Monthly Archives: July 2018

How Cloud-Based Accounting Software Can Benefit Your Business

How Cloud-Based Accounting Software Can Benefit Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

As a business owner, you are all too aware of the many moving pieces it takes for a business to run smoothly. One area that business owners know is important is accounting and bookkeeping, although it’s often the last area they want to spend time on. While this area of the business can be very intimidating for many, there is something you can do to lessen the burden and release stress: Use cloud-based accounting software.

This is a perfect solution for business owners who don’t want to hire a professional due to high costs, but also don’t want the extra hassle. If you’re unsure about adopting this technology, take a look at the many benefits of it below. It could relieve a lot of your business-related stress in the long run.


This is a big one because odds are, you’re not super well-versed in the accounting world. For most cloud-based accounting software businesses, they recognize that their target audience is often made up of beginners to the accounting world, so they make it very intuitive and easy to set up and manage. It allows business owners to do a lot themselves, even with minimal accounting knowledge.

Since the software is built with non-accountants in mind, there are also often a plethora of help guides and videos available for you to consume at your leisure. Plus, customer service is often rather easy to get ahold of.

These platforms are aware that your time as a business owner is limited and that you don’t have time to sit and learn new software, which is why they aim to make it as short a learning curve as possible.


Security and dependability are big concerns for small business owners, and understandably so! Because of this, it’s no surprise that these elements are often top of mind when looking for an accounting solution.

If you’re choosing between cloud-based software and an Excel spreadsheet for these types of activities, go with the software. It is far more secure (note, I like Excel for other purposes and think it’s a great tool, just not for these tasks).

Why? Because instead of your information being saved to your desktop or somewhere else on your computer, it’s saved on a secure cloud server, meaning even if your computer crashes or gets hacked, this financial information is still secure because it’s not saved locally to your device.

With that being said, it is important for you to do your homework on the software that you choose. Take the same security precautions that you would for any other cloud-based service.

In regards to being dependable, using cloud-based accounting software helps you get rid of a lot of human error, making the information it holds more accurate than if you were sticking to old-school paper records and spreadsheets.


As I’ve already alluded to in this post, small business owners typically don’t have a lot of time, and saving the time they do have is often a top priority. Again, this is where cloud-based accounting software comes to the rescue as it can significantly help save you time and money.

How? For starters, automatic updates go on behind the scenes, so you can focus on other aspects of your business instead of implementing updates manually, which can be a huge time suck.

Additionally, it makes accounting processes and tasks so much easier. For example, this type of software can automatically generate invoices and reminders for you, so that they become mindless tasks on your end.

Simply put, cloud-based accounting software makes your business more efficient with less work on your part.


Business owners often have a hard time rationalizing hiring an outside person to help with their accounting due to costs, and if that’s the situation you’re in, you’ll find cloud-based accounting software to be a good solution to that problem.

While packaging varies from platform to platform, some have monthly fees starting as low as $10 for basic accounting needs. The other great thing is that if you need to scale your business and grow from that minimal fee, these companies make it effortless to switch your plans and adjust as needed.

What’s also great about these packages is that there often isn’t a huge upfront charge. Instead, you pay an all-inclusive flat monthly fee.

Now, there are more expensive packages depending on your company’s needs, but even if you choose those, your payments get spread out and you typically aren’t locked into a contract, so you can cancel whenever.

Access from anywhere

With the ever-growing remote workforce today, it’s super helpful to be able to access your accounting information from anywhere, and that’s exactly what these cloud-based solutions allow you to do. In fact, many of the providers even offer mobile apps for easy access on the go that allow you to:

  • Send and review invoices
  • Attach receipts to expenses
  • Track billable time
  • Add contact information to your accounting records

The list goes on. Now I’m not saying you should review your books while sitting on a beach with your family on vacation, I’m just saying the option is there if you wanted to!

Simplifies taxes

The dreaded “t” word: taxes. For many small business owners, taxes are complicated as is, so you may as well do what you can to make your life easier with this aspect of your business by using cloud-based accounting software.

There are a couple of reasons this technology can help:

  1. Cloud-based accounting software makes your transactions organized and allows you to easily to gather the data you need to complete your taxes.
  2. With multi-user access, your CPA or financial advisor (if you’re using them) can easily access your information with your permission so that you don’t have to transfer a bunch of paper documents to their office. It’s helpful for them to have access throughout the year so that you can have frequent touchpoints leading up to tax season to make it less daunting.
  3. If you are audited, you’ll have easy access to accurate accounting records (although having the software in the first place will help to prevent audits because there’s a lot less room for error).

Keeps you current

The great thing about this software is that you can get a pulse on the financial health of your company in real time (unlike manual accounting where a lot of people wait until the end of the year to prepare records which could bring on many surprises).

By keeping your financial information current, you are able to quickly identify cash flow gaps and other areas of concern immediately.

This type of software also provides helpful analytics and reporting that you can access whenever you want, which makes it helpful to analyze different areas of your business and make better financial decision throughout the year.

As you can see, there are many reasons you should consider cloud-based accounting software for your business. It can be a great solution if you don’t necessarily know where to start on your own but also don’t have the option to hire a professional.

Every business has different needs. Do your homework on the many solutions out there and pick one that works best for you.

Weekend Favs July 28

Weekend Favs July 28 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

  • Affinity – Create beautiful images for your marketing efforts with this platform that’s been described as “better than Photoshop.”
  • Sortd – Bring deliverables from your inbox, to-do list, and priorities together in one centralized place.
  • Iconosquare – Use analytics to grow your following on Instagram and Facebook.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of Honest Startup Advice From Somebody Who’s Been Through It

Transcript of Honest Startup Advice From Somebody Who’s Been Through It written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


John Jantsch: If you’re a founder of a startup, maybe you need some brutally honest advice from somebody who’s been there. For this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, I visit with Rand Fishkin. He is the founder and former CEO of Moz, and he’s written a book that you’re going to want to get into because it’s got some really practical and heartfelt advice of what he learned along the way.

Stuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s why I switched to Gusto. To help the support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited time deal. You sign up for their payroll service today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duck Tape marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Rand Fishkin. He is the founder and former CEO of Moz. I think people used to call him the Wizard of Moz. He actually has a new venture called SparkToro, which we’ll touch on today. But we’re going to talk a lot about his new book called, “Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.” Rand, thanks for joining me.

Rand Fishkin: John, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: I said off air but I’ll say it on air as well, I’ve been doing this podcast forever as a lot of my listeners know, and I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve had you on. It’s a treat for me. We are going to talk about your book, but I got to ask one SEO question. It’s a really broad one. Where does SEO sit today?

Rand Fishkin: Where does SEO sit today? Well, it’s at an interesting point in its history in that, in a lot of ways, search has become a mature industry and SEO has, too. That means that it’s more competitive than it’s ever been, and for the first time I think, thanks to the growth of voice search and how Google is displaying answers, there’s actually not the same acceleration rate of increasing opportunity in SEO. It’s sort of everyone is warring for more competition but with less potential new opportunity. So interesting timeframe.

John Jantsch: I’ve been coaching a lot of business owners that I think there’s a element of SEO that needs to be much more strategic. As we plan the website, they’re messaging their content, even SEO has to be a part of that, even how we structure their entire business to some degree before we even start talking about, as you said, the technical aspects. I think that’s a message that’s starting to make sense to people maybe because it’s gotten so competitive.

Rand Fishkin: I think it’s going to be very, very tough for businesses that tack on SEO as an afterthought to compete against the folks who baked it into their marketing DNA.

John Jantsch: I’ve been doing this a long time. I can’t tell you how many small business owners would get a website built, put some form of content on it, and then come to me and say, “Would you SEO this?” You used to be able to do that.

Rand Fishkin: You did. I mean that’s the problem. The problem is, I think, that the perception of the industry is also going to be five to 10 years behind where the industry actually is.

John Jantsch: You used the word ‘startup’ in the title, or at least the subtitle of the book. That’s such a term anymore that gets bantered around. I’d love to know what you consider … if you have a definition of a startup.

Rand Fishkin: I think it’s a company that is striving for rapid growth and seeking to find a scalable, repeatable business model that works.

John Jantsch: Isn’t that every business?

Rand Fishkin: Well, I would hope that most mature businesses are seeking to maintain their growth rate or maybe grow it a little, and most of them have already found a scalable, repeatable business model, so startups are unique from both those aspects.

John Jantsch: So the culture’s unique, the point of view of the founders is unique, maybe even the decisions they make from a profitable standpoint are unique?

Rand Fishkin: Yeah, absolutely. In many cases, a mature business, the founders are not involved anymore. In many long-standing businesses, the founders are retired or passed away. In many other businesses that are mature, founders have left and they’re off doing other things. But typically in startups, founders are still heavily involved and so that changes culture and a whole bunch of other things, yeah.

John Jantsch: This book is certainly a guide for somebody who’s starting a business, so in that way it’s kind of a how-to book, but it’s also very much a memoir. I’m curious if there was something that really compelled you to include the painfully honest part.

Rand Fishkin: I think that’s something that I’ve always been passionate about, and part of that is the catharsis that comes from the release of writing about something. A big part of it, also, is that when we share something that is not often shared, that the painful parts of journey or the hard issues, we help people to feel like they’re not alone in their journey. That is a really, really important aspect of all the work that I did at Moz and that I think I’ll ever do is trying to hopefully forge a path for other people to follow in and to be able to feel less [inaudible 00:05:49].

John Jantsch: Of course, while that is obviously an awesome contribution to the world of entrepreneurship, I suspect that it also in a lot of ways … you’ve got a new venture going, in a lot of ways I guess the question is what do you learn from it.

Rand Fishkin: Oh, sure, absolutely. I think “Lost and Founder” is really exactly that. It’s kind of a, “Hey, what are all the lessons that you’re taking away that you wish you could have known before you started Moz?” and trying to pass that on to a next generation of entrepreneurs but also to myself. When you sit down and collect your accumulated knowledge and put it into a written form, I think you process it in a way that you would not otherwise be able to do. So this is a very positive learning experience for me as well. I hope it’ll have a good impact on SparkToro.

John Jantsch: I’ve written five books now, and they are me postulating ideas, I suppose, which hopefully brings some value to the world. The idea that I would also share things that were painful that showed that I was actually vulnerable, that I didn’t have all the answers maybe at some point, was that scary at all for you?

Rand Fishkin: Yeah. I think it’s always scary. I mean the difference between transparency and marketing or honest marketing at least is that when you’re doing honest marketing, you are not telling any lies and you are showing off the good things that you’ve done and things that you’ve learned. When you’re being transparent, you are both being honest and embracing, wholeheartedly embracing the hardest, toughest, nastiest, ugliest parts of yourself and your journey and exposing things that other people would normally want to hide, things that could embarrass you and make you look bad. I think there’s actually more power in that one, certainly from a representation and a helping people feel not alone part of it. The, “Oh, I’m going to tell you the Facebook story of how I became the third richest person in the world,” neh, it’s not that interesting to me.

John Jantsch: You have a lot of fans. Obviously your Whiteboard Fridays … Is it Friday? Am I getting the day wrong? I forget.

Rand Fishkin: Yeah, yeah, Whiteboard Friday, sure.

John Jantsch: Sorry, sorry. Had a momentary lapse there. Your Whiteboard Fridays obviously had lots and lots of fans. How has that fan base, if you’ll call them that, reacted to the book?

Rand Fishkin: I would say people who have known me and followed me for a long time, this book probably was a very good match. I think the one frustration, which Andrew Warner from Mixergy noted when I talked to him, was that there’s maybe two or three chapters that touch on SEO and web marketing kinds of things, but this is not an SEO-centric book. Of course, most of the people who’ve followed me historically over the last 17 years have done so because I’m in the SEO world and I help people learn more about that topic. So I think it’s a departure on that front and I think for folks who have read it, which is a few … I don’t know. Something between two and 7,000 people, I think, have bought the book so far. For those folks, it seems to be doing well. I get a lot of nice comments online so far.

John Jantsch: That’s good.

Rand Fishkin: So we’ll see.

John Jantsch: Again, the world of what … maybe it’s a misperception about what startup life is really like. Do you feel like a lot of people who are starting businesses look at the Silicon Valley common advice and common model and really fall prey to that in a not so positive way?

Rand Fishkin: I think one of the challenges is that Silicon Valley startups are built for a very specific asset class, venture capital, which is an asset class that’s designed to invest in 100 companies and three or four of them will return the entire fund and another 10 will be doing okay. The rest will hopefully die because the partners don’t even have time to engage with 100 companies. You don’t want to be putting money toward an investment that’s not return 5X, 10X. The advice that the Silicon Valley startup world gives to companies is very good if you fit that model, and it’s pretty bad if you don’t fit that model. I think the challenge is that popular media and culture and all of the focus of entrepreneurship especially over the last two decades has been so heavily centered, so heavily biased toward that model that the vast majority of businesses, which are not in that vein and shouldn’t follow that advice, can’t helped but be seduced by it.

John Jantsch: Yeah, especially since that’s really all the media will talk about is that 1% that does it.

Rand Fishkin: Right. Yeah, yeah. This is a big challenge. It’s a challenge in all sorts of things. If all the toys are geared towards, “Well, if you’re a boy, you have to play with Army toys. If you’re a girl, you have to play with princesses.” Well, no wonder kids want to dress up as certain things for Halloween and act certain ways when they grow up.

John Jantsch: I always remember when-

Rand Fishkin: You lose some of that freedom.

John Jantsch: Years ago I’d take my kids to McDonald’s … Okay, I’m just going to admit it. We got the odd Happy Meal every now and then. They would always say, “Do you want a boy toy or a girl toy?” I was like, “What does that mean?” It drove me crazy.

Rand Fishkin: What does that mean? Why am I not allowed to play with dolls, and why are they not allowed to play with Transformers? I don’t get it.

John Jantsch: Now that you’re starting another business … How long …? 17, 18 years at Moz?

Rand Fishkin: Yeah. I dropped out of college in 2001, so this would be 17 years in.

John Jantsch: Now you’ve got a new venture going. Would you say that your business point of view in general has changed?

Rand Fishkin: Oh, yeah, absolutely.

John Jantsch: I guess if so, how so?

Rand Fishkin: I’m one of those people who absolutely fell prey to the classic Silicon Valley startup, taking venture. That’s the ultimate challenge, and that’s the ultimate goal. That’s what every entrepreneur … If you’re a great entrepreneur, you seek to do that. Of course, now that I’ve been through that experience, I have the wisdom to say, “Hang on a minute. That’s a totally biased perspective.” There’s no one class of entrepreneur that’s so much better than another. If you start a bakery, you are no less an entrepreneur than someone who starts a tech company. If you raise venture capital versus getting a bank loan, you are no less or more of an entrepreneur. So I think removing some of that external input is certainly a big thing.

The other big one I’d say, for me at least, is having a lot more self-knowledge, so some of that’s being able to push exterior forces away and recognize what I want, but also some of it is being able to say, “Okay, I know that I often fall prey to these problems or these mistakes. I know that I’m good at this and not good at that. I know that I need to shore up these weaknesses, and I know that I have challenges with hiring,” whatever it is. I think that’s why so many more entrepreneurs who start businesses in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s tend to, on average, have higher success rates than those who start them earlier in life. No surprise.

John Jantsch: I’m not suggesting that you started Moz for this reason, but would you say that you are now more mission-driven than, say, innovation that could blow up and be a big deal?

Rand Fishkin: Oo, that’s an interesting one. Let’s see. I would say in my life personally and broadly, I’m a very mission-driven person, but as far as the business goes, SparkToro for me is not, “Oh, I want to solve this bordering on philanthropic problem.” It’s very much a, “Hey, this particular marketing problem that I kept seeing people have and that I encountered a lot when I worked with newer companies or companies for whom SEO wasn’t a good match.” That problem feels like there’s a great technological solution that could help with it. No, I think I’m still very innovation-driven when it comes to product market.

John Jantsch: Do you get, I’m assuming, a lot of startups or wannabe startups writing you and saying, “What should I do first? Where do I start?” What’s your one piece of advice that everybody always likes to … the one thing?

Rand Fishkin: Some combination or aspect of those questions I think I get two to three emails a day, sometimes more.

John Jantsch: Not necessarily how do you manage that, but do you have sage advice for the person that you decide, “I’m going to sit down and write a long, thorough fulfilling email back to them”?

Rand Fishkin: “Lost and Founder” has been great on that front because for a lot of the, “Hey, what should I do? What should I not do? How should I think about this?” there’s a chapter for a lot of those items in the book. That being said, I think probably one of the most common ones I get, no surprise because of my background in web marketing, is, “Where should I start my web marketing efforts, and how should I attract my first customers?” For me, the answer to that is always the intersection of three things. One, an area where you have personal passion and interest. I have never found, literally never found anyone who said, “You know what? I hate Instagram. Hate the whole platform. Ugh, it’s terrible. But I do get most of my business that way.” It doesn’t happen. People who are not interested in or passionate about or have some value they can just [inaudible 00:17:28] that they’re just not great at it. So I tell people to pick a marketing channel that they personally like. If you hate SEO, you hate content marketing, fine. Go for ads or PR or something else.

The second thing is somewhere where you can add unique value, and the important word in that statement is unique. Many people can add value. Many people can copycat other people who are adding value. It’s very difficult for a lot of organizations to recognize how they can add unique value. Why is this thing that you’re doing more uniquely valuable to the audience? If you have a great answer to that question and the first one, the third thing is you need to pick channels where your audience actually pays attention. So you find something at the intersection of those three.

John Jantsch: A lot of people really struggle with that uniquely valuable thing because they just say, “Hey, what I created, surely it’s valuable.” I find the best way to find those is find problems. What are people complaining about? What are they not getting? Like when they leave reviews with competitors and they talk about, “They didn’t show up on time,” or just whatever goofy things they’re saying, those are the problems that you need to figure out.

Rand Fishkin: Or problems where people are only solving them in one way. For example, lots of people are having this problem, and no one is helping those who prefer video content or those who like podcasts, or no one’s doing visual-centric content, or no one’s solving this in a way that’s accessible for whatever, an older demographic or that kind of thing.

John Jantsch: I’m certain because of your front of the leading edge, I suppose, SEO online stuff, you occasionally have people who say, “Okay, on this stuff that’s coming, what’s coming next?” Maybe just riff for a minute on voice search and assistance and AI and bots. That seems to be kind of the thing that’s got a lot of people’s attention but they’re not sure if they should pay attention yet.

Rand Fishkin: First off, my broad advice on this is that when you are investing in marketing, you do not need to and should not be leading your market. You should be following. That sounds weird because we have this culture that’s so innovation-centric, like what’s the next big thing? How do I make sure I don’t get left behind?

John Jantsch: First mover’s advantage.

Rand Fishkin: Right, right. There’s a first mover advantage. In marketing, there’s a first mover advantage but not until the market moves. For example, I know a bunch of companies that invested very heavily in chatbots over the last few years. They were sure three, four years ago that chatbots were going to be the next big thing, and they built a bunch of tech around this. Those have not paid dividends for very many companies at all. In fact, I would say the majority of folks I’ve talked to who’ve invested there regret investing deeply. They still think maybe in the next few years it will be something that consumers really want but so far, meh, not so much. My broad advice is follow the market. Don’t try and adopt something before it’s popular. Don’t be on, whatever, [Kick 00:20:49] who went out of business or-

John Jantsch: [crosstalk 00:20:54].

Rand Fishkin: … Periscope or something like that.

John Jantsch: Do you remember Plurk, I think it was called?

Rand Fishkin: Right. There you go, yeah.

John Jantsch: Awesome. I haven’t given you much time to talk about SparkToro, but tell us about what you’re trying to do there and who you’re trying to serve.

Rand Fishkin: Sure, yeah, absolutely. This is a product for a lot of different marketers who encounter a consistent problem that we saw which was basically folks who’d try and figure out, “I have this audience I want to reach. Maybe it’s a new audience because I have a new company, or I’m trying to expand my audience and grow. But I’m trying to reach this audience, and I don’t know where I should I go to reach them. Because of that, I spend all my money with Google and Facebook and the rest is sort of, eh, I don’t know what do to.” As a result, those behemoths become even more giant.

When in fact, if you dig into any audience, there’s almost certainly podcasts that they listen to and YouTube channels that they subscribe to and people they follow on social networks. There’s publications that they read and news media and blogs that they consume and online forums that they hang out in and events that they go to offline, places they actually go to and participate in. Discovery of those different people and publications and sources is an incredibly manual, challenging, often weeks or month-long process for a marketer to discover and uncover. If you have to do it every six months or every year, it’s even more painful. That’s what we’re trying to solve with SparkToro through technology.

John Jantsch: How niche can you get with that? Could you go down to some obscure form of engineering software company or something of that nature?

Rand Fishkin: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. The idea is that you could plug in something very broad like, “I’m interested in reaching travelers to Southeast Asia,” or you could go for something more niche like, “I want interior decorators on the West Coast,” or you could go for something hyper-niche like, “I’m looking for mechanical engineers who work in clean water facilities.”

John Jantsch: Wow. Obviously people can go to and check it out. What’s the basic revenue play there?

Rand Fishkin: Well, since we just started, it’s going to be nine months maybe a little more away before we have any kind of product. You can go check it out certainly and read a little more about the problem. If you want, you can sign up and get an email when we launch, but there’s nothing there yet. The eventual idea, though, is that I want to do something very much like I did with Moz. I don’t want to charge thousands or tens of thousands of dollars to use this product. I want this to be something that anyone can subscribe to and use, sort of a search engine for marketers to learn more about their audiences’ affinities and where they pay attention.

John Jantsch: I think it’s a brilliant idea, so I will certainly be on that waiting list when you get it going.

Rand Fishkin: Well, thank you, John.

John Jantsch: Thanks so much for joining us. Hopefully next time I’m out the Seattle way we can meet in real life and have a beer or something of that nature.

Rand Fishkin: Ah, I look forward to it.

John Jantsch: All right, take care.

Honest Startup Advice From Somebody Who’s Been Through It

Honest Startup Advice From Somebody Who’s Been Through It written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Rand Fishkin
Podcast Transcript

Rand Fishkin

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Rand Fishkin. He is the founder and former CEO of Moz and currently has a new venture called SparkToro, a software and data company focused on helping people understand how and where to reach their target audiences. He and I discuss his new book, Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World.

Fishkin is a frequent keynote speaker on marketing and entrepreneurship topics around the world. In his spare time, he likes to hang out with his wife and eat pasta.

Questions I ask Rand Fishkin:

  • Where does SEO sit today?
  • Why include the painfully honest advice in your book?
  • What is some common advice you give people?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why you need to discover your unique value
  • How Fishkin’s business point of view has changed over the years
  • What’s coming next in the marketing world

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Rand Fishkin:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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Tips for Outsourcing Your Payroll

Tips for Outsourcing Your Payroll written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

For small business owners, managing payroll can be a costly endeavor. When payroll is handled in-house, you need the appropriate software to support the job, an employee who has hours to dedicate to the process each week, and a keen understanding of tax laws and employer obligations.

It’s likely that this was manageable enough when you were just starting out, but as your business grows and you add new employees, more benefits, and open up shop in other locations, managing payroll can become unwieldy.

If you’re beginning to feel out of your depth with internal payroll management, it may be time to consider outsourcing the process. And while the idea of handing over such an important task (not to mention all that sensitive information!) to a third party may be nerve-wracking, there are some tips to help ease the transition.

Is Outsourcing Right For You?

Before diving in, run a cost/benefit analysis. According to a 2017 survey from Paychex, payroll is the most time-consuming activity each week for HR professionals, taking up an average of 11 hours. Multiply that out over 52 weeks, and—assuming a 40 hour work week—that comes out to just over 14 weeks per year spent on payroll alone!

Aside from the pure amount of time and money put into payroll each week, there are less tangible costs as well. The employee handling payroll must stay up-to-date on the ever-changing tax codes, and any errors in remittance of tax payments can result in costly fines and fees.

You’ll want to consider this against the costs of an external provider. Typically, payroll companies will charge a monthly base fee, plus an additional fee per employee or per check run. If you’re looking for extra services like direct deposit, state and federal tax filings, and W2 and 1099 processing, these will incur additional costs.

I Want to Outsource! What Next?

If you’ve decided that outsourcing makes sense for you, it’s time to start looking for providers. After you’ve identified some prospects, set up calls or meetings to discuss what services they offer. Here are some questions to consider that can help guide your discussion with a payroll company:

Question: How many clients do you have?

Why to ask it: You want someone reliable and experienced handling your payroll. Most reputable companies will have several hundred clients. Not only that, but you want someone who’s going to be your partner in the long run. If this payroll company is brand new, how do you know they’ll be around in 5 years? And if they shutter, will you be left holding the bag?


Question: What services do you provide?

Why to ask it: Not all payroll is the same. Some companies are looking for just the basics: issuing checks and W2 forms, plus managing tax obligations. Other companies, however, have more complex needs, and require additional support for benefits they offer (401(k) contributions, healthcare costs, deductions for pre-tax transit programs, etc.). Does this payroll provider cover all the services you need? And if they provide a broader scope of service than you need, will you be able to negotiate pricing so you’re only paying for what you use?


Question: What is your error rate?

Why to ask it: Payroll errors can be costly. Not only do they cause major headaches when they happen on employee’s checks, but errors in calculating taxes can get you into hot water with the IRS (every business owner’s nightmare). Does this payroll provider have a strong track record of dotting all their Is and crossing all their Ts?


Question: How can I get in touch with you?

Why to ask it: You need to have a payroll company that you can easily reach when you need them. Changes in staffing, rolling out new employee benefits, opening offices in new locations with different tax codes—these are all things you’ll need to discuss with your payroll provider, and you want to be sure you’ll have a direct and easy line of communication to the person or team managing your account.


Question: What software do you use?

Why to ask it: As the business owner, you’ll need to be providing your payroll provider with a lot of sensitive information on a regular basis. Does their software platform make it safe and easy for you to pass that information along? Additionally, is there a way for your employees to access their pay stubs, tax documents, and benefits information online? A comprehensive software platform makes it easier for your employees to remain in control of their personal finances and benefits.

Signing on the Dotted Line

Once you’ve identified a company you like, it’s time for you to sign a contract and begin outsourcing payroll. When considering the contract, be sure to take into account the long-term cost of the services. Some payroll providers will offer an initial discount as a sort of signing bonus, but make sure that you’ll still be comfortable with what the costs will be once you’re responsible for the full rate. Plus, if you plan to add staff and expand benefits as time goes on, that will mean a greater monthly cost—are you prepared for that?

After you’ve switched to your external provider, you’ll want to keep an eye on things for the first few weeks to make sure any errors are caught and remedied quickly. It’s likely that there will be a bump or two in the road as you hand off all payroll responsibilities, and you want to ensure that your employees are receiving their proper pay and benefits, and that all of your tax obligations are being met.

Getting payroll right is a critical part of running your business. There’s no shame in turning this sizeable task over to the professionals. Just be sure to do your research and find a provider that best fits your needs and budget.

Weekend Favs July 21

Weekend Favs July 21 written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.

These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape

Transcript of How to Feel Less Busy and Get More Done

Transcript of How to Feel Less Busy and Get More Done written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Back to Podcast


John Jantsch: 168. Do you know what that number represents? It is the hours that each of us has in a week, that includes 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s 168. So how do you use those to feel less busy and get more done? Well tune in to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. I talk with Laura Vanderkam, and she’s the author of a new book called Off the Clock. You are going to want to check it out to figure out how to manage your life.

Stuff like payroll and benefits are hard. That’s I switched to Gusto. And to help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners and exclusive limited time deal. You sign up for their payroll service today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to

Hello, welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This John Jantsch, and my guest today is Laura Vanderkam. She’s the author of several time management and productivity books, including one we’re going to talk about today called Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

So, Laura, thanks for joining me.

Laura V.: Thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: Now as I understand it, the method you used to compile some of your research was to literally have what, seven, eight, 900 people track their time on one given day and then turn all that in, and you analyzed it. Is that a good summary?

Laura V.: That’s a good summary, yeah. I had 900 people with full-time jobs and who also had families to track their time for a day. It was normal March Monday. So I had them record how they spent their time and then I asked them questions about how they felt about their time so looking at all this I could compare the schedules of people who felt relaxed, and they had enough time for the things they want to do with the people who felt stressed and starved for time, and rushed and all that and see what was the actual difference.

John Jantsch: So you used something you call Time Perception Scores, and I thought that was kind of interesting because I think a lot of people kind of end it like, “I got my checklist done,” instead of necessarily this idea of how they feel about it. I think there is a lot of stress around even getting a lot done, isn’t there?

Laura V.: There really is. I mean, because ultimately time is what it is, but how you feel about it has a big effect on your life. It’s the question of whether … People will be sitting there on a massage table, but thinking about their inbox. Technically, they’re having relaxed leisure time but they don’t feel that way, and that can keep people from enjoying it. So I think our time perception has a lot to do with how effective we are.

I was asking people questions like, “Yesterday I generally felt present rather than distracted,” and people could answer on a one to seven point scale. Then there are many other questions like that so then I could numerically look at the people who felt most relaxed and present and happy about their time and then the people who felt the worst about it, too.

John Jantsch: So I sometimes thing time management books are a little like diet books. It’s like here’s the new one. Eat good, do exercise, get rest. That’s the new diet. So, I’m going to let you defend that. How is your time management book different than the sea of time management books, because everybody’s been trying to figure this out.

Laura V.: Yes, well the truth is we all have the same 24 hours a day so it’s even harder-

John Jantsch: Right, right.

Laura V.: [inaudible 00:03:47] like money books, or people want different amounts of money so you could at least segment that way. But no, we all have the same amount of time. The honest truth is I don’t care if you have some email hack to take 30 seconds less on your inbox, or all these time management strategies like clean the shower while you’re in it to save a little bit of time here and there, or something like that. This is really not what time is about.

It’s about asking questions of what is important to us, what would I like to spend my time on. I think honestly how I feel about my time, too. Do I feel like time is rushing past, like I’m frantic and harried, like I don’t remember where my time has gone, or do I feel like it is full and rich, and I’m truly enjoying it and lingering in positive experiences? I’m really going for the latter, and off the clock it’s about more about the philosophy of how we view time.

John Jantsch: I’m curious on a couple of data points when you compiled all this research and analyzed it. Was there any difference in how people felt about their time purely based on their age?

Laura V.: So I know that there is broadly about this. I didn’t really look at people’s ages in this. I know everyone had children at home under age 18 so that put somewhat of a limit on what ages people were in. Probably the majority were between ages of about 25 and 55 just because of that constraint on it. But, I do know that many people feel that times move faster as they get older. A lot of people thinking back oh the years between let’s say 16 and 19 seem very vast for people versus the last three years often seem a lot quicker in our recounting.

There’re reasons for that, which is that age 16 to 19 was a very memorable time for people. They did a lot of firsts, they were figuring out who they are, new experiences. Those things tend to be memorable, and when we have memorable experiences, we remember them. Whereas adult life is generally not like that, so we don’t remember it. But we can, and people who have a good relationship with time tend to think about making their time memorable so they do remember it.

John Jantsch: I was just going to say that sounds like that’s a really good point, is maybe we ought to do things that are more memorable. All right, so another data point I was curious about is did you find a pattern to what some of the biggest time drains were for people?

Laura V.: Well, I think one interesting one is not thinking about where you’d like your time to go. I think that being intentional about your time is the biggest way to make sure that is actually spent well. If you think about how a lot of people approach, even a workday, we at least think oh well, here are broadly some things I need to do, but we tend to show up and then just march from meeting to meeting, and trying to check emails in between meetings, and you get to the end of the day like wait, where did all that time go?

It’s hard to say that the time was optimized if you’re doing all that. With people who are more intentional about it who say, “Okay, well these are the three things I absolutely have to get done today. Here’s where I have open space that I can deal with them, and by the way, do I actually have to be at all those meetings? Let me push back against some of them, too.” Those people could work … often could get out of work a little bit earlier than the people who left the work until the end of all the meetings and then had to still get done the things that had to get done.

So I found that people with high time perception scores tended to work slightly less than other people, but it wasn’t that the other people with low time perception scores worked a lot. They worked just a little bit more than the average, but it was more that the people who were good about time were intentional about planning their day so they got stuff done when they had the energy to do it, so that they weren’t stuck by themselves on a late night.

John Jantsch: Many days I feel like I kick ass for two hours, and delete email for six hours. I know there are certain times when I am way more productive, and I wonder if that’s a sort of physical or physiological kind of clock thing, or is that something that we just kind of train ourselves to be?

Laura V.: Well I think that your description of a work day is pretty broad in that a lot of people experience this phenomenon, that they have like two good hours and then six hours of yes, email deletion and random meetings and such. The important thing is that you make sure and you use those two hours. If you only have two good hours, you want to make sure that you are executing on whatever is most important to you during those two hours because the email deletion is still going to happen. Like, you can do that with half a brain, but you can’t deal with that [inaudible 00:08:35] focus time.

For most people that focus time tends to happen in the morning, which is an argument for not scheduling sort of status meetings between 8:00 and 10:00 a.m. because again, that’s time that people can really crank on stuff whereas they’ll still tell you how the project is going at 2:00 p.m., but it doesn’t really matter if they’re half asleep during that time. I do think on the other hand though that you can get some of that email deletion time back by proactively planning in breaks, because what’s sort of happening is that you have energy and then you use it.

If you don’t put more energy back in, then you could only do the low energy tasks like deleting emails. So you know, many things you can do. You can get outside for a little bit, go for a quick walk, talk to somebody whose company you really enjoy. That can get you a little bit more time out of that email deletion category.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I was somewhat being fastidious, but I think a lot of people feel that way, and I do know that they are certain times when I have … And I actually schedule my day a little bit around the knowledge that I’m from ten to noon, I really am very effective, and from two to four I’m really very effective. I just know that, and I think that there is some planning that goes into that, or into taking advantage of that.

Laura V.: Definitely. Definitely. That’s smart.

John Jantsch: You talk a lot about 168 hours, and it’s interesting to think that’s the amount of hours in a week, isn’t it?

Laura V.: It is, which is funny because most people don’t know that. But yeah, 168 hours and many people don’t know, which is fascinating because when people say 24/7 all the time, and then they don’t multiply it through. But it’s really the right way … I think weeks are a good unit to think about time partly because that’s the unit of life that we tend to live, is the repeating cycle of life like both Tuesdays and Saturdays happen the same amount. They’re very different, but they happen the same amount.

So the other reason to think of 168 hours is it just shows you how much time you have. I mean, a lot of people who have full time jobs say, “I have no time for anything else,” but if you think about it, work 40 hours a week, sleep eight hours a night so that’s 56 hours a week. That leaves 72 hours for other things, which is quite a bit of time. It’s twice as much time as you’re working, so there is time for other things it’s just we tend not to see it because work tends to take a lot of [inaudible 00:11:02] energy as well.

John Jantsch: And really … and I think you said the book … you stated the book is more philosophical. So in that sense, it’s not really just about getting more done, is it?

Laura V.: No, because there’s no point in getting more done. You know … especially stuff like the deleting email. I know people feel so productive when they’re deleting email because it’s measurable. I don’t know if I made progress on my most important goals, but I know for sure I got down from 150 unread messages to 50, so yay me, right? But it’s about making sure that you’re effective in the various fears of life … well like you are doing the things in life that make life feel worthwhile. If you aren’t, how can you go about reallocating your hours so those things happen?

John Jantsch: I think for me, at least, I know there are … When I come in every single day, I have a myriad of choices of things I could do but there are clearly some higher payoff activities that if I focused on them, or whatever, and made sure all else got put to the side until that was done, I would certainly advance on my goals. It’s not even about time management, it’s just about making choices.

Laura V.: Yeah, I mean we do have a fair amount of choice about how we allocate our time. I have people that’s telling me, “Well I can’t control this, this, and this.” I mean, it’s easy to talk about the times we can’t control, but then there’s time we can, too, even if it’s a small amount of time. Certainly, we could make better choices within those small amounts of time and ask the question of how can we change things more broadly over a longer period of time? I think it’s easy to become mentally stuck, but often there’s something that can be changed. Then it’s about changing that something and then maybe finding that motivational, and not to push the next thing along.

John Jantsch: Well, and I work with a lot of business owners who are very overwhelmed … who feel very overwhelmed. A lot of it, when we really get to studying it, there’s a lot of things that they shouldn’t be doing. In fact, they should be trying to do less instead of trying to do more because the trying to do more gets them so scattered and stressed that the stuff that really is worth them doing doesn’t get done.

Laura V.: Yeah, and that’s just a function, again, of when you’re starting a business you feel like you should do everything, chase every sale, make sure everything’s done perfectly, which means you have to do it yourself. It’s how entrepreneurs get how that drive to get started. But those skills, that temptation to do all that, and be a perfectionist, that just … you can’t grow that way. I mean, because again, we only have 24 hours in day, and even if you worked every single minute that you weren’t sleeping, there’s still a limit on how much you can do.

If you think of a CEO of a big company, we don’t say, “Oh, well he or she is a failure because they’re not doing everything themselves.” Of course not, we expect that. So it’s really about having more of that mindset of what is the absolute best thing I can be doing with my time? How can we set up the business so that I am supported in doing those things, and these other things that either I don’t do as well, or can’t do well at all … Or even that I do great, but are not the best use of my time can be given to somebody else.

John Jantsch: Wouldn’t it be great if in your business all you had to do was the stuff you love? The reason you started the business. Not all that administrative stuff like payroll and benefits. That stuff’s hard, especially when you’re a small business. Now, I’ve been delegating my payroll for years to one of those big corporate companies, and I always felt like a little tiny fish, but now there is a much better way.

I’ve switched over to Gusto, and it is making payroll and benefits and HR easy for the modern small business. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive limited time deal. If you sign up today, you’ll get three months free once you run your first payroll. Just to

Now I’ve developed over the years, and this may just be rationalizing procrastination, but there are time when I have felt procrastination was actually in order, and it’s because I wasn’t … Like the idea hadn’t come to me, or the way to tackle something hadn’t really come to me and if I went out and ran or did something, and forgot about it, then I’d come back and all of a sudden the idea came to me.

I’ve developed a pattern, I think, of recognizing that. Is that an excuse for procrastination, or is that a valuable-

Laura V.: No, I think that’s a valuable observation. The key is making sure you start your project enough ahead of time so that you have space for walking away from it and doing something else, and then coming back to it. So the issue I think a lot of people have is they leave it up to the last minute and then they don’t have time for that sort of incubation period of the idea. Then, you’re really screwed because there’s nothing you can do about it. Either it will be late, or it won’t be very good. Either of which is not a great outcome.

But if you start enough ahead of time, and you sort of put your thoughts in there, and you say, “Okay, well it’s okay. It’s not great though. Let me think about it a little bit more,” go away from a while and when you come back a day or two later, you’ve got lots more ideas, or you thought about more research you need to do that will solve this problem for you. Then it’s much better. So yeah, I think leaving that space in for incubation is a key part of creativity. So why don’t we call it that instead of procrastination?

John Jantsch: Right.

Laura V.: That sounds much better.

John Jantsch: So should everyone track their time?

Laura V.: I think it would be great if everyone could track their time for a week. I have been tracking my time personally for three years now in half hour blocks. That doesn’t mean I check in every half hour. I check in probably three times a day and write down I what I was doing since the last time. I don’t expect anyone else to track their time for three years. I’m a bit of a time management freak. But, by tracking a week, you can see where the time really goes and the key part of this is making sure that whatever stories you are telling yourself about your life are actually true. A lot of times they turn out not to be true. People have various ideas of how many hours they work, which turn out not to be true. They have ideas of how many hours they sleep, which may true one night per week but isn’t true the other nights.

They may say, “I have no free time whatsoever,” and it’s like, “Except for all that time I was watching TV, which maybe is free time. I’m just not remembering it for some reason.” So I think that knowing where the time goes then allows us to make choices based on good data. If something is working great, that’s awesome. We can celebrate it knowing that that is exactly where our time goes. If it is not working, we can say, “Well now I know. Should I scale it up? Should I scale it down? How does it compare to other things in my life.” In a business decision, you want to make those from good data, same thing with your time. Make sure you’re working from what is true as opposed to what you think.

John Jantsch: How much time does multitasking actually cost us?

Laura V.: It depends what kind of multitasking we’re talking about. I mean a lot of people think that they’re being more productive by say, checking email while they’re on the phone, and in general they’re not. Your brain is just going back and forth between them, so you’re not paying attention to what’s being said on the phone, or else you’re not really answering the email well. You know, if that’s the case, it’s usually good to ask, “Why am I even on this phone call? If I can do other things while I’m on the call, probably I shouldn’t be on this call.” It’s not just worthwhile. “I should have sent somebody else, or maybe made it shorter,” or whatever else.

So things like that, yeah, pretty much just wastes time. As for … I mean there’re nice ways to multitask, too. If you think about something like exercising with a friend, is theoretically multitasking. I mean, you’re having a good conversation with somebody you’d like to, and you’re moving your body at the same time. So, that’s great. Like, that’s a double win right there, or you know, commuting with your spouse. If you can share a car ride to work once a week, that’s great because you’re turning what would be wasted time into a date, basically. So you know, think about how you can double up that way.

John Jantsch: You really need to up your expectation what a date is for.

Laura V.: What a date is. Well, you know when life gets busy enough you take what you can get, all right? Many couples, like young kids and long jobs between the two of them finally don’t get a whole lot of time talk, so if you could talk in the car, take it.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I’m swell. My children are all grown and so when I travel now my wife just goes with me. So we are in a different point, I guess.

Laura V.: Yeah, that sounds great. We may get there eventually.

John Jantsch: You will. You talk about something in the book that I think would be a really compelling idea for people, and that’s the idea of designing an ideal day.

Laura V.: Yeah, so and not just an ideal day, though I think that could be fun. But my ideal day, there’d be like flying cars and I would have to wait in traffic behind anyone else. I think more … I think about it as a realistic ideal day. So within the constraints of sort of your normal life, what would a really, really good day look like for you? You know, when people ask this question they start to say, “Oh, well you know I think it would be good if I could maybe take a walk at lunch instead of just sitting at my desk, and I have the capabilities of doing that some days.” So that would be in a good day.

When you’re thinking of things like that, you’re more likely to start figuring out ways you could work them into your life, or like, “Oh, I listened to a really good podcast on the way into work, and I’d listen to an album I was choosing to listen to more in the genre of music say, on the way home.” Well, that nudges you to start thinking, “Okay, well maybe I should make sure I pack my listening materials as I’m getting into the car instead of just getting in there and realizing, “Oh, well I’m stuck listening to the radio because I don’t have time to find a podcast while I’m paying attention to the traffic. So oh well, I guess I didn’t do that.”

John Jantsch: You know, just an example of that, that I totally, totally buy is that I have a lot better day if I pack my lunch because I choose something really good to eat and if I just don’t do it, and I go, “Oh, I’ll go to the place across the street,” that doesn’t really have anything that I should eat-

Laura V.: Yes.

John Jantsch: So that … I think even something like that helps me actually have an ideal day as well.

Laura V.: Yeah, no food could definitely be a dimension for it. You know, think about what I would spend my time at work doing, would I be reading something at night before bed? How would I spend my time? Because that reminds you what’s important to you, but within a context that you can actually do something with. Because again, I’m not going to get my flying car. That’s not going to happen. But I can choose to listen to the top albums of the last year while I’m in my car. That’s something I could actually do.

John Jantsch: Do you prescribe that either many, many techniques and David Allen’s Getting Things Done comes to mind, Pomodoro Method is kind of one that a lot of people talk about. Are there any elements of those techniques that you prescribe to?

Laura V.: Well I think the key thing with any technique is it has to work for you, and people are different. So what happens with those things … It’s the same as a diet. If it works for you, it’s great and you become evangelical about it, but other people might find that difficult in a way that you don’t. I mean, there’re some people that’s like, “Oh, I just need really strict rules.” That’s great. Whereas other people are like, “Well, I need flexibility. That’s what works for me.” You know, know yourself, I think, is the key time management strategy. When you know yourself then you can start to say, “Well oh, I work better when I do X, Y, or Z. Let me make sure that the conditions are in place so I can do X, Y and Z more frequently than not.”

So for some people it is very helpful to work for 25 minutes and then take a break, as the Pomodoro Technique. You know, for some people the idea that, “In two minutes can I do it?” Would be great. That’s what they need to do. But for other people, taking two minutes when they were really deeply into something else would just be the end of it. You just have to know yourself and work with yourself and find out what works for you.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I think that on that point a lot of people I know that really have worked something out, they’ve taken a little from here, a little from there, and kind of coupled together what, as you said, works for them. So, Laura, tell me where people can find out more about you and Off the Clock and even some of the work that you do with folks?

Laura V.: Yeah, so come visit my website which is I also have a podcast that is focused on issues pertaining to professional women who are also raising families, so how people combine work and life from the perspective of loving both. And then yeah, Off the Clock just came out a few weeks ago. It is about how people feel about their time, and how we can all learn to feel less busy while getting more done. So, I hope people will check those out.

John Jantsch: Of course, as always, we’ll have links in the show notes. So, Laura, thanks for joining us, and hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road.

Laura V.: Thank you so much for having me on.

How to Feel Less Busy and Get More Done

How to Feel Less Busy and Get More Done written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

Marketing Podcast with Laura Vanderkam
Podcast Transcript

Laura Vanderkam

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Laura Vanderkam. She is the author of several time-management and productivity books, including the one we discuss in this interview, Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

Vanderkam is the author of several other time-management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, and 168 Hours.

Her work has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, and Fortune. She is also the co-host, with Sarah Hart-Unger, of the podcast Best of Both Worlds.

Questions I ask Laura Vanderkam:

  • What are some of the biggest time-drain patterns?
  • Is there a place for procrastination?
  • How much does multitasking cost us?

What you’ll learn if you give a listen:

  • Why there is so much stress around getting a lot done
  • Why people are more productive during some times of the day compared to others
  • Whether or not you should track your time

Key takeaways from the episode and more about Laura Vanderkam:

Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!

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This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto! Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for modern small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. Sign up today, and you’ll get 3 months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to