Team Bio Series — Linda Leewaye (The SEO Queen)

On this week’s episode of “Meet The Merchant Maverick Team,” we’ll be exploring the life and times of Linda Leewaye, our newest Maverick. Linda is an SEO expert and an Idaho potato who currently hangs out in sunny California. But what makes Linda Leewaye really tick? Let’s read on to find out!

Name: Linda Leewaye

Title: Digital Marketing Manager

Hometown: Boise, ID

Current city: Temecula, CA

Education and background: Bachelors in Communication, Emphasis in Public Relations, from Boise State University

Merchant Maverick department/specialty: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Proudest professional moment: Organizing an Aveda Earth Month Trashion Show charity event with my PRSSA group and donating the money to a clean water initiative for those who don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Favorite Merchant Maverick post/moment/opportunity: The opportunity to work with the friendliest people on the planet and work from anywhere is a dream come true.

What do you do when you’re not working?: Obsess over the latest superhero movie and play games with my friends.

What movie character do you identify most with and why?: Batman. In all honesty, I am not as cool as he is, I just wish I was! I appreciate his crazy ninja moves and detective skills to go with it…along with the billions of dollars from the Wayne family fortune.

Favorite song: Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.

Favorite ‘80s movie: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

What is your ideal midnight snack?: Digging into a bag of Kettle Brand’s jalapeno chips

What skill have you always wanted to learn?: Playing the guitar

If you could travel to any time period to live forever, where/when would it be?: The Egyptian Era, so I could cure my innate curiosity of how the pyramids were built.

Mac or Windows?: Windows

You’re given an unlimited budget to travel. Where do you go? For how long?: I’d travel closer to the North Pole so I catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights! And after that, I’d go to every tropical island on the face of the earth to thaw out. Then, I’d backpack around Italy, Spain, and France, seeing as many cathedrals and monuments as I can. I’d love to travel as much as possible and for as long as possible — well, until I become unbearably homesick and miss the States!

We’re so pleased to have Linda on the team now — not only because her SEO skills are lifting us to new heights, but because it’s nice to have another superhero-loving geek in our posse. We look forward to many future hang-outs together, getting the Led out and watching a little pre-ruined Indiana Jones. Linda, you bring the Kettle chips.

Interested in reading about other members of the Merchant Maverick staff? Check out our team interview series.

The post Team Bio Series — Linda Leewaye (The SEO Queen) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce

selling internationally

Online sellers are always looking to expand–expand their product catalogs, expand the reach of their marketing, and expand across sales channels. And when it comes to expansion, there’s no bigger project to undertake than international growth.

Successfully going global is only possible if you have the appropriate resources in the form of products, market, and software. And while finding a market and products is up to you, we here at Merchant Maverick can help when it comes to choosing the correct software.

International sellers demand more from their shopping cart setups than do domestically-based merchants. You’ll need your shopping cart to be able to display your site in multiple languages and currencies. What’s more, you’ll need to be able to handle complicated taxes and shipping functions. Your eCommerce software should either come with these features already built in or be able to integrate with extensions to fill the gaps.

In this blog, we’ll be discussing four carts that offer merchants the features (and integrations) they need to sell internationally. These software companies maintain a global focus, giving you multiple options for global success and staffing a diverse team of developers from all across the world. If you need the power to create a multilingual site — and a multilingual support team on hand at the moment’s notice — look no further than this list.

Keep reading to learn which eCommerce software programs we recommend for global expansion.

PrestaShop

prestashop logo

With PrestaShop, international is the name of the game. PrestaShop is behind 270,000 stores worldwide. They have headquarters in Miami and Paris and employ over 100 employees who are proud to speak a variety of languages.

PrestaShop is open-source software that is free to download, highly customizable, and offers loads of add-ons. With a strong international user community supporting the development of the software, you can expect new releases and extensions regularly.

PrestaShop’s biggest downfall is that you’ll need developer skills in order to best use the software. What’s more, PrestaShop’s customer support costs a bit more than you may be willing to spend.

PrestaShop comes with a robust feature set built in. Here are a few of the ways PrestaShop is especially good for international sellers:

  • Set Currencies & Automate Exchange Rates: Set your shop to accept a wide number of currencies.
  • Multi-language Product Sheet: Quickly import product information in multiple languages.
  • International Forum: Find support from other users in a variety of languages.
  • PrestaShop Translation Product: Users can assist in translating new versions of PrestaShop.
  • International Add-Ons: Purchase and download extensions from international developers to further broaden your store’s functionality.

For more information on PrestaShop, check out our full review or try one of PrestaShop’s easy-to-access demos.

WooCommerce

woocommerce logo

WooCommerce is one of the most widely used eCommerce solutions around. While the stats are uncertain (WooCommerce claims a part in 28% of all online stores, while BuiltWith says Woo is behind 42%), what is certain is that Woo is enormously popular in the eCommerce world.

WooCommerce is free, open-source software that plugs directly into WordPress.com. It is highly customizable and scalable. WooCommerce’s Achille’s heel, as with many open source solutions, is the unfortunate combination of limited customer support and a moderate learning curve. WooCommerce also follows a Core+Extensions model, which means that built-in features tend to be rather basic.

Despite these obstacles, WooCommerce is an excellent choice for international sellers. With employees located in 19 different countries, you’re sure to find support in a range of languages. And given the many international developers contributing to the project, international features are well within reach.

Here are a few of the international selling features that WooCommerce offers:

  • Calculated Taxes: Set tax rates for the countries and regions in which you sell your products. Show taxes based on your customer’s shipping address and billing address and your store’s base address.
  • Supports International Transactions: Accept multiple currencies with the right payment gateways.
  • WooCommerce Translation Project: Users help make WooCommerce available in multiple languages.

For more information, take a look at WooCommerce’s tips for selling internationally. Or, head over to our review and download the software for free.

Magento

magento logo

If you’re looking into open-source solutions, but our first two suggestions don’t quite meet the mark, you should take a look at Magento.

Magento is used by developers worldwide and supports a user base of 250,000 merchants. With such a wide base, the Magento marketplace is always growing. You can expect a steady release of new extensions and payment gateways from Magento’s global developers.

As an open-source software solution, Magento comes with similar advantages to PrestaShop and WooCommerce. The software is free to download, highly customizable, and scalable. Magento includes a robust feature set and boasts an international user community.

As you might expect, the trouble with Magento lies in its usability. In order to best utilize the platform, you’ll need to have confidence in your developer skills. The software comes with a steep learning curve, and there is no phone number to dial for technical support.

Regardless, Magento is a great shopping cart for merchants who are looking to expand internationally. Here are a few of the reasons you should consider Magento:

  • International Forum: Get help from a community of 150,000 developers. These developers can also help you create extensions that work for your target countries.
  • Extensions: Take your pick of a vast marketplace of extensions. You’ll find extensions for international payment gateways, currencies, and shipping carriers.

For more information on using Magento to sell globally, take a look at the company’s advice on making your site global ready. To learn more about Magento in general, head on over to our full review or get started now by downloading the platform for free.

Shopify

shopify logo

If you’re in the eCommerce industry, you’ve heard of Shopify. This Canadian SaaS solution is famous for its usability and clean design. And over the past few years, Shopify has skyrocketed in popularity. The platform now hosts over 500,000 stores worldwide.

Shopify is the only hosted solution we’ll be including in this list. In general, if you’re looking to build a website that reaches customers around the world, open-source is your best approach. With so much opportunity for customization and growth, you’ll likely find that an open-source solution better fits your international store’s needs.

However, like we’ve discussed, open-source comes with its own challenges, including limited usability and technical support. And so, if you want to take a global approach but aren’t sure you can handle the technical challenges of open-source, Shopify may be the way to go.

Here are a few of the international selling features you can benefit from as a Shopify user:

  • Multi-lingual Checkout: You can set your checkout to operate in over 50 languages. You’ll need to translate the rest of your theme on your own.
  • Non-US Taxes: Set up tax rates for other countries. You can also set your store to charge taxes on shipping rates.
  • Numerous Payment Gateways: Take your pick from over 100 payment processors in order to accept payments worldwide.

For more information on Shopify, take a look at our full review or get hands-on experience by signing up for a free 14-day trial.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, one or more of these shopping cart options has piqued your interest. As always, I encourage you to take your research further. Read our full reviews, look up comments from current customers, and take advantage of every trial and demo you can get your hands on.

You might also read our article, The Most Important Questions To Ask Before Shipping Internationally, and download our free eBook, The Beginner’s Guide To Starting An Online Store. In this fifty page guide, we unpack everything you need to consider as you approach online selling.

But for those of you who are already planning your global expansion, I wish you the best of luck and bon voyage!

The post Best Shopping Carts For Global eCommerce appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How to Improve Your Website Content

How To Improve Website Content

So your website is a mess — where do you even begin to “fix” it? What does “fixing” it really mean, anyways?

If you’re looking to improve your website, you know how daunting this overhaul can be. There are tips and tricks for almost every facet of the process, from improving your copy to reworking your design.

What you need is a process — not a grab bag of tips that leave you more confused than when you started.

Here’s the 7-step framework you can follow to improve your website content, even if you have no idea where to start.

1. Lay the Foundation

It may sound basic, but before you change anything on your website, you need to understand what your website does. You can have the most amazing site in the world, but if you don’t know what you want it to achieve, you’ll never really improve.

The first step is pretty straightforward — you need to define the goal for every single page on your website.

Each site page has a unique objective. For example, your homepage should encourage visitors to explore deeper into your site, a blog post may be key to generating new traffic, and a product page necessary for sales.

By understanding each page’s goal, you can begin to understand where things may be breaking down.

Start by putting your website into a map. List all of the pages you currently have, then define the goal for each page.

Once you have your page objectives down, it’s time to look at how your website fits together.

Think of your site like a puzzle. Each individual page is a piece of a larger picture. The pages all work together to create one big image (which is your user experience).

Your website’s organization should be intuitive for someone who is trying to navigate it. You don’t want a visitor to arrive at your homepage and be stranded, nor do you want them getting lost. Imagine how frustrating it is when you’re on a website and can’t get to the information you’re searching for.

Use your map to organize your website’s flow. Which pages are subpages of a larger section? Which pages need links to others? Note those in the spreadsheet, or use indentations to show how they connect.

Title Tag Keyword Map

2. Understand Your Users

Understanding your users is marketing 101, but it’s crucial for creating a website that achieves your goals. If you have the most amazing website, but it’s not tailored to the type of visitors you want and need, what good is it?

Before you rework your website, you need to understand who your audience is. Are they CEOs of small businesses? Are they local companies?

Who are they, and what problems do they have? How are you helping them solve these problems?

Create a persona for your website users.

A “persona” is marketing jargon for a profile of who you are really trying to do business with.

Write out one that describes your ideal customer. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use Moz’s guide to user personas to guide you through the process.

3. Understand Your Data

One of the best parts about the internet today is nearly everything is recorded. This means you have access to an incredible amount of data that can paint the picture of why your website isn’t working.

Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to dive deeper into how they’re experiencing your website right now.

Google has one of the most intuitive platforms for work like this. Take some time to use Google Analytics to figure out where your audience is getting hung up on your navigation. Look especially at the Behavior Flow section to see where users are dropping off.

Google Analytics Behavior Flow

But remember that you have access to TONS more data. I’ve written guides to –

  • Ahrefs
  • Search Console
  • Website Data
  • Bounce Rate
  • Improving Ad Campaigns

Create a column in your spreadsheet dedicated solely to “optimizations”. Use your data to evaluate each existing page and note any breakdowns or opportunities. For example, are you noticing a high drop off on a page that’s bringing in significant traffic? Write it down next to that page.

4. Do Keyword & Topical Research

Keyword and topical research are crucial to understanding your audience’s interests and how they search online. By implementing the same sort of language your audience uses while searching the web, your site will not only perform better organically, but will resonate with your target audience and remain relevant.

For your existing content, you can use Google Search Console to see where you can optimize pages that already have some visibility for specific search terms. Use it to determine where you can adjust a page to capture more organic traffic, expand on a certain topic, or update outdated content. It will also flag HTML issues such as duplicate content and titles and meta descriptions that need improvement. You can get the full guide to using Google Search Console here.

But what about the pages that aren’t already getting traction? For those, you’ll want to do additional keyword and topical research. I’ve put together a step-by-step process to using keywords on your site, which you can use to walk through the process of finding and implementing user language on your site.

As you go through the research process, create a keyword map for your entire website to add words and topics for each page. You can add it to your existing spreadsheet so all of your information is in one place.

5. Find Content Gaps

You can’t improve what doesn’t exist, Once you have a handle on what’s going on with your existing content, it’s time to dive into what’s missing from your website.

From a user’s perspective, what’s missing?

Start by doing internal research. If you have a sales or customer service team, ask them what questions they’re getting. More importantly, look at your own internal site searches! This tells you exactly what people are searching for on your site (because they can’t find it).

Google Analytics Site Search

Also comb through your email and see what people ask when they contact you about your business. Chances are, those questions are missing information on your website, and you can add them either as a new page or as an FAQ page.

After you’ve taken a look at your own internal sources, it’s time to take a look at outside data. Use tools like Ahrefs to help you find what industry publications and competitors are getting right (use the full guide to Ahrefs to help you get the most out of the tool). Look especially for content with significant backlinks and organic traffic to see what type of content is in tune with your target audience. Then, add the missing pages and their corresponding keywords/topics to your website spreadsheet/map.

6. Address User Experience

Improving your website isn’t just about improving the content — it’s also about improving the experience visitors have on your site (also known as user experience).

You can have all of the right information, but if the website is slow, looks funky on their mobile device, or has a horrible design… you can bet users aren’t going to stick around.

There’s so much that can create a poor user experience — a bad design, broken links, a slow page load speed — it’s your job to find these negative elements and remedy them.

Start by evaluating your website design. Do you have a cohesive color palette? Are your images high quality? Does your website scale for tablet and mobile devices (also known as responsive in web jargon)? The visual appeal is going to be key in keeping users enticed and engaging with your content.

Next, dive into the mechanics. Start by testing page speed with Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. If you’re seeing low or below average speeds, use this beginner’s guide to increase page speed to help fix it.

Make sure you use correct HTML formatting. Make sure your design values function over form (don’t use trendy bullsh*t like Parallax unless you value design awards over sales).

You’ll also want to check for broken links. To make sure none of your internal links are rendering a 404 page, use Screaming Frog to do a scan of your site’s pages. If you are specifically looking for Googlebot 404s, you can check your Search Console report.

7. Evaluate Your Copywriting

Now that you’ve addressed the mechanics and make-up of your site, it’s time to focus on the flair — otherwise known as the actual copy on your website.

As with all the of the elements in this guide, good copywriting (when combined with other website best practices) can lead to more traffic, better leads, and more sales.

Take a look at each page and determine where your content can be spruced up. Where can you use images instead of text? Where can you add more of your brand personality? Where can you break up paragraphs so the page is easier to skim?

Use this guide on how to improve website copy to help you evaluate your site copy. Choose three areas where you can improve, then go implement it!

Next Steps

Improving your website content can be a daunting task with no clear starting point. Using a grab bag of tips and tricks doesn’t get you any further — in fact, it can leave you feeling lost.

Instead of hopping around and fixing things at random, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process in a methodical manner. Use the steps above to help guide you, and make sure you focus one one step at a time.

By following a plan and sticking to the process, you’ll be well on your way to overhauling your website to create one that helps grow your business (without feeling completely overwhelmed!).

The post How to Improve Your Website Content appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Top 3 Project Management Apps For Construction Firms

 

Project managers are often stereotyped as office stiffs with permanent stacks of Stick It notes in their back pockets, quietly and heroically keeping the wheels on the bus going round and round. However, real humans do not fit easily into stereotypes — and this one is simply too narrow to stand up to even mild scrutiny. After all, all kinds of fields have projects to manage, and many projects take form far from an office building.

For example, project managers based in the construction industry need a powerful suite of tools at their disposal: communication with contractors and clients, document storage, scheduling apps, and more. Beyond that, individual construction workers need features for time tracking, task management, schedule reminders, and communication. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the three best project management apps for construction workers.

But first, some criteria. To work well for construction projects, task management apps need scheduling and document sharing features, a simple and flexible UI that works well on the go, and, of course, an affordable monthly cost. Read on for a comprehensive look at the following three apps — the best of the best when it comes to construction project management.

Monday.com

Unlike the other two apps we will be covering, Monday.com (formerly dapulse) is not a bespoke project management app. It does, however, meet all of our criteria handily. Let’s start with the price.

Monday.com is not the cheapest project management app I have ever covered. It is, however, entirely competitive and reasonably priced when compared with other, similar applications. There are a number of pricing plans ranging from “basic” to “enterprise.” The lower-priced plans (especially the “standard” plan, which grants 50 GB of storage) all provide the most valuable features of this product and come down to less than $10/user/month if you have 50 or more employees. If you don’t want to worry about managing your storage space, you might want to spring for the “Pro” plan, which comes with unlimited file storage. You do, of course, pay extra for the storage, with the price coming down to around $12/user/month on that plan.

In terms of features, Monday.com ticks all of our boxes for construction. You get file storage (how much depends, of course, on your subscription level), scheduling, and communication with both team members and clients. The Gantt chart (or timeline) is particularly good; adding items to the chart and assigning them to team members is easy and making modifications to the schedule is as simple as clicking and dragging. If I had one complaint or reservation about Monday.com’s feature set, it would be that the timeline has no dependencies; the addition of this feature would make this app incredibly well-suited to construction work.

Monday.com boasts an extremely well-designed, highly unique, UI. That said, I test a lot of project management programs, so I was thrown off for a moment by the one-term-for-everything philosophy of this app. Basically, everything you do in Monday.com comes down to ‘Pulses.’ You can assign team members or clients to a pulse, add deadlines, send messages, and even create hashtags for pulses. This methodology required an adjustment period for me, accustomed as I am to the more common “task-list” format of Monday.com’s competitors. Fortunately, I think that users that are new to project management applications will not find pulses as flummoxing, especially with the help of some good onboarding training.

Overall, If you are looking for a flexible, simple, and robustly-featured solution to your construction project management needs, I would encourage you to check out Monday.com and give the free trial a shot.

CoConstruct

CoConstruct, unlike Monday.com, is a custom-built app for construction firms. Everything about this brand is construction-focused, from the name of the application itself to the marketing and support materials on the company’s website. And this seems to be a winning formula. In fact, CoConstruct is most highly reviewed construction project management app on Capterra.

Unfortunately, CoConstruct does not make their pricing options transparent. The closest thing they have to a standard price “list” is a short reference to the fact that prices “start at only $99/month.” There are references to other plans, but you must contact CoConstruct directly to get concrete details. Fortunately, with prices starting out relatively low (assuming you have 30+ employees), it seems likely that you will be able to get higher-level plans without breaking the bank.

CoConstruct is a very full-featured program. The company breaks down its feature set into three categories: COmmunicate, COordinate, and COntrol. It is a pretty snazzy way to describe what this application can do.

The COmmunicate field deals with internal communications between employees and clients. This section of the application can handle estimating, bidding, proposals, and expense tracking. Crew members can even upload pictures from job sites to confirm completed work or detail potential issues.

The COordinate section of the app handles scheduling, task lists, time tracking, and more. I want to particularly highlight the time-tracking features, which function similarly to those of Tsheets (read our review) and Timely (read our review). It is cool to see features from other apps folded into this one; that represents saved money and time for you, the customer.

The final section of CoConstruct, COntrol, is all about financials. This covers, of course, the proposals, bidding, and estimates I mentioned earlier, but also long-term budgeting and an excellent Quickbooks (read our review) integration.

Most importantly, CoConstruct is easy to use. I have to admit, when I first looked through some of the screenshots from this app, I was worried. A few parts of the UI are pretty outdated, which in my experience can translate to a steep learning curve. Fortunately, in CoConstruct’ case, I was wrong. Yes, certain elements of CoConstruct’s UI are not exactly breathtaking, but most of the app is well-designed and solid. I especially like the mobile apps, which allow crew members and foremen to easily keep track of their tasks, communicate with clients and subcontractors, and more.

While it is a little annoying that CoConstruct keeps some things hidden until you reach out to them directly (like their pricing), in the end, their high customer satisfaction rate is entirely justified. If you are looking for a comprehensive project management solution for your construction business, this may be the one for you.

Buildertrend

Considering the fact that it has users in over 40 countries, awards from reviewers, and over one million projects completed from within the app, it’s easy to see why Buildertrend refers to itself as an industry standard for construction project management. With features that cover commercial construction, remodeling, and homebuilding, this app is designed to be your one-stop-shop for managing tasks, projects, and more.

Buildertrend’s pricing system, funnily enough, reminds me of CoConstruct’s. Like that program, Buildertrend starts at $99/month. We get a few more details with Buildertrend, however, including confirmation that this price includes unlimited users. That is fantastic, and it means that larger companies will find greater value using this app. On a less positive note, the baseline price only includes one project; if your firm handles multiple sites at one time, you will need to shell out the extra cash for more projects. Having said that, Buildertrend takes pains to assure users that adding another project does not double the price; it seems that the more projects you buy, the less you pay per project. Just like it should be! Note that there is no free trial; if you choose to buy Buildertrend, you will have to do so without directly testing it first. Fortunately, there are plenty of in-depth videos to help give you an idea of exactly you will be paying for.

Buildertrend’s extensive feature set is divided into four categories: “Pre-Sale Process” features, “Project Management” features, “Financial Tools” features, and “Customer Management” features. There are 21 individual items within these categories, so rather than trying to explain everything here in this limited space, I want to point out some of my favorites.

First things first: One of those pre-sale features includes email marketing. I love it when apps combine features from other kinds of software into one place because it means that you, the user, are getting a more streamlined experience for a lower price. While the email builder is definitely less snazzy than some of the dedicated email marketing apps out there, it does the job well.

In terms of project management features, one of my favorites is the document markup tool. Need to make a change to a blueprint? Mark it in the document. Want to make sure a particular detail gets noticed? Highlight it in the document.

The last thing I want to highlight in terms of features comes from the customer management section. When decisions about color, style, and more need to be made, you can send your customers their options so they can quickly and easily get back to you.

Buildertrend is surprisingly simple to use, considering the number of features available. The best part of this is the full-featured mobile app. And I do mean full-featured– all 21 features are directly accessible from within the app and can be used on the go. Very few project management platforms make everything usable on the go, and it says a lot about the priorities of the team behind Buildertrend that they have gone that route. In an industry that is all about being out in the field, it seems like a wise choice indeed.

If you are looking for a full-featured, flexible, and easy-to-use project management app for your construction firm, I highly recommend heading over to Buildertrends website and checking them out.

Final Thoughts

If I had to pick one of these three apps, I think it would have to be Buildertrend. I like that they focus on serious, thorough, construction-focused project management without losing accessibility. CoConstruct is very similar, but I think Buildertrend is just a bit more usable. Having said that, it may just come down to personal preference regarding which one of these three you choose.

If you are working with a small team, Monday.com might be your best bet. If you represent a larger company, CoConstruct or Buildertrend might be better fits for you. Regardless, one of these apps will certainly provide you the tools you need to get out there and get building.

The post Top 3 Project Management Apps For Construction Firms appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Specialty Crowdfunding Sites

specialty crowdfunding

By now, if you keep up with developments in the business world (or if you’ve had to raise funds for a loved one in need), you’re likely familiar with crowdfunding giants like Kickstarter (see our review), Indiegogo (see our review), Patreon (see our review), and GoFundMe (see our review). The biggest crowdfunding platforms also tend to have the most marketing resources at their disposal, so it’s little wonder if you’ve heard of them and not their smaller competitors.

Big crowdfunders have their places, but it’s high time some of smaller, more specialized crowdfunding sites out there got a little attention. Many such platforms are aimed at a particular slice of the crowdfunding market and may be better suited to your particular cause than some of the more general-purpose crowdfunders.

Let’s explore some of the specialty crowdfunding sites that can help you raise money for your distinct needs.

Small Business & Startup Crowdfunding

Fundable

fundable

Fundable (see our review) is a business crowdfunding platform with a particular appeal to small businesses and startups that have exponential growth potential. With Fundable, a company can launch a rewards crowdfunding campaign or an equity crowdfunding campaign…or even both!

Fundable won’t let you run a rewards campaign and an equity campaign simultaneously, but if you play your cards right, you can use a successful rewards campaign to demonstrate the strength of your startup to investors and begin a successful equity campaign. (Read my article on the differences between equity crowdfunding and “traditional” crowdfunding for more information.)

Fundable is more exclusive than many other crowdfunding platforms and must approve your Company Profile after you’ve finished filling out your company information on their site.

Fundable doesn’t charge a percentage of what you raise as a fee, departing from the practice of such crowdfunding platforms as Kickstarter and Patreon, which charge 5% each. Instead, Fundable charges a flat rate of $179/month. For the underresourced startup, this monthly fee is a substantial barrier to entry — particularly as the fee must be paid regardless of whether your campaign is successful. For the small business that expects success, however, this fee policy can be a boon. Consider the startup that successfully raises $50K in a 60-day campaign. $358 is a lot less than $2,500 (5% of $50K)!

You will, however, have to contend with payment processing fees. For its rewards campaigns, Fundable takes 3.5% + $0.30 of each transaction to cover payment processing. There are no such fees associated with Fundable’s equity campaigns because those campaigns do not involve online payment transfers — all payments are made offline.

Like Kickstarter, Fundable has an all-or-nothing funding policy. If you don’t reach your funding goal by the time your campaign ends, you don’t get anything. Something to keep in mind!

Wefunder

wefunder

Wefunder (see our review) is another crowdfunding platform that specializes in business funding. Unlike Fundable, it is exclusively an equity crowdfunding site. And while Fundable’s equity campaigns only allow you to fundraise from accredited investors (a term that essentially refers to rich people), Wefunder’s equity campaigns take advantage of Title III of the Jobs Act of 2012 to offer equity crowdfunding for non-accredited investors (often referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding). What this means is that Wefunder lets you raise equity from anybody and everybody, just as you can raise money from anyone with rewards crowdfunding.

Wefunder is the largest Regulation Crowdfunding platform in existence, currently comprising 50% of the market share.

Wefunder takes a more relaxed approach to letting companies use their platform than does Fundable. Wefunder doesn’t do any prescreening, so there’s no initial bar to clear. Once you’ve started, Wefunder charges an initial non-recurring fee of $195 to launch your funding campaign. They then charge, in their words, “up to a 7% fee” of what your raise in a successful campaign. Conducting a Regulation Crowdfunding raise with Wefunder means accepting this relatively onerous fee policy. Payment processing fees are paid by the investors.

Like Fundable, Wefunder’s crowdfunding campaigns employ the all-or-nothing funding model, so if you take your business fundraising idea to Wefunder, you’d better have a detailed plan of action and the means to follow through on it. If your campaign doesn’t live up to its billing and you don’t reach your goal, no funding for you.

Medical Crowdfunding

When it comes to crowdfunding to pay for medical expenses, GoFundMe receives the lion’s share of attention. A recent NerdWallet study found that $930 million of the $2 billion raised on GoFundMe during the time period studied went towards medical campaigns. However, as I documented in my GoFundMe review, quite a few campaigners have had serious issues with the company and its practices. Let’s take a look at some GoFundMe alternatives for those Americans (curiously enough, it’s just about always Americans) seeking to crowdfund their medical expenses or those of a loved one.

YouCaring

Of all the crowdfunding platforms focused on human need, YouCaring is probably the most well-known of the non-GoFundMe crowdfunders. How does YouCaring stack up?

GoFundMe recently garnered some good press by eliminating its 5% platform fee for campaigns based in the US and Canada. YouCaring does them one better: Its campaigns have no platform fees no matter where the campaigner is based. Both platforms do, however, take 2.9% + $0.30 out of each donation to cover the cost of payment processing while asking donors to voluntarily contribute money to the platform to help keep it going.

One thing that comes across when perusing user reviews of YouCaring is that its customer service is second to none — the level of responsiveness described is unusual for a crowdfunding site. YouCaring offers real-time chat support and personalized coaching that helps guide users through the crowdfunding process.

YouCaring has facilitated the raising of $900 million since its founding in 2011, so it has an established track record of success. The site is definitely worth exploring if you or someone close to you needs help with medical expenses.

GoGetFunding

GoGetFunding is another crowdfunding platform focused on personal crises like medical episodes (though they let you crowdfund for any and all causes). You can raise funds in 23 currencies with GoGetFunding.

In one respect, however, GoGetFunding has fallen a bit behind the times. In its FAQ, GoGetFunding proclaims that its platform fee of 4% is “lower than all of our major competitors.” Now, this may have been true when written, but it is no longer true. If you take a trip down memory lane, you’ll recall that I mentioned that YouCaring and GoFundMe have no platform fees. (With all due respect to GoGetFunding, 4% is not lower than 0%.)

Beyond the 4% platform fee, 2.9% + $0.25-$0.30 per transaction is taken by the payment processor — roughly the same payment processing fees as GoFundMe and YouCaring.

Anyone choosing GoGetFunding over its immediate competitors is accepting the 4% fee, so let’s see what you get for that money. GoGetFunding lets you add team members to your crowdfunding campaign if you want to make your campaign a team effort. You also get PayPal support, a personal fundraising coach, and PR to help promote your campaign to the media.

Crowdfunding For Filmmakers

Seed&Spark

Seed&Spark is a crowdfunding platform devoted to funding the production of movies and shows. Not only that, but the rate of funding success for Seed&Spark projects is 75%, which (Seed&Spark claims) beats all other competitors in this particular field — a claim that seems to have been corroborated by a blogger.

Seed&Spark’s fee policy is unique in the industry. Seed&Spark takes 5% of donations — the same rate as Kickstarter — but offers backers the chance to cover that fee at checkout. According to Seed&Spark, a majority of backers do so. In addition, the platform charges 2.9% + $0.30 for payment processing (same as most competitors). Combine this with the fact that, according to Seed&Spark, filmmakers take home an average of 95% of what they raise, and it appears the average platform fee paid by Seed&Spark creators is 2% — not bad at all for a non-personal crowdfunder!

Seed&Spark’s funding model is a hybrid of the all-or-nothing approach favored by Kickstarter and the keep-what-you-raise approach adopted by other crowdfunders. With Seed&Spark, you get to keep what you raise only after reaching 80% of your funding goal.

Once you’ve had a successful campaign and you actually complete your movie or show, you can even choose to have it distributed by Seed&Spark. If you do, the revenue will be split 60/40, with the creator getting 60%. Subscribers to Seed&Spark will then be able to stream your movie or show at seedandspark.com as well as on Apple TV and Roku through Seed&Spark’s app.

Slated

Slated is an equity crowdfunding platform devoted to movie production. Launch a Slated project and you’ll be marketing your film concept to a select crowd of accredited investors, many of whom work in the film industry (producers, writers, directors, actors, etc.). In fact, according to Slated, 68% of the films appearing at Sundance in 2016 and 54% of 2016’s Oscar-nominated films were made by Slated members. Using Slated is a way to get exposure for your project among the very people in the industry who matter.

With Slated, all funds are transferred offline — not great for convenience, but it means you won’t be paying any fees on what you earn.

The platform is free to use, but if you want any real likelihood of meeting your goal, you’ll want to use Slated Analytics’ Script Analysis service. Use this service and three Slated members — industry insiders with experience doing exactly this — will pore over your script and assess its screen-worthiness. Only one of the three pros who read your script has to give it a passing grade for it to earn an official recommendation. Your score will prove vital to your ability to attract investors and secure funding. The script analysis costs $395 per draft, while the combined script and financial analysis package will set you back $995.

Crowdfunding For Musicians

PledgeMusic

PledgeMusic is a crowdfunding platform for musicians. It gives bands and other performers the ability to get their music funded, connect with their fans, and offer exclusive content. According to PledgeMusic’s FAQ:

“You can run a project around your new album or EP, a book, a DVD, a concert tour…anything you’re doing, as long as it’s centered around music!”

In addition to being a crowdfunding platform, PledgeMusic also hosts your music. This may explain why PledgeMusic takes a sizable 15% cut of what you raise in a successful campaign (thankfully, you won’t have to cover the payment processing costs). Furthermore, PledgeMusic is an all-or-nothing crowdfunder. You’ve got to hit your funding goal before you receive anything.

PledgeMusic will work with you in designing your campaign and in tweaking the look of your store page. The platform is designed to allow you to offer both digital downloads (tracks, albums, etc.) and physical products like instruments, backstage passes, and swag.

ArtistShare

ArtistShare is a crowdfunding platform so old that it predates the term “crowdfunding.” Founded in 2001 and launched in 2003, ArtistShare was the first “fan-funding” site for creative artists.

ArtistShare is much more of an exclusive club than the other crowdfunding sites I’ve covered in this article. The company must pre-approve you before you can raise funds on the site, and judging by the artists on the platform, ArtistShare favors polished jazz and classical musicians.

ArtistShare takes 5% of what you raise in fees. They take an additional 3-5% for payment processing fees.

ArtistShare’s funding model isn’t quite all-or-nothing and it isn’t quite keep-what-you-raise either. With ArtistShare, if you don’t hit your funding goal, you will only receive funds from backers who clicked the “Unconditional Support” option when making their contribution. Thus, if your project doesn’t reach its goal, you’ll still get some funding, but you won’t get everything that was pledged.

Final Thoughts

If crowdfunding makes sense for your particular situation, there’s no reason you have to follow the herd and go with the big boys. There are plenty of specialty crowdfunding sites out there, only a few of which I’ve covered here. You may find that a niche crowdfunding site can offer you particular benefits — benefits you might not get with a more general-purpose crowdfunder.

The post The Best Specialty Crowdfunding Sites appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses

small-business-credit-card-processing-app

Say you have a small retail business. You don’t have a lot of money to invest in a super-complicated POS, and you don’t want to deal with a multi-year processing contract. Frankly, the idea of trying to narrow down the options in both categories at the same time is a little bit daunting. But enter another option: an app for a tablet (or even a smartphone) that bundles payment processing and POS software all in one go, with no contract or commitment. A single app with all (or at least most) of the features a brick-and-mortar storefront could want. But what are the best credit card processing apps for small retail businesses?

Cost is definitely part of the consideration, but more than that you need to make sure any software you use actually delivers the features you need to run your business. Most processing apps tend not to be as full-featured as a full POS, but they are capable of delivering on core needs. After we go over which features should be a priority, we’ll get into the most promising apps that let you process credit cards and run your business together.

Credit Card Processing Apps For Small Retailers

In addition to choosing apps based on the most useful features, we had two other criteria in choosing the apps: first, they had to be mobile apps for tablets (and preferably smartphones). Second, they must offer a bundled payment solutions. A couple of the options on the list allow you to bring your own processor if you want, but they do offer their own payment option as a default.

In no particular ranking, here are my favorite picks for retail-focused credit card processing apps:

Square

Square business model and mobile credit card processingSquare does have a specialty POS app for retailers, called Square for Retail. That one doesn’t actually make the cut because it’s designed for larger businesses and it actually lacks many features found in the basic free app, Square Point of Sale.

Point of Sale has definitely come a long way from just a basic mobile POS app, and it’s absolutely a solution that will grow with your business. Its clear, transparent pricing strategy (2.75% for swiped/dipped/tapped transactions) and robust app make it an attractive option for retailers. But then there’s the assortment of add-on services (email marketing, appointment scheduling, loyalty, payroll and more) that all integrate seamlessly. Combined with the huge assortment of supported phones and tablets, and the wide mix of supported hardware, and it’s hard not to see the appeal.

While Square does offer payroll and employee management, these features will cost you more — $5 per employee per month for each.

Something I do want to point out: Square does have many iPad-only features, but much of its hardware is equally compatible with Android devices as it is iPads, which is a major departure from most apps that favor the Apple ecosystem.

PayPal Here

PayPal Here review: One of the top Square alternativesPayPal is an obvious choice for a lot of retailers, especially those who sell online as well as in person. If you’re not interested in eCommerce, PayPal is still a good option because it does integrate with some very well known POS systems. PayPal also has its own credit card processing app, PayPal Here.

While PayPal Here is not quite as robust as the other options on this list (especially regarding inventory), it’s a very stable app with great pricing (2.7% per swipe/dip/tap) and a wide array of supported devices and compatible hardware. It’s the only app on this list to support Windows devices at all, and the phones on your tablet or phone doubles as a barcode scanner for both Android and iOS. Plus, you get up to 1,000 free employee accounts.

Plus, near-instant access to funds through your PayPal account is a pretty awesome deal, especially if you get the PayPal Debit card. Add in free sub-user accounts with restricted permissions (something Square will charge you monthly for), and you can see why PayPal makes the cut.

Shopify

Shopify started as an eCommerce offering but these days it’s added a powerful POS app that also works on smartphones as well as tablets. Everything syncs up nicely for a seamless experience whether you’re selling online, in a store, or even on the go, and while the smartphone version of the app is more limited, it’s still quite functional. Shopify’s features definitely line up more with a full-fledged POS than just a mobile POS.

Unsurprisingly, that means it’s a bit more expensive than the two previous options on this list. Shopify’s plans start at a very reasonable $29/month for its online store. If you want the countertop retail solution, that’s a $49 add-on per month, but you don’t need to purchase additional licenses to add more devices, which definitely ups the value.

You can also create staff PINs without creating staff accounts — which means if only a few of you need admin privileges but you do have a large staff and want to track who is running the register, you can get PINs without paying for additional accounts.

However, I do want to call attention to an underplayed solution Shopify offers: its Lite plan. For $9/month, you can sell on Facebook and other social media platforms, add a buy button to your blog, and use the POS app. The caveat is that you can’t add the retail package to it — which means while you have the app, you don’t have support for the receipt printer or cash drawer.

ShopKeep

Like Shopify, ShopKeep is more of a full-fledged POS than a mobile unit. But unlike Shopify, it’s not an eCommerce solution. It’s an iPad POS targeting all kinds of small businesses: retailers, yes, but also restaurants and quick-service environments. ShopKeep specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses, whereas many of these solutions are happy to tout that they work for businesses of all sizes.

ShopKeep’s user interface is highly intuitive, but also feature-rich, which is a major contributor to its popularity. In addition to its advanced inventory tracking tools, you get employee time-keeping, customizable reporting, and more. It also has a record for excellent (unlimited) customer support via email or live chat.

Sadly, there’s no smartphone app support for processing, but ShopKeep does offer integrated payments. Merchants get an interchange-plus plan based on their volume, which is pretty awesome considering there’s no contract involved, either. Everything is on a month-to-month basis. There’s also an additional $69 monthly charge per register.

Honorable Mention: SumUp

While SumUp has a few limitations — it lacks, for example, the ability to process simultaneously on multiple devices — it is overall a solid credit card processing app. The app supports a solid item library and variants, plus convenient tax settings. While there’s no offline mode and no invoicing, SumUp does have an interesting feature in its SMS payments. The app allows you to send a text message to a phone, with a link embedded. Customers can open the link, enter their payment information and complete the transaction.

Pricing is identical to Square for retail transactions: 2.75%. There is no keyed entry option within the app, but the low-priced virtual terminal (at 2.9% + $0.15, even below Square’s rate) is a workaround, though not one you should use for the bulk of your processing.

While new to the US market, SumUp has been operating in Europe for a few years, so it definitely has experience in the processing industry, and so I expect it to see fewer growing pains than other new solutions.

Must-Have App Features for Retailers

It’s safe to say what app features a business needs tends to vary from one business to the next. But there are definitely commonalities — solid inventory management or the ability to print receipts, for example. Check out our comprehensive comparison chart below to see how these systems compare to one another. 

Square for retail review logo imageSquare PayPal Here Shopify Shopkeep SumUp
BASICS
Integrated Processing Yes Yes Yes (Other options available) Yes (other options available) Yes
Processing Rates (for Most Swiped/Dipped Transactions) 2.75% 2.70% 2.70% Interchange-Plus based on volume 2.75%
Monthly Fee $0 $0 Plans start at $9/month $69 per register $0
Number of Devices Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 1 (additional registers $69/month) 1
Tablet Support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android Apple Apple, Android
Smartphone support Apple, Android Apple, Android, Windows Apple, Android N/A Apple, Android
Email/SMS Receipts Email/SMS Email/SMS Email Only Email Only Email/SMS
Receipt Printer Connectivity Bluetooth, Ethernet, USB Bluetooth, LAN, Wireless Bluetooth, USB, LAN Bluetooth, Ethernet Bluetooth, LAN
Cash Drawer Connectivity Yes (Tablet Only, With Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Star Printer Connectivity) Yes (iPad Only, with Printer Connectivity) Yes (With Printer Connectivity) Yes (with Printer Connectivity)
Barcode Scanner Yes (Bluetooth for iPad only; USB for Android) Yes (USB for windows, device camera for iOS/Android) Yes (Bluetooth) Yes (Bluetooth) No
FEATURES
Split Tender Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Offline Processing Mode Yes No Very Limited No No
Full and Partial Returns Yes Yes Yes (including store credit) Yes (Check store credit) Full Only
Sub-User/Employee Accounts Yes (monthly fee) Yes (free) Yes (PINS/accounts) Yes Yes (Limited)
Discounts by $ or % Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Customizable Receipts Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Generate Invoices Yes Yes Yes No No
INVENTORY
Bulk Item Upload Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Counts Yes No Yes Yes No
Item Variants Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Item Photo Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Create Item From App or Dashboard Yes Yes Yes Yes No (App Only)

It’s worth mentioning that many of these systems have FAR more features that we don’t cover in this chart (think: virtual terminals, eCommerce support, supported integrations, etc.). If you really want to learn what a system is fully capable of, I recommend checking out our complete review of each credit card processing app.

Processing with Square or PayPal Here? Up Your Inventory Game with Shopventory

With retail environments, inventory is usually a major concern. Shopventory is a monthly add-on that works with Square, PayPal Here, and the Clover system (except Clover Go). It allows for inventory tracking and reporting, bundling, variants, and more. The biggest difference will be that you’ll no longer be using your credit card processing app for inventory reports or management. Everything will be done through Shopventory’s dashboard. Check out our Shopventory review for more information.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to software and processing, there isn’t a good one-size-fits-all solution for merchants. Every business’s needs are unique, so what works best for one business may not be good for another. Many of the credit card apps we’ve listed here have no monthly fees, and others offer free trials or a free pricing quote. They are all top-rated offerings, as well. The biggest difference you’ll find is the feature sets and little differences in the user interfaces.

If you’re on the fence about which to choose, I recommend checking out our full reviews of each product. Got questions? We’re always here to help, so please leave us a comment!

As always, thanks for reading!

The post The Best Credit Card Processing Apps for Small Retail Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business

Business financing is often a necessary part of growing a business, but when it comes to finding capital, it can be difficult to know where to start. Should you get a credit card? What about a loan from your local bank? Is there useful financing out there that you haven’t even heard of?

Read on, and we’ll point you in the right direction. This article discusses the most common (and some less common) ways of getting financing for your business. And, if you find the right type of financing for your business, we’ll give you the next steps to continue your search.

Want help finding a business loan? Apply now to Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders. We’ve partnered with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to bring you fast and easy business financing.

1. Business Loans

As you might expect, business loans are one of the most popular and versatile ways of financing your business. Most businesses will qualify for a business loan of one sort or another, and they can be used for many business purposes, from working capital to business expansion to refinancing.

Business loans come from many different places. While everybody knows that you can get a business loan from a bank, you might not be aware that other financial institutions offer business loans. Many offer loans that are easier to qualify for and have faster applications than bank loans. Here are places that commonly offer business loans:

  • Banks and credit unions offer business loans and other types of financing.
  • Nonprofits, not-for-profit institutions, and microlenders offer small business loans and other types of financing to create jobs and fuel community growth.
  • The Small Business Administration partners with financial institutions to offer business loans. Read more about SBA loans in our guide to their programs.
  • Online lenders, also called “alternative lenders,” offer business loans and other types of financing with fast, semi- or fully-automated application processes.

Loans come in many different forms. The most common are installment loans, in which the money is granted to the business in one lump sum and then repaid via incremental, fixed, payments. However, some loans might have special fee and repayment structures — you might find loans with fixed fees (like short-term loans), loans that have repayment rates based on the percentage of money you make every day or month, or other arrangements. In other words, with a little looking, most merchants will be able to find something that is suited to the needs of their business.

For more information on small business loans, check out our free Beginner’s Guide to Small Business Loans. Or, to read reviews of individual lenders, head over to our small business loans review category.

2. Business Lines Of Credit

Business lines of credit are a sort of hybrid between business loans and credit cards. Like business loans, with a line of credit, you can borrow a sum of money which is (normally) repaid along with interest in installments over a set period of time. Like credit cards, you can request funds at any time, up to your available credit limit.

If you occasionally need funds to make ends meet or grow your business, or you simply want a safety net in case of emergencies, a line of credit is an excellent tool at your disposal.

Credit lines can be especially useful to businesses on a timeline because you don’t need to apply every time you need to borrow funds. When you are approved for a credit line, you’re granted access to a certain amount of money from which you can draw at any time. If you have a revolving line of credit, the amount you can borrow will replenish as you repay outstanding debts.

Some credit lines, such as asset-backed lines of credit, can work a little differently. If you have access to a credit line secured by unpaid invoices, inventory, or other assets, the amount you can draw at any given time will depend on the value of the assets you have outstanding. These credit lines are normally best for B2B businesses.

Credit lines carry a few drawbacks — most credit lines have variable interest rates, which mean that your rates might change without notice. And, if you aren’t very good at managing money, you might find that you don’t have emergency funds when you need them. However, lines of credit are useful tools for many businesses.

In the past, it was difficult for all but the most well-established and prosperous businesses to get credit lines. With the advent of online loans, it’s becoming easier for businesses of all sizes to access this useful financing tool. Check out our guide to business lines of credit for more information, or, if you’re interested in procuring one, take a look at our favorite line of credit services.

3. Business Credit Cards

There are many reasons to get a business credit card for your business.

For starters, most credit card issuers offer rewards and benefits to merchants who have signed on with their services. By using the card, you could be earning savings in the form of cash back points (that can be redeemed for travel or other expenses). These rewards add up in the long run, and you might be able to save your business quite a bit of money. Additionally, many credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders, such as extended warranty, price protection, roadside assistance, and other perks.

Credit cards are also convenient ways to keep track of expenses and smooth out cash flow. If you put all your purchases on your credit card, you can easily see what you’ve been spending money on and where you might be able to cut costs. Because the money isn’t coming out of your own account right away, you can defer payments until a more convenient date. You don’t have to struggle to come up with money for expenses if you don’t have it at the moment, or it would be more convenient to pay later.

Of course, credit cards do have some downsides: the APRs can be expensive, so if you don’t pay your bills in time you could wind up with hefty fees that can be difficult to pay off. Additionally, some credit cards carry extra fees, like annual fees and balance transfer fees, which could eat into the money you save by using the card in the first place. However, if you are good at managing money, and spend time choosing a card that will maximize your savings based on how much you plan to utilize the card, credit cards can be excellent tools for many businesses.

Interested in getting a business credit card? Check out a list of our favorite business credit cards. Or, if you are starting a business, you might be interested in our favorite personal credit cards that can be used for business.

4. Merchant Cash Advances

If you need a one-time amount of funds, it might be worth considering a merchant cash advance. This type of financing can be useful for B2C businesses with strong daily sales.

In practice, merchant cash advances are similar to business loans, with the exception of how they’re repaid. Cash advances are repaid by deducting a small percentage of your daily sales; the amount you are repaying each day will vary along with your cash flow. These financial products don’t have a set repayment date, but are normally repaid in a year or less.

Merchant cash advances are an excellent tool for B2C businesses that need a small infusion of cash for working capital, business growth, or other reasons. Know, however, that cash advances have a few downsides: they can be very expensive, and the cost might not be immediately apparent because the fee structure is different than a traditional loan. Instead of interest, cash advance fees are calculated using a factor rate, which can obscure the true cost of the advance.

Head over to our comprehensive article on merchant cash advances for more information, or take a look at our reviews of merchant cash advance providers if you’re interested in finding an advance.

5. Personal Loans

While business loans are based on the credibility and strength of your business, personal loans are based on your personal creditworthiness and financial health. For this reason, these loans can be useful for entrepreneurs, startups, and other businesses that don’t yet have a credit history. You’ll want to give this option a pass if you have separated your business and personal finances, but if you’re not there yet, a personal loan can help you get your business up and going.

Personal loans are normally available from banks, credit unions, and online lenders. You’ll have to have a steady source of income, a solid debt-to-income ratio, and fair credit to qualify for reasonable rates.

Take a look at our guide to personal loans for business for more information, or check out our startup business loan reviews for reviews on personal lenders.

6. Crowdfunding

Rising to prominence due to the internet and some changes in legislature, crowdfunding allows you to finance your business via a network of your peers.

Crowdfunding is normally used by entrepreneurs to get a startup off the ground, or by creators who need money to fund a product. In a crowdfunding arrangement, the entrepreneur creates a campaign, which usually includes a description of their business or product, information about the founders and their partners, a rough timeline, potential problems, and other frequently asked questions.

Perhaps the most well-known type of crowdfunding, popularized by services such as Kickstarter (read our review) and Indiegogo (read our review), is rewards crowdfunding. You may not be aware that there are actually quite a few different type of crowdfunding available:

  • Rewards crowdfunding, from services like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, allows contributors to receive products in exchange for backing the business or project.
  • Donation crowdfunding, on sites like Razoo (read our review), involves funds that are donated to your cause. This type of crowdfunding is typically only used for nonprofits or other charitable projects.
  • Debt crowdfunding, from services such as Kiva U.S. (read our review), works similarly to a business loan — backers contribute money with the expectation that it will be paid back, normally with interest.
  • Equity crowdfunding, from company’s like Fundable (read our review), works when backers contribute money in exchange for equity in your business.

Between all the different types available, most entrepreneurs should be able to find a type of crowdfunding that will suit their business or project. Some less-than-sexy businesses, however, might find that they have trouble appealing to casual investors. While debt and equity crowdfunding — which tends to attract more serious backers — might solve that problem, some businesses might still need to look at other financing options.

Crowdfunding also tends to take a long time. Typically, the entrepreneur has to create a campaign and enter into a one- to three-month funding period. The funding period might require a fair amount of marketing, networking, communicating with current and potential backers, and other work to get your project funded.

Interested in crowdfunding? Head over to our startup business loans review category to read reviews of crowdfunding services.

7. Invoice Factoring

Invoice factoring is a financial solution for B2B businesses that invoice their customers. If you have cash flow struggles due to slow-paying customers, invoice factoring is a potential solution. Factoring is commonly used in industries such as construction, manufacturing, printing, and other B2B businesses.

Invoice factors purchase your unpaid invoices at a discount. While you’ll have to take a bit of a loss, invoice factoring can get you the money you need, when you need it, to keep your business going.

When you sell an invoice to a factoring company, you will receive most of the money up-front, and the factor will place a small amount on reserve. Then, when your customer pays the invoice, the funds are diverted to the factoring company, and you will receive the rest of the money in the reserve, minus the invoice factor’s fee.

There are many invoice factoring arrangements, depending on the factoring company and the needs of your business. You can find factors that require you to sell a lot of invoices or ones that let you pick and choose more carefully. Some factors require that your customers know about the arrangement, while others will keep it a secret, and so on.

Invoice factoring has gotten a bad rap in the past because some factoring companies employed poor practices, such as failing to disclose extra fees, requiring long-term contracts and monthly minimums, and other reasons. However, if you do your due diligence, you will be able to find an invoice factor that suits your business’s needs without employing poor tactics. Check out our Basic Introduction To Invoice Factoring to learn what to look for, and take a look at our comprehensive invoice factoring reviews to learn about individual factors.

8. Equipment Financing

If you run a business that relies on computers, manufacturing equipment, restaurant equipment, vehicles, or other equipment that might be difficult to pay for out of your business’s own pocket, equipment financing might be right for you.

Equipment financing covers two types of financing: equipment loans and equipment leases.

Equipment loans are similar to traditional business loans, but the equipment is generally used as collateral. In a typical equipment loan arrangement, the lender will cover 80% to 90% of the equipment, and you will be responsible for paying the other 10% to 20%.

Equipment leases are arrangements in which you rent the equipment for a certain period of time. In practice, some lease arrangements are similar to loans, because you have the opportunity to buy the equipment at the end of the leading period, but other arrangements are designed so that you can return or trade in the equipment after a certain period of time. Because you don’t have to purchase the equipment, leases can be a good option for businesses that only need equipment for a short time, or frequently need to upgrade expensive equipment (like computers) due to changes in technology.

Equipment financing, especially equipment loans, will most likely be more expensive in the long run than purchasing the equipment outright. However, if you can’t afford what you need, an equipment loan or lease is an excellent way to get financing.

Head over to What Is Equipment Financing? to learn more about this type of financing, or our equipment financing review category to learn about individual financiers.

Final Thoughts

Business owners have many financing tools at their disposal, but finding the right tool for the job can take some work. The above resources will point you in the right direction.

Need some more help? Merchant Maverick’s Community of Lenders is there for you. We’ve teamed up with banks, credit unions, and other financiers across the country to provide our readers with fast and easy business financing. With one short application, you can check your eligibility for all participating financial institutions. Read more about the service, including a step-by-step guide through the application process, in Mirador Finance & Merchant Maverick: Making Small Business Loans Easier.

The post 8 Ways To Finance Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Crowdfunding For Startups: 8 Tips For Launching

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startup crowdfunding

For a people who revere startup culture and the idea that one can bootstrap one’s way to business success, we seem to prefer the TV version to the real thing — especially as of late. It turns out that new business creation recently approached its 40-year low. Banks are retaining their Great Recession-era tight-fistedness and the costs of education, housing and healthcare continue daily to expand beyond the ability of most Americans to keep pace. Frankly, our veneration of the entrepreneurial spirit does not appear to extend to supporting policies that would actually increase people’s ability to take the financial risks required to start their own business.

Due to these factors — along with the legalization of equity crowdfunding accomplished via the passage of the JOBS Act in 2012 — crowdfunding has arisen as a means of raising startup funds. You may only be familiar with crowdfunding in the context of all the medical- and disaster-based campaigns that have been making the news lately, but crowdfunding is a viable way to raise money for businesses as well.

The fact is, for the right kind of new enterprise, a crowdfunding campaign can be a great way to raise a much-needed initial infusion of capital. The biggest crowdfunding site for startups, Kickstarter (see our review), has seen over $3.4 billion USD raised by product-oriented business projects. To be fair, this money didn’t just fall into the laps of the startups in question. Crowdfunding takes some work to get right. However, it’s hard to imagine that the campaigners who raised that $3.4 billion could have raised that same sum via conventional means.

Just know that you’ll have a lot of competition for those crowdfunding dollars. You need to go into it with more than just a good story (not to discount the value of a good story!) — you’ll need to tailor your campaign to suit your particular enterprise, and you’ll need to give your potential backers a personal stake in supporting you with the promise of rewards, profit, or both.

Here’s what you should do to prepare before you begin.

Table of Contents

1) Learn Which Type Of Crowdfunding Suits You Best

If you know anything about non-charitable crowdfunding, you’ve likely heard of Kickstarter and its rewards-based crowdfunding model. What you might not be aware of is that Kickstarter is but one method of crowdfunding available to startups.

Rewards Crowdfunding

Rewards crowdfunding is what most people think of when they hear the term “crowdfunding.” Along with Kickstarter, Indiegogo (see our review), Patreon (see our review), and GoFundMe (see our review) are examples of popular platforms offering rewards crowdfunding. I’ll get into the differences between these platforms later on, but suffice it to say, these platforms generally involve raising money from The Crowd in exchange for rewards that are directly related to your startup’s mission. The platform will then take a cut of what you raise (except in the case of GoFundMe).

Equity Crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding is a different beast entirely. The field of equity crowdfunding is a new one. It was legalized by the JOBS Act, which was signed into law in 2012 and whose provisions have gradually taken effect over the last few years. The JOBS Act was seen as a way to facilitate greater access to capital in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Equity crowdfunding differs from traditional rewards crowdfunding in that instead of backing a project in exchange for exclusive illustrations or a gadget or tickets to a performance, backers become investors who receive an ownership stake in the company. Investing is much more heavily regulated than rewards crowdfunding, so it’s a more legally complex way of raising funds than using Kickstarter. What’s more, the JOBS Act provides for two similar yet distinct forms of equity crowdfunding: the type in which you raise money from accredited investors only (which basically means rich people) and the type in which you can raise money from non-accredited investors (everyone else). Most equity crowdfunding platforms, including Crowdfunder (see our review) and Fundable (see our review), offer equity crowdfunding for accredited investors only, while a few upstart companies like Wefunder (see our review) offer equity crowdfunding for all (sometimes referred to as Regulation Crowdfunding).

Debt Crowdfunding

Debt crowdfunding, like equity crowdfunding, involves investing in a security of the company in question. However, with debt crowdfunding, the investor is a lender who gets paid back on a fixed schedule with interest. From the perspective of a startup, getting into debt crowdfunding means you’re borrowing money — not from a bank, but from a crowd of investors. Kiva U.S. (see our review), Lending Club (see our review) and Prosper (see our review) are all prominent debt crowdfunding outfits.

If you’re wondering which of these three types of crowdfunding best fits your startup, here’s a quick rundown for you:

  • Rewards crowdfunding is best suited to startups in the business of producing content for people to consume. Artists, gadget makers, podcasters, filmmakers, and board game producers have all made good use of rewards crowdfunding.
  • Equity crowdfunding makes sense for startups with exponential growth potential that do not produce a singular product or experience to share with a crowd of backers.
  • Debt crowdfunding is for startups that need cash for a defined purpose and that have the ability to pay back the loan.

For more information on the subject, I recently wrote an article comparing and contrasting these three types of crowdfunding. Check it out!

2) Research Different Platforms To Understand Their Differences

Simply knowing the difference between the three varieties of crowdfunding doesn’t provide enough information for you to settle on a platform. For one thing, crowdfunders like Indiegogo and Fundable offer both rewards and equity crowdfunding. For another, the terms, fees, content policies, and even the structure of the crowdfunding campaigns themselves differ from platform to platform.

For instance, you might be trying to raise funds to build your own board game company and have your sights set on Kickstarter. However, Kickstarter is a more exclusive platform than most rewards crowdfunders — it might not accept your campaign proposal. What’s more, you might find Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing funding policy intimidating. With all-or-nothing funding, if you raise less than your stated goal amount during the length of your campaign, you get nothing at all. You might find a platform like Indiegogo more to your liking, as Indiegogo accepts any campaign that doesn’t violate its rules while allowing you to collect whatever you raise with your campaign regardless of whether you’ve hit your goal.

Let’s say you’re an artist collective seeking to put on monthly art exhibitions. The Kickstarter/Indiegogo fundraising-for-a-one-time-event model of crowdfunding may not be for you. You might find Patreon to be a better fit. With Patreon, backers (or “patrons”) sign up to support you on an ongoing basis, either per month or per creation. You won’t have to gin up a new crowdfunding campaign every time you want to start a big project.

Likewise, equity crowdfunders vary greatly in their policies — SeedInvest (see our review), for example, boasts of only accepting 1% of those who apply to crowdfund on its site, whereas EquityNet (see our review) accepts any startup applying to use its services.

3) Check Out Other Crowdfunding Campaigns To See What Works (And What Doesn’t)

When you’re raising money via crowdfunding, you have one big advantage over those trying to raise money via other means. If you’re applying for a bank loan, you don’t get to browse through every loan application ever submitted to the bank or view the result of every application. But with crowdfunding, in most cases, the data is there for everyone to see!

Kickstarter is typical for a crowdfunding site in that every campaign ever posted to its website is left up permanently, regardless of whether the campaign succeeded or not. For the creator whose ridiculous campaign never really got off the ground, this permanent record of failure may not seem like such a boon. However, if you’re a startup looking to identify patterns in past crowdfunding campaigns that correlate with success — as well as patterns that correlate with not-success — this data is quite valuable indeed. I would strongly advise you to make use of it! Don’t be too proud to emulate what has been shown to work.

4) Be An Intensive Self-Promoter

If you’re the modest, retiring sort who spurns self-promotion, get ready to change your approach  — that is, if you want your campaign to succeed. Spend some time promoting your startup’s cause before taking the crowdfunding plunge (Indiegogo recommends at least two months of prep time before launch).

Do the legwork necessary to build up your social media following before starting your crowdfunding campaign, so that when you launch your campaign, you’ll have a built-in audience that is already receptive to your message. Contact journalists who cover your field. Build an email list. Consider buying ads on Facebook or Twitter to promote your campaign. Unfortunately, with crowdfunding as with so much else in our fallen world, you have to spend money to make money.

Remember to tailor your self-promotional efforts to fit your audience. If you’re looking to conduct business with accredited investors, a hard-nosed, data-focused approach may bear more fruit than a flashier look-how-cool-we-are campaign.

5) Create A Professional Video

I suppose I could have included this point in the previous section, but I think it deserves to be emphasized on its own. According to Kickstarter, posting a video to go along with your campaign increases your likelihood of ultimately succeeding from 30% to 50%.

Here’s another example of “spend money to make money” — a professional video with decent production values will make your potential backers more confident in the potential of your enterprise than something produced on the cheap. I’d love to live in a world where one could devote all one’s energies towards their true passions and not have to set aside time and resources for salesmanship, but we don’t live in that world. So, make a video. Keep it to just 2-3 minutes. You can get personal, but make sure to hit all your main points about your startup and its potential. Don’t forget to mention the benefits backers stand to earn!

6) Get Commitments From Backers Before Launching Your Campaign

It might not be fair, but it’s not easy to attract backers when your campaign first launches. An adverse first impression can easily dissuade someone from contributing to your campaign, and seeing “$0 pledged” next to your project can be enough to cause a prospective backer’s wallet to close. That’s why it’s important to line up commitments from backers before your campaign launches.

Time to make your family and friends prove their love to you by securing their backing before your campaign goes live! Gather commitments from your followers as well. Remember how I mentioned that you should build an email list of potential backers? Here’s where you can put that list to good use. Email your followers immediately when your campaign goes live. Get some pledges early and it will be all the easier to get subsequent commitments from backers. Data provided by Kickstarter backs this up — while their overall project success rate is just a hair under 36%, projects that raise over 20% of their goal have a 78% success rate.

7) Don’t Be Afraid To Use Analytics

The use of analytics is the only way you’ll be able to tell just what kind of traffic to your campaign page is converting to pledges. Use whatever analytical tools are available to see where your pledges are coming from and how you can boost them.

For instance, Kickstarter’s Project Dashboard gives you access to a trove of data regarding exactly where your backers are coming from. This data is invaluable when determining where you should focus your marketing.

kickstarter

8) Stay In Touch With Your Backers

Show your backers that you respect them by staying in touch with them. Keep them updated on your progress. After all, these are people who made a financial commitment to you knowing that there’s no guarantee that your plans will come to fruition.

Monitor social media chatter related to your campaign to see if particular concerns pop up repeatedly. If so, do what needs to be done to address these concerns. After all, you’ll want to stay in their good graces if you want to launch another crowdfunding campaign in the future!

Final Thoughts

Crowdfunding doesn’t work out for every startup that tries it. If you do your due diligence, however, you greatly increase the likelihood that your campaign will reach its funding goals. Follow these tips, and you’ll have a fighting chance to get the funding you need so that you can ultimately focus on growing your startup, not on fundraising!

Jason Vissers

Jason Vissers is a writer, cereal chef and Netflix aficionado from San Diego. A native Californian who enjoys the beach, Jason nonetheless prefers to do his surfing on the World Wide Web, the raddest wave of them all. Jason can’t eat raisins.

Jason Vissers

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Thank You Page Best Practices, Ideas & Examples

A visitor has taken some sort of action on your site… hurray!

Before you celebrate too much, let’s talk about your Thank You page.

The Thank You page is one of the most underrated pages on a website. We often focus so much on getting someone to take an action (like purchasing a product, signing up for a webinar, downloading a whitepaper) that we forget how valuable a Thank You page can be, or the effort we should put into it.

A Thank You page, when used correctly, can be a crucial part of nurturing your audience.

But before we dive into some best practices, let’s cover the basics.

What is a Thank You Page?

A Thank You page is where a visitor is taken after completing a desired action on your website. It’s also sometimes referred to as a “confirmation” page because it confirms an action was taken.

A Thank You page can follow up any desired action on your site, from filling out a contact form to subscribing to an email newsletter or purchasing a product on your site.

Do I Need a Thank You Page?

If you have some sort of action you want visitors to take (also known as a “conversion” in marketing speak), then you absolutely need a Thank You page on your website.

This page not only serves as a way to confirm the action was taken successfully, but it also allows you to continue to engage your visitors, especially while they’re still “warm” (sales jargon for they’re more likely to want to interact/do business with you).

A visitor who has just taken an action on your site is incredibly valuable because they’re indicating they’re interested in you and what you have to offer. An effective Thank You page is a way to further that relationship and keep that interest growing.

Plus, saying thank you after your audience does something on your site is just plain polite.

Thank You Page vs. Thank You Message

A lot of forms and landing pages include built-in functionality to display a confirmation message once an action is completed. This functionality generally keeps users on the same page and simply replaces the form/download button/purchase area with a thank you message.

While showing this message is enough to confirm the action, in most cases, it doesn’t do much for continuing to engage with your audience. This is where a dedicated Thank You page can do wonders for your post-conversion opportunities.

By leveraging an individual page instead of a message on the existing page, you have more flexibility and opportunities to increase engagement, share relevant content, and provide additional opportunities to convert.

For more about thank you pages vs. thank you messages, check out this article by Hubspot.

Thank You Page Best Practices

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into the details. Here are seven Thank You page best practices you can implement on your own site.

Give Confirmation

The first thing your Thank You page should do is confirm whatever action your visitor just took was completed successfully. For example, if they’ve just subscribed to your weekly newsletter, your page might say something like, “Thank you for subscribing to our weekly newsletter.”

Your Thank You page should also confirm any relevant details relating to the conversion, such as how long it will take you to respond after they’ve filled out a contact form, or when they can expect to receive the whitepaper they’ve opted-in for.

ShivarWeb Thank You Page

Ex: ShivarWeb

Remember, this is someone who has indicated interest in your business. You want them to feel valued right off the bat and to know that the action they took actually worked. The best way to do that is to confirm all of the details as soon as they finish the conversion.

Include Navigation

One of the worst things you can do on your Thank You page is keep your audience stranded there. These are people who have just indicated they’re into what you have to offer, which means this is the perfect time to keep them hanging around your site!

At the very least, your Thank You page should include your website’s navigation to allow your audience to stick around and explore your site some more.

The Skimm thank you page

Ex: The Skimm

Provide Related Content/Actions

Aside from using your navigation to give your audience an opportunity to stick around, your Thank You page is also a great place to provide related content or additional actions your lead may find interesting.

For example, if they’ve just opted-in to a whitepaper, you could provide related content on the same or a similar subject. This is a great way to continue to “warm up” your visitors (AKA make their interest in you grow) without being overly sales-y.

You could also use this opportunity to lead your users further “down the funnel” (the next step closer to purchasing) by offering another relevant action. For example, Hubspot offers a free session to learn more about their software after you opt-in to download one of their guides.

Hubspot Thank You Page

Ex: HubSpot

If your Thank You page shows when a visitor has already taken a purchasing action, you can still use related content to keep them engaged. The easiest way to do so is to display related items they may also be interested in — Amazon is renowned for doing just that!

Amazon Related Items

Ex: Amazon

Add an Offer/Promotion

Did a customer just enter to win a free product? Why not offer a coupon code to encourage them to purchase something sooner?

Adding an offer or promotion can be an excellent way to encourage warm visitors to convert, or to increase the value of a converting customer by enticing them to purchase additional items.

Keep in mind that your offer should be something relevant to their action and worthy of their attention. You don’t want to come across as spammy over overly sales-y. You want to provide something that feels uniquely valuable to your audience and relates to whatever action they just took.

Get Social

Encouraging people to connect with you on social media is a great way to further connect with a warm audience.

Instead of just leaving links to your social profiles, take it a step further and tell visitors why they should follow you. What can they expect to see if on they follow you? News about your business? Tips and tricks related to the action they just took? Spell out the value and make it clear it’s worth it.

katelyn dramis thank you page

Ex: Katelyn Dramis

You can also use your Thank You page as an opportunity to spread the word about your business. This works particularly well for actions like webinar registrations and offer redemptions.

If your Thank You page is confirming an offer redemption or webinar sign-up, include social share buttons to encourage your converters to spread the word on social media with their friends. They obviously think what you have to offer is worth signing up for! There’s a good chance they’ll spread the word for you, too.

Show Off Testimonials

Even if your visitor has just completed a purchase, your Thank You page can still be a place of reassurance that you’re as great as you say you are.

Use your page as an opportunity to show off social proof, whether it be customer testimonials, the number of social media fans you have, or a quick stat or case study.

Your Thank You page should continue to warm your visitors and encourage them either to purchase down the road or to purchase again. Using social proof to help reassure them that you’re the real deal can help this process significantly.

Encourage Opt-Ins & Account Sign-Ups

A Thank You page is the perfect time to ask your audience to become a regular part of your community and an ongoing converter.

For e-commerce businesses, asking your purchases to create an account after converting can yield far more results than asking prior to purchase (and can reduce cart abandonment).

If your business doesn’t include the opportunity for customers to create accounts, you can still invite converters to be regulars by asking them to opt-in to your email newsletter on your Thank You page. Make sure you specify why your audience would want to subscribe to your newsletter — what is it you’ll be offering that makes it worthwhile?

Conclusion & Next Steps

Your Thank You page can be an amazing tool in your sales arsenal if used correctly. Don’t let all of your focus go toward the conversion — spend adequate time on your confirmation page and yield the benefits time and time again.

Start by taking a look at your own Thank You page. Does it confirm the action your visitor took? Does it offer opportunities to stay engaged with your business? If it doesn’t, start by introducing one way for users to continue to interact with you.

Remember, like all pages on your website, your Thank You page isn’t set in stone. Test one approach to adding some meat to your page (like adding related content or a call-to-action to follow you on social media) and see how it works. Then, adapt!

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How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

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How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

One of the best ways to stay on top of business finances is to budget. QuickBooks allows you to create a yearly budget for your business.

While deciding on a budget can be a bit time-consuming, actually creating a budget in QuickBooks Pro only takes six steps.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how to set up your budget, choose the proper budgeting options, and run budgeting reports.

Table of Contents

Create A Budget

To begin, go to Company > Planning & Budgeting > Set Up Budgets.

Step 1: Select Budget Year

Use the arrows to select the year for which you want to create this budget.

How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

Step 2: Choose Budget Type

Choose the budget type. You can create a Profit and Loss budget or a Balance Sheet budget.

The Profit and Loss budget offers a more complete view of your yearly activity, whereas the Balance Sheet budget deals predominantly with your ending balances. For our sample company, we’re going to choose the Profit and Loss option.

How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

Once you select Profit and Loss, click the blue “Next” button at the bottom of the screen. If you select Balance Sheet, click the blue “Finish” button and proceed to step 5.

Step 3: Add Additional Criteria (Optional)

If you want, you can create budgets for specific customers and jobs by clicking the “Customer:Job” option. Or, you can click “No additional criteria” to make a general yearly budget.

How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

Once you’ve decided, click the blue “Next” bottom at the bottom of the screen.

Step 4: Choose Budget Creation Preferences

Choose between “create budget from scratch” or “create budget from previous year’s data.”

How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

Using previous years’ data can be helpful and provide insight when creating a budget. However, our sample company is brand new, so we’re going to select the first option.

Step 5: Enter Your Budget

Now enter your budget goals for each month and each account. This part takes some time and thought.

I recommend using QuickBooks reports to help give you some insight into your sales and expense patterns. Learn how to take advantage of reports by reading How To Run Reports In QuickBooks Pro.

Tip: Make your budget practical. If you want to have $5,000 in sales each month, don’t just put the number in QuickBooks. Break that goal down into actionable, manageable steps. Think of practical marketing and advertising practices that could help you reach this goal.

Step 6: Save

Once your budget starts to look something like this, it’s time to save your masterpiece.

How To Create A Budget In QuickBooks Pro

To save your budget, click “Save.”

At any time, you can run reports to view the status of your budget. QuickBooks Pro offers the following budget reports:

  • Budget Overview
  • Budget vs. Actual
  • Profit & Loss Budget Performance
  • Budget vs. Actual Graph

For troubleshooting issues, check out the QuickBooks Community or call QuickBooks directly. If you have any further questions, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to help you.

Chelsea Krause

Chelsea Krause is a writer, avid reader, and researcher. In addition to loving writing, she became interested in accounting software because of her constant desire to learn something new and understand how things work. When she’s not working or daydreaming about her newest story, she can be found drinking obscene amounts of coffee, reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or Ray Bradbury, kayaking and hiking, or watching The X-Files with her husband.

Chelsea Krause

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