Lowe’s Credit Card Review: All The Business And Personal Credit Cards Offered By Lowe’s

Does your business buy at Lowe’s frequently? Or perhaps you require a lot of hardware store shopping? Then one of the home improvement store’s branded credit cards may work for you.

With five options — all sharing the promise of discounted purchases — Lowe’s has built a strong stable of cards. Depending on your business, one may be right for you while other owners might pick something different.

Curious which Lowe’s card is right for you? Keep reading to find out!

Card Name Best For
Lowe’s Advantage Card Businesses that don’t need employee cards
Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card Small businesses
Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card Medium to large businesses
Lowe’s Business Rewards Card Businesses looking for a full credit card
Lowe’s PreLoad Card Businesses that don’t want to undergo a credit check

Lowe’s Advantage Card

Lowe’s Advantage Card


Lowe’s Advantage Card
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


26.99%, Variable

Technically a personal card, the Lowe’s Advantage Card is a simple store-branded card offered in conjunction with Synchrony Bank. This no-annual-fee card features a 5% discount on eligible purchases at Lowe’s. Note that the 5% discount cannot be used in tandem with coupons, price-matching, or various discounts, including military and employee.

If you’d rather have special financing instead of the 5% discount, Lowe’s offers two ways to opt out of the discount and into special financing. The first way lets you nab six months 0% APR on purchases above $299.

The second way enables you to receive special financing on purchases above $2,000. The APR changes based on how many payments you plan to make:

  • 36 fixed monthly payments at 3.99% APR
  • 60 fixed monthly payments at 5.99% APR
  • 84 fixed monthly payments at 7.99% APR

If you choose either financing option, the 5% discount will be voided. That means you’ll want to use a financing route only when necessary.

Beyond its benefits, this card can only be used at Lowe’s; you won’t be able to buy items from other stores. Additionally, its base APR is relatively high, which could be something to watch out for.

Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card

Lowe’s Business Account


Lowe’s Business Account
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.99%* or 21.99%**, Variable

Just like with the Advantage Card, Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card offers 5% off every eligible purchase you make at Lowe’s. However, unlike the Advantage Card, there are no financing options.

On the flip side, you do gain access to various cardholder promotions. There are also discounted delivery options for both in-store and online orders. As an additional bonus, you won’t need to worry about an annual fee.

Lowe’s further offers an online portal to view details about your account. This portal will let you pay online and view both prior statements and past activity. You’ll also be able to request credit line increases and download up to six months of account activity to Excel, CSV, QuickBooks, or Quicken.

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable


Lowe’s Accounts Receivable
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


5% – 18%*, Variable

Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card is very similar to the Business Account card; you’ll collect 5% off every eligible Lowe’s purchase without any special financing options. You’ll get some of the same benefits, too. These include cardholder promotions and discounted delivery on both in-store and online purchases. There’s also no annual fee.

Beyond the 5% discount, however, it does include a few more features. You’ll be able to establish and link accounts to one another in a secondary-parent relationship. You’ll further be able to request and manage authorized buyers, a solid extra for businesses looking to give cards to employees.

Lowe’s also sets you up with in-depth billing features. You’ll be able to track payments, view the details of transactions, and consolidate all statements for all linked accounts. The online portal further lets you request credit line increases and download up to six months of activity to Excel, CSV, Quickbooks, or Quicken.

Lowe’s Business Rewards Card From American Express

Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.99% – 26.99%, Variable

The only fully-fledged credit card on the list, Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express offers a way to earn while spending at Lowe’s, as well as with other merchants. You’ll net three points per dollar spent at US restaurants and office supply stores, and on wireless telephone services purchased from US-based service providers. Lowe’s purchases collect two points per dollar while everything else scores one point per dollar.

Points earned with this card can be redeemed for either Lowe’s or American Express gift cards.

On top of the points scheme, you’ll still get the 5% discount when shopping at Lowe’s, discounted delivery, and bulk rate pricing. You’ll also net 5,000 bonus points when you spend $100 in your first 30 days. The card further offers no interest on purchases during your first six months.

There are standard credit card benefits, too. These include employee cards, extended warranty for up to two years, purchase protection against theft and damage, and travel insurance. This card comes with no annual fee, although foreign transactions tack on a 2.7% charge.

Lowe’s PreLoad Card

Lowe’s PreLoad Card


Lowe’s PreLoad Card
Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (this is a pre-loaded card)

If you’re worried about a credit check, Lowe’s offers their PreLoad Card. This card requires no credit check when signing up. Note that this means it is not an actual credit card; instead, it’s a preloaded card that you top up by adding money to it via a debit, a credit, or a checking account.

Even though it’s not a credit card, you’ll still receive the 5% discount when you shop at Lowe’s. You can also issue cards to employees or subcontractors at any time. Money can be added to employee cards via an online tool that also tracks and allows you to budget employee spending.

While it doesn’t come with many of the standard credit card features, you will have access to Discover’s zero liability policy. This protects you against unauthorized charges when reported promptly.

How To Qualify For A Lowe’s Credit Card

For three basic store cards, you’ll likely want to have fair (also known as “average”) credit or better before applying. That means you’ll need to aim for a credit score of 580 or higher. The Rewards Card from American Express, meanwhile, likely requires a good score or better. For this card, shoot for a score of 680 or higher. The PreLoad card does not require a credit score.

Unsure of your credit score? Find out by visiting one of our favorite (and free!) credit-score-checking sites.

You’ll also need to be a US resident and at least 18 years of age. You can apply online and in-store.

Which Card Should I Get?

Lowe’s aims their cards at different types of customers. As such, what works for one business may not work for yours. Here’s a quick rule of thumb to help you decide:

  • If you are a very small business with no employees, then go with the Lowe’s Advantage Card.
  • If your business is slightly larger but doesn’t require your employees to have a store card, the Lowe’s Business Account Credit Card should be enough.
  • If your business is large enough that your employees need cards, then the Lowe’s Accounts Receivable Business Credit Card should work for you.
  • Businesses that are looking for a card that not only earns Lowe’s rewards but can also be used elsewhere will need to apply for the Lowe’s Business Rewards Card from American Express because that’s the only full-fledged card Lowe’s offers.
  • Businesses that want to avoid a credit check will need to sign up for the Lowe’s PreLoad Card.

The post Lowe’s Credit Card Review: All The Business And Personal Credit Cards Offered By Lowe’s appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Michigan Small Businesses

The state of Michigan has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, a welcome relief to residents following the fallout from the 2009 recession. Cities like Detroit are bouncing back from this bleak period, unemployment is lower than it was in the early 2000s, and more people are opening or moving their companies to Michigan.

Michigan is ranked top in the nation for auto manufacturing, and other industries are emerging throughout the state. This includes cybersecurity, defense, aerospace, and agribusiness. Michigan is earning a reputation as one of the most business-friendly states in the nation.

It isn’t just large companies that are headquartered in the state, either. More residents are opening their own small businesses to pave the path for a successful future. If you’re reading this, you’re one of those entrepreneurs … or the thought of business ownership has at least crossed your mind. One of the most important factors in owning and operating a successful business is having access to capital and resources. Fortunately, the state of Michigan has many opportunities for business owners — whether you’re just getting started or you own an established business.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the funding opportunities open to Michiganders. From national online lenders to local credit unions, nonprofit lenders, and startup resources, we’ll cover it all to help you get the capital you need to start or grow your small business.

Online Business Lenders For Michigan Businesses

The internet has made our personal and business lives easier than ever, so it should come as no surprise that you can get capital for your business straight from your computer. Online lenders make it quicker and easier to receive business financing.

Not only is the lending process so much more convenient, but online lenders typically have less stringent requirements for qualifying. For example, getting a bank loan is difficult, even for established businesses owned by people with high credit scores. But many online lenders will approve borrowers with less-than-perfect credit scores and histories, newer businesses, and businesses that aren’t bringing in high revenues just yet.

Many online lenders provide capital to small business owners in Michigan, but you can start your search for capital with these options:

Lendio

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The loan aggregator Lendio lets you shop your financing options without spending hours filling out applications. Lendio has over 75 lending partners in its network – lenders you can reach with just one application.

Through Lendio, you can apply for the financing you need for your business, including:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans: $50,000 to $5 million
  • Term Loans: $5,000 to $2 million
  • Short-Term Loans: $5,000 to $200,000
  • Lines Of Credit: $1,000 to $500,000
  • Credit Cards: $1,000 to $500,000
  • Equipment Financing: $5,000 to $5 million
  • Commercial Mortgages: $250,000 to $5 million
  • Accounts Receivable Financing: Up to 80% of receivables
  • Startup Loans: $500 to $750,000
  • Merchant Cash Advances: $5,000 to $200,000

Borrower requirements, rates, and terms are based on a number of factors, including the type of financing you receive, the lender you work with, and your creditworthiness and/or business performance. Turnaround times also vary, but you may be able to receive funding in as little as 24 hours. Filling out an application to receive offers through Lendio’s network has no impact on your credit score. However, a hard pull on your credit may be performed once you select a lender offer to pursue.

OnDeck

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OnDeck offers small business owners two financing options: term loans and lines of credit.

With an OnDeck term loan, you may apply for up to $500,000. With the short-term loan option, you have 3 to 12 months to repay your loan. This option is best for funding marketing campaigns, purchasing inventory, or hiring new employees. Short-term loans from OnDeck come with a simple interest rate that starts at 9%.

Long-term loan options are also available. These loans have repayment terms of 15 to 36 months. Long-term loans are best for larger projects, such as business expansion, opening a new location, or purchasing equipment. The annual interest rate for long-term loans starts at 9.99%.

Both short-term and long-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, 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

The other financing option available through OnDeck is a line of credit. You may qualify for up to $100,000 to use for any business purpose, including paying for unexpected expenses and managing gaps in revenue. The APR for OnDeck lines of credit starts at 13.99%. Payments are made weekly and are automatically deducted from your business bank account.

OnDeck lines of credit come with no draw fees. However, there is a $20 maintenance fee charged each month. This fee will be waived for 6 months if you make a draw of at least $5,000 within 5 days of opening your account.

To receive a line of credit from OnDeck, you must have:

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

IOU Financial

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If you need up to $500,000 to fund your small business, try applying for a loan from IOU Financial. With IOU Financial, you can prequalify in just minutes. In fact, 85% of all applicants are pre-approved for funding, according to the lender. You can receive funding in as little as 24 hours through IOU Financial.

With this loan option, you can receive $10,000 to $500,000 with terms between 6 and 12 months. Fixed daily or weekly payments are automatically debited from your business bank account.

Once you’ve paid off 40% of your loan, you may qualify for a loan renewal for additional capital for your business. There are no prepayment penalties, and you can save money on interest by paying your loan off early.

To qualify for funding through IOU financial, you must meet these requirements:

  • Own at least 80% of your business
  • Time in business of at least 1 year
  • At least 10 monthly deposits in your business bank account
  • Annual revenue of at least $100,000
  • Average ending balance of at least $3,000 per day in your business bank account

Credibly

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Credibly is an online lender that offers three financing options for small business owners. You may qualify to receive a working capital loan, a business expansion loan, or a merchant cash advance (MCA).

Credibly’s working capital loans are available up to $400,000 with repayment terms of 6 to 18 months. Instead of your traditional interest rate, Credibly uses a factor rate to determine the cost of borrowing. Learn more about factor rates and how they affect the cost of your loan.

Daily or weekly payments are automatically deducted from your bank account to repay your loan. Despite its name, these loans don’t have to be used for just working capital and can be used for other business purposes.

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

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

If you’re ready to grow your business, consider applying for Credibly’s business expansion loan. This loan program provides up to $250,000 with terms of 18 or 24 months and interest rates starting at just 9.99%. Weekly payments are automatically deducted to repay your loan.

To qualify for this financial product, you must have:

  • Time in business of at least 3 years
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above
  • Average of $15,000 or more in monthly deposits
  • Average daily balance of at least $3,000

Finally, you may qualify for a merchant cash advance. This is a little different from a loan because the lender agrees to purchase a percentage of future receivables. Daily repayments are made from your bank account based on a percentage of your sales.

With this financing option, you can receive up to $400,000. Terms are typically 3 to 18 months and factor rates start at 1.15.

To qualify for an MCA, you must have:

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

Kabbage

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If flexibility is the most important factor for your small business financing, consider applying for a Kabbage line of credit. Instead of one lump sum, you’ll have access to a revolving account you can draw from whenever you need capital. You can use your line of credit for emergency expenses, revenue gaps, working capital, or for any other business purpose.

Kabbage’s lines of credit are available up to $250,000 for qualified borrowers. Repayment terms are 6 months for draws under $10,000. For loans of $10,000 or above, you can choose from 6- or 12-month terms. Kabbage charges a monthly fee between 1.5% and 10% of your principal loan amount. If you pay your loan off early, you can save money on fees. If you haven’t made a draw on your line of credit, you won’t be required to pay any fees.

Kabbage bases its approval decisions on the performance of your business, so even business owners with credit challenges may be approved. You can be approved in just minutes for up to $100,000. Lines of credit exceeding $100,000 require manual approval by the lender.

To receive a line of credit from Kabbage, you must meet these minimum requirements:

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

LendingPoint

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Sometimes, you have to get a little creative with your small business funding. One option to consider is taking out a personal loan to use for business expenses.

Why choose a personal loan instead of a business loan? For starters, your time in business, business credit score and history, and annual revenues will not be a requirement to qualify. This is great if you’re a new business, have low revenues, or haven’t yet established business credit. Instead, lenders like LendingPoint will evaluate your personal credit history, income, and other factors when determining whether you qualify for funding.

LendingPoint has personal loans from $2,000 to $25,000 for qualified borrowers. You’ll have 24 to 48 months to repay your loan, with payments due twice per month. APRs start at 15.49%.

To qualify for a personal loan through LendingPoint, you must meet these requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a U.S. ID and SSN
  • Have at least $20,000 in annual income
  • Have a verifiable personal bank account
  • Have a personal credit score of at least 585

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Michigan

Prefer to go the more traditional route? Banks, credit unions, and nonprofit lenders throughout the state of Michigan offer financial solutions for your small business. If you don’t have a relationship with a financial institution or you just want to shop around your options, try these lenders first.

Comerica Bank

Comerica Bank has provided financial services since 1849. Today, Comerica has over 400 banking centers nationwide. In the state of Michigan, banking centers can be found in cities including Dearborn, Detroit, and Battle Creek.

For small businesses, Comerica offers financial services including:

  • Lines Of Credit: $10,000 to $500,000
  • Term Loans: Up to $500,000
  • Commercial Real Estate Loans: Bridge loans, land acquisition loans, development loans, commercial construction loans
  • Equipment Leases: Up to 100% financing
  • SBA Loans: Up to 90% financing
  • Letters Of Credit

Comerica also offers corporate lending services for public and private companies, including working capital loans, asset-based loans, and acquisition financing.

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Lake Michigan Credit Union is one of the largest credit unions in the state with branches located in areas including Grand Rapids, Kent County, Kalamazoo County, and Saginaw County.

In addition to business checking and savings accounts, you can apply for financing options through LMCU, including:

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

To apply for financing, you must be an LMCU member. Members must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live, work, or worship in the Lower Peninsula
  • An immediate family member is a member of LMCU

Opportunity Resource Fund

Opportunity Resource Fund is a nonprofit community development financial institution (CDFI) that provides financial support to small businesses throughout the entire state of Michigan.

Through Opportunity Resource Fund, qualified borrowers may receive funding for starting or growing a small business. Business loans are available in amounts from $10,000 to $250,000 with flexible terms and competitive interest rates.

This nonprofit lender considers several factors when approving loan applications. The first is collateral. All loans must be secured with collateral including real estate, inventory, accounts receivables, equipment, or a personal guarantee. Loans also require an equity investment of 10% to 15%.

Opportunity Resource Fund also requires borrowers to meet certain social criteria. This includes aspects such as demonstrating alternative business practices, providing employment to low-income individuals, and empowering woman- and minority-owned businesses.

Applications are available to download on the Opportunity Resource Fund website. If you’re interested, you can also fill out the online form to learn more about the application process and timelines for submissions and approvals.

Small Business Grants In Michigan

Reaching out to an online or local lender isn’t your only option when you need capital to start or expand your business. You can also look to small business grants to get the funding that you need.

Grants differ from small business loans and other types of financing because grant funds do not have to be repaid. Why, then, isn’t every small business owner leaning on grants?

The problem is that grants are few and far between. While you can search online and find multiple lenders in your area, finding grants is a bit more difficult. Even when you do come across grants, you’ll often find that you won’t qualify. Grants typically have very specific requirements, and many are only open to certain industries or women- or minority-owned businesses. There is also a lot of competition from other small businesses pursuing the same grants.

This isn’t meant to be discouraging. It’s simply a warning not to rely solely on receiving grants to fund your business. However, there’s no harm in applying for grants that you do qualify to receive. To kick off your search for a grant, check out these options that are open to small business owners in Michigan.

Community Ventures

The Community Ventures initiative is led by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Through this program, employers can receive wage reimbursements of up to $5,000 for each eligible “structurally unemployed” employee that is hired. A structurally unemployed employee is defined as:

  • Someone with a lack of education or functional literacy
  • Someone with a long-term disconnection from employment
  • Low income hires
  • Ex-offenders
  • At-risk youth

Reimbursements are given in monthly installments until the $5,000 per employee limit is reached. These funds are used to offset costs for training and hiring participants in the CV program. Businesses are required to report each month on hired and retained talent for up to one year. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact the MEDC Customer Assistance Center by phone or email.

NEIdeas

If you live in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park, you could receive $10,000 for your small business through the NEIdeas $10k Challenge. A total of 26 winners are each awarded $10,000 for coming up with the best ideas for growth.

To qualify, businesses must meet the following requirements:

  • Be an existing, for-profit business
  • Majority owner must be a legal U.S. resident at least 18 years old
  • Business must be in good standing with the IRS
  • Businesses must be based in Detroit, Hamtramck, or Highland Park
  • Gross annual revenues should not exceed $750,000

Home-based businesses and regional businesses based in Southeast Michigan can also apply. Franchises are ineligible to enter.

Program guidelines can be found on the NEIdeas website. Applications can be submitted online, mailed, or turned in to an NEIdeas Ambassador.

SCIP/TCA

Michigan Corporate Relations Network’s Small Company Innovation Program Technology and Commercialization Assistance (SCIP/TCA) program is designed to help businesses grow through collaborations with local universities. Through this program, small businesses can receive matching grants up to $40,000 to fund the cost of research projects at any public university in Michigan.

Any existing, LARA-registered business in Michigan that plans to remain in the state is eligible to apply. Getting accepted into the program is not a guarantee of funding. All guidelines for the program can be found on the Michigan Corporate Relations Network website. Applications for the program are also available online.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Michigan

Taking the leap into entrepreneurship is an exciting time, but it can also be intimidating, especially if you have no prior experience running a business. Fortunately, there are many resources available to Michiganders, including educational materials, workshops, mentorships, and funding opportunities.

SCORE

SCORE, a resource partner of the SBA, is one of the leading resources for small business owners. There are hundreds of SCORE chapters across the nation that provide essential resources to small business owners for free or for a low fee. SCORE chapters are located throughout Michigan in cities including Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, and Detroit.

Through your local SCORE chapter, you can receive free business mentoring from an expert. You can meet with your mentor face-to-face or connect through email or video chat. You can also pick up business tips through SCORE’s webinars that are held every week. If you miss a webinar, don’t worry — SCORE offers an on-demand library of recorded webinars. You can also educate yourself on a variety of business topics through SCORE’s on-demand online courses. Workshops, events, and educational materials are also offered through this organization.

Michigan Small Business Development Center

The Michigan Small Business Development Center offers great resources for startups and established businesses. There are multiple business resource centers, regional centers, and satellite offices throughout the state in cities including Hastings, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Dearborn, and Detroit.

All resources through the Michigan SBDC are free or low-cost. Services include business consultations, workshops, training sessions, templates, and educational materials.

Michigan Women’s Foundation

The Michigan Women’s Foundation provides capital and resources to women-owned businesses in the state of Michigan. Women that own startups or established businesses are eligible for the programs available through MWF.
Programs offered include business consulting, training and educational sessions, and portfolio management. The Michigan Women’s Microloan Fund also provides loans of $2,500 to $50,000 with 5-year terms and an 8% interest rate to qualified business owners.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

The good news is there are many lenders both online and in the state of Michigan that are ready to give your business the capital it needs. The bad news? You have to narrow your selection down to one, preferably the lender that offers the best, most affordable financing for your small business.

Sorting through your options to choose the right lender doesn’t have to be too difficult or time-consuming, though. When searching for your lender, keep the following points in mind.

Application Process

The application process varies across lenders. With some lenders, a little bit of business and personal information and a few bank statements are all it takes to get approved. Other lenders, however, may have more extensive documentation requirements and a lengthier, more complicated application process.

If time is of the essence and you don’t want to go through a difficult application process, choose an online lender with a more simplified process.

Speed Of Approval

You have an emergency that needs to be taken care of immediately. In this scenario, waiting weeks to get the capital you need could be damaging to your business. Or maybe your situation looks a little different. You don’t have an immediate need for funding, and you have time to shop around for the best rates and terms available to your business, so time to funding may not be as important.

Evaluate your situation to determine if time to funding is an important factor for you. If so, work with a lender that approves applications quickly. Some lenders can even have the funds in your bank account in as little as 24 hours.

Loan Restrictions

How do you plan to use your funds? This could be a determining factor in what lender you select. Let’s say you need capital to hire new employees. Lenders that offer equipment financing for fixed asset purchases could be crossed off your list.

Borrowing Limits

The type of financing and the lender you choose may be based on how much capital you need. For instance, if you need $500,000 to fund your new expansion or a new location, lenders that have $250,000 borrowing limits won’t be a good fit.

Rates & Terms

It’s always important to make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms for your situation. If you have credit challenges or you’re a new business, your options may be more limited. However, if you have a solid credit score, an established business, and a steady flow of revenue, you’ll have more lending options available to you.

No matter what options are available, always make sure you’re getting the best rates and terms. Think of the long term and not just the short term. Sure, you could have funds in your account in just one day with one lender, but high fees and interest rates and shorter repayment terms could spell trouble in just a few months.

Unsure if you’re able to afford a small business loan? Learn how to know if you’re ready to take on this financial responsibility.

Borrower Requirements

You may think a lender is right for you, but are you right for the lender? Every lender has different requirements for its borrowers, and you need to meet all of these to get approved for financing.

Before you start shopping lenders, start by getting your free credit score online and reviewing your credit history. Negative items like unpaid tax liens and recent bankruptcies may prohibit you from working with some lenders and qualifying for certain types of loans.

You’ll also need to know your time in business and annual revenues and have proof to present to the lender if needed. Also, be aware of documentation requirements and make sure that you have everything you need to be approved for a loan.

One last thing to remember is that meeting a lender’s minimum requirements does not guarantee that your application will be approved.

Final Thoughts

While no one is ever guaranteed success, having access to capital and the right resources can boost your chances of owning and operating a successful, profitable business. As you’ve read, there are plenty of opportunities available for Michiganders. Whether you’re in the planning stages of your startup or you want to take your small business to the next level, know and understand your financing options, evaluate the needs of your business, do your research, and move forward when you know that the return-on-investment will outweigh the risk of taking on debt.

If you didn’t find what you’re looking for in this post, check out some of our additional resources to help you find the right financial solution for your small business.

  • Minority Business Loans
  • Best Small Business Loans For Veterans
  • The Best Small Business Loans For Women
  • The 7 Best Business Loans For Bad Credit

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

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InMotion Hosting Website Creator Review: Pros, Cons & Alternatives

Website Creator Review

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

See Website Creator Plans & Pricing here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Is Website Creator?

Imagine website builders on a spectrum of convenience and control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pros of Using Website Creator

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

Convenience AND Control

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

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

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

Ownership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simplicity

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

Website Creator Bold Grid

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

BoldGrid Inspirations

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

BoldGrid Inspiration Customization

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

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

Integrations

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

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

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

Sign Up + Customer Service

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

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

Flexibility

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

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

Flexibility Website Creator

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

Onboarding/Training

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

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

Website Creator Onboarding

The account dashboard is refreshingly simple.

Website Creator Backend

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

Training Website Creator

Cons of Using Website Creator

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

Slower Sign Up Process

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

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

Learning Curve

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

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

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

Website Creator Getting Started

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

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

Website Creator Review Conclusion

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

Check out Website Creator’s plans here.

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

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

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

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What Is An Acquiring Bank?

Accept ACH payments online

Keeping all of the terms straight when it comes to processing payments can be a bit tricky. And there are so many entities involved in payment processing. So we’re going to start with one of the most important terms and players in credit card processing: the acquiring bank. We’ll start with a general definition of an acquiring bank, and then we are going to explore what it means for your business:

What Is An Acquiring Bank?

The acquiring bank is a financial institution that plays a crucial role for the merchant by creating and managing the bank account. Also referred to as an acquirer or a merchant bank, this financial institution is a licensed member of the card networks, including Visa and MasterCard. When you process a payment with a debit or credit card, the acquiring bank plays a role in approving the sale. The bank makes this determination based on the cardholder’s data (made available at the time of the sale from the issuing bank and the card network). Note that the issuing bank is the bank that provided customer’s credit card.

For instance, let’s say your customer pays you with a Visa card and taps their card to pay. Their card’s issuing bank makes information available about their credit card account to your merchant bank (acquiring bank). If there are enough funds on the card and everything else is copacetic, the acquiring bank approves the purchase and puts the funds in your account.

Now keep in mind that the term “acquiring bank” primarily refers to the specific role it plays in the whole credit card processing interchange. A merchant’s acquiring bank can be an actual bank, or it can be another type of financial organization. A large acquiring bank may also issue credit and debit cards to its customers, thus also acting as an “issuing bank” when a consumer pays with the card (this is the case with Bank of America). An acquiring bank is also sometimes referred to as a payment processor, and it might contract directly with merchants to provide merchants services. That said, not all payment processors are acquiring banks. 

There’s a lot to keep straight, but keep reading as we further de-mystify these terms and give you the tools to understand how money moves from your customer to you.

The Acquiring Bank’s Role In Payment Processing

The acquiring bank plays a pivotal role in processing credit card payments for merchants. When a merchant processes a payment, the acquirer’s purpose is to authorize the card transaction and connect with the issuing bank (the consumer’s bank) on behalf of the merchant.

In a nutshell, the acquiring bank acts as a go-between with the customer’s financial organization to ensure funds are transferred. In doing so, the acquiring bank assumes some financial risk (that’s where the acquiring bank fees come in.) We’ll talk more about security, disputes, and more in an upcoming section.

Want to know what happens to your funds in a transaction? Here is an overview to help you wrap your mind around the process itself:

  • 1st Step: A cardholder receives a credit card from their issuing bank and visits your shop. When they are ready to buy, they present you with their card to pay for your wares.
  • 2nd Step: The transaction information and the card information passes between the payment processor to the card network, and then to the issuing bank.
  • 3rd Step: The issuing bank charges your customer for the amount of the purchase.
  • 4th Step: The issuing bank transfers the amount to the acquiring bank.
  • 5th Step: The acquiring bank deposits the funds into your account.

Keep in mind that your payment processor may not be the acquiring bank. Read on to find out more about the difference in the roles and how you can find the right solution for your business needs.

Payment Processor VS Acquiring Bank: What’s The Difference?

When someone discusses payment transactions, the words payment processor and acquiring bank are sometimes used interchangeably. Some acquirers are themselves also payment processors and you can sign up for a merchant account with them directly. However, not all processors are acquiring banks. In this case, they contract with an acquiring bank to provide services. While they may or may not be two separate entities, the acquirer and payment processor roles are unique.

The payment processor plays more of a direct role with the merchant, as they are obtaining and processing the credit or debit card information during the transaction. Your payment processor handles the lion’s share of the data security as the card information moves from your customer to you. Processors are also the source of the hardware or software you may use. They provide connection to the payment gateway and thus are also integral to the authorization as well.

The acquiring bank is more of a go-between among the card networks, including the issuing bank and the merchant. For example, the acquiring bank essentially mediates any disputed transaction from the issuing bank. When an issuing bank reviews a dispute brought up by a customer, the card network passes the dispute to the acquiring bank, which then conveys the issue to the merchant. The merchant’s response gets passed back to the acquiring bank and so forth. This example is simplified but illustrates where the acquiring bank sits as it relates to you and your customer.

As mentioned earlier, though the role of an acquirer and a payment processor may be unique, sometimes the same organization fulfills both duties. In other cases, payment processors and acquiring banks have contract agreements with one another to perform their separate roles.

Why Does An Acquiring Bank Charge Fees?

As we’ve shown, the acquiring bank is the financial institution that’s involved in each sale and also assumes some financial risk when it comes to funds transfer during credit card processing. The other thing to keep in mind is that just like your payment processor, your acquiring bank is dealing with sensitive customer data and has to follow strict payment security standards. For these reasons, the acquiring bank also charges a fee to cover its own risks and financial investment in the whole process.

For more information on the different types of costs you may incur with processing credit cards, check out What Are Interchange Fees For Credit Card Processing?

How Do Acquiring Banks Affect Merchant Services?

Acquiring banks are essential players in the whole credit card processing landscape. As a merchant, it’s important to at least generally understand who the players are and how they may affect your business. It’s not always obvious who your acquiring bank is, as some processors and acquiring banks are separate entities, while sometimes you’re dealing with the same organization.

On a similar note, smaller processors that contract with acquiring banks often bring better customer service because of their specialization. They also may have different pricing and contract terms, such as month-to-month agreements. Keep the whole picture in mind when you are shopping around for a merchant account so that you can make the best decision for your business.

Wondering what companies are out there and which one is right for your business? You are in the right place here at Merchant Maverick. If you haven’t yet, visit our Merchant Account Comparison page and peruse our small business resources that cover the gamut when it comes to payment processing and you.

The post What Is An Acquiring Bank? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

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

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

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

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

What Is Small Business Health Insurance?

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

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

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

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

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

Am I Legally Required To Have Health Insurance?

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

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

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

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

The Basics Of Health Insurance

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

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

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

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

Employee A, aka Jenny:

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

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

Employee B, aka John: 

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

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

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

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

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

Why Should I Offer Health Insurance?

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

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

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

Happy Employees, Happy Life

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

Keep Your Businesses Competitive

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

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

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

Save On Taxes

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

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

Your Peers Are Doing It! 

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

Main Types of Health Insurance Plans

Small business health care coverage

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

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

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

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

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

The HMO plan is ideal for:

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

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

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

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

The PPO plan is ideal for:

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

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

Exclusive Provider Organization (EPO)

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

The EPO plan is ideal for:

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

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

Point Of Service Plan (POS)

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

The POS plan is ideal for:

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

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

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

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

Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangement (QSEHRA)

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

Which Type Of Health Insurance Is Right For Your Business?

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

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

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

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

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

Getting Started: Where To Find Small Business Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide To Small Business Health Insurance

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

Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)

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

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

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

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

Online Insurance Carriers

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

Join A Purchase Alliance

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

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

Use A Professional Employer Organization (PEO)

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

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

Hire An Insurance Broker

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

How To Purchase Health Insurance

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Health Insurance

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

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

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

Step 1: Set A Budget

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

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

Step 2: Know What Plan & Benefits You Need

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Gather The Proper Documents

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

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

Step 4: Start Shopping

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

There are a few things to consider when evaluating providers:

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

Step 5: Compare Quotes

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

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

Choosing The Right Health Insurance Provider

The Ultimate Guide to Small Business Health Insurance

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

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

Here are some things to think about:

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

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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

How Much Is Health Insurance Going To Cost Me?

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

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

Are There Any Ways To Save On Health Insurance?

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

Where Do I Find Health Insurance?

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

When Can I Enroll in Health Insurance?

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

What is the Affordable Care Act? 

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

Making the Leap

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

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

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

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How To Build Credit With A Credit Card

As a business owner, having a solid credit history and a good credit score is important. Potential creditors will often use your credit history to consider if you qualify for a loan or credit card—both of which could be great tools to improve your business.

Unfortunately, life happens and you may find yourself with a weak credit history and a lower-than-desirable credit score. Luckily, not all hope is lost. With some smart moves, you’ll be able to turn your credit history around.

One of the most accessible ways to rebuild credit is with a credit card. Because there are plenty of cards aimed towards users with weak credit, you can obtain a line of credit with ease. Keep reading to find out how a credit card can help you!

Apply For A Secured Or Credit-Building Card

If you don’t have a credit history, or perhaps your score is low, getting a secured card or one designated for credit-building is a great option. While secured cards require a security deposit (usually several hundred dollars), you’ll be able to use them to build credit.

Plus, because these cards are targeted towards low-credit users, you likely won’t need to worry about having your credit card application rejected. Besides that, you normally shouldn’t have to pay an annual fee—meaning that improving your credit score won’t cost anything.

Among the top secured cards include Discover it Secured, Capital One Secured Mastercard, and Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card. If you want a more in-depth breakdown, check out our post on the best secured cards for small businesses.

Don’t Apply For Too Many Cards At Once

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Every time you apply for a credit card, the issuer will do a hard pull on your credit history. Each hard pull can impact your credit score. Too many in quick succession may drop it even further—something someone with an already low credit score should try to avoid.

This happens because creditors will see you attempting to open multiple lines of credit quickly. Doing so makes it appear possible that you are in desperate need of money — and therefore a risky candidate.

Only apply for a card you need and know you will get. After a few months, if you still need another card for whatever reason, then you can apply for a second card.

Keep Accounts Open

Even if you aren’t using a credit card, having an open account can still look good on your credit report. The longer you have an account open, the less risky you’ll appear to creditors. This is because they see your credit history as more predictable.

Additionally, closing an account lowers the average age of your accounts. This can damage your credit score because average account age makes up 15% of your FICO score, the primary credit score calculation used by many creditors.

So if you’ve signed up for a card to get the $200 bonus, keep the account open. Better yet, look for a card with an excellent bonus offer that you’ll actually use in the future. This way you’ll not only have a card with a longer history on your credit report, but you’ll also be consistently utilizing your line of credit.

Maintain A Low Balance

One of the most important factors that impact your credit score is credit utilization. You’ll want to only utilize up to 30% of your available credit. Ideally, you’ll keep the amount you utilize between 1% and 10%.

To determine how much you can spend, determine your card’s maximum credit line. Once you know that, plan to only spend up to 30% of that amount.

Additionally, around 30% of your FICO score is determined by how much of the credit line you use — that’s almost a third of your score! It’s vitally important to keep track of how much credit you’re utilizing—especially if you’re working on improving your score.

Make Timely Payments In Full

There are two very simple things you can to do improve your credit score with a credit card: make on-time payments and pay off the balance in full. A basic goal is to only buy when you know you’ll be able to pay. Instead of thinking of a credit card as “free money” or a loan, think of it like a debit card where you can only spend what you have in your bank account.

It’s also worth noting that if you make repeated late payments, your issuer may report you to credit bureaus. This will put a negative mark on your credit report, ultimately lowering your credit score even further. Plus, your payment history can make up to 35% of your FICO score. This means that making payments on time will positively impact your score more than other factors.

One way to make sure you always pay on time is to set up automatic payments. This way you won’t forget to pay off your balance. Of course, you will still need to make sure there’s enough money in your bank account so that your payment isn’t rejected.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, building up your credit with a credit card is about diligence and patience—this won’t be something that changes overnight.

However, as long as you pick the right card for your business, spend smart, and stay on top of payments, your credit history should and improve and your score should rise. Once this happens, you’ll be able to apply for cards with better rewards and loans with more competitive rates, letting you focus on what matters: your business.

If you’re uncertain of what your credit score is, check out our list of the best free credit score-checking websites. Or perhaps you do know your credit score, but have spotted an error on your history. In that case, find out how to dispute this error.

Good luck!

The post How To Build Credit With A Credit Card appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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

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

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

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

Make A Business Plan

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

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

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

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

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

Calculate Startup Costs

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

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

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

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

Register Your Business

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

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

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

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

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

Get Business Insurance

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

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

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

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

Seek Business Funding

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

Where should you look?

Personal Savings

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

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

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

Tap Your Support Network

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

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

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

Credit Cards

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

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

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

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

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business

Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.74% – 22.74%, Variable

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

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

Recommended Option: Capital One Spark Classic

Capital One Spark Classic For Business


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


24.74%, Variable

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

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

Loans

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

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

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

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

Recommended Option: Lendio

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

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

Recommended Option: Upstart

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

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

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

Choose The Right Software

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

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

Types of software you may want to consider include:

Field Service Management 

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

Scheduling Software

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

Inventory Tracking

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

Accounting Software

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

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Best Cloud Accounting Software

Best Cloud-Based Accounting Software

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Bolster Your Web Presence

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

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

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

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

Delegate Work

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

Employees

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

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

Contractors

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

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

Advertise Your Business

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

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

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

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The Best Business Loan And Financing Resources For Indiana Small Businesses

In past years, Indiana’s economy has mainly centered around steel production and manufacturing. However, since the 1990s, the state’s economy has become more diverse, expanding into sectors including banking, education, financial services, and information technology. Combined with a growing population — particularly in the Central Indiana region — this has opened up new opportunities for entrepreneurship.

In Indiana and across the nation, more people are leaving their 9-to-5s and setting out on their own entrepreneurial path. Maybe you’ve already taken this step, or perhaps you’re just waiting to take the leap. No matter where you are in your journey, though, one of the most important resources for a small business is capital. In order to operate a successful small business, you have to have access to capital. But a big question plaguing many small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs is where to find this capital.

If you’re a small business owner in Indiana, this post is for you. In this post, we’ll review small business loans that Indiana entrepreneurs just like you can use for funding startups, paying operational costs, or growing their businesses. Read on to learn more about the financing opportunities and resources available to you.

Online Business Lenders For Indiana Businesses

As a small business owner, your plate is already loaded down with daily tasks. Managing your business, ordering inventory, hiring and training employees…the list goes on. When you’re in need of capital, finding the time to gather documentation and head over to your local bank may seem impossible. Fortunately, online business lenders have made it easier than ever to get the capital you need for your business.

With an online lender, you can apply for small business financing from your home or office on your computer or smartphone. You can submit documentation, communicate with the lender, and even sign your loan documents without ever stepping foot into a bank or financial institution.

Depending on the financial product you select and the lender you work with, borrower requirements may also be far less stringent. This means that startups, borrowers with personal credit challenges, or businesses with no credit history have options that wouldn’t be available through traditional lenders.

In some cases, you may even be able to complete the entire process from application to funding in as little as 24 hours — a great option for businesses that need cash immediately.

There are thousands of online lenders to choose from, but start your search with the following lenders, which provide financial solutions to small businesses in Indiana.

Fundera

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Unsure of which financial solution is right for your business? Fundera helps you find the best options for your business. With Fundera, you’ll be able to compare lender offers with just one application.

To get started, all you have to do is fill out a quick application. Submitting your application has no impact on your credit score. Once your application has been received, you’ll work one-on-one with a financial specialist to evaluate the financial needs of your business and review lender offers. Your financial specialist will help you select the product that’s the best fit for your business. Best of all, this service is absolutely free.

There is a wide array of financial products available to you through Fundera. This includes:

  • Small Business Administration (SBA) Loans:S $5,000 to $5 million
  • Lines Of Credit: $10,000 to $1 million+
  • Term Loans: $25,000 to $500,000
  • Startup Loans: Up to $150,000
  • Equipment Financing: Up to 100% of equipment value
  • Short-Term Loans: $2,500 to $250,000
  • Invoice Financing: Up to 100% of invoice value
  • Merchant Cash Advances: $2,500 to $250,000
  • Personal Loans For Business: Up to $35,000

Borrower requirements, rates, and terms vary based on the products you qualify to receive. Options such as short-term loans and merchant cash advances are easier to qualify for, but these come with less favorable rates and terms than SBA loans, which are more difficult to receive.

The good news is that your financial specialist will work with you to review the options you qualify for and help you choose the product that’s best for you.

SmartBiz

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Small Business Administration (SBA) loans are extremely popular with small business owners. This is because you receive low rates and very favorable terms, similar to bank loans. However, because SBA loans are backed by the government, lenders feel more secure in giving them to small business owners. Even if you’ve been turned down for a low-cost bank or credit union loan, you may still qualify for an SBA loan.

One of the drawbacks of SBA loans is the application and approval process. The process can seem overwhelming, especially if you’ve never applied for a loan before. Receiving an SBA loan can also take weeks. In some cases, getting the funds in your bank account may even take months.

Fortunately, there is a solution. SmartBiz simplifies and expedites the SBA loan process. You can prequalify for your loan in as little as 5 minutes. You may also receive your funds in just 7 days.

Through SmartBiz, you can qualify for an SBA working capital and debt refinancing loan. Funds can be used to refinance existing debt, hire employees, purchase equipment or inventory, or expand your business. These loans are available in amounts from $30,000 to $350,000. Interest rates are 8.25% to 9.25% with repayment terms up to 10 years.

To receive this loan, you must meet the following requirements:

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

If you’re looking to fund a major expansion, consider applying for an SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan through SmartBiz. These loans provide funding from $500,000 to $5 million. Interest rates are 7% to 8.25% with repayment terms up to 25 years.

Fund from these loans can be used to refinance your commercial real estate mortgage or purchase commercial real estate. Funds can’t be used for new construction or for investment properties.

Borrower requirements for the SBA 7(a) commercial real estate loan are as follows:

  • At least 3 years in business
  • At least 51% of the property must be owner-occupied
  • U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Personal credit score of 675 or above
  • Property must have a purchase price of $500,000 or more
  • No bankruptcies or foreclosures within the last 3 years
  • No outstanding tax liens
  • No past defaults on government-backed loans

LoanBuilder

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It’s your loan, so why does the lender get control of setting the rates and terms? Shouldn’t you have control? With LoanBuilder, you can “build” your own loan, creating a financial solution that’s best for your business.

You can apply for $5,000 to $500,000 through LoanBuilder. After filling out a quick questionnaire, you’ll be presented with a financing offer. You can adjust the amount of your loan and the duration to get the most affordable option for your business. Once you’ve customized your loan, you’ll finish the application and submit any required documentation. If approved, you could receive your funds in as little as 24 hours.

Prequalifying for a loan offer has no impact on your credit score. However, personal credit and public records will be assessed if you decide to proceed with a loan offer.

LoanBuilder loans have repayment terms of 13 to 52 weeks. Weekly payments are made toward your principal balance plus the fees charges by the lender. LoanBuilder charges a single fixed fee for its loans. Fees start at just 2.9% of the loan amount. LoanBuilder loans can be used for any business purpose.

To qualify for funding through LoanBuilder, you must have:

  • A time in business of at least 9 months
  • At least $42,000 in annual revenue
  • A personal credit score of 550 or above
  • No active bankruptcies

Fundation

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Whether you need a specific amount of money or a more flexible financing option, you can find both with Fundation. Through Fundation, you can apply to receive a term loan or line of credit to fund your business expenses.

Fundation offers term loans up to $500,000 for use on equipment, improvements, or business expansion. Loan terms are up to 4 years with repayments made twice per month. The APR for term loans starts at 7.99%.

If you need cash for working capital or short-term cash flow needs, consider Fundation’s lines of credit. You may qualify for as much as $150,000 with repayment terms up to 18 months. Your balance is repaid once per month. APRs start at 7.99%.

To qualify for Fundation’s financial products, you must have:

  • A time in business of at least 12 months
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 660 or above
  • At least 3 full-time employees

BlueVine

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If you need a line of credit to cover emergencies, operational costs, or other business expenses, you may qualify for a line of credit through BlueVine. This online lender provides lines of credit up to $250,000.

With a BlueVine line of credit, you can receive funding in just minutes. You’ll only pay for what you borrow, and you’ll have the option to repay the lender through monthly or weekly payments over 6 to 12 months. Rates start at 4.8%.

To qualify, you must meet these requirements:

  • At least 6 months in business
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 600 or above

If unpaid invoices are causing cash flow issues in your business, BlueVine also offers an invoice factoring service. You can receive up to $5 million for your unpaid invoices with rates starting at just 0.25% per week. BlueVine provides up to 90% of your invoice amount upfront. The remaining amount — minus fees ––will be given to you once the invoice is paid.

To qualify for invoice factoring, you must own a B2B business and meet these additional minimum requirements:

  • At least 3 months in business
  • At least $100,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 530 or above

Amex Business Loans

American Express OptBlue

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If you’re an American Express cardholder, you could qualify for a low-interest, fixed-rate business loan of $3,500 to $50,000. Your loan can be used for any business purpose, and you can receive funding in as little as 3 business days.

Your loan is repaid over terms of 12, 24, or 36 months. Interest rates range from 6.98% to 19.97%.

To qualify for American Express Business Loans, you must be a pre-approved Business Card Member. Additional minimum requirements are:

  • At least 18 years old
  • U.S. citizen or permanent resident
  • Be in good standing with American Express

Funds can’t be used for personal purposes. You also can’t use your Business Loan proceeds to pay off debts to American Express.

Amex Merchant Financing

American Express OptBlue

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Business loans aren’t the only type of financing offered through American Express. If your small business accepts American Express cards, you may qualify for a different financial solution: American Express Merchant Financing.

You could receive a business loan of $5,000 to $2 million. Your loan comes with a single fixed fee of 1.75% to 20% of the borrowing amount. If you repay your loan early, you may even receive a rebate of up to 25% of your fee.

Repayment terms are 6, 12, or 24 months. You can have a fixed amount debited from your business bank account each day. If you’d rather have a more flexible option, you can choose to have a percentage of your daily receivables deducted instead. You can use your receivables from American Express or from all credit and debit transactions if you go this route.

To qualify, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • At least $12,000 in annual credit and debit receivables
  • At least $50,000 in annual business revenue
  • Time in business of at least 24 months
  • Must accept American Express

Prosper

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If time in business requirements are holding you back from getting the capital your business needs, consider applying for a personal loan. In most cases, you can use the funds from a personal loan for business purposes. This eliminates time in business, annual revenue, and business credit history requirements.

While you can certainly apply for a personal loan through your bank, online lenders make it quicker and easier than ever to access funding. One online option is Prosper, which has loaned $14 billion to nearly 900,000 borrowers.

With a Prosper loan, you’ll have fixed 3- or 5-year repayment terms. Personal loan APRs range from 6.95% to 35.99%. Loans are available in amounts from $2,000 to $40,000.

Borrowers must meet the following minimum requirements:

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

Banks, Credit Unions, & Nonprofit Lenders In Indiana

Of course, online business lenders aren’t your only option. You can get the financing you need from a bank, credit union, or nonprofit lender. Find out the options available through your own financial institution, or check out one of the following lenders in the state of Indiana.

1st Source Bank

1st Source Bank was founded in 1863 in South Bend. Since its founding, it has won multiple local awards and has received recognition from Forbes, BauerFinancial, and Bank Director Magazine. This financial institution now operates 80 banking centers located across 18 counties.

Through 1st Source Bank, you can apply for a variety of financing options including:

  • Commercial Mortgage Loans: Terms up to 15 years
  • Term Loans: Terms up to 10 years
  • Business Acquisition Loans: Terms up to 10 years
  • SBA Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Leases
  • Equipment Financing
  • Farm Loans
  • Business Specialty Financing

You can also sign up for business checking accounts, business and commercial insurance, and retirement plan services. Visit your local branch for more information.

Indiana Members Credit Union

Indiana Members Credit Union has 26 locations to serve residents in Indiana. This member-owned financial institution was first established in 1956 and has since grown to serve over 125,000 members throughout Central Indiana.

IMCU offers business checking, savings, CDs, and health savings accounts. You can also apply for financing, including:

  • Commercial Real Estate Loans
  • Lines Of Credit
  • Equipment & Inventory Financing
  • Business Credit Cards
  • Construction Loans

All borrowers must be IMCU members. To join the credit union, you must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Live or work in an eligible Central Indiana county
  • Work for an affiliated employer
  • Have a family member that is an IMCU member

Downloadable loan applications are available on the IMCU website. You can complete the loan application and send it with all required documentation to the IMCU Business Services & Lending Department, or you can drop your packet off at your local branch.

Indiana Statewide Certified Development Corporation

The Indiana Statewide Certified Development Corporation has assisted thousands of small businesses in the state in receiving funding through the Small Business Administration’s 504 loan program.

Under this program, you can qualify for financing for fixed asset purchases. This includes commercial real estate, machinery, and equipment. The Indiana Statewide CDC provides up to 40% of your project costs, while up to 50% is provided through a traditional lender. Then, you’re responsible for the remaining 10% of project costs.

SBA 504 loans come with fixed rates over terms of 20 years for real estate or 10 years for equipment.

Small Business Grants In Indiana

startup grants

If you don’t want to take on debt but need financing for your business, consider exploring small business grants. Small business grants provide the capital you need for your business without the requirement of repaying the funds. Yes, that means no monthly payments, no interest rates or fees, and no debt for your business.

However, scoring a small business grant isn’t as easy as filling out a quick online application, running your credit score, and getting financing. You’ll face a lot of competition to receive a small business grant. The application and approval process can often be quite extensive. You may even have to meet very specific requirements, such as being a veteran-owned business or operating within a certain industry.

In other words, there’s no guarantee that you will receive or even qualify for a small business grant. However, there are a few opportunities available to small business owners in Indiana that may be a fit for your business. Start with these options.

Elevate Ventures High Potential Startup Grant

Elevate Ventures is one of Indiana’s largest venture capital firms. This organization provides multiple financial opportunities for businesses, including High Potential Startup Grants. High-potential startups in communities throughout Indiana may qualify to receive awards of $5,000 to $25,000. Elevate Ventures also offers Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer grant matches up to $150,000. To learn more about requirements and the funding application process, submit an inquiry through the Elevate Ventures website.

GoGlobal Grant Export Acceleration Program

The GoGlobal Grant Export Acceleration Program is a collaboration between the Indy Chamber and JPMorgan Chase. Through this program, matching grant funding of up to $5,000 is available to support export activities of qualifying businesses. Funds can be used for trade show attendance and conference costs, export plan development, and other company expenses related to export activities.

To qualify, you must:

  • Be in business for at least 2 years
  • Have primary operations based in the Indianapolis metro area
  • Participate in a one-on-one business coaching session

Priority is given to businesses with fewer than 250 employees and less than $20 million in annual revenue. You can learn more and apply for the grant by sending an email inquiry through the Indy Chamber website.

The Startup Ladies

Women-owned businesses can join The Startup Ladies for a small fee and have access to resources for starting and growing their businesses. Through The Startup Ladies, female entrepreneurs can attend events, access educational materials, and connect with potential clients and investors.

The Startup Ladies also offers funding opportunities. Members can apply for funding through The Startup Ladies Fund. The organization can also help members identify federal SBIR/STTR grant opportunities that are best for new businesses.

Loans & Resources For Startups In Indiana

Startups don’t always have access to the same financial opportunities as established businesses. Startups are seen as “risky” by lenders simply because they do not have a proven track record of success. A lack of revenue, business credit score, and history all spell big risk to lenders.

However, this doesn’t mean that there’s a lack of resources for startups. We’ve already reviewed a few lending options available to startups, such as personal loans for business. Now, let’s explore other resources available to startup businesses in Indiana, from mentorships to workshops and educational materials. Best of all, these resources are available to you for free or for a very low fee.

Indiana Small Business Development Center

The Indiana Small Business Development Center offers small business advising and services at no cost to small business owners in Indiana. There are 10 regional offices located throughout the state.

This organization can advise you on a variety of business topics including:

  • Market Research
  • Business Planning
  • Strategy
  • Exporting
  • Loan Assistance

The Indiana Small Business Development Center also offers workshops and events for small business owners for no cost or a small fee.

SCORE

If you need a business mentor, look no further than SCORE. Through one of the organization’s 300 chapters throughout the nation, you can connect with a business mentor at no cost. There are multiple chapters located in the state of Indiana.

SCORE’s business mentors can answer your questions and offer guidance in starting or growing your business. You can connect with your mentor through email, video chat, or face-to-face.

SCORE also offers educational opportunities and other free services to startups and established small businesses. This includes live and recorded webinars, online courses, and workshops.

Launch Indiana

Launch Indiana provides resources to help increase entrepreneurialism throughout the state. The organization’s goal is to foster innovation and growth for entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

Through Launch Indiana, you can take advantage of mentorships with coaches and experienced business owners. Other resources include videos, case studies, events, and other business tips and advice to help you grow your business and network with other entrepreneurs and businesses. Launch Indiana is also working to build co-working spaces and Internet of Things labs throughout the state to open up even more opportunities for business owners in Indiana.

What To Consider When Choosing A Lender

With thousands of lenders to wade through, which option is best for your business? Unfortunately, every business has different financial needs, so there’s no one-size-fits-all option when choosing a lender. The good news is that with a few factors in mind, you can more easily cut down your list of options to choose the lender that’s right for your business.

Type Of Financing

What type of financing do you need? Let’s say you don’t need money right now but would like an option for emergencies or expenses that arise in the future. In this case, you’d apply for a line of credit or business credit card. Seek out lenders that offer this type of financing. If you’re unsure of which type of financing is best for you, consider working with a lender that offers multiple financing options. These lenders can work with you to help find the best, most affordable solution for your business.

Borrowing Amount

How much do you need to borrow? If you need $250,000, not all lenders offer this amount. Others have much lower borrowing limits. These lenders can be crossed off your list.

Affordability

When you receive small business financing, you don’t just pay back the amount that you borrow. Instead, you’ll have to pay interest on borrowed funds and/or additional fees required by the lender. Make sure that you understand the cost of working with each lender on your list, and make sure that the rates, fees, and terms work for your business. Learn more about how to determine if your business can afford a small business loan.

Borrower Requirements

Do you meet all borrower requirements? Pull your free credit score online before you apply with any lender. Check your credit history to ensure there’s nothing that could prevent you from qualifying with a lender, such as a recent bankruptcy or a high number of credit inquiries. Run your financials to make sure you meet annual revenue requirements. If you don’t meet all requirements of one lender, move on to other options.

Final Thoughts

As a small business owner in Indiana, there are financial options open to you, whether you’re just getting started or you’re ready to expand your existing business. Unable to find an option that’s best for you? No problem. Check out our other resources to find the small business loan that’s best for your situation.

  • Best Small Business Loans For Veterans
  • Minority Business Loans
  • The Best Small Business Loans For Women
  • The 7 Best Small Business Loans For Bad Credit

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

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How To Find Cheap Liability Insurance

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

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

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

The Basics Of General Liability Insurance

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

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

What Is General Liability Insurance?

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

What Does General Liability Insurance Cover?

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

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

Who Needs General Liability Insurance?

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

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

Average Cost Of General Liability Insurance

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

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

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

How Much General Liability Insurance Do You Need?

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

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

Know Where To Look

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

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

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

Know How To Save On General Liability Insurance

How to save on general liability insurance

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

Bundle Your Policy

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

Don’t Overestimate Your Business Costs

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

Compare Multiple Quotes

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

Pay Your Premium In Full

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

Manage Risks

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

General Liability Insurance VS A Business Owner’s Policy

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

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

When Cheaper Isn’t Better

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

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

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

Protect Yourself & Start Saving

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

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

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

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Best Accounting Software For Freelancers

Best Freelance Accounting Software

There are over 55 million freelancers in the US. With perks like being your own boss, setting your own schedule, and the flexibility to work from anywhere, it’s easy to see why freelancing is becoming such a popular choice. Whether you are self-employed full-time or are freelancing on the side to earn some extra income, there are key software tools that can help you run a more effective and profitable business — the most important being accounting software.

As a freelancer, it’s easy to focus on growing your business, finding new clients, creating marketing campaigns — anything but accounting. However, having a strong accounting process and being in control of your business’s finances is the key to running a successful business.

Luckily, there are plenty of easy to use, affordable accounting solutions that will help you manage your freelance finances and taxes quickly so you can get back to doing what you love.

In this post, we’ll share the top accounting software for freelancers. We’ll also share some other great freelance tools that you should know about to help your business succeed, including everything from email marketing software to website builders to mobile payment apps and more. We’ve spent hours researching and testing software so that you can find the perfect software solutions to run your freelance business.

heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Characteristics Of Good Freelance Accounting Software

In terms of accounting software, freelancers have very specific needs. Most traditional small business accounting software simply won’t fit the bill. Freelancers need an easy-to-use financial management solution designed specifically for the self-employed. Here are some of the key characteristics a good freelance accounting software should have:

  • Affordable: For freelancers, every penny counts. With a slim or nonexistent accounting budget, freelancers need a solution that is free or offers affordable, low monthly payments.
  • Easy To Use: Good accounting software should be easy to use as most freelancers don’t have time to spend hours balancing the books. Many also may have little to no previous accounting experience so they need something that is easy to learn and understand.
  • Time-Saving Automations: All accounting software should feature automations, but freelancers are in particular need of any way to save time. Standard automations include automatic receipt uploading, mileage tracking, and live bank feeds.
  • Manage Personal & Business Finances: While freelancers should open a separate business banking account to safeguard against tax audits, this simply isn’t the reality for many self-employed individuals. Because of this, many freelancers need to be able to separate their personal expenses from their business expenses using their accounting software
  • Good Organization: As a freelancer, it’s easy to put finances on the back burner, but knowing your exact income and expenses is key to running a successful business. Accounting software should help you stay organized, run key financial statements, and make more informed business decisions.
  • Tax Support: With estimated quarterly taxes and ever-changing deductions, freelance taxes can be overwhelming. The best freelance accounting software will include tax support to help you manage your self-employed taxes.
  • Support Resources: Good accounting software will also provide you with ample learning materials to help you better your business.

We weighed all of these factors when selecting the best accounting software for freelancers. Each of the top three accounting options displays many, if not all, of the features listed above to help make managing your freelance finances as simple as possible.

1) QuickBooks Self-Employed

Best For…Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Overall freelance accounting and tax support. Ideal for filing directly with Turbo Tax.

Created in 2014, QuickBooks Self-Employed was designed specifically to help freelancers manage their finances and file their taxes easily. QuickBooks Self-Employed is incredibly easy to use, offers great mobile apps, and has the best tax support of all three programs on this list. The software helps you calculate your estimated quarterly taxes, track your mileage, find other deductions like the home office deduction, and even has a Turbo Tax integration for easy filing. On top of tax support, QBSE also helps freelancers keep track of their income and expenses.

The software is ideal for freelancers looking for tax support, a way to separate personal and business expenses, and basic expense tracking.

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

Limited invoice features

Calculates estimated quarterly taxes

No state tax support

Easy to use

Turbo Tax integration

Pricing

QuickBooks Self-Employed offers two pricing plans ranging from $10 – $17/month. The difference between the two is that the larger plan includes a built-in Turbo Tax integration and the ability to pay estimated quarterly taxes online.

Features

Best Freelance Accounting Software

QuickBooks Self-Employed supports a good amount of features, especially where taxes are concerned. Here’s an idea of what QuickBooks Self-Employed has to offer:

  • Track income and expenses
  • Separate personal and business expenses
  • Invoicing
  • Record tax deductions
  • Fixed asset management
  • Calculate estimated quarterly taxes

Ease Of Use

QuickBooks Self-Employed is incredibly easy to use. It has a modern, well-organized UI that takes very little time to learn and offers strong mobile apps that are also easy to navigate.

Customer Support

QuickBooks Self-Employed’s customer support has its pros and cons. There’s no phone support, but there is a live chat feature if you want to get in touch with a representative directly. The good news is that QBSE provides a great selection of learning resources for freelancers including a comprehensive help center and a small business center chock full of business advice.

Takeaway

QuickBooks Self-Employed is one of the best accounting and tax support solutions out there for the self-employed. The software offers the most advanced level of tax support on the market, and while this isn’t a full-fledged accounting app, it allows freelancers to manage their income and expenses.

Read our full QuickBooks Self-Employed review to find out if this software is right for your business.

2) AND CO

Best For…
Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Freelancers looking for strong accounting, good customer support, and the ability to create and send contracts to clients.

Founded in 2015, AND CO is an up-and-coming freelance accounting software that was recently acquired by Fiverr, one of the leading freelance marketplaces. The software is easy to use, offers great customer support, and provides traditional accounting features like time tracking and project management. While the software does not offer tax support, it does have a one-of-a-kind contract feature that allows you to create legal contracts for projects that are compliant with the Freelancers Union. This allows you to dictate who retains rights to your work and accept signatures directly from clients.

AND CO is ideal for freelancers who don’t need the extra tax support of QuickBooks Self-Employed and would rather have more traditional accounting features, contracts, and better customer support.

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

No tax support

Easy to use

Unsuited for product-based businesses

Good customer support

Limited integrations

Strong mobile apps

Pricing

AND CO has a free plan for freelancers with a single client and a paid plan which costs $18/month. The larger plan includes unlimited reports and more advanced proposals and contracts.

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

While AND CO may be lacking in tax support, the software has a lot of great features going for it. Here are some of the features AND CO has to offer:

  • Invoicing
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Time tracking
  • Project management
  • Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Subscriptions

Ease Of Use

AND CO is incredibly easy to use. The software was originally designed solely as an iPhone app so the mobile apps are also easy to navigate.

Customer Support

AND CO offers great customer support. Representatives are generally kind and quick to respond to questions. The company also offers great business tools and support resources for freelancers, as well as all of Fiverr’s extensive freelance resources.

Takeaway

AND CO is a great accounting and finance management tool for freelancers. The main drawback is that there is no tax support. However, you won’t find such developed proposal and contract features anywhere else.

Read our complete AND CO review to see if this freelance tool is right for you.

3) Wave

Best For…Best Freelance Accounting Software

Freelancers looking for a complete accounting solution for free.

Wave is a free accounting software solution that offers an incredible number of features for $0/month. While the software wasn’t designed specifically for freelancers like QuickBooks Self-Employed and AND CO, Wave is one of the best accounting programs to fit the needs of freelancers. It’s affordable, easy to use, and allows business owners to separate personal and business accounting.

The software is ideal for self-employed individuals looking for a full accounting solution or those who need an affordable way to manage their freelance finances.

Pros Cons

Free

Limited integrations

Easy to use

Poor customer support

Good feature set

Limited mobile apps

Positive customer reviews

Pricing

Wave only offers one accounting package and it’s completely free. There are no user limits or feature limits. You get all of the great features of Wave for $0/month. The only extra costs are payment processing, payroll, and professional bookkeeping services.

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Of all three options on this list, Wave offers the most features. While you won’t find tax support, Wave does offer strong accounting and is full-fledged accounting software. Because of Wave is actual accounting software, it’s the only program on this list that will allow you to actually balance the books. Here are the features you’ll find with Wave:

  • Invoicing
  • Estimates
  • Contact management
  • Expense tracking
  • Accounts payable
  • Inventory
  • Reports

Ease Of Use

Wave is well-organized and its modern UI is easy to navigate.

Customer Support

Wave offers many great support resources; however, getting in touch with an actual representative is difficult. There is no phone support and response times are slow.

Takeaway

Wave is an affordable accounting program that gives you strong accounting and tons of features without breaking the bank. The software does not offer tax support, but it does offer payroll, making it a scalable solution if you plan on growing your freelancing business. The professional bookkeeping services are also great for freelancers who aren’t comfortable doing their own accounting or simply don’t have the time.

Read our full Wave review to see if this accounting software is right for you.

Other Great Freelance Tools

Your freelancing business is your baby, and as it takes a village to raise a child, it can also take an army of integrations to run a business. There are tons of great freelancing tools that can help you manage and grow specific areas of your business, like email marketing, invoicing, ecommerce, and more. Here are some of the top freelance software tools we recommend.

The Best Invoicing Software For Freelancers

If your freelance business relies heavily on invoicing and isn’t quite ready for all of the other features included with accounting software, invoicing software could be a simpler alternative to meet your business needs.

Zoho Invoice

Best Invoicing Software for Freelancers

Zoho Invoice is an easy to use, cloud-based invoicing program with incredible invoicing features. With over 15 invoice templates to choose from and international invoicing options, Zoho Invoice has a lot to offer. Read our complete Zoho Invoice review to learn everything this software is capable of.

InvoiceraBest Invoicing Software for Freelancers

Invoicera is also a could-based program with a good feature set and attractive invoice templates. A forever free plan and over 35 payment gateway integrations are just a few of the perks of this invoicing option. Read our complete Invoicera review to learn if this software is right for you.

Visit our invoicing software reviews for more options or compare our top favorite invoicing solutions for small businesses.

The Best Receipt Management Software For Freelancers

Business owners are all too familiar with the dreaded receipt shoebox. Receipt management software or expense tracking software can help freelancers get organized and handle reimbursements with ease.

ExpensifyBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

Expensify is a cloud-based expense management solution with mobile receipt scanning, expense approval workflows, and next-day expense reimbursements. The software also integrates with key accounting programs for a seamless expense tracking experience.

ShoeboxedBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

Shoeboxed is also a cloud-based expense management solution with receipt scanning, mileage tracking, expense reports, basic CRM, and even tax prep. Shoeboxed also integrates with key accounting programs.

The Best Payment Processing Software For Freelancers

Need to accept mobile payments from your customers? Mobile payment apps allow freelancers to accept payments anywhere — whether that be at a home show, a small storefront, or even a client meeting at Starbucks. If your freelance business could benefit from accepting payments on the go, mobile payment processing is a must.

SquareBest Payment Processing for Freelancers

Square is one of the most popular mobile payment apps. It offers affordable flat rate pricing and free tools for selling online, making it easy to accept payments from your customers in multiple ways. Read our complete Square review to learn how Square could benefit your business.

Take a look at our other mobile payment processing reviews or compare our top five payment processing solutions for businesses.

The Best Website Builders For Freelancers

A website is key for many freelancers who sell goods online or who need a professional online portfolio to showcase their work to clients. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable, easy to use website builders that can give your freelance business the edge.

WixBest Website Builder for Freelancers

Wix is an easy to use website builder that is ideal for ecommerce and blogging. Wix offers a compelling free version with unlimited pages and hundreds of customizable templates to choose from. Read our complete Wix review to learn more about this affordable website solution.

SquarespaceBest Website Builder for Freelancers

Squarespace is a website builder that is perfect for ecommerce and blogs While there’s no free plan, the software offers amazing templates with a huge degree of customizability. Read our complete Squarespace review to see if this website builder is right for you.

Read our other website builder reviews and ecommerce reviews to find the perfect solution for your business.

The Best Email Marketing Software For Freelancers

One of the most challenging parts of freelancing is finding clients. Email marketing software can be a great way to market your services and target clients so you can grow your business.

MailChimpBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

MailChimp is an easy to use email marketing software with affordable payments. The software offers email campaigns, email automations, and even analytics and reporting. Read our complete MailChimp review to learn how this software could help your business.

BenchmarkBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

Benchmark is another great email marketing option that is easy to use and offers good customer support. The software has hundreds of templates to choose from and the unique ability to send video emails and online surveys. Read our complete Benchmark review to see if this software is right for your business.

Read our other email marketing software reviews or compare the best email marketing solutions to find the right option for your business.

Picking The Perfect Freelance Accounting Software

Choosing Accounting Software

Running a freelance business can be difficult, but with the right tools, you can set your business up for success. With accounting solutions like QuickBooks Self-Employed, AND CO, and Wave, you can manage your finances and gain valuable insight into your business’s income and expenses.

QuickBooks Self-Employed is ideal for freelancers in need of tax support; AND CO is ideal for legal, professional contracts; and Wave is ideal for the complete accounting package. Identifying your freelance needs and examining your current financial process can help you decide which program is the perfect fit for your business.

Then ask yourself, what other tools could benefit my business?

Email marketing software could help you grow your clientele. A website builder could help you create a professional brand. A payment processing app could help you increase your sales. Here at Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you find the best software to help your business succeed. We have hundreds of reviews across multiple software industries so you can find the perfect software combo. Check out our comprehensive reviews and our other freelance resources as well.

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heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

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