Category Archives: General

The Tax Man Cometh

Are you ready? If you’ve been putting your small business taxes on the back burner, check out these last-minute tips and deductions you may not have realized. You might be glad you waited!
1. Deducting work-related assets. If you bought a work-related asset between September 8, 2010, and January 1, 2011, you can write off 100 percent of your investment as a result of the Small Business Job Act, which now allows property to be deducted in full the first year it is placed in service instead of depreciating it over several years.
2. Keeping tax documents. Any tax-related documents (i.e.expense receipts, 1099 forms, vehicle mileage logs, etc.) should be kept for a minimum of seven years. Other records such as business tax returns, licenses, incorporation papers, etc., should be kept indefinitely and in a safe location.
3. Going green may save you green. Search out any business tax credits you might qualify for if you helped save the planet this past year, such as purchasing a hybrid vehicle, improving the energy efficiency of your commercial building and others. Check with your local state comptroller website or your accountant to determine which state tax incentives may be available for your business.
4. Don’t forget the other deadlines. Above and beyond the April 15 (or in this case, April 18) deadline, here are some other dates to remember:
Annual returns. Most annual returns are due April 15 for unincorporated companies and S corporations. C corporations must file annual corporate returns within two-and-a-half months after the close of their fiscal year.
Estimated taxes. Estimated taxes are due four times a year: April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15.
Sales taxes. Sales taxes are due quarterly or monthly, depending on the rules in your state. 
Sales taxes. Employee taxes. Depending on the size of your payroll, employee taxes are due weekly, monthly or quarterly.
5. The IRS is your friend. Their Small Business Website is a great resource for information regarding your business taxes, including handy checklists and advice on most all tax-related business topics.

Stylized Clouds in Adobe Illustrator

Step 1
Create a new document in Adobe Illustrator CS. Select the ellipse tool and draw circular shapes of various sizes (from large to small) in a horizontal row. Be sure to hold down the Shift key while creating the shapes to constrain proportions.

Step 2
Select all your shapes and go to Pathfinder > Unite. 
This will combine all the separate shapes into one.

Step 3
Draw a rectangular box starting from below your cloud shape up to its midpoint.

Step 4
Select both the cloud shape and the rectangular box 
and go to Pathfinder > Minus Front. This will eliminate the bottom half of the cloud and the rectangle.

Step 5
With the cloud shape complete, change the color to white or apply a subtle gradient. Create additional clouds to fill out your illustration, and experiment with different sizes and shapes to create a variety of unique clouds.

Do I Still Need Business Cards?

In an era of emails, tweets, IMs and texts, it’s no wonder that we’ve all gone virtually paperless. But there’s one form of communication that’s still worth the paper it’s printed on – business cards.  
Even in this digital age, there is still human contact. In fact, more than ever, networking is one of the main ways people are finding their referrals. Instead of sales meetings, there’s business after hours. Instead of a team retreat, there’s the convention that all are required to attend. Businesses are meeting individuals on more than just a local scale – it’s global, baby. 
In addition, the world has gotten to be a much smaller place in which to live and work. Today, there is so much overlap in business, whether it be manufacturing, distributing or marketing. You can be out for a drink one Friday night and start talking to an acquaintance that knows the friend of a friend of a friend that can put you in touch with just the person you’ve been looking for. Aren’t you glad you have a business card?
Also remember – today’s business card has way more than just your name, title and address. Don’t forget to include your website, email, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. They may not have time to call you, but they may just “follow” you, “connect” with you or add you to their email addresses for future reference.
Some things may change, but some tried and true communication tools stay the same. Stay tuned for fresh ideas on how to make your business card stand out from the rest. 

What can advertisers learn from the Oscars?

If you were like more than 40 million viewers last night, you were glued to the television to see who was wearing who and who would walk home with the golden statue. For all the hype and hoopla that the Oscars generates, what can we – as smaller-scale advertisers – learn from the marketing madness that is the Academy Awards? Here’s some up-to-the-minute advice:

5 Lessons to Learn from the Oscars

Don’t Always Count on Spell-Check

Don’t rely just on those squiggly little red lines to alert you to a misspelled word in your document. Spell-check isn’t a mind reader, and it can’t decipher between some common “like” words. Here’s a list of some of the most common words that sometimes fly under the spell-check radar: 
Its and It’s 
Sales and Sails
Affect and Effect
Would Have NOT Would of
Through and Threw
Then and Than
Supposed To NOT Suppose To
Wonder and Wander
Their versus There versus They’re
Farther and Further

Creating Symbols in Adobe Illustrator

Creating symbols is a great way to use the same graphic element multiple times within a design without having to duplicate it. This often over-looked technique is easy to use and will help you print documents faster!

Step 1

Download a vector illustration you would like to make into a symbol. Open the illustration in Adobe Illustrator. Please note that symbols will only work in Adobe Illustrator 10 or higher.

Step 2

Select the object that will made into a symbol. On the top menu bar in Adobe Illustrator, go to “Window” and pull down to “Symbols.” This will open the symbols window.

Step 3

With your object still selected, you can create a symbol in one of three ways:

1. Simply drag the object directly to the Symbols window.

2. Click on the drop-down menu in the upper right-hand corner of the Symbol window and select “New Symbol.”

3. Click on the “New Symbol” icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the Symbol window (to the left of the trash can).

Step 4

Name your symbol and check the button labeled “Graphic.” Then hit “OK.” Your new symbol should now appear in the symbol window. To use the symbol, simply drag it out of the window and position it in your composition. This is called an “instance.”

Step 5

If you would like to change the color or shape of the symbol, all you have to do is update the master symbol in the Symbol window and it will apply the changes to all of the symbol instances.

It’s Virus Season!

No, not the virus that leaves you coughing, aching and sneezing. But a computer virus can make your head hurt, as well as sicken your files and your computer. Here are some tips to keep your computer healthy:
  • Use an anti-virus program to scan your hard drive and update your anti-virus program regularly. 
  • Back up your files regularly. 
  • Obtain files only from trusted sources
  • Beware of unexpected or unsolicited email attachments.  
  • Learn about which files are likely virus carriers. Mostly files with only data do not carry a virus and end with extensions like .txt, .csv, .gif, .jpg, .mp3 and so on. Files that have extensions like .doc, .exe or .htm can carry viruses.
  • Make sure you have a strong password and ensure that only you can access administrator functions.
  • Scan all removable media such as CDs before using them. 
Getting in the habit of performing these regular tasks can help keep your computer virus free and you breathing easy. 

Advice From Ad Mogul David Ogilvy

Ever wonder what the most successful ad format is? It’s called the Ogilvy, named after David Ogilvy, British advertising executive and founder of the world-renowned advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather.
The ads below follows the classic visual, headline, caption, copy and signature format created by Ogilvy. 
  1. Visual at the top of the page. If using a photo, bleed to the edge of the page or ad space for maximum impact.
  2. For photos, place a descriptive caption below.
  3. Put the headline next.
  4. Follow with the main ad copy. Consider a drop cap as a lead-in to draw the reader into the copy.
  5. Place your contact information (signature) in the lower right corner; generally the last place a reader’s eye gravitates to when reading an ad.
Ready to start designing? Get attention-grabbing photos on Creative Outlet. Or download a spec ad template to edit.