Local Business Classes

This week so far has been low on client work and high on allergies. In a situation like this it may be tempting, and in my mind even justifiable, to ditch the office and head out shopping or catch up on DVRed episodes of Project Runway. (Un)fortunately, I know better. I know that “slow times” for a business owner are anything but slow, as they are quickly filled with soliciting new work, taking care of backed-up invoices, logging my finances…and the list goes on. One of the reasons I know how to make the most of this time is thanks to a business class that I took in August and September of last year.

As a new business in the area I was anxious last year to search out any resources that might help me on my way. One of the resources I discovered was the Lynchburg Business Development Center (BDC), home of the Region 2000 Small Business Development Center (SBDC). The BDC is a small business incubator and offers business counseling, financing, and training and events. In August I began the six week SELF Employment Training, which covered a wide range of topics.  From bookkeeping and accounting to tax and legal issues, the course includes a number of professionals in various fields to assist you with your new business. Thus, this week’s lack of client work proved a convenient time to hole up in my office and take care of the business side of things.

I took some time these past few days to make sure my taxes were all squared away, update my finances in Quicken, update the monthly cash flow, and search out and contact potential new clients. All of these are imperative parts of operating a successful business, but when the clients are calling it’s easy to let these tasks fall by the wayside. Client work is what brings in the money, but without a solid business structure and secure finances there would be no clients. Not to mention marketing, which should always be a priority. I have often heard that the best time to market is when you’re busy, to avoid running out of work. This is true, but slow times are also a good opportunity to reassess marketing strategies and search out new outlets for promoting yourself.

One of the best habits that I took away from the SELF Employment Training was the importance of keeping a cash flow chart, which offers a broad view of my company’s finances over time. A cash flow breaks down income and expenses by category each month- and the categories are created by me. So for example I can look at 2009 and see what percentage of my income was from photography, or how much I spent on marketing over the course of the year. By looking at the cash flow over multiple years I can pinpoint trends in slower months and busier months, and schedule work accordingly.

Whether you are a business owner, freelancer, job searching or gainfully employed, I encourage you to seek out local business centers in your area. Chances are, there are some wonderful and economical (sometimes even free!) resources that you could be taking advantage of.

4 Responses to “Local Business Classes”

  1. Smed says:

    Great post! Is there software that you use to make cash flow charts or do you just do it by hand?

  2. Elise says:

    Thanks Smed! I make my cash flow charts by hand in MS Excel, in part because it helps me be aware of the exact sources of my income and expenses. There are programs that will generate a cash flow for you, some more advanced than others (and at varying costs). Of course even with a cash flow program you will still have to do some manual inputting and reviewing.

    Thanks for commenting!

  3. Elise, this is a great post and very informative and helpful. You’ve done a good job of nailing down exactly how the class helped you and why it’s so important for business owners to focus on these crucial areas of marketing, budget forecasting, and cashflow analysis! I hope some of our other clients will be inspired by your testimonial to pay more attention to some of these very topics!

  4. Boris says:

    Useful blog, really enjoyed the read, thanks.

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