Interesting. I find phone communication to be a frustrating bit of LiberWriter for a couple of reasons:
* It's very time consuming, and clawing back some of the time/effort is more difficult than with email, where I can keep a catalog of standard answers to mix in with a few personalized lines. People find highly automated phone systems to be somewhat annoying.
* It's harder to outsource, since it's difficult to keep tabs on what was said, something that is much easier with email.
* Like patio11 says, it doesn't mix as well with "non US" time zones. I don't want to be answering phone calls when sitting down to dinner with my family.
On the other hand, when you do take the time to talk to someone, it very often leads to a sale, so it's difficult to blow it off entirely.
This is customerese for "You have failed to convince me you are capable of delivering positive ROI on this engagement" rather than being any commentary on your experience. The easiest way to diffuse the objection is by getting better at sales, not by getting experience. Everybody in the industry got a paying gig when they had, at the time, no history of paying gigs.
I'm not generally a fan of pro-bono work for technologists, since the market is hot enough at the moment that you shouldn't need to do it. Also, the client dynamics of pro-bono work are leagues away from the dynamics of paid work. Even offering free work scares the heck out of good clients. Conversely, people who will agree to the arrangement may treat your time as if it is totally valueless, which will frequently compromise your ability to succeed at the engagement. The free engagement doesn't enhance your credibility if it ends up sucking due to lack of "client" cooperation, so that doesn't help you any.
You've got some sort of portfolio, right? Side projects you could show off? Blog posts about the development process? You can turn these into something which visibly demonstrates that you're capable of executing on your promises.
One tactic that generally worked well for me when I was at an early point in my consulting career was roughly:
"Normally I'd charge you $x for this. I am confident that you will receive $y-$z of value from this work. Let's do the work. You decide how much I should invoice for at the end of it."
I was obviously sucking up more risk with this approach - and had to be willing to walk away with zero (and did on two occasions - one of which was justifiable). But since I had picked sane clients it mostly worked out very well (in one case they happily wrote a check for $x * 5 since we'd all radically underestimated the value of the work ;-)
I don't do this now - but it helped get over some "Can you actually do this?" hassles at the point when I didn't have a reputation.
A better way to present a business outcome is a case study: here's the business, here's the problem, here's (a brief sketch off) what we did, here's the results. (You can write a case study on any blogging platform and it will work better than just throwing the repo for that project on Github.)
Are you capable of shipping software projects? Shipping a software project would persuasively demonstrate that you are. Conversely, if you've never shipped a software project... well, the customers might not be totally crazy about wondering why you'd command high prices.
How do you better at sales?
I wish I had a better answer for you than "Read a little, practice a lot." but I don't.
As for you solution about the sales, I had a daunting feeling you were going to suggest that. Oh well, I think life is about reading a little and doing a lot.
Thanks for all your help!
One trick that I've found useful is to try to be observant in situations where somebody is trying to sell you something. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't. Tweak and try yourself. You'll see many patterns in the stuff that works well (e.g. listening not talking, stories not feature lists, benefits not feature lists, etc.)
It's got to the stage where I actually quite like wandering around the vendor/sponsor stands at conferences for the learning experience ;-)
This just happens to be my current hurdle. I really wish there was a lot more written from the perspective of "I am trying to make it" than the perspective of "so now you are rich and famous and are looking for how to make a few more dollars...."
The very first thing I do in any opportunity is make sure I'm talking to the economic buyer. I'm polite about it, but I don't want to talk to technical buyers. Period. There's no point in talking to someone who can only say no.
This takes practice, and chutzpah, and I found it very difficult, and sometimes still do. But I have almost never sold a gig when I wasn't talking to the economic buyer, so I get over it.
Questions to determine if you're talking to the economic buyer: "Who has signing authority on this?" "Once I send a proposal, who will approve it?" "Whose budget is this under?"
Then you have to speak to the economic buyer. Be polite, but firm. Remember, time spent talking to a technical buyer is essentially wasted time. "Okay, let's schedule an appointment with X so we can discuss your needs further." "After you're done with the background info you wanted to discuss, let's schedule a time to speak with X about her expectations." "When will X be available to talk about this project?"
It's a bit trickier than this, but those insights come with practice. For me, focusing on speaking to economic buyers was the single most valuable sales technique I learned, literally turning my consulting business from a failure to a success.
When speaking to technical buyers, they want to know that what you're going to do will work, from a technical perspective. If you're building widgets, will those widgets use LDAP to authenticate via our existing means? Will those widgets support the Oracle DB that we already use, etc.
Your economic buyers generally care much less about this and much more about how much ROI they'll be getting. How will this save time? How will this provide the CTO more actionable insight into operations? How will this empower decision-making.
This is why often the products that large companies buy are not the best technical solutions, because they can sell to those with purchasing power more effectively. If you've ever worked for a big company, you've seen it first hand -- "Why are we rolling out <product_x> when <open_source_product> does everything it does and far better?" - and the answer is that they were better able to speak to the concerns of the economic buyer, generally.
edit (to avoid comment spam): Thanks for the info!
In middle school, right when I was first getting involved with online services, my best friend was a Puerto Rican. He hated the hard "k" sound in Patrick and called me "pato" for about a day, but laughed at his oh-so-clever joke, so I asked him to change it. I can't stand "Pat." (There was a movie about a gender-ambiguous character named Pat that year. It was middle school and I was a geek, you can do the math.) He then proposed "Patio." We paled around often enough that it stuck with my family. When I needed a disambiguating number for e.g. AOL email addresses or Warcraft 2 handles, I naturally went with my favorite number, 11.
I'm patio11 on just about every service that I use which I don't mind associated with my real name.
I was really confused for a while when I made my next mistake.
"Do you know what does 'WWF'[name of a panda conservation organization] stands for?" -> "No."
It really surprised and frustrated me when I got zero marks for perfectly logical and correct answers.
I still don't quite understand why the teacher wasn't thrilled when I discovered that there are indeed multiple successful ways to hold a pencil. She looked at me blankly when I announced my success and said "Yes, but those are not the right ways."
(You might reasonably ask "How the heck are Japanese men supposed to get married if they're working to 11 PM?" and the answer is "Your boss will consider it his responsibility to arrange for everything you need to live the standard salaryman life, such as a salary, a wife, and an insurance card." Funny story about that, ask me some time.)
That's anecdotal and not necessarily representative, but it certainly indicates that not all people are busy till 11. There's also having to go out with the boss and colleagues.
Boss: "So are you seeing anyone?"
Me: "Ahh, erm, I appreciate your desire to look out for me boss. Us Americans are a little quirky with regards to finding young ladies -- we typically look for ourselves rather than getting formally set up by family or coworkers. I'm not seeing anyone at the moment but plan on finding her myself, so..."
Boss: "Oh its not just a cultural thing. If you don't have a wife, you'll go back to America to find one, and then you'll quit the company. We can't have that now can we."
Me: "Erm, I appreciate the concern, but maybe we can meet at the midd..."
Boss: "Yeah yeah, whatever."
3 weeks pass. Scene is a Welcome To The Company party for myself and two other new employees.
Boss: "Patrick, I've got someone to introduce you to. This is K-san, who sits two rows over."
K-san is a young lady, about my age.
Me: "Pleased to meet you, K-san."
K-san: "Please to meet you, Patrick."
The following is word-for-word translated from Japanese and is not exaggerated in the slightest.
Boss: "Patrick graduated from a good school in America, is a bright engineer, and has a solid future with the company. How about an international marriage?"
K-san: "I have absolutely no interest in that."
Now in a just world I'd be able to report that this was a little awkward but we can all laugh about it 5 years later, but a just world would have no Japanese megacorps in it. In the world we actually live in, K-san was given grief by many co-workers. (e.g. "K-san, do you want to come out to lunch, or do you have absolutely no interest in that?") My dimestore psychoanalysis is that a) she shot down the boss in "too brusque of a fashion" compared to socially optimal ways to decline things like "giggles Oh he's far too handsome for me." (or any of the 50,000 ways you could say "Yes" and mean "No") and at least in part because b) some people in my company genuinely believe, to some degree, that K-san should not have said no.
If you're interested in gender relations in Japan, many scholarly books have been written on the subject.
But goddamn man, for the greater good, forget this silly software racket and put out a comic book. Perhaps a live action television show, maybe a movie. Your anecdotes are always my favorite part. :)
If this is the Japanese I think it is, I would have had difficulty not laughing out loud.
I'm a programmer who has done consulting before with a keen interest in product and marketing. If I want to become self-employed (preferably in the form of working on a bootstrapped product), should I start by bootstrapping a product or by consulting?
I believe that consulting would mean becoming self-employed sooner, but my concern is that I'd end up on a "get work, seek work" treadmill harming my ability to work on bootstrapping.
Alternately, my concern is that if I focus on bootstrapping a side project while working a full-time job, that will also mean not getting self-employed again for a very long time.
Sorry for the rambly comment, do you have any insights or suggestions to offer?
But what do you recommend for integrating a B2C CRM with email marketing?
We do detailed segmentation of our mailing list and I can't find a good B2C CRM that integrates sufficiently with an email mktg platform.
I'm currently looking into synching many more fields (needed for segmenting) from Zoho CRM to MailChimp via API with CloudWork/ItDuzzit/Zapier. Their defaults are useless (3-5 main fields), as we need complete contact info in order to segment well.
Part 1 has his complete back-story: everything from how he learned to program with graph paper to how he built his first product business with $60.
Part 2 has specific tactics for building your own software business:
Both episodes have full text transcripts, so you can listen or read.
Have you ever considered direct mail or advertising in industry trade journals? Or issuing press releases for those trade journals which are always looking for material to fill their pages? Another thought (cheaper than flying) would be to simply write a few articles for those journals speaking about the general problem of appointment reminding and then having the byline be you. It is something that others are doing. The same article could easily be repurposed for different journals. Once you are "published" you can then do reprints of your articles to DM or hand out at shows if that ends up being an attractive route.
In looking for an example of "card packs" which I have successfully used (in a different business) I came up with this which illustrates the direct mail route:
Cost to spray something like this to 10,000 offices is no big deal. You'd have to repeat a few times to the same people I would imagine to get a desirable response.
Since HN comments are a haven for unsolicited advice, here's a few things from me:
$100 per email seems really high for mailchimp on a list of 5k. Looking at their pricing they have a monthly rate of $75 for list sizes between 5k-10k. That may be an easy expense cut for you.
Also, if you're looking at going to conferences to sell the high end membership to A/R, you may want to consider doing sales webinars. These have converted incredibly well for me personally and it seems it would be a great fit for this product as well.
One of my consulting clients, who runs an email marketing service, nearly went ballistic when I told them about it. ;) The reason I pay per email rather than paying monthly is I have something like 70k BCC emails in the same account which I mail approximately never. That would eliminate the savings from switching to monthly billing over pay-as-you-go. I suppose I could either re-jigger things, purge dated emails, or open a new account, but "I saved a couple hundred bucks on X" is probably not going to be a line item in next year's annual report, right? I want to focus on things that will be.
If I were thinking things through I would have separate accounts for them. (n.b. Sharing SaaS accounts over several lines of businesses seems like a time/money savings when you start doing it but gets crazy later in operations, and God forbid you ever have to de-couple the businesses as e.g. a result of sale. I suggest not starting.)
you may want to consider doing sales webinars
Thanks for the advice. That is, indeed, on the list of things to try.
What is the practical purpose of this type of post? Several people have written pieces enumerating their various income sources and listing their enviable accomplishments, and have gotten on the front page. These just seem unbelievably self-congratulatory and conceited. Moreover, why does anyone else have such an interest in the financials of Patrick?
I really don't understand this phenomenon. What is the impetus to write or read these things?
If you run or work at a closely held software business, you may have very good estimates of e.g. what reasonably achievable conversion rates are, how expenses break down for a small software business, or what global demand is in terms of unique users for a very niche application. Most people do not run or work at closely held software businesses, which makes a lot of those numbers very non-obvious. They're of interest to people who might aspire to one day running such a business or to people who run a business but would like to compare their experiences to those of somebody else. They're also very rarely disclosed publicly.
I would hope that the six-thousand odd words of narrative in the post and copious linked material contains non-obvious useful tidbits such as "You can increase the sales of a mature, six-year old software company by over 60% solely by A/B testing while keeping all other factors constant. Here's a case study." That is, I'd think, an interesting result which suggests something that many people on HN could propose at their first meeting of 2013 at their workplaces (or start implementing themselves). It is a substantially more compelling result than having me say "You should A/B test. It works well. (People hire me to do that but I usually can't talk about it, but trust me.)"
Those are mostly reasons why some folks might want to read this. As for writing it: I find writing helps me crystallize my thinking, because I'm very capable of bamboozling myself mentally but often less capable when I see the half-formed rationalization in print. Also, even if nobody else ever read them, having seven years of annual reports is useful for me, since it captures at-a-comparative-glance what I've learned over time and how employing that has actually worked.
If you don't like hearing about my businesses, I recommend avoiding posts from kalzumeus.com domains. They're approximately 1/30th of the frontpage, once or twice a month.
Really appreciate all of these breakdowns. I'm a young 20-something trying to prepare myself for essentially exactly what you're currently doing and these posts are invaluable- not just for my domain knowledge, but my nerves as well (Now I can show my Mom people can make money doing this!).
Also, I wasn't just referring to you. For instance, in Nathan Barry's "year in review," he intricately discusses his travels, personal relationships, etc. This stuff is clearly superfluous to a business-minded audience, and I can only read it as pretention.
It's true that there is sometimes an irritating level of "hero worship" around these parts, but as another HNer running multiple small businesses, I appreciate Patrick's contributions. Some of his ideas and experiments are relevant to other fields as well. For example, his results from switching to Stripe are very interesting to those of us outside the US, where accepting card payments directly is a much bigger deal (typically a multi-week application process and a lot more tedious integration work). Having some idea of the potential gains over the easy option of using Paypal/Google/etc. is interesting when deciding if and when it's worth spending that time.
Also knowing the numbers you can classify his blog posts better. There are many software marketing gurus who tell you how to run your business while they only make $5k year with their flag ship product. At least I know that when Patrick says that something 'was a big increase in sales' he's not talking about making $20 more.
A few pieces of advice from someone who was once a smart and shockingly arrogant teenager:
Dial down the negative replies and stop commenting on everything as if you were an expert. You lack experience and it shows in your writing. In 10 years you will probably decide the majority of the opinions you now hold are wrong. Try to remember that before you criticize.
Don't use "elucidation" when "explanation" will suffice. The purpose of writing is to clearly convey an idea--using needlessly uncommon or archaic words can break the flow of communication. (I had the same problem when I was younger, and my teenage brother still does.) You'll find that your writing is much more effective if it doesn't read like you spent half of your time flipping through a thesaurus (even if you didn't).
Your comments in this thread are not adding value.
As I've mentioned in other HN threads, I'm a living patio11 success story.
Over the past two years, the trajectory of my life changed from
"Well, maybe I'll figure out a way to get out of this $70,000 USD a year developer job some day."
"So that's what having six figures in the bank feels like, I guess we can have kids now."
in large part thanks to the example he sets in posts like the one linked here and the advice he gives.
Aside from that, although I don't know him personally, Patrick has been an unreasonably nice human being in any interaction I've had with him, and I'm quite sure other HNers would agree. Celebrating his successes in 2012 I think is a good enough reason for him to post this here.
I read because I find other people's practical experience to be a useful educational tool, with lessons that I can directly apply to my business, and I write such things with the aim of passing on any useful knowledge that readers might be able to pick out from my writings.
and listing their enviable accomplishments
If you have a few minutes, take a quick look through my blog. It mostly lists an awful lot of failures, with my most popular post describing a web app that brings in $500/month. Many other people's blogs also discuss failures. For the vast majority of people, it's a long hard slog before you start making any kind of success.
I realise that some of these posts can seem somewhat self-congratulatory, but would you really prefer that people didn't share information you can learn from, for free and without expectation?
He just hit the top of Hacker News by posting data he had lying around. This is an obvious win, especially because he's found a way to monetize his notoriety via consulting.
Moreover, the fact that he needs to enumerate his income so thoroughly just makes it makes it insufferable while not contributing to the ostensible point. He does not need to discuss the financials so particularly when educating others on how to run businesses in a general sense. That's why I simply can't believe that he (or anyone for that matter) writes these things for a purpose other than to express their occupational superiority and financial success to everyone else.
If you've followed "The Patio11 Story" (soon to be a motion picture at a major Hollywood studio), I think one of the key things that sticks out is "Bingo Card Creator". The first time I read that, I thought "that's f'ing ridiculous". And then I read he was making money at it. But not millions or anything absurd, rather, a number that would not really be a respectable salary for a Bay Area based software guy, but just the same was something you could live off of in many places. I think that's what grabbed so many people's attention... this software business that was not "cool" (a Haskell-based file sharing social network!) or innovative (based on 5 years of graduate studies of network optimization algorithms!) or based on a brilliant hack, but on something that sounds, frankly, kind of silly, but opened a lot of people's eyes to the value of making stuff that helps out "regular people".
The story to that point really does engender a feeling of "well... ok, if he can sell bingo card stuff... maybe I can make something that makes money, even if it's not quite the next Facebook", which I think is something more people ought to explore, really. I get a very non-zero-sum-game feeling from BCC.
OTOH, the consulting stuff is based on patio11 being "internet famous", or at least famous in one corner of a part of the internet, and feels a lot more like something that is... not zero-sum (he provides real value, IMO), but more along the lines of "anyone can do it as long as they're internet famous or have some other significant advantage", which actually does exclude many of us, something that bingo cards manifestly do not.
I hope that was somewhat coherent and in no way construed as a slight to patio11, who deserves a lot of respect and gratitude for sharing a lot of ideas.
This is it right here. There are so many opportunities for software to help out so many industries, but everyone is so focused on the valley that they miss many, many, many businesses.
From http://www.inc.com/profile/daysmart-software :
> Designs and sells cloud-based, PC, and mobile business management software for salons, spas, pet groomers, and tattoo shops.
Revenues? $4.6 million in 2011.
Is that critique equally applicable to the 2006 version of this post, which you can find linked? (It is the first one?) Spoiler: that shows ~$1,000 in profits on ~$2,000 in sales.
That does not sound like a towering and insurmountable barrier to me. (Neither do my 2012 results, since I know how I got them and none of it involves being the Dark Lord Of Software Optimization. Plus, they're fairly modest if your reference set includes larger firms in the software industry, from publicly traded titans like Google down to the businesses of many other HNers, which would lose my entire business in the petty cash drawer.)
A consultant has to constantly come up with new business. Patrick's skills may be in demand now and not in demand 5 years from now (unless he morphs into something else valuable).
One thing I've never liked about consulting (that I like about BCC and AR, in general) is that you are constantly on the hunt for new consulting business. Even if the pipeline is full now you only have so many hours. A missed opportunity to consult (because you don't have the time) can't be fulfilled in the future. It's perishable.
Using the example of a mechanic that earns 200k in which the experience matters and the thing he is useful at doesn't go out of style (2 "ifs") the mechanic doesn't have to wake up in the morning and wonder where the next gig is going to come from.
If we widen the comparison to the entire world, Patrick will be even more "successful," considering the prevalence of poverty in the world.
So yes, he is not only more successful than the overwhelming majority of people in this nation, he is also spectacularly more well-off than most people in the world.
Changing the scope doesn't change the conclusion.
You're telling me Patrick published his 2006, 2007, and 2008 reviews to boast about making a minimum wage income?
>Stories like Patrick's usually involve a rare amount of luck and certain intangibles that most people don't possess (things like a large network, notoriety, etc.)
If you want to call six years of work luck, sure. Or as Jefferson said, "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it."
The same argument in video form: http://unicornfree.com/stacking-the-bricks/
I'm not sure where your extreme negativity stems from, but reading things doesn't seem to be something you enjoy. Maybe pick up a different hobby?
The sardonicism and patronization isn't necessary.
I just recently had a very similar conversation with a younger friend who is in school. I showed him a detailed look at my business and what it takes (and importantly) what it doesn't necessarily take to make money. This is extraordinarily useful information to someone who hasn't tried going out on their own yet. People can and do make lots of money selling software. I think it's really awesome to know that someone is making 40k from Bingo Card software.
Another reason why you shouldn't respond to him, is that rather than take people's thought onboard that his negativity is unfounded in this instance, since Patrick did thesame when earning $1000, he is rather seeing it as never say anything negative about Patio11 on HN, which is not the thrust of people's response to him. See his tweet on that
People that want to hate will see reason to hate. People that want to be bitter with whatever positive post others make or whatever success they experience, will find a reason to do and would justify it, just as ruswick is doing.
It is okay to criticize patio11 or anyone if you are not blinded by pessimism and jealousy.
People with positive and negative experiences to share, such as Patrick, deliver the results of their efforts via blog posts such as these so that the community they enjoy being a part of can learn and provide feedback. I'm sure Patrick also receives useful insights on his findings from the community as a result of his openness.
Personally, I don't care about the financials (although they're useful). I'm more interested in the statistics that lead to financials, such as unique visits and conversion rates. I wish more people were as open about their successes and failures.
Finally, when you say self-congratulatory, I think that's a fairly warped perception based on the fact that the figures for the apps are now so good. Back in 2006 (http://www.kalzumeus.com/2006/12/26/merry-christmas-part-2) the figures were not anywhere near as healthy and Patrick still put them out for all to see.
I wish more entrepreneurs were open about their trials and their successes -- It helps demystify the "overnight success" and makes it feel more accessible to those that are a few years behind.
What is it that makes product/engineering companies a better fit for you than those focused on marketing or sales?
> Even in weeks that I have blocked off to work on AR, I often find myself just lacking any desire to do it. The business isn’t intrinsically more boring that e.g. Bingo Card Creator, but the sort of things that I need to do to move it forward seem to hit my desire to work with a damp towel.
I seem to hit this phase with new product ideas around three months in and end up never finishing anything.
I have a web application that gets new (albeit unpaid for) signups daily, but even with a lot of free time I lack the will to develop the product/marketing further.
Two things I will probably try:
1. MTFU, schedule some time, set some goals and force myself to do the work I need to.
2. Spec the work out and hire someone else to do it. Speccing the work out will probably make 1 easier to get started with however.
 Though I did just have a baby, so I might be selling myself a little short.
By the way, haven't you considered moving to a SaS model, make some yearly price instead of a lifetime one?
Google customizes results based on a bunch of user variables, so you can't trust that the search results you see are what everyone else sees. There's no one canonical set of rankings, but you can use tools to get an idea of what the generic user sees (e.g. ).
From my quick assessment, it looks like bingocardcreator.com is #1 for google.com
Have you ever done anything with direct mail? It's something we don't hear about in the startup world.
NextDoor.com is using direct mail (I know because I got a postcard from them!) and I'm curious whether or not it's working.
Can I ask what a VA is in this context?
How are you going to go about doing this? (I know other people who are interested in a solution to the same problem).
Disclosure: It's run by friends of mine but I use it myself as well.
Also, maybe a 5$ / month to get the "best bingo card of the month" would be useful for them.
Lastly, why not cut the price a little if the teacher recommends it to a couple colleagues?
Yes. I could sell BCC to a school district for maybe $250. For the same amount of work, I might be able to sell a hospital system AR for $10,000. A month. (Six years ago, when I started selling BCC, enterprise sales wasn't an option -- I could never make a phone call with customers and didn't know how to even get started with it.)
If I were starting the business from scratch today, I would certainly build in a recurring revenue component. It doesn't make sense today, as growing BCC revenues is not the path forward for the business, and the development and CS headaches associated with it swamp the marginal revenue.
Lastly, why not cut the price a little if the teacher recommends it to a couple colleagues?
My experiments with getting teachers to recommend BCC to other teachers have, in general, been crashing failures. For example, I implemented "3 free cards for you and a friend if you refer that friend to BCC", along the lines of the Dropbox two-sided referral incentive model. That was a crashing failure -- it generated very few trials (probably since I didn't work on the UX for the viral spread nearly enough and probably because the market isn't really optimal for it) and of those marginal trials only 2 ever upgraded to the paid version.
Good for a few little "sparks" to finally get you testing something.
No, seriously speaking:
Most inbound leads are through organic SEO. Customers generally have a few questions to ask me about e.g. pricing, features, or compatability with other stuff they're doing. I answer them either over the phone with the decisionmaker (followed by an email), or directly over email. My main competitive advantages are that I'm reasonably priced, that I have an easily accessible online demo (a surprisingly powerful win) and other scalable sales stuff, and that while I suck at "sales" I'm fairly good at talking about the product in the context of the customer's needs because, to quote a nurse directly responsible for the biggest deal going through, "It is his baby. You take care of your baby!", in a way which is difficult for a sales guy angling for a $500 commission at one of the larger competitors to justify.
If they sound like they're a good fit, I ask if they want a formal quote. If they do, I ask them what I can do to help them move the purchase along. Some number of steps later, money arrives.
There is very little "process" worthy of the name here, hence why I'm hoping to improve on that going forward.
There's a workflow hack or two to ensure that novel transactions get checked by me, eventually. (e.g. I have a personal credit card in the mix, for those rare times when both business cards fail, which means she sees a lot of transactions which aren't business related and should filter them all out. It wasn't obvious from the one-line description that e.g. my wedding venue is probably not appropriate for deduction, but since it was marked as novel (and ginormous relative to my expected expenses for that month), I caught it prior to doing the year in review numbers.
I do a more in-deoth review of the big expense categories (AdWords and travel) prior to doing my taxes and spot-check everything else. If e.g. a $60 software purchase ends up getting missed that's unfortunate, but it is only about ~$20 of unfortunate, and a few slip-ups are substantially cheaper in opportunity cost (and sanity) that having me do line-by-line review of all ~500 entries.
For general advice on how to work with VAs, I strongly recommend Rob Walling's book and have heard good things about the 4 Hour Work Week (but have never read it).
Is this not standard practice in the U.S.? It seems many people talk about using Quickbooks.
Alternatively, am I missing something by not doing the books myself? In general, I still have some issues in understanding the finer points of our finances, and I'm still looking for ways to get better insight into our cashflow, revenue, etc.
And, thanks :)