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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Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Understanding the nuances of the small business tax code has never been a walk in the park (especially when the tax laws are constantly changing), but when it comes to freelance taxes…? Let’s just say that those are a whole different ballgame.

According to a 2015 study done by Xero, 73% of freelancers don’t deduct any expenses when filing their taxes. Considering how many people now rely on freelancing gigs as a primary source of income, that number is frankly shocking and prompts the question: Are you maximizing your tax deductions as a freelancer?

If you are a freelancer, there are 10 very important tax deductions you need to know about. Gaining a basic understanding of how freelance taxes work and what you can and can’t deduct can save you a good chunk of change and spare you from trouble with the IRS down the line.

Read on for several money-saving tips and to learn about the top 10 tax deductions available for freelancers.

The Basics Of Freelance Taxes

Freelancing is a form of self-employment in which a person offers their service for a fee (rather than relying on a traditional employment arrangement). A person is required by law to pay taxes to the US government if they receive a freelance income of $400 (or a church employee income of over $108.82) in a given year.

When you’re paid by a traditional employer, standard taxes on Medicaid and Social Security are automatically taken out of each paycheck. This isn’t the case for freelancers and independent contractors, who are instead required to pay self-employment taxes. The self-employment tax rate is 15.3% (12.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicaid). In addition to self-employment taxes, freelancers are also required to pay income tax.

If you are a freelancer, you will have to save a certain percentage of your income in order to pay your taxes. Most financial professionals advise freelancers to save around 25% (or even 30%) of their total income to cover these taxes. Freelancers may be required to pay taxes every quarter rather than annually (cue estimated quarterly taxes), depending on the size of their earnings.

Estimated Quarterly Taxes

Most tax-payers are used to the April 15th deadline when filing taxes for the previous year. However, freelancers are often required to pay estimated quarterly taxes. Instead of paying taxes once a year, some self-employed individuals will pay these estimated taxes four times a year.

Quarterly Tax Period Estimated Quarterly Taxes Due

January 1 – March 31

April 18

April 1 – May 31

June 15

June 1 – August 31

September 17

September 1 – December 31

January 15

Note: These due dates are specifically for 2019 and will vary slightly each year.

So, how do you know if you need to pay estimated quarterly taxes? According to the IRS, individuals who expect to pay at least $1,000 in taxes for the year should file estimated quarterly taxes instead of waiting until April to file. The 1040-ES form can help you approximate your total income for the year as well as your estimated tax payments.

As always, we recommend consulting with an accountant or tax professional for tax advice — especially when it comes to freelance taxes. They will be able to assist you in officially determining whether you need to pay estimated quarterly taxes, and if so, how much.

Tracking Freelance Finances

When you’re self-employed, it’s incredibly important to keep your finances organized. That’s where accounting software comes in.

Most freelancers would probably rather be finding new clients, creating new marketing strategies, improving their brand and social media presence — basically doing anything but accounting. But earning freelancer income is only half the battle. Managing that income and keeping track of your business earnings and expenses — that’s what sets you up for long-term success.

Luckily, there are multiple accounting programs that are designed specifically for freelancers, like QuickBooks Self-Employed. QuickBooks Self-Employed helps freelancers keep track of their income and expenses, manage deductions, and calculate estimated quarterly taxes. It even includes a Turbo Tax plan so you can easily file your taxes. Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review to learn more.

Whichever accounting software you choose, it’s important to record your income so you can set aside the proper amount for taxes, track your expenses so you can maximize deductions, and keep your finances organized in case you ever face an audit.

Tip: Hire A Tax Professional

The biggest tip I have for freelancers is to hire an accountant or tax professional. When you’re self-employed and trying to save as much money as you can, it seems counterintuitive to hire an accountant, but trust me — the expense will more than pay for itself.

As a previous independent contractor, I’m speaking from experience here. When I started out as a 1099 contractor I knew a little bit about self-employment deductions. I saved 25% of each check, kept a careful record of my business-related mileage, and saved all of my business expense receipts. But without the help of an accountant, I still would have missed out on over $3,000 worth of deductions I didn’t know about.

Accountants and tax professionals can help you navigate the murky waters of freelance taxes and find you all sorts of savings. They know exactly what you can write off, which deductions you qualify for, and which deductions could put you on the radar for an audit. This expertise is priceless.

But, don’t let your accountant do all the work. Knowing which deductions you are eligible for and keeping careful records of your receipts and expenses throughout the year can help ensure you save as much on your freelance taxes as possible. (And, since accountants are often paid by the hour, the less work they have to do the more money you’ll save.)

Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Top Freelance Tax Deductions

Whether you about to file your taxes and are searching for last-minute savings or you are trying to track your deductible expenses throughout the year to get ahead of the tax game, here are the top ten tax deductions freelancers and independent contractors should know about:

1. Self Employment Tax Deduction

Rember when we said that freelancers are required to pay a 15.3% self-employment tax? Since freelancers are self-employed, they serve as both the employee and the employer, resulting in the 15.3% tax rate. In a traditional job, half of that tax would be covered by the employer.

This deduction allows you to deduct the employer-equivalent portion of your self-employment tax (approx. 50% – 57%). This deduction only affects your income tax. Contact an accountant or tax professional to see if you’re eligible for the self-employment tax deduction.

2. Health Insurance Premiums

Since freelancers have to provide their own health insurance, self-employed individuals can often deduct their health insurance premiums. The deduction cannot exceed your annual earned income.

3. Home Office Deduction

If you have a designated space in your home that is used exclusively for your business, you may be eligible for the home office deduction. You can use the simplified method and claim $5 per square foot, or you can use the complex method and write off direct expenses related to your office, including furniture, maintenance, equipment, and a portion of your utilities. Contact your accountant to see if you are eligible and to determine the best way to claim your home office deduction.

4. Office Supplies

Do you use printer ink or buy stamps to run your business? There’s a deduction for that!

Freelancers (and small businesses) can deduct office supplies so long as they are “ordinary and necessary” (which is the IRS’s rule of thumb for all deductions). Be sure to save all of your receipts so you can file your taxes properly at the end of the year.

5. Travel

As a freelancer, you can deduct travel expenses so long as the travel is strictly business-related. Again, be sure to save your receipts, airline tickets confirmations, etc.

6. Mileage

If you’re self-employed, you can deduct business-related mileage. The 2018 mileage rate is 54.5 cents per mile, which adds up surprisingly quickly.

Carefully log your start and end mileage, your starting point, your destination, and the purpose of the trip in a notebook (or using a tax software program like QuickBooks Self-Employed). You can also choose to deduct vehicle expenses instead of mileage. Talk to your accountant about which option is best for you.

7. Hardware & Software

If you require specific hardware and software to run your business, these purchases can count as deductions. Talk to your accountant about the best way to deduct these expenses as some bigger purchase may need to be depreciated.

8. Education 

Certain educational or certification expenses can also be deducted so long as they are directly related to your current line of work, not a new career. Keep track of your tuition and other education expenses throughout the year to claim this deduction.

9. Retirement Contributions

Since self-employed individuals are responsible for their own retirement accounts, retirement contributions can also be deductible. Keep track of any contributions you make to your SEP or IRA plans throughout the year to take advantage of this deduction.

10. Advertising & Marketing

Advertising and marketing expenses used to expand your business and bring in new customers can also be deducted.

New Tax Laws May Equal Savings

Top Deductions for Freelancers

The new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was one of the biggest changes to tax law in decades. While the IRS is still rolling out the full implications of these changes, one of the most important changes for freelancers is the new 20% qualified business income deduction, otherwise known as the pass-through credit.

Certain types of businesses — like sole proprietors, S corporations, and partnerships — are eligible for an up to 20% deduction on taxable income. There is an income limit for this deduction, so be sure to talk to an accountant or tax professional to see if you qualify.

Start Saving!

 

Now that you know about the top ten freelance tax deductions, it’s time to start saving! (Saving receipts, that is.) Make sure to carefully preserve all expense receipts and keep detailed financial records of anything you plan on deducting. This assists your accountant to maximize your deductions and helps prevent a tax audit.

You can now rest easy knowing exactly what’s expected of you as a freelancer when it comes to filing taxes. You can also be confident about the best ways to save money on your freelance taxes so you can continue to do what you love — and get paid for it.

As always, we recommend consulting an accountant or tax professional for the best tax advice.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Ohio Small Businesses

Finding financing and other business resources can be a challenge for any small business. Maybe you don’t know where to look, or maybe there are just too many options and you have no idea where to begin. If you’re a small business owner in Ohio that needs help finding the right resources for your business, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we’ll explore the different financing resources available to your small business. We’ll review our picks for online business lenders that make the loan process faster and easier than ever. We’ll take a look at local banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders that offer financing to Ohio businesses. We’ll even explore small business grants that can put free money into your business. Whether you’re just starting a business in Ohio or your established business is ready to grow, there’s an option out there for you. And after reading this post, you’ll know exactly where to find it!

Online Business Lenders For Ohio Businesses

Small business owners are often strapped for time. From managing day-to-day operations to planning an expansion or gearing up for an upcoming busy season, it’s difficult to find enough hours to tackle your daily tasks, much less pile anything else on your plate. You need capital, but you just don’t have the time to sit on a phone with a lender or head into a bank to pitch your business.

Or maybe you have the time to get a loan, but you fall short in another area. Your credit score is low. Your time in business is too short. Your annual revenues aren’t where they need to be to qualify for a bank loan.

Whether it’s time, borrowing requirements, or some other issue that’s keeping you from applying for a small business loan, there’s an alternative: an online business loan.

You probably already use the internet to perform tasks for your business: bookkeeping, communicating with clients and suppliers, or ordering inventory, just to name a few. Why not leverage the internet to find the capital you need to start your business, grow your brand, or overcome a financial hurdle?

With online lenders, you can apply for your loan without ever stepping foot into a bank or office. You can shop your options, learn about requirements, and compare lenders from your computer or smartphone. Some lenders can even give immediate approvals and send over your funds in as little as one business day.

In addition to ease and speed, online lenders are opening up more opportunities than ever for small business owners. Bad credit? No business credit? Low revenues? Startup? No problem — there’s an option out there for you.

Ready to find an online lender? Instead of weeding through thousands of search engine results to find legitimate options, start your search with these lenders.

Lendio

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Lendio makes shopping for the best financial product easier than ever. This loan aggregator has over 75 financial partners that you can reach through one simple application. You can compare multiple lender offers to find the most affordable option for your Ohio small business. From long-term, low-interest Small Business Administration loans to merchant cash advances, Lendio has it all.

Some of the financial products offered to small businesses through Lendio’s network include:

  • SBA Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Term Loans: Up to $2 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Commercial Mortgages: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Startup Loans: Up to $750,000 with terms up to 25 years
  • Lines Of Credit: Up to $150,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with terms up to 3 years
  • Equipment Financing: Up to $5 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Accounts Receivable Financing: Up to 80% of receivables with terms up to 2 years
  • Business Acquisition Loans: Up to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Business Credit Cards: Up to $500,000

Filling out the application is quick and easy, and there’s no impact to your credit until you accept an offer. Depending on the type of financing you select, you could have the capital you need in as little as 24 hours. Borrower requirements and required documentation vary based on the product selected. Rates and terms vary by lender.

SmartBiz

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If you’ve been in business for some time, you’re probably at least aware of the Small Business Administration. If not, you’re missing out on a very important resource. The SBA is not just an advocate for small businesses but also provides competitive, long-term loan options.

The SBA is not a direct lender. Instead, this organization guarantees small business loans distributed through its programs. Nonprofit organizations, banks, credit unions, and other lenders can feel more secure in taking on the risk of small business lending. Meanwhile, this opens the door for low-cost loan options for small business owners in Ohio, just like you.

Navigating the SBA loan process can be tricky, but smart business owners lean on SmartBiz to do the heavy lifting. SmartBiz simplifies SBA loans, removing the stress of the application process while putting money in your bank account faster than ever.

SmartBiz offers two SBA loan options for you. If you need to refinance high-interest debt or need extra money for working capital, marketing campaigns, inventory, equipment purchases, or operating expenses, you can apply for $30,000 to $350,000. You’ll have up to 10 years to repay your loan, and you’ll receive competitive interest rates of 8.25% to 9.25%.

To qualify, you must meet the requirements below:

  • Time in business of at least 2 years
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Credit score of 640 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No prior defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

If you need to purchase commercial real estate or refinance a commercial real estate loan, apply for the SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan. You can receive between $500,000 to $5 million with repayment terms up to 25 years and interest rates of 7% to 8.25%.

The borrower requirements for SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans are as follows:

  • Property must be at least 51% owner occupied
  • Purchase price must be more than $500,000
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Credit score of 675 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow
  • Funds can’t be used to purchase investment properties or fund construction
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No prior defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

Credibly

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Credibly is an online lender that offers multiple financing options for small business owners. Credibly can preapprove you for up to $400,000 with final approvals in as little as 24 hours.

One of the financial products offered through Credibly is a working capital loan. You can qualify for up to $400,000 with repayment terms up to 18 months. These loans do not have traditional interest rates. Instead, Credibly’s working capital loans have factor rates that start at 1.15. Repayments on your loan are made daily or weekly.

To qualify for a working capital loan, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 6 months
  • Personal credit score of 500 or above
  • At least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Need longer terms for your loan? Credibly’s business expansion loans have terms of up to 2 years. These loans are available in amounts up to $250,000 with interest rates starting at 9.99%. This loan is repaid through weekly payments.

To qualify for a business expansion loan, you must meet these requirements:

  • At least 3 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above
  • At least $3,000 in daily balances
  • At least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Another option to consider through Credibly is a merchant cash advance. With this financing, you’ll receive up to $400,000. The anticipated duration of Credibly’s MCAs are 3 to 18 months, and repayment is based upon your receivables. Factor rates for MCAs start at 1.15.

To qualify for this type of funding, you must:

  • Have a personal credit score of 500 or above
  • Be in business for at least 6 months
  • Have at least $15,000 in monthly bank deposits

Fundbox

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Wouldn’t it be a relief to have a source of funding available to you on-demand? If an emergency pops up, you’d have the funds to cover it. If you needed extra inventory or money to pay for operating expenses, you wouldn’t have to wait days (or weeks) for loan approval. If your Buckeye business would benefit from this type of funding, a line of credit from Fundbox may be just what you need.

Fundbox offers revolving lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified businesses. You can make one or multiple draws on your line of credit up to your set limit. As you repay borrowed funds, they become available to draw again. You can select from 12- or 24-week terms, and fees start at just 4.66% of the draw amount. Weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

Qualifying is simple, as Fundbox considers your business performance when approving lines of credit. To receive yours, you must have:

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

Prosper

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If you’re a new business with no (or very low) revenue, how are you going to qualify for a small business loan? Unfortunately, there will be many small business financing options unavailable to you if your business is brand new or hasn’t yet opened its doors. If this sounds familiar, you may have to get a little creative with your financing. One of the best options? A personal loan for business.

With a personal loan for business, your personal credit score and income can help you qualify for the funding you need. This is a great way to pay for startup costs or to cover any business expense when you don’t qualify for small business financing.

One lender to consider for personal loans is Prosper. You may qualify for up to $40,000 with APRs of 6.95% to 35.99%. You can select from terms of 3 years or 5 years.

To qualify for a Prosper personal loan, you must meet the following minimum eligibility requirements:

  • Source of income
  • Debt-to-income ratio below 50%
  • No bankruptcies within the last 12 months
  • Less than 5 credit inquiries within the last 6 months
  • At least 3 open trade accounts on your credit report

Amex Merchant Financing

American Express OptBlue

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If your business accepts American Express, you may qualify for Amex Merchant Financing. You can receive a loan of $5,000 up to $2 million for one fixed fee of 1.75% to 20%. A fixed amount is deducted daily, or you can opt to have a percentage of your daily receivables deducted.

Repayment terms are spread over 6, 12, or 24 months and automatic payments are deducted daily from your account. If you repay your loan early, you could get up to 25% of your fixed fee back, helping you save on the cost of your loan.

To qualify, you must:

  • Accept American Express cards
  • Have at least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Have at least $12,000 in annual debit and credit receivables
  • Have been in business for at least 2 years

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Ohio

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Online lenders are convenient, but maybe you prefer working with more traditional lenders. Banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders throughout Ohio provide loans and other financial products at competitive rates. You can also sign up for other business services, such as checking and savings accounts, payroll services, or employee benefits.

Huntington Bank

Huntington Bank has branches located in hundreds of cities in Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus. Small business owners can open a checking and savings account through this bank. If you need extra capital to start or grow your business, Huntington Bank offers multiple financial products tailored to small businesses including:

  • Term Loans
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Business Credit Cards
  • SBA Loans

Huntington Bank is a particularly good choice for SBA loans, as it has been ranked the top SBA lender in the region for the last 10 years.

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary by product. If you’re interested in getting financing through Huntington Bank, call their toll-free number or visit a branch near you to learn more.

Wright-Patt Credit Union

If you prefer more personalized service when seeking your small business financing, consider joining a credit union. In Ohio, Wright-Patt Credit Union is one of the largest with over 30 locations throughout the state.

As a member of Wright-Patt Credit Union, you’ll be able to handle all of your finances in one place. In addition to traditional financial products including business checking, savings, and money market accounts, members can also apply to receive financing through:

  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Terms up to 25 years
  • SBA Loans: 7(a), Express, and 504
  • Commercial Auto Loans: Terms up to 84 months
  • Term Loans: Terms up to 10 years
  • Business Credit Cards
  • Lines Of Credit

Rates, terms, and borrower requirements vary by financial product. Some financing options, including auto loans and business credit cards, have online applications available to Wright-Patt members.

To become a member, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, attend school, or worship in one of the Ohio counties serviced by the credit union
  • Be a military or civilian employee of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
  • Live in the Fairborn area with no access to other credit unions
  • Be a student, faculty member, staff member, or alumnus of Wright State University
  • Have a family member that is a Wright-Patt member
  • Be in a group affiliated with Wright-Patt Credit Union

Finance Fund Capital Corporation

Finance Fund Capital Corporation (FCAP) is a nonprofit community development financial institution. Through FCAP, eligible Ohioans can apply for funding through the Small Business Loan Fund. Loans are available in amounts from $100,000 to $1 million. Funds can be used for the following business purposes:

  • Working Capital
  • Real Estate Acquisitions
  • Construction
  • Leasehold Improvements
  • Equipment

Loans come with terms up to 7 years. However, there are longer options for commercial real estate and fixed asset purchases. Rates are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower and the risk of the project being funded.

To qualify, a business must:

  • Be a for-profit sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation
  • Provide vital services to the area
  • Operate in an underserved market
  • Have a viable business idea

Loans are also given through the SBA Community Advantage program. To learn more and to apply for the Small Business Loan Fund, call or email Finance Fund Capital Corporation.

Small Business Grants In Ohio

If your business needs capital, turning to a lender isn’t your only financing option. Your business may qualify for a small business grant. The best thing about small business grants is that funds don’t have to be repaid, so there’s no worrying about monthly payments, high interest rates, or fees.

On the flip side, scoring a small business grant isn’t just as simple as filling out an application, having a credit check performed, and getting the funds you requested. Small business grants are extremely competitive. You must also meet very specific requirements — such as operating in a certain industry, having a veteran-owned business, or being a woman business owner — for most grants.

In the state of Ohio, there are several grant programs to consider. Start with these options.

JobsOhio

JobsOhio is a nonprofit corporation that aims to create jobs and promote economic development in Ohio by attracting, retaining, and expanding businesses. Through JobsOhio, small business owners have access to grant and loan programs including:

  • Economic Development Grant: Focuses on fixed asset and infrastructure investment of companies, including site development, machinery and equipment, land, and buildings.
  • Revitalization Program: Provides funds for businesses, nonprofits, and governments for costs related to redevelopment projects, including demolition, building renovation, and site preparation.
  • Workforce Grant: Provides funding for company training costs including information technology, leadership skills, technical training, and on-the-job training.
  • Growth Loan Fund: While not a grant, the Growth Loan Fund provides low-cost loans for established businesses that have limited access to traditional funding sources. Loan funds can be used to purchase fixed assets including land, buildings, machinery, and equipment.

Ohio Development Services Agency

The Ohio Development Services Agency has multiple programs that are designed to help Ohio businesses grow and create jobs. These programs include small business grants, low-cost loans, tax credits, and bonds.

Programs available through the Ohio Development Services Agency include:

  • Alternative Fuel Transportation Program: Provides financial assistance to businesses that purchase and install alternative fuel facilities and terminals.
  • Energy Loan Fund: Provides low-cost financing to businesses and manufacturers for improvements that reduce fossil fuel emissions and energy usage.
  • Ohio Minority Business Direct Loan Program: Provides low-interest loans to minority-owned businesses

City Of Cleveland Green Technology Business Grant Program

New green technology businesses located or relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, may qualify for the Green Technology Business Grant Program. To qualify, a business must create at least five new jobs within its first year.

The grant provides up to 1% of new payroll for up to 3 years. An additional $5,000 is also available as a Moving Assistance Grant. Interested small business owners can apply online through the City of Cleveland Economic Development.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Ohio

Startup businesses may find it a challenge to get the capital and resources they need to grow. Fortunately, the state of Ohio offers multiple resources to help new businesses and startups succeed.

Minority Business Assistance Centers

The Ohio Development Services Agency offers assistance to minority-owned businesses through its Minority Business Assistance Centers. Through these centers, minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses can receive services including accounting assistance, business management counseling, marketing plan development, and help identifying local resources.

SCORE

SCORE is one of the nation’s best resources for startup and small business owners. Through SCORE, you can receive free business counseling with an expert mentor. You can meet face-to-face with your mentor or you can receive counseling online.

SCORE also offers free and low-cost business training, workshops, and other resources such as business templates and guides.

SCORE chapters are located throughout the state of Ohio in cities including Mansfield, Columbus, Toledo, and Newark.

Ohio Small Business Development Centers

Whether you’re launching your business or taking your existing business to the next level, the Ohio Small Business Development Centers have resources for you. You can work with a Certified Business Advisor to get your business on the right track.

Services available through SBDC include business planning, one-on-one counseling, finding sources of capital, workshops, and training programs.

Offices are located throughout Ohio in cities including Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

Now that you know just a few of the options available to you, narrowing down your choices to just one lender can be tricky. However, there are a few factors to keep in mind to help you choose the right lender for your business.

Type Of Financing

What type of financing are you seeking? If you want a flexible line of credit, you can cross off any lenders that offer long-term loan options. Interested in SBA loans? Then don’t give short-term lenders a second glance. Determine what type of financing works best for your business, then select a lender that provides this type of funding.

Borrowing Amount

If you need $500,000 to purchase commercial real estate, a $10,000 loan isn’t going to get you very far. Consider the borrowing limits of each lender, then choose the lender that is able to provide the capital your business needs.

Affordability

When you receiving financing, you have to consider the overall cost of borrowing. Calculate the fees, interest, and other costs associated with each lender you’re considering. Working with one lender may be faster and easier, but the costs may be much higher … and could be too much of a burden for your business. Consider your options, don’t feel obligated to take the first offer, and know how much your business can afford. Remember, you want to grow your business, not slide into a cycle of debt.

Borrower Requirements

Do you meet all of the requirements of the lender? Lenders consider factors such as personal credit score, business credit score, past credit history, time in business, and annual revenue. If you don’t meet these requirements, you won’t get approved, so why waste your time? Grab your free credit score, read up on borrower requirements, and submit your application only when you know you meet all requirements. Also, please remember that meeting the minimum requirements of a lender is not a guarantee of approval.

Final Thoughts

Starting and operating a business is tough for even the most experienced entrepreneur. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. As a business owner in Ohio, there are multiple lending options and other resources available to you to keep your business on the path to success.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Ohio Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Texas Small Businesses

We’ve all heard the saying, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” From ranches to buildings to cowboy hats, this adage applies to many aspects of Texas living. It even applies to opportunities. For small business owners that need capital or other resources, the state of Texas has many great opportunities. Whether you want a quick and easy online loan, a state grant that puts free money into your business, or training and mentorships, there are plenty of opportunities if you know where to look.

We’ve taken the guesswork out of getting a loan in Texas and have done the research for you, compiling a list of loan and financing resources for your small business. New business? No problem! Low personal credit score? We’ve got you covered. From startups to established businesses, these resources can help any Texan achieve your business goals. Read on to learn more.

Online Business Lenders For Texas Businesses

It wasn’t that long ago that one of the only ways to get a business loan was to head to your local bank. Today, you don’t have to step foot into a bank to get the capital you need for your business — thanks to the internet.

Online business lenders are popping up everywhere, offering competitive rates and terms to draw in your business. Not only is working with one of these online lenders quicker than going to the bank and sitting on the phone with your loan officer, but many have more relaxed borrower requirements, making it easier than ever to get the capital you need.

With an online lender, you’re able to apply for a loan online. Most lenders offer up their rates, terms, and borrower requirements right on their website. You can communicate with your lender through email or secure web forms. Some lenders allow you to complete the entire process from application to funding all from the comfort of your home or office — no telephone calls or in-person visits required.

Funding is faster than ever, too. No longer do you have to wait weeks or months for approval. Instead, many online lenders offer instant approvals and funding in as little as 24 hours.

An online search for a small business lender leads to thousands of results, so how do you know which one to choose? Start your funding search with these recommendations.

Fundera

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Who has time to fill out application after application with multiple lenders? Why spend hours trying to connect with the lender that’s right for your business when you can do it all with just one simple application?

With Fundera, you can connect with multiple lenders with just one application. Once you fill out your application, you’ll be connected with a lending specialist who will learn more about your business. Then, your funding specialist will go to work for you to find the best financing options for your business.

You may receive one or even multiple offers. Your lending specialist will work with you to go over the details of your offers, helping you find the best, most affordable financing option. The best part? You receive all of this for no cost!

Fundera has multiple loan options available for your small business, including:

  • SBA Loans: Up to $5 million with rates starting at 6.75%.
  • Term Loans: Up to $500,000 with rates at 7% to 30%
  • Lines Of Credit: Starting at $10,000 with interest rates at 7% to 25%
  • Invoice Financing: Up to 100% of invoice value with rates at 8% to 30%
  • Startup Loans: Up to $150,000 with rates at 7.9% to 19.9%.
  • Equipment Financing: Up to 100% of equipment value with rates at 8% to 30%
  • Short-Term Loans: Up to $250,000 with rates starting at 10%
  • Merchant Cash Advances: Up to $250,000 with factor rates of 1.14 to 1.18
  • Personal Loans For Business: Up to $35,000 with rates at 5.99% to 36%

Borrower requirements vary based on the financial product you select. For example, most borrowers that qualified for a term loan had annual revenue of at least $300,000, a credit score of 680, and a time in business of over 3 years. Borrowers who have qualified for short-term loans had annual revenue of at least $150,000, a credit score of at least 600, and a time in business of over 2 years.

Fundera’s loan specialists will evaluate your business, personal credit history, and other factors to help you select the best product for your situation.

Fundation

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Whether you’re ready to expand your business or you have short-term cash needs, Fundation has a financial solution for you. Through Fundation, you can apply for a term loan or line of credit.

With a term loan, you can pay for an expansion, purchase equipment, or fund capital improvements. You may qualify for up to $500,000 with repayment terms up to 4 years. APRs range from 8.99% and 29.99% and payments are made twice per month.

Fundation’s lines of credit are available in amounts up to $150,000 with terms up to 18 months. APRs range from 8.99% and 29.99% and are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower. Payments are made once per month.

To qualify for a Fundation financial product, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • Annual revenue of at least $100,000
  • Good personal credit

SmartBiz

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Qualifying for a traditional bank loan is tough. Luckily, the Small Business Administration has lending programs that make it easier for startups and small businesses to qualify for low-interest, long-term loans. Because the SBA guarantees a portion of loans distributed through its programs, lenders feel more confident in lending to small business owners, even those with less-than-perfect credit scores or who have just launched their businesses. The SBA is not a direct lender. Instead, small business owners turn to intermediary lenders to get the funds they need – lenders like SmartBiz.

SmartBiz simplifies the SBA loan process, helping small business owners in Texas move quickly and easily through the process. Through SmartBiz, you have two SBA loan options: SBA working capital and debt financing loans or SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans.

SBA working capital and debt refinancing loans are available in amounts from $30,000 to $350,000. Funds can be used to purchase equipment or inventory, refinance existing debt, pay for a marketing campaign, or just for working capital purposes. Interest rates are between 8.25% and 9.25% with maximum repayment terms of 10 years.

To qualify for this SBA loan, you must:

  • Have a time in business of at least 2 years
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Have a personal credit score of 640 or higher
  • Have sufficient cash flow to pay your loan
  • Have no bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • Have no outstanding tax liens
  • Have no previous defaults on government-backed loans

If you want to purchase commercial real estate or refinance your existing commercial mortgage, you could qualify for $500,000 to $5 million through the SBA 7(a) program. Interest rates are 7% to 8.25% through SmartBiz with repayment terms up to 25 years.

To qualify, you must meet these requirements:

  • Use funds for a property that is at least 51% owner occupied
  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Personal credit score of 675 or higher
  • Have sufficient cash flow to pay your loan
  • Estimated purchase price must be higher than $500,000
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans
  • No outstanding tax liens

Funds through this loan program can’t be used to purchase investment properties or fund the costs of new construction.

If you’re not ready to apply for a loan through SmartBiz’s SBA programs, the company has also teamed with lender partners to offer affordable, long-term bank loans up to $350,000 for qualified borrowers.

LoanBuilder

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Haven’t been in business for long or have a low credit score? Don’t worry – there are options available for you. One of those options is LoanBuilder. Through this online lender, you can “build” your own loan, personalizing your loan using the LoanBuilder Configurator.

With LoanBuilder, you can receive $5,000 up to $500,000 to build your business. Repayment terms are 13 to 52 weeks, with weekly payments debited directly from your business bank account. LoanBuilder makes it easy to understand the cost of borrowing by charging a one-time fee. This fee is 2.9% to 18.72% of the borrowing amount and is added into your loan. There are no additional fees for receiving a LoanBuilder loan.

To qualify for a LoanBuilder loan, you must have:

  • A time in business of at least 9 months
  • At least $42,000 in annual revenue
  • No active bankruptcies
  • A U.S.-based business
  • Personal credit score of 550 or above

You must also be in an eligible industry to qualify. Most industries will qualify, but some that are excluded include attorneys, collection agencies, schools, gambling businesses, auto dealers, and non-profit organizations.

OnDeck

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If you don’t qualify for a loan through a bank or other traditional lender, OnDeck is another lender with minimum requirements that can give you the capital you need. Through OnDeck, you have two financial products to choose from: term loans and lines of credit.

With OnDeck’s term loans, you can receive up to $500,000. The lender offers two loan options: short term loans and long term loans. Short term loans have repayment terms of 3 to 12 months and can be used for purchases that have immediate returns, such as launching a new marketing campaign, hiring new employees, or purchasing inventory.

OnDeck’s short term loans have a simple interest rate as low as 9%. This means that the interest rate is a percentage of your borrowing amount. For example, if you have a $10,000 loan with a 9% simple interest rate, you’ll repay $10,900. Additional fees may apply.

OnDeck’s long term loans have terms of 15 to 36 months and can be used to expand your business, purchase equipment, or develop new products. These loans come with an annual interest rate starting at 9.99%.

All term loans have an origination fee of 0% to 4% of the loan amount. Payments are made daily or weekly and are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

To qualify for term loans through OnDeck, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 500 or above

OnDeck also provides lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified borrowers. The APR starts at 13.99%. Repayments are made weekly and are automatically deducted from your business bank account. OnDeck’s lines of credits do not have draw fees. However, there is a $20 monthly maintenance fee. This fee can be waived by drawing at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To receive an OnDeck line of credit, you must meet these requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above

Kabbage

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If a flexible line of credit would work best for your financial needs, consider applying with Kabbage. Through Kabbage, you can get up to $250,000 as a line of credit to use for your business. Funds can be used for any business purpose, from expansion to hiring new employees to filling gaps in revenue during a slow season.

Kabbage lines of credit come with terms of 6 or 12 months. Kabbage charges monthly fees of 1.5% to 10%, and your rate is based on the performance of your business. If you pay off your balance early, remaining fees will be waived so you can save money on your loan. Repayments are made monthly and are automatically debited from your business checking account.

Kabbage bases its approval decisions on the performance of your business, not just your personal credit score. To qualify, you must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue OR at least $4,200 per month for the last 3 months

One thing that makes Kabbage stand out from other lenders offering lines of credit is the Kabbage Card. You can make a regular draw from your line of credit, which you receive in your bank account within 1 to 3 business days. Or you can get instant access to funds with the Kabbage Card. Simply use the card anywhere credit cards are accepted to make an immediate purchase. Once you’ve used your card, Kabbage will create a new loan with the same rates and terms as traditional draws.

LendingPoint

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Some of the options already discussed work for more established businesses, but what if you haven’t yet opened your doors? As a new business owner, meeting the requirements for a business loan can be a challenge, even through alternative lenders. If you have at least a fair credit score, one option to consider is a personal loan for business through a lender like LendingPoint.

With LendingPoint, you can receive a loan up to $25,000. Repayment terms for LendingPoint loans are 24 to 48 months. Interest rates start at 15.49%.

Because this is a personal loan, time in business, business credit history, and annual revenues are not requirements for approval. Instead, you must meet these requirements:

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

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Texas

If you’d rather work with a more traditional lender for your small business loan, Texas has plenty of banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders to choose from, including these picks.

Security Service Federal Credit Union

Security Service Federal Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in Texas with nearly 70 locations across the state. Branches are located in cities including San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Portland, and New Braunfels.
There are multiple small business financing options available through this credit union. Your options include:

  • Commercial Mortgages
  • Commercial Construction Loans
  • Capital Improvement Loans
  • Vehicle & Equipment Financing
  • Term Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Business Credit Cards

The rates, terms, borrowing limits, and borrower requirements are based on the product you select. This institution also offers merchant services, payroll services, and business checking and savings accounts.

To become a member of Security Service, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • You live, work, worship, attend school, volunteer, or own a business located in the state of Texas
  • You’re a member of the military or are employed by the Department of Defense living in the service area
  • A family member or someone in your household is a member of the credit union

Wells Fargo

If you want to stick with a traditional lending institution, Wells Fargo is one of the largest banks in Texas. Wells Fargo branches are located all throughout the state in cities including Wichita Falls, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston.

Wells Fargo offers a variety of small business products and services to its customers. This includes:

  • Secured & Unsecured Business Credit Cards
  • Unsecured Business Loans: $10,000 to $100,000 with rates starting at 8.25% and terms up to 5 years
  • Equipment Loans: $10,000 to $100,000 with rates starting at 7% and terms up to 5 years
  • Term Loans: $100,000 to $500,000 with terms up to 1 year
  • Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Up to $1 million
  • Commercial Real Estate Refinancing: Up to $1 million
  • Commercial Real Estate Equity Loans: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Equity Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • SBA 7(a) Loans: Up to $5 million
  • SBA 504 Loans: Up to $6.5 million

Borrower requirements vary based on the financial product you select. Additional business products and services include business bank accounts, merchant services, and payroll services. To learn more about opening an account, you can sign up online or visit your local Wells Fargo branch.

LiftFund

LiftFund specializes in providing small business loans to businesses that don’t qualify for traditional bank financing. Through LiftFund, you may be eligible to borrow $500 up to $1 million. LiftFund also is a Certified Development Company that administers SBA 504 loans. Borrowers may also qualify for up to $250,000 through the SBA 7(a) program.

To qualify for a loan, LiftFund considers the following:

  • Ability to repay
  • Personal character
  • Commitment to improving business and personal credit
  • Good payment history with other creditors
  • Collateral
  • Alternate sources of income
  • No Chapter 7 bankruptcies within 2 years
  • No Chapter 12 bankruptcies within 1 year

The average borrower has a personal credit score of 575. The lender works hard to match business owners with a loan regardless of credit history, time in business, or annual revenues.

BCL Of Texas

Through BCL of Texas, you can receive up to $50,000 with the Texas Small & Diverse Growth Fund. This loan program is open to minority and women-owned businesses. To apply, you must have a one-on-one consultation with a BCL specialist and complete a Financial Readiness Assessment. Once these two steps are complete, you can apply for loans between $5,000 and $50,000. Through this program, you can also receive business coaching for the life of your loan at no additional cost.

BCL also offers new business loans of $20,000 to $50,000. Loan funds can be used for working capital, real estate purchases, equipment purchases, or as a line of credit. A loan inquiry can be submitted through the BCL website to learn more.

As your business grows, BCL offers additional loan options. The Business Growth Fund provides up to $300,000 for the purchase of real estate or machinery, working capital, or to refinance existing debt. Rural business loans up to $250,000 are also available through BCL. SBA 504 loans are also available through this lender.

Small Business Grants In Texas

If you don’t want to be stuck repaying a loan plus interest and fees, a small business grant could be what you need for your business. A small business grant is money that doesn’t have to be repaid. Unfortunately, competition for these grants is stiff. Plus, many small business grants have very specific requirements that your business might not meet. However, it never hurts to apply for grants that you are qualified to receive. In the state of Texas, there are several grants available to small businesses. Read on for some of the top options to consider.

Texas Workforce Commission Skills For Small Business Program

The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Skills for Small Business Program provides grants for training new employees. With these funds, small business owners can pay for employee training at their local community college, tech college, or Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service.

Through the program, businesses can receive up to $1,800 per year for each new employee that receives training. Existing employees can receive up to $900 per year for training.

To qualify, businesses must have fewer than 100 employees. Only full-time employees are eligible to receive training. All wages for employees must meet or exceed the prevailing wage in the area where the business is located.

To apply, you must complete and submit the TWC application by fax or through email.

Texas Enterprise Fund

The Texas Enterprise Fund awards “deal-closing” grants to businesses that are competing with out-of-state sites for a project. Projects may include opening or expanding a business.

In addition to having at least one out-of-state competitor, qualifying businesses must also plan to create more than 75 full-time jobs in urban areas or more than 25 in rural areas. The average wage for new jobs must meet or exceed the average county wage. Qualifying businesses must also show significant planned capital investment and must be financially sound.

All businesses must submit an application packet and then undergo an 11-step screening process. Once completed, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House review applications and must unanimously agree in order for the grant to be awarded.

Texas Department Of Agriculture

The Texas Department of Agriculture has several loan and grant programs for businesses in and outside of the agriculture industry. Programs include the Agricultural Loan Guarantee Program, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and Capital for Texas. Requirements and deadlines vary based on the program you select. All information and applications can be found on the Texas Department of Agriculture website.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Texas

Many startup businesses seek outside financing and resources in order to increase their chances for success. In the state of Texas, there are multiple resources to consider that provide financing opportunities, mentorships, and much more to help you more effectively start and build a business.

SCORE

SCORE, a resource partner through the Small Business Administration, offers free business mentors to small business owners across the nation. Through SCORE, not only will you connect with an experienced business mentor, but you can also take advantage of other resources including workshops, webinars, and business courses.

There are multiple SCORE offices throughout the state of Texas in cities including Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. You can contact your local SCORE office to find out more about the resources available to you, or you can visit the SCORE website to connect with a mentor, check out webinars, and more.

The Governor’s Small Business Workshops

Through the Office of the Governor, small business owners can participate in Small Business Workshops held throughout the year all throughout the state of Texas. These workshops cover a variety of business topics including startup essentials, access to capital, and business opportunities for women, minorities, and veterans.

America’s Small Business Development Centers

New and existing business owners can take advantage of the resources offered through Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). Through SBDC, you can receive free business consulting and low-cost training across multiple business topics including accessing capital, tech development, marketing, and more.

There are over 60 business centers located throughout Texas. You can locate your local office through the SBDC website to learn more about the opportunities available

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Still on the fence about which lender to choose? Doing your homework and weighing out your options is a smart move. However, if you’ve done your research and you still can’t seem to nail down a lender, ask yourself the following questions:

How Much Money Do I Need?

Your financing application will require you to request an amount of money to borrow, so make sure you know how much capital your business needs. Knowing how much money you need can also help you narrow down your selection of lenders. Let’s say you need $200,000 for an overhaul of your business. Lenders that have lower maximum limits can be immediately marked off your list.

How’s My Credit Score?

Got bad credit? The bad news is that you may not qualify for certain types of financing, such as a traditional bank loan. The good news is that there are alternative loan options available to borrowers with poor scores or no credit. However, be aware that these products often come with higher fees and interest and shorter terms than options available to more creditworthy borrowers.

If you’re unsure of where you stand in terms of credit, pull your free credit score before applying for financing. Then, apply only to lenders with credit score requirements you can meet. If your score is low and your funding need isn’t urgent, consider evaluating your credit report to determine your weak points. Then, take steps to boost your score, which will open up new financing options with improved rates and terms.

Do I Meet All Other Requirements?

Most lenders look at more than just your credit score. Some lenders consider factors such as time in business, annual revenues, debt-to-income ratios, and even the size of your business and the number of employees you have. Make sure you meet all borrower requirements before submitting your application. Remember, if you don’t meet all of one lender’s requirements, there are plenty of other lenders willing to work with your business.

How Will I Use My Funds?

How do you plan to use the capital you receive from a lender? Some lenders impose restrictions on how funds are used. For example, an equipment loan must be used to purchase equipment or fixtures. You can’t use these funds to hire employees or cover payroll. Choose a lender that offers a financial product that works for your business needs. Then, ensure that there are no restrictions that would prevent you from using your capital in a way that’s best for your business.

Final Thoughts

Whether you have an established business or you’re gearing up for your grand opening, there are plenty of resources in the state of Texas to help your small business. Do your research, calculate the affordability of any loan you pursue, and make sure your next steps will only better your business.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Texas Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Do I Need Business Insurance?

Do I Need Business Insurance?

Insurance isn’t a fun purchase. In terms of your small business, it’s far more enjoyable to order business cards, design window decals, work on a marketing plan, and think about how to make your product the best you can. Some business owners push off business insurance because they can’t help asking: “Is this really necessary? Can I afford this extra expense for things that may or may not happen?”

The real question is: Can you afford not to insure your business? The commercial insurance company Insureon completed a study and discovered that only one in four businesses have adequate business insurance and 80% of businesses cannot recover after a disaster. With that in mind, business insurance is a small cost to pay to keep yourself safeguarded from financial ruin.

Do I Need Business Insurance?

The insurance industry is in the business of doom and gloom and disasters. They see your cute storefront located right in the middle of flood territory and say, “Hey, business owner. Let’s imagine that river floods and you can’t open your shop and you lose sixty-percent of your inventory and now you can’t pay your employees and…”

And now you’re in the fetal position wondering if anything in life is worth the risk. Except, it doesn’t have to be like that. Unless you are a thrill seeker who likes to live dangerously, eschewing all ethical responsibilities to others, consider business insurance part of the cost of doing business.

What Is Business Insurance?

Business insurance protects you and your assets from disasters, accidents, lawsuits, theft of property, data breaches, and even mundane hassles like clogged drains. Commercial insurance plans are tailored specifically to your industry and your specific risks. Many factors affect insurance costs, including business location, number of employees, and risky behavior. For example, if you run the ax-throwing brewery near my house (this is a real thing) and want to put sharp objects in the hands of people also drinking beer, get yourself some insurance, people! (I’m confident they are well-insured. And I am also confident I will visit.)

Are You Legally Required To Have Business Insurance?

If you are a sole proprietor of your business and don’t have any employees or customers (see ax-throwing reference above) to protect, business insurance might legally be optional. However, the rules are often state specific, so it’s important to talk to a business lawyer or state insurance representative to make sure you are compliant with state requirements.

However, the government requires businesses with more than one employee to provide worker’s compensation, unemployment, and disability insurance. If you have employees driving business vehicles, you will also need commercial auto insurance, and some landlords and leaseholders require renter’s insurance or commercial property insurance as part of a rental agreement.

Another legal requirement might be health insurance. If you have fifty or more employees six months or more out of the year, then you are legally required by the federal government to provide health insurance. If you aren’t required legally to provide health insurance and you do anyway, then you’re eligible for a tax break.

Reasons You Should Have Business Insurance

How To Get Business Insurance in 4 Easy Steps

Business owners might wonder why they should invest in protecting their business and assets. Here are some important reasons to consider as you weigh your insurance needs:

It Fulfills A Legal Requirement

If you have more than one employee, you need to provide worker’s compensation, disability, and unemployment insurance. Also, your landlord may legally require you to hold renter’s insurance. (These requirements are state specific, so check your state’s legal requirements.)

People Like To Sue Other People

Humans are litigious and sue-happy. No matter what business you start, there is the potential for someone, at some point, to become unhappy with the business or your product and engage you in a lawsuit. Handling a lawsuit without liability insurance could be disastrous to any small business — even if the business is eventually found not liable. (And, yup, if you aren’t fully covered, the plaintiff could come after your personal assets.) A lawsuit is costly and stressful. And insurance is more affordable than you might think — a sole proprietor of a business who wants one million dollars in liability coverage could pay as little as $30 a month for peace of mind.

Protects Your Business In The Event Of A Disaster

The word disaster in this scenario could be anything from an Act of God, a fire, theft or vandalism, or anything else that has the potential to stop your business from running smoothly or running altogether. A business owner’s policy that provides a package of general liability and commercial property insurance will protect from the most common disasters.

Protects The Humans You Employ

Insurance isn’t just doom and gloom. Offering insurance protection to your employees creates a positive work environment and sends the message that you care about the people working for you. While you may have to provide basic protections like worker’s compensation, disability, and unemployment, you can also offer health insurance (and if you aren’t legally required to provide it, you can receive a tax break for doing so) and life insurance policies to help attract and retain quality workers.

Provides Tax Breaks

Business insurance is a tax write-off and you can claim your premiums as deductions. (Except, funny tip: if you are a beneficiary for one of your employee’s life insurance policies, you can’t deduct that insurance policy…so, since tax laws become oddly specific, it’s important to check with a tax expert for your state.)

Contracts May Require Proof Of Insurance

If you want to borrow money for your business, the bank may require you to prove your business is insured. Also, if you work with clients or other businesses as independent contractors, they may also require proof of insurance before choosing to work with you. Insurance doesn’t just provide peace of mind for the business owner but also for the people who engage in the business.

What Type Of Business Insurance Do You Need?

Okay, you’ve made the wise choice to insure your business. Now you’ll need to research which policies are the best fit for your business model. Businesses in riskier industries will need more insurance, but there are options for all types of business owners, from sole proprietors to corporations. The most basic types of insurance types are:

  • General Liability Insurance: General liability protects your business in the event of a disaster, lawsuit, or accident. Claims against a business can arrive in the form of bodily injury, property damage, personal injury to a customer (including slander or libel), or false advertisement.
  • Commercial Property Insurance: A commercial policy insures your building, business products inside your building, and other people’s property while it’s in your care. Property damage due to theft also falls into this category.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: Also referred to as E&O insurance, this is additional liability insurance that helps cover your business from professional liability of either errors (where your business caused a financial loss for a client) or omissions (an employee didn’t do his/her job as required).
  • Worker’s Compensation Insurance: If an employee is injured at work, this will protect your employee and you if a lawsuit should arise. This is a requirement for businesses with more than one employee.
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: If your business involves a fleet of vehicles or if an automobile is needed, you will want to cover those vehicles under a commercial insurance plan.
  • Business Owner’s Policy: This is a policy offered by most insurance companies; it includes both general liability and commercial property protection.
  • Renter’s Insurance: This might be a requirement if you are renting/leasing business space. This protects your location from damage and liabilities for that damage.
  • Business Interruption Insurance: If something stops your business from functioning (a flood, an Act of God, or an illness or other accident), this insurance will help pay for lost income incurred during the interruption. This insurance specifically covers income and profits and covering the cost of getting your business back up and running.

Industry Specific Insurance

The type of insurance your business needs is directly correlated to the type of business you run. Again, if you are running an ax-throwing business and putting beer in those customers’ hands, you will need a larger liability package than say someone who is working as a freelance writer (loss of limbs versus paper cuts, possibly?) and so knowing what kind of insurance might be specific to your industry is important.

Insurance For Retail

In addition to the basic coverage types mentioned above, there are a few other insurance policies that are specifically for small business retail owners. Franchise upgrade insurance, for example, helps a franchise pay for the cost of an upgrade required by your franchise agreement. Also, if your retail store is dependent on other businesses to provide you supplies, then you can request business income from dependent properties insurance which pays you out if your business is harmed due a business interruption from someone you work with.

Insurance For Restaurants

If you serve alcohol in your establishment, then liquor liability insurance is an important policy that specifically protects you from the damages caused by someone drinking too much in your establishment or even starting an alcohol-induced fight. Any lawsuits, costs, or damages that arise from serving liquor can be covered by that policy. Another restaurant industry-specific policy is a temperature change policy. If you lose power and your refrigeration unit shuts down (or breaks) and you have spoiled food, a temperature change policy will cover the cost to replace any lost product.  

Insurance For The Self-Employed

If you are self-employed, you might have many concerns about how your business might impact your quality of life. Renter’s insurance and/or homeowner’s insurance will protect the items in your business should your house suffer an accident or disaster (flood, fire, theft). It’s important to check with your insurance company to see if your homeowner’s insurance protects businesses run within the home, and if it doesn’t, then discuss an add-on liability package to cover your business. 

Insurance For Professional Services

If you run a professional service (legal, accounting, consulting, engineering), several types of insurance options might make sense for your business. The first is director & officers insurance (D&O) which protects the individual directors and board members in your business from lawsuits claiming their decisions had a direct financial impact on the plaintiff. While D&O insurance is mostly for larger corporations, small businesses and even non-profits are starting to see the importance of adding a D&O policy. Your managers could make a mistake and be personally liable for that mistake; this policy protects them and the company from the cost of lawsuits targeting a specific individual’s actions.

There are a few other policies that might be worthwhile. If you are a firm that runs a cloud-based storage system for clients and the cloud goes down, you could have a policy to protect yourself from damages related to lost files. And if you have physical files stored somewhere and they are ruined by wind, rain, fire, valuable papers and records coverage will cover the cost to replace and reproduce documents.    

Insurance For Technology

Today, most companies should absolutely prepare for a data breach if they collect sensitive information like social security or credit card numbers. Data breach coverage pays for costs that incur because of the loss of information, including notifying impacted clients, advertising the data breach to get the word out, and paying the cost of PR firm to help navigate the media. If personal information is lost or stolen from your technology business, you have legal requirements to follow in the aftermath and having data breach coverage will help you follow the law.

Insurance For Manufacturing & Wholesale

Product liability is a needed coverage to add to your general liability package that products your company in the event that someone sues you because of injuries or damage caused by your product. If you manufacture goods, product liability is a smart bet to protect against any litigation that comes your way. (Weird and true lawsuit fun fact: The widow of the murderer in the 1984 San Diego McDonald’s massacre sued McDonald’s saying their product, fast food, caused her husband to go into their establishment and kill 21 people. She lost.) Protect yourself now and worry about all the weird ways people might sue you over your product later.  

Insurance For Real Estate

Employees practices liability coverage protects your real estate agency from claims of discrimination, breach of contract, harassment, wrongful termination, among other employee-related lawsuits. It covers your defense and legal costs related to a claim, but it won’t cover any punitive damages that may occur as a result. (Damages are usually covered in a general liability policy.) 

Insurance For Construction

Construction jobs are risky and involve many moving parts. Sometimes a construction business has a physical store location in addition to a traveling business of workers in and out of other people’s homes. A specific brand of liability insurance specially designed for construction businesses will protect your business when things do go wrong. Construction insurance covers claims related to any part of your construction business, including medical and faulty workmanship.

Insurance For Personal Care Services

Do you run a hair salon? Does extra hair clog your drains? Well, there’s insurance to cover that. Back up of sewers and drains coverage is designed to cover all claims related to flooding caused by a sewer drain (no matter the reason it floods). Or computers and media coverage helps insure the technology needed to run your small business.

How Much Does Business Insurance Cost?

The cost of business insurance will vary depending on all your individual business factors. Are you a home-based business or do you have a storefront? Do you have employees or are you working solo? What are the risks involved with running your business (see: ax-throwing brewery) and do you have a product to protect? Business insurance might not be a fun expense, but it’s necessary to be one of the 20% of businesses that will survive a disaster.

While the average cost will vary depending on the industry requirements, for a business owner looking for a basic business owner’s policy for a small business, the average yearly premium is $1200. However, policies can start as low as $300.

Meet with an insurance expert to assess your individual needs and discuss the ways you can protect the business you love.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Florida Small Businesses

Does finding capital for your small business seem like an insurmountable task? While it may seem impossible on the surface, the secret is that there are lots of lenders willing to finance your business. The key is knowing where to look.

If you’re a small business owner in Florida, you’re in luck. There are many options to consider when it’s time to apply for small business financing. Whether you’re new to the game and need money for startup costs or you’re an established small business looking to expand, we’ve got you covered.

In this guide, we’ll explore the financing options available to you. We’ll cover national lenders that offer easy online applications and take a look at local banks and credit unions. We’ll explore small business grants which give you free (yes, free!) money for your business. Finally, we’ll take a look at the options available to startups. Ready to get your financing? Let’s go!

Online Business Lenders For Florida Businesses

The internet has made our lives more convenient than ever. From online banking to communicating with family and friends to watching our favorite funny cat videos on YouTube, the internet has changed the way we interact with the world.

For small business owners, the internet has also opened up new opportunities in lending. Just a few decades ago, getting a business loan meant heading to your local bank, presenting your pitch, and waiting for that phone call approving your loan … or, more likely, turning you down. Today, you can apply for loans, lines of credit, credit cards, and other financial products from the comfort of your home or office.

Not only is the application process easier, but now, small business owners that wouldn’t qualify for bank loans have options as well. No matter your industry, time in business, annual revenue, or personal credit score, there’s an online lender that can help you get the financing you need.

Lendio

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Want to shop options without filling out a million applications? Give Lendio a try. Lendio isn’t a direct lender. Instead, it’s a loan aggregator, connecting you with more than 75 financing partners with just one application.

Through Lendio, you can apply for all types of small business financing. If you need a large amount of capital to fund your expansion, apply for a low-interest, long-term Small Business Administration loan. Looking for a flexible form of financing? See if you qualify for a line of credit or business credit card. Need new equipment for your business? Try equipment financing.

Some of the financial products offered through Lendio’s network include:

  • Small Business Administration Loans: $50,000 to $5 million with terms up to 25 years
  • Lines Of Credit: $1,000 to $500,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Equipment Financing: $5,000 to $5 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Term Loans: $5,000 to $2 million with terms up to 5 years
  • Short Term Loans: $2,500 to $500,000 with terms up to 3 years
  • Merchant Cash Advances: $5,000 to $200,000 with terms up to 2 years
  • Commercial Mortgages: $250,000 to $5 million with terms up to 25 years

Borrower requirements, rates, and terms vary based on the type of loan you select, the lender you work with, your borrowing amount, and your creditworthiness. Applying with Lendio to receive offers does not affect your credit score. However, if you move forward with a lender’s offer, a hard credit pull may be required.

SmartBiz

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Have you tried to receive a bank loan, but your application was rejected? You’re certainly not alone. Most small business owners find that receiving a low-cost, long-term loan from a bank is difficult. This is because banks take a hard look at risk. Banks and credit unions want to work with low-risk borrowers — established businesses with solid business and personal credit profiles and high annual revenues.

For many new and growing businesses, meeting these requirements is impossible. But this doesn’t mean that you’re stuck with only high-interest, short-term loan options. You can receive affordable financing with great terms by applying for a Small Business Administration loan.

These loans are backed by the SBA, so banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders feel more comfortable loaning to small businesses – even those with less-than-perfect credit or low revenues. The SBA takes on some of the risk for lenders, while small business owners get to enjoy flexible, affordable loan options.

You can apply for an SBA loan through your bank or credit union. Or you can do what many busy entrepreneurs do and apply through SmartBiz.

With SmartBiz, you can pre-qualify for an SBA loan in just minutes with no effect on your credit score. You may be eligible to receive funding as quickly as 7 days after completing your application — much faster than the weeks it may take through your bank.

SmartBiz offers two types of SBA loans. Working capital and debt refinancing loans are available in amounts of $30,000 to $350,000. These funds can be used for a variety of purposes including:

  • Refinancing Debt
  • Equipment Or Inventory Purchases
  • Hiring Employees
  • Business Expansions
  • Marketing Costs

To qualify for a working capital and debt refinancing loan, you must meet the following requirements:

  • At least 2 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 640 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow to support loan payments
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No bankruptcies or forecloses within the last 3 years
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans

Working capital and debt refinancing loans have interest rates between 8.25% and 9.25% with repayment terms of 10 years.

You can also apply for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan. These loans start at $500,000 and can go up to $5 million; they can be used to purchase commercial real estate or refinance your existing property loan. Funds can’t be used to purchase investment properties or to fund the construction of a new commercial building.

To qualify for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan, you must meet the following borrower requirements:

  • The property must be at least 51% owner-occupied
  • At least 3 years in business
  • Personal credit score of 675 or above
  • Sufficient cash flow to support loan payments
  • Property purchase price must be higher than $500,000
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No previous defaults on government-backed loans

SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loans have interest rates of 7% to 8.25% with repayment terms of 25 years.

If you don’t want to apply for an SBA loan or need funding quickly, SmartBiz has also partnered with banks to offer competitive term loans. These loans are available in amounts from $30,000 to $350,000 with terms of 2 to 5 years. Fixed interest rates range from 6.99% to 26.9%.

OnDeck

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If you don’t qualify for an SBA loan or you need money fast, you could get the capital you need with an alternative online lender like OnDeck. OnDeck offers two financial products for small businesses: term loans and lines of credit.

With an OnDeck term loan, you could qualify to receive up to $500,000. OnDeck offers short-term loan options with terms of 3 to 12 months. These loans are best for purchasing inventory, paying marketing expenses, or seasonal hiring or inventory needs. Short-term loan options have a simple interest rate starting at 9%.

Long-term loan options are also available with terms of 15 to 36 months. These loans are best for larger projects including purchasing equipment or business expansion. Annual interest rates for long-term loans start at 9.99%.

For both loan options, fixed daily or weekly payments are automatically deducted from your business bank account. To qualify for OnDeck loans, you must:

  • Have a time in business of at least 12 months
  • Have at least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Have a personal credit score of 500 or above

If you want a more flexible financing option, you can apply for a line of credit up to $100,000. You can use your line of credit whenever you need it, including when you have unexpected expenses or gaps in cash flow.

The APR for an OnDeck line of credit starts at 13.99%. Fixed weekly payments are automatically taken from your business bank account. There are no draw fees, but a monthly maintenance fee of $20 is required. This fee is waived for 6 months if you draw at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To qualify for an OnDeck line of credit, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • A personal credit score of 600 or above

Fundbox

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If a flexible line of credit seems like the best option for your business, consider giving Fundbox a shot. Fundbox is unique in that the performance of your business — not your personal or business credit score — is the most important qualifying factor.

With Fundbox, you can receive a line of credit up to $100,000. Your line of credit can be used for nearly any business purpose, from buying inventory and supplies to covering payroll or an unexpected emergency. You can make multiple draws from your line of credit, and funds can be transferred to your account as quickly as the next business day.

Fundbox fees start at 4.66% of the draw amount. You can choose from 12- or 24-week terms, and repayments are automatically deducted from your business bank account each week. If you repay your balance early, remaining fees are waived. No fees are charged if you don’t use your line of credit.

To qualify for a Fundbox line of credit, you must have:

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

A soft credit inquiry is performed during the application process, so your credit will not be affected just by applying. After you’re approved and draw funds for the first time, a hard credit inquiry will be performed.

BlueVine

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BlueVine is another lender that offers flexible lines of credit. However, this lender also offers an additional option for qualified borrowers: invoice factoring.

With a BlueVine line of credit, you could qualify to receive up to $250,000. Rates start at 4.8%, and you only pay for the used portion of funds. Your line of credit can be used for any business purpose. Weekly repayments are automatically taken from your business bank account.

To qualify for a line of credit, you must have the following:

  • A personal credit score of 600 or above
  • A time in business of at least 6 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

If you have unpaid invoices, you may qualify for BlueVine’s invoice factoring service. Factoring lines of up to $5 million are available for qualified borrowers. Rates start at just 0.25% per week.

With invoice factoring, you’ll submit an application to BlueVine. Once approved, you can automatically sync your invoices from a supported accounting software. You can also upload your invoices to the BlueVine dashboard.

Once your invoices are received, BlueVine pays you 85% to 90% of the invoice amount up front. Once the invoice has been paid, you’ll receive the remaining funds, less fees charged by BlueVine.

To qualify for BlueVine’s invoice factoring, you need:

  • A B2B business
  • A personal credit score of 530 or above
  • A time in business of at least 3 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue

Amex Business Loans

American Express OptBlue

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If you’re an American Express business cardholder, you may qualify for an AmEx business loan. The great thing about these loans is that no credit check is required since American Express already has your information on file.

With an Amex business loan, you can receive $3,500 to $50,000 for any business purpose. The only restrictions are that funds can’t be used to pay for personal expenses or to repay debts to American Express. Repayment terms of 12, 24, or 36 months are available. Fixed interest rates are 6.98% to 19.97%.

To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Have an American Express Business Card and be in good standing

Upstart

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If you’re a new business, meeting the time in business or annual revenue requirements of business loans may be difficult. However, if you have at least a fair credit score, you have a financing option: using a personal loan for business expenses.

With a personal loan, your personal information, including your credit score and annual income, are used to determine if you qualify. Since this isn’t a business loan, annual revenue, business credit score, and time in business requirements won’t be a consideration for approval.

Upstart offers a personal loan option that may work for you. When you apply for a personal loan, you may qualify to receive $1,000 to $50,000. Rates with Upstart begin at just 8.09% for the most creditworthy borrowers. Maximum APRs are 35.99%. Payments are made monthly over a period of 3 to 5 years.

Unlike other lenders, Upstart looks at more than just your credit score. While this is still a factor in qualifying for a personal loan, your credit history, education, and job history are also considered for approval.

To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must have:

  • A credit score of at least 620
  • A solid debt-to-income ratio
  • No bankruptcies or public records
  • No delinquent accounts
  • No public records
  • Less than 6 credit inquiries over the last 6 months
  • At least $12,000 in annual income

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Florida

If you want loan options with extremely competitive rates and terms, consider applying for financing through a bank, credit union, or nonprofit lender. We’ve compiled some of the top options in the state of Florida that offer everything from traditional business loans to commercial mortgages and SBA loans.

Florida First Capital Finance Corporation

Florida First Capital Finance Corporation has been licensed by the SBA since 1984. Since that time, this nonprofit Certified Development Company has helped small businesses through the SBA 504 loan program.

Funds through the 504 program can be used to purchase commercial real estate, machinery, or equipment. Funds may also be used to refinance qualifying debt. Through the 504 loan program, Florida First Capital Finance Corporation provides up to 40% of loan funds. A traditional commercial lender provides up to 50% of loan funds. The remaining project balance is paid by the borrower as a down payment.

To qualify for a 504 loan, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Own a small business that meets the size standards set by the SBA
  • Be a U.S. citizen or registered alien
  • Operate a for-profit business
  • The net worth of the business must be $15 million or less
  • Average net income of the business must be $5 million or less
  • Business can’t be engaged in rental real estate investment

Suncoast Credit Union

Suncoast Credit Union is the largest credit union in the state of Florida. Branches are located in and around the Tampa area, and online services are available to members.

Through Suncoast Credit Union, you can apply for multiple financial products for your small business. In addition to business checking and savings accounts, payroll services, and employee benefits, Suncoast Credit Union also offers:

  • Business Lines Of Credit
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Vehicle & Equipment Loans
  • SBA Loans
  • Business Credit Cards

Rates, terms, and borrowing amounts vary by product selected and your creditworthiness.

To become a member of Suncoast Credit Union and be eligible to apply for business financing, you must have an immediate family member that has joined, live in a qualifying county in Florida, or be a Florida College alumnus.

Chase Bank

Chase Bank is one of the largest banks in Florida, with over 300 branches located across the state. Chase offers a variety of financial products targeted at small business owners. Not only does the lender offer business checking and savings accounts, payroll services, and merchant services accounts, small business owners can also apply to receive:

  • Business Lines Of Credit: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Lines Of Credit: At least $500,000
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Conventional or SBA loans starting at $50,000
  • Small Business Loans: Starting at $5,000 with terms up to 84 months
  • SBA Loans: 7(a), Express, and 504 loans
  • Equipment Financing
  • Business Credit Cards

Rates, terms, and maximum borrowing limits are based on the product selected and the creditworthiness of the borrower.

Small Business Grants In Florida

With most small business financing, you get the capital your business needs and repay your borrowing amount, interest, and fees over time. With grants, you receive capital without having to pay back the funds. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, the one drawback is that grants are very difficult to receive. Competition is high for small business grants. Many grants also have very specific requirements and may be awarded only to businesses owned by a minority or businesses in a specific industry. If you don’t meet all requirements, you won’t be eligible to receive a grant.

However, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t apply. There are several small business grants available to business owners in the state of Florida that you may qualify to receive.

Enterprise Florida Inc.

Enterprise Florida Inc. (EFI) offers training, development, and financing opportunities to small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and entrepreneurs.

There are multiple funding opportunities available through EFI. This includes:

  • State Small Business Credit Initiative: This program reduces the risk taken by lenders by purchasing up to 50% of loan funds, making it easier for small businesses to qualify for affordable loans.
  • Microfinance Guarantee Program: This program provides a guarantee on loans, similar to the SSBCI program. This helps lenders feel more secure in lending money to small businesses.
  • Florida Opportunity Fund: EFI is a sponsor of the Florida Opportunity Fund, which offers funding to businesses through programs including the Fund of Funds Program, the Clean Energy Investment Program, and Florida’s Venture Capital Program.

EFI has also partnered with other organizations to provide additional resources and funding opportunities to small businesses.

WomensNet Amber Grant

Women-owned businesses in Florida and across the nation can apply for a small business grant through WomensNet’s Amber Grant Program. Each month, a $1,000 small business grant is awarded to a woman-owned business. At the end of the year, all 12 monthly winners will be entered to win a grant of $10,000.

One of the best things about this grant is that the application process is simple. There are no lengthy applications to fill out and no extensive documentation to submit. Instead, all women business owners can apply by answering a few short questions about their business. There is a $15 application fee to enter. Deadlines for applications are the last day of each month.

Palm Beach County Job Growth Incentive Grant

Businesses that are relocating or establishing a business in Palm Beach County, Florida, may qualify for the Job Growth Incentive Grant Program. This award is given through the Economic Development Office and is available to startups and established businesses that will create jobs in Palm Beach County.

Interested businesses can contact the Palm Beach County Department of Housing and Economic Sustainability or the Business Development Board of Palm Beach County to learn more about applying for this grant.

VISIT FLORIDA Targeted Marketing Assistance Program Grant

If your business is in the tourism industry, you may qualify for VISIT FLORIDA’s Targeted Marketing Assistance Program Grant. Through this program, marketing costs up to $5,000 are matched with a grant.

To qualify, a business must be an approved TMAP business and a partner with VISIT FLORIDA. Applications must include a marketing project overview, a marketing strategy and media plan, anticipated results, and a marketing budget.

All independently owned and operated businesses with gross revenues of $1.25 million or less that are in the tourism industry may apply to become a TMAP business. Some nonprofit organizations may also qualify.

Loans & Financial Resources For Startups In Florida

Even established businesses may encounter challenges when applying for business financing. So, it should come as no surprise that startup businesses — businesses that haven’t yet established a credit profile or aren’t bringing in revenue — may have a more difficult time getting needed funding and resources.

Luckily, though, there are resources available to new businesses and startups. In the state of Florida, there are a few good options to consider.

SCORE

SCORE has 300 chapters throughout the nation, with chapters located in the state of Florida. Through SCORE, you can tune in to live and recorded webinars and take courses on small business topics. You also have access to e-guides, articles, blogs, and online workshops.

One of the most beneficial features of SCORE is that you can be matched with an expert business mentor. You can get advice at no charge with your mentor either face-to-face or online.

Small Business Development Center

The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) offers multiple resources to business owners in Florida. The SBDC has online and offline resources, including videos, in-person workshops, and low-cost training.

The SBDC also offers consulting at no cost. New business owners can work with a Capital Access Specialist to find, prepare, and receive business financing.

There are several locations throughout the state of Florida in cities including Cape Coral, Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, Boca Raton, Miami, and Pensacola.

The Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center

A good online resource for business owners in Florida is the Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center. Through this website, you can find business resources by city. This includes links to your local Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Councils, forums, and more.

If you want to take advantage of offline resources, the website has a list of events taking place all over the state. These events are centered on topics such as business and personal credit, SBA loans, business planning, and cybersecurity for small businesses.

Find An Investor

If you need capital for your startup, where do you turn? One option is to find an investor. While you can certainly find these investors on your own — think a friend, family member, or colleague — you can also hop online and give crowdfunding a shot.

With crowdfunding, you’ll use an online platform to pitch your business to potential investors. In exchange for their investment, you can offer up a reward (such as a new product for free or a reduced cost) or equity in your business.

One of the best things about crowdfunding is that there are no credit score, time in business, or revenue requirements, which is ideal for businesses that are just getting started. However, you do have to perfect your pitch, share your campaign online, and work harder to bring in investors that are willing to back your company.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

Now that you’re aware of the loan options available to you, the next step is to choose your lender. Unfortunately, this is when having so many choices has its drawbacks. If you don’t know where to begin when it comes to selecting a lender, ask yourself the following questions:

How Will I Use The Money?

You want to select a lender that offers financial products that best fit your needs. Let’s say you need working capital for your business. A loan used to purchase commercial property won’t be a good fit, so you could scratch this lender off the list. Plan how you intend to use your funds, then choose lenders that don’t have restrictions that would prevent you from effectively using your capital.

How Much Money Do I Need?

Knowing how much money you need is a critical step before you even start filling out an application. This not only helps you plan and budget for your own business, but most lenders want to know how much you need to borrow. Having a number in mind can also help you decide which lenders work best for your specific needs. If you need $250,000, a line of credit that maxes out at $100,000 just won’t work for your business.

Do I Meet The Lender’s Requirements?

Save yourself the trouble of unnecessary rejections by understanding the borrower requirements of every lender that interests you. If a lender requires a time in business of 2 years and you’re just opening your doors, you won’t qualify. If you need a personal credit score of 700 but yours is just 620, it’s time to search for another lender. Start your search by checking your free credit score online, then make sure you meet all borrower requirements before applying. Also, keep in mind that meeting the minimum requirements is not a guarantee of a loan offer.

Do I Want A Lump Sum Or Flexible Financing?

If you have a specific financial need in mind — purchasing new equipment or buying a commercial property, for instance — work with lenders that offer lump-sum loans. If you’d rather have a more flexible financing option — making payroll or covering revenue gaps — find a lender that offers a flexible form of financing such as a line of credit or business credit card.

Can I Afford It?

Sure, you may want a million dollars to build your business, but can your business afford it? Consider your outstanding debts and obligations, your current and project revenues, and shop around your options. Understand the fees and terms of your loan to determine if it’s something you can handle … or if it could drag your business deep into debt. Learn more about calculating the affordability of your small business loan.

Final Thoughts

In the state of Florida, there are plenty of lenders and small business resources at your disposal. The only thing you have to do is find the right resources for your business and leverage them to successfully start and build your business.

The post The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Florida Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Find Out If You Are Prequalified For A Credit Card

So you’ve decided your business needs a new credit card. Unfortunately, you’ve heard that the credit card application process can negatively impact your credit score, and since credit history can impact your business’s ability to make financial moves in the future, you don’t want to apply for a card unless you’re sure you’ll be approved.

Luckily, many issuers offer checks to see if you’re prequalified for their credit card offers. This will give you a chance to see if you should go through with applying for a card. Once you’re prequalified, you’ll have the confidence needed to go through the full-on application process.

For everything you need to know about prequalification, keep reading. We’ve got you covered!

What Does “Prequalified” Mean?

Prequalified means that you’ve been selected as potentially “qualified” by a credit card issuer for a particular card offer. Usually, the issuer has done a soft pull on your credit score and found that you’ve met the certain criteria necessary to qualify for the credit card. This soft pull should not affect your credit score.

In some cases, you may also be deemed prequalified because an issuer bought your information via a marketing list from a credit bureau. In this case, the issuer may check if you are on their list to see if you are prequalified.

If you are prequalified for a credit card, you have an 80% to 90% chance of actually qualifying for the card should you go through the application process. It’s worth adding that you don’t need to be prequalified in order to apply for a card—you can still be approved without prequalification. This process just gives you extra confidence before actually applying.

Note that by actually applying for a card, the issuer will likely perform a hard pull on your credit history. This will show up on your credit history. In most cases, a hard pull won’t be a problem long-term because having a credit card should only help your credit into the future (as long as you follow the best practices for a credit card). However, you’ll want to avoid applying for too many cards in quick succession as frequent hard pulls in a short span may lower your credit score.

How To Get Prequalified For A Credit Card

There are several ways to get prequalified for a credit card. Here are the most common:

  • Online: By far, the best option is to go to an issuer’s site and check for prequalification via their own checking tools. In most cases, this will take only a few minutes. Plus, you’ll be able to see if you qualify for a card offered by an issuer you already like. In addition, some of our favorite credit scoring-checking websites also have prequalification tools readily available for you to use.
  • By mail: Issuers frequently send out credit card offers to people who have met their prequalification criteria already. As such, if you’re looking for your next card, simply opening up your mail might be a quick and easy option. Of course, this method doesn’t offer much flexibility when it comes to what you’re preapproved for.
  • In-Person: Many physical bank branches offer prequalification checks. Note that you may already need to be a member of the bank beforehand, however. Additionally, you might be able to go to a retail store and find out during check-out if you’re prequalified for that store’s co-branded credit card.

Most major credit card issuers let anyone check online for prequalification:

  • American Express
  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • Chase
  • Citibank
  • Credit One
  • Discover
  • U.S. Bank

Other issuers—like Synchrony Bank, Wells Fargo, or USAA—either don’t have an online prequalification service or only let current members check online.

FAQs About Prequalified Credit Card Offers

Will getting prequalified hurt my credit score?

In almost all cases, no. This is because issuers do a soft pull on your credit history, which does not impact credit scores. Note that actually applying for a card (which causes a hard pull) will affect your credit history.

Can I get prequalified if I have bad credit?

Yes. Different issuers have different requirements when it comes to prequalifying someone for a credit card. So just because you weren’t prequalified for a particular card doesn’t mean you won’t be prequalified for another one.

Curious which credit cards are aimed towards people with bad credit? Merchant Maverick has your back.

Is there a difference between being pre-approved and prequalified?

Yes, although the difference is very slight. If you’ve been prequalified for an offer, it means that your credit score likely falls within the recommended range for a particular card. If you’ve been pre-approved, however, the issuer has targeted you more specifically for an offer.

Do I have to get prequalified before applying for a credit card?

No, becoming prequalified just gives you extra confidence before actually applying. You can still be approved for a credit card without being prequalified.

Final Thoughts

Prequalification processes can help give you peace of mind before applying for a credit card. They can potentially shield your credit score from an unnecessary hard pull and save you hassle, letting you focus on what matters—your business.

Did a check but didn’t get prequalified? Find out how to improve your credit score. Did get prequalified but want to know if that card is the right choice? Read up on our favorite business credit cards.

The post How To Find Out If You Are Prequalified For A Credit Card 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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How To Set Up A Free Square Account

Thinking about using Square to process payments for your business? Whether you are a solopreneur or a busy boss running multiple locations, you can quickly set up an account with Square with little to no fuss. Square offers several time-saving benefits for the small business owner looking to start processing payments, including no credit checks, a free magstripe reader to get you started, and a free Square POS app which enables you to start taking credit card payments right away. Not only that, but the Square dashboard offers analytics reporting, inventory management, alerts, and (with optional add-on software) even the ability to plan email marketing campaigns!

With all of these conveniences and freebies, you can expect slightly higher transaction fees than you’d get with a traditional merchant account. However, as a third-party processor, Square offers a very transparent pricing plan that starts at 2.75% per swipe dip or tap, and 3.5% + 15 cents for keyed-in transactions. You won’t be surprised with hidden fees or contracts, and you can enjoy the same processing rate for all major credit cards. Square also offers payment dispute assistance, chargeback protection, and secure, PCI compliant software — all included.

If your interest in Square is piqued, but you need a little more information before getting started, then you’ve landed on the right post! Below, we’ll take you step-by-step through the process of signing up for a new Square account. As you will see, setting up your Square account is relatively straightforward. And the best part? It’s completely free and requires no commitment on your part whatsoever.

What Do You Need To Get Started?

Before we get started, here is the main information you’ll need to set up your Square account:

  • Email address
  • Last four digits of your Social Security number (to confirm your name)
  • Home address
  • Shipping address
  • Legal name
  • Phone number
  • Bank account number to set up your direct deposit schedule

You don’t need:

  • Bank statements
  • Proof of revenue
  • Your full social security number
  • Tax documents
  • A credit check

We are going to get pretty detailed in this tutorial, but rest assured, the application itself takes less than ten minutes. Follow along with the guide below to discover how to set up and make the most of your new Square account!

How To Create A Free Square Account

First, visit Square’s sign-up page and hit the “Sign Up With Square” button.

Sign up with Square

 

The first step asks for your email address and prompts you to create a password and choose your country. You also must agree to Square’s terms, privacy policy and e-sign consent policy. We strongly suggest that as with any contract, you take the time to click on, read, and understand the details before agreeing to them.

 

Square set up account

 

The next screen is straightforward and asks if you are an individual or represent a larger business, charity, or religious organization. Enter in your business name or another title that you would like to appear on your receipts. I’m typing in “Blue Heron Content” as my business name.

Create an individual square account for business

 

Now we are getting closer to the meat — Square wants to know where you plan on processing payments. In this example, I don’t want to limit myself, so I am choosing all of the possibilities!

 

Square processes payments mobile online and square invoices

It’s important to mention that even if you don’t plan to use some of these options right away, you can still access them later at any time.

Next, Square asks what else they can help you manage. I am also going to select all of the options again to get a better idea of what Square may suggest right off the bat. I don’t personally need employee tracking for my business, but let’s see what it can do!

Now it’s time to make decisions. Because I selected that I was interested in restaurant-related products, I am offered a free 30-day trial of Square for Restaurants, one of Square’s premium iPad POS apps. (Check out our full review of Square for Restaurants for a more detailed look at pricing and features.) If you are a restaurant owner, check out some of the perks Square lists below. For this particular tutorial, though, we are going to stick with the free POS system.

Square Point of Sale and Square for Restaurants

 

Now that I have selected Square Point of Sale as my preferred POS app, I’ve made it to the “Let’s talk about you” page. This is the place to plug in the rest of your information. Note that Square is not going to perform a credit check on you or your business, they just need the last four digits of your social security number or ITIN, your legal name, street address, and phone number. They use this information to verify your identity.

I’ve finished filling in this form, so I am going to hit “continue” and see what’s next on our journey.

 

Square setup form

 

Choose A Magstripe Reader

Great news! By the time you arrive at the next screen below (3-5 seconds, give or take), Square will have successfully verified your identity. Now it’s time to select a credit card reader to accept in-person payments. For my part, while the Contactless + Chip Reader looks very enticing at $49, I am going to accept the free reader for now.

Square Reader

 

Now there’s another choice to make. Square would like to know if I would like the 3.5mm magstripe reader that is compatible with the traditional headphone jack, or the Lightning connector version for iOS devices. I’m choosing the reader that plugs into a conventional audio jack. You’ll obviously choose the option that works best for your business setup.

Compatibility Note: Square’s magstripe and chip card readers and the Square Point of Sale (POS app) are compatible with most Apple iOS and Android devices running the latest software updates. After this tutorial, check out our Square POS Review for more about system requirements, integrations, and a lot more details about Square POS.

Free Square Reader

After selecting the type of magstripe reader that fits your needs, Square will give you the options to find a retailer close to you and pick up the reader or have it mailed. Personally, I’m opting for Square to send me the reader in the mail. After entering my shipping details, I am one step closer to getting my own Square reader. Oh, and shipping is free, too! Just note that it could take up to 10 days for yours to arrive. 

Order A Square Reader

After entering my information and clicking continue, the setup process is officially complete! That was very easy. Square has already sent me an email letting me know when to expect my reader and another to confirm my email address.

It’s time to head to the new dashboard to set up the backend. 

How To Set Up Your Square Dashboard

Right away, you can see that the dashboard has a clean layout and is pretty straightforward. Since this is the first time I am visiting this new dashboard, Square is offering up these green bubbles as a setup guide. Let’s explore the dashboard and start setting up inventory, customizing the layout, and checking out the reporting features.

Square Dashboard setup

 

Compatibility Note: You’ll be able to access the full Square dashboard from any web browser, but the Square Dashboard app is only compatible with iPhones at this time. You can still take payments on any compatible iOS and Android device with the Square POS app, however.

Add Items & Build Your Inventory

From your home screen, you will see the teal Items button (pictured in the screenshot above). The place to add inventory is under Items>Item Library. To the right on the screenshot below, note the blue button that says “Create an Item”:

Adding an Item in Square Inventory

Here is what the “Create an Item” screen looks like in the Square Dashboard before adding a product:

Create an Item Screen in Square Dashboard

I went ahead and uploaded a product image and filled out my first item below. I can add the amount of stock I have, a price, and set up low-stock alerts for myself here, too! Square will even let me color-code items if I prefer to group categories by colors. 

It’s also possible to create variant items if you sell the same product in different colors and/or sizes. Plus, for cafes and restaurants, there’s a “modifier” option. Say, for example, that you want to offer coconut, soy, and almond milk alternatives for customers in your coffee shop. You can do that, and even set an upcharge fee for these items using the modifier feature. There’s also an option to specify at which locations an item is available if you have more than one shop. 

Add an Item in Square Inventory

Create & Manage Locations

You can create multiple locations from within your Square Dashboard by going to “Accounts and Settings” and then to “Business” and selecting “Locations.” Square will even let you specify a mix of physical locations with a set address and mobile locations without one.

Square’s location management features can help you manage inventory and gather data from multiple stores — and it is totally free:

  • Linked locations and deposit options
  • Per-location item libraries
  • Device management for security
  • Reporting tools to compare/contrast sales or other data

Square also offers advanced tracking and reporting tools for individual employees across your locations. More on those features and cost in the Employee Management section.

Manage Sales Tax Settings

You will find Square’s sales tax settings nestled under the Items menu in your dashboard.

When you create a tax at your Square Dashboard, the tax will automatically sync to every device in your account, and you can specify which taxes apply to which locations. You can even build the tax into the price of the item if you prefer, rather than adding the tax to the price afterward. Square also lets you modify tax settings from within the mobile POS app as well, which is useful when you need to make changes on the fly.

In addition to multiple tax rates, you can create conditional tax rules, which are preset conditions in which a tax won’t be applied — whether you need that to apply to one item or the entire order. This is especially helpful for restaurants that handle online orders.

Now, let’s head back to the home screen and customize our dashboard layout, and then check out the reporting features!

Customize Your Dashboard Layout

Customizing the layout of your Square Dashboard is super easy. First, you can get rid of anything you know you won’t need right off the bat by scrolling through and unchecking anything in the drop-down menu (pictured on the right-hand side of the screenshot below). Don’t worry about making the wrong decision, because you can reset the whole thing or click to re-check one box.

Square Dashboard Customize

The other way to easily adjust your view is by dragging and dropping the tiles to configure them exactly how you want them. For my store, I switched tiles to move the feedback tile up from the last row. This drag-and-drop feature makes it easy to get the information you prioritize first, and then scroll to other options whenever needed.

Moving Square Tiles in Dashboard

As you can see, it’s simple to move things around, and if you change your mind, just as easy to change it back.

Review Square’s Reporting Features

The extensive, user-friendly and (mostly) free reporting features are what make Square a fantastic, no-fuss choice for any small business. As you can see in the screenshot below, there is a long list of possible reports. Every business has unique needs, and Square does a good job of supporting a wide range of small businesses with various options and features.

Square reports

All of the sales reports, such as Sales Summary, Sales Trends, Items Sales, and Modifier Sales, are free. Custom Reports is another handy and entirely free reporting tool that can help you combine and compare your reporting data. Custom Reports allows you to aggregate reports with multiple filtering options. This feature makes it easy work to create a report that breaks the data down for a single location, or you can pick and choose certain pieces of data and compare them across different locations. For instance, you could create one report that compares Gross Sales and Returns for a particular device and/or location. 

To find out even more about what Square’s dashboard can offer you in terms of reporting features, check out our post Why We Like Square’s Online Dashboard and Analytics App.

If you are looking for even more robust reporting and tracking across multiple locations for your employees, it may be worth it to you to learn more about the Employee Management tools, featured below.

Manage Your Employees 

Within the Dashboard, you’ll find the Employee section, which is the foundation for Square’s Employee Management feature set. Adding a new employee into your dashboard is easy — and adding in separate email logins for Square POS is entirely free. However, if you want advanced reporting on timekeeping, individual employee sales, and sales vs. labor costs, you need to subscribe to Employee Management, which will cost you $5 per employee. 

Square Employee Reporting Tool

Here, I have chosen to select the free “Mobile Staff” option to show you that you can invite employees using the email address that they will then use to log into the Square app. You can also enable or disable permissions for accepting payments in Offline Mode and set or remove Issue Refunds permissions.

It’s important to note that employees assigned to mobile staff can only access their own sales data in the Square POS app. 

Square Employee Permissions Mobile Staff Free

If you want something a bit more substantial in terms of employee reporting, Square offers that, too.  To track individual employee sales through the day, keep better performance accountability across multiple locations, and closely monitor administrative permissions, the $5/mo per employee cost for the advanced Employee Management feature seems like a pretty fair deal. You also get timekeeping, so your employees can clock into their shifts through the Square POS app. 

If you want to get started with Employee Management, there are a few ways to do it: Head to Employee Sales or Labor vs. Sales under Reports and start adding employees. It’s free to try for 30 days!

Employee Management Sales Reporting

 

How To Set Up Square Deposits & Funding

When it’s time to get all of that revenue into your bank account, Square has several options for getting your money, all found under Deposits.

Square Instant Deposit and Deposit Schedule Tutorial

Square will automatically deposit your funds on the next business day. You can also change your ‘close of day’ to adjust for your time zone or business hours if you would like. The close of day determines when Square cuts off payment deposits for the next business day. If you need your money even faster, Square offers Instant Deposits that transfer your current Sales Balance immediately — whether it’s a business day or a weekend. This faster service will cost you 1% of the transfer amount. You can even use Scheduled Deposits to get your money deposited at each day’s close of business. 

Find out all the details about the instant deposit feature, and more about how Square’s deposit options work in general, by checking out our post, How Does Square’s Instant Deposit Work?

To set up your deposit schedule or choose an instant transfer, you’ll need to link your debit card (in addition to your bank account). However, you have yet another option for disbursement. You can request your very own Square Card, a personalized business debit card that holds your Square balance.

Square Card Small Business

You can use your card anywhere MasterCard is accepted. If you’d like to order one, you’ll find “Square Card” tucked right under the Deposits tab. To be clear, you can request a Square Card and also choose to have funds deposited into your bank account.

Explore More Square Software Options

Square offers a myriad of specialized software options to make business more productive. Here are some of your options:

  • Customer Engagement: Square’s customer engagement tools include a customer database, feedback management, and CRM software. The database and feedback tools are free, but the CRM starts at $15 month. The image above is a sample CRM campaign I could send to my lapsed customer list. Email campaigns are easy to customize and segment for those reachable-by-email customers.
  • Loyalty Program: This tool starts at $25/month. Read our Square Loyalty Program Review for an in-depth analysis.
  • Advanced Employee Management: As outlined in a previous section, pay $5/month per employee for advanced reporting and employee management tools.
  • Payroll: Square Employee and Contractor payroll starts at $29/month plus $5/employee. Contractor-Only Payroll is just $5/month per contractor.
  • eCommerce: Square offers free space and setup for an online store, and you can integrate with major shopping carts. Read our Square Online Store and eCommerce Review.
  • Invoicing: Invoices are always free to send, pay 2.9% + 30 cents per invoice when your customer pays with credit or debit online. For more on the pros and cons, pricing, and an in-depth look at invoicing with Square, check out our Square Invoices Review.

Choose Another Square Point of Sale App

While the free Square POS app will likely fit the bill for many small businesses, Square has developed more specialized tools for retail, restaurants, and appointment-based businesses.

Square For Retail:

This POS system works with an iPad and has a redesigned interface and usability geared for retail businesses that have substantial inventory. Instead of scrolling to an item in your inventory, an item is easily searchable by name. The barcode scanning and printing features make keeping up with inventory a bit easier, too. Check out our Square Retail Review for more on price, pros and cons, and all a lot more details.

Square for Restaurants:

If you are familiar with Square’s POS system, you may be surprised to see how different Square for Restaurants really is. And it has to be. Sit-down restaurants usually require more specialized tools to cover their everyday business needs, and this POS delivers — from table mapping, menu creation, table management, and reporting tools — there are a lot of specialized features here. Check out our full Square for Restaurants review to find out if this is the right choice for your restaurant.

Square Appointments:

If your business relies on creating and maintaining appointments for just yourself or an entire team, Square Appointments might be just what you need. Note that this POS option is an iOS exclusive. It’s free for individual users, and pricing starts at $50 a month beyond that. Check out our in-depth Square Appointments Review, including functionality, customization, and features.

Choose Hardware Options

Square has expanded to offer so much more than the free magstripe credit card reader. As I mentioned earlier, Square offers a Contactless + Chip reader that lets you accept chip card and contactless payments for $49, which is a smart move to improve payment security.  

If you need something more robust in terms of hardware, however, you can probably find what you need. Square offers countertop POS systems with customer-friendly displays, and if you want to toe the line between countertop vs. mobile, Square also offers a fully portable credit card terminal with a built-in receipt printer.

Square’s countertop POS devices include:

  • Square Stand: This hardware option is a tablet stand with a built-in card reader (along with contactless and chip reader) with an affordable price tag, minimal cords, and a swivel stand.
  • Square Terminal: A more portable option, Square Terminal accepts magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions. It’s sleek design, built-in receipt printer, and generous display size make it a nice, versatile option.
  • Square Register: Need something more robust? The Square Register offers a 13.25-inch display to run your Square Point of Sale, and on the opposite side, you have a 7-inch customer display ready for magstripe, chip card, and contactless transactions.

For an in-depth look at each of the POS options or to take a gander at all the Square POS kits and bundles, head over to A Guide To Square Credit Card Readers And POS Bundles.

Where To Go Next With Square?

When you consider that Square is a secure, PCI compliant option with a transparent pricing plan and offers lots of bells and whistles, it truly is an excellent solution for any small business. I like that it’s so easy to set up an account with Square, and that they don’t ask for much in terms of personal information. When it is time to get set up or find reports, the dashboard is intuitive and easy to navigate. I also love that Square offers affordable hardware and software when it comes time to scale the business.

Not quite ready to make a decision? Check out our Square Review or head over to Square and set up your own account to see for yourself.

Already have an account? Square support provides great resources to help answer your questions as you navigate your options.

Have questions, comments? Leave us your thoughts below! (Just make sure you check our comment guidelines, first!)

The post How To Set Up A Free Square Account appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Shopify VS Etsy

Shopify VS Etsy

Tie

Pricing

Tie

Tie

Hosting

Tie

✓

Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Ease Of Use

✓

✓

Features

✓

Web Design

✓

Integrations & Add-Ons

✓

Payment Processing

✓

Customer Service & Technical Support

Tie

User Reviews

Tie

Tie

Security

Tie

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Compare

If you’ve arrived at our comparison of Shopify and Etsy, I’m guessing you’re an online seller (or an aspiring one) of the “artsy” or “craftsy” variety. Perhaps even “artsy-craftsy.” Whichever identifier you prefer, you’ll be pleased to know that both Shopify and Etsy can help you sell all sorts of unique, handcrafted, and/or vintage items.

I’ll admit that in some respects, it’s a little unfair to compare Shopify and Etsy head-to-head. Shopify is a shopping cart platform/website builder you can use to create and manage your own, standalone ecommerce store. The Shopify brand itself operates almost completely in the background from your shoppers’ point of view. (If you build your store correctly, no one will know that it’s really powered by Shopify.)

By contrast, Etsy is an online marketplace that allows you to set up shop directly alongside other ecommerce vendors, all with a similar artsy and/or craftsy vibe. All the while, Etsy’s involvement in the whole operation is directly front and center for your shoppers.

You could also argue that a direct comparison between Shopify and Etsy is quite fair and appropriate. People often wonder 1) which of the two software platforms provides the best starting place to sell online, 2) under what circumstances it makes sense to use one or the other (or both), and 3) at what point a seller might need to transition from Etsy to Shopify.

Plus, the introduction of Pattern by Etsy a few years ago made the comparison between Shopify and Etsy even more apropos. For a monthly fee, Pattern makes it possible for Etsy sellers to maintain a standalone, inventory-synced site of their own. Sites built with Pattern can even offer additional products and services that don’t meet the handmade/vintage/craft supply restrictions of normal Etsy shops.

Pattern aside, a huge draw of Etsy in its original form is the built-in traffic and existing customer base from which you can directly benefit as a seller. (You don’t get that with a standalone Pattern site.) The downside, of course, is that you must share your customers with similar stores.

So, with Pattern thrown in, can Etsy compete directly with Shopify? Does the magic combination of Etsy and Pattern render Shopify completely unnecessary for some Etsy-type sellers? You can already tell from our chart at the top of this article that we are still fans of Shopify, but we think all sellers should understand precisely how these two services stack up on all the important dimensions. Ultimately, the right fit is up to you.

Shopify’s eCommerce Options

Mobile POS Online Social Media
Mobile App + Free Card Reader Point of Sale Online Store Social Media Selling
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Low-cost POS for iOS and Android with free hardware All-purpose POS integrated with all sales channels Build a store or integrate with your current website Sell on Facebook and other platforms
Starts at $9/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $29/month Starts at $9/month
Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial Free Trial

Pricing

Winner: Tie

Despite some overlap, there’s no getting around the fact that Shopify and Etsy have very different pricing structures. The differences are significant enough that we can’t call a clear winner for cost.

Here’s a very generalized way to compare the two:

  • Sellers who are just getting started, are very concerned about cash-flow, and simply can’t afford a monthly subscription fee will find an initially cheaper option in Etsy.
  • Once you have a moderate and fairly predictable stream of transactions and need a full website for your store, Shopify starts to become more cost-effective.

That’s the condensed version of our pricing comparison. For the full breakdown, strap in and keep reading!

When comparing these two platforms, you should first wrap your mind around the main categories of fees involved. It will also help to keep the following overarching difference in mind: Shopify’s main charge is a monthly fee for using the service, while the main component of Etsy’s cost is a fixed 5% transaction fee charged on every sale that occurs on the platform.

Here are the different categories of costs you should keep in mind when comparing Shopify and Etsy:

  • Monthly Fee: Subscription fee for using the platform.
  • Listing Fee: Cost of listing a product (or group of products that make up one listing) in your shop.
  • Transaction Fee: Percentage commission per sale charged by Etsy or Shopify itself.
  • Payment Processing Fee: Not the same as a transaction fee! This is a per-sale fee (usually a percentage and a dollar amount) charged by your credit card processor/payment gateway. While this entity is usually a third-party company, it turns out both Etsy and Shopify have an in-house, pre-integrated option that most sellers use (Etsy Payments and Shopify Payments, respectively).
  • Standalone Website: Cost of having your own, hosted website with a customizable theme template.

Let’s take a close look at the numbers, shall we? All prices will be shown in USD.

Shopify Pricing

Shopify plans have a monthly fee, no listing fee, and a variable transaction fee that only comes into play if you do not use Shopify Payments as your credit card processor. Starting at the $29/month level, you get your own store website. This involves choosing a free Shopify template or purchasing a premium template from the Shopify theme store. As you look through Shopify’s five pricing plans, remember that you can completely avoid Shopify’s extra transaction fee if you use Shopify Payments as your credit card processor.

Shopify Lite Plan 

  • Monthly Fee: $9/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 2.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online)
    • Shopify Payments: 2.9% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Unavailable. Sell on an existing website, Facebook, or in-person only.

Basic Shopify Plan

  • Monthly Fee: $29/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 2.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.9% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Shopify Plan

  • Monthly Fee: $79/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 1.0%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.6% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Advanced Shopify Plan

  • Monthly fee: $299/mo.
  • Transaction Fee:
    • If Using Shopify Payments: None
    • If Using External Gateway: 0.5%
  • Payment Processing Fee (Online):
    • Shopify Payments: 2.4% + $0.30
    • External Gateway: Varies
  • Standalone Website: Included. Templates are $0-$180/ea.

Shopify Plus: Custom pricing. Reserved for enterprise-level customers.

With each bump in subscription level, Shopify sellers have access to additional features, as well as more staff accounts for their stores. Check out our full Shopify review, or our quick guide to Shopify pricing, for a more complete breakdown of features by plan.

Basic Shopify Advanced

Monthly

$29.00/mo

$79.00/mo.

$299.00/mo.

Yearly

$26.10/mo.

$71.10/mo.

$269.10/mo.

2 Years

$23.20/mo.

$63.20/mo.

$239.20/mo.

3 Years

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Etsy Pricing

Etsy has two main plans — Standard and Plus — and a Premium plan that will launch sometime in 2019. Most Etsy sellers use the Standard plan with no monthly fee, whereas the Plus plan is $10/month. Other components of Etsy’s cost include a fixed listing fee, as well as 5% transaction fee on every sale. There is no avoiding this 5% fee, even when you use Etsy Payments as your credit card processor.

Also, keep in mind that your only web presence is your shop page within the Etsy marketplace. If you’d like your own store website separate from (but synced to) your Etsy shop, you can create and maintain a Pattern site for an additional $15/month.

Here are the plans:

Etsy Standard

  • Listing Fee: $0.20/ea.
    • Lasts 4 months
    • Charged when listing is first published or when renewed
  • Transaction Fee: 5.0%
    • Etsy’s commission per sale
    • Also charged on the shipping price
  • Payment Processing Fee w/Etsy Payments: 3% + $0.25
  • Standalone Website: None, or $15/month with Pattern. Pattern site templates are free.

Etsy Plus

  • Monthly Fee: $10/mo.
  • Other Costs Same As Above
  • Additional Features:
    • A monthly budget of credits for listings and Promoted listings ads
    • Access to a discount on a custom web address for your Etsy shop
    • Restock requests for shoppers interested in your items that have sold out
    • Advanced shop customization options
    • Access to discounts on custom packaging and promotional material like boxes, business cards, and signage

Etsy Premium

  • Launching 2019
  • Will include premium customer support and advanced management tools for businesses with employees

One final note about pricing before we sum up this section: if you want a standalone site built on Pattern, you’ll also need to purchase and/or connect a domain name. The annual cost varies, but should be comparable to purchasing a domain for a Shopify store. Of course, if you stick to just selling on Etsy and not on Pattern, you don’t need your own domain URL.

Again, this is one of those comparisons you’ll have to decide the winner of for yourself. You can see that once you have a steady flow of significantly-sized transactions, avoiding that 5% Etsy fee on every sale and ponying up $29/month for Shopify instead (and using Shopify Payments to have the Shopify transaction fee waived) starts to make more sense.

Hosting

Winner: Tie

Shopify and Etsy stores are both fully-hosted solutions based in the cloud. You don’t need to download or install anything to use either. If you create an Etsy-connected website using Pattern, your site’s hosting is covered by your $15/month Pattern subscription. Similarly, Shopify store hosting is covered by the monthly fee.

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

Shopify deserves the win in this category for accommodating a much wider range of business sizes. For just $9/month, you can start selling on Facebook with no additional transaction fees (beyond payment processing itself) if you use Shopify Payments. From there, Shopify scales all the way up to enterprise-level merchants. Etsy, on the other hand, is better geared toward small to mid-sized operations and doesn’t scale nearly as well. That said, for those who just want to test the ecommerce waters and dabble in selling a few handmade or vintage products, Etsy is ideal.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

No special hardware or software is required to open and manage a shop on either platform. You do have the option to add hardware (like card readers) if you wish to sell in-person.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Etsy

Shopify usually earns our top rating for ease of use in the ecommerce software category, and with good reason. In this case, however, I’m awarding Etsy the narrow win. As a marketplace with a uniform structure across all web shops on the platform, the whole Etsy setup process is much less open-ended, so it’s easier to start selling right away. Once you fully dive into the admin dashboard and start manipulating individual features, however, I think the two platforms are equally easy to use.

Let’s peek inside the setup process and backend structure of each system, so you can see what I mean.

Shopify Setup

Shopify offers a two-week free trial of the platform — all you need is an email address. You’re free to test the software to your heart’s content, short of making actual sales.

Shopify Dashboard

Once you’ve started a trial account, you’ll gain immediate access to your store’s admin panel. The Shopify dashboard is quite streamlined, with daily operation menus contained in the left sidebar. There are even a few tips to get started setting up your store in the center area:

Shopify — Add A Product

Listing your first product is typically one of the first tasks inside Shopify, but it doesn’t have to be. Adding a product involves completing a simple interface:

In addition to configuring products and setting up the rest of the backend of your store, you can work on customizing your online storefront at the same time. We’ll have more on this process in the Web Design section.

While Shopify is easy to use, you are ultimately responsible for locating and configuring all the settings (shipping, tax, billing, etc.) to get your store going.

Etsy Setup

The cookie-cutter look of Etsy shops is no accident — it’s achieved through a simple, highly-controlled system behind the scenes. In fact, Etsy guides your hand to such a strong extent that by the time you’re taken through the basic setup process, you already have a store that’s up and running.

Unfortunately, there is no free trial of Etsy. Instead, you must enter a product, your bank account routing number, your credit card info, and other personal/business details before you can even enter the admin dashboard. Coming from the land of ecommerce software where no-credit-card-required free trials abound, I find this system annoying. However, I can’t deny that it is also very effective.

From my personal Etsy account, I’ve used to make Etsy purchases in the past, I simply clicked “Sell on Etsy.” I was then taken through a very detailed setup wizard, all the way from setting my country, to listing my first product, to inputting my billing and payment methods. As you can see from the dots across the top of the wizard interface, it’s a five-step process:

Etsy Dashboard

When you finally make it to the main admin panel (called Store Manager), you’ll find it’s actually fairly similar to Shopify. In my own testing, I could find all the menus and features I was looking for in the left sidebar:

Etsy — Add A Product

The most detailed piece of the store setup wizard is step three: adding products (a.k.a, listings). As I mentioned, you’re forced to list at least one item before you can even complete the Etsy signup process and see your main dashboard. Below is the third screen from the setup wizard. Yep, it’s long. Click it to enlarge, if you dare.

This may seem like a lot of work, and it kind of is. Mercifully, Etsy makes it all extremely straightforward. You just need a touch of patience. As part of this process, you’re actually also setting up a shipping profile that can then be reapplied to other products. And, once you choose the type of product you’re selling, Etsy is very good about predicting the type of attributes and variations you might need for that product. I walked away from the processing thinking, “Wow, Etsy knows its sellers and their products really well.”

Side note: Once you finally make it to your dashboard, you can load additional products with a similar interface:

As soon as I was (finally) done with the initial setup wizard, my shop was online and ready to sell. I received so much guidance steering me directly to the goal that I almost felt like I was tricked into suddenly having an active store. In a good way, I guess!

I’ve focused on getting a store up and running in this section as an illustrative example — there are lots of other components of each platform to consider. As you’ll see in our Feature section below, though, Etsy has fewer features than Shopify overall. This makes it easier to quickly get a handle on the entire software platform’s capabilities and scores Etsy another point for user-friendliness. Still, the ease of going from zero to ready-to-sell is what really puts Etsy on top.

Features

Winner: Shopify

Let’s acknowledge right away that comparing the features of Etsy and Shopify is hardly an apples-to-apples endeavor. One is an online marketplace including multiple sellers, while the other is a platform on which to build a website that you ultimately own. Etsy has a specific target market of crafters, vintage resellers, and the like, while Shopify’s merchant pool is much wider. The feature sets of each platform work really well for sellers within their specific contexts. Once we add Etsy’s Pattern to the mix, the comparison gets a little closer, but it’s still slightly unfair to both systems.

I do think the best “features” of Etsy have already been highlighted — it’s very easy to get started selling, and you’ve already got a built-in traffic base. Beyond these important advantages, there’s not a lot you can do on the back or front end of your Etsy and/or Pattern shop that you can’t do with Shopify. And, if the core Shopify platform doesn’t have a specific tool you’re looking for, I can almost guarantee you’ll find a solution in the immense app store (more on that later).

All in all, I’m giving Shopify the win because I think it’s a more advanced system for ecommerce. Shopify adds several features that Etsy and Pattern are missing, like checkout on your own domain (customers are redirected back to Etsy if they purchase through your Pattern site), manual order creation, a built-in POS system, and bulk product import/export/editing. In addition, many of the features the two platforms share in common are more robust or flexible with Shopify (I’m thinking of their respective discount engines, abandoned cart recovery systems, SEO tools, etc.).

Despite their core differences, Shopify and Etsy/Pattern still have a lot of great things in common. Thus, I’d like to end this section with a list of some features both platforms share:

  • Sell unlimited products
  • Sell physical or digital products
  • Free SSL certificate (with Pattern)
  • Built-in blog (with Pattern)
  • Social media sharing
  • Automatically calculate shipping & tax
  • Purchase/print shipping labels
  • Shipping discounts
  • Inventory & order management
  • Create discounts & coupons
  • Abandoned cart recovery
  • Guest checkout
  • Analytics & reports
  • SEO tools
  • Mobile store management app

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

Shopify easily wins this category, even after you throw Etsy’s Pattern software into the mix. Shopify’s frontend template options have Pattern’s beat on all counts — the sheer number of options, the variety of styles, and the overall quality of designs. Not to mention that once you’ve chosen a theme, Shopify gives you much more flexibility to perform further customizations. Allow me to illustrate!

Shopify Design

Shopify offers 70 templates, most with 2-4 style variations. Ten themes are free and supported by Shopify developers, while the remaining third-party themes are offered at $140-$180 as one-time purchases.

I think most of the free themes from Shopify outshine Pattern themes, but we’ll get to Pattern in a moment. For now, you should know that Shopify has tools to adjust fonts and colors (via the Theme Editor), and to drag-and-drop page elements up and down your layout (via the “Sections” tool) — all without touching any code. You can also make further adjustments with code if you have those skills, but this is not necessary for the average user.

Here’s a quick screen-grab of Shopify’s visual, non-coding editor:

For more information on how these tools work, check out our full Shopify Review.

Etsy Design

Your Etsy shop comes with just one design template that’s the same as everyone else’s on the marketplace. You already saw the default store layout that popped up when I initially created my store. In the backend admin panel, you can customize your homepage by adding a banner image, your logo, a featured area to highlight products, an About section, and a few other basic elements. Each piece is fixed in place, though — no drag-and-drop tool to be found. Anywhere there is a little “+”, you can add a specific element:

With the $10/month plan, you have a bit more flexibility in your design. For example, you can insert a rotating image carousel in lieu of a fixed banner image across the top. And yet, there’s still no dragging nor dropping allowed.

If you decide to create a standalone website with the Pattern feature (remember, that’s another $15/month), you can choose from 10 possible templates. Pattern will recommend an option for your shop depending on your current Etsy store, but you can easily swap it out later:

Once you’ve chosen a theme, you have the option to customize your colors, fonts, text, and images — but again, all with pre-defined placement: Here’s the interface after I added a logo and header:

You can also add a few select pages to your site, like an About or Contact page. You just have to be okay with your layout being completely fixed for each page. Even if you wanted to try tweaking the template code, it’s just not an option.

Sorry, Etsy. Shopify has some of the best designs and editing tools of all shopping cart platforms on the market, so I’m not surprised that Etsy is completely overshadowed in this area. Pattern is only ideal for the most basic of websites. Fortunately, it does offer a 30-day free trial of a live site (once you’re already signed up for Etsy) if you’d like to test the site builder for yourself.

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

Etsy and Shopify each offer a collection of free and paid add-ons to integrate with your shop. The big difference is in the quantity. Etsy’s selection of a couple dozen apps just can’t compete with Shopify’s approximately 2500 offerings. If you’re worried about the quality of these Shopify add-ons, you have access to thousands of user reviews in the app store. You’re likely to find anything and everything you need to expand your store beyond the core Shopify platform.

A large selection is certainly great, but with the important caveat that the vastness of it all could end up becoming too overwhelming, costly, and unnecessary for small sellers. I was happy to see that Etsy at least offers a few well-known accounting and tax integrations (e.g., Quickbooks, Wave, TaxJar, TaxCloud) and email marketing apps (e.g. AWeber, or MailChimp if you use Pattern). You’ll need to decide if you will ultimately need the store expansion capability that Shopify provides, or can settle for Etsy’s offerings. If you set up a Pattern store, you’ll definitely want to add a good SEO integration.

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

Payment processing is a complicated and nuanced topic, so we’ll just cover some basic comparisons. Your mileage on this verdict in favor of Shopify will vary depending on your location, currencies, risk level, etc.

We’ve already mentioned that Shopify and Etsy both have their own self-branded payment gateways. Do note that Shopify Payments is actually built on Stripe’s infrastructure, while Etsy Payments is largely powered by Adyen, another big payment gateway company.

At any rate, most sellers on either platform end up using these pre-integrated options. Why? Well, even though you have over 100 processor options with Shopify, recall that you’re penalized with a separate transaction fee (usually 2%) if you don’t pick Shopify Payments. Meanwhile, Etsy Payments (formerly Etsy Direct Checkout) is essentially your only credit card processor option with Etsy. The only reason you wouldn’t use Etsy Payments is if it’s not yet available in your location. If you’re not operating from one of the approximately three dozen approved countries, you can only accept PayPal or manual payment methods (like check or money order) that you arrange separately with your buyers.

Etsy Payments allows you to accept credit and debit cards, Etsy gifts cards and credit, PayPal (pre-integrated), a few bank transfer services, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. Shopify Payments offers similar options but adds Amazon Pay and Shopify Pay to the mix. Meanwhile, Etsy Payments does allow you to accept a few more currencies than Shopify Payments (Danish or Norwegian krone, anyone?).

Below is a quick look at the processing fees for Shopify Payments versus Etsy Payments (shown in USD). As you’ll see, Shopify Payments it the better processing deal, especially as you climb the subscription ladder. Of course, you need to factor this into the larger picture of costs we discussed earlier.

Shopify Payments:

  • $9 Lite Plan
    • 2.9% + $0.30 Online (including manual entry)
    • 2.7% In-Person
  • $29 Basic Plan
    • 2.9% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.7%  In-Person
  • $79 Shopify Plan
    • 2.6% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.5% In-Person
  • $299 Advanced Plan
    • 2.4% + $0.30 Online
    • 2.4% In-Person

Etsy Payments:

  • 3% + $0.25 Online
  • In-Person (with Square integration only):
    • 2.75% Swiped/dipped/NFC
    • 3.5% + $0.15 for manually-entered online transactions
    • + $0.20 for any Square product not synced with your Etsy store

An “in-house” payment processor can really streamline this aspect of your business, so it’s nice that both platforms offer one. Neither is a 100% perfect processor for everyone, as you’ll see when we discuss user reviews later. Nevertheless, Shopify Payments comes out ahead because it offers better rates, more payment methods for shoppers, and a native system for in-person transactions. Plus, if Shopify Payments doesn’t work for you, you’ve got plenty of other gateways from which to choose. Not so with Etsy.

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

This particular contest was closer than I expected. Both platforms offer 24/7 email and phone support, but Shopify adds a third contact channel via 24/7 live chat. That’s really the main reason for Shopify’s win here. I know a lot of online sellers prefer this option over email and phone, since it works like a nice blend of the two. Etsy does offer a callback option when waiting on hold, which is very handy. On the flip side, I’d like to see Etsy’s contact number and ticket system more easily accessed from the help center page — it’s much too buried for my taste at the moment.

While both platforms also offer great self-help resources such as blogs, forums, knowledgebase articles, and videos, the information for Etsy sellers is mixed in with support resources for Etsy shoppers. This can feel a bit cluttered and confusing at times.

I will say that Etsy does go beyond the support of a typical ecommerce platform in a unique and specific way. As a marketplace that gathers lots of merchants together in one place, sellers are automatically part of a built-in community. There’s even an opportunity to join Etsy Teams — groups of sellers in the same location, selling the same types of products, or with other unifying aspects to their stores. Some teams even meet up in real life or organize special events together. While Shopify users can tap into the strong community of developers and merchants offering mutual support in forums, the overall camaraderie can’t compete with Etsy’s community vibe.

You also may have more access to seller protections as part of a marketplace, but this can heavily depend on the specific situation. Etsy aims to look out for its shoppers as well!

User Reviews

Winner: Tie

Because Etsy is a marketplace full of buyers as well as sellers, buyer complaints abound. When something goes wrong with a sale, it’s more accessible and more public for a shopper to point a finger at Etsy than the actual seller, even when the seller was primarily at fault. Shopify mostly operates behind the scenes from a shopper’s point of view, so it’s easier to isolate feedback about the platform that’s specifically from store owners.

For these reasons, Etsy’s reputation on review sites can be skewed quite negatively, so I can’t make a truly fair comparison with Shopify. Nevertheless, I’ve teased out some seller-specific feedback, just so you can get an idea of the common threads that appear.

First, the good. Not surprisingly, Etsy sellers like how easy it is to set up shop. They enjoy access to an existing customer base and the effective site search tools that make it easy for shoppers to find their products. Some users have mentioned their positive experiences with Etsy’s customer service, and the help they’ve received resolving disputes with customers (or even other sellers).

Of course, some Etsy sellers mention bad experiences with customer service, saying the marketplace isn’t taking enough responsibility for regulating seller behavior. I found several complaints that Etsy gets away with being a “neutral” party, shifting blame to its users on either end of transactions. At the very least, people are confused about Etsy’s role.

Other Etsy shop owners contend that the marketplace is too saturated with similar sellers, and that competition is simply too tough to sustain their shops. Still others have issues with payments or chargebacks or claim their shops were suddenly closed without warning. I’ve also seen plenty of sellers lament the increase in Etsy transaction fee from 3.5% to 5% in mid-2018 — that wasn’t so popular.

On the Shopify side, the top accolade is typically its ease of use. Sellers also like the opportunity to add functionality and scale their stores using add-ons from the app store. Shopify’s web design is highly praised, especially among those who appreciate the ability to easily customize their sites without code.

Like with Etsy  — and many other large software companies — Shopify’s customer support receives mixed reviews. Other common Shopify complaints include the added cost of integrations and the extra transaction fees if you can’t use Shopify Payments. Sellers do sometimes have problems with the payment system itself as well — their funds were held, or their Shopify Payments accounts were terminated due to various factors.

If that all sounds a bit scary, understand that a lot of the problems that pop up for Etsy and Shopify are common across the ecommerce world. The good news is that the research you’re doing now will help protect you against some of the more avoidable issues!

Security

Winner: Tie

Etsy and Shopify are both PCI complaint systems, offering site-wide SSL certificates for data encryption. If that all sounded like nonsense and jargon, don’t worry. You should know, however, that part of the reason Pattern websites meet security requirements set out by the data regulatory folks is that your shoppers are directed back over to Etsy checkout pages to complete their transactions. This kind of ruins the illusion that your site was actually your own site, but it does at least help with security. With Shopify, your customers can check out directly on your site with the same level of security in place.

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

 

Shopify won this battle handily, coming out ahead in most of our individual comparison categories. And yet, I’ll be the first to admit that the one-sidedness of our comparison does not do the key selling points of Etsy justice. The main advantages to Etsy — the ability to get a shop up and running quickly on a shoestring budget, and built-in access to the traffic of an entire online marketplace — are absolutely huge for beginning sellers. If you’re not ready to go whole-hog into selling online and would prefer to test the waters first, Etsy is definitely the way to start. For first time sellers, it’s akin to setting up your craft booth at an established craft fair, versus plopping your stall on a street corner in the middle of nowhere.

This is all to say that Shopify only really wins if you’re ready to take responsibility for maintaining and drawing traffic to your own website. You’ll need to learn and implement an effective SEO and marketing strategy, for example. This is no small feat for the budding online seller and should not be taken lightly. If done well, however, any customers you obtain are your own, and this is the big reward that accompanies your efforts with Shopify. Your sales and growth will not be limited by super-direct competition with other sellers within a marketplace. You’ll completely sidestep this major downside to Etsy.

When we start talking about actual ecommerce features and web design, Shopify is a more powerful ecommerce tool. Specifically, we’ve seen that Etsy’s Pattern software can’t compete with the standalone storefront-building capabilities of Shopify. For most sellers who are ready to launch their own websites, I’d suggest skipping over Pattern and heading for Shopify. Yes, a Pattern subscription is cheaper than Shopify, but it seems like too much of an intermediate, half-way step that won’t get you fully where you want to go. Besides, there’s no reason you can’t keep your Etsy shop open in the meantime as you grow your Shopify-based store — and, you could ultimately connect an app to sync up your inventory between the two. Etsy could then become one marketing channel of many for your main online store’s top products. Something to consider!

I think if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably ready to at least test the capability of Shopify with a free 14-day trial. Of course, if you’re already an Etsy seller, you can also play around with Pattern’s tools for free before even connecting a domain and going live with your site. Since you’ve got nothing to lose with either platform in that respect, why not set up your own mini-showdown between Pattern and Shopify?

Let us know how it goes in the comments. Happy artsy, craftsy, or artsy-craftsy selling!

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