Monthly Archives: December 2016

5 Tips for Writing Website Content for Your Small Business

Regarding your online presence, your website is, in essence, an ambassador for your business. Through it, you present your small business to your customers so they can understand all you offer.

Are you conveying a clear and compelling message through your website content? Here are 5 tips for writing website content that engages your niche market:

1. Make your copy current

Don’t assume you can toss any old article or other form of content on your website to fill up space and engage your site visitors. People check out… and stay on… websites that offer timely and useful information. Update your site regularly on what products and/or services your business offers.

2. Have a focus for each page on your site

Don’t have your “About Us” page offering product warranty information. Don’t have a Product page crowded with customer service information. Have a specific purpose for each page. Don’t confuse visitors with a mish-mash of information loaded on one page touching on varied subjects.

3. Incorporate some white space

Make it gentle on your visitors’ eyes through integrating white space on your web pages. It’s an eyesore to have copy that extends from margin to margin. It’s also an eyesore, as well as annoying, to have to scroll endlessly to read with no break in the text. Create white space pauses to let your site visitors easily read your content.

Create white space, and appealing organized content, through the use of headlines, sub headlines, and bullet points. Add photos, graphs, graphics, and such to further enhance your page copy and give readers a break from big blocks of text.

Use shorter paragraphs. Use shorter sentences than you would in a hard copy piece of writing. Reading on a screen for an extended length of time is still a chore for some people, especially when the material is not organized properly for web reading.

4. Make your content SEO suitable

Is the content you put on your site Search Engine Optimized? Integrate search terms appropriate for your business into the articles, blog posts, and other content you place on your different web pages.

If your business is selling gloves, you would have the word “gloves” in your copy of course. However, you can refine this further with phrases such as “men’s gloves”, ‘women’s gloves”, and more. Long-tail keywords are effective as well, and very specific. You can really do niche targeting with long-tail phrases. An example would be “suede women’s gloves for casual occasions”. The permutations are endless but you get the drift here.

Don’t overdo keywords, though. Make sure your content reads naturally and conveys useful information in an easy-to-read way to your readers.

5. Have your pages focus on your customers

Your web pages must center on your customers and their wants and needs. Yes, you do have to give information about your small business, what you offer, and even your history in the business. Nevertheless, gear all copy to the customer, and how your business overall exists to serve them and give them the solutions and benefits they need.

Take the time to create compelling website copy that gets your message across clearly to your customers (and potential customers). Consider the above 5 tips for writing website content that connects with your visitors and spurs them to stay on your site and see all you have to offer them.

Starting a Home Business Doesn’t Have to Break the Bank

The cost of running a small business professionally can be minuscule if you’re careful. What I mean is that you can use the following providers for some basic and much-needed services:

VistaPrint – A great and very inexpensive place for business cards and other promotional items. Don’t scrimp on their free offerings that include their branding (not unless you like that kind of thing). Pay the little bit extra so that it looks truly professional. I purchased cards from them in 2011 and did so during a great promotion so I still have cards and mailing labels even today!

FreshBooks – If you’re just starting out and don’t have many clients you can use the premiere online accounting and invoicing software, FreshBooks. You can get a free account which provides you with the ability to add up to 3 clients. You don’t have to pay a premium for the first paid package. This Sprout package, which costs $9.99 per month, allows you to have up to 10 clients (if you ask) and provides some additional features. I used the free account for a long time, I then upgraded, downgraded and I just upgraded again. A way to get the most of the free account is to use one of the client slots as your “general client.” This works well if you do a one-off job for someone. Plus, even if you upgrade later, it’s easy to reassign their invoice to their newly created client status. There is also an iPhone and iPad app in addition to their web interface. I’ve used them since 2011 and while Zoho’s invoicing software also comes with a great deal of bells and whistles (including their basic paid plan of $9 per month and 50 clients), I’m sticking with FreshBooks.

QuickBooks Self-Employed – A newcomer in the area of catering specifically to the self-employed, it has now become as invaluable to me as FreshBooks. I use them hand-in-hand because what one program lacks, the other has it in spades. The key thing to know is that invoicing is not yet available through QuickBooks Self-Employed but it is coming. Plus, they offer a monthly Tax Bundle price for their subscription which means that when tax time comes, you don’t have to pay to file your taxes if using Turbo Tax. Plus, it exports all the Schedule C information into Turbo Tax for you and allows you to pay your estimated quarterly federal taxes through the site. I started using the software in February 2015 and since then there have been many enhancements. Most notable among them is the mileage tracker that is now standard with their phone app. At a cost that’s easy on the bottom line, QuickBooks Self-Employed is a must have.

HelloFax – I’ve also been using this service for some time. Their free service, which I used briefly, allows you to send and receive faxes but doesn’t provide you with a fax number. At the time, I purchased the service and my monthly fee was only $4.99 per month. I still have that fee but a quick look on their site now shows that their lowest plan is $9.99 per month. There is only a web interface and works well with Google Apps. Its sister product, HelloSign is also great for obtaining signatures online. It’s quick and easy and like HelloFax, has a free plan.

HootSuite – I can’t say enough about this software. It’s extremely convenient and is full of features from scheduling posts to being able to view and post to an almost limitless number of accounts. I also did the free and unpaid back and forth for a while but am now simply using the free account. I have an older account that allows me to connect up to 5 social network accounts. Presently I use if for 1 Facebook and 4 Twitter accounts. The current free plan gives you 3. Their pro plan at present costs $9.99 per month and allows you to have up to 50 different social profiles. HootSuite is available via their web interface and apps on mobile devices. Another client I use is EveryPost. It doesn’t allow you to see your streams but it is the best at posting to multiple accounts.

Zoho Mail – Although I was lucky to have created my Google Apps account for my business before they started charging for it, I do use Zoho Mail to host the mail for my personal domain. I loved it so much that I set it up for others in my family. The cost is free (although there are paid plans) and they provide you so many additional tools and resources you can’t turn it down. So, if you’re looking for a terrific email client for your business, definitely check them out! Plus, the free account allows you to have 25 users so any small business owner can save on this necessary tool.

Upwork – If you have services you’d like to offer, for example, you’re also an administrative guru or you are a great programmer, speaker, the list goes on, I’d definitely suggest signing up for Upwork. The combining of oDesk and Elance, Upwork is free and who doesn’t like free? However, for $10 per month you get added features like being able to view competitor bids and a custom profile URL. Regardless, it’s a great place to pick up some extra jobs. Basically clients post their job (you can have both a freelancer and a client account), what they’re looking for, and you submit proposals on how much you’d charge them to do it. They then choose from all of the freelancers who apply. I’ve used it as an integral part of my business. It means that you don’t necessarily have to do the traditional “hitting the pavement” to find jobs. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get something or if it doesn’t pay a lot, the point is in cultivating relationships and fine-tuning your craft.

7 Amazing Secrets to Attract Investors for Your Small Business

A good team of investors can play a great role in the success of your small business, but a bad choice of investors can obliterate even the strongest ideas to execute.

Believe it or not, investors provide more opportunities to your business, while becoming resources for creating effective marketing ideas. Knowing what to consider while selecting investors and being able to attract the right type of investors are vital skills for established and emerging entrepreneurs.

If you are a small business owner and finding trouble getting convincing investors, here are 7 secrets that will help you attract the eye of an angel investor or venture capital, while making your business a more appealing investment.

1. Get the Most Out of Networking

Networking is the best way for entrepreneurs to pitch their startup in a less formal and organic way. If you are building a great business, networking within the local startup and investing community can be the best way to meet and find the right type of investors.

If you find investors interested in your business, keep the meetings going and let things happen organically for optimum results. Let them consider your business, after all, you are not only conveying your idea, you are actually relying on the social capital built through the networking process that impact the investment decision.

2. Be Practical, Get Real Paying Customers

You need investment to attract customers, but you need customers to acquire money. It is always worth making an effort to get customers prior to approach an investor, instead of seeking funds first and customers second. It is advised to create a plan to acquire customers first that doesn’t need a very huge investment.

This is very important, particularly for emerging entrepreneurs, it will become easier to get investments on good terms. Investors always want proof that your idea is effective enough and will work, and nothing will satisfy them than having real paying users.

3. Find the Right Co-Founder

When you find investors, you are not only selling them your business in terms of products and services, you are selling them on your team. Opting for the right leadership team for your small business is an important process and having the wrong co-founders can be more dangerous for your business than having no co-founder at all.

However, finding the right co-founder can make the process easier, even beyond attracting investors. As having partners will allow you to rely on them, which can be a huge boost for your startup.

4. Get a Better ROI

Though investors may start believing in your business, the purpose for their investment is to make money. Therefore, it is important to highlight what they will actually gain from investing in your startup.

No matter if you are approaching an angel, VC or a rich person, it is important to show how you are going to get their investment return. It is alluring to focus on yourself and your business vision, but at the end of the day, investors want to know what is in it for them. Therefore, the best way to standout and get interest is to clearly explain how and when you will get them a return.

5. Take Benefit of the Online Fundraising Market

Networking is important, but your location should not be you’re the restricting factor when it comes to securing investment. There are different fundraising platforms available and you are no longer restricted to only being able to raise money. If your company has best-in-class metrics for your industry, you will be definitely able to double your money. Post your business’s best metrics and find investors on the platform related to your industry.

6. Pick the Right Investor

In order to attract attention of the right investor, make sure your product solves real problems. As a lot of entrepreneurs only attempt to reinvent the wheel, therefore, it is advised to highlight the qualities of your product to attract the real investor. Doing so will get users and revenue. Think outside the box and do something wonderful.

7. Graduating from a Top Accelerator

Emerging and first-time entrepreneurs are advised to apply to reputable startup accelerators that will lead their credibility to your company. Joining an accelerator can be greatly helpful for rising startups, though it doesn’t guarantee that you will get investment, it does make your startup a more appealing investment candidate. As graduating from a reputable accelerator guarantee funding and can greatly improve the chances that you would raise a favorable valuation.

Strategies for Small Business Owners

With all the trumped up ya-ya from the press lately over big businesses, corporate tax, and rich folks not paying their fair share, I wanted to offer up some detailed directions for small business owners who may want an opportunity to save some money on their tax debt and still be able to make a good living income.

How to Strategize Spending –

Business owners have always planned and strategized their expenses for best benefit, but this may be a bit more structured. To strategize your small business spending program to best influence your tax statement, I have a few recommendations.

  1. Either operate as a DBA, or pay yourself as a contractor so you can personally deduct any business expenses you may have.
  2. Use your personal vehicle for business and deduct ALL business miles possible – read the tax code, or ask your accountant – keep documented proof.
  3. Use the home office deduction and work from home at least 50% of the time, as your primary place of business.
  4. Don’t overdo it on the deductions. Stay legitimate and don’t take advantage of the situation, it will get you in trouble, but do take ALL legitimate deductions.

How to Plan Income –

Income generally comes in randomly if you have a small business, and you never know when you’ll have income, and when you won’t, so strategizing your income and taking advantage of the options you do have are important. An investment in your business is always beneficial tax wise, because you often don’t need to take income out of your business, and can take it in deductible results.

How to Apply Deductions –

Items that can be purchased and depreciated for the business – purchase them, depreciate them, and after depreciation is out, sell those items for actual value or below. Once an item is no longer being used in your business, get rid of it.

How to Prevent Over-Payment –

Remember that every dime paid into the government in pre-tax payment is money you don’t get to spend yourself, and cannot draw interest on. Keep your money in your pocket as long as possible, and don’t pay in until you must. For those who pay in quarterly, be sure you’re not over-estimating y our taxable income?

How to Invest in Your Business –

Depending on how your business is owned, corporation, partnership, or proprietorship, you may prefer to purchase needed equipment for your business personally, and take depreciation options. The way you choose to invest in your business, and take income back, will determine much of how you are paid by your business, and the type of tax you will be paying on your personal income.

Income tax is not a personal requirement, and there are many ways to avoid having anything due at the end of the year, by strategically planning your investments, deductions, and income. The more money you make, the more important your strategy becomes.

The question then becomes, what taxes will you be paying through your business?

Larger, more profitable business owners often hire a tax consultant to determine their tax strategies, and help with financial planning to cut the wasted dollars often left over at the end of the year, and paid relentlessly into the tax program. IRS gains by your not having a tax strategy. You gain by having one.

3 Critical Financial Ratios Small Business Owners Should Track

There are four ways to increase revenues and two to increase profits. You can increase revenues by increasing the number of transactions per customer, increasing the average sale, increasing the number of customers and raising prices. You can increase profits by lowering costs and/or increasing prices. Remember that your revenue is the total of all money you bring in and your profits are what is left after all expenses and taxes.

Most small business owners have an accountant or at the very least they use accounting software which can provide financial statements, balance sheets, etc. This is all good! You do not need to be an accountant to manage your business, you do need to calculate and track certain critical criteria. Waiting until the end of your fiscal year to see where you are at might be your downfall or you might have changed something you should not have because it was more successful than you thought.

The numbers you should track very closely are found on the following reports: Balance Sheet, Cash Flow Statement and your Income Statement. Your accountant creates these for you. Hire a good accountant, and make certain you understand what you are looking at and what your numbers mean. Learn to read these reports and keep track of critical numbers so you do not suddenly find yourself on the verge of bankruptcy. Take bold and immediate action if and when needed to continue moving towards your revenue and profit goals.

3 Critical Financial Ratios to Track:

  1. Gross margin (also called Gross Profit) = Income minus direct costs.
  2. Net income (also called Net Profit) = Revenues minus all expenses and taxes.
  3. Overhead to sales & Wages to sales ratios = Total overhead costs as a percentage of your income and total wages as a percentage of sales.

Let’s now take a look at each of these numbers to understand their importance and how they can affect your business short-term and long-term. Your net profit is directly affected by your sales, sales price and variable and fixed costs. Measure your financial performance regularly to obtain a clear image of your financial situation before you make any drastic decisions.

Gross profit or gross margin represents your profits left over after you deduct income minus direct costs. Gross profit is what you have left to pay indirect overhead costs. The direct costs are the costs associated to your products and services sold. Direct costs include: cost of purchase or manufacturing plus freight, customs, duties, losses, interest paid on product financed, local delivery (if you do not invoice for it separately), commissions and bonuses and direct advertising costs (if you allocate an advertising budget directly to this article).

Your net income or net profit is your bottom line. This is how much you have left after all expenses and taxes are deducted from your total revenue. Many forget to account for taxes paid. We have to pay the taxman, so this should be counted as an expense.

If the overhead to sales or the Wages to Sales ratios go up, figure out why. Many reasons can affect these ratios. Some are temporary and acceptable. Others may indicate a bad trend. For example, if your wages to sales ratio goes up because you have just hired a new salesperson, this is acceptable and temporary. If, however after a few months, this ratio stays high, there is reason for further analysis. Did this salesperson sell anything during this time? If so, do his sales cover his salary? If the answer is yes, it is an indication that sales from other sources are down. Tracking these two ratios on a monthly basis will help you keep costs at a reasonable level and take corrective action before they get out of control.

“You cannot improve what you do not measure.”Small business owners are bombarded by interruptions. It is imperative to stay on top of key financial data on a regular basis. Don’t just rely on instinct or what you staff tells you. Track these numbers and more so you have a clear unbiased picture of where your business stands. Take immediate corrective action when needed to get back on track towards your goals.

You cannot improve what you do not measure. Manage your financials or they will manage you!