How To Start And Finance An Auto Body Shop Business

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

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

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

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

Create A Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find A Location

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

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

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

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

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

Register Your Business

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

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

Sole Proprietorship

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

Partnership

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

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

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

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

Corporation

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

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

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

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

Calculate Your Startup Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seek Funding

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

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

Personal Savings

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

Friends & Family

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

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

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

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

Personal Loans For Business

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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

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

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

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

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

Lines Of Credit

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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

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

Minimum requirements to receive a Fundbox line of credit are:

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

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

Business Credit Cards

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

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

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

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

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

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Financing

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

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

Recommended Option: Behalf

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

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

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

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

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

Accounting Software

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

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

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

Auto Repair Invoice Software

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

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

Payment Processing Software

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

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

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

Hire Employees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bolster Your Web Presence

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

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

Create Social Media Profiles

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

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

Create A Website

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

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

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

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

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

Advertise Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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How To Use PayPal In Stores (And Other PayPal Questions)

The name PayPal is synonymous with P2P payments and digital wallets for consumers, but over the years PayPal has also dabbled in creating options for users to pay with their PayPal balances in stores. Despite a few failed attempts, PayPal seems to finally have worked out the kinks in the process. PayPal users can now use near field communication (NFC) technology to spend their balances at brick-and-mortar shops.

Wondering “how do I pay with PayPal in stores?” Do you have other questions about PayPal payments or how PayPal works in general? The answers aren’t always easy to find. Thankfully, Merchant Maverick is here to help. Let’s take a look at the answers to these questions and more and set the record straight about all things PayPal!

How Do You Pay With PayPal In A Physical Store?

If you have a PayPal balance and you want to spend it in a brick-and-mortar store, you actually have two options: NFC-based payment using your Android phone, or a PayPal-issued card (of which there are several options).

It’s also important to know that PayPal has discontinued two in-store payment options it previously offered: payment codes and the mobile phone + pin method. (Support ended for both on March 31, 2018.)

Let’s start with looking at the card options PayPal offers, and then we’ll talk about NFC payments with PayPal.

PayPal offers MasterCard-backed debit cards for business and personal users, depending on what type of account you have. For consumers, there’s even a prepaid card that allows you to load your PayPal balance in set increments, among other perks. These cards are linked to your PayPal balance and even allow you to withdraw cash from ATMs at no charge from PayPal (the machines themselves may still charge a fee).

PayPal also offers two branded credit cards (though, apart from depositing cash back rewards into your bank account, these cards have very little to do with your actual PayPal balance). The PayPal Cashback MasterCard (read our review) and the PayPal Extras MasterCard (read our review) offer different perks and incentives for their users.

Can You Use PayPal Credit In Stores?

Currently, PayPal doesn’t support the use of PayPal Credit in stores. Note that PayPal Credit exists separately from PayPal’s credit cards. PayPal Credit specifically applies to online purchases and offers 6 months of no-interest financing on purchases.

Where Can You Pay With PayPal In Stores?

There’s no specific list of businesses or locations that accept PayPal payments in-store, because the debit and credit cards are accepted by any merchant that can process MasterCard, which… is just about any business that can process credit cards to begin with. Likewise, to accept NFC payments, merchants need to have the appropriate hardware — specifically, an NFC-capable credit card reader or terminal.

How Do You Set Up PayPal NFC Payments?

At the time of writing this (February 2019), PayPal doesn’t currently support NFC payments from directly within the app itself. Instead, PayPal has opted to form a partnership with Google to allow Android phone users to connect PayPal to their Google Pay accounts and even make it the default payment option. That means in order to pay with PayPal in stores, you need an Android phone that supports Google Pay.

However, you can connect your PayPal balance to Google Pay from within the PayPal app. PayPal will ask you to set a PIN and also specify a top-up amount if your PayPal balance drops below a certain threshold or your PayPal balance doesn’t have enough funds to complete a purchase. (You should also open the Google Pay app and make sure that all of your settings are as you would like on the Google end of things.)

Samsung Galaxy users can also add a PayPal account to Samsung Pay if they prefer. Both options are easily accessible within the Settings menu of the PayPal mobile app.

Can You Add PayPal to Apple Pay?

Unfortunately, PayPal does not currently support NFC payments with Apple devices, and you cannot link your PayPal balance to Apple Pay or Apple Pay Cash. That may change in the future, but for now, it’s not an option. You won’t see an option to link PayPal in the Apple Pay wallet setup, or in the PayPal app on an iOS device.

However, Apple does allow you to link your PayPal balance to your iOS account so that you can use PayPal to pay for iTunes purchases, as well as iCloud and Apple Music subscriptions. By enabling PayPal’s One Touch feature, you can eliminate the need to log into your PayPal account to authorize each purchase.

How Can Merchants Accept PayPal Payments?

The good news is you don’t have to be a PayPal merchant to accept payments from PayPal customers in stores. (If you want to accept PayPal payments online, that’s another story and I suggest you check out our PayPal review to see whether the company’s merchant services fit your needs.)

Keep in mind that customers have two ways to pay with PayPal: using one of PayPal’s MasterCard-backed debit or credit cards, or NFC payments. The good news is that if you already accept debit or credit card payments, you don’t need to do anything more to accept PayPal cards. As long as your agreement includes MasterCard processing (and it almost certainly does), you’re good to go! If you don’t currently accept credit/debit cards and are considering making the leap, we recommend checking out our top-rated credit card processors as a starting point!

For most customers to pay with NFC via Google Pay, you (the merchant) need to have NFC-enabled hardware. Look for the contactless payment symbol on your credit card reader/terminal, or check the specs in the user manual or online. Samsung Pay users can use a nifty feature called MST (magnetic secure transmission) to emulate a card swipe even if the terminal doesn’t support NFC hardware, but you likely won’t see this feature used very often.

Now What?

PayPal offers an almost dizzying array of payment tools for both consumers and merchants, and it’s likely we’ll see the features list grow even longer in the future. Will we see NFC support in the PayPal app directly, or added support for Apple Pay? Currently, that’s an unknown, but in the meantime, we can all appreciate the fact that the future has finally arrived and we can actually spend our PayPal balances in stores — not just online.

The post How To Use PayPal In Stores (And Other PayPal Questions) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Mobile Credit Card Readers For iPhone and iPad

If you’re in the market for a mobile card reader and a credit card processing app, there’s no shortage of options. The trick is finding the right option for a given business. One of the big factors that determine which apps are suitable is what kind of smartphone or tablet you have. Fortunately, if you have an iOS device — that is, an iPhone or an iPad — you have plenty of options.

Our Top Picks For iOS-Based Credit Card Readers & Mobile Apps

The first decision when choosing a card reader and mobile processing app is selecting the device itself. For the most part, iOS-compatible mobile apps and readers support iPhones and iPads alike with no major issues. But after you’ve narrowed down the list of apps based on supported devices, you’ve still got several other factors to consider — transaction costs, monthly fees, essential features, whether you want a standalone mobile app or something that supports invoicing and online payments… and that’s just to get the list started! The cost of the card reader and accepted payment methods are just as important as app features when you’re dealing with mobile processing.

So without further ado, here’s a list of our favorite card swipers and mobile apps for iPhones and iPads, as well as why we like them.

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Fattmerchant Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + $0.15

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$99

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$0

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

BBPOS Chipper BT (chip and swipe, $75; swipe, chip and contactless, $100)

Payment Depot (Swipe Simple)

Payment Depot (read our review) offers a subscription-based pricing model for its merchant accounts, with a host of software options for businesses to choose from (including Clover). Standard pricing plans for Payment Depot start at $49/month, with transactions processing at interchange + $0.15. However, if you’re looking for a mobile solution that runs on an iPad or iPhone, Payment Depot offers the Swipe Simple app, and Merchant Maverick readers can get access to special pricing that’s competitive even for low-volume merchants.

With this exclusive plan, you’ll get the Swipe Simple app and payment processing at 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction, with only a $10 monthly account fee. Remember, this is a Merchant Maverick exclusive, so you’ll need to use our link in order to get the special pricing.

Swipe Simple is a very functional credit card processing app. It runs on iPhone and iPad devices, as well as Android hardware. It even comes with a demo mode so you can test out the app before you sign up, which is always nice to see. There’s limited inventory management, but you can track stock counts. There’s even an offline mode. Check out our Payment Depot Mobile/Swipe Simple review for a closer look at the software.

In addition to the app, Payment Depot offers a choice of two readers. The Swift B200, a Bluetooth-enabled reader that supports magstripe and chip card transactions, is available to merchants for free. If you’d like to add contactless payments, you can get the Swift B250 for just $25, which is a fantastic price for an all-in-one card reader.

Shopify Lite

Shopify (read our review) is mostly known for its ecommerce platform, but it has also developed a quite powerful POS app that integrates with its online shopping tools. Shopify POS is included for free in all standard Shopify ecommerce plans, but if you don’t plan to sell online or only need some very basic online sales tools, there’s another option: Shopify Lite (read our review), which lets you create “buy” buttons and run a Facebook store for online sales, as well as giving access to the Shopify POS.

Shopify Lite will run you $9/month and 2.7% per transaction, which is a reasonable cost. The POS app runs on both Android and iOS, but an iPad offers the best user experience and access to the most features. However, keep in mind that the Lite plan is still limited even with an iPad; specifically, there’s no support for a cash drawer, barcode scanner, or receipt printer. That feature is only accessible with the Shopify Basic plan, which costs $29/month and includes a full web store with unlimited products.

Shopify also offers a free Chip & Swipe Reader for its merchants. It retails for $29 normally, which is still a great price for a Bluetooth-enabled chip card reader. We’ve reviewed the Shopify Chip & Swipe reader already, and you can check that out for a closer look.

Square

Square’s mobile point-of-sale app, simply called Square Point of Sale, gets a lot of love, and rightfully so. The app is free to use and you only pay a per-transaction fee of 2.75%. Square’s pricing makes it very attractive for low-volume and startup businesses, and there is an assortment of hardware options available. The Square Point of Sale app supports both iOS and Android devices, but certain features are not universally supported. An iPad gives you access to the vast majority of these features, but the iPhone supports all of the core features and many of the secondary, non-universal features. Check out our in-depth Square POS review for a comprehensive look at the free POS app and its features. For a closer look at the rest of Square’s products, check out our complete Square review.

As far as hardware goes, let’s start with the basics. Square has been offering a free basic magstripe reader for a long time, and it still does. (Note: you can also get the Square reader in some retail stores for $10.) However, the removal of the 3.5mm headphone jack from newer iPhone models has complicated matters somewhat. Square responded by rolling out a Lightning port magstripe reader. When you sign up for your free Square account, you can choose which model of reader you need. Square no longer offers multiple free readers; after the first one, you’ll pay $10 per reader.

However, it’s important to also consider accepting EMV chip cards, especially if you’re doing a consistent volume of business or large transactions. Square’s Contactless + Chip Reader supports both EMV and contactless NFC payments. It includes a separate magstripe reader for swipe transactions.

The Contactless + Chip Reader sells for $49, but Square does offer financing for hardware purchases that cost at least $49 (convenient, isn’t it?). You can also purchase cash drawers, receipt printers, and even tablet stands directly from Square.

Want to know more about Square’s hardware? Check out A Guide to Square Credit Card Readers & POS Bundles for an in-depth look at your options.

Fattmerchant Mobile

Fattmerchant Mobile isn’t an option that I talk about a lot, mostly because it’s best targeted at high-volume businesses. However, until recently, it was an iOS-exclusive, and even now, the iOS platform is more robust than its Android counterpart. Fattmerchant (read our review) offers customers their own merchant accounts, which translates to a high degree of account stability. Its Omni platform, which includes the mobile processing app, invoicing, and a customer database and inventory management, combines many core features in a single platform. Check out our Fattmerchant Mobile review for a more comprehensive look at the app and its features.

Fattmerchant operates on a subscription pricing model, with a monthly fee that starts at $99/month. Mobile and invoice transactions cost interchange fees + $0.15 per transactions — there’s no percentage markup at all. However, if you opt for the mobile credit card carder, you’ll get the card-present rate of interchange fees + $0.08 per transaction. You can simply key in all the transactions if you prefer — just know that you’ll pay higher interchange fees in addition to the $0.15 markup.

Fattmerchant offers a choice of two different card readers, the BBPOS Chipper BT and the BBPOS Chipper X2 BT. The Chipper BT model supports both magstripe and chip card transactions and connects to your device via Bluetooth. It goes for $75. The Chipper X2 adds contactless payment support to the magstripe and chip card readers and also connects via Bluetooth. It goes for $100.

Honorable Mentions

While I have no qualms with saying the four options I’ve presented are the best of the best, there are a couple of other mobile apps and card readers that are good options for iPhone and iPad users. So let’s talk about them!

PayPal Here

PayPal Here integrates with the rest of PayPal’s services so that you can sell online and in person seamlessly, much like Square. While it doesn’t offer quite as many features as Square, it’s still a very functional mobile app. Check out our PayPal Here review for a closer look at all the features.

PayPal Here processes payments at 2.7% per transaction, with keyed entry at 3.5% + $0.15. PayPal no longer offers a free card reader. Instead, you’ll need to shell out $15 to get its magstripe reader. PayPal will also place limits on your account if you opt for the magstripe reader, making it viable mostly for very low-volume businesses. As an alternative, PayPal offers two Bluetooth enabled cardreaders, starting with the Chip and Swipe reader, for $24.99.

If you also want contactless support, PayPal’s Chip and Tap Reader (retail price $59.99; bundle with stand $79.99). However, there’s another option for iPad users who want a more robust software option: Vend (read our review) with a PayPal integration. You’ll get PayPal’s 2.7% rate for payment processing with no monthly fee from PayPal. Of course, you’ll have to choose your Vend plan as well — and get the appropriate hardware. You’ll need the PayPal Chip Card Reader, which goes for $99.

PayPal + Vend POS
Advanced POS software
Easy credit card processing integration
Get Started For $0

SumUp

SumUp (read our review) isn’t quite as complex or feature-laden as some of the other options on this list, but if you just need an iPad or iPhone credit card reader and app, SumUp will get the job done. Payments process at 2.65%, and there’s no monthly fee to use the software. For a better idea of how SumUp stacks up against the competition, I suggest checking out our Square vs SumUp comparison.

SumUp’s cardreader, at $69, is definitely a little expensive, but it’s a beautifully designed piece of hardware. It’s Bluetooth enabled and supports magstripe, chip card, and contactless payments. You can also occasionally catch it on sale for a reduced price. I suggest checking out our SumUp unboxing review for a closer look at the reader.

Which iPhone/iPad Credit Card Swiper Is Right For You?

In payment processing, especially mobile processing, it’s impossible to take a one-size-fits-all approach, so it’s really important that you, the business owner, spend some time figuring out what features you need in a credit card processing app. You should also consider what kind of pricing model works best for your business, and do the math to see what you’d really pay with each option on your short list. And of course, there’s the card swiper, too. While a free magstripe reader might be enticing, you should really consider upgrading to a chip card-capable reader to protect your business.

App Name Square Shopify Lite Payment Depot Mobile Fattmerchant Mobile

Payment Depot merchant services review

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

Review

Visit Site

In-Person Transaction Fees

2.75%

2.7%

2.6% + $0.10

Interchange + $0.15

Monthly Fee

$0

$9

$10

$99

Monthly Minimum

$0

$0

$0

$0

Type of Processor

Third-Party

Third-Party

Merchant Account

Merchant Account

Account Stability

Good

Good

Excellent

Excellent

Card Readers

Free magstripe reader (Contactless + Chip Reader $49)

Free Chip & Swipe Reader (retail price $29)

Free Swift B200 reader (chip and swipe)

BBPOS Chipper BT (chip and swipe, $75; swipe, chip and contactless, $100)

The takeaway is that there is no shortage of great credit card processing apps for iPhone and iPad users! And you’ll get a great assortment of credit card readers to go with. Don’t forget to check out our companion article, The Best Credit Card Reader Apps to Android.

Thanks for reading! What’s your favorite credit card processing app and mobile card reader for iOS devices?

The post The Best Mobile Credit Card Readers For iPhone and iPad appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Top No Transfer Fee Credit Cards Worth Your Look

no transfer fee credit cards

If you’re looking for a credit card that can help you claw your way out of debt, you might consider transferring your debt to a card with no balance transfer fees and a 0% introductory APR on balance transfers.

With a typical credit card, interest payments on your debt can keep you stuck in that debt hole. If you can transfer your balance to a card with a nice long 0% intro balance transfer APR, you stand to save money. And if that card charges no balance transfer fees, all the better!

Generally, credit cards with 0% intro rates on balance transfers are more common than cards with no transfer fees whatsoever. In fact, with business credit cards, it’s quite uncommon to find a card with no balance transfer fee. Nonetheless, when it comes to transferring a balance from another card, some business cards are better than others.

In this article, we’re going to look at the best credit cards for balance transfers, both business and personal. However, here’s something I should mention at the outset: Most credit card issuers don’t allow you to transfer a balance from one of their cards to another. For example, you can’t transfer a balance from one American Express card to another Amex card.

For more details on how balance transfers work, go read our handy guide on balance transfers for small business owners. (Non-business-owners can take advantage of these tips too!)

Credit Card Balance Transfer Fee Balance Transfer 0% Intro Rate
Spark Cash from Capital One 0% None
Amex Blue Business Plus 3% 0% APR for 15 months
Chase Ink Business Cash 5% 0% APR for 12 months
Amex EveryDay Credit Card 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
Chase Slate 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
BankAmericard Credit Card for Students 0% for the first 60 days 0% APR for 15 months
SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card 0% for the first 60 days Prime Rate (currently 5.50%) APR for 3 years

Best Business Credit Card With No Transfer Fees

Spark Cash from Capital One

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


capital one spark cash select
Compare

Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


19.24%, Variable

Spark Cash from Capital One is one of the very few business credit cards on the market that does not charge a transaction fee on balances transferred to the card. As such, it must be the best business credit card for balance transfers, right?

Not so fast. While the lack of transaction fees applied to balance transfers is beneficial to entrepreneurs trying to climb out of debt, the card doesn’t carry a 0% intro APR on balance transfers (or purchases for that matter). So while you won’t be assessed a fee for transferring a balance to this card, the monthly APR on your transferred balance will be 19.24% starting the first billing period. If you don’t envision being able to pay off your balance within a few months, you may be better served by Amex’s Blue Business Plus card despite that card’s 3% fee on balance transfers.

The Spark Cash business card offers a great cash back deal: 2% cash back on all purchases with no limit to the amount you can earn. It’s great for business owners who just want cash back without having to consider which category their spending falls into. On the downside, a $95 annual fee kicks in after the first year.

Best Business Credit Cards With 0% APR On Balance Transfers

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express

Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The Blue Business Plus Credit Card from American Express might just be the best business credit card currently available for the purposes of transferring a balance. Why?

Two reasons.

First, the card offers a lengthy 15-month 0% APR period for balance transfers. (The card’s business competitors offer, at best, 12 months of 0% APR on balance transfers.) Second, the card applies a 3% fee (or $5, whichever is greater) to balances transferred to the card. While it’s true that there are plenty of personal credit cards that impose no balance transfer fees whatsoever, the Blue Business Plus’s 3% fee is lower than that of most competing business credit cards, most of which charge a 5% balance transfer fee.

Along with being a great business card for balance transfers, the Blue Business Plus also gives you 2 rewards points for every $1 you spend on your first $50,000 worth of purchases per year. What’s more, cardholders are able to purchase above their credit limit so long as they pay the full amount purchased above their credit limit each month (along with the minimum payment).

Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



Apply Now

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Cash card offers 0% APR on all balance transfers for 12 months. While this doesn’t quite match the Blue Business Plus’s 15 months, it’s still quite competitive as business cards go. In fact, many business cards offer an introductory 0% rate for purchases only (or not at all).

Unfortunately, the Ink Business Cash charges a 5% (or $5) fee on all balance transfers.

Apart from balance transfers, the Ink Business Cash is a top-of-the-line cash back business card. Here’s what your business spending will get you:

  • 5% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at office supply stores and on internet, cable, and phone purchases each year
  • 2% cash back on the first $25,000 spent in combined purchases at gas stations and restaurants each year
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Best Personal Credit Cards With No Transfer Fees

Amex EveryDay Credit Card

Amex EveryDay Credit Card


Amex EveryDay Credit Card
Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 26.24%, Variable

The Amex EveryDay Credit Card is a uniquely valuable personal credit card for those striving to get out of debt.

The EveryDay card lets you transfer a balance over with no balance transfer fee, provided you transfer the balance within 60 days of opening your account (a 3% charge will apply thereafter). You’ll also enjoy a 0% intro APR on balance transfers and purchases for 15 months and no annual fee.

While the Amex EveryDay card is a great card for cost-free balance transfers, you’ll also get a remarkable level of rewards for such a practical card. You’ll get 2 Membership Rewards points for every dollar spent at a) US supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases and on b) travel purchases booked through AmexTravel.com. Furthermore, if you make 20 or more purchases with your card in a billing period, you get 20% extra points on those purchases (minus returns and credits).

Of course, such inducements to spend may be said to run counter to the goal of helping you out of debt, but that’s an existential issue outside the purview of this article!

Chase Slate

Chase Slate



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Chase Slate card is a credit card specifically designed to help you manage your credit card debt.

It’s not an exciting card. There’s no cash back to earn and there are no fancy benefits to accrue. However, the card offers the debt-burdened cardholder three benefits. First, the Chase Slate card lets you transfer a balance over with no balance transfer fee so long as you do so during the first 60 days your account is open. After 60 days, a 5% fee will be applied, so transfer those balances early.

Second, the Chase Slate features a 0% intro APR for 15 months on balance transfers and purchases so you’ll have a decent amount of time to pay off that balance before any interest charges accrue.

Finally, the card carries no annual fee.

BankAmericard Credit Card for Students

BankAmericard Credit Card For Students



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The BankAmericard Credit Card for Students should be of interest to any student (yes, you must be a student to qualify) looking to consolidate credit card debt.

With the BankAmericard student credit card, you can transfer a balance to the card with no fees (provided you do so within 60 days of opening your account.) A 3% charge (or $10, whichever is greater) applies to balance transfers after the initial 60 days. You’ll also get an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on all balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account and on all purchases.

Additionally, the card has no annual fee and you’ll be able to check your FICO score for free with your Mobile Banking app or in Online Banking. There are no rewards to earn.

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card

SunTrust Prime Rewards Credit Card



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


13.49% – 23.49%, Variable

The SunTrust Prime Rewards credit card offers a unique deal to debt-addled consumers looking to consolidate credit card debt.

Like several other cards listed here, the SunTrust Prime Rewards card won’t charge you a balance transfer fee on any balances transferred within 60 days of your account opening. However, when it comes to paying off your transferred debt, all balances transferred within 60 days of opening your account will be subject to a Prime Rate (currently 5.50% variable) intro APR for 36 months. Now, 5.50% interest isn’t as good as 0% interest, but you’ll have a full 3 years to pay off your debt at this low rate.

The card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee, and you’ll get an unlimited 1% cash back on all qualifying purchases.

Final Thoughts

It may seem odd to use credit cards to work your way out of debt considering the fact that credit cards got you into debt in the first place. However, transferring your debt to the right card can, indeed, save you money on interest payments — provided you play your cards right. [Pause for laughter.]

Still looking for a credit card to fit your small business needs? Check out these helpful articles on the subject!

  • Top Business Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
  • Best Credit Card Offers For Businesses: January 2019
  • The Best Free Credit Score Sites

The post The Top No Transfer Fee Credit Cards Worth Your Look appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Complete Guide To Stripe Pricing And Costs

Are you curious about what makes Stripe different than other third-party processors like Square and PayPal? And if the costs are comparable? Come along as we explore Stripe — a lesser-known payment processing option that has definite potential when it comes to eCommerce.

Even though Stripe has less name recognition than competitors Square and PayPal, Stripe has likely processed many of your recent online shopping transactions without you even realizing it. That’s because Stripe powers payment processing behind the scenes for some of the biggest retail chains around — places like Target, Lyft, Facebook, Adidas, and Under Armour. Yes, Stripe has one of the most respected and well-trusted platforms in the world, but instead of providing branded, customer-facing tools like its peers, it focuses on delivering developer-friendly solutions with extensive code libraries and lots of customization options.

If you are looking for a ready-made, polished solution for eCommerce payment processing, Stripe may not be the ideal choice. A solution like Square may be much better suited to your needs. If, however, you want to build your payment processing platform from the ground up (and have the technical resources to do so), you’ll find a range of robust, world-class developer tools.

In this post, we’ll talk about what kind of payment processing Stripe provides (and why it matters), and then dive into costs associated with transactions and/or other handy tools you may need.

Overview Of Stripe

Stripe is a third-party payment processor — just like PayPal and Square. Traditional merchant account providers vet and approve each individual merchant, creating a single account for that business. Third-party processors, on the other hand, make it much easier for a business to quickly access payment processing services because they combine many business accounts together into one giant account. Stripe’s processing model relies on maintaining account volume to reduce risk for the group as a whole; for that reason, it can become a bit of a numbers game for them to remain profitable. If something looks fishy, they are more likely to terminate, freeze, or put an account hold on a business without a lot of warning.

Now, most of us feel a bit squirmy when we imagine our hard-earned revenue potentially held ransom in a purgatory account, but the truth is, freezes and holds happen only to a tiny percentage of businesses — and typically only after certain red flags have been raised. If you want to learn more about how to avoid waving some of these red flags, check out our post: How to Avoid Merchant Account Holds, Freezes, and Terminations. The majority of business owners will not have to worry about a freeze or hold, so it’s important to keep that whole issue in perspective.

Now back to the good news. Stripe has a lot of features and benefits for a growing small business, such as:

  • Transparent pricing
  • No monthly or termination fee
  • Payment security using advanced machine learning  
  • Libraries in every language
  • Display multiple currencies (add 1% for automatic conversion)
  • Versioned API changes
  • Test-friendly environment
  • 24/7 live chat and phone support
  • iOS and Android dashboard apps

And when it comes to creating the finished solution, you don’t have to do it all. There is a workaround for those of us who may not have all of the coding skills (or time!) to build it all from the ground up. Stripe has established platform partners to integrate a range of small business tools from accounting, automation, form building, CRM, inventory management, and booking — just to scratch the surface.

One thing we like about Stripe is that, unlike some companies, Stripe offers support for safe and PCI compliant migration of credit card data whether you are coming or going. Some third-party processors don’t support exit migration at all, so this is a nice touch.

Now that you are a bit more familiar with this platform, let’s check out the costs associated with processing payments.

Stripe Payment Processing Costs

Most savvy business owners want to cut to the chase. “Great, so how much does it cost?”

Stripe’s payment processing costs are straightforward, but your per-transaction costs will largely depend on the type of transaction you’re processing. Discounts and some pricing differences apply, so stick with me as we go through some different scenarios.

Online Transactions

For any eCommerce transaction (including in-app and mobile web payments), you are going to pay 2.9% + $0.30 per successful card charge. It doesn’t matter whether you process Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB, etc. — all cards cost the same to process. You also pay the same price whether you build your own site or connect to a third-party shopping cart.

Another great thing about Stripe is that you can accept international cards (for an additional 1%). If you need to convert the currency, however, you’ll have to pay another 1% on top of that. This is great for businesses that sell internationally, especially combined with Stripe’s ability to present prices in the customer’s local currency. 

Stripe also allows merchants to accept more than just credit cards, providing the tools that allow you to manage ACH and other payment options. Here is what it’s going to cost you:

  • ACH Credit: Starting at $1.00 per ACH credit payment
  • ACH Direct Debit: 0.8% per transaction, capped at $5
  • Wire: $8.00 per wire payment

Stripe also allows you to verify your customers’ bank accounts at no extra charge. That’s a nice touch. However, if payment doesn’t go through, you are looking at $4 for failed ACH direct deposit payments and $15 for disputed ACH direct debit payments.

In-Person Transactions

 

Stripe POS

Want the same customization for your pop-up shop or brick-and-mortar store that Stripe brings to your online presence? Introducing the Stripe Terminal!

For in-person payment processing with the Square terminal, you’ll pay 2.7% + $0.05 for each successful card transaction. But before you get too excited, Stripe Terminal’s programmable point of sale is currently in beta and available upon invitation only. You can request approval now, and if you are approved, you can buy a developer kit to run in test mode until they begin supporting transactions in live mode (this is expected to roll out very soon).

When it comes time to choose your reader, you can integrate with the Stripe Terminal through a combination of an iOS SDK and mobile reader or a JavaScript SDK and countertop reader. Stripe suggests the latter if you’re looking for a fully branded experience and have a strong developer proficiency.

Payment Security Note: As far as payment security and PCI-DSS compliance go, the Stripe Terminal is EMV Levels 1,2, and 3 pre-certified. So it can help a wide range of businesses get started without having to dedicate extra resources to payment security. But for now, you’ll have to wait to process live payments until it graduates from beta testing.

Does Stripe Offer Alternative Pricing?

QuickBooks For Nonprofits

We do get a lot of comments about the fact that Stripe (and other third-party processors) can be expensive for some businesses. Fortunately, Stripe does offer volume-based discounts for large businesses. In addition, you may be able to qualify for custom pricing if you run a nonprofit or have a unique business model. Stripe doesn’t give any hard and fast details about alternative pricing, however, so you’ll have to contact the sales team and discuss your business model with them directly.

Does your business process very small transactions ($10 or less) on a regular basis? The $0.30 per-transaction fee might be prohibitively expensive, and an alternate payment model catering to these microtransactions can save you money. Here’s what Stripe says about support for microtransaction payment processing:

Microtransaction support varies from market to market. If you process more than $100,000 per month or have a unique business model such as marketplaces, microtransactions, or unusually large order values, reach out to us, and we can discuss availability and options. In markets where microtransactions aren’t available, a common approach is to batch together multiple transactions from the same customer and submit them as a single, larger charge.

Stripe Pricing For Other Tools

Stipe offers a healthy selection of additional tools and add-ons. Below, we break them down for you and include information about pricing to help you make an informed decision.

Billing

Stripe Billing offers recurring payments and subscription tools built around the customer experience. For the recurring business model, you will have a lot of tools to help you engage customers and reduce turnover (more on that below). And as far as billing your customers with one-off invoices or setting them up for automatic recurring payments, there are no limits on how many invoices you can send, ever.

To be clear, all Stripe Billing fees are charged in addition to the processing fee (2.9% + $0.30 per successful charge).

If you’re only expecting to process a small volume of recurring payments, or you’re new to Stripe, the Starter Plan has everything you need. Your cost for using the Billing tools is 0% for the first $1 million of recurring charges, and then 0.4% after that. Stripe doesn’t charge anything extra for one-off invoices. 

For businesses that are billing at large volumes and want advanced features to manage billing from order cash, Stripe offers the Scale plan. You will pay 0.7% on recurring charges, in addition to the payment fees of 2.9% + 30 cents per successful charge to a card. However, Stripe also offers discounted ACH to businesses on the Scale plan, so there are potential cost savings.

Here is a screenshot from Stripe’s comparison of their Starter and Scale packages:

Stripe

The above is a long list of out-of-the-box tools you can put to use pretty quickly. Even just the business analytics, reporting, recovery tools, and webhooks make a compelling case of high value to cost ratio. Stripe touts that its recovery tools have “reduced payment declines for users by 45% on average and increased revenue by 10% on average.”

All-in-all, any SaaS or subscription-based business could benefit from the features in Stripe Billing — and Stripe offers a free trial with no setup or fixed monthly fees, so there doesn’t seem to be a downside to trying it out.

Connect

Connect is “the payments platform for platforms.” If you are a marketplace or a platform, you can utilize Stripe Connect to accept money and pay third parties. Connect is API-first, meaning you have the freedom to design a unique experience including onboarding, set payout timing, and integrated financial reporting, to name a few.

Connect has three account options including Standard, Express, and Custom. The cost for Connect Standard is included with Stripe — you have no additional platform-specific fees to add payments to your platform. Additionally, you’ll get a full Stripe Dashboard, dynamic risk-based KYC/AML checks, international support in over 25 countries, and hosted onboarding and verification.

Custom and Express Connect costs $2 per active account per month + 0.25% of account volume. With these accounts you can do things like build branded onboarding flows, control payout timing and funds flow, automate 1099 tax form generation and delivery, and have a platform management dashboard. The difference between Express and Custom is revealed in the names themselves. Express is a faster option requiring low integration effort to onboard recipients quickly and at scale (e.g., an on-demand marketplace), while Custom is an option for platforms to completely customize the user experience.

International connected accounts will run an extra 0.25% cross-border charge on monthly account volume. Additional fees also apply if you utilize Connect tools such as account debits (1.5%) and payouts ($0.25 per payout). However, as with Stripe’s other pricing models, the company is always up for discussing volume pricing for large platforms and alternative pricing options for low volume accounts. And if you’re a startup affiliated with Stripe Atlas Network, you can contact Stripe to learn about their custom startup package.

Stripe Connect

Sigma

Sigma connects you to your business data with a wide range of applications from business operations to finance, data analysis, and product management. Sigma doesn’t require any setup or ETLs; all you need to do is write SQL queries to create the custom reports on your dashboard. Pricing for Sigma is based on how many charges, authorizations, and application fees your business processed in the previous month. Fees start at $0.02/charge for 1-500 charges and incrementally decrease with charge volume.  

Radar For Teams

While all of Stripe’s payment processing software is fully PCI compliant and therefore meets global payment security standards, Radar is available as well. Radar bolsters your defenses through advanced machine learning. Radar learns from “hundreds of billions of data points across the Stripe network to help millions of businesses fight fraud.”

Radar is included with your standard and custom pricing plans. However, Radar for Fraud Teams is also available for an additional cost of $0.02/per transaction. Radar utilizes data and tools that support the detection and blocking of fraud, and it can decrease the false positives that block legitimate customers, too. Stripe has done a very good job at creating layers of security and data insights into their product — and you don’t need to dig into the code to make use of it because it all happens at your dashboard!

Is Stripe A Good Fit For You?

It’s pretty clear that Stripe goes far beyond your run-of-the-mill payment processing solution. The real meat of Stripe is its rich developer tools that give you the power to customize everything about the payment experience while giving you deep insights and analytical data you can use right away.

Businesses that want a fully branded, ready-to-scale solution — as well as subscription-based businesses, marketplaces, and tech-focused companies — will likely find all the tools they need and then some. However, for the eCommerce business that simply needs a reliable and secure payment processor, Stripe may be overkill. If you don’t have the technical expertise or don’t have developers on staff, you may never tap into Stripe’s potential. An option like Square may be a better fit. Square offers fast setup, no recurring fees, and up-front pricing that suits most small businesses nicely. Additionally, Square provides an extensive dashboard that reveals basic business and financial analytics with no integration required.

Not sure what you need? Check out our Stripe vs Square comparison or read our Stripe Review for an in-depth analysis. Or if you want to explore your options even further, check out How to Choose an eCommerce Merchant Account.

The post The Complete Guide To Stripe Pricing And Costs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Texas Small Businesses

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

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

Online Business Lenders For Texas Businesses

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

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

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

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

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

Fundera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundation

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

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

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

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

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

SmartBiz

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

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

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

To qualify for this SBA loan, you must:

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

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

To qualify, you must meet these requirements:

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

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

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

LoanBuilder

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

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

To qualify for a LoanBuilder loan, you must have:

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

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

OnDeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kabbage

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

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

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

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

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

LendingPoint

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

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

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

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

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Texas

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

Security Service Federal Credit Union

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

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

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

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

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

Wells Fargo

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

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

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

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

LiftFund

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

To qualify for a loan, LiftFund considers the following:

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

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

BCL Of Texas

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

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

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

Small Business Grants In Texas

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

Texas Workforce Commission Skills For Small Business Program

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

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

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

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

Texas Enterprise Fund

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

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

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

Texas Department Of Agriculture

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

Loans & Resources For Startups In Texas

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

SCORE

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

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

The Governor’s Small Business Workshops

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

America’s Small Business Development Centers

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

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

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

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

How Much Money Do I Need?

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

How’s My Credit Score?

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

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

Do I Meet All Other Requirements?

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

How Will I Use My Funds?

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Florida Small Businesses

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

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

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

Online Business Lenders For Florida Businesses

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

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

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

Lendio

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

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

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

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

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

SmartBiz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OnDeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fundbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

BlueVine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amex Business Loans

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

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

To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

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

Upstart

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

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

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

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

To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must have:

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

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Florida

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

Florida First Capital Finance Corporation

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

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

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

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

Suncoast Credit Union

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

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

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

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

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

Chase Bank

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

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

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

Small Business Grants In Florida

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

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

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

Enterprise Florida Inc.

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

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

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

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

WomensNet Amber Grant

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

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

Palm Beach County Job Growth Incentive Grant

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

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

VISIT FLORIDA Targeted Marketing Assistance Program Grant

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

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

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

Loans & Financial Resources For Startups In Florida

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

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

SCORE

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

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

Small Business Development Center

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

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

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

The Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center

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

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

Find An Investor

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

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

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

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

5 C's of Credit: What Lenders Look For

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

How Will I Use The Money?

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

How Much Money Do I Need?

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

Do I Meet The Lender’s Requirements?

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

Do I Want A Lump Sum Or Flexible Financing?

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

Can I Afford It?

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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How To Start A Lawn Care Business

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

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

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

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

Let’s get started!

Create A Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Determine What Equipment You Need

Selecting equipment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calculate Startup Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register Your Business

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

Choose & Register Your Business Name

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

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

Choose Your Legal Structure

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

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

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

Register With The IRS & State Revenue Agency

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

Obtain Licenses & Permits

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

Seek Funding

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

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

Personal Savings

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

Friends & Family

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

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

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

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

Personal Loans

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Upstart

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

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

To qualify for an Upstart loan, you must:

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

Equipment Financing

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Lendio

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

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

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

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

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

Lines Of Credit

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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

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

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

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

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Benetrends

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

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

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

Purchase Financing

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

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

Recommended Option: Behalf

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

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

Business Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Spark Cash For Business

Capital One Spark Cash For Business


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Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.74%, Variable

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Chase Ink Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



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Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

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

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

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

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

Bolster Your Web Presence

web builder template

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

Set Up Social Media Profiles

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

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

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

Build Your Website

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

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

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

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

Choose Business Software

Small Business Online Accounting Software

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

Accounting Software

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

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

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

Payment Processing Apps

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

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

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

Best Overall Mobile POS


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Highlights

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

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

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

 

Square POS: Always free

Field Service Management Software

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

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

Advertise Your Business

business loans for HVAC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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

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How To Set Up A Free Square Account

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

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

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

What Do You Need To Get Started?

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

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

You don’t need:

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

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

How To Create A Free Square Account

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

Sign up with Square

 

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

 

Square set up account

 

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

Create an individual square account for business

 

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

 

Square processes payments mobile online and square invoices

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

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

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

Square Point of Sale and Square for Restaurants

 

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

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

 

Square setup form

 

Choose A Magstripe Reader

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

Square Reader

 

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

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

Free Square Reader

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

Order A Square Reader

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

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

How To Set Up Your Square Dashboard

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

Square Dashboard setup

 

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

Add Items & Build Your Inventory

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

Adding an Item in Square Inventory

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

Create an Item Screen in Square Dashboard

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

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

Add an Item in Square Inventory

Create & Manage Locations

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

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

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

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

Manage Sales Tax Settings

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

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

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

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

Customize Your Dashboard Layout

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

Square Dashboard Customize

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

Moving Square Tiles in Dashboard

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

Review Square’s Reporting Features

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

Square reports

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

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

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

Manage Your Employees 

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

Square Employee Reporting Tool

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

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

Square Employee Permissions Mobile Staff Free

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

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

Employee Management Sales Reporting

 

How To Set Up Square Deposits & Funding

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

Square Instant Deposit and Deposit Schedule Tutorial

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

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

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

Square Card Small Business

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

Explore More Square Software Options

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

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

Choose Another Square Point of Sale App

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

Square For Retail:

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

Square for Restaurants:

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

Square Appointments:

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

Choose Hardware Options

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

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

Square’s countertop POS devices include:

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

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

Where To Go Next With Square?

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

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

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

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

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

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Shopify VS Etsy

Shopify VS Etsy

Tie

Pricing

Tie

Tie

Hosting

Tie

✓

Specific Size Of Business

Tie

Hardware & Software Requirements

Tie

Ease Of Use

✓

✓

Features

✓

Web Design

✓

Integrations & Add-Ons

✓

Payment Processing

✓

Customer Service & Technical Support

Tie

User Reviews

Tie

Tie

Security

Tie

Winner

Final Verdict

Review

Visit Site

Compare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopify’s eCommerce Options

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

Pricing

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopify Pricing

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

Shopify Lite Plan 

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

Basic Shopify Plan

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

Shopify Plan

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

Advanced Shopify Plan

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

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

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

Basic Shopify Advanced

Monthly

$29.00/mo

$79.00/mo.

$299.00/mo.

Yearly

$26.10/mo.

$71.10/mo.

$269.10/mo.

2 Years

$23.20/mo.

$63.20/mo.

$239.20/mo.

3 Years

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Etsy Pricing

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

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

Here are the plans:

Etsy Standard

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

Etsy Plus

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

Etsy Premium

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

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

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

Hosting

Winner: Tie

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

Specific Size Of Business

Winner: Shopify

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

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Tie

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

Ease Of Use

Winner: Etsy

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

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

Shopify Setup

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

Shopify Dashboard

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

Shopify — Add A Product

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

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

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

Etsy Setup

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

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

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

Etsy Dashboard

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

Etsy — Add A Product

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

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

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

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

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

Features

Winner: Shopify

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

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

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

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

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

Web Design

Winner: Shopify

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

Shopify Design

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

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

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

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

Etsy Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrations & Add-Ons

Winner: Shopify

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

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

Payment Processing

Winner: Shopify

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

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

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

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

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

Shopify Payments:

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

Etsy Payments:

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

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

Customer Service & Technical Support

Winner: Shopify

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

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

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

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

User Reviews

Winner: Tie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Security

Winner: Tie

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

Final Verdict

Winner: Shopify

 

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

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

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

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

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

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