InMotion Hosting Website Creator Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Website Creator Review

Website Creator is a stand-alone website builder product built & sold by InMotion Hosting, one of the largest independent web hosting companies in the world.

See Website Creator Plans & Pricing here.

InMotion Hosting has been in the web hosting business since 2001. Unlike many hosting companies, they remain staunchly independent and focused primarily on website products for small businesses. They have an emphasis on customer support and raw performance.

While they still have a range of hosting products (my InMotion Hosting Review), they have also been quick to respond to changes in customer demand. Website Creator came out of that effort.

The big demand of the past 5 years has been for easy to use, bundled, drag and drop website builders. But popular website builders pose some risks for business owners investing in a long-term project.

Website Creator was created for small business owners who need to easily DIY their own website, but also are thinking seriously about how to best build their website for scalability, versatility, and long-term success.

Since I’ve been a user of InMotion’s hosting products for quite some time, I recently decided to give their new website builder, Website Creator, a try for a small, quick project.

Before I dive into pros and cons, let’s talk about some basics.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

What Is Website Creator?

Imagine website builders on a spectrum of convenience and control.

On the maximum convenience end, you have Instagram. It’s super-easy to use. But you have zero control over how your account design or function.

On the maximum control end, you have a server that you own an operate. You hand write all the HTML & CSS. It offers maximum control, but zero convenience. Most people tends toward to the middle options.

Self-hosted WordPress is software that you install on your own hosting account. It has a learning curve, but offers a lot more convenience while still providing total control over your files & server.

Wix is a popular drag & drop builder that has much less of a learning curve & more convenience than self-hosted WordPress. But they also have to limit data exports & your server access.

Some small business owners don’t like either tradeoff – and that’s the slice that Website Creator is focused on. I’ll get to this in the Pros & Cons, but Website Creator is actually built on top of WordPress on a hosting account that you own. So even though it has the drag & drop and streamlined website launch of a popular website builder, it’s still creating actual files on an actual server that you can access and export should you ever need to grow or rework your website.

In other words, think about a single-family home, a condominium, and a townhome. Self-hosted WordPress is a single-family home where you own & are responsible for everything. Hosted website builders are like a condominium where you own everything within the walls but outsource the rest to the Condo Owner’s Association.

Website Creator tries to be like a townhome. You have contracted landscapers, plumbers, and a Homeowners’ Association, but when it comes down to it – you still own the land and the structure.

With all that said, here are some of the Pros & Cons of Website Creator as a general website solution.

Pros of Using Website Creator

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Website Creator, not just compared to Site123 and Gator, but as a website builder in general.

Convenience AND Control

Website Creator’s biggest pro is the fact that it combines convenience and control — which is typically where business owners have to make a trade off when it comes to website builders (even the best ones).

Website Creator is actually a bundle that combines hosting (on InMotion), a website software or CMS (WordPress), and a drag & drop tool (BoldGrid). Which means when you sign up for Website Creator, you’re actually getting a self-hosted WordPress website with an installed drag-and-drop website builder (and tons of base templates to use) that you fully own and that any developer or marketer can work with. You don’t have to go piecing all the elements together or put off getting started until you have the “right” web designer.

You can just DIY and rest easy knowing that when the time comes, you can upgrade your content, design & marketing as your business needs.

Ownership

Again, Website Creator does a great job of giving users control — and that includes ownership.

Now, when it comes to website builders, I generally think of website ownership in 3 ways.

The first point is brand asset & copyright ownership. There is no website builder that would ever be able to “own” your website. Not even Instagram does that. If you author the text, images, video, logos, etc. then you own the copyright.

But when it comes to the other two points of ownership, not all website builders are created equally.

The second facet of ownership revolves around “website look and feel”. Websites are simply files that a browser can render. The look and feel is inherently not only your content, but also the combination of actual files used to render your site. This is where ownership gets tricky. Some website builders do not give you access or copyright to the actual files that are generated with your content. Some give you copyright and limited access. Some give you full copyright and full access.

Why would you need full access? Well, let’s say you want to sell or move your website to another provider. If you do not have access to the actual CSS files or actual JS files, then you cannot sell or transfer the site exactly as it currently is.

And the third point is practical ownership. So even if you own your entire website – JS, CSS, HTML, images, text, etc – if you cannot download it to your computer or transfer it to another server… do you truly own it? This gets tricky. It doesn’t really matter, until it does.

If you have a 10 page website for your dental office, this point really doesn’t matter. But if you are building a reference site for your organization that will eventually have thousands of pages… then it could matter a lot.

In Website Creator’s case, your site’s files live on an actual server that can be accessed and downloaded. Which means you have full ownership in all three facets — a great feature if you think you’ll ever need to move or recreate your website elsewhere.

Simplicity

Another pro of Website Creator is that once you’re set up, it’s fairly easy to use. As I mentioned above, Website Creator uses BoldGrid, a website builder, to actually create your website.

Website Creator Bold Grid

BoldGrid isn’t technically drag-and-drop. You don’t actually “drag” elements and drop them where you want them. Instead, BoldGrid uses Inspirations, which serve as your base template.

BoldGrid Inspirations

From there, you can add or remove pages, customize the branding (i.e. colors and fonts), or even go so far to add widgets on individual pages.

BoldGrid Inspiration Customization

The range of customization here is extensive. Given Website Creator uses WordPress, you can also install plugins (pieces of software that “plug in” to your website to add functionality), so you essentially create anything you want – that includes things like ecommerce, SEO, appointments, and flying unicorns.

But if you’re trying to keep it simple, BoldGrid’s Inspirations (and customization options within them) provide enough flexibility that you can create something that feels custom without having to totally build something from scratch.

Integrations

And speaking of customization… the ability to add integrations through plugins is a HUGE pro for using Website Creator. Given WordPress is the most popular CMS platform out there, the integrations are practically limitless.

Chances are, there’s been a plugin created to do whatever you need your site to do. And if it hasn’t been created yet, there’s a developer out there who could probably get it done.

Additionally, since you have an actual hosting account running Website Creator, you can integrate with any business email service or analytics package that you need.

Sign Up + Customer Service

Depending on your needs, this could be a pro or a con. Signing up for Website Creator does take some time. They actively try to weed out spam users, which means they review accounts before granting access. Their sign up process says it should take a few minutes to get a confirmation email, but after about an hour, we had to reach out to support to get our account approved and up and running.

The pro here is that you’re dealing with a company that take its software seriously and actively tries to maintain the integrity of it. They don’t let spammers in, and their customer service department is more than willing to expedite the process if you reach out and explain how you plan to use your site.

Flexibility

It’s rare that you get so much flexibility in an all-inclusive website builder, but Website Creator certainly gives you more than any other. The best example of this?

Website Creator actually lets use WordPress themes / custom themes outside of BoldGrid.

Flexibility Website Creator

This essentially means that you have a totally customizable, self-hosted WordPress site with the *option* to use an all-inclusive website builder that has pre-built themes and easy-to-use customization options. It’s a win-win.

Onboarding/Training

Using Website Creator does require a bit of a learning curve (more on that in a bit). However, InMotion’s onboarding and training resources are amazing. With any piece of software, there’s always a moment of “What comes next?”

With InMotion, they cover all the bases. From the moment your account gets approved, you’re given instructions on how to finish your account set, start your website, and get up and running.

Website Creator Onboarding

The account dashboard is refreshingly simple.

Website Creator Backend

They also offer training inside WordPress, so you can learn how to use BoldGrid and customize various elements.

Training Website Creator

Cons of Using Website Creator

Like any piece of software, there are always trade-offs. So here are the cons of using Website Creator:

Slower Sign Up Process

Yep… it can be a con that Website Creator takes time to actively weed out spammers. Why? Because this means the sign up process is slower.

Cumulatively, it took about two hours for us to get our account up and running — which isn’t great if you’re looking for a quick and easy solution to get a website up ASAP.

Learning Curve

Once you get through the sign up and installation process, using BoldGrid is simple (plus InMotion offers a TON of resources to help you through the process). But that doesn’t change the fact that getting up and running with Website Creator isn’t very intuitive. The sign up process is more extensive than most all-inclusive website builders, as is the installation process.

For example, before even getting started, you must have a domain name. There’s no option to use a free subdomain to get you up and running like you can with WordPress.com.

After that, you have to install BoldGrid, which then brings you into WordPress to edit.

Website Creator Getting Started

Again, the training provided by InMotion is stellar — but you do need to take the time to read it. Popular pure-play website builders like Wix, Weebly, Squarespace, Shopify – and even GoDaddy GoCentral all have in-screen on-boarding to show you how to do things while you build it.

If you’re looking to just dive on in and figure it out without having any website building experience, Website Creator probably isn’t the best solution for you.

Website Creator Review Conclusion

Website Creator does come with a learning curve, but it offers a ton of customization, flexibility, and ownership for users. Plus, it gives you the best of both worlds: a self-hosted WordPress website without the hassle of tracking down your hosting, website builder, and CMS.

Check out Website Creator’s plans here.

However, there are trade-offs to consider here. If you’re looking for a quick, easy, intuitive website builder that you can use to throw up a quick project, Website Creator probably isn’t the best choice for you.

Instead, check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post InMotion Hosting Website Creator Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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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!

The post How To Find Cheap Liability Insurance appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund A Catering Business: The Step-By-Step Guide

Does serving delicious food to a crowd of partygoers sound like a dream? Do you want to take your love of desserts to weddings and other special events? If so, becoming a professional caterer could be the right career path for you.

Sure, you could search your local job listings to find a catering position, but wouldn’t it be great to be your own boss? If creating your own menu and serving up delicious food and beverages at events interests you, why not start your own catering business?

Maybe it’s been a lifelong dream to operate your own catering business. Or maybe you just love to cook and want to turn it into a career. Whether you’ve already taken steps to launch your own business or you don’t know quite where to start, this post is for you.

In this article, we’re going to explore exactly what it takes to start and fund your own catering business. We’ll start by discussing how to create a business plan and why a plan is a necessity for a successful business. Then, we’ll delve into the expenses you’ll encounter and how you can cover those costs. We’ll also talk about choosing your business structure, building your web presence, and advertising methods that can bring in new customers.

Ready to go? Let’s get started on your path to entrepreneurship!

Create Your Business Plan

What Information to Bring Accountant for Small Business Taxes

Starting a business without a detailed business plan is similar to taking a cross-country trip without a GPS or a map. In short, it’s not a wise move. Your business plan should not only include details about your business in the present — your management team and your mission statement, for example– but it should also serve as an outline for how your business will hit future targets.

Your business plan acts as a blueprint, outlining how your company will become successful and profitable. For that reason, your business plan won’t look exactly like the plan of another business — even one within the same industry. However, even though details may vary, there are a few common sections that can be found in all business plans. Those include:

  • Executive Summary: Describes the content of the business plan
  • Overview: Includes background of the business, legal structure, and other key details
  • Industry Analysis: Overview of the industry, including the size, nature, and any current trends
  • Competitive Analysis: Overview of your competition
  • Marketing: An outline of your marketing strategy and how you’ll reach customers
  • Operations Plan: Description of the operations of your business
  • Management: Bios and skills of your management team
  • Financials: An overview of current and future revenues

Your business plan not only helps you hit your goals, but it’s also critical when it’s time to obtain financing. Banks, nonprofit lenders, and even some alternative lenders may require a business plan as part of a loan application, especially for startup loans.

Pick Your Niche

While it may be tempting to try to cater for every event in your area, you’re going to stretch yourself thin … and likely set yourself up for failure. Instead of trying to offer services to everyone, pick a niche.

You may already have an idea in mind. For example, maybe it’s always been your dream to be a wedding caterer. Be sure to also consider the type of food you like to make. If you prefer to make salads, sandwiches, and other lighter fare, consider catering for business or school functions, luncheons, and other daytime events. If you prefer to serve fancier entrees, consider catering for weddings and special events.

Another step to take before selecting your niche is to do some market research in your local area. Where are there gaps in catering availability? What niche is overcrowded with the competition? You may find that there a large number of wedding caterers already in your area. Unless you can bring something new to the table (being the only caterer to serve Southern-style barbecue, for example), you might want to consider filling a different customer need.

There are a wide variety of catering niches to consider, including:

  • Weddings
  • Corporate Events
  • Adult Parties
  • School Events
  • Children’s Parties
  • Festivals
  • Sports Events

With an idea of your niche and the type of food you need to prepare, you can move into the next step: planning your menu.

Create Your Menu

KDS Kitchen Display System

Once you have a niche in mind, you’ll be able to narrow down your menu choices. Let’s face it — if you’re planning to focus on children’s parties or school functions, you won’t exactly need filet mignon on the menu.

You also want to consider what type of food you’re experienced at making. While you can certainly test out new ideas in the future, you want to put your best foot forward when starting out. You also want to offer a variety of options while keeping your menu at a manageable size. Having a menu with too many items or items that contain ingredients that are difficult to source could cause unnecessary stress for you and your clients.

It’s also important to remember those with dietary restrictions. Consider adding a few options to your menu that are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or dairy-free to help expand your customer base.

Performing a test run or two can help you further improve your menu. Once you have your menu in place, test it out on a few friends and family members. Get their honest feedback on where you excel, as well as where you fall flat. Tweak recipes as needed, change techniques to become more efficient, and be honest with yourself about what works and what doesn’t. Then, alter your menu accordingly.

Source Your Ingredients

After you create your menu, you’ll have a better idea of the ingredients needed to prepare your food. When you first get your business off the ground, you may be able to get the ingredients you need by purchasing from a wholesale club in your area. However, as your business grows larger and you have more events to cater, you’ll want to purchase your ingredients from other sources.

You can get fresh produce from local farmers. Start building these relationships by visiting your local farmers’ market. You can also build relationships with restaurant suppliers and food service vendors to purchase bulk ingredients at reduced prices.

Calculate Startup Costs

In many states, you will be unable to use a residential kitchen to prepare your food. If you plan to cater from home, you must contact the health department in your area to find out more about the regulations of home-based catering businesses, including inspection and permit requirements.

In most cases, you’ll need to rent space for your kitchen. There are two ways to go about this.

The first is renting your own commercial space. This is the more expensive option but is a necessity if you plan to cater full time.

If you only plan to cater events occasionally or on weekends, you may be able to rent a commercial kitchen for a few hours on the days when you need it. This is a more affordable option since you won’t have to invest in equipment, but it’s not ideal for full-time caterers.

If you aren’t renting space in a kitchen that’s already stocked, you’ll also need industrial equipment that is used to prepare your food. Some of the items you’ll need include:

  • Commercial Ovens
  • Stoves
  • Deep Fryers
  • Sinks
  • Refrigerators
  • Walk-In Freezers
  • Mixers & Blenders
  • Pots & Pans
  • Knives
  • Cooking Utensils & Tools
  • Storage Containers
  • Dishwasher

You’ll also need equipment that you’ll bring on-site for serving and keeping food at the optimum temperature, including:

  • Serving Dishes & Trays
  • Serving Utensils
  • Chafing Dishes
  • Carving Stations
  • Grills
  • Heat Lamps
  • Soup Kettles
  • Beverage Dispensers
  • Coffee Station

An additional cost to add to your list is a catering van. This van will be used to transport your food and equipment to venues. You may save money initially by purchasing a used vehicle. However, you need to ensure that you know the complete history of the vehicle. You may also incur additional costs if your used vehicle needs repairs soon after purchasing it.

Some caterers also provide table settings, glassware, and utensils, but this adds to your initial investment. You may also provide additional items for your events, including chairs and/or chair covers, tablecloths, and centerpieces, but again, this will add to your startup costs.

Before starting your business, sit down and make a list of your total expenses. You can tailor the list to your own business. For example, if you don’t serve fried food, you won’t have to invest in deep fryers. If you specialize in only desserts, you may have pastry tools, cake displays and stands, and bakeware sets on your list.

Once you’ve made your list, start shopping around to get an idea of costs. Check out prices online or visit local commercial kitchen equipment and supply stores. Once you have an idea of how much funding you need, it’s a smart idea to add about 30% to those costs to prepare for the unexpected. For example, if you’ve priced everything at $100,000, apply for a loan of $130,000 to make sure all of your bases are covered.

Register Your Business

Before you begin catering to clients, you need to register your business with federal, state, and local agencies.

First, you need to think of a business name. Brainstorm ideas to find a name that’s catchy and is a reflection of your brand. When you’ve come up with a great name, check your Secretary of State’s website to ensure that this name is not already being used by another business.

Next, you will need to select your business structure. This is an important step because your business structure determines how your business is taxed and your personal liability for debts incurred by the business. The types of business structures include:

Sole Proprietorship

This business is owned and operated by one person. This is the easiest business structure and does not require registration. Setting up a sole proprietorship is easy. However, this structure does not provide you with any protection against the debts and liabilities of your business.

General Partnership

This type of legal structure is made for businesses with two or more owners. These are the easiest to create, have a low cost of operation, and the fewest requirements. No state filing is required for a general partnership.

Limited Partnership

This is another type of structure for businesses with more than one owner. General partners in a limited partnership have unlimited liability. The remaining partners – limited partners – have limited liability. In most cases, the personal assets of limited partners are protected from being used to satisfy the liabilities and debts of the business.

Limited Liability Partnership

This type of structure is designed for professional service businesses. Personal assets of any partner can’t be used to cover the debts and liabilities of the business. However, all partners in an LLP are liable for their own acts, such as medical malpractice.

Limited Liability Company

An LLC is separate from its owners. This type of legal structure protects owners from personal liability without the higher tax rates and stricter requirements of corporations.

Corporation

Owners in a corporation are protected from personal liability for the debts of the business. Corporations are the most difficult to set up. However, it is necessary to choose this business structure if you plan to sell stock or raise large amounts of capital in the future.

The type of business structure you choose for your catering business will vary based on the number of owners and your plans for the future. Consult with an accountant or attorney to learn more about your options and which is best for you.

After you choose your business structure, you will need to register with the state where you will operate. You can register through your state’s Secretary of State website. Application and fee requirements vary by state. If you plan to offer services in more than one state, you will need to register with each state.

Another important step in registering your business is obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. This is a necessary step if your business will have employees now or in the future.

Get Permits & Licenses

After registering your business, it’s time to apply for the permits that you need to legally operate your business. It’s necessary to do this early in the game, as it may take weeks or even months to receive your required permits.

State and local laws surrounding permit and license requirements vary. Some of the permits and licenses you may need to legally operate your business include:

  • Business Licenses
  • Health Permits
  • Food-Handling Licenses
  • Liquor Licenses

You can contact the local health department, the state Alcoholic Beverage Control board, and other state and local agencies to learn more about the licenses required in your area, how to apply, and any applicable fees.

When working with food, you also face inspections from your local health department. The temperature of prepared and stored food, waste disposal, and the safety and condition of your cooking equipment are just a few of the things that will be inspected periodically.

Get Business Insurance

Protecting your catering business is important, and there’s no better way to protect yourself and your business than with business insurance. As a caterer, there are multiple insurance options to consider.

General liability insurance protects you from lawsuits that occur during events. This type of insurance covers physical injuries, property damage, and even damage to your reputation.

Another type of insurance to consider is errors and omission insurance, also known as E&O insurance. This insurance protects you from lawsuits that may be filed if a mistake is made. For example, if a client warns of an allergen and you include an ingredient that triggers an allergic reaction, this insurance would protect you from a potential lawsuit.

Property insurance should also be a consideration. This insurance protects your equipment, fixtures, and other property from damage or theft.

If you have employees, you will also need worker’s compensation insurance. This covers medical costs and lost wages from employees when they are injured or become sick. This also protects your business from lawsuits as a result of injuries.

If your business serves alcohol, you may also be required to carry liquor liability insurance, which protects your company from alcohol-related lawsuits.

Insurance requirements vary by state. Talk to your local insurance agent to find out more about the laws in your state and to create a personalized insurance policy for your new catering business.

Seek Business Funding

We’ve already reviewed many of the costs you’ll encounter when opening your own catering business. Now, it’s time to determine how to pay for those costs. Whether you have money in the bank or your bank account is looking a little slim, there are financing options available for you. Start your search with these options.

Personal Savings

If you’ve been putting away money into a savings account, now may be the perfect time to withdraw your funds. The great thing about personal savings is that you won’t take on debt with a lender. This means no payments, fees, or interest. The downside, though, is that if your business goes downhill, it may take your savings with it.

Friends & Family

Consider taking a loan from a friend or family member that’s willing to invest in a potentially lucrative new opportunity. Prepare your presentation, have your business plan in hand, and explain why your opportunity is worth investing in.

If you come to a mutual agreement, make sure to get everything in writing. It also goes without saying that this friend or family member should be treated like any other lender. That means paying back your loan as scheduled.

Instead of a loan, you may consider equity financing. In this scenario, your friend or family member would own part of your business. The major benefit is that you wouldn’t have to immediately start making loan payments. However, you would give over some ownership (and a slice of your future profits) and control over your business if you go this route. Undecided? Learn more about the pros and cons of debt vs. equity financing.

ROBS

If you have a retirement account, you may be able to leverage these funds for your new venture. Normally, if you withdraw before you reach a certain age, an early withdrawal penalty and income tax penalties apply. However, you can avoid these costs through a rollover as business startups (ROBS) plan.

A ROBS plan allows you to use your retirement funds for starting or expanding your business. Four steps are required to access your funds. First, a C-corporation is created. The next step is to create a retirement plan for the new C-corp. Then, you can roll over funds from your existing retirement account into your newly created plan. Finally, you will use these funds to purchase stock in your C-corporation, giving you access to the capital you need for your new business.

The process isn’t complicated, but there are rules you have to follow to ensure you maintain compliance. To take the guesswork out of ROBS, many aspiring business owners work with a ROBS provider. For a fee, ROBS providers will set up your ROBS account for you and will maintain it to ensure everything is done by the book.

Using your ROBS is a great way to fund startup costs. Other than a setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee charged by your ROBS provider, you do not pay additional fees. After all, you’re using your own money. However, if your business fails, you put your retirement funds at risk.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial can help you roll over your retirement funds into capital you can use for your catering business. In about three weeks, you can have the funds you need to start or grow your business with Guidant Financial’s ROBS plans.

To qualify, you must have a retirement account worth at least $50,000. Most retirement plans qualify, including:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

There are no credit score, time in business, or annual revenue requirements to qualify. However, you must have a business to fund, and you also must be an employee of that business in order to set up your ROBS plan.

Since you’re using your own funds, you don’t have to worry about monthly loan payments. However, you will have to pay a one-time setup fee of $4,995 followed by a maintenance fee of $139 per month to maintain your account.

In addition to ROBS plans, Guidant Financial also offers additional small business loan options including Small Business Administration loans and unsecured business loans.

Equipment Financing

As we discussed earlier, there is a lot of expensive equipment needed to start your catering business, from a catering vehicle to commercial kitchen equipment. A financing option to consider when you need new equipment is equipment financing.

With equipment financing, you can take possession of the equipment you need without paying the full cost up front. Instead, you’ll pay a down payment (typically 10% to 20% of the purchase price), then repay a lender in smaller, more affordable payments over time.

There are two main types of equipment financing to consider: equipment loans and equipment leases. With a loan, you’ll make a small down payment, then put the equipment into use immediately. You’ll make regular payments to the lender that are applied to the principal balance as well as interest and fees. Once you’ve repaid the loan as agreed, the equipment is yours to keep, sell, or trade.

The other type of equipment financing is an equipment lease. You’ll also pay a down payment and regular payments. However, at the end of your lease, you return the equipment. At this time, you can sign another lease for new equipment. This is a better option if you plan to upgrade your equipment frequently, although this option can be more expensive over the long term.

With equipment financing, you typically do not have to put up collateral. Instead, the equipment being financed is the collateral and can be seized by the lender if you don’t make your payments as agreed.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio’s network of over 75 lenders can provide you with up to $5 million to finance your equipment. Loan terms are between 1 to 5 years with rates starting at 7.5% for the most qualified borrowers. With some lenders, you can get your funding in as little as 24 hours. Some applicants may even qualify for 0% down financing.

To qualify for equipment financing, you must meet the following requirements:

  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 650 or above
  • Time in business of at least 12 months

If you have credit challenges, you may still qualify provided you have proof of solid cash flow and revenue for at least 3 months.

The funds can be used to purchase the equipment you need for your catering business, including but not limited to commercial kitchen equipment, office furniture and fixtures, software, appliances, and commercial vehicles.

If you don’t qualify for equipment financing through Lendio’s network, you can shop around for other financing options. Through Lendio, you can apply for financial products including SBA loans, business credit cards, lines of credit, and startup loans.

Lines Of Credit

Running your own catering business comes with its challenges. Some challenges are expected — rushing around to cater a big wedding, for example — while others come when you least expect it. Whether it’s a slow season that has impacted your incoming cash flow, equipment that needs repairs, or an unforeseen emergency, even the most successful business face the unexpected.

For these times, it’s great to have a backup plan, like a flexible line of credit. A line of credit is different from a traditional loan because you don’t receive one lump sum that you immediately start repaying. Instead, a lender assigns you a credit limit — much like a credit card — and you can withdraw money from your line as needed.

Your line of credit is ready to use whenever you need it. You don’t have to immediately draw funds if there’s no need, and most lenders don’t charge fees if you don’t use your line of credit. When you do use your line of credit, you’ll repay your balance plus any fees and interest charged by the lender. Since this is a revolving form of credit, funds will be replenished and available to use again as you pay off your balance.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit that can be used for any business purpose. One of the standout features of Fundbox is that the lender looks at the performance of your business — not just your credit score. Even if you’ve been turned down by other lenders in the past, you may still qualify for a Fundbox line of credit.

Through Fundbox, you may qualify for up to $100,000. Once approved, you can immediately make draws on your account. Repayment terms are 12 or 24 weeks, and rates start at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Weekly repayments are automatically deducted from your business checking account. There are no prepayment penalties, all remaining fees are waived if you pay off early, and there are never any fees if you don’t make a draw.

To qualify, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Holder of a business checking account
  • At least 2 months of activity in accounting software OR at least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account

Business Credit Card

Another source of financing that’s great for covering unexpected expenses is a business credit card. A business credit card works just like your personal card. You can use your card online and in stores to make purchases anywhere credit cards are accepted. When you use your card, the lender charges interest on the borrowed portion of funds. If you don’t use your card, you aren’t required to pay interest. However, annual fees and other charges may apply.

Business credit cards are great for emergencies or for quickly resolving cash flow issues. You can also use your credit card for recurring expenses, such as gas for your catering van. If you go this route, apply for a low-interest rewards card that gives you cash back or other perks just for using your card.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

With Chase Ink Business Cash, you can earn rewards just for using your card to pay for your business expenses. Using this card gets you 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone services. You can earn 2% cash back on the first $25,000 used at gas stations and restaurants. These offers renew each year on your account anniversary. For all other purchases, you can earn unlimited 1% cash back.

New cardmembers can take advantage of a $500 cash back bonus offer when $3,000 is spent within 3 months of opening an account. This card also comes with additional benefits including purchase protection, extended warranty protection, and free employee cards.

There is no annual fee for the Ink Business Cash credit card, and it comes with a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable APR of 15.49% to 21.49%.

This card is recommended for borrowers with good to excellent credit scores.

Vendor Financing

As a caterer, you’ll establish relationships with vendors. You’ll purchase your ingredients, supplies, and other necessary items from these vendors. Many times, you’ll purchase these items up front. Other times, however, you may need a little help in the form of vendor financing.

With vendor financing, a lender will pay your vendors up front so you can get the supplies necessary for running your business. You’ll then be able to spread your purchase out over several smaller payments. Like other financial products, you’ll pay fees and/or interest for the convenience. While the cost of borrowing may be higher than making a purchase up front, the extra expense may be well worth the cost if you’re in a financial bind.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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You can pay your vendors immediately without putting up the money up front by working with Behalf. Through Behalf, you can get up to $50,000 to pay your vendors. Then, you have up to 6 months to repay the lender.

Monthly fees start at 1% of the borrowing amount and are based on your creditworthiness. There are no origination fees, membership fees, or other hidden costs to borrow from Behalf.

There are no time in business, annual revenue, or credit score requirements to qualify. However, Behalf will perform a hard pull on your credit once you submit your application.

Personal Loans For Business

You have a solid credit score, but small business lenders won’t even give you a second glance. What gives?

Many small business loans have time in business and annual revenue requirements. This is fine when your business is already operating, but what do you do when you need a loan before you even open your doors? Try applying for a personal loan for business.

As a startup, you may find it challenging to qualify for a small business loan. However, you can use your own personal credit score and income to qualify for a personal loan that is used for business expenses.

These loans don’t have time in business, annual revenue, or business credit score requirements, so you can qualify even if you’ve not yet catered a single event. Personal loans are available for a wide range of credit scores. However, having a high credit score can help you qualify for the best interest rates and terms.

Recommended Option: LendingPoint

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LendingPoint specializes in personal loans, offering qualified borrowers $2,000 to $25,000. Rates range from 9.99% to 35.99% with repayment terms of 24 to 48 months. An origination fee of 0% to 6% of the borrowing amount may apply. Payments are made twice per month.

You can quickly and easily qualify for a LendingPoint personal loan. To receive an offer in just minutes, you need:

  • Proof of employment & income
  • Bank statements
  • Voided check
  • Driver’s license or government-issued ID

To qualify for a loan, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a social security number
  • Have at least $20,000 in annual income
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Live in a state serviced by LendingPoint
  • Have a credit score of at least 585

Choose The Right Software

pos with raw ingredient tracking

From keeping track of events to accepting credit cards, the right software can help you do it all. As a caterer, there are several types of software you should consider investing in to keep operations running efficiently.

Accounting Software

This software allows you to perform functions such as tracking expenses, sending invoices to clients, managing payroll, and keeping up with inventory. With accounting software, you can keep up with your financials and run reports, which is especially helpful when you’re seeking financing from a bank or traditional lender. Accounting software also makes it easier for your business when tax time rolls around.

New to accounting? Download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting.

Catering Software

There are specific software programs designed to help caterers manage all aspects of their businesses. Features include invoicing, billing, employee scheduling, event bookings, and other tools to keep your catering business on track.

Payment Processing Software

Not all of your clients will have cash, especially when they’re paying off large bills for their catering expenses. To make payments easier for your clients, invest in payment processing software. This software acts as the communicator between your bank and your customer’s bank, allowing you to accept debit cards, credit cards, and other methods of payment. Most payment processing software comes with monthly subscription fees, and some companies even offer free hardware that makes it easier than ever to accept multiple forms of payment.

Hire Employees

When you first start your business, you may be a one-man operation until you start bringing in revenue. However, you will eventually need to hire employees if you want to grow and scale. If you’re like many caterers, you may opt to hire an employee or two right from the start.

Employees that you may hire for your business — either now or in the future — include:

  • Chef: Your chef will be in charge of preparing the food. For large events, consider hiring sou chefs for additional assistance.
  • Servers: Bring food and drinks to guests
  • Bartenders: Serve alcoholic beverages to guests
  • Busboys: Responsible for clearing off tables
  • Host/Hostess: Help guests find their seats
  • Event Planner: Meets with the client to discuss details about the event
  • Supervisor: Ensures that other staff members are doing their jobs efficiently

Until your business grows and brings in revenue, you may opt to hire just a few staff members, such as a chef and a server. As your business gains more customers and becomes profitable, you can add additional employees to your staff.

Do your research to get an idea of the average pay range in your area for each position. It’s also important to remember that other expenses come with hiring staff, including workman’s compensation insurance, training costs, and benefits.

To find employees for your business, ask friends, family members, and colleagues for referrals. You may also post a job advertisement on online job boards. You can even contact local temporary agencies to find the help you need.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Your plans for a catering business are coming together, so now it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to bring in clients. There’s no better place to start than the internet.

Just think about it. If you’re looking for a local company to work with, where is one of the first places you look? The internet, of course.

You can quickly build your web presence with these easy steps.

Launch Your Social Media Profiles

Social media is a great way to reach new customers, and best of all, setting up your profiles is free! Create business pages on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. Make sure to include critical details such as your contact information, service areas, and types of events catered. You can build up your profiles to include information such as menus, pricing lists, and photos of your food and past events.

An added bonus on social media is that you can communicate with potential customers through comments or direct messaging.

As you begin to grow your business, you can later invest in social media ads, but in the beginning, focus on getting your profiles up and running.

Want to get the most out of your social media profiles? Check out our Guide to Social Media Marketing.

Build Your Website

In addition to your social media profiles, you also need to build a website. This doesn’t have to be overly complicated. In fact, there are lots of website builders that make it easy to choose a template, customize your font and colors, and drag and drop images, text boxes, and tools — no design experience required.

Make sure that the design of your website reflects your branding. You also want to include important details, including the name of your business and contact details. You can also add additional features and information, including a live chat option, photo galleries, and reviews and testimonials.

Advertise Your Business

Boosting your web presence is a great start to advertising your business, but make sure that you don’t stop there. There are several ways that you can advertise your business — both online and off.

Fliers

Pass out or hang flyers advertising your catering services throughout your area. Make sure that you understand the regulations in your area surrounding posting and/or distributing flyers.

Online Ads

Purchase ad space on Facebook, pay-per-click ads on search engines, or even post advertisements on local online forums and social media groups.

Newspaper Ads

This is an oldie but goodie: pay for ad space in your local newspaper.

Attend Wedding Shows

Many cities and towns have bridal shows where vendors can advertise their services. Research events in your area, rent booth space, and advertise your business in-person to newly engaged couples.

Wedding & Event Websites

Submit your business information to wedding and event websites to draw in new customers.

Word-Of-Mouth

Word-of-mouth advertising is the best form of advertising. Ask your past customers for testimonials and reviews, and always make sure to go above and beyond to provide exceptional service.

Final Thoughts

Starting your own catering business is exciting but venturing out on your own can also be a little scary, especially if you lack business experience. However, you can be on track to owning and operating a successful catering business with careful planning, preparation, and strategic borrowing. Good luck!

The post How To Start And Fund A Catering Business: The Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business

You’re an experienced mechanic that’s been working for someone else for your entire career. You’re ready to spread your wings and fly (or drive) right to your own auto body shop. Sound like you? If you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, then maybe it’s time to set out on your own.

Even if you’re the best at what you do, venturing out into the small business world can be scary. If you’re an employee at a collision center, you probably feel like you have some stability. Why risk a “sure thing” to start your own shop, especially if you don’t have any previous experience running your own business?

Starting your own business is risky and it takes hard work (and a lot of it). But opening your own auto collision shop can be an extremely lucrative venture. The automotive collision repair market brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year, and studies show that revenue will only continue to grow in the years ahead. Isn’t it time you got your share?

If you’re thinking about starting your own auto body shop, this guide is for you. We’ll go through all of the steps of starting your own business, from creating a business plan to finding the right lender. We’ll review potential costs, hiring employees, and other critical steps to building a successful business. If you’re ready to take the next step into entrepreneurship, read on to find out how to get started.

Create A Business Plan

You’ve made up your mind: you’re ready to open your own collision or auto body center and you have an idea of how to do it. That’s good enough, right? Actually, you need to be more prepared before you even begin to move on to other steps in building your business. The best way to be prepared? Create a detailed business plan.

Let’s illustrate the importance of a business plan with an example. You’re going on a hike in the woods. There are lots of paths to choose from. Some of these paths may bring you out of the woods — your end goal — but there may be additional challenges along the way, like steep terrain. Some paths may be wrong altogether … and you’ll have to backtrack to right your course. In short, you can enter the woods without a map and risk getting lost. Or you can get a map ahead of time, plot out your course, and set out only after you’ve planned your route and know what to expect.

A business plan works in the same way. A good business plan outlines how to get from your starting point (launching your business) to your goal. Every entrepreneur has a different goal. Maybe yours is to run a successful local business that sets your family up for life. Maybe you have bigger goals — starting your own chain of auto body shops, for example. The most important thing is to set a concrete goal and create a map of how to get there.

Not only will a business plan keep you on the right track, but you must have a plan to present to investors or lenders when you’re seeking capital.

New to writing a business plan? At a minimum, here’s what you should include:

  • Executive Summary: A concise summary detailing each section of your business plan
  • Overview: A description of your business, including the legal structure, location, and type of business
  • Market Analysis: An overview of your market and a definition of your target market
  • Competitive Analysis: Strength and weaknesses of your competition
  • Management Team: The members of your management team and their responsibilities within your organization
  • Financial Projections: A forecast of the financial future of your business

Find A Location

As realtors say, “Location, location, location!” As you plan your own body shop, location is key, but there are a few other considerations to weigh before you put your name on that lease or mortgage.

You want to make sure that you purchase or lease the best location you can afford. Sure, that commercial property on the outskirts of town is much cheaper, but your customers have to be able to find you. Find a property that’s convenient for your customers and is located in a high-traffic area or at least off of a major road.

Another consideration is whether you’re going to buy an existing business or start from scratch. Buying an existing business comes with definite perks, including an established clientele, equipment, and even licenses and permits. However, there are a few drawbacks. This is one of the most expensive options, especially if the business is successful. You may also have to put additional costs into the business for renovations, like replacing outdated equipment.

If you start from scratch, you’ll rack up costs with the price of equipment, licenses, and building renovations.
Unsure of which to choose? Build a business plan looking at both options, calculate costs, and determine which makes the most sense financially, both in the short- and long-term.

Another option to consider is opening a franchise. With a franchise, you have less flexibility in terms of designing your brand and shop. However, you’ll have a working business model that takes a lot of the guesswork out of owning your own business.

Register Your Business

Before you open your auto body shop to the public, you need to register your business. Not only will you be seen as a legitimate business by your customers, but registering is also required when you want to hire employees, protect your assets, or seek capital from investors.

To register your business, you need to first determine what form of business entity to establish. There are several structures to choose from, including:

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the simplest business structure. This is best for businesses with just one owner. Sole proprietors can file their business profits and losses on their personal income tax returns. No paperwork is required to register as a sole proprietorship. However, this structure isn’t without its drawbacks. Raising money as a sole proprietorship is difficult, and you are personally responsible for the liabilities of your business.

Partnership

A partnership is a good choice for companies that will be owned and operated by two or more people. There are several different partnership types to consider:

  • General Partnership: Doesn’t require filing with the state and has few requirements
  • Limited Partnership (LP): One partner has unlimited liability and the others have limited liability. The personal assets of the limited partners can’t be used to satisfy the debts and liabilities of the business.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): Used by professional service businesses, this type of partnership offers personal asset protection for all partners.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC has several benefits for business owners. With an LLC, a business owner will receive liability protection without paying the high tax requirements of corporations.

Corporation

This is the most complex and expensive business structure. More regulations and tax requirements are put in place for corporations. This structure is best for businesses that plan to raise capital through the sale of stock.

The type of structure you select for your business varies by the number of owners that you have and the future plans for your business. In most cases, however, single owners of auto body shops lean toward LLCs, while businesses with more than one partner select the partnership business structure. Before choosing your business structure, talk to your accountant and/or lawyer to find out which makes the most sense for your business.

Once you’ve determined your business structure, you’ll need to select a name for your business. Choose a name that reflects your brand and the services you offer. You also want to choose something that’s catchy and/or easy for customers to remember.

Your business will need to be registered with city, state, and federal governments. You’ll need to sign up for an employer ID number through the Internal Revenue Service if you plan to hire employees. To learn about the specific business license and permit requirements in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce, Department of Revenue, or Small Business Administration office to learn more.

Calculate Your Startup Costs

Every new business has one thing in common: the need for capital. In order to start your own collision center, you need money. The big question, though, is how much do you need?

One of the first steps to starting your own business is to calculate your startup costs. In order to do that, begin by making a list of everything you need for your business.

One of the biggest expenses for your new business will be equipment and tools. While your list may look a little different, some of the most common equipment and tools in this industry include:

  • Hydraulic Lifts
  • Hand Tools
  • Pneumatic Tools (Air Tools)
  • Air Compressors
  • Diagnostic Machines
  • Wheel Balancers
  • Paint Guns

Additional startup costs to consider include your business licenses and certifications, insurance, hiring employees, and shop rental or mortgage fees. You should expect to spend at least $50,000 to get your shop up and running. However, as you make a list of your costs and research pricing, this number could potentially rise.

Before you seek funding for your business, a good rule of thumb is to always overestimate your costs by about 30 percent. For example, if you calculate that your expenses will be $200,000, plan to seek $260,000 in funding. In other words, always plan for the unexpected.

Seek Funding

Now that you’ve calculated your startup costs, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it all. If your bank account looks a little low, don’t worry. Most entrepreneurs don’t have the funds to cover these costs out-of-pocket. Instead, they turn to a lender to get the financing they need. Consider these loans and other funding options when you need capital to start your new body shop.

And if you can’t find the option you’re looking for here? Check out more recommendations in the post, Business Loans For Auto Repair Shops.

Personal Savings

If you have money in a savings account, consider using these funds to pay your startup costs. There are several benefits to using your own money. You won’t be indebted to a lender, so there are no monthly or weekly payments to worry about. You also won’t have to pay interest or fees. On the downside, though, if your business fails, you risk losing your savings.

Friends & Family

If you have a friend or family member with extra money to invest, consider pitching your business to them. Present your business plan and tell them why they should invest in you.

There are two ways to go about this. You can stick with traditional debt financing. This means that you would take a loan from your friend, family member, or colleague and pay it back over a set period of time, along with interest and fees.

You may also consider equity financing. Instead of taking out a loan, you’d receive capital in exchange for ownership in your business. The investor would get their money back over time through a share of your profits. While the risk falls on the investor and you wouldn’t have to begin paying back money immediately, you would have to share your profits and lose some control over your business.

Unsure of which option is right for you? Learn more about debt financing vs. equity financing.

Personal Loans For Business

One of the biggest challenges a new business owner faces is meeting the requirements for a business loan. Many lenders – especially the ones with the lowest rates and best terms – want to work with established businesses with high revenues and solid business and personal credit histories. If you haven’t even opened your doors to a single customer, meeting these requirements is impossible.

However, if you have a high personal credit score, you can take out a personal loan to use for your startup costs. Time in business, annual revenue, and business credit history aren’t required to qualify for personal loans. Instead, you use your personal credit score and your own income to qualify.

If you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that your lender doesn’t have any restrictions prohibiting you from using funds to pay startup costs or other business expenses. Most personal loans don’t have restrictions and can be used to purchase equipment, hire employees, pay operating costs, or use as working capital.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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Lending Club is a peer-to-peer lender that provides personal loans up to $40,000 to qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 3 years or 5 years with APRs starting at 6.95% for the most creditworthy applicants. APRs for less creditworthy borrowers go up to 35.89%.

To qualify for a Lending Club personal loan, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or live in the U.S. on a long-term visa
  • Have a verifiable bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 600

In some cases, Lending Club may recommend adding a co-borrower to increase your chances for approval. If you meet all requirements, you can get funded in as little as 7 days.

As you grow a more established business, you can later take advantage of Lending Club’s business loans. Lending Club offers up to $300,000 in business funding with terms of up to 5 years and fixed monthly payments.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a form of financing you should consider if you want instant access to cash without having to wait for lender approvals. Once you’ve been approved for a line of credit, you can make draws as needed to inject cash into your business.

Here’s how it works. You apply for a line of credit with a lender. The lender looks at a number of factors, such as your personal credit score or business performance, when determining whether to approve your application. These factors will also be considered when setting your credit limit.

Once you’ve been approved, you can initiate as many draws as you’d like from your line of credit up to and including the credit limit. Funds are typically transferred to your bank account immediately, and you can access the money in 1 to 3 business days with most lenders.

As you repay the borrowed funds plus fees and interest charged by the lender, the funds replenish and become available to use again.

Lines of credit are useful for unexpected expenses, emergencies, or to fill revenue gaps. Having a line of credit allows you to access money when you need it without having to go through the application and approval process over and over again.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox offers lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. The lender charges a one-time fee for each draw that starts at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Terms of 12 weeks or 24 weeks are available, and automatic payments are drawn from your bank account each week. You can save by paying your loan off early, as Fundbox will waive all remaining fees.

There are two ways to qualify for a Fundbox line of credit. The first is by linking your business bank account or submitting bank statements. These will be used by the lender to evaluate the performance of your business. If you have unpaid accounts receivables, you can use these to qualify. All you have to do is link your supported accounting software.

Minimum requirements to receive a Fundbox line of credit are:

  • Business checking account
  • U.S.-based business
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • At least 3 months of transactions in a business bank account OR at least 2 months of activity in accounting software

Once you’ve filled out Fundbox’s quick application and have linked your accounts or submitted documentation, you can be approved in just minutes. Then, you can instantly put your line of credit to work for your business.

Business Credit Cards

Another option for fast funding is a business credit card. Once you’ve been approved for a business credit card, you can use it any time. You can use your card as often as you wish provided you stay within your set credit limit.

Business credit cards can be used anywhere credit cards are accepted. You can make purchases online or in-person. You can also use your card for recurring payments, such as utility bills, which is even smarter when you use a rewards card that gives cash back or other perks.

Like lines of credit, business credit cards are revolving forms of credit. This means that as you pay down your principal balance and interest, funds will become available to use again. Once you’re approved for a business credit card, your card is ready to use immediately whenever you need it. This makes it a great payment option for emergency expenses, purchasing supplies or inventory, or for paying recurring expenses.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

If you have excellent credit, consider applying for the Chase Ink Preferred card. With this rewards card, you can receive 3 points for every dollar spent on combined purchases in travel, shipping, cable, internet, phone services, and advertising. Even though earning three points on these purchases is capped at $150,000 per year, you can still earn one point per dollar spent with no limitations on all purchases.

If you’re approved for the Chase Ink Preferred card and spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive an additional 80,000 bonus points. Points can be redeemed for rewards including vacation packages, gift cards, Amazon purchases, and cash back.

This credit card comes with a variable APR of 18.24% to 23.24%. A $95 annual membership fee is required.

To qualify for Chase Ink Business Preferred, you must have good to excellent personal credit.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

Withdrawing retirement funds may be tempting, but who wants to pay penalties and taxes for early withdrawal? Luckily, there’s a way that you can leverage these funds to put capital into your new business. This method is known as rollovers as business startups, or ROBS.

How does ROBS work? The first step is to create a C-corporation. Then, a new retirement plan is created for the C-corp. Next, the funds from your existing retirement plan are rolled over into the new plan. These funds are used to purchase stock in the new C-corp, giving you access to the capital you need to get your business running.

Sound too complicated for you? Then consider working with a ROBS provider. A ROBS provider will get everything set up for you legally and ensure you maintain compliance. In exchange, you’ll pay a one-time setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee with most ROBS providers.

When you use this type of financing to fuel your business, you don’t have to worry about repaying a lender. After all, you’re using your own funds. However, be aware that if your business is unsuccessful, you risk losing your retirement funds.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Guidant Financial is a ROBS provider that can help you leverage your retirement funds. All you need is a qualifying retirement or pension account. Qualifying accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • TSP
  • SEP
  • Keogh

Qualifying accounts must have a minimum of $50,000. You must also be an employee of the business.
By working with Guidant Financial, you can receive funds in as little as 3 weeks. The setup fee is $4,995. You must also pay a Plan Administration fee of $139 per month.

Unsure if a ROBS plan is right for you? Don’t worry — Guidant Financial offers other business financing options including:

  • SBA 7(a) Loans
  • SBA Working Capital Loans
  • Unsecured Business Loans
  • Equipment Leases

Purchase Financing

If you’re looking for a way to pay your vendors that frees up some of your cash flow, purchase financing might be the solution you’re looking for. With purchase financing, your vendor gets paid immediately for your purchases – think tools, fluids, and other critical shop supplies. In the meantime, you’ll get additional time to pay. Instead of paying off the full balance of your purchase up front, you’ll be able to split it into more affordable regular payments.

Purchase financing gives you more control over your cash flow, freeing up funds and allowing you to pay back on a schedule that works best for your business. Of course, like with other financing, you do have to pay interest and fees for this service.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf offers purchase financing of $300 up to $50,000. You’ll receive up to 6 months to repay the lender and can choose between weekly or monthly payments.

Monthly fees for the service start at 1% and are based on creditworthiness. There are no additional fees for using Behalf’s financing.

There are no time in business or revenue requirements to qualify. However, Behalf performs a hard pull on your credit, considers business credit history, and looks at other business performance factors to determine if you are eligible for financing.

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

To keep operations flowing smoothly, you need to pick the right business software for your repair shop. Business software helps you more efficiently run your business, from keeping up with customers to tracking your finances for tax purposes.

Accounting Software

Accounting software allows you to perform various accounting functions so that you can track and record all financial transactions. With accounting software, you can track accounts receivable and accounts payable. Most modern accounting software also offers additional tools including bill payment, payroll, and invoicing. You can purchase accounting software or pay a fee to subscribe to an online service.

Accounting software not only allows you to keep track of your finances at any time, but it also can be used to run financial reports that may be required to receive financing. These reports will also serve you well when it comes time to do your taxes.

No experience in accounting? Don’t worry — we have you covered. Check out our free eBook “The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting” that breaks complicated accounting concepts into ones that are easy to understand.

Auto Repair Invoice Software

Accounting software often has a feature that allows you to create and send invoices. However, you might want to invest in specialty software for auto body repair shops.

Auto repair invoice software includes a variety of tools that can be used to track service requests, create invoices and estimates, track leads, and manage inventory and orders.

Payment Processing Software

No longer do we live in a cash-only world. Now, customers almost always make their purchases using debit cards, credit cards, and even smartphones.

In order to be able to accept these forms of payment, you’re going to need a payment processing service. The payment processor serves as the communicator between your customer’s bank and your own bank, allowing you to process credit, debit, and other forms of payment.

For your auto collision business, you might want to consider getting a point-of-sale system. With POS software, you’ll be able to process credit cards, scan barcodes, print receipts, track inventory, run reports, and perform other functions. For a fee, your business can receive the software and hardware needed to best serve your customers.

Hire Employees

While you may start your collision center as a one-man operation, you have to hire employees if you want to grow.

One of the first hires you’ll make is a mechanic that will work on repairing vehicles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, mechanics make approximately $39,550 per year. An auto body and glass repairer averages around $40,580 annually.

As you bring in more employees, you’ll also want to hire a manager to oversee them all. Salaries for managers vary widely based on experience and how many employees they will be overseeing. Managers may bring in anywhere from $45,000 upwards of $60,000 per year.

Eventually, you may also want to hire a front-desk receptionist. The role of the receptionist is to greet customers, answer the phone, and make appointments. This employee may also take payments from customers and handle some of the company’s bookkeeping. The average salary of a receptionist is around $27,000 per year.

Do some research to find out more about salaries in your area, as these numbers can vary. You also need to take into consideration that there are additional expenses associated with hiring employees including:

  • Onboarding & Training
  • Background Checks
  • Drug Testing
  • Taxes
  • Benefits

When you’re ready to hire an employee, there are a few ways you can find quality candidates. The first is to ask for referrals. If you know someone in the industry, ask if they know of any potential employees. Even if you don’t have connections with anyone in the industry, ask around among your friends, family members, and colleagues.

You can also post your jobs on online job boards. Make sure that your job listing has an overview of responsibilities and requirements for all candidates. As resumes hit your inbox, you can set up interviews and hire new employees for your business.

Bolster Your Web Presence

Before you even hold your grand opening, you need to start your marketing efforts. The best place to start is the internet. When researching new businesses, most people use their laptops or smartphones. If you don’t have a web presence, how will your customers find you?

Getting your business online is easy. Start with these simple steps.

Create Social Media Profiles

It seems like everyone’s on social media these days, from your teenage nephew to your grandmother. Social media doesn’t just connect friends and family members, either. It’s also a great place for users to find new brands and businesses.

Setting up your social media profiles is free and easy. Consider starting with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Add your logo, contact details, and important information like services provided and hours of operation. As you build your business, you can update your profiles with specials, coupons, photos of your completed work, and other information.

Create A Website

You also want to make sure that you have a website that provides important details to your customers such as your shop hours, specials, and services provided.

No web design experience? No problem. These days, any small business owner can create a professional website with easy web builders that feature templates, drag-and-drop design, and other tools to create a website in just minutes.

Your website should be a reflection of your brand, so make sure to choose templates, photos, and colors that best represent your shop. Your domain name should also represent your brand, so make sure it’s easy to remember and avoid numbers, symbols, or very long URLs.

Your website shouldn’t be overly complicated, and it should be easy to navigate. You don’t have to load down your site with lots of information. Start off by including key info such as hours of operation, services performed, and contact information. Also make sure to highlight any features that make your shop stand out, such as certifications, free estimates, or rental car/shuttle services offered to your customers. In the future, you can add additional features such as a signup option for email newsletters or online scheduling.

This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Learn more about creating and maintaining an online web presence for your business.

Advertise Your Business

Your website and social media profiles are a great way to start advertising your business, but in order to grow and scale, you can’t stop there. You need to plan a marketing and advertising campaign to get the word out about your business.

Consider paying for social media ads or pay-per-click ads on search engines, or sign up with Yelp For Business. These options can be affordable for new businesses and are easy to set up.

You can also look beyond the internet to advertise your business. Consider placing flyers or door hangers in the area around your business to bring in new customers. Before you take this route, though, make sure to understand the local laws in your area regarding the posting of flyers on public and private property.

As your business grows and becomes more successful, you can explore options including radio and TV advertisements and mailers. However, these ads are typically quite expensive, so hold off on these options until your business is bringing in steady revenue.

One of the most important things to remember here is that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the best forms of advertising. If you perform a great service, your customers will tell others about your business. Keep customer satisfaction high to increase those referrals and draw in more revenue for your body shop.

Final Thoughts

While you may be itching to get your auto body shop off the ground immediately, a business isn’t born overnight. Take the time to plan out your business, and you’ll increase your chances for success. The hard work doesn’t stop after your grand opening, either. You’ll need to continue working hard to bring in customers, increase your revenue, and become a successful entrepreneur.

The post How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start A Lawn Care Business

Can you picture making a profit by keeping the lawns of homes and businesses in your area looking their best? You’re not alone. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, starting a lawn care business sounds like a practical and achievable way to make money and be their own boss — a dream come true, in other words. If you’re reading this, you’re ready to take the next step toward making that dream a reality.

Starting a lawn care business seems easy. Just grab up some lawn equipment, find a couple of guys willing to do physical labor, and get started, right? Not exactly.

Like any other small business, building a successful lawn care business takes careful planning and hard work. You have to be willing to put in the time, effort, and money required to start and grow your business. A lawn care business may have low overhead and lower initial risk than other types of businesses, but it isn’t a cake walk. However, over time, you’ll begin to see the fruits of your labor through the beautiful lawns in your city or town and the profits sitting in your bank account.

In this guide, we’ll break down the steps for starting your own lawn care business. We’ll start off with the importance of your business plan and what it should include. We’ll go over what you need to get started — and it’s more than just lawn equipment. We’ll talk about the costs you’ll encounter and how to get the financing to cover those costs. We’ll also discuss ways to bring in customers … and profits.

Let’s get started!

Create A Business Plan

Every business is different, but all businesses need one thing to be successful: a business plan. Your future lawn care business is no exception. Even if your business concept seems simple, having a solid business plan in place is a necessity.

Think of your business plan as a roadmap of your business. You wouldn’t go on a long trip without a map or GPS, or put together a complicated piece of furniture without instructions, right? View your business in the same light.

Your business plan outlines your goals for the future. In other words, how will you get from where you are now — a startup business — to your goal? Every entrepreneur has a different goal. Maybe yours is to make $1 million in revenue within five years. Maybe it’s to expand throughout your state. Maybe you want to build a franchise that will go nationwide. No matter what your goals are, they need to be outlined in a solid business plan.

All business plans are different, but there are a few key sections that should be included in all plans. Those include:

  • Executive Summary: A short summary of your business plan and the value proposition of your business
  • Business Description: What does your business do? Include your mission statement and when your business was formed.
  • Organization: Who are your team members and what do they do within the organization?
  • Market Analysis: Include information about the market and your competition
  • Marketing Strategies: How do you plan to market your business to draw in customers and bring in profits?
  • Financial Projections: Use revenue growth and market trends to project the financial outlook of your business

Not only is your business plan critical to the growth of your company, but it’s also an absolute necessity if you plan to seek funding from outside sources — such as investors or banks — in the future.

Determine What Equipment You Need

Selecting equipment

To operate a lawn care business, you need to have the right tools and equipment for the job. While you may start off small and add to your inventory as your business grows, there are a few critical pieces of equipment you need to get started. For most lawn care businesses, major equipment includes:

  • Riding Lawnmower
  • Push Lawnmower
  • Edger
  • Hedge Trimmer
  • Leaf Blower
  • Truck
  • Equipment Trailer

For your business, you’ll also need equipment that’s less expensive but just as critical to operations. This includes:

  • Lawn Tools
  • Hand Tools
  • Lawn Bags
  • Eye/Ear Protection
  • Gloves
  • Gas Cans
  • Oil
  • Garden Hoses

You should expect to spend approximately $30,000 to $40,000 for the equipment you need to start your business. As your business grows, of course, you’ll need additional capital for the purchase of more equipment. For example, you may have just one truck, trailer, and mower for now, but if you have additional crews taking on jobs all over the area, you’ll need more equipment.

You may even opt to offer additional services — installing sod, laying mulch, or planting flowers — all of which require additional equipment and supplies. For now, however, focus on the equipment listed above. Those items will be most critical to getting your business off the ground.

Calculate Startup Costs

With an idea of the type of equipment you need to launch your business, you can now begin calculating startup costs. This will include the cost of your equipment, plus other necessary expenses to keep your business operating smoothly.

Your equipment will make up the bulk of your costs, and you should budget approximately $30,000 to $40,000 for these purchases. You may be able to get started with a smaller investment by purchasing used equipment. However, purchasing used does come with its risks. Older trucks can break down and previously-owned lawn equipment may immediately require servicing or repairs. While you can save money in the short term by buying used equipment, you may rack up additional expenses over the long term, so consider your purchases carefully.

When purchasing your equipment, shop around. Look online and visit local retailers to get estimates of costs. Determine what equipment you really need now and what you could add as your business grows. You may even consider starting with basic equipment (do you actually need that fully-loaded riding mower right this minute?) and upgrading your equipment when your business starts bringing in revenue.

Beyond the equipment we’ve already discussed, you’ll need additional supplies for your business. This may include chemical weed killers, pesticides, fertilizer, and other supplies. You may purchase these supplies upfront, or you may purchase them when needed. If you plan to keep inventory, you may incur additional costs if you rent storage for your supplies and equipment.

Another big startup cost to consider is the cost of insurance. You will need to have auto insurance on your truck. You will also be required to carry liability insurance. If you hire employees now, additional costs may include workman’s comp insurance and payroll taxes. Other startup costs include fees for permits and licenses. We’ll discuss obtaining licenses and permits a little more in the next section.

If you’re starting small as a one-person operation, your primary startup costs will be your equipment, supplies, insurance, and marketing costs. Just remember to take your time to do your research, plan, and budget to keep startup costs under control.

Register Your Business

Before you begin operating, you’ll need to register your business. There are several steps required to register a new business:

Choose & Register Your Business Name

While you may choose to operate your business under your own name, most small business owners choose a trade name. This name will need to be registered in the state where you will operate.

When choosing your name, you want to select one that is a reflection of your brand. You will also need to make sure that you select a name that is not registered by someone else in your state. You can find your state’s registration database with a quick online search.

Choose Your Legal Structure

One of the first steps in setting up your business is determining your legal structure. Your legal structure determines how much you pay in taxes and your personal liability for your business. Legal structures include:

  • Sole Proprietorship: This gives you full control over your business. You do not have to register this type of entity, so you skip over all the paperwork. However, this structure does not separate your personal assets and liabilities from those of your business. This means that you can be held personally liable for all debts and obligations of your business.
  • Partnership: This structure is the simplest structure for businesses that have two or more owners. A limited partnership (LP) gives one partner unlimited liability, while other owners have limited liability and limited control over the company. A limited liability partnership (LLP) gives limited liability to all owners, protecting each against the debts of the business and the actions of other partners.
  • Limited Liability Company: A limited liability company (LLC) protects you from personal liability from business debts and obligations. For example, your house, vehicle, or savings accounts will be untouchable if your business faces a lawsuit or files for bankruptcy.
  • Corporation: Corporations pay higher taxes and are more expensive to form. However, corporations can also raise money through the sale of stock. This structure is best for businesses that need to raise high amounts of capital or want to go public in the future.

Most lawn care business owners will register as a sole proprietorship or LLC, but consider the number of owners you have, protecting yourself from personal liability, and the future goals of your business before you make your decision.

Register With The IRS & State Revenue Agency

If you plan to have employees now or in the future, you will need to register for an Employer Identification Number. You’ll also request estimated tax vouchers from both the IRS and your state revenue office to file with your quarterly tax payments.

Obtain Licenses & Permits

The licenses and permits that you need for your business are based upon the laws of your municipality and what your business will do. For example, simply mowing lawns only requires a standard business license in most areas. However, if you plan to spray chemical herbicides, an additional license may be required. You can find out more about license and permit requirements by contacting your state’s Department of Commerce.

Seek Funding

We’ve already discussed the potential expenses you’ll encounter when opening your own lawn care business. Now, the big question is: how do you pay for it all? Like most aspiring entrepreneurs, your personal bank account likely isn’t bursting at the seams with more money than you know what to do with.

If you’re scratching your head trying to figure out finances, you’re certainly not alone. Most small business owners don’t have the funds needed to start and operate a new business. This is where small business funding plays a role.
There are more lenders than ever that are ready to give you the money you need to get your business off the ground. The trick is knowing what type of funding is best for your business and exactly where to find it.

Personal Savings

If you’ve socked away money in personal savings through the years, this money could be used to fund your new business venture. The best thing about using your own money is that you aren’t indebted to anyone. You don’t have to worry about loan payments, fees, and high interest rates. On the downside, if your business fails, it takes your savings with it.

Friends & Family

If you have a friend, family member, or colleague with money to invest, consider pitching your idea to them. Present them with your business plan and give a presentation just as you would give to a banker or other lender.

There are a few ways you can go about getting capital from someone you know. The first is a loan. Agree to rates, terms, and the borrowing amount and get it all in writing. Then, you’ll repay the borrowed funds plus interest over a set period of time, just as you would any other loan.

Another option is equity financing. You’d receive capital for your business and in exchange, your investor would own part of your company. You wouldn’t pay back the money immediately like you would a loan, but the investor would be able to take a share of your profits at a later time. Learn more about debt financing vs. equity financing.

No matter which way you go, keep everything professional and make sure everything is in writing. One thing that can sour a good relationship fast is a business deal gone bad.

Personal Loans

As a new business owner, walking into your bank to get a business loan is pretty tough … if not impossible. Banks look at your business and personal credit score, annual revenues, and your time in business. These lenders want to work with small businesses that are established and have the lowest risk. If you’re new to the game, many lenders won’t give you a second look.

This doesn’t mean that you’re only stuck with high-interest, short-term loan options. If you want a long-term loan with low rates, consider a personal loan for business. With these loans, you can qualify based on your personal income and credit score – no business information required.

You can apply for a personal loan for business through your bank, credit union, or an online lender. The most creditworthy borrowers will qualify for the best rates and terms and highest borrowing limits. A personal loan for business is a great option for larger purchases that you’d like to pay off over a longer period of time, like expensive equipment.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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Through Upstart, you can receive a personal loan of $1,000 up to $50,000 to use for your startup costs. APRs range from 8.09% to 35.99%. Your loan will be repaid over a period of 3 to 5 years.

Upstart is different from other lenders in that they look at more than just your credit score. While the lender does consider your credit score, education, years of credit, and job history are also factors used to determine if you qualify for a personal loan.

To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must:

  • Have a personal credit score of at least 620
  • Live in a state serviced by the lender
  • Have a regular source of income
  • Have a bank account 

Equipment Financing

Equipment financing is a type of funding used to purchase equipment. Instead of paying the full cost of your equipment up front, you’ll make a smaller down payment. A lender will cover the rest of the cost, which you’ll pay back over time along with fees and interest.

There are two different types of equipment financing: equipment loans and equipment leases. If you take out an equipment loan, you’ll typically pay 10% to 20% of the total purchase price as a down payment. Borrowers with high credit scores may qualify for 0% down financing. Once the down payment is paid and the loan is in place, you’ll be able to immediately take possession of your equipment. You’ll pay for the total purchase price of the equipment plus interest over a set period of time — typically around 5 years. Once you’ve made all payments as agreed, the equipment is yours to keep, trade in, or sell.

An equipment lease is more like renting. You’ll pay a down payment and take immediate possession of the equipment. You’ll make payments to your lender over a shorter period of time, usually 2 years. Once your lease period ends, you’ll return the equipment and sign another lease for newer equipment. Some lenders may allow you to pay off your balance if you want to keep the equipment you’ve been using.

Learn more about equipment loans and leases and which is right for you.

One of the best things about equipment financing is that you don’t have to put up collateral to secure your loan. Instead, the equipment itself serves as the collateral and can be repossessed if you default on your loan or lease.

With equipment financing, you can purchase any type of equipment you need for your business, including lawnmowers, edgers, trimmers, or even a commercial vehicle.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio is a loan aggregator that connects you with multiple lenders with just one application. Through Lendio, you can apply for equipment financing from $5,000 to $5 million with repayment terms of 1 to 5 years. Interest rates start at 7.5%.

To qualify for equipment financing, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Annual revenue of at least $50,000
  • Personal credit score of 650 or higher
  • Time in business of at least 12 months

If your credit score falls below the 650 minimum, you may be able to qualify with proof of solid cash flow and revenue for the last 3 to 6 months.

Even if you don’t meet these requirements, you could still qualify with certain lenders. Simply fill out Lendio’s free application or contact a personal funding manager. If you don’t qualify for equipment financing or have other financial needs, you can also apply for Small Business Administration loans, short-term loans, startup loans, and Lendio’s other financial products.

Lines Of Credit

If you want a flexible form of financing, a line of credit might be right up your alley. You’ll be able to initiate draws from your line of credit, and the lender sends the funds immediately to your bank account. You can make one or more draws from your line of credit up to and including your set credit limit.

Since a line of credit is revolving, your funds will become available to use again as you pay down your balance. Interest and/or fees are charged on the borrowed portion of funds. If you don’t use your line of credit, you won’t pay interest to the lender. Many lenders also won’t charge any fees if you haven’t used your funds.

A line of credit is a good option when you need immediate access to cash, such as to purchase supplies or to pay for an unexpected expense, like repairs to your vehicle or equipment.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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You can qualify for up to $100,000 when you apply for a Fundbox line of credit. Fundbox fees start at 4.66% of the borrowing amount. You only pay when you use your funds, and you can save by repaying early. Payments are made weekly over a period of 12 or 24 weeks. You may receive a line of credit based on the performance of your business or for your unpaid invoices.

To qualify for a Fundbox line of credit, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Be a U.S.-based business
  • Own a business checking account
  • Have at least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Have a bank account with transactions for at least 3 months OR at least 2 months of activity in supported accounting software

Qualifying through Fundbox takes just minutes. If approved, you’ll be able to initiate draws on your line of credit immediately for deposit in your account as quickly as the next business day.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

Do you have a retirement account? If so, you may qualify for a unique type of funding known as Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS). You probably already know that early withdrawal from your retirement account results in penalties. But there is a way to access these funds without being penalized, and yes, it’s completely legal.

A ROBS plan allows you to roll over your qualifying retirement funds into capital for your new business. Here’s how it works:

  • A new C-corporation is created
  • A new retirement plan is created for the C-corp
  • Funds are rolled over from your existing retirement plan to the new retirement plan
  • These funds are used to purchase stock in the C-corp, giving you the capital you need to start or grow your business

Even though it’s just four steps, there are some legal issues to be aware of. This is why entrepreneurs that leverage their retirement funds in this way turn to a ROBS provider. A ROBS provider will handle everything for you, from setting up the new C-corp to maintaining compliance. In exchange, you pay a setup fee and a monthly maintenance fee.

Funds from your ROBS plan can be used for any business purpose. One of the best things about a ROBS plan is that you won’t be making payments with interest to a lender. You also don’t have to worry about traditional borrower requirements like personal credit score or annual revenues. As long as you have a qualifying retirement plan, you can set up a ROBS plan. The main drawback, however, is that if your business fails, you lose your retirement funds, so be aware of this risk before setting up your plan.

Recommended Option: Benetrends

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Benetrends is the creator of the innovative Rainmaker Plan, the original ROBS plan. Benetrends can get the funding you need for your business in as little as 10 days. You will have access to your retirement funds with no penalties with Benetrends’ easy four-step process.

There are no credit score, time in business, or revenue requirements. Most retirement plans with at least $50,000 qualify.

A setup fee of $4,995 is required to start your ROBS plan. After paying this initial cost, you must pay a service fee of $130 per month. This fee covers compliance, audit protection, and other services.

Purchase Financing

When you start your lawn care business, you’ll likely develop relationships with vendors. You can pay these vendors out of pocket when you receive your invoice, or you can break your purchase down into smaller, more manageable payments with purchase financing.

With purchase financing, a lender will pay your vendor up front. You’ll repay the lender the borrowed amount plus fees and/or interest through smaller payments made over a longer period of time. This is an excellent way to purchase supplies and other items critical for the success of your business when you’re facing cash flow issues or just need a little extra time to pay.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf offers purchase financing, allowing you to pay any merchant with terms up to 6 months. With Behalf, you can borrow between $300 and $50,000. Monthly fees start at just 1%, and there are no origination fees, membership fees, prepayment fees, or maintenance fees.

There are no minimum time in business, revenue, or personal credit score requirements. However, a hard pull of your credit is performed by the lender and will be used to determine if you’re eligible to receive funding, as well as your monthly fee.

Business Credit Cards

A business credit card is a great way to cover expenses or make purchases without waiting for approval from a lender. Once you’re approved for a credit card, you’ll be able to spend up to and including your credit limit anywhere credit cards are accepted.

Once you’ve made a purchase using your credit card, you’ll be required to make a monthly payment until you repay your balance, plus interest charged by the credit card issuer. This is a type of revolving credit, so as you repay, funds will be available to use again. Once you’re approved for a credit card, you don’t have to wait for approval to make a purchase. You can make one or multiple purchases up to and including the credit limit set by the lender.

You can cover an emergency expense or purchase supplies using a business credit card. You can also use credit cards for recurring expenses, such as gas for your truck and machines. With a rewards card, you can even get cash back or perks just for using your card.

If you don’t qualify for a business credit card, consider applying for a personal credit card to use for business expenses.

Recommended Option: Spark Cash For Business

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.74%, Variable

The Spark Cash card from Capital One offers unlimited 2% cash back that you can redeem anytime. New cardholders can earn a $500 cash bonus just for spending $4,500 within the first 3 months of opening their accounts. This business credit card has a 19.24% variable APR. There is no annual fee for one year, and the fee is $95 after the first year. Employee cards are available at no additional cost.

To qualify for this credit card, you must meet these requirements:

  • Excellent personal credit score
  • No bankruptcies
  • No defaults on loans
  • No payments over 60 days late on a credit card, loan, or medical bill for the last year
  • A loan or credit card for at least 3 years with a credit limit above $5,000

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

Another business credit card to consider is the Chase Ink Business Preferred card. With this card, you’ll be able to rack up points just by making purchases for your business. All travel, shipping, advertising, internet, cable, and phone purchases yield three points for every dollar spent for the first $150,000 spent annually. You’ll receive one point for every dollar spent on all other business purchases with no limitations.

You’ll also be eligible to receive a bonus offer of 80,000 bonus points if you spend $5,000 within 3 months of opening your account. Points can be redeemed toward cash, gift cards, or other products and services.

Chase Ink Business Preferred has a variable interest rate of 18.24% to 23.24%. The card has an annual fee of $95. Other benefits are also provided for cardholders, including cell phone protection and free employee cards.

To qualify for this card, you must have good to excellent credit.

Bolster Your Web Presence

web builder template

The internet has made life easier than ever for small business owners. After all, you can do your accounting online, shop for supplies and equipment, and communicate with customers. Perhaps most importantly, you can market your business online. Bolstering your web presence is a quick and easy way to reach your target market, helping you bring in new customers and boost your profit potential.

Set Up Social Media Profiles

Social media has morphed into something much bigger than just chatting with family and friends. These days, people are using social media to find and connect with new brands and businesses. Shouldn’t your new business be included?

One of the best things about social media is that it’s free to set up your profiles. Add your business to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, Yelp, and/or Pinterest. With these social media profiles, you can share information about your business such as operating hours and services provided, post photos of completed jobs, promote specials, or share news about your business. On sites like Facebook, satisfied customers can even post reviews and ratings.

Want to learn how to get the most out of your social media pages? Take a look at our Guide to Social Media Marketing.

Build Your Website

Most people turn to the internet when they’re looking for a service provider, which is why it’s so important to have a website. No experience with web design? Don’t worry — there are a variety of web builders that do the hard work for you. Check out some of our top picks.

Your website doesn’t have to be complicated. Make sure that your design fits your brand and provides the most relevant information that customers need, including a list of services provided, your service area, and your contact information. You can even take it a few steps further by adding photos of jobs you’ve successfully completed, price lists, special promotions, and news and updates.

One last thing to note is that when you choose a domain name, make sure that it reflects your brand and includes your business name. However, you also want to make sure that it’s short and easy to remember. Avoid using symbols and numbers to make it easier for current and future customers to find you online.

Check out more tips and tricks for creating and maintaining your web presence.

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

Every business — including your new lawn care business — needs business software to keep operations running smoothly. You can use business software to keep track of appointments, store customer data, process payments, create invoices, and keep up with your financials. Let’s explore a few types that would be useful for your lawn care business.

Accounting Software

Managing your finances is one of the most important aspects of running a business. Accounting software makes it easier than ever to track your finances. With this type of software, you’ll be able to keep up-to-date on the money that you receive, what is owed to you, and what you owe. In addition, using accounting software also makes it easier for you to run important financial statements and file your taxes.

Today’s accounting software comes with more features than ever, including cloud-based storage, online invoicing, automatic payment reminders, and mobile apps for tracking on the go. Unsure of which software is best for you? Check out some of our recommendations. If you’re new to accounting or need a refresher, make sure to download our eBook, The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting.

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A great choice for freelancers needing some extra help managing their business

Payment Processing Apps

Very few businesses today are “cash only.” This is because credit cards, debit cards, and even mobile devices make it easier than ever for consumers to pay for their purchases. To make payments more convenient for your customers, consider using a payment processing app.

Payment processing software transmits data between you, your bank, and your customer’s bank, allowing you to accept credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of payment. Many payment processors also include the hardware needed to accept these methods of payments. This hardware may be included in your subscription cost or for an additional fee.

Worried about bulky hardware? Don’t be. There are devices that easily affix to a mobile phone or tablet, so you can take payments anywhere — from your own office to your customer’s front yard.

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

Field Service Management Software

Another type of software to consider purchasing for your business is field service management software. This software allows you to keep up with everything from your customers to your employees. There are even programs that are specific to lawn care companies.

With this type of software, you can keep up-to-date records on your customers, from their contact information to their history of appointments. With this software, you can easily schedule new appointments and dispatch employees. Other features may include automatic invoicing, route optimization, easy estimates, and GPS tracking.

Advertise Your Business

business loans for HVAC

In order to make your business successful and profitable, you have to have customers. And you have to reach customers by spreading the word about your business.

While bolstering your web presence is a good first step, don’t stop there. Consider purchasing paid ad space on social media platforms or search engines to reach a broader audience. Yelp for Business is an excellent way to advertise yourself while gaining street cred with potential clients.

You can also utilize free online sites like Craigslist to advertise your business. Just remember to follow the rules before posting and avoid spamming the website.

Moving beyond the web, never underestimate the power of “old school” marketing techniques like flyers and door hangers. Post flyers in areas that get a lot of foot traffic, such as retail shopping centers, and put door hangers around your neighborhood and surrounding areas. You can design and print these yourself, or you can pay an additional fee to a professional printer. Either way you go, this is a very affordable way to market your lawn care business. Before you use this method of advertising, contact your city government office to learn about any restrictions and always make sure to get the permission of the property owner before distributing flyers on private property.

You can also use your work truck to advertise your business. Make sure that your business name, telephone number, and/or URL are prominently displayed and easy to read. Online printers can create custom vinyl decals featuring your logo, name, and contact information at a very affordable price.

Finally, word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most effective methods of advertising in this industry. If your customer likes your service, they’ll tell their friends, family members, neighbors, and colleagues about your service when recommendations are needed. They may give you a glowing review on your website or social media page, which could lure in additional customers. Always make sure to provide the best service to your customers so they’ll refer you to new customers in the future.

Final Thoughts

Your new lawn care business won’t be up and running overnight, but taking the time to go through each step ensures a better chance for success. Every business is different, and you may need to tweak some of these steps to better fit the vision for your lawn care business. Maybe taking the steps in a different order makes more sense for your business, or maybe there’s a step that isn’t relevant to your future goals.

No matter how you picture your future, you’re now armed with the knowledge of what it takes to start your own lawn care business. Now, it’s up to you to determine what steps you’ll take next to become a successful entrepreneur.

The post How To Start A Lawn Care Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Want To Open Your Own Bar? Top Tips To Get You Started

Have you ever looked around your local bar and thought, “I could run a place like this”? For many, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of potentially opening a bar, but for a select few, this is more than just a fleeting idea. These aspiring entrepreneurs want to make this dream a reality.

Opening your own bar or sports pub seems like a fun and exciting experience. After all, who doesn’t love gathering with friends and family to watch the big game with a cold drink in hand and appetizing snacks on the table? Behind-the-scenes, though, it’s a little different. While it may seem exciting to become a small business owner and call the shots, there’s also a lot of planning and work involved in starting a profitable business.

If opening a little corner pub sounds like a dream come true but you don’t know quite where to begin, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll share our top tips for starting the exhilarating and lucrative path to owning your own bar. We’ll go over what you need to legally open a bar, expenses to start and maintain your business, and the importance of a business plan. We’ll also help you decode one of the biggest pieces of the small business puzzle: getting financing for your new business.

If you’re ready to stop dreaming and start doing, keep reading!

Begin With Branding

bar nightclub pos systems

One of the first things you need to do before you take off running is to visualize a name, a theme, and an overarching concept for your bar. Do you picture yourself running a neighborhood pub where all of the locals gather? Or maybe you’d rather open a thriving nightclub where young club hoppers from around your city come to dance the night away?

Evaluate your different options, considering the type of patrons you’d like to attract as well as where you plan to open your bar. For example, if you want a younger crowd, a nightclub in a trendy part of town makes sense. If you want to attract an older, more sophisticated crowd, consider opening a wine bar, martini bar, or cigar bar in a thriving downtown area. You could also target sports fans by opening a sports bar or draw in foodies with a new gastropub.

Knowing what type of bar you want to open helps you plan out additional details. For example, if you’re opening a hot nightclub spinning the latest top 40 hits, country-western décor won’t fit your theme. If you want to draw in a sports crowd, loud music and fog machines probably won’t be on your list of supplies. Choosing the type of bar you want to open and nailing down your target audience first will help you accurately plan everything from the design and layout of your establishment to your name and logo.

Speaking of your bar’s name, it goes without saying that you’ll need one. Because it’s your bar, you’re free to name it anything you want. However, you want to make sure that you choose a name that reflects your concept. “John’s Neighborhood Bar” may incorporate your name, but it doesn’t stand out. When brainstorming ideas, think about the audience you want to bring in and pick a moniker that’s attention-grabbing — a name that lets customers know what to expect when walking through the doors of your bar.

Find A Location

One of the most important first steps in opening your own bar is choosing a location. There are a few options you have at this stage of the game:

  • Purchase an existing bar
  • Start from scratch
  • Buy a franchise

There are advantages and disadvantages for each option. If you purchase an existing bar, you inherit the existing clientele and may see immediate income. However, you could pay a steep premium if the bar is extremely successful at the time of sale. You may also rack up high costs if the bar doesn’t mesh with your vision and you have to pay for renovations.

If you start from scratch, you’ll be able to see your vision through from start to finish. However, it may take many months (or even a year or longer) to open your doors, and the costs can really rack up if you have to completely renovate a space or build a new bar from the ground up. With this option, careful planning, budgeting, and at least some knowledge of the bar and restaurant industry are needed for the highest chance of success.

Finally, you could purchase a franchise. This option could shield you from some of the mistakes you’d almost certainly encounter if you attempted to go it alone. However, you won’t be able to fully showcase your creativity with a franchise.

Finding a location takes planning and a dedicated eye on financials. Sure, putting your bar in a trendy and popular neighborhood could help your business become your city’s next hotspot, but real estate costs may be prohibitively high. Before you put down money on a location, make sure to do your market research and understand the costs.

Create A Business Plan

Every successful business starts with a solid business plan, and a bar is no exception. Not only will your business plan act as a blueprint for starting, operating, and growing your business, but it’s also a necessity if you plan to apply for business loans from a bank or other lender.

No two business plans are exactly alike, but there are some standard sections you should have in yours. This includes:

  • Executive Summary: Basic information about your business and why it will be a success
  • Company Details: Specific details about your business
  • Organizational Chart: Outline of your company structure
  • Marketing Strategy: How will you market your business?
  • Financial Projections: Show the financial outlook of your business

Your business plan should showcase the goals of your company and serve as a map for you to follow, keeping your business on the right path. Lenders will want to see a business plan that demonstrates thought, intelligence, research, and reasonable plans for success in the future.

Register Your Business

Before you open your bar and begin serving customers, you have to register your business. First things first: register the business’s name with your state. This can be completed via the county clerk’s office in the state where you’ll operate.

Next, you’ll need to determine your formal legal structure. Do you plan to be a limited liability company or a corporation? Your business structure will determine how much you pay in taxes, what paperwork needs to be filed with the government, and your personal liability. If you’re unsure of which structure is right for your new business, consult with an attorney, accountant, or business counselor.

Your business will also need to be registered with the state revenue office and the Internal Revenue Service. Because your business will have employees, you’ll be required to apply for an Employer Identification Number. You’ll also need a sales tax permit.

Finally, you’ll be required to obtain the proper licenses and permits to legally operate your business. Because your bar will serve alcohol, a liquor license is required. If your bar serves food, you’ll need a license from the health department. You can find out more about the requirements in your area by contacting your state Department of Commerce.

Obtain A Liquor License

In the previous section, we touched on acquiring the right permits and licenses. One of the most important things you need to open a bar — if not the most important thing — is a liquor license. This license makes it legal for you to sell alcohol in your business. This should be a top priority, as getting approval from your state’s Alcohol Beverage Control agency typically takes at least one month. In some cases, it may take up to six months to get approved.

The steps required to obtain your liquor license vary by state. In all states, though, you will be required to fill out an application. You may be required to submit additional documentation with your application, such as a certificate of incorporation, your proposed menu, and the certificate of title for your bar. You may also be required to pay a processing fee.

Once your application is reviewed and approved, you’ll have to pay for your license. Fees vary by state and range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. Your license will last for at least one year, and you must pay a fee when it’s time to renew.

Even though getting your liquor license is a hassle and can get very expensive depending on your state, this is a critical step that can’t be overlooked. To learn more about the process, fees, and type of license required for your business, contact your state ABC agency.

Seek Funding

Business licenses. A construction loan or lease. Renovations. You haven’t even stocked your bar, and the expenses are already piling up. Unless you’re already a successful entrepreneur with plenty of money in the bank, these expenses may seem completely overwhelming.

Very few small business owners have the resources to launch a business on their own. Instead, they turn to lenders for money to fund startup costs. Even after you launch your business, there will always be a need for more capital, whether an emergency has popped up, you need to expand, or a slow period has affected your day-to-day operations.

Even if your credit history is blemished, you’re a startup with no business history, or you face other challenges, there’s funding out there if you know where to look. Start with these options.

Personal Savings

Many new business owners have at least a little bit of money put away in their savings accounts. If you’ve been socking away pennies for a rainy day, now may be the opportunity to put these savings to use. By using your own money, you won’t be indebted to a lender (or at least not as much). You won’t have to worry about making scheduled payments, and there won’t be interest or fees to worry about. On the downside, if your business is unsuccessful, you lose part — or all — of your savings.

Loans From Friends & Family

If you have a friend or family member with extra money to invest, pitch them your business idea to see if they’re interested. But be careful! Even though you have a more personal relationship with this person, don’t just have a casual conversation asking to borrow funds. Instead, give them your business plan and present your pitch just as you would with a bank or other lender. Show them why you think your business will be a success, and give them a good reason to invest in you.

If you come to a loan agreement, get everything in writing, including the total borrowing amount, rates, and terms of the loan. Put your personal relationship aside and make sure you follow all terms of the loans just as a responsible borrower should.

Personal Loans For Business

Getting a startup loan from a bank or other lender can be tough. Sure, there are options, such as Small Business Administration loans, but these loans can be very difficult to receive — especially if you have a short time in business or low annual revenue. However, if you have a solid personal credit profile, more low-cost loan options are available to you.

Instead of going directly for a business loan, try applying for a personal loan for business. With a business loan, lenders consider your time in business, personal and business credit histories, and annual revenues. But with a personal loan, your personal credit score and income are used to determine if you qualify.

By going this route, you may be able to avoid many of the high fees and interest rates of alternative business loans. Depending on your credit history and the lender you select, your cost of borrowing could be much lower with a long-term, low-interest personal loan.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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You may qualify to receive a personal loan of between $1,000 and $50,000 through Upstart. These loans have competitive interest rates starting at 7.74% and going up to 35.99% based on your creditworthiness. Repayment terms of 36 or 60 months are available. The application process is quick, easy, and completely online.

To qualify for an Upstart personal loan, you must meet a few basic requirements, including having a valid email address, verifiable personal information, a source of income, and a U.S. checking account. You also have to meet the lender’s credit requirements, which include:

  • A credit score of 620 or above OR 580 or above for California residents
  • A solid debt-to-income ratio
  • No bankruptcies or public records
  • No delinquent accounts or accounts in collections
  • 6 or fewer inquiries on your credit report over the last 6 months

Lines Of Credit

A more traditional financing option is a flexible line of credit. The one drawback with a line of credit is that business performance is typically a qualifying factor. If you haven’t made any sales, you won’t qualify, so this isn’t a good financial option if you’re not in business yet.

As you build your business, though, a line of credit can be very useful. It can be used to purchase supplies, inventory, or cover that emergency that pops up when you least expect it. You can also use your line of credit to cover payroll or daily operational expenses.

When you receive a line of credit, a lender provides you with a credit limit. You can make as many draws as you need against the line of credit up to and including the credit limit. Once you initiate a draw, the lender will transfer the money directly to your bank account, giving you access to the money you need. Over time, you’ll make payments that are applied to the principal (the amount you’ve borrowed) and any fees and/or interest charged by the lender.

A line of credit is a revolving account, so as you repay the lender, money becomes available to draw again.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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You may qualify to receive a line of credit of up to $100,000 through Fundbox. Fundbox lines of credit have no restrictions and can be used to cover any business expense. Once approved, you’ll be eligible to make draws immediately and receive funds as quickly as the next business day.

The Fundbox application process takes just minutes, and it’s easy to qualify. The lender focuses on the performance of your business — not your business or personal credit history — so even borrowers with credit challenges can qualify. You do, however, have to meet the following requirements:

  • Own a U.S.-based business
  • Have a business checking account
  • At least 3 months of transactions in your business bank account or at least 2 months of activity in a supported accounting software
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue

Once you make a draw on your line of credit, automatic drafts are made weekly from your linked business checking account. If you do not use your funds, you do not pay. Repayment terms are 12 or 24 weeks and fees start at 4.66% of the total borrowing amount.

Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards work just like the personal credit cards in your wallet, only they’re used to pay business expenses. Business credit cards are great for emergency expenses or any time your cash flow is a little short. You can also make recurring payments, such as your utility bills, using a business credit card. This is especially beneficial if you have a rewards card that gives you cash back or other rewards simply for making qualified purchases.

When you apply for a credit card, your lender will set a credit limit if you’re approved. You may spend up to and including this credit limit with one or multiple transactions anywhere credit cards are accepted. Each month, you’ll make a payment that is applied to the principal, interest, and fees charged by the lender. As you pay down your balance, funds will become available to use again. If you don’t have a balance, you won’t pay any interest, although you may have to pay annual fees depending on the card you select.

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Business Unlimited

Chase Ink Business Unlimited


chase ink business unlimited
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

If you have an excellent credit score of at least 740, you may qualify for the Chase Ink Business Unlimited credit card. This is a rewards card that provides you with unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases made for your business. As a new cardholder, you will also be eligible to receive a $500 cash back bonus if you spend $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account.

The Chase Ink Business Unlimited card comes with a 0% introductory APR for purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, the card has a variable APR of 15.49% to 21.49%. This card comes with no annual fee. You can also receive additional cards for employees at no extra cost.

Rollover For Business Startups (ROBS)

Do you have a retirement account? If so, you can legally leverage these funds to pay your startup costs without facing tax or early withdrawal penalties. With a Rollover for Business Startups (ROBS) plan, you can put your retirement account to work for your new business.

It’s possible to access your retirement account funds with no penalties in just a few easy steps. First, create a new C-corporation. Next, create a qualified retirement plan for the corporation. Then, the funds from your qualified retirement account are rolled over into the new retirement plan. Finally, the funds that were rolled over can be used to purchase stock in the corporation, giving you access to the capital you need to start or grow your business.

Throughout the process, you do have to remain compliant and follow legal guidelines. For most new business owners, the process can get confusing, which is why ROBS providers are available to help. A ROBS provider will set up your ROBS plan to ensure everything is by the book. To get started, you’ll need to pay a setup fee, then pay a monthly maintenance fee for maintaining your account.

The great thing about ROBS plans is that you are using your own money, so you won’t have to pay interest on a loan. You will, however, have to pay a monthly fee to maintain your account. You also risk losing your retirement funds if your business is unsuccessful.

Recommended Option: Benetrends

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Benetrends is a pioneer of ROBS, launching its Rainmaker Plan in the 1980s. This visionary-plan is the longest-running ROBS plan, and Benetrends offers many benefits that outshine its competitors.

With just four easy steps, Benetrends can get the capital you need from your qualified retirement plan. With the Rainmaker Plan, you can have your funding is as little as 10 days.

To qualify, you must have an eligible retirement plan with at least $50,000. Most retirement plans are eligible, with the exception of Roth IRAs, 457 plans for non-governmental agencies, and distribution of death benefits from an IRA other than to the spouse. There are no time in business, annual revenue, or personal credit score requirements.

To get started with Benetrends, you’ll be required to pay a setup fee of $4,995. After paying this fee, your C-corporation and ROBS plan will be set up. After your plan is set up, you’ll be required to pay a monthly maintenance fee of $130. This fee covers ongoing support and services including legal support, audit protection, and compliance.

Purchase Financing

Paying your vendors will be an ongoing expense for your business. You have multiple options available to pay your vendors. You can pay out-of-pocket, you can use a credit card or line of credit, or you can take advantage of purchase financing.

With this type of financing, your vendors are paid immediately, while you get more time to pay. A lender pays your vendors up front, then you repay the lender over a set period of time. The lender will add fees and/or interest to your loan balance for paying your expenses upfront.

By using purchase financing, you’re able to pay your vendors immediately to receive the supplies, inventory, or services you need for your bar. Then, you can spread out your payments over time to make these purchases more affordable for your business.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf offers purchase financing of up to $50,000 for qualified borrowers. Repayment terms of up to 180 days are available. Behalf charges fees of 1% to 3% of the borrowed amount per month for using this service. There are no additional fees. You can repay on a weekly or monthly schedule.

Behalf’s financing can be used to pay merchants for inventory or services. However, there are some restrictions. You can’t pay bills, cover payroll, or pay other existing debt through Behalf.

Behalf analyzes the performance of your business when making its approval decisions. There are no time in business or business revenue requirements. Behalf does not have a minimum personal credit score for approval, although your credit history will be considered during the application process.

Create Your Menu

Before you open your bar, you need to know what food and drinks you plan to serve and what equipment is needed to properly prepare each menu item.

When planning your menu, think about your theme and the type of customers you plan to attract while also keeping your budget in mind.

Decide what type of drinks you’ll serve. Most bars serve a variety of wines, beers, liquors, and mixed drinks, but what you serve may be different based on the theme of your bar. For example, in a sports bar, your drink menu may feature a wide selection of beers. If you open a nightclub, you want to have a variety of liquors and mixers on hand to create many different types of drinks. If you have a cigar bar, wines and craft beers may make up the bulk of your menu. Again, the type of bar you want, the theme, and your target audience can help you determine what you serve.

If your bar will serve food, think about the types of food you’ll serve. In a neighborhood bar, appetizers like fried cheese sticks or nachos may be enough to keep your customers happy. If you have a gastropub, meals made with high-quality ingredients should make up your menu. Remember, creating the perfect menu takes careful planning, so take the time to brainstorm your ideas.

It’s also wise to start off small and add new items as your business grows. If you have a huge menu that features every type of food and beverage you could think of, your bar will require more equipment. More equipment equals more expenses. Working with a smaller menu can also ensure that your bartenders and kitchen staff aren’t overwhelmed and can focus on creating high-quality food and drinks. As you draw in customers to your bar, you can tweak your menu based on what customers are ordering, what gets rave reviews, and what falls flat.

Once you’ve determined what your bar will be serving, you’ll need to talk with suppliers to get estimates of costs. As you approach opening day, you’ll place your order with your selected suppliers.

Still stuck on your menu? Check out our tips for creating a great menu.

Purchase Your Equipment

Once you’ve secured a location and have moved further into the process of building your bar, it’s time to think about the equipment and fixtures that you need. What your bar needs depends on the theme you’ve selected and what you’ll be serving, but some items you may consider include:

  • Bar & barstools
  • Benches
  • Tables & chairs
  • Industrial ovens & other kitchen equipment
  • Coolers, refrigerators & ice bins
  • Blenders & other bar equipment
  • Big-screen TVs
  • Sound system
  • Microphones & other audio equipment
  • Beer taps

After you’ve leased, purchased, or built your building, it’s important to create a detailed layout of your business. You want to ensure that you have enough room for everything required to run your bar, while also leaving enough space for seating, a dance floor, and other features that will be important to your customers. As you grow your business and need to add or update equipment, consider equipment financing to make these expenses more manageable.

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Interest/Factor Rate Additional Fees Next Steps

$2K – $5M Varies As low as 2% Varies Visit Site

$5K – $500K 24 – 72 months Starts at 5% Yes Compare

Up to $250K 1 – 72 months Starts at 5.49% Varies Compare

Select Your POS System

ipad POS

Gone are the days when most businesses just needed a cash register or two for their customers. With the rising use of credit cards, debit cards, and mobile payments, businesses — especially bars — need a more advanced system for accepting payments.

A point of sale (POS) system is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll need for your new bar. A POS system combines software and hardware to create a centralized point for business operations. Through this system, you’ll be able to take orders and accept payments, but that’s not all.

Some of the most advanced POS systems come with features beneficial to bars. This includes built-in tipping systems, inventory management that allows you to track your stock levels, and an open ticket system for creating bar tabs.

Your POS system plays an important role in your business, so it’s important that you know what to look for before making your purchase. Check out our top picks for POS systems for bars and nightclubs.

Lightspeed Restaurant ShopKeep Toast

Lightspeed Restaurant

ShopKeep

Toast

TouchBistro

Breadcrumb POS by Upserve

ShopKeep alternatives for restaurants

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Visit Site 

Review

Compare 

Review

Monthly fee

$69+

Get a quote

$79+

$69+

$99+

Cloud-based or Locally Installed

Cloud-based

Hybrid

Cloud-based

Locally installed

Cloud-based

Compatible credit card processors

Cayan or Mercury in US; iZettle in Europe

Shopkeep Payments & some others; contact your processor to see if they are supported

Toast only

TouchBistro Payments, Square, PayPal, Moneris, Cayan, Chase Paymentech & more

Upserve Payments only

Business size

Small to medium

Small to medium

Small to large

Small to medium

Small to large

Hire Employees

To make sure your bar is a success, you need to have the right employees working for you. If you haven’t done so already, you need to apply for an Employer Identification Number for tax purposes. Next, you need to determine how many employees you need and what their roles will be in your business.

You’ll need at least one bartender that prepares and serves drinks in your bar. You will need to add additional bartenders based on the number of bar areas you have in your business, as well as the number of customers you have to serve.

If your bar will serve any type of food, you will also need a kitchen staff. This includes at least one cook, but you may also need prep cooks, dishwashers, and other staff as your business grows.

You’ll also need servers to distribute food or pass out drinks to customers not seated at the bar. The number of servers you have is based on the size of your bar and how busy it gets.

While your servers may be able to handle cleaning tables at first, as your business grows, you may want to add a busser or two, who are responsible for cleaning off tables for new customers.

You may also require additional staff. For example, you may hire a doorman that checks IDs before customers enter the door. A security guard may also be a staff member you hire to handle tempers that flare from customers who’ve had one too many.

You also need at least one manager to oversee the staff. A manager’s role may include hiring employees, firing employees, training, making schedules, and making sure that all staff members are doing their jobs properly.

Before you start seeking job applicants, make sure to create an in-house organizational chart to know exactly who you need to hire. You also need to do your research to figure out what salaries you will offer, as well as any benefits.

Unsure of where to hire new employees? You have a few options. First, post a job ad on online job boards or classified ads to find potential employees. This is an inexpensive (or even free) way to find candidates.

You can also ask for referrals. If you know someone in the industry, ask if they have any new hires to recommend. Don’t know anyone in the industry? Ask other colleagues, family, and friends for recommendations.

Bolster Your Web Presence

After completing all of these steps, you’ll be that much closer to opening your bar. However, you want to make sure to spread the word about your business, and there’s no better way to do that than with the internet.

One of the easiest ways to get the word out about your business is through social media. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are just a few of the ways you can reach your target audience, and Yelp For Business is a must. Best of all, these accounts are free to use. As you grow, you may consider moving past the free advertising you get through your posts and pictures and invest in advertising on these social platforms.

You also need a good website. Keep your bar’s theme in mind when you design your site. Make sure that your website reflects the image you want to project. There are many small business website builders you can look into if you want to create your website yourself. These make it easy for you to create a professional website with no prior web design experience required.

Service Pricing Hosted or Licensed Templates & Themes Compatible Credit Card Processors Next Steps

$14 – $179/month Hosted Excellent Many

Go to Site

Free – $29.90/month Web-Hosted Excellent Many

Go to Site

Free – $25/month Web-Hosted Average Many

Go to Site

$0/month Hosted Good Square Payments

Go to Site

Make sure that you include your address and phone number on your website. Information about your bar including dress code and hours of operation are also extremely useful for customers. You can also include your menu, photos of your establishment and patrons, and news and updates on your website.

Also, remember that word-of-mouth is one of the best forms of advertising for a bar. If your customers love your drinks, food, service, and atmosphere, they’ll tell others. If they dislike your bar, they’ll also tell others … who will make sure to avoid your establishment. Whether your bar is brand new on the block or you’ve been in business for some time, keep customer satisfaction high so that customers online and off will have nothing but positive reviews for your business.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, creating a bar where everyone gathers to have a great time takes a lot of hard work. But just as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” Running your own bar means planning, budgeting, and always being ready for growth. While your bar won’t make you an overnight millionaire, you can become a successful entrepreneur with this potentially-lucrative venture if you put in the work.

The post Want To Open Your Own Bar? Top Tips To Get You Started appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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11+ Great Shopify Website Examples for Inspiration

Shopify Examples

So you’re considering using Shopify as your online store builder, and you’re looking for Shopify website examples for inspiration and confirmation that you’re making the right choice.

Shopify is one of the biggest names in the ecommerce website builder space. It’s part of a group of turn-key ecommerce (aka “hosted ecommerce”) solutions that provide everything you need to set up and start selling your product(s) to the world, as opposed to you putting all the pieces together yourself.

See Shopify’s Current Plans & Pricing

It’s sort of like hiring a general contractor to build your house, over being the contractor and hiring subcontractors yourself. You’re still in control, but you let the general contractor use their expertise to make the project happen.

Shopify is known for its straightforward user experience, which is great for DIY-ers. All you need to do is pick a Shopify plan that fits your budget and feature needs, point your domain to your store, choose a design/template (you can edit a free one using their drag and drop builder or build one yourself / use a designer), add your content and products, then start selling!

Before we dive into examples of what Shopify websites look like in the wild, there are two things to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website platform.

First, it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a website platform should be done in the same way. We collected the following Shopify examples not just to show you how they look, but how Shopify websites can function so you can be sure you have a website that fits both the style you want and the functionality you need.

Second, it’s not just about how a platform’s website’s look by default. It’s also about how far you can extend a piece of software via plugins, extensions or apps.

Think about it like your phone. Sure, your iOS or Android is great by default. But their “killer app” is the fact that they can have 3rd party apps to do things that iOS or Android alone could never do.

Shopify is similar. They have a a theming language that allows any 3rd party to develop & sell pre-built designs. We collected a few that are purchased themes, and some that are native to Shopify.

Either way – that possibility is something to keep in mind with all these designs. Explore Shopify’s theme options here. Here’s a few Shoipify website examples including examples from general ecommerce, t-shirt stores, dropshipping, and jewelry.

Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my professional judgement as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

General Website Examples

Let’s start with a general round up of solid Shopify website examples. We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, Shopify can be fairly straightforward to use — they have everything you need to get your shop up and running, minus your products and ecommerce marketing strategy. However, be aware that with this comes trade-offs (i.e. you give up some control, functionality, customization, etc.)

Inherit Clothing

Inherit Clothing

Inherit Clothing’s site is a great example of how built out a “standard” Shopify website can be. Pay special attention to how organized the information on the site is — from the top bar, which for special announcements (like sales, promotions, etc), to the navigation, which is broken down by product category. It’s incredibly easy for a shopper to find exactly what they’re looking for when hitting the homepage, which is one of the hallmarks of a great ecommerce site.

Rocky Mountain Bikes

Rocky Mountain Bikes

On the opposite side of the spectrum is this Shopify website example, which shows what a custom designed Shopify site looks like. Rocky Mountain Bikes isn’t using a theme for their website design, but has created an entirely custom look and feel instead. We especially liked their product page, which goes into extreme detail on bike specs, functionality, and even shows how the bike operates by including a video. If you’re looking to create something entirely unique for your store and need advanced product page functionality, this site is a great place to start for inspiration.

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

T-Shirt

Online t-shirt shops are all the rage, and Shopify is an incredibly popular platform for these stores. Like any apparel website, you’ll want to make sure your t-shirt site includes high quality product photos, shipping and return information, and an easy checkout process. You’ll also want to be sure your website platform fits your needs in terms of order processing functionality, payment integrations, etc. Here are a few Shopify t-shirt website examples to use for inspiration:

Bird Fur Tees

bird fur

The first thing that stood out to us on this t-shirt website is the homepage. As soon as you get to the front page, you know immediately what the shop is and what their products look like. Bird Fur’s tagline (t-shirts for people) immediately tells visitors what the company is selling and the image carousel underneath is a great way to show the shirts “in the wild” vs. just standard product photos that only show the shirt.

Speaking of product photos, notice how Bird Fur uses bright, high-quality images to showcase their products. The grid pattern below the homepage are colorful, clear, and also gives visitors a way to shop directly from the homepage. Remember that an ecommerce homepage should be easy to navigate and give visitors a clear path to what they’re looking for. By featuring popular products on the homepage of your t-shirt site, you’re giving shoppers an immediate opportunity to browse and add to their cart.

Another feature to call out is this site’s “These are cool too..” section, which shows related products that visitors may like.

Bird fur related products

Showcasing additional products is a great way  to keep shoppers browsing for related items they may not have considered before!

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

Parks Project

Parks Project

Parks Project initially  started as a t-shirt company and then expanded into other apparel categories. We pulled this Shopify example to show how t-shirt companies with a larger mission (i.e. to save national parks) can utilize their shop to bring awareness to their cause.

At the time of writing this article, Parks Project is using their homepage for a special announcement regarding the government shutdown and how it’s affecting national parks. The How to Help button takes you to a page that tells you more about Parks Project mission and how you can help.

Underneath this section is a “Favorites” category, where Parks Project showcases their most popular products. This is a great way to promote products across different categories, and a format to keep in mind if you’re planning on expanding your t-shirt shop one day.

Parks Project Favorites product organization

Rock City Outfitters

Rock City Outfitters

This Shopify t-shirt website example is all about displaying the most crucial information upfront. Check out the 15% off discount functionality Rock City Outfitters use. A coupon is a great way to capture shopper’s email addresses. It also gives you a way to follow up with them with promotions (without having to spend thousands on advertising!).

The search functionality in the top right is also a great way to provide a solid user experience. Let’s say a visitor is familiar with your shirt shop and wants to find a product immediately. Having a search bar helps them get to their destination quickly, without having to navigate through product pages.

Lastly, Rocky Mountain Outfitters is a great example of a t-shirt website that uses a bold and loud design without being overwhelming. Remember that a “clean” design doesn’t have to mean boring. It just means that your visitors can easily find what they’re looking for and that your information is clear.

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

Jewelry

Shopify is also a popular choice for jewelry websites and online boutiques. Just like t-shirt shops, a jewelry website should focus on strong product images and descriptions, easy navigation, and a simple checkout process. You’ll also want to be sure you include information like shipping and return policies and jewelry care. Here are a few examples of Shopify jewelry websites for inspiration:

Shore Projects

Shore Projects

If you’re needing to feature customization on your site, this jewelry website example from Shore Projects is a great place to start for some inspiration. Shore Projects allows for custom watch faces and bands. It has functionality on the site that shows you how the different combinations look. We especially liked the different product shot angles, which change which every band / watch face combination.

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

MVMT

MVMT watches

If you plan on using Instagram in your marketing strategy, this Shopify jewelry website features a neat integration that could come in handy: Shop Our Instagram. It features photos from MVMT’s Instagram profile and gives users the option to shop the look from the photos. When you click on a photo, it triggers a pop-up product page for the product featured in the photo with product specs, an add to cart button, and the option to see the original post on Instagram and/or Facebook.

Biko

Binko

Not all websites needs to be design masterpieces. Biko is a great example of a clean, organized Shopify jewelry website that is well designed without being overly complicated. In fact, the minimalist design keeps the shopper focused on the product photos, simple navigation, and ultimate goal: checkout!

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

Dropshipping

Not only is Shopify a popular website builder option for ecommerce business, but it’s also particularly popular among dropshippers (a retailer who sells inventory they don’t own until they have the order). Shopify has an API that allows dropshippers to sync with their AliExpress account (or other 3rd party managers like Oberlo), which provide products for dropshippers. Here are a few Shopify dropshipping website examples for inspiration:

TrendyGoods

TrendyGoods

This website is a great example of a dropshipping Shopify site that doesn’t have a specific product category, but sells a variety of viral goods and niches down with platform popularity (Facebook). Notice how TrendyGoods organizes their product categories at the top of the page with icons and shows Facebook views underneath each product. It’s a unique way to organize products that are unrelated without making it messy.

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

TurninGear

Turning Gear

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Turning Gear, a dropshipper who specializes in fishing equipment. Notice how their products are organized by product category: reels, lines, lures, etc. We also liked the bottom banner underneath the header image that shows shipping information, customer service info, and their location. This Shopify website also uses product pop-ups, which show the most recent products purchased to spur urgency.

Chakra Collective

Chakra Collective

Here’s another Shopify dropshipping website example, Chakra Collective. What stood out to us about this site was the uniformity of the theme. It actually looks like a traditional fashion line, rather than a dropshipping website. If you’re looking to create a consistent brand with your dropshipping business (like a niche fashion businesses), this website is a great place to start for inspiration.

Explore Similar Shopify Templates!

Next Steps

At the end of the day, choosing the best ecommerce website platform goes far beyond design. Why? Because all web pages are made of HTML & CSS with a few scripts thrown in. This means that any website template can exist on any good web platform.

What YOU want to focus on is the design elements and functionality that are available on the platform you’re choosing.

If you feel like Shopify fits the design and functionality needs you have for your ecommerce website, you can explore Shopify plans here.

Not sure if Shopify is a right fit? Read my Shopify review and explore other Shopify alternatives here.

The post 11+ Great Shopify Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains vs. GoDaddy_ Domain Name Providers Compared

Google Domains and GoDaddy are two of the most well-known domain name registrars on the Internet. I’ve written about both Google Domains and compared GoDaddy to NameCheap (their other big competitor). But how do they compare to each other?

Visit GoDaddy’s Current Domain Coupon

Visit Google Domain’s Current Selection

Domain Registrars are a unique industry. Since ICANN issues all domain names, leaving Registrars mainly as bookkeepers, there is not a ton of scope to offer completely different products. At the end of the day, you simply need a domain name that you can associate with a server where your data lives.

And yet, not all domain registrars are the same (which is why you are reading this post, I’m guessing). I’ve tried dozens and have had every problem imaginable. There is no such thing as a “best” domain registrar. Everybody has tradeoffs. And Google and GoDaddy are actually a good example of very different approaches to domain registration.

I was a Day One customer of Google Domains back at their launch, and I’ve been a customer (and consultant to customers) of GoDaddy for 10+ years.

Here are my thoughts on Google Domains vs. GoDaddy based on company structure, pricing structure, domain selection, usability, customer support, and complementary products.

You can also Skip to Conclusion.

Disclosure: I receive customer referral fees from companies on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customers.

Company Structure

For long-term projects, company structure matters more than really anything else. An investor-funded startup will have very different incentives than a publicly traded company. And a product that directly makes a profit will be treated differently than a product that complements a company’s main profit center.

Google and GoDaddy are very well-known brands, but are very different companies in regards to domains.

GoDaddy and Google are both publicly traded companies. They answer to their shareholder’s short and long-term demands for profit.

GoDaddy was founded as a domain registrar. Domains are their thing. Now, they expanded to be an online business services company in recent years. Domains are now part of their profit puzzle. For GoDaddy, domains are still their “thing” but they are increasingly a loss-leader to sell other products such as website builders, web hosting, bookkeeping, and email.

GoDaddy wants you to buy a domain, because they know that once you buy, then you’ll buy other stuff and probably stick around.

Google is an advertising company. They make their money selling extremely targeted ads based on data that no one else has. Domains are absolutely not their “thing”. However, Google does want and need your loyalty and your data more than anything in the world. They also need websites to be on the open Web.

The biggest loss for Google is for you to run your business off Facebook and Instagram while never logging into Google. Now, recently Google has started making money off Enterprise & Business Services via their Cloud and G Suite services. But that’s a complement to their data need.

Google wants you to buy a domain so that you are, at minimum, logged into Google with an independent website that they can index and that you’ll probably run ads to. Additionally, if you buy a domain from Google, you might buy G Suite for your business.

The Upside: You can get a good deal from both these companies. GoDaddy will run crazy discounts just to get you to buy. Google wants everything to be simple and easy.

The Downside: Your actual domain is not a huge concern for either company. GoDaddy only cares about your domain in so far as you stick around and buy stuff. And Google isn’t really sure if they want to do domains. In fact, Google Domains is now in its 5th Year of “beta”. In other words, it’s still a “test product” that Google might shut down any day without advance notice (a habit of theirs).

Google Domains

The Alternatives: If you read those and thought “hmm, well those don’t sound that great either” – well, you might want to check out either Hover or NameCheap. They both focus on & make money off domains. Hover has excellent usability and NameCheap has excellent long-term pricing and solid complementary products.

If you really like the upsides of Google & GoDaddy, then let’s look at how they play out across other factors.

Pricing Structure

Google Domains has a flat rate for domains with no discounts or promos. Their renewal (and upfront) purchase price is slightly higher than some domain registrars, but also not too far out of line to be an issue. Pricing is simple and transparent.

Google Domains Pricing

GoDaddy is a bit different. Their renewal pricing is higher than most direct competitors like NameCheap and Hover, but they run deeper 1 year discounts than any registrar that I’ve ever used.

This link redirects to GoDaddy’s most current discount.

GoDaddy also has a membership program for people who own a lot of domains. It’s an annual fee, but then you can renew hundreds of domains at excellent long-term pricing.

If you plan on keeping your domain for more than ~4 years, then you might as well go with Google Domains for pricing.

If you want to save a bit of money right now, then you should take advantage of GoDaddy’s current discount. And if you are really into saving money, you can grab GoDaddy’s discount and simply transfer your domain elsewhere at the end of your term.

Domain Selection

Ever since the great ICANN domain name gold rush, vanity TLDs (top level domains) have become more and more common. No TLD will ever displace .com and .org but if domain names for your industry are crowded, then a niche TLD might be worth it.

But you can’t buy one from every registrar.

Fortunately, both GoDaddy and Google have fairly expansive lists for common TLDs. However, for sheer selection, Google cannot come near GoDaddy (especially when it comes to Premium domains and Auctions).

Google Domains TLDs

GoDaddy TLD

As of October 2018, GoDaddy has more than 480 TLDs to choose from compared to Google’s 227.

This is not a huge issue (since you can just check each), but if you are planning on buying additional vanity or brand domains, selection is something to keep in mind.

Usability

You probably won’t be actively managing domains day in and day out. So on one hand, domain name management is not a huge factor. However, when you do have to manage your domains…you *really* need to manage them. So on the other hand, domain name management is pretty critical.

Settings should be clear. Interfaces should have good design.

On this point, Google Domains shines…almost to a fault.

Google Domains has nothing to upsell or resell or push, so the interface is minimalist. The product has Google’s Material Design aesthetic with clear settings and straightforward interfaces.

Google Domains Interface

GoDaddy in contrast…has a bit of a reputation here.

While they have dramatically improved since 2013, GoDaddy’s interfaces are still quite maddening. Once you figure them out, everything is good. But at the start, it’s hard to find complex settings (like the ones you might need to set up G Suite Email). At every turn, they have some product to sell (Premium DNS!). And settings that they don’t want you to use (like the Authorization Code to leave) are straight up buried.

GoDaddy Dashboard

Now – that’s not necessarily a big deal. I have a client who has used GoDaddy for 12 years and has needed to change a setting exactly once that whole time. The other time…I got to do it. GoDaddy works, it’s cheap, and it’s a known big brand.

But if you are actively managing domains – you should go with Google Domains or another registrar like Hover that focuses on clean user experience.

Customer Support

Customer support for domains. It’s one of those factors that you don’t really need until you **really** need it.

Google Domains does provide some support in English, Spanish, French and Japanese. They offer phone, chat, and email 24 hours a day. It’s pretty standard support.

Google Domains Support

GoDaddy has the full gamut of support via phone, email, chat, knowledgebase, etc. They offer localized support depending on which GoDaddy subsidiary you’re with.

GoDaddy Support

Like all customer support, it’s a bit anecdotal but my experience with GoDaddy has been fine with the expected mega-corp annoyances. Google has also been fine, but they definitely seem to be building their team still. Even as recently as a year ago, they only offered support for business hours in English.

Complementary Products

Domains are not stand alone products. By themselves, domains can do very little other than point somewhere.

I am a fan of buying domains from a domain registrar and purchasing complementary products elsewhere (e.g. hosting, email, storage, etc). I do it to save a bit of money and build diversity into my setups (ie, if company X has issues, it’s easier to move if company Y is still fine).

However, that setup is also a bit of a pain. I don’t wholeheartedly recommend it. And for those who want a convenient setup with a single good company handling hosting, email, domains, etc – it’s important to have one that has those complementary products.

Like customer support, Google Domains does not really have a ton of complementary products. Google Domains will directly integrate with Google Sites (Google’s free website builder), Blogger (Google’s free blog service), and G Suite (Google’s business email & storage.

Google Domains Website Integrations

However, Google does not provide traditional hosting and their website builders are lacking.

GoDaddy’s complementary products are their “thing” – they have everything from every flavor of hosting (including WordPress, Shared, Reseller, VPS, etc) to email to storage to accounting to security solutions to website builders and payment processing.

GoDaddy Focus

If you are looking for a company to have everything with for convenience, then GoDaddy “wins” hands down.

If you are looking for a company that has integration with email but will integrate your domain with 3rd parties, then Google Domains is solid.

Next Steps

Like I’ve said in all my reviews and comparisons, there is no such thing as a “best” anything. There is only the best for you based on your preferences, needs, and resources.

If you want a simple place to register your domain and integrate with Google Apps, then Google Domains is a fit for you.

If you want a registrar with discounts and lots of complementary products, then GoDaddy is a fit for you.

And if you still aren’t sure, then read my Domain Registrar Guide here.

The post Google Domains vs. GoDaddy: Domain Name Providers Compared appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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How To Accept Credit Cards Online

So you’ve realized you want to start selling online. Good for you! The ecommerce market is certainly booming. But before you can start raking in the money, you probably have a few questions, like “how do I make a website?” and “how do I accept credit cards online?” Here’s the good news: There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from! The bad news? There are plenty of software options and payment processors to choose from. So how do you choose?

As always, there’s no one perfect solution for everyone. You need to know your business (and where you want to go with it) and have a rough idea of what you need. If you have no idea where to start, never fear! In this article, we’ll cover some of the basic considerations about accepting credit card payments online, as well as types of payment processors and how to accept credit card payments online with and without a website. We’ll also discuss some of our favorite solutions for ecommerce and provide resources to help you learn more.

5 Questions To Ask Before You Start

It’s really important, before you dive headlong into any kind of financial investment in your business, to sit down and make sure that you know what you want and what you need. I say that a lot, but with selling online it’s especially important to look before you leap because if you get any component of your setup wrong, redoing it will cost time and money.

So before anything, here are some questions to consider:

  1. How technologically savvy are you? Simply put, are you even able to build and maintain your website yourself? If you’re not exactly a technological wizard, your priority should be finding an easy-to-manage solution. You can also outsource tasks you can’t handle yourself, such as design or even data entry for the creation of products. Of course, if you have an ambitious idea and no ready-made solution exists, or you need a lot of customization, you might need a developer who can work with software APIs to create what you need. You can find freelance developers to help out as you go, but the more high-tech you go, obviously, the more you should consider having a full-time developer.
  2. Do you already have a website? If yes, do you like your website? Would you rather abandon it for a better site with more features? If you already have a site and don’t want to go through the effort of creating a new site to sell a handful of products, payment buttons or plug-ins are better options. If you don’t have a site or you don’t mind nixing your current site in favor of something better, shopping cart software might meet the brief nicely. But of course, you don’t need a website to accept payments online. We’ll talk about all of these options more below.
  3. What’s your budget? When it comes to numbers, you need to look at both upfront costs and monthly (or yearly) costs. How much can you spend at the outset, and how much do you expect to be able to afford on a monthly or annual basis? Keep in mind the more technically advanced your website, the more you can expect to pay to build and maintain it. Likewise, the busier your site — the more products you have and the more sales you make — the more you can expect to pay. Don’t forget the tangential costs, such as hiring a designer or a developer, or data entry, and of course, the costs of payment processing itself!
  4. What are you selling? Whether you’re offering digital goods, subscriptions/services, or retail products, look for service providers that cater to your industry so you don’t have to find creative workarounds. Many solutions are generalized for a broad array of merchants, but with add-ons and integrations to make them more tailored. You can also find payment processors and software that offer ready-made specialized solutions and service plans, such as micropayments for merchants who sell low-priced digital goods.
  5. How comfortable are you with handling security features? If you want to sell online, you have to make sure your website is secure. That means ensuring your site is PCI compliant. The more involved you are in the payments process and the more sensitive information your website handles, the more of a burden you are taking upon yourself. Fortunately, many payment processors and other software providers offer solutions to keep your customers’ information secure and reduce your PCI burden — in some cases, you may not need to do anything at all.

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions and a list of the features you need and want, it’s time to actually start looking at your options. One of your primary considerations should be finding a payment processor. However, depending on your business model, you might want to first look at what kind of ecommerce options work for you and then select a payment processor from the available options.

We’ll begin by talking about payment processors and go on to look at what other software or platforms you should explore.

Types Of Payment Processors

No matter how you go about finding a payment processor — choosing a standalone, going with the default processor included with your shopping cart, or choosing a recommended partner from a software provider — you need to consider what kind of business model the processor uses. If you’ve been here before and read any of my other articles, you know that I am talking about the difference between third-party payment processors versus traditional merchant accounts.

Traditional merchant accounts are very stable. It would take a clear violation of either your contract or card network rules in order to trigger an account termination, and you’re unlikely to encounter a hold on funds unless you’ve had a series of issues with chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. However, most merchant account providers expect you to have an established business and a monthly volume of $10,000 in credit card transactions. Plus, setting up a merchant account will typically take a few days. It could take longer depending on how many processors are on your short list and how much negotiation is required.

Third-party processors are not quite as stable as merchant accounts. That’s because instead of issuing separate accounts for each of their merchants, everything is lumped together in one giant, communal merchant account. It takes very little effort to apply for an account with one of these processors, and you can often get approved and set up to accept credit cards online within a day. Factor in no monthly minimum volume requirements and third-party processors provide a great way for new businesses to take payments. However, the trade-off is that you’ll face greater scrutiny and a higher risk for account holds or terminations, often with no warning. Check out our article on how to prevent merchant account hold and freezes to learn how to reduce your risk.

While third-party processors are riskier than merchant accounts, they are a great option for new businesses who don’t know what sort of volume they can expect and don’t have an established history. Even for established businesses, there are some advantages: namely, third-party processors offer predictable, flat-rate pricing, so you know exactly how much you’ll pay. The best merchant account providers typically offer interchange-plus pricing, which, while clear and transparent, doesn’t make it easy to accurately estimate processing because interchange rates vary.

It’s up to you to decide which type of processor is right for your business. I do want to point out that some software companies (ecommerce shopping carts, point of sale solutions, invoice platforms, and more) often build white-label payments into their solutions. These solutions can take the form of third-party processors or merchant accounts, so make sure you investigate before just going with the default processor. In addition to their native payment processing services, most ecommerce software providers support integrations with an assortment of merchant accounts and third-party payment processors.

Square is our top-pick for third-party payment processor. In addition to predictable, flat-rate pricing with no monthly fees or contracts, Square offers a whole suite of seamlessly integrated apps to address in-person and online sales at no charge at all. eCommerce transactions process at 2.9% + $0.30 each.

For merchant accounts, we recommend CDGcommerce, which offers flat-rate pricing and an interchange-plus option depending on the merchant’s payment volume. There are no monthly minimums and no contracts, just a $10 monthly fee. Low-volume merchants will pay 1.95% + $0.30 for most transactions, or 2.95% + $0.30 for premium, corporate, or international cards. Merchants who process more than $10,000/month are eligible for interchange-plus pricing with a 0.30% + $0.10 markup.

Does Your Payment Processor Include a Gateway?

If you want to accept credit card payments online, it’s not enough to find a credit card processor. You also need a gateway. As the name suggests, a gateway is an intermediary software program that transfers the payment data from your website to the customer’s bank to be approved or declined (and then routes the money to your merchant account).

Many payment processors offer gateways as part of their services. For example, PayPal, Square, and Stripe all offer gateways bundled with the rest of their services at no additional cost. CDGcommerce offers its Quantum gateway as part of its services for online merchants.

However, some processors will charge you a setup fee and/or a monthly fee for use of the gateway. While it’s fair and legitimate to charge for this service (especially if you’re being offered other discounts or freebies in exchange), there’s no reason for you to overpay, either. Make sure you know how much a gateway service will cost if it’s not offered for free.

While it’s rare to find a processor that doesn’t include some sort of gateway access, they do exist. In the event that you find yourself leaning toward one of these processors, you can find your own gateway. Authorize.net is nearly universally compatible and reasonably priced, which makes it a good option for most merchants. (Worth noting: CDGcommerce’s gateway, Quantum, also includes an Authorize.net emulation mode to maximize compatibility.)

Want to know more about how payment gateways figure into your ecommerce setup? Check out our article, The Complete Guide to Online Credit Card Processing With a Payment Gateway, for more information.

How To Accept Online Payments With A Website

A website is a pretty integral part of selling online (but it’s not 100% necessary — we’ll look at some alternatives in the next section). As mentioned above, the first question to consider is: Do I already have a website? Then ask yourself: Do I like that website, or would I rather start over completely? Fortunately, there are solutions for both of these scenarios. For existing sites, you can implement payment buttons or seek out a plug-in or extension that supports ecommerce.

Adding Payments To An Existing Site

best templates

If you’ve used a site builder such as WordPress, Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace, it’s fairly simple to implement online payments. Simply check out the sitebuilder’s available third-party apps, extensions, and plugins. If you already know which payment processor you want to use, you can search directly for an available add-on. Otherwise, you can browse and see what options are ready-made for you. These add-ons will allow you to securely collect payment information from your customers as well as manage the order fulfillment process. Do your research and go with solutions from your site builder rather than third parties, if possible. Check reviews of any plugins or extensions you add and make sure they are well supported and any glitches are fixed in a timely manner.

If you run a WordPress site, WooCommerce or Ecwid could be good starter options. WooCommerce is actually a free plug-in to add to your site, with a basic theme and your choice of payment processors. It’s a very modular setup, so you can choose from a mix of free and paid extensions that allow you to customize WooCommerce to your needs. That includes payment processors, subscription tools, the ability to create add-ons (such as gift wrap for products), and more. Most WooCommerce add-ons are charged on an annual basis, which could require more of an up-front investment than a monthly subscription, so be aware of this fact.

Ecwid is another plug-in designed for WordPress. However, it also works on an assortment of other website-building platforms, including Wix and Weebly, Ecwid does offer a free plan for businesses with 10 or fewer products, but for higher-tiered plans you’ll pay a monthly subscription fee. Ecwid supports a wide assortment of integrations, including payment gateways. With higher plan tiers, you also get access to expanded sales channels.

Wix and Weebly’s website builders can be used for blogging, personal portfolios, and any other purposes. They both offer online store modules. Online stores from Wix start at $20/month with no transaction fees and your choice of processors. Upgrading to an eCommerce plan is fairly simple from within the Wix dashboard and won’t require any substantial reworking. Simply add the “My Store” module to your dashboard, make the upgrade, and start creating products.

Finally, there’s Weebly. Square actually bought Weebly in the spring of 2018, so it’s possible we could see Weebly start to favor Square pretty heavily in the future. For now, though, Weebly’s online store plans start at $8/month (on a yearly plan), with a 3% transaction fee on top of your processing costs. The transaction fee drops off with higher-tier plans, leaving just the monthly fee.

The other way to add payments to an existing site is to look for a payment processor that supports customizable payment buttons. A good payment button creator will give you power over the appearance of the buttons as well as the settings for transactions. The obvious, go-to solution for many is PayPal, which offers a pretty powerful array of tools. PayPal’s buttons are a good option whether you are selling a single product or multiple ones. You can set up payment buttons to allow products to be added to a cart or to go directly to checkout. PayPal even allows nonprofits to create a “Donate” button for their site, which can be configured for one-time and recurring donations.

An alternative to PayPal is Shopify Lite, an entry-level solution. For $9/month plus transaction costs (2.9% + $0.30), you can accept payments on your website by adding payment buttons. The plan also includes access to Shopify’s mPOS app and the ability to sell on Facebook (we’ll talk about that option in the next section, too.) And it’s worth mentioning that Ecwid also supports the creation of custom buy buttons.

While adding payments to an existing site is incredibly convenient and often requires little work, you won’t get quite as many tools as you would with a hosted ecommerce software solution. Which brings us to the best solution if you would rather build a new site or have no website to start with:

Building A New Site With Shopping Cart Software

eCommerce software apps, sometimes also called shopping carts or shopping cart software, are hosted, all-in-one solutions to online sales. Adding an ecommerce feature to an existing website requires you to choose a platform, buy the domain, and pay for hosting, but with shopping carts, you’ll get everything in a single package: online sales and product management, hosting, and sometimes even the ability to buy a domain name directly. Typically, shopping carts will also help you centralize control of sales across multiple channels, so that if you sell on social media, on eBay, or through another channel, you can handle order fulfillment through a single platform. That even includes buying postage (at a discounted rate) and printing the shipping labels. Some shopping carts will offer marketing tools or integrations with marketing platforms, as well as integrations with point of sale systems.

As far as payment processing goes, some shopping carts have opted to include their own white-label payments as a default part of their services. One such cart is Shopify, which offers its own Shopify Payments service (read our review). However, this is just a white-label version of Stripe. Be aware that choosing a payment processor other than the default can incur additional fees.

Generally speaking, even if a shopping cart doesn’t offer all of the features you want, you can search the app market for available extensions and integrations to get what you need. It’s worth researching the available add-ons as well as the native software features.

There’s a lot to consider and compare with a shopping cart. Obviously, you can use a sitebuilder such as Weebly or Wix, which both offer eCommerce modules. Then there are ecommerce-exclusive platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, which make it easy to build your site and customize the design (and even offer blogging so you can centralize control of your website).

If you want a whole lot of freedom and have coding knowledge, an open-source platform such as Magento might be more to your liking. Open-source platforms tend to be chock-full of specialized features (particularly if they have attracted active user communities) and you have almost limitless control of your site. A closed-source, SaaS platform is certainly a lot easier and more convenient for business owners who are just starting out and want to go the DIY route.

If you aren’t sure what you want, we recommend you start by checking out Shopify and BigCommerce, both of which are affordably priced for new businesses and offer extensive customer support resources. They also both offer multi-channel sales manage so you can sell through your own site and through other platforms but manage all of your orders from a single portal.

If you’re still curious about what makes a great ecommerce platform, check out some of our other resources!

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Store (eBook)
  • Shopping Cart Flowchart: Choose the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business (Infographic)
  • Shopping Carts 101: How to Choose a Shopping Cart for Your Business (Article)
  • Questions to Ask Before You Commit to a Shopping Cart (Article)

Managing Services, Subscriptions & Other Recurring Charges

A lot of merchants, from accountants and other professional service provideres to lawn care and cleaning services, could benefit from being able to automate recurring charges. And of course, the ability to automate charges is essential for SaaS providers and subscription-box sellers.

Generally speaking, the ability to accept recurring payments — for monthly services or subscriptions — isn’t a default option for payment processors or shopping carts, which tend to be retail-focused. However, you can find plenty of solutions that will work with your existing eCommerce setup. For example, Stripe and Braintree both offer extensive subscription management tools along with their payment gateway and processing services. Add-on services such as Chargify, Recurly, and ChargeBee work with a variety of processors. Zoho Subscriptions and Freshbooks also offer recurring billing tools. PayPal offers recurring billing tools for its merchants; Square offers “recurring invoices” but not a lot of advanced customization for subscription billing.

Proper research will be very important when selecting a provider that offers all of the features you need, whether you require metered billing for usage-based online services, the ability for customers to upgrade to a higher tiered plan mid-billing cycle, the ability to offer free trial periods and extend them, or a way to calculate taxes. Tools that automatically update expired cards can also help reduce failed charges and therefore improve revenues and reduce customer loss.

Accepting Online Payments Without A Website

Most people equate taking payments online with having a website. That is the most common option, but you don’t actually need your own website. Let’s talk about a few of the alternatives for how to accept credit cards online.

Creating Online Invoices

You could create your own invoices in Microsoft Office and send them out via email, but then you’ve got to keep track of which invoices have been sent and which have been paid — and you’ve still got to deal with waiting for the check in the mail. Online invoicing solutions can eliminate every single one of these hassles.

Generally speaking, invoicing software is cloud-based, so you can access it anywhere. You can customize invoices and send them via email (or generate a shareable link to the invoice). But unlike old-fashioned invoicing, these invoices include a link to pay directly in the invoice. Your customers follow the link, enter their payment details, and bam! You get paid much quicker.

Depending on which invoicing software you choose, you can get some powerful features. For example, PayPal allows you to enable partial payments on an invoice if you are willing to accept installment payments. Square’s invoicing links up with the platform’s customer database, allowing you to send recurring invoices and even store customer cards on file to make getting paid even easier. Zoho Invoice, which starts at $0/month, also allows for a customer database, as well as project management (so you can generate an invoice based on the number of hours worked). Shopify offers invoice creation within its platform at no additional charge as well — and this feature is even available on the Lite plan.

For most merchants, Square Invoices may be the most appealing, as it’s available with a Square account at no additional charge. However, Shopify’s built-in invoicing will work for merchants who want to sell with or without a website. Merchants who need project management as part of their invoicing should look at Zoho Invoice.

Using Online Form Builders

So you don’t have a website, but you still need to collect user information and accept payment. Online form builders offer an easy way to do both. Plus, you can post links to forms on social media or send them out via email.

Off the top of your head, you might think of Google Forms, which is free to use and quite advanced for a freemium software. However, it doesn’t integrate seamlessly with payment processors. Your best option, in this case, would be to use PayPal’s embeddable buy buttons and include the button in the form’s submission confirmation page as a second step. However, you’ll have to manually reconcile the payment records versus form submissions.

Subscription-based form builders will cost you money but offer far more capabilities than Google Forms, including direct integrations with payment processors/gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, Square, and Authorize.net. Subscriptions generally work on annual or monthly plans, but one option, Cognito Forms, offers an entry-level plan that charges 1% of the transaction amount instead. (Note, that’s in addition to any processing fees.) Other form solutions worth looking into are Zoho Forms and Jotform. Zoho Forms starts at $10/month and includes unlimited forms and up to 10,000 submissions. It integrates with both PayPal and Stripe. Jotform’s paid plans start at $19/month and are limited to 1,000 submissions, but include integrations for quite a few payment processors, including PayPal, Stripe, Square, and even Dwolla. Cognito Forms’ paid plans start at $10/month plus 1% of the transactions and include up to 2,000 form submissions. Integrations include PayPal and Stripe.

And we haven’t even talked about event registration sites. There are a lot of them, but the one many people are likely familiar with is EventBrite. EventBrite allows you to put all the details of your event online and sell tickets — including setting multiple tiers of admission and promotion cards, automatically setting price changes for registration deadlines, and so on. You can even collect marketing data about your patrons, from their zip codes to how they heard about the event. Your event is searchable from within the EventBrite platform, allowing people searching for something to do to discover your event as well. EventBrite does charge fees on top of processing costs, but these can actually be passed onto event registrees, saving you some money at least.

Selling On Social Media

It wasn’t all that long ago that the idea of being able to buy products directly through social media channels was novel and experimental, but nowadays you can create your own online shop through Facebook, or sell on Instagram or even Pinterest.

With Facebook, you just need a Facebook business page to get started. You can choose your payment processor (PayPal or Stripe) and start manually uploading products, all of which have to be reviewed by Facebook before they can go live. An easier option is to link your Facebook shop to an online store builder such as BigCommerce, Ecwid, or Shopify.

Shopify is actually an interesting solution because, while its core offering is an online shopping cart, it offers a “Lite” plan for $9/month that includes access to its mPOS app, buy buttons for a website, and a Facebook store with automated tools to make the process easier. You wouldn’t necessarily have to go through the hassle of building a website with Shopify just to sell on Facebook, but you still get more tools than you would by going through Facebook directly. Check out our Shopify Lite review for an in-depth look at the plan and all its features.

Selling on Instagram requires you to have a Facebook shop (because Facebook owns Instagram) to create what it calls “Shoppable posts.” That shop can be managed directly via Facebook itself, or via Shopify or BigCommerce as one of multiple sales channels. I’d like to point out that Instagram isn’t available as a sales channel with the Lite plan; you’ll need to upgrade to Shopify Basic at $29/month to be able to manage sales via Instagram.

Lastly, Pinterest allows merchants with a business account to create “Buyable pins,” so you can sell from your Pinterest page. Unlike Facebook, where you can manage the buyable pins from the platform, to sell through Pinterest you will need to go through either Shopify or BigCommerce and actually apply for approval before you can start selling.

Shopify Lite is an ideal option if you want to start with Facebook and maybe add buy buttons to a website. You can upgrade to Shopify Basic ($29/month) to get your own site, plus access to Instagram and Pinterest if that appeals to you.

Selling In Marketplaces

Online marketplaces are a good alternative to having your own website if you’re selling retail goods. You don’t have to pay for hosting or invest anything in web design. You simply create your product listings using the tools provided and publish them. Marketplaces allow you to get your products in front of a large audience without you having to build a stream of traffic yourself. However, the trade-offs are that you generally pay more in fees (listing fees, seller’s fees, and payment processing) than you would with your own website, and you have zero control over the design of the site or even how your products are displayed. Generally speaking, you are limited to using whatever payment processing the marketplace offers as well.

A few popular marketplaces include:

  • eBay
  • Etsy
  • Amazon
  • Jet (owned by Walmart)
  • Ruby Lane

Accepting Payments Through Virtual Terminals 

The final alternative is a bit of a stretch, I’ll admit, but it can be a powerful tool for some merchants. A virtual terminal is a web portal where you can manually enter credit card information to process a transaction. (There’s the stretch: VTs require an internet connection, so they’re technically online payments.)  Virtual terminals are a necessity for merchants who want to accept payments over the phone (or even by mail).

Some payment processors offer a virtual terminal as part of their software package, others as an add-on. These providers include PayPal, Payline Mobile, Square, and Fattmerchant. However, if you want the best value for a virtual terminal, we recommend Square. You pay only the payment processing costs (3.5% + $0.15) and it is interoperable with the rest of Square’s platform.

Beyond Credit Cards: Alternative Online Payment Methods

Credit cards are the go-to for accepting payments online, but they aren’t the only options. For starters, there are ACH bank transfers, which are generally less expensive for merchants to process. They’re often preferred in B2B environments, but some consumers favor them too.

Offering ACH processing as an additional option, especially if you’re in the B2B space, could win you more customers. According to a 2017 Payment Benchmarks Survey by the Credit Research Foundation and the National Automated Clearing House Association (NACHA), ACH transfers currently account for 32 percent of B2B transactions, lagging behind checks, which took the no. 1 spot at 50 percent. Credit cards account for just 11 percent of B2B transactions. By 2020, the survey estimates that ACH will take the top spot and account for 45 percent of B2B transactions.

Despite this, most merchant accounts or even third-party processors don’t offer ACH by default. Some offer it as an add-on plan, others may require you to look for a supplemental option for ACH acceptance.

ACH is far from the only option as far as “alternative” payment processing now, too. Mobile wallets are bridging the gap between in-person and online payments, and card networks have implemented their own online checkout options for cardholders. The major advantage to accepting these options is that they offer an extra layer of security for consumers. For example, Apple Pay on the web still requires biometric authentication before approval.

Some of these alternative payment methods include:

  • Apple Pay on the Web
  • Google Pay
  • Microsoft Pay
  • Chase Pay
  • MasterPass
  • Visa Checkout
  • Amex Express checkout

Apple Pay and Google Pay are fairly widely supported, but you may not see the other options on this list everywhere.

Two noteworthy providers that offer ACH, as well as other alternative payment options, are Stripe and Braintree. However, both are developer-focused platforms, so you’ll need someone with the technical know-how to implement them. Merchant accounts that specialize in eCommerce and provide a solid gateway might offer these options too.

We recommend Stripe because of its extensive developer tools, customizable checkout, and resources for recurring billing. The company also offers round-the-clock customer support (an admittedly recent addition to its feature set). Plus, Stripe is great for international merchants who want to be able to accept localized currencies in Europe and Asia.

Begin Accepting Payments Online

Starting an online store and learning how to accept credit cards online can seem like a daunting task! There are so many factors to consider, but I hope I’ve been able to shed some light on the process and point you in the direction of some good options. A merchant account can give you security and stability, but it may not be the most cost-effective option for low-volume merchants. A third-party processor can get you set up quickly with predictable pricing that often favors low-volume merchants, but the trade-off is account stability. And of course there’s the matter of compatibility: You need to make sure that whatever payment processor you choose offers a gateway compatible with the software (and sales channels) you want to use.

But you also need to have a good idea of what you can afford to spend up front and on a monthly basis and understand your limitations when it comes to technology and software. If you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be fairly tech-savvy. Otherwise, be prepared to outsource tasks to designers, developers, and even admin assistants. Some software solutions make it incredibly easy to do everything yourself, others will require lots of hands-on effort to make them work.

If you’re still not sure where to go from here, we recommend you check out our article: The Best Online Credit Card Payment Processing Companies. You can also view our merchant account comparison chart for a quick look at our favorite providers.

Have questions? We’re always happy to hear from our readers, so please leave us a comment!

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How To Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

How to Advertise on Snapchat Effectively

The digital marketing landscape is evolving quicker than ever before. While print and more traditional mediums still have their place, those who want to take their platforms need to the next level need to embrace the new digital landscape. And no platforms are more influential to your business than the social media, including Snapchat.

Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are common social media vehicles to advertise. However, because Snapchat is so new, many businesses don’t know how to or don’t want to, leverage the platform to their advantage. And I think that’s a great mistake on their end.

By explicitly targeting specific demographics and meaningfully engaging with them, Snapchat offers a variety of tangible benefits to growing your business.

Scroll through to learn more about Snapchat itself and how to advertise on Snapchat, one of the most popular social media networks in the world.

Snapchat is now part of the larger Snap Inc.. In addition to their primary product, Snapchat, Snap Inc. will expand its influence in the social media space. Their flagship product, Spectacles, a pair of “smart glasses” that syncs with the user’s Snapchat account and records videos as they go about their business.

One of the core principles of Snapchat is that media recorded, the pictures and messages, are just available temporarily before they need user input. Snapchat was once only meant for peer-to-peer photo sharing through such platforms as “Stories,” but has now introduced “Discover.” The latterly mentioned platform allows brands and media outlets to run ad-supported content through short-form entertainment.

As of this February, Snapchat has around 190 million daily active users who use the platform. Snap Inc., which continues to own and operate Snapchat and is now a public company, is worth an estimated $20 billion. And there’s a good chance the company could exceed $30 billion in worth by 2020.

profitable space to advertise businesses on to see tangible results.

Since going public, Snap Inc. is keen on growing their demographic appeal. This recent choice to go public is promising to those who want to advertise on the platform. It also means those companies can broaden the product and services they push on Snapchat.

“They are eventually going to tap out of these younger age groups and will have to court older demographic groups,” said eMarketer principal analyst Catherine Boyle to Forbes in response to Snapchat’s demographic appeal. “They may not need Facebook-level penetration across every age group, but growth will happen among an older user base.”

Snapchat also is widely aware that their interface isn’t the easiest to use for those who are new to social media.

“The onboarding experience is difficult,” chief strategist of Kuuhubb Tero Kuittinen said of Snapchat’s account sign up to Forbes. “It’s not easy to learn how to use it. If you’re 18, it’s not a big stretch, but if you’re 45, it’s tough to figure out.”

Snapchat is already making stride to making the platform more comfortable to use to those who aren’t social media savvy. And when these older demographics do eventually become more prominent on the platform, Snapchat will gain more traction as a place to not only get news but see new products and consume media.

“Older groups are now more likely to tune in [to Snapchat] for content,” eMarketer analyst Jamie Chung said in an email to Forbes. “The platform has multiple partnerships with television networks for mini-episodes. Meanwhile, the younger groups are less likely to add Snapchat when Instagram Stories can fulfill their broadcasting needs.”

By leveraging Snapchat now, you can get ahead of the crowd and establish a strong presence on the platform.

within the first 15 second of seeing it. Those brands who can capitalize on early engagement will be far more successful than those who need “build up.”

Long-form Video Ads also lend themselves to a higher amount of creativity than most of the platform’s other ad services. Because creators have such a long time to craft an image, a business can introduce storytelling aspects into these ads. Research has shown that brands who can create themes and stories within their ethos have greater longevity and increased product sales.

In the end, Long Form Video ads aren’t for business who aren’t media-focused. But for those who are, there’s no better ad service on Snapchat to convey a story, theme, or concept than by running a well-made Long Form Video ad.

News’ on Snapchat’s main website to do just that.

The blog also regularly highlights general market trends, news, and practices that Snapchat business are using to help grown their efforts.

Snapchat is continuing to grow quarter after quarter. It’s presence and importance is only increasing as it stocks share.

I recommend using Snapchat as a vehicle to tell stories through ads. Unlike its contemporaries like Facebook and Twitter, Snapchat lets you engage with your audience in profound, meaningful ways. You can share your brand with narratives and creative designs, rather than just with clickbait copy.

In the coming years, storytelling will become one of the most potent marketing tools. Snapchat and it’s creative ads do just that: tell stories in pleasing ways that can draw an audience from near and far to your business, brand, etc.. Snap away, tell stories, and reap the benefits from being an engaged, creative “Snapchatter.”

 

 

The post How To Advertise on Snapchat Effectively appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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