the word count by half, and then rewrite it with an eye for using plain speak versus jargon, put it into their words and facilitate skimming versus reading.” — Leah Neaderthal, FamilyBridge

A/B Test Potential Changes

“Test out changes before making them with tools such as Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely. They’re affordable and simple to use. Sometimes, little changes can yield big gains.” — Josh Weiss, Bluegala

Upgrade Your Fonts

“You’d be surprised how different the same content looks with a few simple font changes. Make an update. Go modern. Websites are trending more toward a brochure style. Up the font size, and use a Google Web font to expand your options. It’s a simple change that yields a big effect. The same content will stand out in the crowd.” — Trevor Sumner, LocalVox

Add a Phone Number

“Great customer service is critical to creating happy customers. While most startups try to streamline their service with robust FAQs and a “24-hour reply” promise on emails, the most effective way to grow sales is to add a phone number on your site. Make it front and center — talk to people when they are on your site and ready to buy!” — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

Refresh Your Home Page

“Redesign your home page with an eye for user experience. What type of information do new visitors need most? Figure out what resources help users make the best use of your site, and then relocate the links for your most important tools and information to the highest-visibility areas of your main Web page.” — Heather Schwarz-Lopes, EarlyShares

Create More White Space

“Find ways to create more white space around the most important areas of your website. Chances are, you’ve cluttered areas of your website as new ideas and content have emerged over the years. Take some time to review what is critical to your business and what is not. Remove what isn’t, and find new, cleaner ways to present the refined content.” — Janis Krums, OPPRTUNITY

Focus on Conversions

“What can you do to improve website conversion? It could mean making a phone number more prevalent on your home page if you’re a service business or making small tweaks to the wording and action items.” — Andrew Fayad, eLearning Mind

Pay Attention to Your Analytics

“Google Analytics is free and incredibly powerful if you use it correctly. Add the tracking codes to your site, and analyze the data at least twice a month. Pay attention to the customer flow and drop-off rates for each page. Make the pages that have the highest average time easier to find. Analyze the lowest-performing pages and look for ways to make those stickier to keep visitors engaged longer.” — Brittany Hodak, ZinePak

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Job Search Like a Recruiting Pro

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Study the job description first

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One of life’s greatest pains is when you apply for a job while simultaneously realizing that your odds of getting that job are equal to winning the lottery by picking up rubbed-off tickets from the sidewalk. Prayer feels a lot more practical.

After you hit apply, here’s what happens: you become a number in an often vast and opaque database. The applicant databases of large companies might even contain millions of candidates. The chances of your resume ever seeing the light of day and getting noticed by a corporate recruiter are slim. So that feels like where your story ends.

If you’re lucky, someone is monitoring that database in between their coffee breaks. They might look at the new resumes that came in or use “smart” software to find resumes that match the assortment of keywords in the job description. Your experience, tenure and achievements are often not seen, much less considered. When it comes to job search, it’s like the old saying goes: “It’s better to be lucky than good.”

But if you have a few extra minutes, you can act like a recruiting pro and be smarter and more proactive about your job search. As the founder and CEO of Recruiter.com, I can help offer some insider insight. Here are four things to do AFTER applying:

  1. Study the job description. Most of these jobs are posted by busy people using stock templates given to them by HR organizations, or as parts of bundles that their companies pay for. So look for words that stick out — words that would never be part of a template. These are the parts added by the job poster to make the stock description look a little prettier.
  2. Grab unique phrases. Search for out-of-place words. Look for company-specific projects, technology terms unique to the company, descriptions of individual teams, mentions of particular products, etc. Forget “software engineer” and “design and development.” Hunt for phrases like “part of our e-platform component group,” “FIDO method” and “works with our Wind II series engineers.” Find anything that pinpoints the actual team inside the company to which you are applying.
  3. Find the team on LinkedIn. Unique phrases in hand, head on over to LinkedIn and do an advanced people search. Enter the company you’re looking for in the company field. Then in the keywords field, enter those unique phrases with quotations around them, like “e-platform component group” from our example above. In the title field, experiment with queries — like Manager OR Director OR VP OR Vice — to find key managers. This helps you pinpoint the exact team of people that are hiring for the position. Think about the org chart: who’s hiring? It’s your job to find them.
  4. Contact the managers. You might find 10 people who seem to be working on that project team — this is where you can pick how aggressive to be. You can contact the management of that team (or reach out to a peer in the group), describe your background and make your pitch. If you’re reaching out to a non-management employee, you might reference the exact job that you’re interested in and ask if they know who manages the hiring for the position. Include any descriptive internal tracking numbers that they used in the job description.

These are the kind of common sense techniques professional recruiters use to land new clients and find candidates for jobs. They work for job seekers too — good luck out there!

Miles Jennings is the founder and CEO of Recruiter.com, the next generation of recruiting.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

This article was originally published on StartupCollective.

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