15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems

touchscreen cash register

Touchscreens are everywhere, and the point-of-sale industry is no exception. Touchscreen POS systems are more intuitive and easy to learn than traditional legacy POS software, and many cloud-based systems employ the same kind of iPad and Android tablets that your employees already use every day at home. Whether you’re running a restaurant, a retail outlet, or another type of business, a modern touchscreen POS system helps keep your sales moving and your business data secure. Besides simple point-of-sale features, most of these cloud-based systems also have advanced reporting capabilities, business management features, and integrations with other popular business software.

Arguably, the only problem with touchscreen point of sale systems is that there are so many different products to choose from. Do you go with a proprietary-hardware solution like Clover, an Android POS system like Toast, an iPad POS like Revel, or an open-source POS like Vend? In my opinion, the most important consideration when choosing a touchscreen POS is not just iPad vs. Android. More important are your industry type, your specific business needs, and user reviews. To help you get started in your search, I’ve put together this list of my favorite highly rated touchscreen POS systems, sorted by industry. Most of these are iPad-based, though I included some Android and open-source options as well.

To make it easier to find the best touchscreen system for your business type, I’ve sorted the following 15 POS systems into restaurant, retail, and hybrid (systems that can be used for either restaurant or retail) categories. Be advised that the order in which I’m listing these excellent systems does not indicate their ranking.

Restaurant POS Systems

The following restaurant point of sale systems can be used by just about any type of food industry business, from drive-thrus to fine dining:

1. Breadcrumb

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts $99/month/location
  • Must use with Upserve payments (interchange plus $0.15 fee)
  • Multi-location support
  • Online ordering

breadcrumb by upserve pos logo

Cloud-based Breadcrumb POS by Upserve (see our review) is a highly versatile restaurant POS, suitable for full-service restaurants, take-out, delivery, bars, and multi-location eateries. With Breadcrumb’s acquisition by Upserve in 2016 (Breadcrumb was previously owned by GroupOn), the company has expanded its restaurant management infrastructure, making this POS a complete business management system for just about any type of restaurant.

Breadcrumb is not the cheapest restaurant POS in town, but nor is it short on features. Some of the system’s strongest features include table management, employee management, customer management, and tableside ordering. Breadcrumb also recently teamed up with GrubHub to offer online ordering and delivery (at the $249/month/location “Pro” subscription level).

One thing Breadcrumb users really like about this system is that it is specifically designed with restaurant employees in mind. While we find Breadcrumb to be a very solid all-around POS/restaurant management system, a couple potential downsides are 1) you can’t use your own merchant account (you need to use Upserve Payments) and 2) there are occasional issues with outages. Learn more in our Breadcrumb by Upserve review.

2. Toast

  • Android POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $79/month
  • Must use with Toast credit card processing
  • Multi-location support
  • Exceptional customer service

toast pos logo

Android-based Toast POS (see our review) is another robust, cloud-based POS system for restaurants. It can accommodate any size or type of restaurant, and features like tableside ordering, labor management, and inventory management make Toast a force to be reckoned with on both the front and back end. Toast is intuitive and easy to use for servers, while also providing detailed reporting, customer data, and menu options.

Although we love Toast’s strong feature set and the fact that it uses Android tablets instead of iPads (cheaper hardware costs, less of a theft risk), keep in mind that if you want every single feature Toast offers, it’s gonna cost ya. For example, online ordering, table management, delivery management, and gift card support all carry an extra monthly charge. You also can’t choose your own credit card processor to use with this POS and must use Toast’s in-house processor (which Toast users seem to like, at least). What really sets Toast apart from a lot of other cloud-based POS systems, however, is their excellent customer support – an indispensable quality in any POS, given the inherent complexity of a system that lets you take payments, process orders, and manage almost all aspects of your business.

3. TouchBistro

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with multiple payment gateways
  • Best for single-location businesses
  • Locally installed system (not cloud-based)

touchbistro POS

Elegant and easy to use, Ontario-based TouchBistro (see our review) has the distinction of being the top-grossing POS Application on Apple’s App Store in over 35 countries. TouchBistro is one of the few systems on our list that, while tablet-based, is not cloud-based; rather, your store data is stored locally on your restaurant’s iPad or Mac.

TouchBistro is not a full “restaurant management system” like Toast or Breadcrumb, but it’s good at what it does, and can readily handle the POS needs of just about any size/type of eatery, from a food truck to a full-service restaurant. Since TouchBistro stores data on local servers, it’s probably best for single-location restaurants (if coordinating data between locations is important to you). Keep in mind, though, that you will need an internet connection to process credit cards.

Some great features of TouchBistro include table management, menu management, kiosk option, tableside ordering, split-payment option, bar tabs, and sales reports. Customer service doesn’t seem to be as responsive as some users would like, though 24/7 support via phone and email is included in the standard cost. TouchBistro is compatible with Mercury, Cayan, Moneris, PayPal and several other gateways.

4. Lavu

  • iPad POS for restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $69/month with annual contract or $79/month without
  • Can use in-house payment processing or BridgePay, Heartland, PayPal, Nets, or Vantiv Integrated Payments
  • Multi-location support
  • Option to install in-house server backup in case you lose your wireless connection

lavu pos logo

Lavu (see our review) is yet another highly popular iPad POS system for restaurants, used in more than 20,000 restaurant terminals across 88 countries.

Lavu is not the most advanced restaurant POS there is, but it is equipped to handle the needs of most small-to-medium restaurants (or cafes, bars, coffee stands, etc.). Some features that make this POS system a hit include its customizable table layout and menus, easy employee management, advanced menu management, and useful integrations. Lavu also has renowned customer service, which is included in the standard monthly fee. You can add both a loyalty program and gift cards onto your subscription for just $40 a month.

Customers have complained about occasional glitches with the Lavu software, but the company releases frequent updates to solve any bugs or complaints. Affordable and highly customizable, Lavu is a strong and growing contender in tablet POS systems for restaurants.

Retail POS Systems

The following POS systems are suitable for retail store establishments, such as clothing boutiques, toy stores, electronics shops, and many others.

5. Lightspeed Retail

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $99/month (billed annually)
  • Integrates with Vantiv Integrated Payments (Mercury), Cayan, and izettle
  • Multi-location support
  • Bike rental store add-on

lightspeed retail pos logo

Lightspeed Retail (see our review) is one of the most fully featured tablet POS systems out there for retail. While Lightspeed can support up to enterprise-level size businesses, this cloud-based system is ideal for small and medium-sized businesses that want powerful functionality — think unlimited inventory, integrated eCommerce, work order management, and customer relationship management. Lightspeed Retail also makes it easy to transfer inventory between different store locations.

Lightspeed is among the pricier systems on this list, and various integrations to extend its functionality, such as eCommerce, can make it even more expensive. So, it’s not going to be the right POS every business. But if you want a super robust POS that you can operate from any desktop browser (meaning, you don’t have to buy expensive iPad registers), Lightspeed Retail might just be right for you. The POS is especially suited for apparel businesses but can accommodate virtually any type of retail setup, including rentals.

Note that there are several Lightspeed products in addition to Lightspeed Retail. These include Lightspeed Onsite, Lightspeed Restaurant, and Lightspeed eCommerce.

6. Vend

  • iPad and web browser POS for retail
  • Pricing starts at $69/month
  • Compatible with Vantiv, PayPal, and Square
  • Multi-store support
  • Apple Pay-capable

vend pos logo

Vend (see our review) was actually the very first web browser-based POS system when it was introduced back in 2010. Today, it is still a big force to be reckoned with in the retail POS world, used by more than 20,000 businesses in 100 countries.

Cloud-based and scaleable for retail stores both small and large, Vend uses an HTML5 browser (such as Google Chrome), or an HTML5 iPad app, for all operations. If the internet goes down, Vend can keep operating locally using the cache and will sync back up with the cloud once the connection resumes. Being browser-based means you can run Vend on a PC, Mac, or iPad. Some features on Vend we really like include customer management, eCommerce, built-in loyalty program, inventory management, and a good selection of third-party software integrations. Vend doesn’t have as much functionality as a POS like Lightspeed or Revel – for example, Vend doesn’t have item modifiers – but it is cost-effective and a good choice for a store (or even chain of stores) that doesn’t need every single “business management” feature out there.

Note that Vend’s email support is free, but 24/7 phone support costs an extra $19 per month, unless you have the multi outlet subscription ($199/month billed annually).

7. Shopify POS

  • iPad POS system for retail (Also supports mobile sales on iPhone and Android phones)
  • Pricing starts at $9/month for mobile and Facebook sales, or $54/month to also include Retail Package for in-store sales
  • Integrates with Shopify Payments and many outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Instant syncing with your Shopify online store

shopify pos logo

Shopify (see our review) started as an online shopping cart for businesses who wanted an easy way to sell their products online. Eventually, Shopify extended their offering to include a POS system for in-person sales. As you might expect, Shopify POS does a great job integrating online and offline sales for retail businesses that also do eCommerce with Shopify.

Shopify’s pricing structure is a little convoluted, but the most important thing to know is that if you have a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll need to purchase the Retail Package, which costs $45/month on top of whatever other package you select — the $9/month Shopify Lite plan, the $29/month Shopify Basic plan, or another higher-tier plan. The Basic plan plus the Retail Package will cost $74/month and provide pretty much everything most retailers need for both online and in-store sales. You also have the option to get better credit card processing rates at higher price tiers.

Most Shopify POS features are comparable with other top iPad retail solutions, and they have strong customer service too. The thing that really sets Shopify apart is their seamless online/offline sales integration. So, if you already use Shopify for online sales or would like to, this might be the right POS for you.

8. Quetzal

  • iPad POS for independent fashion retailers
  • Pricing starts at $75/month per location
  • Integrates with Evo Payments International, Velocity, CardSmith, National Discount Merchant Services, Vantiv, and Moneris
  • Multi-store support (max. 10 locations)
  • Clothing/shoe matrix

With its exclusive focus on fashion retailers, Quetzal (see our review) is an iPad POS that’s tailor-made (ha-ha) for stores that sell clothing, shoes, and/or accessories. This aesthetically appealing system has a streamlined iOS aesthetic; the interface seriously looks like it could have been designed by Apple itself, and Quetzal even has an iTunes app that lets managers check in on their store from their Apple Watch. Quetzal also uses a compact, sleek register, Star Micronics’ mPOP system.

Of course, functionality is more important than aesthetics when it comes to a POS, but Quetzal doesn’t come up short in terms of function either. We like the clothing/shoe matrix, in-depth sales reports, “tag cloud,” loyalty program, employee leaderboard, and “sales thermometer,” in particular. At only $75/location price is right as well, especially as there is no charge for additional users or terminals. A couple downsides are that after setup and installation, customer support costs extra, and also there is no QuickBooks integration.

While it doesn’t have a huge marketshare of the overall retail POS segment, Quetzal’s niche focus makes it a functional, affordable, and visually appealing choice for emerging independent clothing brands.

Hybrid POS Systems

These POS systems are flexible in that they are equally suited to retail and restaurant environments. Service-based industries such as beauty salons, rental businesses, and hospitality businesses also often use hybrid POS systems.

9. Shopkeep

  • iPad POS for retail and quick serve restaurants
  • $69/month/register ($29/month/register for fourth register and beyond)
  • Integrates with Shopkeep Payments and outside processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Matrix inventory feature

shopkeep pos logo

Shopkeep (see our review) is an affordable and enjoyable-to-use POS system that runs locally from an iPad and syncs data back to the cloud. Shopkeep is used in both retail and restaurant environments, and while it’s more feature-rich on the retail side of things, it will more than meet the needs of most quick-service/coffee carts/food truck businesses.

Some things about Shopkeep we especially like include its comprehensive register functionality, in-depth reporting suite, mobile app to view your business stats on the go, and unlimited inventory matrix (which includes raw goods management). Shopkeep also offers unlimited 24/7 customer support (though premium phone costs an additional $30 per month). This POS integrates with MailChimp for email marketing, QuickBooks for accounting, and BigCommerce for eCommerce.

Shopkeep is a wise choice for a small-to-medium retail business or restaurant that doesn’t need extensive restaurant-centric features like table management. Note that ShopKeep is currently only available on iPad but is in the works to make its service available on the Clover Station via a recent partnership with First Data.

10. Revel Systems

  • iPad POS for retail, restaurants, hospitality, and more
  • Supports numerous payment processors
  • Custom pricing based on industry and individual business needs
  • Multi-store support
  • Ethernet internet connection

revel systems logo

Revel Systems (see our review) is arguably the holy grail of iPad POS systems. Revel is powerful enough that franchises like Cinnabon use it, and flexible enough that it can support businesses in virtually any industry, from brewpubs to gas stations. It’s also the only iPad POS system that offers a “wired” ethernet connection for a faster an more reliable internet.

Revel POS pricing is determined by which industry-specific package you choose, but depending on your needs, you can expect to pay about $80 to $200/month per location. Myriad add-on applications and integrations extend Revel’s functionality to make it do just about anything you can imagine, though this naturally increases the system’s cost as well. Some of Revel’s more impressive features include its kiosk mode, digital menu board, and ability to accept mobile payments (including ApplePay, PayPal, Bitcoin, and others). Because Revel is so powerful and customizable, initial system setup can take a while.

Revel can manage multiple locations and up to 500,000 SKUs. It is optimized for mid-sized businesses, particularly busy quick-serve restaurants that can afford one of the best iPad POS’s money can buy.

11. ERPLY

  • Web browser/iPad/Android/Windows POS for retail and restaurants
  • Pricing starts at $200/month/location
  • Compatible with all big-name payment processors, (though currently promoting PayPal as a preferred processor)
  • Multi-store support
  • Strong inventory features

erply-logo

ERPLY (see our review) originated in 2009 as a retail POS system, though it has eventually expanded support to food service too, now offering food-centric features such as kitchen printing and sell by weight. Whether you run a retail business or restaurant, ERPLY is especially powerful in the inventory management department, with functions like automated ordering, supplier management, and multichannel (online, in-store, phone, email) inventory tracking and transfers.

ERPLY gives you a lot of flexibility as a business owner. Using just about any payment processor under the sun, you can accept traditional swipe, chip card, and mobile payments, including Apple Pay, PayPal, and Android Pay. You also have the option to use pretty much whatever device you want, even without a reliable internet connection, or run ERPLY right from your browser.

It’s actually kind of hard to come up with a feature ERPLY doesn’t have. An open API architecture allows customizability and the ability to develop your own software integrations and customize it to meet your needs (or, have ERPLY make these integrations/customizations for you). Being such a versatile piece of software, it’s one of the pricier cloud-based POS systems. If you have a larger or franchise business, or you just want the flexibility and horsepower this system offers, you might try ERPLY out for size.

12. talech

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Standard subscription is $62/month/location (billed annually upfront)
  • Compatible with multiple payment processors
  • Multi-store support
  • Kiosk mode

talech POS logo

talech (see our review) is a smaller player in the iPad POS world, but with their affordable price point and impressive set of more than 100 features, they can certainly give their larger competitors a run for their money. talech is used by both retail and restaurant businesses, but restaurants, in particular, will find a lot of useful features, including table management, coursing, and the ability to split the check by table positioning (seat).

Advanced inventory management, self-service (kiosk) mode, and the ability to generate purchase orders are some more features that set talech apart from some of its competitors in both the retail and restaurant spheres. talech also made it possible for restaurant owners to integrate an online ordering system so that you can manage in-person and online orders all from your iPad POS terminal.

One caveat: being 100% cloud-based, talech is unable to take credit card payments in the event of a WiFi outage, and you also won’t be able to access your back office. However, it’s possible to circumvent such issues by getting a specialized backup router.

13. Bindo

  • iPad POS for retail and restaurants
  • Custom pricing depends on industry and number of SKUs
  • Works with nearly any payment processor
  • Multi-location support
  • “Favorites” grid displays most popular items as register buttons

Bindo POS logo

Bindo (see our review) is a hybrid POS whose varied and easy-to-use features make it suitable for retail or restaurant environments. A reasonable pricetag, clean interface, robust eCommerce storefront, and thoughtful inventory reporting suite make this an especially versatile touchscreen POS option. While fewer than 5,000 businesses use new-ish POS, customer support (included at all price levels) is responsive to these customers’ needs and tech support (also included) issues frequent updates to fix any software glitches.

As with most other fully cloud-based systems, you’ll need fast internet to experience the best functionality. More than one customer has also complained about being stuck in a leasing contract with Bindo for equipment they were not satisfied with (though in general, we do not recommend leasing POS equipment). Since Bindo works with most standard iPad POS equipment and offers a 14-day free trial, it is likely that you’ll be able to test out Bindo using your current equipment before you commit to purchasing.

14. SalesVu

  • iPad POS for restaurant and retail
  • Basic restaurant and retail packages start at $75/month
  • Works with Vantiv, Evo, and WorldPay
  • Multi-location support
  • Allows items to be charged by decimal and fractional quantities

SalesVu (see our review) is another affordable and feature-rich iPad POS system that can be used in many industries, including service industries and traditional retail and restaurant environments. Since this system allows you to ring up transactions in fractional amounts, it’s especially useful for hourly professionals such as therapists or dog walkers, and businesses that sell items based on weight, like fro-yo shops. SalesVu also has an appointment booking system that health, beauty, and hospitality businesses will appreciate. Like the majority of touchscreen POS’s on this list, SalesVu is best suited for smaller to medium-sized businesses, though it has the capacity to scale up if you open a second or third location.

SalesVu runs locally on iPad registers and syncs all your data to your account in the cloud. Though you can use the SalesVu POS app without an internet connection, you’ll need internet to process credit card transactions; however, you can use a specialized router with a 4G wireless modem with a data plan so that you can switch to 4G without any interruption if your main internet connection goes down.

Another cool thing about SalesVu is that it will run on an iPhone, allowing you to take mobile sales on the go. The basic mobile POS app without any frills is free, similar to Square. Which brings us to the final favorite touchscreen POS on our list …

15. Square Register

  • Proprietary POS hardware with free cloud software for retail, restaurants, service industry
  • Hardware costs $49/month for 24 months or $999 one-time payment
  • In-house credit card processing is 2.5% + $0.10/transaction or lower for high-volume businesses
  • Multi-location support
  • Best for businesses with average transaction of $40 or higher
  • Ethernet support for more reliable internet connection

While Square‘s popular free POS mobile app has been around for some time, the Square Register is a relatively new product, released in October 2017. There are still no monthly service fees, but rather than selling on your smartphone or iPad, you’re ringing up sales on fully featured POS hardware that you purchase as a complete package from Square. With a concept similar to that of Clover Station (which I didn’t include on this list because it is locked into First Data’s less than stellar payment processing), the Square Register is sleek, proprietary POS hardware that works right out of the box, complete with a customer facing screen and built-in credit card terminal. The Square Register hardware itself costs $49/month for 24 months, or you can simply purchase the system outright for $999.

Note that Square Register users have a different credit card processing rate than the standard Square mobile processing rate. With Square Register, businesses are charged 2.5% + $0.10 on every transaction, vs. 2.75% (+ $0.00) with regular Square. This pricing setup may at first blush look like Square Register has cheaper rates, but if you have a lot of small transactions you’ll actually pay more with Square Register than with the Square mobile POS. For this reason, Square Register is a more appropriate solution for larger businesses with average ticket sizes of $40 or higher. Larger businesses processing more than $250,000 per year and with an average ticket size of $15 or higher may also qualify for lower rates.

As for the specific business type, 100% cloud-based Square can work with just about any industry. Square has a built-in 24/7 online booking system for service-based industries, as well as restaurant-centric features such as suggested tipping amounts and online food orders.

Finally, Square Register is not to be confused with Square’s iPad-only, $60/month solution, Square for Retail (see our review).

Final Thoughts

When sorting through your options for touchscreen POS systems, the plethora of choices may at first seem overwhelming. But that’s why we’re here to help you sort out the stinkers and lead you to the very best tablet point of sale systems. And really, you can’t go wrong with any of the POS software systems on this list. Just check that the touchscreen POS system you’re considering meets your business’s needs in terms of functionality and budget, and test it out with a free trial before purchasing. And of course, don’t forget to check user reviews and complaints on the BBB and other consumer review sites. If you need further help choosing a touchscreen POS system, please contact me in the comments section and I’ll give you some further guidance.

The post 15 Best Touchscreen POS Systems appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Calculate And Analyze Business Cash Flow

How To Calculate And Analyze Business Cash Flow

Cash flow is one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. But how do you calculate cash flow? And once your cash flow is calculated, what does that tell you about your business?

We’re glad you asked!

Cash flow is the money that comes in and out of your business, so it would be easy to assume that you simply subtract the cash outflows from the cash inflows when calculating cash flow.

While this is the process, in theory, the application is much more complicated. There are several different ways of calculating cash flow, and it can be hard to know which way is best. In this post, we’ll teach you the most common way to calculate cash flow: running a cash flow statement.

We’ll also teach you what a healthy cash flow statement should look like and how to analyze your cash flow using the free cash flow ratio and a cash flow forecast. With these three cash flow calculations in tow, you’ll understand your business’s cash flow in no time.

Let’s get started.

What Is A Cash Flow Statement?

A cash flow statement, or statement of cash flows, is a report that measures the cash coming in and out of your business during a specific period of time. Along with the income statement and balance sheet, the statement of cash flows is one of the most important financial statements in accounting. The cash flow statement shows four different cash flow figures:

  • Operating cash flow
  • Cash flow of investment activities
  • Cash flow of financial activities
  • Net cash flow

You can create a cash flow statement by using Excel or Google Docs, but the easiest way to generate a statement of cash flows is by using accounting software. Most accounting software will do all of the hard work for you. Simply make sure your income and expenses are up-to-date, tell the software to run a cash flow statement, and voila! You have yourself a cash flow statement.

How To Calculate And Analyze Business Cash Flow

You’ll see that the cash flow statement is divided into three sections: cash flow of operation activities, cash flow of investment activities, and cash flow of financial activities. We’ll walk you through each section so you can understand exactly how the cash flow statement works and what it’s telling you about your business.

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Cash Flow Of Operation Activities

Cash flow of operations, or operating cash flow, shows the total cash gained or spent on business operations during a given period. Operating cash flow is used as a key indicator of how efficient and healthy your business is. It is one of the most common (and important) cash flow calculations.

Here are some examples of the operating cash inflows and outflows you can expect to see in the cash flow of operating activities on your statement of cash flows:

  • Inventory purchases
  • Wages
  • Cash received from sales or services
  • Interest earned
  • Rent payments
  • Other operating expenses

Your total operating cash flow is calculated by subtracting the cash outflows directly related to your business operations from the cash inflows directly gained from your business operations.

When you run a statement of cash flows, you’ll see your total operating cash flow expressed under “net cash flow for operating activities.” This amount shows what you made (or lost) on basic business operations. You can use the cash flow of operating activities to:

  • See how much cash you’ve gained from your business operations in a given period
  • Understand which business expenses you’re spending cash on
  • Analyze where to cut back on operating business expenses

Cash Flow of Investment Activities

The cash flow of investment activities shows how much cash you spent on long-term investments and made on long-term investments.

For most businesses, this section of the cash flow statement shows cash spent on purchasing new fixed assets and cash gained from selling fixed assets. (Fixed assets are valuable items owned by your business that have a long-term use.)

Examples of investments that you may see on the cash flow of investment activities section of the cash flow statement include:

  • Purchasing or selling property
  • Purchasing or selling buildings
  • Purchasing or selling equipment
  • Purchasing or selling company vehicles
  • Capital expenditures (CapEx)

Basically, cash flow of investment is affected by any change to your long-term assets — or property, plant, or equipment (PPE) — and any expenses paid to manage current assets (which is referred to as capital expenditures). You total cash flow of investment activities is calculated by subtracting your investment cash outflows from your investment cash inflows.

You can use the cash flow of investment activities to analyze the state of your company’s fixed assets. Lenders and potential investors also use this cash flow ratio to see if your company is growing and investing in your business’s future.

Cash Flow Of Financial Activities

The cash flow of financial activities shows the cash spent and received from financing — or raising capital. Cash flow of financial activities is used to see how much cash you’ve received from loans or investors and how much cash you’ve spent on paying back debts and shareholders.

Here are some examples of the financing cash inflows and outflows you can expect to see in the cash flow of financing activities on your statement of cash flows:

  • Cash received from loans
  • Loan payments
  • Cash received from investors
  • Dividends paid to shareholders
  • Purchasing company stock

Your total cash flow of financing activities is calculated by subtracting the financing cash outflows directly related to financing (like paying past debt and shareholders) from the cash inflows raised from financing (like new loans and cash from investors).

The cash flow of financial activities is important for analyzing whether your business has the cash to pay off its debt or to take on new debt. This is a key cash flow formula for potential lenders and investors as well. Lenders want to see that your business has the means to make payments on your a new loan, and potential investors want to see that your company has the cash to pay back shareholders.

What Does A Good Cash Flow Statement Look Like?

So now that you know what a cash flow statement is and how to run one, how do you know what your cash flow statement means? What does your cash flow statement say about your business’s financial health? What is a good cash flow and when should you be worried about your cash flow?

Don’t worry, your cash flow statement has answers to all of these questions. We already briefly mentioned how each type of cash flow can be used to analyze the health of your business. In this section, we’ll recap each section of the cash flow statement and give you a clearer idea of what a successful business’s cash flow looks like.

1. A Good Net Cash Flow

Your net cash flow appears at the bottom of your statement of cash flows and is a total of your cash flow of operating activities, your cash flow of investment activities, and your cash flow of financial activities. This total will either appear as a net increase in cash flow or a net decrease in cash flow. Ideally, you want a net increase in cash flow, which shows that your company brought in more money than it spent.

While you want a positive cash flow, you may not want your cash flow to be too positive. Seem counterintuitive? Here’s why.

If you have an incredibly high cash flow, that is extra money that you can be (and should be) investing back into your business. It’s important to strike the balance of maintaining a positive cash flow and using that positive cash flow to ensure that your business grows and makes even more money in the future.

2. A Good Operating Cash Flow

Your operating cash flow shows how much money your company is making or losing on everyday business operations. Business operations are the bread and butter of your business, so it makes sense that you want your operating cash flow to be a high, positive number. You always want to see this number increasing over time.

If your operations appear as a net loss instead of a net increase, you may want to reevaluate your business practices. Increase prices, don’t reorder unpopular inventory, streamline processes to save time and money on payroll, incentivize customers to pay their invoices in a timely manner — do whatever it takes to spend less and bring in more so that your business can flourish.

That being said, it’s important to not only know what your operating cash flow is but to analyze why your operating cash flow is negative or positive. There may be some months that you have a negative operating cash flow, and that may not be a bad thing.

Let’s say you’re a seasonal business and you spend a large sum on purchasing inventory to prepare for the holiday season. Because of this, your September cash flow statement shows a net loss on operating cash flow. However, during October, November, and December, you bring in tons of cash selling the inventory you purchased. You wouldn’t have been able to make strong sales or have such a positive cash flow during the holidays without that extra inventory.

In this case, one month of negative cash flow led to three months of incredibly positive cash flow, which was more than worth it. You only have to start worrying if your operating cash flow is negative again and again.

3. A Good Cash Flow Of Investing Activities

Your cash flow of investing activities shows how much money you’ve spent on purchasing and maintain fixed assets and made on selling assets.

Typically, most growing business will have a net loss on cash flow of investing activities. While that may sound ominous, it really means that you are actively investing in new fixed assets to expand your business and replacing old equipment to help your business run more efficiently. This is a good thing.

4. A Good Cash Flow Of Financing Activities

Your cash flow of financing activities shows the cash used to pay off your business’s existing debts and any new financing or loans received.

Generally, you want to see a negative net cash flow from financing activities. This means that you are paying off existing debt and paying dividends to shareholders.

That being said, it is okay to have a net gain in cash flow of financing activities at times. A positive net cash flow of financial activities means your business has gained cash from investors or secured a new business loan. While some business owners may assume that debt is always a bad thing, there are several good reasons for applying for a business loan:

  • To purchase new equipment that will benefit your business
  • To expand your business
  • Purchasing inventory
  • Hiring and training employees

If you can afford to take on a loan, the extra funds may be just what your business needs to succeed. Use the cash flow of financing activities to analyze your business’s financial state and determine what is healthiest for your future.

How To Use The Free Cash Flow Ratio

The free cash flow ratio is one of the most important ratios a business owner should know. While the cash flow statement shows your overall net cash flow, the free cash flow ratio shows the amount of cash that is actually available for your business to use. This ratio is incredibly important for analyzing your business’s financial health.

Free cash flow shows you the amount of the cash left over after paying for your business’s operating expenses (the expenses required to run your business) and capital expenditures (the expenses spent on purchasing and maintaining your fixed assets). You can calculate your free cash flow by using this formula:

Free Cash Flow = Operating Cash Flow – Capital Expenditures

Simply take the net operating cash flow from your cash flow statement and subtract the total capital expenditures for your business.

By using this formula, you can see exactly how much free cash flow your company has to work with. Free cash flow is particularly important when considering taking on a new working capital loan to expand your business. Knowing exactly how much money you have in free cash, on average, can help you determine the loan payments you can afford.

How To Create A Cash Flow Forecast

Another important step in analyzing your business’s cash flow — and, in turn, your business’s health — is to create a cash flow forecast.

A cash flow forecast, also known as a cash flow projection, is an estimation of your future cash inflows and cash outflows over a specific period of time (usually a year). This estimation should be based on past cash flow data or educated guesses on the cash sales and expenses you expect to face in the upcoming year. This helps your cash flow projection to be as accurate as possible.

While cash flow forecasts are beneficial for any business wanting to get a handle on their finances, they are particularly helpful for seasonal businesses. A cash flow forecast can help you pinpoint the months during which cash will be tight and the months during which cash will be plentiful. This way, you can plan to save enough cash to cover expenses during the slow months.

In this way, a cash flow forecast gives you valuable business insight. Additionally, comparing your cash flow projection with your cash flow actuals at the end of the year is an important business practice for seeing if you met your business goals, where your company is excelling, and where it could still improve.

Many accounting software programs have a cash flow forecast report built-in. However, if your accounting software doesn’t have a cash flow projection, you can create one manually by estimating your:

  • Cash sales for each month
  • Expenses for each month
  • Fixed asset investments
  • Debt payments
  • Additional capital

Be as realistic as you can and include any sales or expenses that directly affect your business’s cash. If you don’t want to calculate this all by hand, there are several free cash flow forecast templates available online as well.

What Now?

Cash flow is one of the most important aspects of business. Without a strong, positive cash flow, you won’t be able to stay in business long.

Now that you know how to run a cash flow statement, use the free cash flow ratio, and create a cash flow statement, you can confidently understand your company’s cash flow. You can use all three tools to analyze your business’s cash flow. These tools will let you determine where your business is excelling and where it could be improved, help you figure out if you can afford a loan, and prepare for the lean cash flow months.

After analyzing your business’s finances, you may determine that you need a working capital loan or a line of credit to help you maintain positive cash flow. Read through our detailed small business loan reviews or view our business loan comparison chart to find a lender that works for you. If your business depends on invoices, invoice financing might be more your speed. With invoice financing, it’s possible to get cash for your invoices right away. Learn more about invoice financing in our Merchant’s Guide To Invoice Financing guide and/or check out two of our favorites: BlueVine and Fundbox.

For more information on accounting concepts and strategies, our accounting and bookkeeping blog is a good place to start. We cover everything from double-entry accounting to small business taxes. We also guide you through how to choose small business accounting software. What’s more, our comprehensive accounting software reviews cover QuickBooks products, Xero, Freshbooks, Sage, and more of the top cloud-based and locally-installed accounting solutions on the market today. For a bird’s eye view of the top contenders, check out our accounting software comparison chart.

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The Best Free Credit Score Services

free credit score monitoring service

Having a good credit score is integral to getting goods and services at a reasonable rate. Most creditors will look pull up at least one of your scores, whether you are looking for a loan, housing, a credit card, or some other product or service.

It’s important to have at least a rough idea of your current credit score, whether that’s so you’re prepared for what creditors are going to see when they pull up your history, because you are trying to improve your score, or something else.

There are a number of different services that can help you get a good overall picture of your credit health. But which ones are the best? And what do their scores really tell you? Below, we explain exactly what credit scores are and list some of our favorite places to access your scores for free.

Read on for the details!

What Are Credit Scores?

In short, credit scores are numbers that represent your creditworthiness. Lenders, credit card issuers, and other services that expect payment, like utility companies, cell phone providers, and more, look at your credit score to see how creditworthy you’ve been in the past, which indicates how likely you are to pay on-time in the future. Personal credit scores range anywhere from 300 to 850; the higher the better.

Each creditor has their own ideas about what’s considered “good” credit, but typically if you have a score above 600, you won’t have a terribly difficult time finding creditors willing to work with you. However, the higher your credit, the more services you’ll qualify for, and the better rates you’ll receive.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have just one credit score; in fact, you have many. Credit scores are derived from your credit report — a history of your past debts, payments, and other information gathered by credit reporting agencies. The big three credit reporting agencies are Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. While all three agencies gather similar information about you, they might not all have the same information.

A scoring algorithm, usually either VantageScore or FICO, is applied to your credit report to come up with your score. As such, consumers have many different credit scores, depending on the scoring system and the credit report your information was derived from.

VantageScore VS FICO

Credit scores are derived from your credit report using a scoring model, either VantageScore or FICO. Both have scales of 300 to 850, but they might return different scores because they place importance on different factors.

Most free credit score services get their data from VantageScore. However, many creditors will look at your FICO score. If a potential lender pulls your TransUnion FICO score, for example, they will get a different number than what you’re seeing from your free credit score service.

That said, the difference in scores doesn’t tend to be large; if you have a high FICO score, you will also have a high score from VantageScore. Conversely, if you have a poor (or inaccurate) marks on your report, they will be reflected by both VantageScore and FICO as a lower score. For general credit score monitoring, either VantageScore or FICO will suit most consumer’s purposes.

If you need to know your FICO score, for whatever reason, you have a few different options:

  • Some of your FICO scores can be accessed for free via Discover Credit Scorecard (see below). This score is derived from your Experian data.
  • Scores derived from all three credit reporting agencies can be purchased directly from FICO via myFICO. Currently, one-time access to scores from all three agencies can be purchased for $59.85 ($19.95 for scores from one agency).
  • Some credit card issuers, or other places that extend credit, will provide your scores if you are a customer.

Be aware, however, that even if you check your FICO score from the same agency that your lender does, you still might be looking at a different score. FICO offers a number of different credit scores, some of which are not available to consumers.

The Best Free Credit Score Services

The following are our favorite credit score services. These services derive scores from at least one of the three major credit reporting agencies. All offer services for free and are available to all consumers.

Credit Karma

Credit Karma was one of the first online services to offer your credit scores for free. This service offers scores and reports from two agencies: Equifax and TransUnion (both VantageScore). Scores and reports are updated weekly. They also offer free daily credit monitoring, but only for TransUnion.

Credit Karma is the only service we know of that offers free scores from two different agencies; it is also the only one that pulls data from Equifax. Additionally, it offers a number of other useful financial tools for consumers, including personalized credit card and loan recommendations, financial calculators, informative financial blog posts, and even help filing your taxes.

Discover Credit Scorecard

Discover has recently started offering free credit scores to all consumers, regardless of whether or not you are a Discover customer. This is one of the only services to offer a free FICO score; most free credit score services provide your VantageScore. Discover’s FICO score is derived from Experian, and it’s updated on a monthly basis.

Be aware, however, that because FICO offers a number of scores, the score shown on your Discover Credit Scorecard might not be the same score that your creditors are using. However, it might still be worth a look for educational and general credit monitoring purposes.

WalletHub

WalletHub offers a free score and report from TransUnion (VantageScore). This is the only free credit score service that updates on a daily basis.

In addition to your credit score, WalletHub offers other useful services to improve your credit and financials. Customers receive free monitoring of their TransUnion account, as well as services such as customized advice to improve your credit, credit card recommendations, and savings alerts.

Credit Journey from Chase

Chase offers TransUnion scores and reports via Credit Journey. This service is free and available to all consumers (not just Chase customers). Your score is updated on a weekly basis.

Chase also tracks your score over time and has a credit score simulator that shows how your score might change if you take certain actions.

Free Annual Credit Reports

You should know that, by law, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax are required to issue a free copy of your credit report every 12 months. Consumers who request a free copy of their report will receive a full copy, whereas many free services only offer a limited report. You can use your free annual reports to review the information included and contest any mistakes that you find.

Unfortunately, your annual free credit report does not include any actual credit scores. To access this information, you’ll have to sign up for a free credit score service or pay for your scores.

Annual credit reports can be requested at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Final Thoughts

Because free score services only offer scores derived from one or two agencies and don’t always offer a full credit report, it’s a good idea to also request free copies of your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com on a yearly basis and contest any mistakes that you have found.

That said, free credit score services are useful for educational purposes and general credit monitoring — just remember that the specific score shown is unlikely to be the same score that your creditors see. However, a free score service can give you the tools you need to improve and maintain your credit score. All the services listed above are free, easy to use, and offer useful services in addition to your credit score.

Do you need to improve your credit? Read about five ways to improve your score.

The post The Best Free Credit Score Services appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Is Shopify Easy To Use?

is shopify easy to use

If you’ve ever visited Shopify’s website, you know that ease of use is their number one marketing claim. But does that claim have any merit? Is this app as intuitive as they say?

As software reviewers who have tested over 40 eCommerce solutions over the years (many of them repeatedly!), we can confidently say that Shopify is indeed one of the most user-friendly shopping cart solutions on the market. In particular, Shopify is well designed for merchants with very little technical know-how.

Shopify makes it easy to set up an online store, add products, and tweak your site’s look and feel so that you can focus your energy on building your business instead of building your website.

In this post, we’ll give you a breakdown of a few frequently used features and design tools, complete with screenshots of Shopify’s admin panel. Keep reading to see if Shopify’s usability fits your experience level and business needs.

Signing Up For Shopify

The best way to experience Shopify’s usability is to actually take the software for a test drive. Shopify offers a totally free, no commitment required 14-day trial, which you can sign up for at any time. To create your account, all you have to do is provide your email address and answer a few questions about your business’s size and industry.

You’ll then be sent an email with login information, and you’ll be able to access your Shopify dashboard:

While Shopify does not provide a formal tutorial, they do list a few setup steps on your initial dashboard page. You can either choose to complete those actions now or find them on your own later.

We recommend you play around a bit with the “Add Product” and “Customize Theme” pages to get a general feel for Shopify’s functions. To start setting up your online store, head over to the “Settings” tab on the bottom left.

Adjusting Settings

From the Settings tab of the app, you can add payment processors, tax information, and shipping preferences. You’ll also be able to make changes to checkout, sales channels, account permissions, and more.

Calculating Taxes

Correctly collecting sales tax for online orders can be tricky business. Every state, county, and municipality has its own rules and regulations regarding sales tax, and trying to comply by all those rules can be maddening. Shopify makes this process a bit easier by keeping all those important calculations in one place.

In the setup process, you can decide how you collect taxes for shipments, including international shipments.

When it comes to domestic shipping rates, you can ask Shopify to handle all the tax calculations based on your business’s location(s). Input your State and zip code, and Shopify will present a range of tax rates based on all the locations in which you have tax liability (called “nexus”).

If you’d like to see those taxes more specifically, click on that range (highlighted in blue) and see details for each city.

Select Shipping Options

There are a variety of ways Shopify merchants can go about calculating shipping rates. You can, for example, integrate with your favorite shipping software app (like ShippingEasy or ShipStation) or you can subscribe to Shopify’s highest pricing plan to use your own negotiated rates with popular shipping carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. One of the most popular options, however, is to simply use Shopify Shipping to calculate rates and purchase and print shipping labels.

Shopify Shipping provides connections with DHL, USPS, and UPS. You can purchase shipping labels online and have those labels print in bulk from thermal or desktop printers. And now, you can even purchase those labels from your mobile device. What’s more, Shopify Shipping has partnered with shipping carriers to provide you with discounted shipping rates, depending on your Shopify plan.

To start using Shopify Shipping, click “Edit” under the “Shipping Zones” option on your Shipping page in settings.

You’ll then be redirected to this page where you can select carriers (such as USPS) and services (such as Priority Mail). These options will then be automatically available to your customers, and you will be able to purchase and print shipping labels for these services. Pretty easy, huh?

So far, I can only see one potential issue with Shopify Shipping and, depending on your business, it could be a big one. Shopify Shipping will only display calculated rates according to the dimensions you list for your “Default Package.” That means that all shipments, no matter their actual size, will be treated as the same size.

If you sell products that are a wide range of sizes, calculated rates with Shopify Shipping might not be the best option. You may instead consider integrating with a third-party shipping solution to handle that aspect of your fulfillment.

Connect With Payment Solutions

To process payments, just select your preferred payment processor or payment gateway from the drop-down menu on the correct page in Settings.

Shopify also offers their own payment gateway, called Shopify Payments. If you choose to use Shopify Payments to accept credit card payments, Shopify will waive their transaction fees (which range from 0.5%-2.0%, depending on your pricing plan).

Note: I have seen many complaints online targeting Shopify Payments. Merchants say that while it’s easy to be initially accepted to the processor, your account may be canceled further down the road when Shopify gets around to reviewing your site. I’ve also seen complaints that say Shopify Payments withholds money from merchants. Keep these complaints in mind as you look into your options.

Adding Products

Creating new products is a simple process. Head over to the “Products” tab and click “Add a Product.” You’ll then be taken to a page like this:

Here you can input basic information like price, inventory totals, and images. You can also write product descriptions on this page and use tags and categories to organize items. Toward the bottom of the page, you can add shipping information, like weight, and list tariff code. You are also presented with the option to add variants.

If you choose to add product variants (size and color, etc.), you’ll be redirected to a new page where you can enter variant-specific information such as weight, inventory, and price. Notice, however, that there is no field available to enter product dimensions, which may result in less accurate shipping calculations.

Once you’ve added this information, the basic “Add a Product” page will change to reflect new variants. You will now be required to edit all weights, prices, and shipping information on variant pages instead of the main product page.

Managing Inventory

You can either manage inventory on individual product pages or in the “Inventory” tab in the admin.

Set quantities for each variant, and set low stock notifications to make sure you always have items on hand when customers want them.

Creating Promotions

Use Shopify’s “Discounts” tab to create coupons and discounts for your site. You can make these discounts specific to select categories or products, and you can set minimum purchase requirements. You can also make discounts only available to certain customer groups and set active dates for the promotion. Discounts can be fixed amounts, percentages, free shipping, and Buy X Get Y.

You can also promote your store through order confirmation emails, abandoned cart notifications, and other email marketing strategies. Use HTML design tools to modify the email templates that Shopify provides.

Editing Site Design

This app is designed for sellers who have little to no technical experience. Shopify works to make all of their customization tools accessible to beginners, including website design. You don’t have to know a lick of code to edit the look and feel of your site (although it certainly wouldn’t hurt!).

Most merchants begin the site design process by selecting a theme from Shopify’s vast marketplace. There, you can find a range of mobile responsive themes that are priced between $0-$180. It’s a good idea to start out with a free theme and move on to a more sophisticated theme once you get the hang of the editing tools.

Shopify provides a few options for editing your theme. The easiest option is Shopify’s drag and drop feature: Sections.

Using Sections, you can add and rearrange blocks of content. For example, you can add a featured products display, a map, and an image gallery on your homepage. Then, just drag those elements around until the site looks how you envisioned.

Sections is currently only available on select pages and with select themes.

Although Sections is great for those with little know-how, merchants who are looking to customize many elements of their design may find it too limiting. For those merchants, there is also a code editor available. Edit using Shopify’s Liquid templating language, HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Final Thoughts

If there ever was a long answer to a short question, this article is one of them!

In short: Yes, Shopify is very easy to use!

Get Started With Shopify

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The Best Banks For Small Business Loans

Not impressed with the easy applications but high interest rates offered by alternative lenders? Well, the good news is that, despite the ubiquity of online financing, most of the best rates in the business continued to be offered by local banks and credit unions. Because you’re likely to encounter stricter credit requirements, as well as geographic constraints, the best bank for your small business is often one you’ve already built a good relationship with. Below we’ll look at a few of the biggest financial institutions that offer business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans, as there’s a better chance of them operating in your area.

If your credit is below 600 or your business hasn’t been around very long, you’ll likely have a hard time qualifying for a bank loan from any of the lenders below. Online lenders like Ondeck, Lendio, LoanBuilder, and National Business Capital often have less stringent qualifications when it comes to credit scores and time in business. Our small business loan comparison chart can point you in the right direction.

Here are the best banks for small business loans.

1. Chase Bank

Best For: Small businesses and start-ups with excellent credit.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have excellent credit (high 600s)
• Must have access to a Chase Bank branch
Read our Chase Bank review

Checkered reputation aside, Chase is one of the largest and most accessible banks, boasting tons of locations — especially in the nation’s most populous states. Chase Bank also features some of the best small business loan rates you’re likely to see from a for-profit lender.

Chase offers business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans to small businesses.

How To Apply For A Chase Loan

Despite its position as industry leader, Chase is surprisingly traditional when it comes to the lending process; you’re going to have to go to a branch and meet with a Chase representative in person.

Takeaway

With high credit requirements, Chase is a fortress that’s tough to breach, but businesses with excellent credit will find some of the best rates in the industry.

2. Wells Fargo

Best For: Businesses looking for a modern and easy application process.

Borrower requirements:
• Must have $1.50 in cash flow for every dollar borrowed.
• Must have a personal credit score of 640 or above.
Read our Wells Fargo review

Wells Fargo (read our review) has developed a reputation for being a big bank that’s willing to work with small businesses. Like Chase, Wells Fargo has made some headlines for the wrong reasons in recent years, but most of those aren’t related to this area of lending.

Wells Fargo is notable for offering fast, unsecured business loans online (similar to those of an alternative lender), but at bank rates. The online application process can be especially useful for businesses without a branch nearby.

Wells Fargo offers business terms loans, lines of credit, and SBA loans.

How To Apply For A Wells Fargo Loan

Depending on the product you want, you’ll be able to either apply online at Wells Fargo’s site or will have to go to your local branch to meet with a Wells Fargo representative. You can apply for unsecured loans online.

Takeaway

Businesses seeking bank interest rates with some alternative lender conveniences should give Wells Fargo a look.

3. U.S. Bank

Best For: Mature small businesses outside of the East Coast, including areas underserved by bigger banks.

Borrower requirements:
• Must be located in a state served by U.S. Bank
• Must have been in business for two years
Read our U.S. Bank review

U.S. Bank (read our review) is one of the largest national banks in the country, serving the middle and western parts of the country. For some areas, it is the biggest banking institution available.

U.S Bank has a reputation of being a bit more personable and flexible than many of its similarly-sized or larger competitors while offering competitive interest rates. Just be aware, U.S. Bank prefers to lend to well-established businesses.

You can get a term loan, line of credit, or SBA loan through U.S. Bank.

How To Apply For A U.S. Bank Loan

U.S. Bank provides several options for application, which you can do by submitting a contact form, calling them directly, or going to your local branch. You will, however, eventually need to meet with them personally to complete your application.

Most importantly, you’ll need to live in one of the 25 states served by U.S. Bank.

Takeaway

U.S. Bank may be a good option for established companies that may not want to do business with a huge, international behemoth. East Coasters will have to look elsewhere, however, as the bank has no immediate plans to enter that market.

4. Bank of America

Best For: Mature businesses with excellent credit.

Line of credit borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business at least 2 years.
• Must have a personal credit score of 670 or above.
• Must have revenue > $200,000 for unsecured products, or greater than $250,00 for secured products.
Read our Bank of America review

Bank of America (read our review) is one of the more conservative lending institutions on this list, but it does offer a versatile array of products at excellent rates and, as the second largest bank in the country, is accessible to most population centers in the U.S.

Despite stringent lending standards, the bank has modernized its application processes more than some of the other banks on this list.

Bank of America offers business lines of credit, business term loans, and SBA loans to small businesses.

How To Apply For A Bank of America Loan

If you already have a Bank of America ID (from an existing account), you can use it to apply for unsecured loans and lines of credit on the Bank of America site.

You’ll need to submit basic information about yourself and your business, as well as your number of employees, profit, sales, outstanding obligations. You’ll also need to submit personal information about each additional business owner, guarantor, and controlling manager.

Depending on the product, you may need to have a business checking account with Bank of America if auto-debiting is required.

If you’re not a current customer, you’ll need to apply by phone or at your local branch.

Takeaway

Bank of America offers some online convenience for existing customers while providing the excellent rates you’d expect from a large banking institution. Their steep prerequisites might disqualify many businesses, however.

5. TD Bank

Best For: Mature East Coast businesses with excellent credit

Borrower requirements:
• Must have been in business for 2 years
• Must have excellent credit, 680 or above
Read our TD Bank review

T.D. Bank (read our review) may be of particular interest to readers located on the East Coast (particularly those who let out a forlorn sigh when they read that U.S. Bank doesn’t operate in their region). T.D. Bank operates almost exclusively on the East Coast and can be a good option for those looking to avoid the Big Four.

Businesses seeking less than $100,00o in funding will appreciate the fact that T.D. Bank doesn’t charge origination fees on small loans.

Small businesses can get a term loan, line of credit, or SBA loan through T.D. Bank.

How To Apply For A T.D. Bank Loan

While they’re fairly traditional, T.D. Bank gives you the opportunity to begin your application from home by downloading forms available on their site. Depending on the type of financing you’re seeking, you may need to attach additional information or forms.

You can also submit your information in a contact form if you’d like a representative to help walk you through the process.

Takeaway

While East Coasters usually have a lot of banking options available to them, T.D. can be a reasonable compromise for those looking to working with a reasonably large, but not behemoth lending institution.

Final Thoughts

You have as many potential bank loan options as you have banks operating in your area. That said, they can be tough nuts to crack, especially for businesses with less-than-perfect credit.

Don’t think you can make the cut for a traditional bank loan?

Online lenders, like Ondeck and Lendio, aren’t quite as particular when it comes to credit scores and time in business. Our small business loan comparison chart can point you in the right direction.

The post The Best Banks For Small Business Loans appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is Cash Flow?

Have you ever sat by the ocean and watched the tide ebb and flow for hours? If so, you probably know a lot about water flow. As a business owner, though, you should be more focused on cash flow. What is cash flow? We’re glad you asked!

Aptly named, cash flow is the money that flows in and out of your business. Cash flow is the sustainer of life for your business. Without positive cash flow, your business is in serious trouble.

In this article, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about what cash flow is and how it works, the difference between positive and negative cash flow, and how cash flow affects your business.

Cash Flow Definition

Cash flow is the money that comes into and goes out of your business. It is also one of the key indicators of how financially healthy your business is. You may hear people use the terms cash inflow and cash outflow. That may sound complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple:

  • Cash Inflow: Cash that comes into your business (ex. sales, interest earned, etc.).
  • Cash Outflow: Cash that leaves your business (ex. employee paychecks, inventory purchases, etc.).

Cash Flow VS Profit

It’s incredibly important to know the difference between cash flow and profit. A business making a large profit can still go bankrupt if it doesn’t have a strong cash flow. Here’s why.

In accrual accounting, income is recorded when products or services are agreed upon, not when they are paid for. Say you send an invoice of $200 to a customer. Your income account will go up by $200, yes. But your cash accounts don’t go up just because your income or profit accounts have. You still have to wait for your customer to pay their invoice, which sometimes can take months. (Invoices that are not yet received are called “accounts receivable.”)

So if you really want to know how much money your business has on hand, you have to look at your cash flow, not your profit.

Positive VS Negative Cash Flow

Businesses can either have a positive or negative cash flow.

  • Positive Cash Flow: When your business earns more than it spends during a certain period.
  • Negative Cash Flow: When your business spends more than it earns during a certain period.

A positive cash flow indicates that your business is healthy and you have enough cash to pay your employees, cover your business operating expenses, and maybe even expand your business. A negative cash flow indicates that you may have trouble paying for your business expenses and turning a profit.

Generally, positive cash flow is best. However, shy away from automatically assuming that a positive cash flow is good and a negative cash flow is bad. It’s important to know why your cash flow is positive or negative.

In the same way that profit doesn’t always equal cash flow, a positive cash flow doesn’t always imply profit.

For example, say you run a craft store that earns half its income selling supplies and the other half teaching sewing classes. If interest in sewing dies down, you may decide to focus on retail and liquidate (or sell) all of the sewing machines you bought. When you sell your machines, you will see a positive cash flow, but you won’t be earning the other half of your income anymore.

This is just one example of why it’s important to analyze your cash flow so you can truly understand the financial state of your business.

What Is Operating Cash Flow?

Cash flow can be calculated in several different ways. Each way gives you a different insight into your business’s cash flow. One of the most common cash flow calculations you’ll see is operating cash flow.

On the cash flow statement (a report of your business’s cash flow status), there are three different sections:

  • Cash flow of operating activities
  • Cash flow of investment activities
  • Cash flow of financial activities

Cash flow of operating activities and operating cash flow are one and the same. Operating cash flow shows you how much cash you’ve made from your business operations. It’s calculated by subtracting business expenses like payroll and inventory from income generated through sales that have been paid in cash.

What Is Net Cash Flow?

Net cash flow, or total cash flow, is the difference between a business’s cash inflows and cash outflows. Net cash flow is calculated on the cash flow statement by adding the cash flow of operating activities, investment activities, and financial activities together.

What Is Free Cash Flow?

Free cash flow refers to the cash that is actually available to use. Free cash flow shows all of the cash left over after paying for a business’s capital expenditures (capital expenditures are the expenses spent on purchasing or maintaining a company’s assets like buildings or equipment).

When you hear people (especially lenders) talk about free cash flow, you may hear the terms unlevered free cash flow and levered free cash flow.

  • Unlevered Free Cash Flow: Unlevered free cash flow is the free cash flow available before a company pays its debts, interest, and other financial obligations.
  • Levered Free Cash Flow: Levered free cash flow is the free cash flow available after a company pays its debts, interest, and other financial obligations.

Direct VS Indirect Method Cash Flow

There are two different ways of calculating cash flow and presenting the cash flow statement.

Remember how earlier we said that the cash flow statement is divided into three sections: cash flow of operation activities, cash flow of investment activities, and cash flow of financial activities?

The difference between the indirect and direct method is how the operating cash flow appears on the cash flow statement.

  • Direct Method: The direct cash flow method breaks down specific cash inflows and outflows and shows you the cash receipts from customers, cash paid to vendors and suppliers, cash collected from customers, interest earnings, dividends received, paid income tax, and paid interest. Adding these totals together is how the operating cash flow is calculated.
  • Indirect Method: Instead of tracking each type of business operation cash flow, the indirect cash flow method is calculated by taking the net income from a company’s income statement and adjusting the earnings before interest tax (EBIT). It sounds confusing until you remember the difference between cash flow and profit. The net income shows your overall profit — we need to adjust it to show cash flow by subtracting accounts receivable (or invoices that haven’t been paid yet).

While the direct method of calculating cash flow is more detailed, the indirect method is far easier to calculate and more widely used by businesses. The good news? If you’re using accounting software, it does all of the behind the scenes work for you. You’ll just see the total operating cash flow on your cash flow statement.

Don’t have good accounting software yet? Our comprehensive accounting software reviews cover QuickBooks products, Xero, Freshbooks, Sage, and more of the top cloud-based and locally-installed accounting solutions on the market today. If you want a quick peek at the top contenders, check out our accounting software comparison chart.

Using an old version of QuickBooks Pro? Save $100 when you upgrade to QuickBooks Desktop 2018.

Purchase QuickBooks Desktop Pro 2018 Now

Why Cash Flow Is Important

As we mentioned earlier, cash flow is the sustainer of business. Positive cash flow allows you to:

  • Pay your employees
  • Pay rent
  • Purchase inventory
  • Purchase new equipment
  • Grow your business

Essentially, positive cash flow means you can run your business successfully. If you lack cash flow, you will have a hard time operating your business and paying your business expenses on time.

If you consistently have a negative cash flow, you may even be forced to declare bankruptcy. According to the SBA (Small Business Administration), lack of positive cash flow is one of the biggest reasons that businesses fail.

Additionally, both potential lenders and investors take your business’s cash flow into consideration.

Before approving you for a loan, lenders want to see that you have a consistent positive cash flow and that you have the money to make regular payments on a loan.

Potential investors also want to see positive cash flow, which indicates that your company is financially stable and that they are likely to receive shareholder payments if they support your company.

Final Thoughts

You may have come into this article assuming that focusing on profit is the best thing you can do for your business. In the end, however, it all comes down to cash flow.

Without an understanding of cash flow, you won’t be able to run a business successfully. Nor will you be able to apply for funding from potential lenders to grow your business in the future. Pay attention to the cash flow reports in your accounting software, and you’ll be well on your way to maintaining positive cash flow and increasing overall profitability.

After analyzing your business’s finances, you may determine that you need a working capital loan or a line of credit to help you maintain positive cash flow. Read through our detailed small business loan reviews or view our business loan comparison chart to find a lender that works for you. If your business depends on invoices, invoice factoring might be more your speed. With invoice factoring, it’s possible to get cash for your invoices right away. Learn more in the Basic Introduction to Invoice Factoring and/or check out two of our favorite invoice factors: BlueVine and Fundbox.

For more information on accounting concepts and strategies, our accounting and bookkeeping blog is a good place to start. We cover everything from double-entry accounting to small business taxes. We also guide you through how to choose small business accounting software. What’s more, our comprehensive accounting software reviews cover QuickBooks products, Xero, Freshbooks, Sage, and more of the top cloud-based and locally-installed accounting solutions on the market today. For a bird’s eye view of the top contenders, check out our accounting software comparison chart.

The post What Is Cash Flow? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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FedEx Options For eCommerce

Deciphering shipping options can feel a lot like navigating a maze. You’re faced with decisions at every turn, and each path seems to split into more and more potential routes. This is difficult enough for a brick-and-mortar retailer, but as an eCommerce seller, you need to make these decisions frequently and in very little time.

Here at Merchant Maverick our goal is to support growing merchants, so while we can’t make these decisions for you, we can at least help you understand the available options.

In this article, we’ll be addressing one of the industry’s most popular shipping carrier: FedEx. We’ll go over FedEx’s four categories of shipping solutions as well as the more specific options included within each of those categories. Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to ship with FedEx.

Need shipping or packing supplies?

Get Started With FedEx Office

FedEx Express (Domestic)

The first option we’ll cover is one of the more popular shipping solutions among online sellers: FedEx Express. This service costs a bit more than some alternatives, however in return they provide time-specific delivery commitments with a money-back guarantee (even if your shipment only arrives 60 seconds late). FedEx Express is great for shipments on a deadline, especially those you have to ship overnight, and can be a godsend during the holiday season.

What’s more, FedEx Express provides merchants with a large selection of free shipping supplies, which you can order online and have delivered directly to your door. Read more about these shipping supplies and other available services in our blog post, How To Print, Pack, And Ship With FedEx Office.

FedEx Express includes a range of shipping services. These services are differentiated by their prices and their delivery times, and they are broken into Next Day Delivery and 2-3 Day Delivery. Take a look at those options below or head over to FedEx’s website for more detailed information:

Next Day

  • FedEx First Overnight
    • Next business day delivery by 8 a.m., 8:30 a.m, 9 a.m. or 9:30 a.m.
    • Delivery by 10 a.m., 11 a.m., or 2 p.m. to extended areas
  • FedEx Priority Overnight
    • Next business day delivery by 10:20 a.m.
    • Delivery by 12 noon, 4:30 or 5 p.m. to some rural areas
  • FedEx Standard Overnight
    • Next business day delivery by 3 p.m.
    • Delivery by 4:30 p.m. to some rural areas (8 p.m. to residences)

2-3 Days

  • FedEx 2Day A.M.
    • Second business day delivery by 10:30 a.m
    • Delivery by 12 p.m. to rural areas
  • FedEx 2Day
    • Second business day delivery by 4:30 p.m.
    • Delivery by 8 p.m. to residences
  • FedEx Express Saver
    • Third business day delivery by 4:30 p.m.
    • Delivery by 8 p.m. to residences

For more information on delivery times for extended and rural areas, look into FedEx’s Service Guide.

FedEx Ground

While FedEx Express is great for time-sensitive deliveries, if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative (and you don’t mind slightly slower shipping), FedEx Ground may be the way to go.

FedEx Ground offers merchants expedient delivery times at a lower rate. While they do not offer a time-specific delivery, they will guarantee your shipments arrive by the end of day on your scheduled delivery date.

One of the downsides of FedEx Ground is that you will not be able to order priority mail boxes for free. You will have to find and provide all your own packaging materials.

FedEx Ground is best for shipments that do not need to be delivered at a specific time of day. Ground is also good for shipments that are bigger or heavier, as you will likely pay lower shipping rates than you would with Express. In addition, Ground is the only way to go if you are shipping items that are regulated as dangerous goods via air shipment (Read about those items and related regulations).

Unlike FedEx Express, FedEx Ground does not offer a variety of shipping times. Rather, your delivery time will depend on your shipment and delivery locations. Typically, your package will arrive in between 1-5 business days, or 3-7 business days if you’re shipping to or from Hawaii and Alaska. You will be notified of an estimated delivery date for your shipments when you drop your packages off at a FedEx Office location nearby.

View FedEx Ground’s service map and test out the shipping rates calculator for better insight into how much your shipments will cost and how long they’ll take to ship. For FedEx’s explanation on the differences between their Express and Ground services, check out this webpage.

FedEx International Shipping (FedEx Express)

FedEx Express also offers FedEx International Shipping through their FedEx Express program. We have separated this service into its own category as shipping rates are different from the domestic Express rates.

FedEx International ships to customers in over 220 countries and territories, typically within 1-5 business days (not including time spent in customs). Like FedEx Express’s domestic service, FedEx International offers a money-back guarantee (view details) if your shipment is late by even 60 seconds.

If you choose to ship with FedEx International, you’ll be able to choose from three options:

  • FedEx International Priority: Delivery within 1, 2, or 3 business days
  • FedEx International Economy: Delivery within 5 business days
  • FedEx International Ground: Day-definite delivery throughout Canada

You can also choose to ship internationally via FedEx’s Freight services. Keep reading for more information on shipping freight.

FedEx Freight

Looking to transport product between warehouses? Or just hoping to ship a very large and heavy item? FedEx Freight could be the service for you. FedEx Freight provides merchants with options for LTL shipping. These shipments come with a no-fee money-back guarantee (for merchants on the standard rate tariff).

FedEx Freight International

As I mentioned above, FedEx Freight International allows you to ship large items or large quantities of items to over 130 countries and territories. Shipments above 150 pounds qualify for this service. This service includes the following options:

  • Urgent Delivery
  • Time-Definite Delivery
  • Day-Definite Delivery
  • Direct Distribution

Read FedEx’s details for more information about shipping freight internationally.

In addition, FedEx Freight offers two options for shipping within the US:

FedEx Freight Priority

Priority freight shipments offer fast delivery of time-sensitive LTL freight. The service delivers to the contiguous US and offers extensive service to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. The FedEx Freight Box is available for this service (more information on the Freight Box to come). Delivery times for Freight Priority are as follows:

  • A.M. Delivery: Delivery by 10:30 a.m.
  • Close of Business Delivery: Delivery by 5 p.m. on standard delivery date throughout contiguous states

FedEx Freight Economy

As you might imagine, FedEx Freight Economy offers more cost-effective delivery of LTL freight. You can use Economy to ship to customers throughout the contiguous US and to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The FedEx Freight Box is also available for this service (again, find more information on the Freight Box below). Here are FedEx Freight Economy’s delivery times:

  • A.M. Delivery: Delivery by 10:30 a.m.
  • Close of Business Delivery: Delivery by 5 p.m. on standard delivery date throughout contiguous states

About The Freight Box

FedEx’s Freight Box is their way of incorporating flat rate shipping into their freight services. If you choose to ship with a Freight Box, you will pay a predictable flat rate to ship your box, based on shipping zones and if you’re using Priority or Economy services. Those rates range between $126-$312.

View the chart below:

Only shipments below 1,200 pounds can qualify for the Freight Box, and shipping rates do not qualify for negotiated pricing, which may disappoint some high-volume sellers. The good news is if you choose to ship this way, there is no freight classification required!

FedEx’s Freight Box comes in two different sizes:

  • Standard (pallet not included)
    • 48” x 40” x 38”
  • Small (integrated pallet included)
    • 48” x 40” x 28”

You can order both of these boxes online, and after a bit of assembly, you can get to packing.

Final Thoughts

Shipping options can certainly be disorienting! We hope our breakdown above has helped you to untangle the number of options available through FedEx. If one or more of these shipping solutions catches your eye, be sure to look into the resources we’ve included to get a better idea of the details.

Or, if you’re still looking for general information about shipping with FedEx, check out our comparison article, USPS vs UPS vs FedEx: Which Shipping Carrier Is Best?

You’ll be a shipping expert in no time!

Need shipping or packing supplies?

Get Started With FedEx Office

The post FedEx Options For eCommerce appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Order QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Most people know that QuickBooks offers accounting software, but did you know that the company also sells checks, tax forms, stamps, and even pens?

Believe it or not, QuickBooks can be your one-stop shop for business checks and office supplies. And best of all, you can print the checks directly from your QuickBooks software. Keep reading to learn more about how to order checks from QuickBooks, how to buy tax forms from QuickBooks, and what other office supplies QuickBooks offers.

Order Checks, Tax Forms & Other Supplies From QuickBooks

Products Offered

QuickBooks offers a wide array of business supplies. You can purchase the following product online using the Intuit marketplace:

  • Checks
  • Tax forms
  • Envelopes
  • Deposit slips
  • Self-inking stamps
  • Point of sale supplies
  • Laser & inkjet labels
  • Check binders
  • Printable business forms
  • Security pens

We’ll cover the specific products and their prices in each of the following sections.

Checks

QuickBooks offers five different types of checks:

  • Voucher checks
  • Standard business checks
  • Wallet checks
  • Office and away checks
  • Personal checks

You can customize QuickBooks checks by adding your business name and phone number. Choose between three and five different colors, depending on the check type. Add an additional line for extra business information and up to two signature lines to meet your business’s needs.

You can order all checks from the Intuit Market. Once the checks are sent to you, you can print them directly from compatible QuickBooks programs. Here’s a breakdown of each type of check and how much they cost.

Voucher Checks

Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

A voucher check is a standard-sized check accompanied by two pay stubs, making it ideal for payroll and accounts payable. Intuit offers three types of vouchers checks that vary by level of security. Each check is compatible with laser and inkjet printers and all supported versions of QuickBooks.

  • Basic Voucher Checks: Start at $36.99 for 50 checks.
  • Secure Plus Voucher Checks: Start at $66.99 for 50 checks. Adds security features like ink tampering prevention.
  • Secure Premier Voucher Checks: Start at $72.99 for 50 checks. Adds hologram for max security.

Visit the Intuit marketplace to purchase voucher checks for QuickBooks.

Standard Business Checks

Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Intuit’s standard business checks are your typical, everyday business checks. Intuit offers types of standard checks that vary by level of security. Each is compatible with laser and inkjet printers and all supported versions of QuickBooks. However, standard business checks are not compatible with Intuit Online Payroll (see voucher checks instead). Intuit also offers manual standard checks that you can fill out by hand.

  • Basic Standard Business Checks: Start at $102.99 for 250 checks.
  • Secure Plus Standard Business Checks: Start at $56.99 for 50 checks. Adds security features like ink tampering prevention.
  • Secure Premier Standard Business Checks: Start at $61.99 for 50 checks. Adds hologram for max security.
  • Manual Business Checks: Start at $58.99 for 300 checks. Detachable standard checks come with check stubs to record additional information.

Visit the Intuit marketplace to find the best deals on business checks.

Wallet ChecksGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

With these checks, it’s all in the name. Intuit’s wallet checks fit perfectly in a wallet and come with a check stub to record additional information. There are two types of wallet checks that vary by level of security. Each is compatible with QuickBooks Desktop or Quicken 2006 +. Wallet checks are not compatible with QuickBooks Online.

  • Basic Wallet Checks: Start at $87.99 for 250 checks.
  • Secure Plus Wallet Checks: Start at $43.99 for 50 checks. Adds security features like ink tampering prevention.

Visit the Intuit Marketplace to purchase QuickBooks wallet checks.

Office & Away ChecksGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Intuit’s Office & Away checks are a hybrid between standard checks and manual checks. You can either print checks directly from QuickBooks when you’re in the office or handwrite checks when you’re out of the office. Office & Away checks are compatible with laser and inkjet printers and QuickBooks Desktop; they are not compatible with QuickBooks Online or Intuit Payroll (see voucher checks for payroll).

  • Office & Away Checks: Start at $90.99 for 250 checks.

Visit the Intuit Marketplace to purchase Office & Away checks for your business.

Personal ChecksGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

In addition to business checks, Intuit offers personal checks as well. There is only one type of personal check — the Secure Plus Personal Check — which comes with built-in security features like chemically reactive paper to prevent check alterations. QuickBooks personal checks are not compatible with software like QuickBooks or Quicken and are not compatible with printers.

  • Secure Plus Personal Checks: Starts at $39.99 for one box, which contains 120 duplicate checks.

Visit the Intuit Marketplace to find the best deal on personal checks.

Tax Forms

You can purchase four different types of tax forms directly from Intuit:

  • W-2s
  • W-3s
  • 1096s
  • 1099-MISCs

One of the biggest perks of using QuickBooks software is the tax support available with both QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online.  QuickBooks Desktop allows you to prepare and print w-2s, W-3s, 1099-MISCs, and 1096s, and with the QuickBooks Online Plus plan you can prepare and print 1099-MISCs and W-2s directly from the software.

Most users will need to purchase these forms from Intuit in order to print and file their taxes, although certain QuickBooks payroll plans include these forms with the cost of the monthly payroll subscription (read our QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Pricing And Features post to see if your tax forms are included or not). Here are the current tax form offerings (note: prices may vary depending on the tax year).

W-2sGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

A W-2 form is an IRS tax form that indicates an employee’s wages and withheld taxes for the tax year. Employers are required to fill out a W-2 form for every individual employee they have (or had) during the tax year. Intuit offers two different W-2 kits to help employer’s successfully complete their W-2s. The price for each option depends on the number of forms needed.

  • Pre-Printed W-2 Kit: Starts at $57.99 and includes four free W-3s and custom W-2 envelopes. Compatible with laser or inkjet printers and QuickBooks Desktop users with Basic or Enhanced Payroll. Not compatible with QuickBooks for Mac, QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Desktop Payroll Full Service, or QuickBooks Online Payroll.
  • Laser W-2 Blank Perforated Paper & Envelope Kit: Starts at $23.99 and includes blank, perforated W-2 paper and custom W-2 envelopes. Compatible with QuickBooks Online, QuickBooks Payroll, QuickBooks Online Payroll Full Service, and supported version of QuickBooks Desktop.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to easily order W-2 tax forms for your business.

W-3sGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

A W-3 form is an IRS tax form that indicates the total wages and taxes withheld for all employees of a company during the tax year. If you purchase the Pre-Printed W-2 Kit, then you will already receive four free W-3 forms; otherwise, you can purchase them directly from Intuit.

  • W-3 Forms: Start at $17.99 for 10 preprinted W-3 forms. Not compatible with QuickBooks for Mac or QuickBooks Online.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order W-3 tax forms.

1099-MISCsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

A 1099-MISC form is an IRS form that reports wages paid to an individual who is not an employee at your company, such as an independent contractor.  As the employer, you’ll need to file a 1099-MISC for any contractors you’ve paid more than $600 during the tax year. You can purchase these forms directly from Intuit and prepare and print them directly from QuickBooks. Prices vary by state and depending on the number of forms you need.

  • 1099 Kit: Ranges from $58.99 – $83.99 for 10 pre-printed 1099-MISC forms and includes four free 1096 forms and custom 1099 envelopes (price varies by state). Compatible with QuickBooks Online, and supported version of QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Mac.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order 1099 tax forms.

1096sGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

A 1096 form is an IRS form that records all of the wages paid to all independent contractors and self-employed individuals a company hired during the tax year. If you purchase the 1099 Kit, then you will already receive four free 1096 forms; otherwise, you can purchase them directly from Intuit.

  • 1096 Forms: Start at $17.99 for 10 1096 forms. Compatible with QuickBooks Online Plus, QuickBooks Mac 2013 or later, and QuickBooks Desktop 2013 or later.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order 1096 tax forms.

Envelopes

You can purchase envelopes for your checks, tax forms, and more directly from Intuit. While you could buy envelopes from anywhere, Intuit envelopes are specifically designed to fit your Intuit checks and tax forms, which adds an added layer of security to important mail. Here are the various business envelopes offered and how much they cost.

Standard & Voucher Check EnvelopesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

According to QuickBooks:

Standard-sized business envelopes don’t fit standard sized checks. Envelopes can be too large, potentially allowing sliding inside the envelope that can compromise security or partially obstruct information.

This is why Intuit sells envelopes that are created to fit their standard and voucher checks perfectly. There are two types of standard/voucher envelopes that vary by level of convenience.

  • Standard/Voucher & Payroll Check Envelopes: Start at $68.99 for 250 envelopes. Includes double address windows.
  • Self-Seal Voucher Check Envelopes: Start at $30.99 for 50 envelopes. Fits both standard and voucher checks. Includes self-adhesive flaps and double address windows. Compatible with most postage machines.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order standard check and voucher check envelopes.

Wallet Check EnvelopesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Wallet check envelopes are designed specifically to fit Intuit’s wallet checks. There are two types of wallet checks that vary by size.

  • Wallet Check Envelopes: Start at $49.99 for 250 envelopes. Includes double address windows. Specifically designed to fit wallet checks.
  • Wallet Plus Check Envelopes: Start at $54.99 for 250 envelopes. This standard sized envelope includes a pocket designed specifically for wallet checks, so you can send both wallet checks and additional documents simultaneously.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order wallet check envelopes.

Form EnvelopesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

In addition to purchasing envelopes that fit Intuit’s checks, you can also purchase envelopes that perfect fit your Intuit tax forms, including W-2s, W-3s, 1096s, and 1099-MISCs. These envelopes are designed to align perfectly with the Intuit tax forms to ensure that your confidential tax information stays secure. There are three different type of form envelopes available. Each is compatible with Intuit’s pre-printed tax forms or any other forms printed on standard printer paper.

  • Forms Envelopes: Start at $68.99 for 250 envelopes. Includes double address windows.
  • Single Window Form Envelopes: Start at $73.99 for 250 envelopes. Includes a single address window. You can order them to be pre-printed with your company address. Adding a company logo or custom ink color costs extra.
  • Self-Seal Form Envelopes: Start at $75.99 for 250 envelopes. Includes self-adhesive flaps and double address windows. Compatible with most postage machines.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order from envelopes for your small business.

Business Reply EnvelopesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

You can purchase a custom, pre-printed return envelope from Intuit. Adding a return envelope to your invoices can help your company appear more professional and make it easier for your customers to send you their invoice payments (and anything you can do to increase the chances of your invoices getting paid is worth it). Intuit’s business reply envelopes also work with their Remittance Statements (which we’ll cover later). Here’s how much they cost.

  • Business Reply Envelopes: Start at $54.99 for 250 envelopes. You can order them to be pre-printed with your company address.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to start sending business reply envelopes with your invoices.

Large Mailing EnvelopesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Additionally, you can purchase large mailing envelopes for large stacks of paper or for forms and documents that you do not wish to bend. These envelopes come in white or golden brown (think classic manila envelope).

  • Large Mailing Envelopes: Start at $90.99 for 100 envelopes. You can order them to be pre-printed with your company address. Adding a company logo or custom ink color costs extra.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order large mailing envelopes.

Deposit SlipsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Deposit slips are used by some businesses to track the funds deposited into a specific bank account. Deposit slips can be helpful when verifying your accounting records with your monthly bank statement. If your business is in the habit of using deposit slips (or if you’d like to start), you can purchase them directly from Intuit. Intuit offers two different types of deposit slips as well as a deposit slip bag. Here’s how much each item costs.

  • Printable Deposit Slips: Start at $68.99 for 250 deposit slips with up to 18 entries per slip. Prepare and print directly from QuickBooks. Compatible with QuickBooks Mac 2007 or higher and supported versions of QuickBooks Desktop.
  • Booked Manual Deposit Slips: Start at $43.99 for 200 deposit slips with up to 18 entries per slip. For manual entry. Available in 2- or 3-copy carbonless options. Can order your business name and account number to be pre-printed on the slips.
  • Bank Deposit Bag: Starts at $12.99 for 25 deposit bags. Disposable and recyclable bag with removable numbered receipts and built-in security features.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order deposit slips for your business.

Stamps

Whether it’s addressing envelopes, marking invoices as past due, or indicating which documents need filing, Intuit offers 14 self-inking maps to make your business processes run smoother. These affordable business stamps are easy to use and can save your company valuable time. In addition to the stamps, Intuit also offers ink-pad refills for whenever you might need them.

Self-Inking Business Stamps

As we mentioned above, Intuit offers 14 stamps ranging from $13.99 to $35.99 each. Here are all of the business stamps available.

  • Endorsement Stamp: Costs $35.99 and is ideal for quickly getting checks ready to deposit.
  • Return Address Stamp: Costs $35.99 and comes with up to five lines of text.
  • Return Address Stamp With Monogram: Costs $35.99 and Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Suppliescomes with up to five lines of text and a monogram letter.
  • Fax Header Cover Stamp: Costs $35.99 and is ideal for quickly creating a fax header to record fax information.
  • Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And SuppliesSecurity Stamp: Costs $21.99 and is created to “obscure sensitive information on checks, forms, legal documents, packages, and mail.”
  • Copy Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “copy” and costs $13.99.
  • Past Due Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “past due” and costs $13.99. Ideal for invoices.
  • Draft Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “draft” and costs $13.99.Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies
  • File Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “file” and costs $13.99.
  • Void Stamp: Blue ink stamp that says “void” and costs $13.99. Ideal for voided checks.
  • Paid Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “paid” and costs $13.99. Ideal for invoices.
  • Confidential Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “confidential” and costs $13.99.Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies
  • Faxed Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “faxed” and costs $13.99.
  • Urgent Stamp: Red ink stamp that says “urgent” and costs $13.99.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order business stamps.

Point Of Sale Supplies

If you use QuickBooks Point of Sale (see our review) there are several items you can purchase to manage your business and sales. Intuit offers everything from pricing labels to receipt tape to jewelry tags and more. See what point of sale supplies Intuit has to offer and how much they cost below.

Pricing Labels

Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

If you need a quick and efficient way your items, you can print pricing labels directly from QuickBooks POS using a compatible printer. These labels are adhesive for easy tagging and come in two separate sizes.

  • Price Label 1.2″ x 0.85″: Costs $79.99 for one case of pricing labels, which comes with 12 rolls per case and 15,000 labels per roll. Compatible with the QuickBooks POS Tag Printer. Ideal for smaller items.
  • Price Label 2.25″ x 1.25″: Costs $79.99 for one case of pricing labels, which comes with 12 rolls and 1,135 labels per roll. Compatible with the QuickBooks POS Tag Printer. Ideal for larger items.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order QuickBooks pricing labels.

Receipt Paper

Getting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

You can also purchase receipt paper directly from Intuit. QuickBooks receipt paper is compatible with QuickBooks POS printer, the Star TSP143, and the Star TSP613.

  • Point Of Sale Paper Rolls: Costs $29.99 for 10 rolls. Each roll is 220 feet long.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace for a great deal on receipt paper.

Pricing TagsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

In addition to pricing labels, Intuit also sells pricing tags for unique items like jewelry.

  • Printable Hang Tags: Costs $104.97 per case of thermal printed hang tags, with 12 rolls per case and 967 labels per roll. Ideal for “purses, clothing, and other fabric items.” Compatible with supported versions of QuickBooks POS and QuickBooks POS Tag Printer.
  • Jewelry Tags With Flap: Costs $104.99 for four rolls of waterproof jewelry tags, with 2,490 labels per roll. Includes adhesive flaps that allow you to price items without getting sticky adhesive on them. Compatible with supported versions of QuickBooks POS and QuickBooks POS Tag Printer.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order pricing tags for your retail company.

Labels

You can also purchase printable labels directly from the Intuit MarketPlace. You can use these labels for a variety of purposes, whether it’s preprinting potential lead addresses for a new marketing campaign or printing file folder names to get your business organized. Here’s all that Intuit has to offer:

Printable Business LabelsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Intuit offers printable, adhesive labels in various sizes. Each set of labels starts at $40.99. These labels are compatible with laser and inkjet printers. You can design and print the labels straight from QuickBooks Desktop or by using Avery. Not compatible with QuickBooks Online.

  • 1″ x 4″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 20 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5161 and #8161.
  • 1 1/3″ x 4″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 14 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5162.
  • 2″ x 4″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 10 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5163.
  • 3 1/3″ x 4″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 6 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5164.
  • 1″ x 2 5/8″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 30 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5160 and #8160.
  • 1/2″ x 1 3/4″ Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets with 80 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5167.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order printable labels for all of your business needs.

Shipping Manager LabelsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

QuickBooks also offers adhesive labels specifically designed for overnight, express, or ground shipping. These labels are compatible with laser and inkjet printers and integrate with both QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Shipping Manager. Not compatible with QuickBooks Online.

  • QuickBooks Shipping Manager Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets, with two labels per sheet.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order shipping labels.

File Folder LabelsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

In addition to the above labels, Intuit also offers labels that are specifically designed to fit your file cabinet folders to help you stay organized. These labels are compatible with laser and inkjet printers. You can design and print the labels straight from QuickBooks Desktop or by using Avery. Not compatible with QuickBooks Online.

  • 2/3″ x 3 7/16″ File Folder Labels: Cost $40.99 for 100 sheets, with 30 labels per sheet. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers as well as Avery #5366.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order file folder labels and start getting organized today.

Business Forms

While both QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online offer an incredible number of reports, there are some important business forms that you may want to mail your customers. That’s why QuickBooks offers nine additional business forms. Check out all of the forms QuickBooks offers and how much they cost.

StatementsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

QuickBooks statement forms allow you to keep your customers up to date on their financial obligations and history with your company. There are three business statement forms in total. You can print each directly from QuickBooks Desktop. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers.

  • Customer Billing Statements: Start at $64.99 for 250 statements. Ideal for updating customers on their account.
  • Remittance Statements: Start at $88.99 for 250 statements. Ideal for tracking accounts receivable.
  • Blank Remittance Statements: Start at $40.99 for 250 statements.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to check out a good deal on business forms.

InvoicesGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

For companies wishing to send invoices by mail in addition to or instead of sending invoices online, there’s the option to buy preprinted invoice templates directly from Intuit. There are three invoice styles that you can customize to fit your business’s needs. You can print the invoice’s details onto each invoice directly from QuickBooks Desktop. Compatible with laser and inkjet printers. Price varies depending on the number of invoices purchased and the number of sheets per invoice.

  • Product Invoices: Starts at $88.99 for 250 invoices. Available in single, duplicate, triplicate, or quadruplicate. Ideal for product-based businesses.
  • Service Invoices: Start at $88.99 for 250 invoices. Available in single, duplicate, or triplicate. Ideal for service-based businesses.
  • Professional Invoices: Start at $88.99 for 250 invoices. Available in single and triplicate.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order QuickBooks 1096 tax forms.

Multi-Purpose FormsGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

The multi-purpose form, as you may have guessed, has multiple potential uses. Intuit says that you can use these forms to:

Send estimates, credit memos, or purchase orders on professional-looking correspondence.

There are two multi-purpose forms available. Each can be printed directly from QuickBooks and are compatible with laser and inkjet printers.

  • Multi-Purpose Forms: Start at $88.99 for 250 forms. Available in single, duplicate, or triplicate.
  • All Purpose Form With Peel-Off Label: Start at $46.99 for 250 forms. Includes adhesive label so you can prepare reports and packing slips simultaneously.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order multi-purpose business forms now.

Form LeadersGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

The form leader helps you easily print “leftover” standard or wallet checks. You simply attach a remaining check to the form leader and print using compatible laser and inkjet printers. This saves you both time and money and ensures all leftover checks are used and printed properly.

  • Form Leaders: Costs $19.99 for 10 from leaders. Each form leader is good for up to 40 uses.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order a form leader for your standard or wallet-sized checks.

Other

Finally, Intuit also offers a few miscellaneous business items to help your office stay organized and run smoothly. Here are the final three products you can find within the Intuit MarketPlace.

BindersGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Intuit offers two type of binders to help you keep your business checks organized. In addition to keeping your checks in order, these binders can also help you appear more professional and put together. Here’s how much they cost.

  • Office & Away Checkbook Binder: Costs $69.99 and is designed to hold up to 75 office and away checks. Includes “a handy check register, a business card pocket, a place to store important documents, and a convenient pen holder.”
  • 7-Ring Manual Check Binder: Costs $30.99 and is designed to hold manual business checks. Available in burgundy or black.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order a professional business binder.

PensGetting Started With QuickBooks Checks And Supplies

Intuit pens are specifically designed to ensure that your checks remain secure. They have unwashable ink and leave indent marks on paper to prevent check fraud.

  • QuickBooks Super Ink Security Pen: Costs $10.99 for five pens. Includes a comfortable textured grip and black ink.

Visit the Intuit MarketPlace to order a secure check pen.

Get Shopping

Now you officially know all of the business checks and office supplies available to you through the Intuit MarketPlace. The Intuit MarketPlace is a great way to find business checks, personal checks, tax forms, check envelopes, invoices, business labels, and more. You may even receive a discount for purchasing certain items like checks and envelopes together.

Once you place your order, Intuit says that most items will be shipped in 49 hours, though some custom items may take up to six days to ship.

You can always call Intuit Checks & Supplies support at (866) 570-3842 or start shopping now.

Shop For QuickBooks Checks & Supplies Now

Using an old version of QuickBooks Pro? Save $100 when you upgrade to QuickBooks Desktop 2018.

Purchase QuickBooks Desktop Pro 2018 

 

The post How To Order QuickBooks Checks And Supplies appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Useful Online Portfolio Examples for Students, Teachers, and Professionals

Online Portfolio

When it comes to having an online portfolio of work — whether for designs, papers, case studies, or your work history — a well-designed portfolio goes a long way in leaving a lasting impression.

But what does a good portfolio look like?

I’ve gathered 9+ useful online portfolio examples for students, teachers, and professionals to serve as inspiration for your portfolio website. But before we go too far, let’s talk best practices:

Portfolio Page Best Practices

So what makes a good portfolio website? While the opportunities for displaying your work are endless, there are a few best practices to keep in mind when designing your portfolio. Here are some key elements of a great online portfolio:

  • Clarity over Creativity: It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing your creativity on your portfolio. Adding some extra flair to stand out is fine… until it sacrifices clarity. Your portfolio website’s main goal should be to clearly show who you are, what you do, and what you’ve done.
  • Easy Navigation: Your portfolio should be easy to navigate. Prioritize key pages in your navigation like Work, About, and Contact.
  • A Strong Bio: An online portfolio doesn’t just show visitors what you’ve done… it also tells them who you are. A strong About Me page is a great way to share your bio and give visitors a glimpse into what you’re all about.
  • Current Work: Your portfolio should feature your most recent work. When choosing how to set up your portfolio page, make sure you choose a format you can easily update whenever you complete a project you’d like to feature.
  • Next Steps: What action do you want people to take once they review your portfolio? Should they contact you? Follow you on social media? Request a quote? Make it clear what a visitor should do next with a strong call to action.
  • Showcase Abilities: Your portfolio is the perfect place to practice what you preach and showcase your abilities. For example, if you’re a web designer, use your portfolio website to show your design style. Use the site as an opportunity to display your work in action.

Online Portfolio Examples

Now that you’ve got the basics down, it’s time to get creating. Here are 9+ useful portfolio examples to use for inspiration.

Min Zhou, Product Designer

min zhou portfolio

A great portfolio doesn’t have to be elaborate. In fact, sometimes a simple, straightforward approach works best. Min Zhou’s portfolio is a great example of this.

Notice how the navigation is ultra-simple. It features two options: Work and About. Min then leads with a straightforward headline that instantly tells you who he is and what he does. Below that, he showcases his work in a clear grid format that allows you to dive deeper when clicking on each square.

 

Sean Halpin, Web Designer

Sean Halpin Portfolio

A portfolio is a great place to show your abilities in action, especially in web-based industries like design and development. This portfolio by Sean Halpin is a great example of showing your skills and style within the portfolio itself.

Sean’s portfolio website gives off an immediate impression of his design style, while also showing his depth in his work section.

 

Pascal van Gemert, Web Developer

Pascal van Gemert Portfolio

Similar to Sean, this interactive portfolio by Pascal van Gemert is another example of integrating your work into your website. Pascal uses his development skills to create an interactive site that uses unique ways to communicate information, like this start system that shows his experience in certain areas.

 

Emma Kay, Creative Director + Stylist

Emma Kay Portfolio
What makes this portfolio unique is the use of segmentation. If you have work across multiple industries, like Emma Kay does, segmenting your portfolio by industry can be a great way to help visitors find the most relevant projects.

emma kay portfolio segmentedEmma also uses a swipe scroll to help visitors easily browse her work. The design is sleek and provides a great user experience, which is the hallmark of a great website.

 

Brett Bergeron, Designer, Developer, and Creative Director

Brett Bergeron Portfolio

Portfolios don’t always have to be about the visuals. This portfolio by Brett Bergeron uses large text on the homepage to tell you exactly who he is, what he does, and who he works with. It takes up the entire “above the fold” portion of the homepage (jargon for the entire screen before scrolling). If you want to learn more about him, you can scroll down to the navigation and the video, which adds a great balance to the text-heavy homepage.

Brett Portfolio

 

Charlie Waite, Designer

Charlie Waite portfolio

Charlie’s portfolio stands out for two primary reasons. First is the color scheme. The use of complementary colors makes his portfolio pop — your eye is immediately draw to the yellow and then directly down to the blue section below it, which features another project.

Second is his call-to-action. Instead of using something generic, like “Contact”, Charlie goes with a much warmer “Say Hello!”, which matches the overall warm vibe of his portfolio page.

Keep in mind that a strong CTA doesn’t mean a boring CTA — it just has to be clear!

 

Robert Brown Interior Design

robert brown interior design portfolio Sometimes less is more, which is exactly what makes this portfolio stand out. As an interior designer, displaying multiple, large-scale projects with several photos can quickly turn a portfolio into photography overload. Robert Brown Interior Design’s approach is much more manageable. The simple grid layout showcases individual projects and creates a cohesive style on the portfolio page. If a visitor wants to see more photos related to a specific project, they can just click on the main photo to open the gallery.

Robert Brown Interior Design portfolio

 

Sparkle Tafao, Makeup Artist + Hair Stylist

Sparkle Tafao makeup portfolio

For some industries, like beauty and photography, a portfolio website might not be the primary place to showcase work. Instead, you may rely more on a social channel like Instagram. However, that doesn’t mean you should ignore your website (you still need to have a web presence that you own!). This portfolio by Sparkle Tafao is a great example of how to leverage your website to direct visitors to another channel. When you land on Sparkle’s homepage, you have two options: you can visit her portfolio, or you can check her out on Instagram.

 

Kathryne Bevilacqua, Professor

Kathryne Bevilacqua professor portfolio

This professor’s portfolio is another example of balancing creativity with clarity. Kathryne Bevilacqua uses an interactive menu to jump you down her website, and adds a fun design component with her teaching timeline. However, the information is still easy to consume and find. The portfolio also includes a downloadable PDF for visitors who want to learn more about her teaching.

Remember, your portfolio is a starting point for people to learn about you and your work. You don’t have to include everything on one page. Use it as a entry point and invite visitors deeper.

 

Takeaways + Next Steps

No matter your line of work or purpose – having an accessible portfolio online is essential.

As far as how to get your portfolio online though, there’s plenty of options. I created a guide to the best website builders here, although the go-to options that I recommend are –

  • WordPress.com – user-friendly option with good functionality, customer service, bundled hosting – and the option to migrate to a self-hosted website in the future. See their Portfolios functionality.
  • Self-hosted WordPress – allows for maximum ownership and versatility, but has a bit of a learning curve. Learn how to set up WordPress here.
  • Weebly – a drag and drop website builder with straightforward setup and a free plan option. See Weebly here.

Have a successful project!

The post Useful Online Portfolio Examples for Students, Teachers, and Professionals appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Harvesting Demand vs. Creating Demand

Creating Demand vs Harvesting Demand

When it comes to most digital channels (think your typical online marketing activities), the focus is often on getting in front of customers who know they need your products/services.

Here’s the catch: eventually, you run into limitations. Why? Because you’re working with existing demand, and existing demand is always limited.

Which means at some point, you’re going to have to create demand for your offering.

But how do you do that? And do you have to choose one versus the other?

Before we dive in too deep, let’s break down the difference between harvesting demand vs. creating demand.

Harvesting Demand vs. Creating Demand

Think of harvesting demand like matchmaking — you’re finding people who are already interested in your product, service, or brand and matching them to whatever you’re offering.

Like I mentioned above, most digital channels focus exclusively on harvesting existing demand. Think about it — both SEO and PPC rely on search volume, which means someone needs to be actively searching for specific terms related to your offering.

There are so many ways to harvest search volume more effectively that the companies that do it well find it to be so cost effective (and generally effective) that they never need to do anything else.

But the truth of the matter is you will always be limited by existing demand — which is where creating demand comes in.

Creating demand is creating new customers who didn’t even know they wanted your product or service. There are infinite possibilities when creating demand… it just happens to be much harder than leveraging existing interest.

At the end of the day, you want to pair them. The key is to know which marketing activities do what and how these two techniques support each other. Let’s break it down a bit further.

How to Harvest Demand

If you’re marketing your business online, chances are you’re already focusing on harvesting demand. That’s because harvesting demand is traditional “inbound” marketing.

Harvesting demand involves two steps – finding where the demand is, and showing up there.

I’ve written dozens of posts about this topic. Here are a few –

  • How To Create an Inbound Marketing Plan for a Local Business.
  • How To Create an Inbound Marketing Plan for Ecommerce.
  • Beginner’s Guide to Keyword Research.
  • How to Find Pre-Qualified Content Ideas.
  • How To Find Trending Social Media Topics.
  • How To Advertise Online Effectively.
  • Here’s an entire podcast on the topic.
  • Most of my newsletter reading recommendations revolve around this theme.

How to Create Demand

Creating demand is a completely different beast. Again, the opportunities are endless. The key is to make people want and need something they didn’t even know they wanted and/or needed.Which, of course, is more difficult than leveraging what people already know they want.

Creating demand can be done in a plethora of ways, but whichever methods you choose, you need two main elements:

A Strong Pitch + Hook

Creating a strong pitch and hook is really a balancing act. If people don’t think there’s a problem, they won’t invest in your solution. But if they don’t think the problem you’re presenting is areal problem, then they also won’t invest in your solution.

And if you can’t make them see theyneed it (which is an emotional response), then they’re definitely not buying.

Take these pet hair removal gloves byPet Ninja. I’m seeing these ads everywhere. Now, as a dog owner, I can appreciate a great grooming tool. But I would never go out of my way to find gloves that would groom my dog as I pet him.

dog hair brush gloves

www.petninja.com

What makes their demand generation strategy so effective is their pitch. Pet Ninja doesn’t craft some imaginary problem (e.g. they don’t try to take a stand against dog brushes). They merely focus on how annoying shedding is, and how their product makes it easy to get rid of it.

They also rope me in with an emotional hook. Look how happy my dog would be without all that extra fur! And he’ll feel like I’m petting him — it’s a win-win!

Another memorable example is the Squatty Potty that went viral in 2017.

Would you ever imagine needing a product to help your toilet posture for better bowel movements? No?

Exactly the point. And yet Squatty Potty created demand out of thin air with a totally new product category that had people going nuts.

The takeaway? A strong pitch outlines a clear problem, but doesn’t over do it. A strong hook adds in emotion. Combine the two, and you won’t just have a new customer… you’ll have a brand advocate.

Urgency / Scarcity

People want what they can’t have. There’s a reason the urgency/scarcity sales tactic has been around forever and is still used: it works!

Something amazing happens you’ve made people realize they need what you’ve haveandyou’ve made them feel emotionally invested, but you tell them they can’t have it yet… people go crazy.

Think about the iPhone — this is essentially the example for creating demand. Before the iPhone, no one gave a thought to needing a smartphone. Now, it’s more necessary than ever.

When Steve Jobs’ first announced this brand new device (that no one knew they wanted or needed), it was a full 6 months before it even launched. Today, Apple is the world’s 2nd largest company because they’ve been able to create their own demand AND add urgency AND create artificial scarcity through constant upgrades. And the best part? They do it over and over and over with each of their products: iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, EarPods.

You can create urgency or scarcity in numerous ways — delaying a launch, creating a reservation system, limiting the number of orders. The goal is to make people take action… but only after you’ve made it so they can’t live without whatever you’ve got.

Putting It All Together (Takeaways and Next Steps)

Harvesting vs. creating demand shouldn’t be a this or that situation. It should be all about theand. These two techniques should work together in your marketing strategy.

For example, say you’re selling wood earrings. Your guest post on a beauty blog that doesn’t feature earrings may be designed to generate demand around your product, but this same guest post may also help you rank for the same term for those who are already searching for it.

Inventing branded terms work well here, too. Let’s stick with the jewelry example. Let’s say you invent the term “Angular Jewelry” to describe a class of jewelry, and you generate a ton of demand for it. If that term takes off, you can then harvest demand from it way more easily than you could a generic term.

So what do you do now? For immediate next steps, take a look at your own marketing activities. Where are you harvesting existing demand, and where can you start generating demand.  Bucket your activities and look for opportunities to create a symbiotic relationship.

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