How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide

Have you always had an affinity for furry (or scaly) things? Have you ever needed money? If you answered yes to both these questions, you may want to consider starting a pet-sitting business.

But before you pick up the leashes and pooper-scoopers, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out the trajectory of your business. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t fret. Below, we’ll lay out the steps you can take to start a pet-sitting business.

Decide On A Location

Since you’re going to be dealing with people’s pets, you’ll need to take into account your proximity to your clients. If they’re dropping their pets off with you, you’ll want to be located somewhere easily accessible to most of your customers, and one that can accommodate animals. Depending on where you live, this can be tricky as the space necessary to accommodate animals will usually be cheaper in less centralized locations.

On the other hand, if you’re going to your customers, you’ll need to take into account the amount of time you need to spend with each client’s pets, the costs of commuting to the job, and how animal-friendly/animal-hostile the infrastructure in your service area is (dog parks, etc.).

Register Your Business

Why should you register your business? Depending on your local laws, you may actually be required to register your business in order to legally pet-sit. But even in jurisdictions where it isn’t compulsory, there are some advantages to doing so.

The first is that you can do business under a name other than your own. So instead of Martha Swearingen, LLC, you can do business as Baron Bark’s Pet Pampering Service (you can have that one for free).

The default configuration for businesses is a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name or, if you file a DBA (Doing Business As), a name of your choice.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Most pet-sitting companies aren’t going to be interested in forming C-suites for governance, so you can probably ignore S-Corps and C-Corps for now. You may, however, want to consider forming an LLC to provide some separation between your personal finances and liabilities and your business ones.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

As a pet-sitter, you’re not just dealing with property, you’re dealing with animals whose owners often view them as part of their family. In other words, if something goes wrong, things could get ugly.

Depending on your local laws, you may be required to carry certain types of insurance.

The type of insurance that will probably be of most interest to you is general liability insurance. This protects you in the event of a lawsuit or accident, whether it’s an accidental injury to the animal or if you accidentally damage property within a client’s home. It doesn’t only protect you, however; it also makes you look like a safer option than a business that isn’t covered.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance that are worth taking a look at depending on the specifics of your business. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business (as opposed to damages you cause to clients’ property).
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

If you aren’t sure where to look, we can help you.

Invest In Business Software

While not absolutely necessary, you can save yourself and your customers some hassle with strategically chosen business software. For pet sitting, there are probably three types most worthy of consideration.

Payment Processing

Doing business with cash can be convenient when you’re first starting out, but as you grow, you’ll probably be missing out on clients if you can’t accommodate other forms of payment.

Recommended Option: Square

Best Overall Mobile POS


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Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

If you have an iOS or Android device, Square offers an extremely convenient way to accept mobile payments while on the go via a small add-on you plug into your device. It’s also a very scalable service; if you’re running a retail location, there are even more features and service options you can take advantage of.

Best of all, there aren’t any monthly fees to worry about. Square charges between 2.75  – 3.5 percent per transaction (depending on whether you swipe or key in the info), so you’ll want to factor those costs into your expenses.

Scheduling Software

As you add clients, it will get harder to remember their particular preferences, not to mention more difficult to fit them all into your schedule. With booking or scheduling software, you can track your time, note customer needs, and efficiently plan your days’ work. Many of these offer their basic features free of charge.

Accounting Software

Most businesses can benefit from accounting software. What you don’t want is to spend money unnecessarily on one. Wave offers most of the features you need at no cost.

With no monthly fee, you’ll get invoicing, estimates, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and inventory tracking.

Seek Funding

Pet-sitting, especially, if you’re going to your clients, doesn’t have a lot of overhead when you’re first starting out. In the event that you do need to scare up some money to cover starting expenses or equipment, there are a number of options available to you.

Personal Savings

If you can avoid taking on debt, it’s usually a good idea. It may hurt to part with some of your rainy day funds, but you won’t be accumulating expensive interest and fees.

Tap Your Support Network

If you do need money from an outside source, you can often get a better deal from your support system than you can from a private lender.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

For the relatively low expenses you will encounter when you start a pet-sitting business, credit cards can probably suffice for most of your needs.

The general rules of thumb when it comes to using credit cards effectively are these:

  1. Use credit cards for expenses that you can pay off within their interest-free grace period.
  2. Pick a card with a reward program that matches your spending habits and needs.
  3. Do not take out cash advances on your credit card.

If you follow these rules, you can actually save money by using your credit card to make purchases.

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Amex’s SimplyCash Plus offers one of the best cash back programs available without an annual fee. You’ll get 1 percent back on generic purchases, 5 percent back on wireless telephone purchases and office supply stores in the U.S. But it’s the middle tier that’s most interesting. You can select a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising, shipping, or computer hardware) to get 3 percent back.

It also carries an introductory 0% APR for the first nine months, which can be helpful if you’re just starting out.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

This one’s a little more niche. But if you find yourself buying supplies and random pet-related doodads on Amazon frequently, you can get a lot of value out of the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a $119 Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

If you need more money than you can safely put on a credit card, or need longer to pay it off, you should consider getting a personal loan that can cover business expenses.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Create Contracts

If you’ve just been watching your friends’ pets, you’ve probably had an informal agreement about the services you’d provide and the expectations of safety and liability involved. And that was probably enough.

When you’re dealing with strangers in a professional capacity, however, it’s smart to formalize these elements in a contract. This can save you a lot of headaches, if not legal troubles, down the road. You’ll want to include critical information about the pet (when and what they eat, how they are with strangers, pertinent medical history, etc.), what’s included in your services, and the client’s expectations for how their home will be treated under your care (if applicable). You’ll also want to include your fees and rates.

If you can, have a lawyer look it over to make sure it checks out legally.

Market Your Business

Getting the word out is always one of the most challenging parts of getting a business off the ground. The easiest place to start is through word of mouth. Are you already looking after the pets of a family or two? Let them know you’re looking to take on more clients, along with your friends, family, and social contacts.

At some point, you’ll probably want to expand outside the reach of your current contacts, which means advertising. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can post flyers on bulletin boards and leave business cards in places trafficked by pet owners. Online classified sites like Craigslist can also cover a large audience in your area.

Bolster Your Web Presence

When it comes to promoting small business, the internet is one of those things that’s easy to both over- and underestimate. On the one hand, simply buying an ad and hoping for the best likely won’t yield amazing results. On the other, you do need an internet strategy to grow your business.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll probably want a website that details your basic services and contact information. Don’t overthink it. There are a lot of great tools available that can help you build a website.

Remember, too, that social media isn’t just for sharing pictures of your dinner with your friends. You can use to communicate with customers, make engaging content that makes them keep your brand in mind, and announce special deals and service changes.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, everything we covered doesn’t look too intimidating. If you’re good with animals and don’t mind turning that love into a source of revenue, you can get a pet-sitting business up and running in no time!

Having second thoughts about pet-sitting but are still looking to open a business? Check out our other beginners’ guides.

The post How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee

How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee

Even though you are not legally required to purchase health insurance for a single employee by law, there are still great reasons to offer health benefits. In addition to attracting quality applicants for your position, your business also runs better when your employee is happy and healthy. And it may not be as expensive as you think.

Here is a quick rundown on procuring health insurance for both yourself and your employee. The good news? It doesn’t have to be a difficult process!

What Is Health Insurance?

How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee

Small business health insurance is medical coverage that helps you pay for general medical care, routine physicals and health exams, surgeries, and medical emergencies. Each health insurance plan is a unique combination of options that run the gamut between deductibles and no deductibles, copays or no copays, and choices about medical providers.

Is Health Insurance Legally Required For Small Businesses?

The answer to this question in general is: Maybe! But it’s not legally required if you only have one employee.

Here’s a break down of the recent health insurance laws and what they mean for your small business.

In 2010, the Federal Government passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and through that health care mandate, over twenty-million more Americans have had access to health insurance who didn’t before. Many of those people were sole-proprietors, independent contractors, and small business owners. Better known as “Obamacare,” the health mandate extended to employers and required businesses of a certain size to provide health insurance.

So, what exactly does the Affordable Care Act mandate? If your business is considered an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) with 50 or more full-time employees for more than six months out of the year, then you will need to provide your employees with health insurance as a legal requirement of the ACA.

If your business is not an ALE, then supplying health care for your employees is a choice. 

So as a small business owner with only one employee, you are not required to have health insurance. But, just because you don’t have to provide it doesn’t mean you should overlook health insurance as an option. Providing health care is not only a choice but also a wise investment in the happiness and well being of your employees, and the government offers tax credits to businesses with fewer than 25 full-time employees who supply health coverage.

Can You Have Health Insurance With One Employee?

How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee

Can you provide health insurance for your small business if you only have one other employee? Yes! You can! If your business consists of just you and one other person, you can offer health coverage in several ways. However, before you start shopping for plans, it’s important to understand what types of plans will be available to you and what you’ll need to show and prove to start the process.

What Constitutes An Employee?

Insurance companies have a specific definition of an employee. If you are looking into acquiring group health insurance for you and an employee, first you’ll have to prove that you actually have a single employee while you are filling out applications. According to the definitions, a common law employee cannot be you (the business owner) or your spouse. An employee is defined as someone whose workload you control, both in what that work is and how that work is performed — and that person must also be working at least 30 hours a week. An independent contractor cannot be considered an employee.

If you do not have a qualifying employee, group health insurance isn’t an option. Don’t let that discourage you from finding coverage, however. There are many independent and family plans available when during open-enrollment periods.

Can I Enroll In Group Health Insurance With One Employee?

If you have one employee as defined above (a person whose workload you control, who puts in at least 30 hours, and who is not your spouse), then you absolutely can enroll in group health insurance with one employee. If you have between 1-50 employees, the government’s Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) group health plans are available to you.

SHOP will walk you through the process of determining eligibility, sending you to your state’s group health plan, or helping you compare and shop available plans in your area. After that, you can sign-up directly through the insurance platforms offered in your state or work with a SHOP broker who can walk you through the process. You will need to have information on the following aspects of your business:

  • Your business address
  • How many employees you are insuring
  • Employee ages, zip codes, number of dependents (sometimes tobacco use)
  • Business name
  • Tax ID

The Benefits Of Group Health Insurance

Even though group insurance isn’t your only option, it has many benefits. Here are some of the reasons why group health insurance is a worthwhile consideration:

  • Tax Credits: Under the guidelines of the ACA and the tax codes for 2019, you may be eligible for a tax credit if you enroll your business in group coverage and you have between 1-25 employees.
  • Lower Costs Than Individual Plans: Prior to the group health plans offered for small businesses with one employee, the alternative was to purchase individual plans. However, with each new person added on to a group plan, the cost per policy lowers.
  • Coverage Designed Specifically For You: Group health insurance broadens the plans and providers you can choose from, whereas with independent insurance, you get what you get. With group health insurance, you and your employee can discuss health options and choose a group health plan that fits with your needs. The opportunity to choose the deductibles and copays you want is one valuable reason to go through a group insurance provider.
  • Better For Your Business: Three-quarters of job-seekers say that health insurance and benefits are one of the key factors they are looking for in a job.

How To Enroll In Group Health Insurance

Once you’ve decided to enroll in group health insurance, you will need to gather your company’s information and your employee information to start the process. Here are the steps you’ll need to go through to fully enroll you and your employee with a group health insurance program:

Step #1: Set A Budget

Examine your business’s budget and ask yourself: How much money should I allot to health care? How much will I contribute per employee? You want to choose a plan that offers good coverage to your employee, but that also fits within your business’s budget. This will play a large role in which business insurance plan you choose. It’s vital to know exactly what you are paying for and what you might be asking your employees to pay for.

Step #2: Know What Plan & Benefits You Need

What kind of coverage are you hoping to offer? Go prepared to your first meeting with a provider or broker with an idea of what kind of policy would benefit your employee the most. Decide if you are going to include ancillary insurance options like dental and vision to the policy.

Step #3: Gather The Proper Documents

To receive an accurate health insurance quote from an insurance broker, you’ll need to provide some numbers and documentation. Before you call an agent or a broker, make sure you have gathered and prepared the proper documents. Most often, you’ll need to provide your:

  • Business address
  • Employee information
  • Business name
  • Tax ID

Step #4: Start Shopping

Whether you pass along your information to a broker or head to the SHOP site or other online sites for your state, now you’re ready to actually start shopping. Decide if you want to choose the broker approach or head out on your own. (If you decide to outsource to a Professional Employer Organization, they will take it from here!)

Step #5: Compare Quotes

Study the numbers and look at the plans. Sometimes the cheapest plan may not be in your best interest as a small business owner. Examine how much you can buy and how the plans work for your employees. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, push for numbers, and run scenarios with the experts. When comparing quotes and choosing the right health provider, do your research.

Read on for more advice about choosing the right health insurance provider for your small business.

Finding The Right Health Insurance Plan

How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee

Health insurance is a complicated issue and can feel overwhelming. So, how do small business owners (with all their extra free-time) navigate the system and find the perfect health plan choice? Start with understanding your needs as an employer; make sure you know the basic terms (co-pay, deductibles, co-insurance, out-of-pocket expenses), decide how much you can afford, and compare how different networks will work best. 

There are several ways you can compare and contrast providers and plans. Healthcare.gov offers ratings of health plans and under an in-network plan, you can plug their name into the system and see availability and ranking. You can then sit down with the list of providers in your area and look at their rankings as well.

See our longer post on small business health insurance for more things to think about as you make your choice.

Getting Started

If you can demonstrate you have one employee, then you are set to explore group health options for your company. The best place to start would be the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) group health plans. Tool around their site, enter your information, and see what options are available.

Health insurance is not a trivial purchase — your employees work harder and better when they feel protected and healthy. Now, with the addition of the tax benefits and expanded options, it’s easy to finally make it happen.

The post How Health Insurance Works For Small Businesses With Only One Employee appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

If you are a small business with a physical storefront, a location where you store your goods/supplies, or a strong inventory of vehicles and equipment, buying a commercial property insurance plan should be part of your risk management plan. Commercial property insurance is designed to protect your business from accidents, theft, fires, and some (but not all) Acts of God.

If the worst-case-scenarios for your property come to fruition, a solid commercial property insurance plan creates a way for your business to run and thrive despite the setbacks.

What Is Property Insurance?

Commercial property insurance is a policy of coverage that protects your business assets in the event of property damage. Accidents, fires, and vandalism are all covered by property insurance, and the policy not only provides compensation for damage to buildings but also damage done to products inside the building. Structures, fixtures, and equipment inside the building are protected under property insurance, but it’s best to check the policy and speak to an insurance expert to make sure your most important assets are included in the policy’s coverage.

When you file a claim, you can choose to receive the cash value of the destroyed items or the replacement value (how much it would cost to replace new). However, policies are often specific in what they’ll cover and what they won’t cover. Read on to see what is and isn’t covered in most policies.

What Property Insurance Covers

In general, the commercial policies will cover accidents, damage, and theft to your building and assets inside your building. In most cases, commercial property insurance policies will cover the following (although, as with any policy, ask questions about the coverage):

  • Damage and destruction from a fire
  • Losses and damage from theft and vandalism
  • Damage from tornados or a hurricane
  • Sinkholes
  • Smoke damage
  • Damage from aircraft or other vehicles crashing into your building
  • Damage from riots/civil unrest

What Property Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Most commercial property insurance policies will not cover everything and the list of things not covered is extensive. Most policies don’t cover flood, tsunamis earthquakes, and sewer backups among other things.

Sometimes the exact same damage is covered or not covered depending on how the damage occurred. For example, if your toilet backs up and sewage destroys your property, it isn’t covered. But if that same toilet backs-up because of vandalism, that is covered. Since policies vary by carrier, it’s important to learn exactly what is and isn’t covered by your insurance provider.

Who Needs Property Insurance?

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Most businesses need a basic type of commercial property insurance if they have a physical location for their business. The coverage will protect business assets in the event of damage to the property. Buildings, machinery, and some electronics are covered under the policy.

If your business is leasing or renting a commercial space, you will need to check with your landlord to see who is expected to carry the burden of insurance. Some landlords will still expect you to pay rent on a damaged building (and it is becoming more common that you will need to supply proof of insurance before signing a lease), so understanding your business insurance policy will help with surprises. Even if commercial property insurance is not required by a landlord, you don’t want to find yourself under-insured.

You should get commercial property insurance if you need to protect the following items:

  • A commercial space (that you either rent or own)
  • Computer and electronic equipment
  • Office furniture and supplies
  • Inventory and stock

Property Insurance VS. Business Owners Policy (BOP)

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Many business owners find that it is better to bundle their commercial property insurance policy with a general liability policy. This is known as a Business Owners Policy (BOP) and is often the most economical way to protect your business from the biggest claims for and against your business.

What Is A Business Owners Policy?

A Business Owners Policy (BOP) is a bundled policy that includes both property and liability insurance. Check with specific insurance providers about what their particular BOP entails. Under a BOP, many business owners can add extra insurance coverage that exceeds the basic coverage of a commercial property policy. (And if you have employees, a BOP can also negotiate worker’s compensation insurance into the bundle.)

What Does A Business Owners Policy Cover?

All Business Owners Policies (BOP) have general liability insurance and commercial property insurance bundled into one policy. General liability coverage protects your business from the cost of a lawsuit due to accident or injury to someone’s person or property. Additionally, a BOP includes commercial property insurance which provides protection to your assets in the event of damage to your property. Most BOPs also include business income insurance or additional coverage against theft through crime insurance. (Each policy is different and most can be tailored to fit your business risks.)

Additional Types Of Property Insurance

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

When you start shopping for commercial property coverage, you’ll want to know what you can add to your policy to make sure it is the best fit for your business. Most commercial property policies don’t cover earthquake damage or flooding. Are you in an area where the fault lines aren’t predictable? You’ll want extra coverage. Is your business’s location prone to flooding? You’ll want additional flood insurance.

It’s important to ask about additional policies to cover the following possible situations if they are risks for your area/business type:

  • Water damage due to flooding/tsunamis
  • Damage from earthquakes
  • Mold damage
  • Acts of war
  • Debris removal
  • Employee theft
  • Sewage backups
  • Loss of business income from closure

Which Type Of Property Insurance Is Right For You?

Type of Insurance What It Covers Who It Is For

General Liability

Protects your business from the threat of a lawsuit

All businesses

Property Insurance

Protects your building and things inside your buildings from damage and accidents

Businesses with a physical property site and products located in those physical locations

Business Interruption

Provides resources if your business is forced to stop or relocate

Businesses located in riskier areas and businesses who might work with vendors in risky areas

Commercial Auto Insurance

Provides protection from accidents on your commercial vehicles

Businesses that rely on automobiles to do business

Workers Compensation

Provides protection to you and your employees should they become injured on the job

All businesses

Professional Liability (E&O)

Protects your business during a lawsuit if your business commits errors or malpractices

Any business that provides a service

Product Liability Insurance

Protects a business from a lawsuit related specifically to the product it sells

Any business that manufactures, sells, or distributes a product

Home-Based Business Insurance

Protects any business-related items inside your home not covered by home owner’s insurance

Any business owners running out of their own homes

Business Owners Policy

Includes both general liability and commercial property insurance

All businesses

Umbrella Insurance

Provides a bigger ceiling for the legal costs of a lawsuit that extends your liability coverage

All businesses

Whether you are buying a commercial property policy separately or as part of a business owner’s policy, knowing which types of insurance are available will help you make the most informed decision for your business. Here are the types of policies you can add to your general liability policy.

  • Direct Damage Property Insurance: This is your standard commercial property insurance. The policy covers any direct damage to your business location and damage to business property.
  • Business Interruption Insurance/Business Income Insurance: After a disaster, the business may need to close its doors for a bit. This insurance covers the lost income due to a closure and it also helps provide protection for expenses related to the closure (temporary locations, moving supplies, etc.).
  • Extra Expense Insurance: For businesses that cannot afford to close (a 7-day business like a clinic or a security center), in the event of a disaster or interruption to the business, this policy helps provide the finances to move to a new location or minimize the financial effects of a shutdown. It is similar to business interruption service but targeted specifically toward the extra expenses of moving a business to a new location.
  • Leasehold Interest Insurance: If a business loses its lease (especially if they had a nice lease, under market-value), this insurance covers the financial loss of losing the lease. It can also help pay back a business owner for betterments to the space that they are leaving.
  • Fine Arts Coverage: If you decorate your space with tapestries and rugs and paintings, you might need fine arts coverage if you’d want to replace it after a disaster. Because fine art needs a valuation, someone who purchases this floater coverage would want to itemize their art. However, this is specifically designed for people who use fine art as decoration and have no intention of selling it. (That would require a larger insurance policy.)
  • Contractors Equipment Coverage: This additional coverage specifically covers and replaces equipment and tools that are either damaged or goes missing on a job site. For contractors and construction businesses that might have expensive tools in a variety of locations, this floater will specifically insure machinery and tools.
  • Cyber Liability Coverage: If you are the victim of hacking or a data-breach, and your customer data is leaked (including social security or credit card numbers), it can cost your business a lot of money to comply with federal guidelines. This coverage helps pay legal fees and protects you from lawsuits arising because of the data breach. If your business is online or you collect information online, this is an important addition to your plan.
  • Electronic Data Processing Coverage: This insurance protects the equipment and the data that you collect. This is a policy that bridges a gap in your commercial policy between what electronic equipment is insured after an accident or disaster. With this add-on, your computer hardware, as well as software and data information, is all insured.
  • Employee Theft Insurance: If a dishonest employee steals equipment, money, or securities, the losses are covered under this additional policy added to your commercial property plan. This plan will even cover the losses if you don’t know which employee committed the crime, and it is part of the crime add-ons to a commercial property policy.
  • Inland Marine Insurance: A commercial property policy will only cover items at a specific business location, so what if your equipment and business materials travel from one place to another? This type of insurance covers things in transit or an instrument of transit or any equipment that is moveable.
  • Debris Removal Insurance: This section of property insurance covers the cost of removing debris after an accident or Act of God. While property insurance may cover the cost of repair, without this specific add-on to your policy, the cost to remove garbage and debris may fall on you as a business owner.

Buying Property Insurance

Once you’ve decided to invest in commercial property insurance, you’ll now need to decide what type of coverage is best suited for your business and make a list of assets you’d like to protect. After that, read our article on the steps needed to buy insurance. There are four quick steps to getting yourself secured with the right policy.

  1. Assess your risk and choose which insurance you need.
  2. Gather the necessary business information (in this case, you’ll need specific details about your commercial property including square footage).
  3. Comparison shop the costs. (You can use comparison sites like Coverwallet, Coverhound, and Insureon, or contact your local insurance provider to see what commercial plans are available.)
  4. Purchase your insurance!

Commercial property insurance is important to provide needed protection for your building and the assets inside your building. Whether it’s a fire or an unruly mob of people, if your property is damaged, don’t be left to pick up the pieces on your own. Find a policy that will give you peace-of-mind and adequate coverage to the things that matter most.

The post Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

As a home-based business owner, you may think that your homeowner’s insurance is enough to protect your business in the event of an accident or a disaster, but it might not provide the coverage you need. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 30% of homeowners run a business out of their home and up to 44% of small business owners (sole-proprietors, freelancers, and home-based businesses included) are not protected with proper insurance. Some homeowners insurance plans only cover up to $2,500 of business equipment loss and some plans do not cover a home-based business at all.

Most home insurance policies are there to protect the house and the homeowners — not a business. If you run a small business out of your home, you should consider adding business insurance as an endorsement to your plan or invest in business insurance separately. Your small business is your baby and one disaster could shutter those dreams. Why roll the dice?

Read on to see how to prepare your home-based business from future risks.

What is Homeowners Insurance?

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

Homeowners insurance is there to protect your house and your assets from disaster and destruction. In homeowners insurance language, there are various “perils” your policy will protect you from. A basic HO-1 plan protects you from 10 perils; a more comprehensive plan will protect you from 18 listed perils (or perils you and an insurance agent itemize.) The basic perils are:

  • Fire/lightning
  • Hail/windstorms
  • Explosions
  • Riots or civil commotion
  • Damage from flying aircrafts
  • Damage from vehicles (but not the insured’s vehicles; only other people’s)
  • Smoke damage
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruptions

Notable exceptions to the most basic homeowners plans are earthquakes, flood protection, and sinkholes. These must be added as additional endorsements to any plan.

If you have a mortgage and are borrowing from a lender, it is usually a requirement of your loan to show you have a homeowners insurance policy. A basic homeowners insurance policy might protect up to $2,500 of business-related equipment stored inside a house at the time of a disaster, and that’s all. For businesses with more than $2,500 of equipment or which could be seriously affected by property damage, a homeowners policy is not enough coverage.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover My Business?

A homeowners insurance policy will not specifically cover your business or your business assets in the case of an accident, disaster, or lawsuit. While your policy may cover up to $2,500 of business property stored inside your home, your policy will likely not cover more than that, and unless business items are listed specifically as covered in an expanded homeowners policy, you could see your business assets go up in smoke (or walk out in an act of theft, etc.). If you want to pay an additional $50 a month, you may be able to get an extended ceiling of protection on business-related items, but even that may not cover all the disasters or accidents your business might encounter.

True small business side-story: My mom, who taught childbirth and Lamaze classes as an independent contractor, kept all her teaching supplies in our garage. In 1996, Portland flooded, my house included. A box of my mother’s childbirth teaching tools washed away and, thankfully in an era before viral-videos, somehow our neighbor captured some pictures of plastic pelvises and laminated birth photos just floating down the street…

Why risk it? Right? Additional coverage will make sure that any business supplies (plastic pelvises included) are protected.

Most small business owners don’t think about insuring their businesses until an accident or disaster has already occurred. Don’t let insurance be an afterthought until it’s too late.

When To Buy Business Insurance Instead

If you are a home-based business owner and you are contemplating business insurance, it’s important to understand the benefits. Even minimal coverage could save thousands of dollars and grant you peace of mind. Homeowners insurance won’t protect your business from a potential lawsuit — or help if your business information is hacked online. Statistics from insurance giant Insureon show that 1 in 3 businesses go bankrupt because they are under-insured.

Do not rely on your homeowner’s insurance to cover you or your business assets in the case of an emergency, accident, or disaster. If you can say yes to any of the following, then you should consider looking into business insurance. Do you:

  • Work with clients/customers?
  • Keep work equipment at your house?
  • Store customer data on your computer?
  • Drive places to meet clients?
  • Drive around with business supplies in your car?
  • Give advice as part of your business?
  • Have a home located in a high-risk-zone for natural disasters?
  • Employ others?
  • Have clients visit you at your house?
  • Have inventory at your house or somewhere off-site?

5 Types Of Insurance For Home-Based Business

home-based business insurance

Once you’ve decided to take the step to insure your home-based business, you’ll have to choose which plan and policy will be the right fit. Allow your mind to temporarily wander to the dark list of worst-case-scenarios, and find the policies that will match with how best to protect yourself. Every business has risks and there are no risk-free guarantees, but you also don’t need to insure yourself for things that aren’t a risk for your particular business.

Here are the top five most common home-based business insurance policies worth looking into:

1. Home-Based Business Insurance

Many insurance providers have a home-based business insurance plan that bundles several of the most common types of insurance freelancers, sole-proprietors, and home-based business owners might need. Each insurer’s plan and policy is different, so check with providers to get a list of what their current home-based business insurance covers. Most home-based business plans include general liability and commercial property coverage, and also have business interruption service and business data-protection.

2. General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance protects you in the event of a lawsuit or an accident. Claims against a business can arrive in the form of bodily injury, property damage, personal injury to a customer (including slander or libel), or false advertisement. General liability insurance guards a business against financial ruin if a client slips and falls or if someone is offended by a social media post and decides to sue you.

3. Commercial Property Insurance

This type of insurance protects all of the property needed to run your business. Even if you run a home-based business, this coverage would be a way to protect the cost of your home office and the equipment stored at your house. A commercial property policy covers business products inside your house — and other people’s property while it’s in your care. Property damage due to theft also falls into this policy. Property insurance is the policy that will cover your home and your business property when it’s away from your home.

4. Business Interruption Service

If a business needs to close its doors due to a disaster — natural or otherwise — business interruption service will repay the costs of lost revenue and business expenses accrued during the interruption. For example, if your house catches fire, your property insurance will get you back up and running in terms of damage, but if you had to close your business for a few weeks, business interruption service will help offset the financial loss.

5. Professional Liability (E&O)

Professional liability insurance (commonly referred to as errors and omissions or E&O) covers the cost of defending your company in a lawsuit where the claim is that your business caused a financial loss for a client (error) or did not perform a service as required (omission). This type of insurance may be required for medical and legal businesses, but it is generally an add-on to liability insurance and can be an important addition for home-based businesses. If you give advice as part of your business plan, you’ll want professional liability to protect you from lawsuits.

Some other options to consider: If you drive a lot as part of your business model, you might want to consider commercial auto insurance and make sure to check and see if extra endorsements are needed to add flood and earthquake protection.

A good rule is: If you use it for your business, insure it properly. No business is exactly the same and but your unique needs can be met.

Finding The Best Insurance For Your Home-Based Business

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

You’ve decided to insure your home-based business: Great! If anything happens to your home, to your supplies away from home, or to the things you need to run your business, you won’t have to be one of the 33% of businesses that has to close after a disaster or accident.

Whether you’ve decided on hunting for an insurance company that offers home-based business insurance specifically or you want to work with an insurance professional to piece together a plan that covers your unique needs, the hunt for business insurance doesn’t have to be arduous. You can buy business insurance in 4 easy steps:

  1. Choose the insurance you need
  2. Gather business documents (square footage of your office space, how much income you earn, equipment you’d like insured)
  3. Compare costs (some sites like Coverwallet, Coverhound, and Insureon compare multiple agencies at once for you)
  4. Make your purchase

How much does business insurance cost? The answer is simple: It depends. The size of your business and the endorsements you might add will determine the amount you pay. Basic coverage will run between $300-$1000 dollars a year on average. (Rates also depend on deductibles and whether or not you have other policies with the company.)

All businesses will have hiccups and accidents, but only some businesses will have coverage for those moments. Don’t put off thinking about protection until it’s too late. The question a business needs to ask itself is: Can I afford not to buy insurance?

The post Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund An Amazon Business

Have you been thinking about starting an Amazon business? If you said “yes,” and you’re not thinking about a rainforest logging company, you’re probably interested in plugging into the world’s largest e-commerce platform.

As of 2018, Amazon accounted for nearly 50 percent of eCommerce transactions (eCommerce accounts for somewhere north of 10 percent of overall retail sales). If you’re not sure how to tap into that action, you’re not alone. Below, we’ll look at both the necessary and optional steps it takes to get an Amazon business up and running.

Learn How To Sell On Amazon

When people talk about “Amazon businesses,” they’re usually talking about the Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) business model. Under an FBA arrangement, Amazon will warehouse and ship your business’s products from their own fulfillment centers. This allows you to take advantage of Amazon’s well-developed storage and shipping infrastructure and processes. It also grants you access to Amazon’s Prime customer-base, most of whom will be looking to buy products that qualify for 2-day shipping. Be aware, however, that FBA comes with both storage and fulfillment fees (which, notoriously, can change at any time), so you’ll need to do some math to figure out if you’re saving money with the service.

Already have a lot of space and want to handle the shipping costs yourself? Or are you trying a dropshipping model? You can still sell on Amazon without taking the FBA route. You can even still tap into the Prime market via Amazon’s Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) program. In order to qualify, your business has to:

  • Offer premium shipping options
  • Ship 99% of your orders on time
  • Have an order cancellation rate of less than 0.5%
  • Use Amazon Buy Shipping Services for at least 98.5% of orders
  • Deliver orders with Amazon-supported SFP carriers
  • Agree to Amazon’s Returns Policy
  • Allow Amazon to deal with all customer service inquiries
  • Pass a trial period to demonstrate compliance with the above, during which the Prime badge will not be displayed on your items

At the time of writing, there was a waitlist for the SFP program, so bear in mind that you may not be able to jump into it immediately.

Finally, you can simply ignore all this Prime business (and customers, potentially) and just sell products on Amazon.

Decide What You’re Going To Sell & Where You’ll Get It

This is arguably the hardest part of starting an Amazon business. There are countless products you could deal in, but far fewer you should deal in.

Your starting budget can help narrow things down a bit. You want to be able to stock enough inventory to build a brand, not just sell a couple of items and then disappear. Once you have some items in mind, you’ll need to do some research to get a sense of costs and selling prices and see if there’s a niche for that product that you could occupy.

There are numerous ways to go about this, from brute-forcing your way through Amazon’s categories and making a spreadsheet to using popular tools like JungleScout to help find and rate opportunities. Be sure to check out other sales platforms to see the price point at which they’re selling the product. If you’re in the FBA program, you can also use Amazon’s FBA calculator to help sift through data.

Figuring out where to source a product is another part of the puzzle. Do you have a hot connection that can get you products at cost? (Alibaba is a popular tool for finding suppliers, for example.) Are you going to buy popular brands when they’re on sale at retail and then sell them at a higher price point? Are making a product yourself that will compete with similar products on Amazon? Do you need to make dropshipping arrangements with a third party? Remember to think about how sustainable your sourcing method is when creating your strategy.

Finally, also consider the nature of the item you’re sending. Will it sell year-round? Can it be shipped safely without breaking? Is it efficient to ship? Are there state-specific restrictions to consider? The fewer variables you have to worry about, the better.

Determine How Much Money You’ll Need

Once you know how much money you’ll need to launch your business, you can figure out the rest of your costs.

Selling on Amazon, as you can imagine, isn’t free — but it doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re commitment-shy and don’t have a ton of product to move, you can get by on as little as $0.99 per sale. If you’re moving more product, you’ll want to budget $39.99/mo for a Professional account (more on that later).

If you’re going the FBA route, you’ll need to account for Amazon’s fulfillment and monthly inventory fees. The former vary by the weight of the item and, at time of writing, start at $2.41. The latter vary by time of year and the size of the items, ranging from $0.48 to $2.40 per cubic foot.

You’ll probably want to also invest some money in presentation and branding to help your business stand out among competitors. How much this costs can vary depending on who you hire (unless you’re a competent graphic designer yourself), but budget between $200-$300 to get something you’ll be proud of.

Finally, if you’re doing your own fulfillment, make sure you can cover shipping costs.

Determine How You’ll Get Funding

It’s not necessarily that expensive to start an Amazon business, but what do you do if you don’t have the funds to cover your starting expenses? Here are some options:

Personal Savings

The first place you should probably look for spare cash is your own savings. You saved up for a reason, right? Investing in your new business is as good a reason as any.

The nice thing about using your savings is that you don’t have to worry about debt or accumulated interest.

The downside? If your business is a bust, you’ve lost your savings.

Tap Your Support Network

Another option, especially if you don’t have much in personal savings, is to ask friends and family for a loan. Unlike a private lender, your support system probably isn’t trying to make a profit off of you.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

You’ve probably been warned about leaning too heavily on credit cards, and it’s generally not bad advice. The interest rates can be murder if you carry a balance on your card. However, for purchases that you can pay off quickly, credit cards are actually one of the best ways to buy, especially if you have a card with a reward program that matches your purchasing needs.

Just remember to pay off your credit cards every month, within the interest-free grace period. If your purchase is too large for you to be able to comfortably do that, you’ll probably want to consider another option.

Note: Avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary. They come at a very high cost.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

You’re going to be spending a lot of time on Amazon, and possibly buying through it, so the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card may give you the most bang for your buck.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

Business loans can be hard to come by for new businesses, but you — the human being who owns the business — have presumably been around long enough to acquire a credit history. You can use that to your advantage by getting a personal loan for business purposes.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Lines Of Credit

If you anticipate needing to make a lot of smaller purchases over a long period of time, or even just want some “insurance” to fall back, you may want to consider a line of credit.

A line of credit works a bit like a credit card in that you can tap it whenever you want, in whatever amount you want, so long as your purchase doesn’t exceed your credit limit. Most lines of credit are revolving, which means that, as you pay them off, that credit becomes available for you to use again.

In contrast to credit cards, lines of credit usually have lower interest rates, making them better for the times you have to carry a balance. However, many do have annual fees and some charge a fee whenever you tap them, and they can take up to 24 hours to process your request. You also generally (there are exceptions) won’t find the generous rewards programs you’ll find with credit cards.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox provides lines of credit up to $100,000 to U.S. businesses. There’s no minimum credit score, you just have to have annual revenue of at least $50,000.

Fundbox charges based on the amount you draw, but fees start at 4.66%. Repayments are made weekly over 12 or 24 weeks.

Vendor Financing

Vendor financing is a very specialized form of business loan where a company will lend a buyer a sum of money, which the buyer then uses to buy inventory from the vendor.

Recommended Option: Amazon Lending

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Did you know Amazon offers loans to sellers on its platform? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. Amazon doesn’t really advertise the service much, and you can only access it by invitation. Knowing that it is an option, however, may be useful should it arise.

Amazon loans range between $1,000 and $750,000, and must be used to purchase inventory to sell on Amazon. Rather than being based on your credit score, Amazon loans are based on your performance on the site.

Purchase Order Financing

Another highly specialized type of financing that sellers can tap into is purchase order financing (sometimes just “purchase financing”). Basically, purchase financing is used to fill large orders that may exceed your current inventory or your ability to restock with cash on hand. A purchase financer will generally require confirmation of the order and proof that your company has experience handling orders of this size.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf can offer businesses between $300 – $50,000 in purchase financing for most types of inventory. Term lengths are pretty short (1 – 6 months), and you’ll be charged 1 – 3 percent interest every month. Payments are made weekly or monthly, with weekly payers receiving a 10 percent reduction in their borrowing fees.

ROBS

If you haven’t heard of Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS), don’t feel bad. They’re extremely niche products for entrepreneurs with retirement accounts like 401(k)s.

For a fee, a ROBS provider allows you to use money from your retirement account to pay for startup costs without incurring the tax penalty you normally would by tapping those funds early.

As is the case with personal savings, you are risking your own money.

ROBS will be overkill for most new businesses, but if your startup costs look like they’re going to pile up, keep them in mind.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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If you’re in the market for a ROBS, it’s worth checking out Guidant Financial. If your retirement account has at least $40k in it, you can roll over up to 100 percent of your funds.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Register Your Business

If you don’t want to be selling products under your birth name, you’ll probably want to register your business.

This part is technically optional, but if you’re planning to build your business into more than an occasional source of freelance income, you should probably register your business.

If you do nothing at all, your business will default to a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name. If you want to change it to something else, you can file a DBA (Doing Business As), which will protect your new business name and allow you to–you guessed it–do business under that name.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

Depending on where you incorporate, business insurance may be optional or mandatory, but since you’re going to be dealing with a lot of tangible goods shipped through the postal service to remote customers, you’ll probably want to consider it.

General liability insurance can protect you in the case of lawsuits or accidents, including property damage and personal injury claims against your business. It can also make your business seem more professional to prospective clients.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance you may want to consider depending on what you’re selling and to whom. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business.
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

Create An Amazon Seller Account

Access to the platform is pretty straightforward and involves creating an Amazon account if you don’t already have one. You’ll be asked for information about your business, tax information, product information, billing and deposit accounts, and compliance with the Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement.

Amazon offers two plans:

  • Professional: $39.99/month, grants access to order reports and order-related fees, selling in multiple categories, and the ability to customize shipping rates
  • Individual: $0.99 per sale closing fee on each item you sell on Amazon.

If you plan on doing more than just the occasional sale, you’ll probably want to choose Professional.

List Your Inventory

Now that you’re ready to go, you just need your potential customers to be able to see your product.

From your Amazons Seller account, under the inventory tab, you can add a product. You can then either search Amazon’s catalog to see if that product is already listed or create a new listing. If your product category is restricted, it will need to be approved before you can get beyond this stage, so if possible, try to find a rationale to categorize it into an unrestricted one.

At this point, you can either make your product go live (if you have the inventory ready to be shipped) or simply list it if you need to send your inventory to Amazon (in the case of FBAs). You can then fill in the information about your product. If you need a UPC code, you can buy one online.

There are a number of different strategies for getting your products to stand out on Amazon. Search engine optimization (SEO) strategies will serve you well here, so be sure to identify useful keywords that will help customers find your products. Another critical element is taking good pictures of your products so they’ll look appealing on the site. If you aren’t confident that you can take quality pictures yourself, you may want to spring for some professional ones.

A lot of other things can also affect your ranking, from conversion rates to customer reviews, pricing, time spent by customers on your page, bounce rate, and more, but the guiding rule is this: Amazon likes sellers who make them money, and will promote the ones they feel most reliably turn queries into sales and create satisfied and returning customers.

Final Thoughts

Amazon has changed the way many people shop, but it has also has provided sellers with a potentially low-cost way to get tangible products to customers. Competition is intense on the platform, but shrewd salespersons can still take advantage of its unparalleled convenience.

The post How To Start And Fund An Amazon Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is Business Interruption Insurance And Do You Need It?

Do you need business interruption service?

There are many risks to running a business. One of the worries a business owner might have is, what would happen if I had to close the business for a time due to an accident or disaster?

Do you have a plan to deal with a loss of income or pay for utilities that aren’t working? What if you have to temporarily relocate? All of those scenarios cost money, possibly money you’re not earning. With a business interruption insurance endorsement, you don’t have to let a temporary closure result in a full closure or bankruptcy. If your business needs time to heal after a fire, a tornado, hurricane, or even an act of vandalism, this insurance provides the coverage you’ll need to keep moving forward.

Read on to learn more about business interruption insurance, including exactly what it covers, how to buy it, and more.

What Is Business Interruption Insurance?

What Is Business Interruption Insurance And Do You Need It?

If you have to shut your business for any amount of time due to a disaster or accident, business interruption insurance will protect the income you might lose and help you move to another location so you can open your doors quickly. While your property insurance might cover the physical damage of a fire or hurricane, it does not cover financial business losses. Business interruption insurance is limited to either your business’s projected gross income or your net profits.

You may be under-insured if you don’t include interruption coverage in your contract. (Business interruption coverage is an endorsement added to a commercial property policy or can be part of a Business Owners Policy. For more information on those types of policies, visit our article on the types of insurance you might need.)

What Business Interruption Insurance Covers

You can’t buy business interruption insurance by itself, so all businesses will need to bundle their business interruption endorsement with a commercial property policy. However, if you add a business interruption endorsement to your risk management plan, be aware that the policy will cover only specific aspects of your business.

  • Loss Of Profit/Income: If you are forced to close your business because of a covered disaster or accident, any lost profits or income up to a certain amount are covered in your plan. This can be a huge relief to someone in, say, a hurricane zone where a storefront might experience temporary or long-term closing.
  • Relocation: If your business is ravaged by fire or destroyed by a windstorm and you find yourself needing to move to a new location to operate, your business interruption insurance will cover the costs of that move (including moving fees and installation and set-up fees of tech and equipment.)
  • Operating Expenses: This will protect the bills you’ll need to continue paying even though your doors are closed. Employee wages are included under operating expenses, as is your rent or lease payments,
  • Paying Your Taxes: If you owe taxes or are paying property taxes on a location you can’t access, business interruption insurance will help.

What Business Interruption Insurance Doesn’t Cover

As with most policies, each company and policy will itemize exactly what is and isn’t covered. Business interruption insurance is very specific and often will state within the paperwork covered and non-covered events. While each policy is different, for most business interruption insurance policies there are specific losses and risks that are not covered.

  • Undocumented Income: Outdated records may hurt you. If you gave raises or have brought on new employees since you started your policy, your coverage won’t be enough. If you make any updates to employment, update your insurance as well.
  • Partial Closures: Only closed part-time? Business interruption insurance only becomes available once your business is completely closed. If you are still able to maintain some of your business services, then you cannot start a claim for business interruption.
  • Losses From Non-Covered Damages: If your property insurance covers floods, your business interruption will cover floods. If it doesn’t? Then your business interruption may not cover losses.
  • Economic Slumps: Unfortunately, there’s no way to make your business recession-proof.
  • Coverage From Power-Outages: A power-outage is not covered under business interruption insurance, no matter the cause. This type of temporary interruption is too ubiquitous to cover effectively. (Some policies set an amount of time that the power must be down to receive help.)

Types Of Businesses That Need Business Interruption Service

Here’s the general advice out there for small businesses: Any business with a physical storefront or location or any company that relies on manufactured goods and supplies from one or two distributors should invest in business interruption service.

A natural disaster could strike at any time and the stress of not knowing if you will be able to pay your bills or your employees is a stressor that could keep you up at night. Protect your income. Protect your worker’s wages. 

Commercial property insurance will cover your building and the things inside your building in the event of a fire or a storm (some disasters like floods and earthquakes need additional insurance coverage), but that coverage is only for physical property damage. The long-lasting effects of a closure on your business could be disastrous. Many insurance experts recommend looking into a Business Owners Policy (BOP) that can include general liability, property, and business interruption in a package.

If you have to cease business entirely because of a disaster, your business will lose money. The quicker you get back up on your feet, the better chance your business has of surviving an accident.

Beyond that, you should think about adding an interruption policy to your risk management plan if:

  • You have a physical store location
  • You conduct any part of your business on the internet
  • You are located in an area of the world that sometimes experiences a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, ice-storm, flooding, wildfires)
  • You could not pay your employee’s income if your business closed for a few weeks
  • Your business depends on other businesses for supplies
  • You need other leader properties around you to draw traffic to your store
  • Your business depends on manufacturing from one specific supplier
  • You deal in volatile materials

Why these certain elements? There are situations where one small property disaster for you or for a supplier could also put your business in jeopardy. Your business can be interrupted by a supplier or manufacturing plant suffering an accident or closings its doors. Let’s say you are a brewer who relies on one specific type of barley and your barley supplier has a bad crop and you can’t make your beer. Business interruption service could cover a situation like that, too. If you are a small boutique located near a larger store that drives in most of your foot traffic, if something happens to that leader property your policy could cover the loss of income due to that larger store’s accident.

How Much Coverage Do You Need?

What Is Business Interruption Insurance And Do You Need It?

Once you’ve decided to invest in adding business interruption insurance, you will need to decide how much coverage you plan to purchase. In general, your coverage is determined by profit. How much your business needs will depend on several factors and questions:

  • How easily can you keep doors open at a temporary location?
  • How long will your business be closed?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • How much income will you insure and how much?
  • Does your current location have an updated sprinkler system/is a fire risk?
  • Are you located in an area where you could find another retail space easily? 

If your business is located in an area with a high risk for a natural disaster (known hurricanes, tornados, wildfires) your coverage might need to include entire seasons where you are at risk. If your business is easy to move and relocate, doesn’t rely on outside manufacturing, and has a handful of employees, you will need less coverage than a business that can’t easily relocate, will have to wait for their location to reopen to do business, or relies on other local businesses.

You can feel confident that you are getting the right coverage if the plan fully covers loss of income and payroll expenses, your projected gross income, and your projected net income. 

Buying Business Interruption Insurance

Business interruption insurance is an add-on endorsement to your commercial property insurance, so the first place to go is to the insurance company that currently issues your commercial property insurance. If you are in the market for a new policy or don’t have a commercial policy or Business Owners Policy (BOP), then most places that sell business insurance will offer Business Interruption Service.

There are four easy steps for buying insurance: Know what insurance you need, gather your business documents, comparison shop, and purchase! 

Websites Insureon, CoverWallet, and Coverhound offer comparison shopping so you can view several insurers offers at once.

Cost may be a deterrent for some small business owners. Policies can run from as little as $750 to $10,000 a year. Business interruption policies are very specific on their limit terms: your policy will itemize everything it will/will not pay out and up to how much. Your insurance team is responsible for walking you through the itemization.

To add business interruption coverage, you’ll need current documentation of your net income. Policies tend to pay per incident, but a low per-incident limit may not be enough if you hit your cap before you can open your doors again.

Once you add business insurance, keep careful and attentive records of your income as it fluctuates. If you need to boost your coverage, you’ll have the documents to show the insurance company your income.

Business Interruption Insurance Terms to Know Before Buying

Do I need business interruption insurance

As you sit down with your insurance agent, broker, or team leader in charge of buying insurance, educate yourself on some of the lingo that might come up while you plan your policy. Before you can make decisions about what kind of coverage you need, you’ll need to understand what the policy means. Here are some of the common phrases included in s business interruption insurance plan.

  • Actual Loss: The policy will only cover damage related to the disaster. Not everything will get an upgrade and if you choose to update or renovate beyond the price of the actual damage, the insurance company will not cover updates.
  • Business Income: This is your net income. Lost net income will be the sum of your lost profits and disaster-related expenses.
  • Period of Restoration: This is the time that you might need to get your business back up and running again. Your plan will account for a specific amount of time the rebuild/restoring will take place.
  • Extra Expenses: These are the expenses that occur because of the disaster (you didn’t need a rental truck before, but now you do).
  • Service Interruption: This coverage directly relates to your utilities. You can’t insure specific companies, nor can you insure against service disruption because of earthquakes.
  • Contingent Business Interruption: This is the coverage that helps you if your business is contingent on other businesses to do business. If another company suffers a loss that affects your bottom-line then this policy would protect against your losses.
  • Leader Property: If your business derives its foot-traffic from a more profitable and well-known store, that store is called a leader property. If the leader property suffers a loss and it affects your store, you may be protected from those income losses.

Final Thoughts

An interruption to normal business could happen for a plethora of reasons; even if you can’t envision a worst-case scenario, it doesn’t mean you’re exempt from encountering a loss. Since business interruption insurance can easily be added (or is included in some Business Owners Policies), it’s important to check with your insurance professional to crunch the numbers.

If you need to shut your doors for any reason, business interruption insurance will protect you, your assets, your employees, and the future of your business. Especially if you are a business in a zone with a high probability of natural disaster, this is insurance coverage you shouldn’t skip.

The post What Is Business Interruption Insurance And Do You Need It? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It

Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It

If you are a startup business, you obviously have a lot to juggle. That said, business insurance should be a top priority as you move forward. Go ahead and Google “lawsuit and startup” (or maybe don’t if you’re panic-prone) and the news will run the gamut.

Even if you aren’t a doomsday type of buyer, there are many other reasons to be insured. Maybe you need to show insurance to your investors and clients before they’ll join you on your venture, or maybe you need to secure commercial property insurance to set up shop in a physical space.

Bottom line: You need insurance.

Even if your startup is a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company, the financial impact of a mistake or a lawsuit could cripple your startup or create a situation where your personal assets could be at risk. Why toss the dice?

Read further to see why you need insurance, what kind of insurance you might need, and the most cost-effective ways to secure insurance for your startup.

Why Startups Need Insurance

Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It

Startups need insurance for the same reasons that any business needs insurance: there are risks involved with starting and running a business, and a mistake or accident could permanently cripple your finances and your chances for success. Since startups, by nature, are new and innovative and often work with up-and-coming technologies, you may not even be able to imagine all the ways you could put yourself at risk. You need business insurance precisely because you’re wandering around in unfamiliar territory. Time spent worrying about potential pitfalls is time you could be using to build your business: insurance buys you fewer things to worry about.

Also, in some instances, business insurance might be legally required. (If you have even one employee, depending on where your business is located, you’ll need worker’s compensation as a minimum.) Lawsuits and angry customers — and perhaps even upset investors — may be part of your startup’s journey, and the best way to gain some confidence and assurance is to protect yourself.

You might need business insurance if you:

  • Have a physical storefront/location for your business
  • Rent business equipment or property
  • Use a car or a fleet of cars
  • Advertise or have an online social media presence
  • Employ people
  • Work with customers
  • Provide professional advice
  • Want to protect personal assets
  • Have investors in your company

In the discovery stage of your startup, you may not need as much insurance as you will later on when you are gaining momentum and adding employees and partners; however, it’s never to early to understand what you need and why.

8 Types of Business Insurance Startups Might Need

Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It

For a startup business, the types of business insurance to choose from can be long and tedious to understand. Each type of insurance protects a different aspect of your business and could be required based on business demographics like where you are located, how many employees you have, and what type of risk is involved in your startup.

While individual needs will vary, here are the basic types of business insurance startups should consider.

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance covers your expenses should you go to court to defend an accident, an injury, or damage to property. Typically, your policy will pay for legal representation, litigation fees, out-of-court settlements, and judgments set by the court. Sometimes called “Slip and Fall Insurance,” general liability will also cover medical bills if a client is injured due to an accident at work. This is the foundational insurance policy that every business should have. Accidents happen and this basic coverage makes sure you won’t lose your business when they do. 

Commercial Property Insurance Or Business Owners Policy

If you own a commercial property, have a storefront, or have a physical location for your office, then you will need a commercial property insurance policy. This policy covers theft and damage done to your property through vandalism or wind, rain, snow. General liability insurance covers people and commercial property insurance covers things. There is also a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) that joins commercial property and liability together in a bundle for extra savings.

Commercial Auto

Sometimes a startup will make the mistake of assuming that their personal auto insurance is enough to protect a car driven for work. However, it’s a known fact that even reputable insurance companies look for ways to avoid paying a claim. If you use your car for business or have employees out driving around for your business (especially if you have a commercial fleet of vehicles), you will need commercial auto insurance. Don’t assume your personal insurance is enough to cover a vehicle involved in an accident during business hours.

Professional Liability

This type of insurance policy is sometimes called malpractice insurance or errors and omissions insurance (E&O). If someone in your company makes a professional mistake (an error of judgment) or omits key information that impacts someone financially (an omission), people can sue you.

Startup businesses are in a state of flux as they establish themselves and might be more likely to inadvertently make a professional mistake. If your company is in the business of giving advice, professional liability protects you in the event that someone feels your advice was harmful, either to them personally or to their company. Thinking of professional liability insurance as malpractice insurance is the best way to understand the various ways people might try to find your company liable.

Cyber Liability

Twenty years ago, cyber insurance protection wasn’t even on the radar of business owners. But if your business has any type of online presence or if you use a database to store customer information, this provides an added layer of protection in the event that your website or database is hacked and personal information is leaked. When a hack occurs, there are many legal requirements related to communicating with customers and securing their identities in the aftermath. A cyber liability policy covers the financial fallout of a data breach.

Worker’s Compensation Insurance

If you have employees, you’ll need worker’s compensation insurance to cover you and your business in the event that an employee is injured on the job. General liability insurance will cover an injured customer or client, but an injured employee falls under a different umbrella of insurance — one that is a legal requirement. (As with most insurance policies, however, the legal requirements are state specific.) Workers compensation pays for medical and legal fees if your employees are injured at work.

Employment Practices Liability Insurance

Employment practices liability insurance protects you against a discrimination or wrongful termination lawsuit. Even if you can’t imagine one of your employees or startup partners making a claim of discrimination, it could happen, and the costs to defend yourself could become crippling.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines eleven different types of possible workplace discrimination: age, disability, equal pay, genetic background, nationality, pregnancy, race, religion, retaliation, sex, and sexual harassment. Employment Practices Liability Insurance helps protect your business in the case of a discrimination lawsuit.

Key Person Insurance

Key person insurance is a life insurance policy on the key person/owner of a business. If you die and your startup can’t function without you, what happens? (Insurance is fun to talk about at parties: Hey, let’s talk about all the accidents that could happen or the different ways people might sue you. Also, what if you die?) But also: what if you die? If someone’s brain and personhood is a big part of a startup’s success, then the startup may be able to insure that person’s life with the company as the beneficiary. If a key person in your startup passes, that insurance money can be used to pay off investors or keep the company from bankruptcy.

How Much Does Startup Insurance Cost?

Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It

Insurance costs will vary depending on the financial makeup of your company. Insureon analyzed its 18,000 policies of business insurance for companies with 10 employees or fewer and came up with the following numbers: the average cost for business insurance is $1281 annually with the median at $584.

What will affect your insurance costs the most? Well, not everything is in your control: you may need workers compensation as a legal requirement and general liability to work with contractors, but what else could lower or raise the average cost?

  • Your Business Size: What is the physical square footage of your business? What kind of space does it require? A larger space will require a larger policy.
  • Your Business Location: Where you are located will affect your premiums because some states are more accommodating than others toward small businesses and startups. Are you located in a state that is considered small business friendly or lawsuit friendly? Location also factors into other business risks like flooding, crime, and foot traffic.
  • Business Sales Reports: How much money do you make? The more money you make, the more insurance you’ll need. An actuary (someone who assesses your company’s risks) will look at your numbers and see how much you — or they — might stand to lose.
  • Your Business Industry: Some industries are built with more risk than others, and the insurance company will examine all the ins and outs of how your business operates to know the best ways to protect you.
  • Number Of Employees: More employees, more insurance costs.
  • Claim History: As with any insurer, the actuary will also look at your past business history and see if you have made any claims in the past.
  • Types Of Policies: The bigger your business, the bigger the policy. If you don’t have any employees and can stick with general liability, you will pay pennies next to a business that is working to protect employee incomes.

With so many factors specific to your own business, it’s important to check with an insurance professional to itemize your needs and the costs associated with each policy.

Ways To Save On Startup Insurance

As with all things in business, finding a cost-effective way to provide services is always at the forefront of a startup owner’s thoughts. Let’s be honest; money is on your mind. As a startup, you might be juggling how to finance your company and are noticing that sometimes loans require insurance. (Your lender wants to know you will be able to fund this asset; insurance gives confidence to lenders if you financing through loans or through grant money.) Maybe your investors require insurance or maybe you already understand its necessity for your peace of mind, and you want to get the cheapest insurance possible.

However, it’s important to understand that a cheaper policy may not be cheaper in the long run. If you start with a higher deductible and a lower limit, your monthly premiums may seem manageable, but one claim could put those entire savings at risk. At that point, you are banking on the best-case-scenario and still not effectively planning for the worst-case-scenario: a business risk.

Without going light on the coverage you need, here are a few ways you can try to save a few dollars:

  • Bundle Policies: Bundling your insurance policies will often save you money. Consider a business owner’s policy which combines both general liability and commercial property insurance.
  • Shop Around: The lowest quote may not always be the best deal in the long run if the company wouldn’t support you when you submit a claim. Research the carriers and their ratings. Five independent agencies (including Standard, Poor, and AM Best) rate the financial strength of an insurance company and you can use their services for free if you sign up for an account.
  • Choose A Higher Deductible: A deductible is the amount of money you will pay before your insurance kicks in. Choose a higher deductible and your premiums will go down. (Understand that one lawsuit or claim could eat up that whole deductible and may not be cost-effective in the long run; so be prepared to pay that deductible and crunch the numbers.)
  • Find Group Rates: Group rates might be available for your industry and if you can purchase insurance as part of a group, your premiums will go down.
  • Work With An Agent Who Specializes In Business: Not all insurance agents, brokers, or companies are created equally. And certainly, not all of them will understand the specifics of your industry. Go out and find someone who knows your business and can help you understand the
  • Pay Your Premium In Full: It may be cheaper to pay your premiums for the year in one lump sum rather than spread them out in 12 monthly installments.

Getting Started

Okay. Your startup needs insurance, that’s a given. You now have a general understanding of what policies you might need and how to save a few dollars insuring your business. What next?

There are many ways to get started. Check with your current insurance company to see if they offer commercial business plans. If so, see if it is cost effective to bundle your personal and business insurance policies. If not, go shopping. Many sites like Coverwallet, Coverhound, and Insureon will comparison shop for you and walk you through the steps required to make an insurance purchase.

Your startup needs protection. Don’t make the mistake of leaving yourself vulnerable for an attack when your company isn’t ready to handle the pressure or the financial fallout.

The post Business Insurance For Startups: How Much It Costs And Why You Need It appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

5 Steps To Purchasing Health Insurance
Step 1: Set A Budget
Step 2: Know What Plans & Benefits You Need
Step 3: Gather The Proper Documents
Step 4: Start Shopping
Step 5: Compare Quotes

Health care is daunting, complicated, and time-consuming. So, for small businesses without a large HR department, navigating the health insurance process can suck up time and energy that you simply don’t have. Are you required to have health insurance for your employees? If you aren’t required to have health insurance, should you? And how much is it all going to cost you?

The potential questions and concerns can become overwhelming. That’s why we’ve created this complete guide on small business health insurance. We want to break down this process for you to make it easy and understandable, so you can get back to what matters most — running your business. We’ll talk about what health insurance is, when it’s a legal requirement, why it benefits your business, how much it costs, where to find the best plan, and much more.

Read on to familiarize yourself with the world of small business health insurance.

What Is Small Business Health Insurance?

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

At the most basic level, health insurance refers to insurance policies that cover medical expenses.

Small business health insurance is group insurance designed to meet the needs of a smaller organization that may not have a full HR department to organize health benefits.

Some employers are legally required to provide health insurance to their employees depending on the size of their business. But even if it’s not legally required, health insurance is a competitive benefit that can help set your small business apart and increase employee loyalty and — you guessed it — health.

If you want to provide health insurance but you have no idea where to start, keep reading.

Am I Legally Required To Have Health Insurance?

The answer to this question is going to come down to the size of your business. Here’s a break down of the recent health insurance laws and what they mean for your small business.

In 2010, the Federal Government passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and through that health care mandate, over twenty-million more Americans have had access to health care. Better known as “Obamacare,” the health mandate extended to employers and required businesses of a certain size to provide health insurance.

So, what exactly does the Affordable Care Act mandate? If your business is considered an Applicable Large Employer (ALE) with 50 or more full-time employees for more than six months out of the year, then you will need to provide your employees with health insurance as a legal requirement of the ACA.

If your business is not an ALE, then supplying health care for your employees is a choice — and a good one at that. Read on to learn the benefits of offering small business health insurance to your employees.

The Basics Of Health Insurance

Health insurance is just like any other insurance: it protects people if they need medical care due to an illness or an injury and it provides preventative care–routine check-ups, annual tests. The amount of money a person might pay for a routine visit or an emergency visit or surgery will vary depending on the health plan, however, and so understanding how health insurance works is an important first step in deciding how best to cover your employees.

There are many ways that health providers share the cost with the consumer and these choices can have a drastic effect on the out-of-pocket costs you and your employees pay under your specific health insurance plan. Here are some of the most common health insurance terms and what they mean for you:

  • Deductibles: This is an amount of money you will pay before your health insurance takes over and pays for you. (Lower premiums per month might result in a higher deductible.)
  • Copayment (Copay): This is the fixed amount you pay for services. (For example, every office visit is $20 or every prescription is $10.)
  • Coinsurance: This is the percentage of the cost you will pay for services after you’ve reached your deductible. (For example, with a 30/70 coinsurance, you will pay 30% of the cost for services and your insurance will cover 70%.)
  • Out-Of-Pocket Limit: The maximum amount of money you are expected to pay for services in a calendar year. After your limit, the insurance covers 100% of services.
  • Health Care Provider Network: This is a list of doctors and other providers that will accept your insurance.
  • In-Network: A specific list of providers/specialists your insurance will accept.
  • Out-Of-Network: Providers and specialists that your insurance may not pay for or will cover a smaller portion of the expenses.

In order to highlight how all of these terms work, here is a quick breakdown that I’m going to call “The Tale of Two Insurance Options.”

Employee A, aka Jenny:

Jenny is 25-years-old and doesn’t have any major health complications. Her employer has offered insurance through a Health Care Provider Network. She pays no out-of-pocket fees per month for her health insurance, but she has a $500 deductible (which she hasn’t hit yet) and a co-insurance policy of 20/80 for services.

One day, Jenny gets a massive headache and temporary blindness. She calls her doctor and her doctor says to go to the Emergency Room to rule out any major medical issues. At the ER, she pays a $100 copay to be seen, but then the tests they run are billed to her on the 20/80 scale. The ER visit ends up costing $6000, of which she is responsible for $1200. That visit = $1800 ($100, $500 for the deductible, plus the $1,200).

Employee B, aka John: 

John is 25-years-old and doesn’t have any major health complications. His employee health insurance is through a Health Maintenance Organization and he pays a pre-tax out-of-pocket amount of $100 a month to cover his own insurance needs. (So, over the course of the year, he will pay $1200 toward his own insurance costs.) He is having a major blinding headache, so he goes to the ER. He pays only a $100 ER copay and nothing else. That visit = $100.

These are only two scenarios, but they highlight how each type of health insurance can dramatically change how you and your employees are billed for medical expenses. It’s crucial for you to understand as an employer how nuanced the health care choice can be for your employees.

Health insurance is a specialized type of insurance and your dedication to getting it right will go a long way in establishing a positive relationship with those you employ. You want to save on cost and navigate the marketplace. Your employees want to know they are covered if they become sick or injured.

When insurance is employer provided, employers have the final choice about the structure of benefits, and while bigger costs upfront might lead to lowered costs down the road, and vice versa, it’s an employer’s responsibility to become knowledgable about these terms and insurance options and how each one might affect health care choices for employees. The growth of your business may depend on it.

Not only will understanding the basics of health insurance help you choose the right insurance plans, but the burden to explain the options may fall to you, so knowing the basic principles of how health insurance works are key.

Why Should I Offer Health Insurance?

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

You may be legally required to provide this option to your employees, but if you aren’t you may be asking yourself, why is health insurance worth the cost and the hassle?

Even though you may not be legally obligated to offer health insurance, there are several key benefits of offering health insurance that may make it more than worth it for your business. Plus, with this guide, setting up your small business health insurance isn’t as much of a hassle as you might think. In this case, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

Happy Employees, Happy Life

First and foremost, humans need to be happy and healthy, and happy and healthy employees work harder, faster, and contribute more. Worries about money and health are high on the list of what creates stress in an employee’s life, but health insurance can relieve that stress and make an employee feel valued.

Keep Your Businesses Competitive

The other reality is that employees want health insurance and are looking for businesses that offer it.

A small business committed to recruiting and maintaining talented employees needs to remain competitive in the job market. Talented employees know their worth and may not consider job offers that can’t offer health insurance. According to a 2018 Harris Poll commissioned by Glassdoor, 63% of job recruits apply for a job based on benefits offered. Health insurance is something potential employees rank as second only to salary when considering a new job offer.

If you want your business to be competitive and to grow, health insurance is a must.

Save On Taxes

If you have fewer than 25 employees and your average yearly income is less than $50,000 then you may be eligible for tax credits. Even if you aren’t eligible for tax credits, the money you spend on employee health is tax deductible. Employee-paid premiums are tax exempt.

Talk to your accountant or tax professional to see if you qualify.

Your Peers Are Doing It! 

I mean, yeah, if your friends jumped off a bridge…but when we frame what the people around us are doing as a positive, then take the plunge! More and more businesses are offering health insurance to their employees, which means that soon it could be industry standard.

Main Types of Health Insurance Plans

Small business health care coverage

As you start to shop for health insurance, you will find that there are several specific health insurance plans for you to choose from. The main differences between these plans come down to:

  • Size of the network
  • The cost for you and for your employees
  • The ability to see specialists without referrals
  • The size of the in-network
  • Cost coverage for out-of-network services

Benefits for each choice vary, so it’s important to figure out which health insurance option is the best for your business type and size. Here is an overview of each of the major health insurance plans and what they mean for your small business.

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

An HMO is a type of health insurance plan where there is a network of doctors that accept your insurance. Your employees only have access to providers employed through the HMO and out-of-network care is often not covered (except in an emergency). The HMO provides a lower cost option to employees but lowers the choices of providers/hospitals where they can be treated.

The HMO plan is ideal for:

  • People who want to know exactly what each visit will cost
  • Young and healthy people
  • People with known health procedures and a significant number of appointments (for example, pregnancy)
  • People who don’t need many specialists
  • Focused on prevention and wellness

With an HMO, the insured must retain a Primary Care Physician and go through that doctor for referrals to specialists. That means this plan is not ideal for people who need care across a wider geographical area (people who travel). However, out-of-pocket expenses tend to be lower and more predictable.

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

A PPO is a type of health insurance plan where a network of doctors agrees to accept a set payment. Unlike the HMO, you aren’t limited to in-network provers, so you have access to any health provider you choose (out-of-network providers just cost more). You also do not need a referral for specialists. While you are not limited to in-network providers, using in-network providers is cheaper. Since there are most choices, the premium costs of a PPO are generally higher.

The PPO plan is ideal for:

  • People who might spend more for more specific care
  • People who want choice on which medical professionals to visit
  • People who visit specialists and want the option to choose their own

The PPO plan is more choice for more money and gives greater flexibility on which care providers you can see.

Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)

An EPO is a type of health insurance plan where you can only go to the doctors and hospitals offered in-network (except in the case of an emergency). It is similar but less expensive than an HMO plan, and there is a larger selection of in-network providers than with the HMO.

The EPO plan is ideal for:

  • People who don’t mind what doctor they visit
  • People who will benefit from lower deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses
  • People who might need to see specialists
  • People who might need care across a wider geographical area (people who travel)

EPO plans are similar to HMOs with the biggest difference being that you may not need a referral to see a specialist within the provider’s organization.

Point Of Service Plan (POS)

The POS plan is an insurance plan that falls somewhere between an HMO and a PPO. With A POS, you have to select a Primary Care Physician and go through that doctor for referrals to specialists. You can still go to out-of-network providers; you’ll just pay more. You will pay less if you go to the list of doctors in-network.

The POS plan is ideal for:

  • You don’t mind choosing a doctor within a provider list
  • Young and healthy
  • Have no plans for any long-term health needs
  • Have out-of-network specialists they want to see (counseling, therapy, dermatology)

Even though a POS plan is not as common as an HMO or PPO, it provides a hybrid of coverage that may be the best fit for your employees.

High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), & Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

These plans are designed for someone who anticipates no looming need for health care. Every month, employees can pull out money pre-tax and shelter it in a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). In a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), preventative care is often covered at 100% but any additional health costs would be paid by the employee from their HRA or HSA.

Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA)

This is not technically an insurance plan but an arrangement between an employer and an employee to cover medical expenses. An employer will agree upon a certain amount of money they will reimburse the employee over the course of a year to go toward medical care. Employees may enroll in the Individual Health Marketplace and then use their QSEHRA to pay for the coverage.

Which Type Of Health Insurance Is Right For Your Business?

In order to determine which health insurance is right for your business, you’ll have to decide how much of the upfront costs you are willing to contribute to your employee premiums and what kind of insurance options would be the best fit. Here are the biggest factors in health insurance costs:

  • Medical history
  • Prescription drug coverage
  • How many visits are needed to a doctor per year?
  • What specialists are provided, if any?
  • Specific employee medical needs and history
  • Any plans you have for pregnancies, etc.

It is illegal for you as a business owner to ask your employees for health information. (For example, you have women of child-bearing age that you want to provide good health insurance for, but you cannot ask your female employees if they plan on becoming pregnant!) But knowing your employees and their needs should direct your choices.

So, ask yourself the following questions: What benefits do my employees need? How much choice am I giving my employees? What will their out-of-pocket costs be?

The answers to these questions should guide you to the right health insurance benefits. Read on to figure out where to find health insurance and how to purchase the perfect health insurance plan.

Getting Started: Where To Find Small Business Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

Once you have decided what kind of insurance you need, the next phase is to shop for insurance for you and your employees. There are several places to look, depending on your needs. Here are the main places to find small business health insurance:

Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

If you run a small business with fewer than 50 employees, you may be eligible to enroll in the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). If you qualify, you will need to fill out a SHOP Eligibility Determination Form.

Then you can choose to sign-up directly through the insurance platforms offered in your state or work with a SHOP broker who can walk you through the process. You will need to have information on:

  • Your business address
  • How many employees you are insuring
  • Employee ages, zip codes, number of dependents (sometimes tobacco use)
  • Business Name
  • Tax ID

Sole-proprietors and the self-employed may register through the Individual Marketplace during open enrollment. Businesses with 50+ workers can explore health insurance costs through a variety of insurance companies that offer larger programs and plans (but are specifically ineligible to apply for the SHOP) year-round.

Online Insurance Carriers

Contact online insurers directly to get a quote and see what plan could work best for you. A simple Google search can lead you to many providers that will sell to you and your business directly. Those businesses include but are not limited to Kaiser Permanente, UnitedHealthCare, JustWorks (the platform for Aetna and Metlife), Humana, etc.

Join A Purchase Alliance

A purchase alliance is a private version of the government’s SHOP options. With a purchase alliance, you pick a private health exchange. Then you agree to a pay a specific amount for coverage per employee. Your employees will choose a plan offered by the purchasing alliance.

With a private health exchange, you are not eligible to receive a tax credit. However, it can be more competitively priced — and if your employees are paying for their medical care from pre-tax money, it can be a cost-effective program for you both.

Use A Professional Employer Organization (PEO)

A PEO is a business that outsources its human resources department. Since the hours required to do human resources are considered non-revenue generating, sometimes there is a question about whether or not it is worthwhile for an owner to spend their time working on payroll, insurance, claims, etc. Often, it seems more cost-effective to pay a flat rate for a different organization to take that off your plate.

If the administrative aspect of the job is taking over too many of your revenue-buildings hours and you have more than ten employees, it could be cost effective to invest in a PEO. (The cost varies per business but can run anywhere between $150-$1500 an employee.)

Hire An Insurance Broker

Sometimes you just need an expert. A broker’s job is to be the go-between an insurance company and your business. They will negotiate the sale of the insurance and they have a legal responsibility to get you the best price. An insurance agent at a firm is there to represent their firm, but an insurance broker is hired specifically to work for you.

How To Purchase Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Health Insurance

You have decided that purchasing health insurance for your small business is a great idea and now you are looking for the right way to start. The process of purchasing health insurance doesn’t need to be too overwhelming: the research beforehand is the most daunting part (which you’ve already got a leg up on simply by reading this post).

Now that you know the basics of health insurance, here are five easy steps to purchasing health insurance.

5 Steps To Purchasing Health Insurance
Step 1: Set A Budget
Step 2: Know What Plans & Benefits You Need
Step 3: Gather The Proper Documents
Step 4: Start Shopping
Step 5: Compare Quotes

Step 1: Set A Budget

Take a look at your business’s budget and ask yourself the following questions: How much money should I allot to health care? How much will I contribute per employee?

You want to choose a plan that offers good coverage to your employees, but that also fits within your business’s budget. This will play a large role in which business insurance plan and provider you choose. It’s vital to know exactly what you are paying for and what you might be asking your employees to pay for.

Step 2: Know What Plan & Benefits You Need

Now that you know how much you can spend on health insurance, it’s time to think about which plan both fits within your price range and provides the benefits you’re looking for.

Here are some things to ask yourself to help pinpoint the right health insurance plan and level of coverage for your small business:

  • How many employees do I need coverage for?
  • How old are all my employees? How many of them are smokers?
  • Am I going to add ancillary options to the insurance plan? (Vision or dental? What are you willing to pay for prescription drugs? Do you want to offer a wellness program?)
  • How much of my employee’s premiums am I going to pay? (For tax credits, you will need to cover at least 50% of the premium coverage.)
  • Will I also offer insurance to dependents and part-time employees?
  • Am I going to have a waiting period before employees are eligible to collect insurance?

Your answers to these questions will help you know exactly what you need and where to look for the right health insurance providers. If you go prepared into your first meeting with an insurance agent or broker, you’ll be one step ahead of the game and off to the right start on your health insurance-buying journey.

Step 3: Gather The Proper Documents

To receive an accurate health insurance quote from an insurance broker, you’ll need to provide some numbers and documentation. Before you call an agent or a broker, make sure you have gathered and prepared the proper documents. Most often, you’ll need to provide:

  • Your business address
  • How many employees you are insuring
  • Employee ages, zip codes, number of dependents
  • Sometimes the employee’s tobacco use
  • Business Name
  • Tax ID

Step 4: Start Shopping

Whether you pass along your information to a broker or head to the SHOP site or online sites, now you’re ready to actually start making purchasing decisions. Decide if you want to choose the broker approach or head out on your own. (If you decide to outsource to a Professional Employer Organization, they will take it from here!)

There are a few things to consider when evaluating providers:

  • The financial strength of the provider
  • Customer service ratings for the provider
  • Claims service ratings
  • Plan prices
  • Policy offerings and coverage benefits
  • Provider choices.

Step 5: Compare Quotes

Study the numbers and look at the plans. It’s safe to say that sometimes the cheapest plan may not be in your best interest as a small business owner. Examine how much you can buy and how the plans work for your employees. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, push for numbers, and run scenarios with the experts. When comparing quotes and choosing the right health provider, do your research.

Read on for more advice about choosing the right health insurance provider for your small business.

Choosing The Right Health Insurance Provider

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Health Insurance

We’ve stressed the importance of health care and the various nuanced ways plans can differ. Actually choosing the plan for your employees rests on your shoulders and choices. Start with understanding the basic terms (co-pay, deductibles, co-insurance, out-of-pocket expenses), decide how much you can afford, and then move on to comparing how those networks will work best for your employees.

If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of choosing providers, there are several ways you can compare and contrast providers and plans. Healthcare.gov offers ratings of health plans and under an in-network plan, you can plug their name into the system and see availability and ranking. You can then sit down with the list of providers in your area and look at their rankings as well.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Medical Care: Ratings of providers will tell you how well the plan does with managing their member’s health. Individual ratings for providers will let you know how well they manage the medical care of the people enrolled in their coverage and what percentage of people are happy with their coverage.
  • Member Experience: Ratings about member experience also look at what percentage of members get preventative care, regular check-ups, and vaccines. Does the provider show a willingness to pursue healthier options?
  • Wellness Programs: Does the provider give enrolled users access to wellness programs, including stress management, smoking cessation, or weight loss programs?
  • Administrative Rating: An administrative ranking will look at the customer service rankings, overall health scores, and how well a member can access their health records online.

Once you have an understanding of the rankings and you’ve researched the providers in your area, you are ready to pursue health insurance! Decide if you want to use a broker or go directly to talk to an insurance agent, sit down, and gather your quotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Of all the business insurance options available, health insurance can be the most nuanced. Here are some of the most common questions small business owners have when thinking about small business health insurance:

How Much Is Health Insurance Going To Cost Me?

There is no number we can give without knowing more details. It may not be that much or it may be a ton, depending on a few important factors: how many employees do you have, how old are they, what kind of plan do you want to offer them, and how much do you intend to pay?

To give you a rough idea: A company in Oregon with 40 full-time employees that wanted to offer “Gold Level Benefits” (90% coverage) through a SHOP sponsored provider and cover 100% of the premium costs, could pay around $12,000 a month for health benefits. Deductible costs, out-of-pocket limits, PPOs or HMOs — all of those decisions factor into the cost as well.

Are There Any Ways To Save On Health Insurance?

Health insurance is expensive. The best way to save money while on the hunt for insurance is to shop around. Compare as many providers as you are able and explore the bottom-line numbers with each. Another way to save would be to switch your health plan to a more limited network of providers (an HMO or an EPO).

Where Do I Find Health Insurance?

If you have fewer than 50 employees, check the SHOP marketplace for information about what providers are available in your state. If are a sole proprietor or self-employed and you want to explore the individual healthcare marketplace, head on over to healthcare.gov and select your state to get started. (Note that for individuals the 2019 open enrollment period is over.)

When Can I Enroll in Health Insurance?

The next open enrollment period for health insurance starts November 1, 2019. However, if you are a business that needs to comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there are private insurance companies that will assist you at any point in the year. Employees must also wait to enroll in their business’s provided health insurance until an open enrollment period (exceptions can be made for certain life events like getting married or having a baby).

What is the Affordable Care Act? 

In 2010, the Federal Government passed the Affordable Care Act (ACA). There were many facets of the law, including lowering insurance premiums, mandating health coverage, and expanding Medicaid. One of the sections of the ACA was to mandate coverage for businesses with more than 50 full-time employees and offer tax incentives to businesses who provide health coverage.

Making the Leap

Phew. So, with all the various options for small business health insurance, the questions of cost and insurance type will come down to you and what your employees need. Ultimately, health insurance is a crucial cost of business because keeping employees happy and healthy goes hand in hand with running a successful company.

Make yourself acquainted with the terms of each insurance package and help employees understand their benefits, too. It’s easier than ever to find a way to insure your health and the health of your employees.

The post The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Cleaning Business

Entropy is a powerful force. If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s that everything gets dirty sooner or later. If it doesn’t get dirty, it gets cluttered. Add in the increasing prevalence of two-income households, the pace of modern work, and long commutes and it’s not surprising that more and more people are letting their chores slide. And that’s not even taking into consideration the huge messes businesses make. The fields are ripe for the harvest — why not cut yourself a piece of the action and start a cleaning business?

Luckily, the overhead costs of starting a cleaning business are fairly low (at least up until you start adding staff). Still, you’ll want to have a good sense of what you’re getting into before you dive into the cleaning industry. It’s vital to have a plan to tackle the expenses and challenges you’ll encounter along the way.

Not sure where to start? We’ll break starting and funding a cleaning business into a step-by-step process below.

Make A Business Plan

What separates a business from a side gig? Well, a lot of stuff, but one of the bigger points of delineation is whether or not you have a business plan and a clear strategy.

Creating a business plan can be an intimidating prospect, but you don’t need to have a business degree to write one. You don’t even need to have taken a class.

A business plan is, essentially, an outline documenting what your business is, what it does, how it’s organized, its financial means, and a strategy for how you intend to grow.

There are a lot of resources online that can give you an idea of what a business plan looks like, as well as templates to help you get organized, but a typical business plan has the following parts:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Overview
  • Sales & Marketing Strategy
  • Operating Plan
  • Organizations & Management Team
  • Financials

Calculate Startup Costs

The good news about launching a cleaning business is that it’s possible to start one with relatively little overhead.

At a bare minimum, you’ll need cleaning supplies. This assumes you’ll be doing the cleaning yourself and aren’t taking on any additional employees right away. If you’re cleaning residential homes, these supplies will more or less be the same ones you use to clean your own home. If you’re getting into commercial cleaning right away, you’ll likely have to invest in equipment (and possibly personnel) that can handle larger volume messes and expansive spaces.

If you plan on cleaning as more than a side gig, you’ll also need to pay fees to register your business. This isn’t a very big expense if you’re content with running a sole proprietorship (or partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else) –usually less than $50. You can also file a DBA, which allows you to legally do business under another name (the name of your company). We’ll get a bit deeper into it in the next section.

Additionally, you should factor in any initial advertising costs, as well as transportation costs for getting yourself or your employees to the work sites.

Register Your Business

Registering your business may sound intimidating, but it can actually be one of the easiest parts of starting a business.

Why should you register your business? At minimum, it protects the name you’re using to do business so that no one else in your area can (legally) use it. It can also help you qualify for business-to-business services and services that require an EIN number.

Incorporating, on the other hand, is a more complicated and expensive process that comes with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Here are the most common types of businesses you can register as:

  • Sole Proprietorship: By default, this is the type of business you’re running when you initially create one. You and your business are, for tax and liability purposes, considered the same entity. In fact, if you want to do business under a name other than your own, you’ll need to file a DBA (doing business as) with your local county clerk.
  • Partnership: Essentially the same as a sole proprietorship, except you started it with one or more other people. By default, you’re each considered to own an equal share of the business for tax and liability purposes.
  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you must have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

Depending on your local and state laws, business insurance may or may not be optional. However, given that cleaning involves a lot of physical contact with valuable items (not to mention the fact that you will be in the profession of making floors slippery), you may want to consider getting insurance even if you’re not required to have it.

General liability insurance can protect you in the case of lawsuits or accidents, including property damage and personal injury claims against your business. It can also make your business seem more professional to prospective clients.

Your own equipment is also subject to wear and tear, as well as accidents, so you may want to consider property insurance for any items that aren’t easily replaced.

While those are the big two worth considering, you may also want to consider other types of business insurance to help cover anything from worker’s comp claims to vehicle damage.

Seek Business Funding

Now that you have a sense of what your expenses will be, it’s time to see if you can cover them out of pocket and still pay your rent. If you can’t, and are unable to tighten your belt without sacrificing the tenets of your business plan, you may need to seek some source of external funding.

Where should you look?

Personal Savings

If you’ve saved up for a rainy day, the weather might start looking pretty stormy right about the time you’re starting a business. The nice thing about dipping into your savings is that you’re not taking on debt and all the expenses that go with it.

On the other hand, you are risking your own money, along with the lost-opportunity costs of not being able to invest that money in something else.

And, of course, you may not have been able to save enough to cover your expenses anyway.

Tap Your Support Network

If you don’t have the money handy, another option is to ask your family or friends for a small loan. Generally speaking, your support network will give you a better deal than even the most competitive bank will.

Asking your friends and family for money can be tacky and awkward if you don’t put their concerns at ease. You also may damage your relationships if you aren’t able to pay the money back within the expected period of time. It’s important to take a professional and organized approach.

If you do go this route, strongly consider formalizing any agreements you make so that all parties are fully aware of what they’re risking and stand to gain from the arrangement. Create and sign a contract, just as you would do with a traditional lender.

Credit Cards

For purchases you can pay off quickly, it’s hard to beat the convenience and incentives of credit cards.

Credit cards come in both personal and business varieties. You don’t actually have to own a business to get a business credit card, but their rewards programs are generally more geared towards business expenses.

If you’re going to use credit cards, be sure to use them wisely. That means paying them off within the interest-free grace period offered by your card’s provider. For personal credit cards, this is legally at least 21 days from the time you receive your bill. For business credit cards, there is no legal minimum, but most extend a similar one as a courtesy.

Just remember, if you fail to pay your card off with that window, carrying a balance on a credit card is an extremely expensive way to finance your business. And avoid taking out cash advances on your cards unless absolutely necessary.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.74% – 22.74%, Variable

Spark Cash Select for Business is great for businesses that don’t have their expenses concentrated in a single area, or that don’t want to worry about complex reward programs. You’ll simply earn 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make. There’s also no limit on the reward, so you don’t have to worry about exceeding a maximum threshold: whether you spend $20 or $500,000 in a year on your card, you’ll still get 1.5% back.

You will need to have excellent credit to qualify, however.

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

If you don’t qualify for Spark Cash Select for Business, Capital One offers an equally versatile card that’s much easier to qualify for. Spark Classic offers a similar cashback reward program, but the rate of return is 1% rather than 1.5%.

While not the most exciting card, it’s a good one for repairing your credit.

Loans

Business loans are frequently out of reach for brand new businesses–even the more risk-taking lenders generally want to see that you can keep your business together for at least six months before they’ll lend to you. That said, there are exceptions to the rule, with some lenders focusing on new businesses.

And remember, when you’re starting out you don’t necessarily need a “business” loan; personal loans can leverage your personal credit for an early cash infusion even you need it. If you’re buying a specific piece of equipment, you should also consider equipment financing.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable while you’re building up your business.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio takes some of the frustration out of applying for a loan by allowing you to apply to their entire network of lenders all at once. If you’re thinking about tapping the alternative lending market for the first time, it’s a pretty good place to start.

They can’t necessarily help every business, but a shotgun approach can sometimes be easier than finding that one special lender.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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If you’re having trouble finding a lender who will work with you, take a look at Upstart. You’ll need to have at least fair credit and a regular source of income, but otherwise, Upstart’s way of evaluating potential borrowers is pretty unconventional (good news if you’re starting a business).

Better yet, Upstart’s rates are pretty reasonable and you’ll have three or five years (one or the other, not between) to pay your balance off. Unfortunately, they don’t currently lend within West Virginia or Iowa.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans. Need a vehicle for the business? Read our auto loans guide.

Choose The Right Software

As your business grows and becomes more complex, managing the logistics of your company can become quite labor-intensive. If you don’t want to sink too many man-hours into keeping track of all that stuff, you’ll want to delegate it to a software program.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to enroll in a bunch of expensive SaaS platforms if it’s just you cleaning for a handful of clients, but it doesn’t hurt to know what kinds of options are available.

Types of software you may want to consider include:

Field Service Management 

This type of software centralizes processes and workflows for businesses that have employees who are dispatched to external sites for work. They often include features like scheduling, dispatching, and booking. Some also come with invoicing, payment processing, and customer notifications, so it’s quite possible to find an all-in-one service that meets your needs.

Scheduling Software

If field management software sounds like overkill, you can try scheduling software to manage your appointments and those of your employees.

Inventory Tracking

If your business is growing, and you no longer have time to run out to buy supplies every time you need them or use your clients’ stash, you may find it helpful to formally keep track of your inventory.

Accounting Software

It’s always a good idea to keep track of your expenses, accounts receivable, payroll and related issues, especially as your business grows and becomes more complex.

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Best Cloud Accounting Software

Best Cloud-Based Accounting Software

Best Cloud Accounting Software

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Bolster Your Web Presence

A cleaning business can get pretty far on word-of-mouth and savvy networking, but expanding your reach in the digital age usually means you’ll want to bolster your web presence.

A website is still a very important way for potential clients to find out information about your business and what services you offer. Happily, for a cleaning service, it doesn’t have to be all that complicated. If you don’t want to contract the job out, there are plenty of services online that make it easy to build your own decent-looking website.

A spiffy website is only one aspect of an online strategy, however. You still need to get people to visit it. You’ll want to consider factors like search engine optimization (SEO) so that, for example, the phrase “kitchen cleaning Rochester” will return your website in the top results.

You may also want to use social media to build brand recognition, steer traffic to your site, and announce specials or changes to your services.

Delegate Work

If it’s just you and a cart full of cleaning supplies, you can skip this part. However, if you’re planning to grow beyond what one mere mortal can clean in a day, you may be taking on more people.

Employees

Taking on additional people as employees come with many advantages: you’ll be able to get significantly more work done, have a larger pool of expertise to draw from, and be more flexible with scheduling. This does come with some additional costs, as you’ll be paying some of the taxes on their salary as well as offering benefits (at least in theory), so be sure to grow your staff wisely and at a pace that fits the amount of business your generating.

In exchange, you’re allowed greater control over the parameters of how your employee works, where, and at what time. Setting a wage that’s fair and not abusing this relationship will generally improve morale and help you avoid the costly process of employee turnover.

Contractors

If you aren’t quite ready to take on employees but need additional help, you can hire contractors. Contractors are free agents who work for themselves even though they may be regularly and continuously used by a particular client (that’s you). Since they’re self-employed, you don’t have to worry about additional expenses beyond paying their fee.

Beware that many businesses make the mistake of treating 1099 contractors as employees, which can get you into pretty serious trouble. If you want to have employees, you have to hire them. As a general rule, you have no say over what jobs a contractor decides to take, the methods they use to complete the job, or the precise time they choose to do it.

Advertise Your Business

A strong web presence and social media campaign can get help get your name out, but we aren’t quite at the point where advertising is obsolete.

Since a cleaning business is constrained by geography, you have to physically send someone out to do the job. That means you can use your modest advertising budget to buy ads in your local market, which is usually cheaper than trying to grab eyeballs from several states away. Ideally, you’ll want to seek ad platforms utilized by the types of people who are likely to buy your services. Cash-strapped kids at the local state college campus probably don’t have a budget for cleaning services, for example (although some fraternities or sororities may), while busy soccer moms might.

Once you know who you’re advertising to, you can select a medium that fits your target demographic. Once you start getting new customers, ask them where they heard about your business so you can get a sense of which ads are working and which aren’t.

Even if you don’t have money to spend on advertising right away, put the word out to your own social network that you’re offering cleaning services. Word can spread fast, especially if you have a reputation as a trustworthy person.

Final Thoughts

We still haven’t invented self-cleaning spaces, so you have a potentially bottomless demand for your services. With relatively low overhead, a housekeeping or cleaning business is one of the more accessible industries to jump into, so if you have the skills and the inclination, why not give it a try?

The post The Step-By-Step Guide To Starting And Funding A Cleaning Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Find Cheap Liability Insurance

Accidents happen. And when you’re a business owner, people tend to think those accidents are all your fault. Maybe they are — and maybe they aren’t! Either way, a general liability insurance plan can provide protection for your business when accidents turn into lawsuits.

When small businesses are sued for damages following an accident, the financial effect can be disastrous. In many instances, a business may never recover from the fallout. General liability insurance protects your assets in the case of a lawsuit due to accidents or injury and can provide peace of mind for small business owners.

Read on for a look at some basic facts about liability insurance. We’ll talk about what type of incidents this kind of insurance covers, discuss costs and plans, and steer you in the right direction if you’re ready to buy.

The Basics Of General Liability Insurance

A general liability insurance plan protects your business from third-party claims of bodily injury, accidents, or property damage. It is the foundational insurance policy upon which most other business insurance policies are built, so if you are planning on insuring your business, general liability should be your first purchase.

Even if you don’t think your business could be the victim of a lawsuit, insurance exists so you don’t have to carry around a laundry-list of potential risks and worry about them obsessively. Instead, you can run your business and let the insurance provide protection, no matter what happens.  

What Is General Liability Insurance?

A general liability policy will cover your expenses should you need to go to court to defend an accident, an injury, or damage to property. Typically, your policy will pay for legal representation, litigation fees, out-of-court settlements, and judgments set by the court. 

What Does General Liability Insurance Cover?

Your general liability policy will cover the following broad issues that may arise with your business:

  • Bodily Injury To Someone Or Property Damage Because Of Your Business/Employees: If a customer slips and falls on a spilled Diet Coke or your contractor breaks a client’s window while working at their home, this insurance will cover the medical bills for your customer and legal costs to defend yourself.
  •  Product Liability Should Someone Sue You For A Faulty Product: If your fast food joint is implicated in a spread of E. coli or your talking baby doll toy is terrorizing children, well, your insurance company will cover the litigation costs of those two lawsuits.
  • A Lawsuit For Slander, Libel, Or Copyright Infringement: Most small businesses have a presence online and with the fast and furious pace of the internet, tweets or Instagram posts can have a quick way of gaining attention–for better or for worse. Libel occurs when you print untruths about someone and slander is when you speak those untruths to other people. Many businesses, small and large alike, have been the subject of lawsuits because of something written on the internet or an ill-conceived advertisement. A joke, a meme, an accusation about another business–all of it is another way your business is at risk.

Who Needs General Liability Insurance?

The people who need general liability insurance the most are the people who didn’t think they would need it and suddenly find themselves facing a lawsuit. Even the smallest of businesses could benefit from having basic coverage. Everyone and anyone can be at risk for a frivolous (or not-so-frivolous) lawsuit. However, you should definitely consider a general liability plan if:

  • You have a physical storefront
  • Your business has a social media presence
  • You do business at other people’s homes
  • You work with clients that might require proof of insurance
  • You offer clients a physical product
  • You run advertisements

Average Cost Of General Liability Insurance

As with most business decisions, the decision to purchase insurance (or not) comes down to cost. The good news is that general liability insurance does not have to be expensive.

According to Insureon, over 53% of small businesses pay between $400-$600 a year for general liability insurance and 21% paid less than $400 a year. There are many factors that can impact that yearly premium including your specific risks, how much liability insurance you need, and what type of business you run. The variables that will most influence the cost of your liability insurance are the size of your business, how many employees you have, the location of your business, and the accumulative risk factors of your business.

For a small business that needs one million dollars of coverage, the price can be as low as $30 a month.

How Much General Liability Insurance Do You Need?

As a small business owner, when you start to shop for your general liability insurance, you’ll have to decide how much coverage is the best for your business. A good rule is that the riskier your business is, the more insurance it may need. Also, check with your state’s business guidelines: a few states require you to have general liability insurance by law. Each business is different, but your coverage will depend on your answers to the following questions:

  • How big is your business?
  • How many employees do you employ?
  • What type of product do you create?
  • Where is your business located?
  • What kind of risks can you anticipate?

Know Where To Look

When you are ready to make a purchase, there are quite a few places to secure a general liability policy for your business. If you already have an insurance policy through a carrier, check with a broker or insurance agent there to see about adding general liability to your plan.

But with thousands and thousands of insurance carriers, how do you know which one will work well for you?

Most insurance companies carry a basic form of commercial general liability insurance. You can use a website like Coverhound, Coverwallet, or Insureon to enter your business information and receive comparison quotes.

Know How To Save On General Liability Insurance

How to save on general liability insurance

If the cost of your general liability insurance is too high or you are worried that it’s an expense you can’t afford, there are some ways to cut down on the costs of the policy. Some of these methods might require little or no work on your end, but if your business is a risky venture, expect the cost of insurance to be higher. 

Bundle Your Policy

One of the best ways to save is to bundle your general liability policy with commercial property protection in a Business Owner’s Policy (see below for a more detailed examination of the differences). Also, if you have more than one employee, you are required to provide worker’s compensation insurance, disability, and unemployment insurance, so when you bundle your general liability policy with these other insurance policies, your costs could decrease.

Don’t Overestimate Your Business Costs

When you shop around, insurance companies will want to know how much it costs to run your business. We get it, you’re human; when you talk to investors or your parents about your business, you may be tempted inflate your yearly income and the amount you pay your employees. Be warned — if you do inflate your value while shopping for insurance, your policy can become more expensive. Be accurate but conservative in assessing your gross worth and payroll expenses.

Compare Multiple Quotes

Don’t just buy the first policy you find. Shop around and compare multiple insurance providers. Use a website that specifically comparison shops for you (businesses like Coverhound, Coverwallet, Insureon, or Bizinsure).

Pay Your Premium In Full

Many insurance companies will offer a discount if you pay your yearly premium in full versus paying a monthly rate. Also, some insurance companies will waive fees if you set up automatic payments, so ask an insurance agent or broker to explore payment options that could lower your premiums.

Manage Risks

The riskier your business is, the higher your general liability insurance expenses will be, so taking extra steps to manage and minimize risks could save you some money. Sometimes this is as simple as proving to your insurance company that you are compliant in all safety guidelines and have invested in teaching your employees safety rules. Other times, moving your business’s location out of a highly trafficked area can save thousands on liability. Obviously, it might not be easy to pick up and move, but in general, finding ways to mitigate risks will lower your insurance premiums.

General Liability Insurance VS A Business Owner’s Policy

A Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) bundles general liability and property insurance. For companies with a physical storefront location, property insurance is another crucial policy that could save your business from ruin in the case of a flood, fire, or theft. You might be in need of a BOP if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You have a physical business location
  • You have property and equipment you need to protect
  • You have fewer than 100 employees
  • You want to bundle your general liability and your commercial property policies to save money

When Cheaper Isn’t Better

As a business owner, you understand the balance between cheap and fast and know that, fundamentally, not all insurance is created equal. One of the first things you can do is check the insurance company’s rating via A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s, Fitch or Moody’s.

But here are three reasons why cheaper isn’t always better:

  1. A small/cheap insurance policy may not offer you the protection you need. If you accept a high deductible and a low ceiling to keep monthly premiums down but encounter a legal matter that costs your business thousands of dollars, you aren’t saving in the long run.
  2. If a price is low and it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. You don’t want to find out too late that your policy has a number of exclusions that will make it difficult to file a claim.
  3. You are paying for a policy, but you are also paying for the expertise and hand-holding you’ll need if your business is involved in a lawsuit. For that, it’s worth it to look at reputable insurance companies who have a track record of helpfulness.

Protect Yourself & Start Saving

General liability insurance is sometimes called “Slip and Fall” insurance — and for good reason! A “slip” can happen anywhere and you never know when you’ll be deemed liable. According to the Insurance Journal, in 2015 the average cost of a “slip and fall” lawsuit was around $20,000. If you don’t have that sort of money lying around to pay for medical and legal fees, then a policy for as little as $400 a year is not just a needed business expense, it is imperative.

The insurance industry might be in the business of worst-case-scenarios but a general liability insurance policy doesn’t have to set you back significantly — and the protection it provides is priceless. This is especially true if you live in a state that is known to favor plaintiffs over small businesses in a court of law. Do your homework, research the best policy for your business and industry, and get covered today!

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