Here at Merchant Maverick, we’ve covered PPP news for small business owners from day one. But by this point, we’re starting to sound like a broken record: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), meant to be a savior for America’s small businesses struggling financially due to COVID-19, has been a fairly unmitigated disaster.
Between the slow application process, the indefensible dolling out of funds to major organizations like burger chain Shake Shack and the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, and the outright lack of cash, the US government has been unable to properly support the nation’s small businesses with the PPP. (Even the father of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wasn’t impressed with his son’s performance.) More recently, Politico reported that not a single small business has yet received forgiveness on its PPP loan — even though the SBA opened the forgiveness portal for banks on August 10.
Despite the incompetency surrounding the PPP, more government funding for small businesses is direly needed as COVID’s economic damage continues to cripple numerous industries. According to an August survey by the NFIB, 47% of PPP loan borrowers anticipate needing more financial support over the next year. The restaurant industry has been particularly affected — for instance, results from a survey released this month by the New York State Restaurant Association found that 63.6% of restaurateurs in the Empire State fear closure over the next four months without additional financial relief.
While prospects may be lukewarm, hopeful murmurs about another round of PPP funding have been swirling around the past few weeks. Let’s take a look at what the government has been doing (and what it hasn’t) regarding a much-needed second stimulus package.
What We Know About The Next Round Of PPP
The PPP closed shop on August 8 with $138 billion left in funding. Since then, stimulus plans have sat deadlocked in Congress.
After the program was extended once, additional suggestions to lengthen the PPP went nowhere before the program fizzled out in August. Other talks also went nowhere.
In May, House Democrats offered up a 3.4 trillion general stimulus plan that roughly matched earlier government aid packages. However, Senate Republicans countered with a $1.1 trillion package towards the end of July. A “skinny” version of the GOP’s bill trimmed that number down to $300 billion, but Senate Democrats blocked that from advancing earlier this month.
By September 10, Republicans signaled a reluctance to negotiate with Democrats by expressing pessimism that COVID relief talks are “dead” until after Election Day. In a Twitter post one week later, President Trump called for Republicans to “go for the much higher numbers.”
“I like the larger amount, Iâve said that,” Trump added at a White House press briefing on September 16. “Some of the Republicans disagree, but I think I can convince them to go along with that because I like the larger number. I want to see people get money.”
The White House later affirmed that a $1.5 trillion package could be the sweet spot in negotiations.
Despite the difficulty facing potential negotiations, the Democrats have forged on with trying to pass a stimulus package. Most recently, party leaders unveiled on Monday a $2.2 trillion proposal dubbed the HEROES Act.
“Democrats are making good on our promise to compromise with this updated bill, which is necessary to address the immediate health and economic crisis facing America’s working families right now,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to House Democrats. “We have been able to make critical additions and reduce the cost of the bill by shortening the time covered for now.”
Besides helping out Americans with another slate of $1,200 stimulus checks and additional unemployment benefits, the HEROES Act also aims to lend small businesses a hand. Potential aid for businesses includes:
The PPP would be reopened, allowing small businesses to tap into an additional round of funding.
$120 billion in grants would be made available for restaurants, bars, and food trucks.
$436 million for states and local governments, some of which could spill over to local businesses.
At the time of writing, it remains unclear how the GOP will respond to the Democrat’s latest PPP offering. However, the $2.2 trillion price tag may be closer to a number more palatable to Republican legislators.
Government Alternatives To The PPP
A couple of small business aid alternatives to a more traditional stimulus package have cropped up recently. Unfortunately, these plans appear to have low prospects too.
During a House hearing last week, Financial Services Committee chair Maxime Waters, D-Calif., pressed the Federal Reserve to open its Main Street Lending Program to smaller businesses. This program, which has been largely ignored by the general public, is currently only open to businesses needing between $250,000 and $2 million.
While the Treasury’s Mnuchin said he was open to the prospect of lowering the bar to businesses in need of $100,000, Fed chair Jerome Powell shot the possibility down.
“Thereâs very little demand in the facility [for loans] below $1 million,” Powell said. He added: “Trying to underwrite the credit of hundreds of thousands of very small businesses would be very difficult. I think PPP is a better way to approach that space in the market and I think you are well advised to do that.”
This week, the Washington Business Journal reported on a separate proposal spearheaded by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash. This proposal, which has been floated as a “discharge petition”, would allow the House to bypass Congress’ deadlocked stimulus talks. Should this piece of legislation pass, small businesses hit with “steep revenue losses” due to COVID could tap into the $138 billion left of PPP funds.
However, discharge petitions rarely pass (the Washington Business Journal noted just two passed petitions, one from 2015 and another in 2002). As such, Beutler’s proposal seems unlikely to go anywhere — it requires at least 218 votes to pass, so support from both sides of the aisle is needed.
How To Stay Up-To-Date On PPP News
Staying current on the latest PPP news can be a daunting and all-consuming task. To help out business owners across the country, Merchant Maverick is keeping our ear to the ground for any PPP rumblings.
Following Merchant Maverick on Facebook or Twitter is a good place to start because we’ll be sharing any of our future PPP-related articles across social media. You can also check out our COVID-19 hub — we’ll also be posting any need-to-know government stimulus stories there.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Another Round Of PPP? What We Know Right Now About Another Government Stimulus For Small Businesses appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 11+ Ways To Check Your NAP Consistency for Local SEO via ShivarWeb
NAP stands for “Name, Address, Phone Number.”
NAP is the core element of local business citations (aka listings) across the Internet.
Local search engines use citations to form a confidence score that any given business actually exists in the physical world.
Search engines combine the confidence score with a relevance score for a local search query to rank businesses in the search results.
NAP Consistency matters for local SEO because it hurts your confidence score. If a search engine is not confident that you exist in the physical world, you are less likely to appear in search results.
That’s why NAP consistency matters. And NAP consistency is especially important for Local SEO and local marketing because it’s one of the few direct ranking factors that you have total control over.
But how do you find all your NAP variations and fix them?
Well, it’s a bit like looking up how to spell a word in the dictionary. You need to have a general idea of what you are looking for plus a few tools.
Here are a few tools & techniques that I use to track down every local listing with a NAP citation to fix the incorrect version and remove duplicate listings.
These are in order of expense & accuracy. If you have some budget, skip down to SEMrush Local Listing Tool to save some time.
Google Your Phone Numbers
Make a list of all your phone numbers. All your employee’s numbers. Your personal phone number. All of them.
Scrape / copy all the listings that show up. You can go ahead and fix them, but keep in mind that you might find duplicates later.
Google Your Addresses
Use the same process as the phone numbers. Google your current and former addresses.
However, with addresses, try to use a general form of your address if possible. For example, if your business is on 200 Elm St SE Newnan, GA 30263 then try just searching for “200 Elm St Newnan, GA” – dropping the “SE” and the ZIP Code.
Google Your Business Names
Use the same process as phone numbers and addresses. With your business name, always search for the shortest / broadest version.
Copy down, scrape, or fix all the inaccurate listings.
Remember that your goal is for every citation to match exactly. If most citations refer to “Shivar BBQ” then every citation should say “Shivar BBQ”.
You don’t want “Shivar Barbecue” or “Shivar BBQ Restaurant”. Make sure that every citation is exactly right.
If you have duplicates, you need to remove the duplicates.
Check Google Keyword SERPs
Now, if you’ve found many inaccurate listings, there’s a quick way to check for importance. Go ahead and Google a few key search queries – the keywords that your customers are certainly using.
Pull all the listing websites that show up until Page 5 of the search results. Every city will be a little different.
Do a manual search on each listing website for variations of your NAP so that you can fix inconsistencies and remove duplicates.
These first four methods are free but tedious. If you have some budget, using a premium tool will speed up the process.*
*Note – There’s a whole world of local SEO tools out there – including “done for you” tools like Yext. I do not recommend those unless you are dealing with hundreds & thousands of locations. Turning your citations over to a 3rd party can have nasty consequences.
Manual NAP repair is *always* worth the effort if you can. If you have budget, spend it on a tool that will help you find the listings while manually fixing the listings.
Check SEMrush Local Listing Tool
SEMrush is an entire suite of SEO and Paid Marketing intelligence tools.
I like to use SEMrush because a single premium subscription provides access to a local listing management tool in addition to one of the best backlink tools, keyword research tools, and advertising research tools.
You can run a single search for free here. It won’t be able to find all your NAP inconsistencies, but it will find most of them. And it will find the most important ones quickly – along with a quick link to fix them.
Check Moz Local Search
Moz offers a stand alone Local Search tool that will find most inconsistent and duplicate locations.
It’s a great middle option for businesses with dozens of locations.
Check WhiteSpark Citation Builder
WhiteSpark is one of the most well-known local SEO agencies. They have an entire suite of tools that you can use for quick checks.
Their premium tools and premium services will help you get the listings edited & changed quickly in addition to finding new local links. Unlike Yext, they’ll change the listings manually, so you are always in control.
Check SEOfoxy’s Local Listing Tool
SEOfoxy has a local listing tool that is a bit error-prone, but has a ton of premium-grade search features for free.
I’ll use it for a quick double-check.
Check Data Aggregators
There are four large business data aggregators in the United States –
Foursquare (took Acxiom’s place)
These businesses are kind of like Equifax, Transunion, and Experian in the consumer world. They are almost like the database of record for all businesses in the United States. Their database gets sent out to many large services (like Apple Maps, banks, etc). If your information is wrong with them, you’ll just be playing whack-a-mole with your local listings.
It can be extremely difficult to get your data fixed with them. But the important part is finding your data in their database and setting up some sort of account to provide some input on your data.
Check ZoomInfo Database
ZoomInfo is the hot new business data startup trying to compete with the big four data aggregators. They have a different database with their own primary sources. Make sure you are in their database.
Bonus – Use Your Library
If you are having trouble with lots of these databases or work in a hyper-competitive market (e.g., Los Angeles locksmiths), then it might be worthwhile to check ReferenceUSA and Dun & Bradstreet. You can access both those resources for free via your local library.
Next Steps for NAP Consistency
NAP consistency is a pain. But it’s worthwhile. The days of the Yellow Pages – or even word of mouth – is long, long gone. We even get directions to local places that we know via local search.
There’s a lot about local search that is out of your hands. But NAP consistency is one factor that is entirely in your control. Make it part of your recurring business marketing. Focus on making small improvements over time.
As a small business owner, managing your own payroll may not always seem like a priority. Let’s face it: between juggling submission dates and figuring out what paperwork you need to fill out, payroll can be a chore that falls to the wayside. And itâs easy to see why, when so many businesses manage their payroll without following any best practices.
Even if youâre doing your employeesâ payroll as a solo job, best practices will help you keep track of submission requirements and deadlines without affecting how much you get done. Read on to discover nine payroll best practices you can start working on today to make your payroll process a breeze.
The 9 Best Payroll Practices For Small Businesses
These nine best practices, if followed carefully and regularly, can make managing your payroll go from nightmarish to predictable.
1) Classify Employees Correctly
Your payroll process relies on you properly classifying your employees. If you only staff a few people whom you know and trust, the idea that you might be at risk of misclassifying your salaried employees may just seem silly — but it’s no laughing matter. Your company can quickly run into serious, tax-related issues with the IRS if you misclassify someone as a 1099 contractor, for example, when they’re really working for your company as a W2 employee.
In fact, based on state-level research, somewhere between ten and twenty percent of employers are guilty of misclassifying workers, recording an employee as a 1099 contractor, for example, instead of as a salaried W2 employee. Mistakes like that can ultimately impact your company’s revenue if you get hit with federal-level fines. Before you get your payroll process going, doublecheck that you have each and every one of your employees correctly classified, no matter how many of them you employ.
2) Spend The Proper Amount On Payroll
Small business owners often worry that their cash flow will affect their payroll deadlines, and for good reason. If you don’t know how much of your revenue to put toward your payroll, an unhealthy cashflow could be disastrous. Setting aside the proper amount for payroll ahead of time will keep your system chugging along just fine without any cash flow-related hiccups.
One of the most critical payroll best practices is to make sure your business has a positive cash flow before estimating the amount of your gross revenue to put toward payroll expenses. Once you’ve adopted a few strategies to increase your cash flow, it will make much more sense to then go ahead and carve out a rough (while youâre starting out) percentage of funds you should be spending on payroll.
It’s not the end-all, be-all number, but as a small business owner, you should beÂ keeping your payroll below 30 percent of your total gross revenue funds. Staying at (or preferably below) this number will still make it realistic for your business to manufacture its products and provide its services without confronting negative cash flow numbers.
The great part about planning on a set amount of funds to put toward payroll is that you can always scale that amount up or down in the future. You and your HR and/or payroll manager can decide to move funds around if you notice that you’re spending too much or too little on payroll after a few months. Your business will enjoy increased profitability once you have methods to keep your cash flow positive and youâre certain how much to spend on payroll.
3) Keep Track Of Dates & Deadlines
Collecting and completing your employees’ payroll documentation won’t do much good if you miss deadlines for submission. The Department of Labor has strict requirements about when and how small businesses must submit payroll documents. You and your company are at risk of being dinged with brutal fines if you neglect to pay attention to these deadlines.
Keeping track of your submission dates and deadlines is a great way to help you plan out the rest of your payroll best practices. Many of the other important habits you develop will fall into place if you get your deadlines in order first.Â Some of the most important payroll tax dates and deadlines include:
Retirement Statements: Businesses are required to keep their employee’s statements of retirement, including enrollment, payment, and deduction forms, for at least six years.
Pay Stubs: As a business owner, you’re responsible for proving to the government that you pay your employees on-time, every quarter. To that end, you’ll need to hold onto pay stubs for four years, which includes any changes you’ve made to your wages along the way.
Additional Tax Info: Tax forms like employee W2s and W4s are required to be kept for at least four years.
On top of these federal deadlines, you need to make sure that you consistently set smaller deadlines for when your payroll must be processed monthly. Get all of these dates, whether theyâre on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis, onto your payroll calendar. You can choose to use a cloud-based calendar app, for example, if you want to move your payroll operations completely online.
4) Set Payroll Notifications and Reminders
Keeping track of important payroll dates and deadlines is all well and good, but youâll probably want to set up a system of notifications and reminders to make sure you donât miss them as well. Companies have traditionally relied on physical calendars to keep track of tax deadlines and dates, but more and more businesses are now switching to cloud-based payroll solutions that sync up with important government submission dates and send them reminders automatically.
If you aren’t yet using software to help with deadline notifications, there are also plenty of calendar apps you can use to manually track dates. These calendar apps can sometimes be more beneficial for extremely small companies that only staff a few employees. Coordinate with your other employees and departments to settle on a notification and reminder solution that makes the most sense for your employees and the size and scope of your business.
5) Use Direct Deposit
Direct deposit, thankfully, has found its way into the vast majority of businesses’ payroll systems. Small business owners who use direct deposit to help manage their payroll process eliminate tons of manual work that they’d otherwise need to slog through.
Electronic deposits also make your end-of-year payroll reporting much more painless, since you won’t have physical files to sort through that you then need to furnish for reporting purposes. This takes a huge burden off you or your HR/payroll manager and frees up their time to help you continue to build out your businessâs internal infrastructure.
6) Use Online Payroll Software
There’s no reason to fuss with traditional ways of organizing payroll when thereâs easy-to-use, online payroll software available at the tips of your fingers. Instead of searching through filing cabinets to furnish important employee data every time a deadline rolls around, you can use powerful payroll software to make it easy to search through all your employees’ historical data and organize it the way you want.
What’s even better about powerful payroll software, and something that traditional payroll organization systems can’t offer, is flexibility and customization. No two businesses are alike, so it doesn’t make sense to settle for anything less than a solution that’s tailored to your needs. From help with taxes to HR compliance assistance, there are multiple online payroll options to choose from.
7) Create An HR Handbook
HR handbooks are a company’s standards, values, and ethical guidelines, put into words. As you may have guessed, these handbooks can be great ways to define your payroll processing procedures as well. Creating an HR handbook is one of the most effective methods of solidifying your payroll best practices and making it easier to follow them.
Try and get together with your HR and/or payroll managers to help you create an HR handbook. Your employees in HR and payroll can give you valuable insight into payroll best practices they already use themselves and can help you define answers for questions they frequently get in their day to day interactions with employees. Remember that your HR/payroll handbook should do a good job of answering frequently asked questions as well as defining your payroll best practices.
8) Have Organized Payroll Records
Keeping tidy, organized payroll records is essential for your own business records and taxes. First, you’ll want to settle on a storage solution to keep your records organized and in one place. There are multiple electronic payroll storage solutions that are easy to use and can be tailored to your business needs.
You also need to keep in mind which records you need to keep, and for how long. The IRS lets businesses know that most payroll records need to be kept handy for at least three years. For other, more sensitive payroll documents, like your employees’ retirement records, wage records, and tax information, there are different requirements for how long you need to keep them.
Organize your payroll system based on how many employees you staff, as well as how many additional documents you keep for your personnel. Choosing a good storage system will also go a long way to keeping your records organized for the long-term.
9) Protect Your Online Data
Strong cloud accounting security measures are the pretty bow that ties up your carefully planned best practices into one package. These days, there’s no such thing as having too many security measures in place to protect your digital assets, especially for assets as sensitive as your employees’ payroll records. Cloud-based security solutions put your employees’ sensitive data first and decentralize how you store your data so that it’s much harder to compromise.
Software solutions that protect your employees’ data on the cloud eliminate nearly all manual work you’d otherwise have to do. For instance, with cloud-based storage solutions, you don’t need to worry that youâre running out-of-date software with bugs that compromise its security. Smart solutions on the cloud will run updates for you, automate your account security and remediation activities, and immediately alert you about fraudulent or suspicious activity that it detects.
What Other Payroll Problems Does Your Business Face?
Payroll processing software and electronic solutions make doing your own payroll easier than ever. But as any business owner knows, there’s always something new to learn about payroll, no matter how long you’ve been doing it either on your own or with the help of colleagues.
As a business owner, are there parts of payroll that you still struggle with? What steps have you taken to try and resolve them? Leave us a comment below about your greatest challenges processing your own payroll, and the solutions youâve come up with to tackle them.
The post The Best Payroll Practices Every Business Owner Needs To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Hugo Fernandez knows the value of making a sale. The founder and CEO of Just Digital, a creative marketing agency based out of Los Angeles, Fernandez has taken his innate understanding of entrepreneurship and turned it into a thriving company aimed at helping small businesses grow their client base.
Educating businesses about growing and sustaining client leads follows the old adage about teaching a person to fish. Fernandez and his JustDigital team have the tools, but they don’t just want to give them out and hope for the best — they want to teach other business owners how to use them to thrive.
Starting With An Unshakeable Foundation
For Fernandez, business roots — and the know-how to convert a sale — go back to childhood. In his book, The Client Acquisition Blueprint, Fernandez describes his three-year-old self taking people leaving the local church by the hands and leading them to his mother’s food stand. When his family emigrated from Mexico, he carried his small business acumen and those hard-won lessons into his life in the United States by selling Mexican food and candy door-to-door.
Eventually, as he learned graphic design, he became an invaluable marketing tool for his family members by creating flyers and marketing materials to help them grow their own businesses. “I was hustling to help my parents make ends meet. I went into sales by default,” Fernandez said. “I never thought I could turn it into a business or a career.”
But he has.
Giving Businesses A Fighting Chance
Opening his doors in 2012, Fernandez started Just Digital with the intention to help small business owners access their target clients. He knew small businesses were leaving clients/customers, and therefore money, on the table. “My passion has always been helping the little guys, helping small businesses. I want to give small businesses a fighting chance,” he said.
The statistics from the SBA about those fighting chances are sobering. Says Fernandez:
There are 28 million small businesses and 21 million are making less than 60K a year in gross sales. That means 80% [of small business owners] are making less than if they went out and got a job. Regardless of that specific statistic, most businesses aren’t making much money, and I don’t think people start a business thinking they won’t make many sales.
It’s harder and harder when you’re a small business dealing with limited resources and budget. So, Just Digital has an education portion that is really huge. We want to point small businesses in the right direction. Sometimes it’s not, ‘Hey! Hire us to build your website.’ It’s us saying to a business, use Squarespace to build your website. We’ve been doing a lot more on the education side of things.
In his book, Fernandez lays out his plan for success. He wants businesses to have an unshakeable foundation built on a solid understanding of the inherent value of their business. This should be combined with a researched, accurate knowledge of their customer base — and the best way to reach them. Everything from brand identity to a sales strategy is crucial to converting sales.
The book reads like a conversation with a successful mentor at a lunch you were lucky to get; his ideas are attainable, easy to understand and follow, and current. It’s clear that he brings passion and know-how to every client. For his part, Fernandez makes it his job to stay on top of trends and small business needs.
Adapting To COVID…For The Long Haul
And what does the forecast look like for small businesses during COVID-times? The future isn’t clear.
According to Fernandez:
From a small business standpoint, there is an ominous cloud approaching, but this time businesses are feeling more resilient. Some of them now have cash in the bank, and they are okay and growing. Some businesses do think this is the end, but … in general, there is more optimism. Everyone is just adapting. We’re in this for the long haul, so we’ll see what happens. When COVID first hit, no one knew what the disease looked like, and just going grocery shopping was fear-inducing. And now you can go and shop, and it’s not the end of the world.
Like many business owners across the world, when the novel coronavirus hit, Fernandez ran the numbers and prepared for the worst.
“The biggest shock with COVID was how it riled everybody up,” says Fernandez. “Businesses left and right are failing and shutting their doors. If the big guys are struggling, then you can imagine your local barbershop, florist, or coffeeshop is doing when they are really relying on that foot traffic.”
Just Digital’s clients, unsure about their futures, initially scaled back their marketing needs. In the aftermath, his company lost 35% of its gross revenue and had to lay off one employee.
All of March and early April was a rollercoaster. Every single day, opening your inbox, expecting to hear something. Or picking up your phone and talking people off a ledge. That was scary and difficult for the first two weeks. But then I’m like, this is a lot bigger than just me, so I’m not going to freak out.
Then came the government’s EIDL and PPP loans — a stimulus that worked. His own PPP loan was small (several of his employees work in other countries, and the government aid did not account for their employment), but he saw the resurgence in energy from businesses looking to spend the government aid.
Fernandez adds, “By May, we picked back up. The [PPP/EIDL money] did what it was supposed to do; it stimulated the economy. June, July, August, have been some of our biggest months.”
Just Digital’s Tips For Small Businesses Starting Out
Fernandez has a message for small businesses. “You are selling things to people that make their lives better,” he said. He wants businesses to see themselves as adding value to the lives of the people they can reach with their service or their product. Sometimes there is fear or trepidation about marketing and putting oneself and one’s business out there, but Fernandez wants to assist small businesses to overcome those worries.
You are selling things to people that make their lives better.
His quick recommendations for business owners just starting out are succinct and valuable. “If I were just starting, I would get a Square account — I’d want to send invoices quickly. Then I would build a website with Squarespace or Shopify. Next, you have to focus on getting clients.”
For email automation and newsletters, Fernandez recommends Mailchimp. And QuickBooks is still the gold standard if you need something that can manage everything from your accounting needs to inventory management and payroll. While in the past his company has primarily handled marketing professional services, he anticipates the eCommerce growth from the past few years will continue.
While small businesses figure out the future, Fernandez is holding on to his optimism about the future and ready to help. “Businesses at different times will need different things. Anything they need help with, we can help with,” he said.
No one knows what next month or next year will bring, but small business owners understand the hustle only adapts and never ceases. And with Just Digital and Hugo Fernandez’s help, his clients can be ready for the future of small business and to find the clients looking for — no matter what.
The post Marketing Agency JustDigital Continues To Help Businesses Target & Maintain Clients, Even Through COVID appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’re an entrepreneur who has been looking for alternative ways to get your business idea off the ground, there’s a decent chance you’ve heard of startup accelerators. Like many aspects of startup culture, however, it’s sometimes difficult to separate the myths from the reality. Are they sleepaway camps with millionaire counselors? Contests? Are they the same thing as business incubators?
Below, we’ll try to demystify this relatively new phenomenon and explore the circumstances under which you might want to join one … or avoid one.
What Is A Startup Accelerator Program?
Startup accelerator programs are offered by an organization, usually a non-profit, to help get a startup off the ground. They do this by combining aspects of education, group collaboration, mentorship, and financing. Accelerator programs have a fixed term, not unlike a college semester or two, where founders heavily immerse themselves in a process of rapid business/concept development alongside a cohort of other entrepreneurs. At the end of which, they’ll demo their product or service.
While startup accelerators do not guarantee it, they do provide the opportunity for participants to solicit seed money from venture capitalists who sponsor or are involved in the program. Participants will also have access to seminars, advisors, and other participants in their cohort, all of which provide a high-intensity educational environment.
Startup Accelerators VS Incubators
You will sometimes hear the phrases “startup accelerator” and “startup incubator” used interchangeably, but they are, in fact, not the same thing — even if they share a few traits in common.
Where an accelerator is a short, intense program that leverages educational and financial resources within a cohort-style environment to jumpstart a business idea, incubators provide a longterm environment in which a business can develop within a dedicated space, sometimes combined with supportive on-site services. That said, they’re not really educational environments: You won’t have tons of seminars going on around you, for example.
A business will only be with an accelerator for a few months, and an incubator is more open-ended. A company may stay in an incubator for years. Incubators may be offered as a nonprofit or economic development agency service, with the company renting a portion of the physical incubator space for its operations.
Finally, there’s the matter of investment. Startup accelerators provide a formal opportunity for participants to pitch investors for seed money. Investment doesn’t usually factor into the operations of an incubator, although you could of course seek those opportunities on your own.
Why You Might Want To Work With A Startup Accelerator
So why might you want to work with a startup accelerator?
1) You Want To Dedicate Yourself Completely To Your Business
Accelerators are intense environments designed to be completely immersive. If you’re admitted to a program, you’ll be around other like-minded folks. You’ll eat, breathe, sleep startup culture for the duration of the program.
If you’ve had trouble dedicating yourself to your entrepreneurial pursuits, an accelerator will all but force you to give it 100%. It’ll be your lifestyle for a few months.
2) You’re Having Trouble Meeting The Right People
Not every entrepreneur has the benefit of starting off with a contact list full of power players. Accelerators can serve as icebreakers between entrepreneurs who might never have met under normal circumstances.
This can be particularly helpful where investors are concerned. You have an opportunity to pitch your idea to them as part of the program.
3) You Want To Learn
Cohort-style learning is a little different than what you may have experienced in high school or even college. While there will be seminars and lectures to attend, a lot of the learning process is peer-driven, with each participant bringing in the bits of knowledge they’ve picked up throughout their lives. You’ll advise, and in turn be advised, by the other participants.
And it’s an intense educational environment. Accelerators aim to condense years of education into less than half-a-year.
Why You Don’t Want To Work With A Startup Accelerator
Startup accelerators aren’t for everyone. Whether due to your life circumstances, experiences, or business concept, you may be better off with a different strategy for launching your company. Here are some of those reasons.
1) You Can’t Put Your Life On Hold For Months
Startup accelerators demand a lot of their participants. You may be expected to temporarily move to a different city and spend most of your waking hours working on your business idea or attending seminars.
As you might imagine, this may not be a great fit for entrepreneurs with families, second jobs. or other serious demands on their time.
2) Your Concept Isn’t A Good Fit For The Program
Each startup accelerator program tends to have guidelines for the types of business they support. Some will have a theme for each cohort. If your business idea doesn’t fit the criteria, chances are you won’t make it passed the application process.
Additionally, you’ll be expected to have an idea conducive to rapid growth, one that is friendly to the venture capital model of investment. If you aren’t thinking in terms of exit strategies and IPOs, an accelerator probably isn’t for you.
3) You Want To Retain All Of Your Equity
Venture capital is an important part of the accelerator model, so that means your goal going in should be to sell your idea to investors. As you probably know, venture capitalists expect a stake in your company in exchange for their money. If you aren’t comfortable with investors asserting some control over your company, you probably should try something else.
Is An Accelerator The Right Way To Start Your Business?
To sum up, an accelerator is a good fit for entrepreneurs looking to develop a business idea for venture capital investment, and who have the time and mindset to completely immerse themselves in a high-intensity for three to six months. If you’re the kind of person who thrives in atypical, high-stress environments and are a bit of an autodidact, you may get a lot of out an accelerator program.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to slowly grow a business that you retain longterm control over, or if you need to split your time between your business venture and other responsibilities, an accelerator simply won’t have much to offer you.
How To Find & Apply For The Right Startup Accelerator
Startup accelerators have become increasingly common since Y Combinator, often credited as the first of its kind, arrived on the scene in 2005. Finding them, however, can be surprisingly tricky if you don’t already know their names and associated websites. These programs are often associated with their region’s investor community, so you can sometimes find them in the same places that you’d look for investors, on sites like AngelList. Your local business community and regional industry events can also be good places to get a sense of what programs are available in your region. Keep in mind, however, that the accelerator program of your dreams may not be located in your region at all. You can apply to Y Combinator from all over the country, for example. You just have to be willing and able to live in the Bay Area for a few months (although: During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s currently functioning remotely).
Here are some general guidelines for what to do when you’re applying:
Find an accelerator program that serves your industry (tech, finance, etc.):Â Not all programs are particular, but make sure your idea fits their profile. Most will provide a detailed map of their application process. These processes can vary greatly between programs.
Expect fierce competition: Because they’re cohort-based, accelerators have limited slots for each “class” that attends. Think about how to stand out and don’t be shocked if you don’t make the cut on your first try.
Be able to pitch your business:Â You should know your business idea inside and out and be able to confidently pitch your idea to program runners.
Be honest about what you hope to get out of the program: Remember that accelerators are, among other things, educational programs. Don’t be afraid to say what you don’t know, where you’re having trouble, and what you hope to take away in terms of knowledge.
Know what you can contribute:Â Remember, you’ll also be a source of information for your cohort. What kinds of knowledge and resources do you bring to the table?
Learn About Other Resources For Entrepreneurs
Startup accelerators are just one resource available to entrepreneurs. If you’re not ready to pack up your life and dedicate yourself to your business idea for a few months, don’t feel bad. There are a lot of other approaches you can take.
Check out our resources on:
6 Financing Options For Up And Coming Entrepreneurs
What Is Venture Capital?
What Is An Angel Investor?
The post Startup Accelerator Guide: Pros, Cons, & Where To Find The Right Fit appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
As a small business owner, you know the importance of getting paid. After all, you rely on your customers or clients to make sure you’re paid on time so you can put money into your business and pay yourself a salary. If you have employees, they also expect to get paid their wages on time. In fact, paying your employees late isn’t just bad etiquette … it’s also illegal and could lead to fines and other legal consequences.
Fortunately, making sure that your employees are paid on time every time is easier than ever with accounting software that boasts payroll capabilities. One of the biggest out there? QuickBooks Online. Millions of business owners rely on QuickBooks Online for balancing the books, tracking inventory, and performing other tasks, including payroll.
If you already use QuickBooks Online, you’re in luck. Getting started is quick and easy. While QuickBooks Payroll can be accessed directly through your QBO dashboard, you do have to sign up for the service. QuickBooks Payroll costs an additional fee (more on that later), but you can take advantage of a 30-day free trial to make sure the service is right for you.
If you’re ready to set up your payroll to ensure your employees are paid on time, while also remaining compliant with payroll tax laws, keep reading. We break down each step of signing up, setting up, and running payroll quickly and easily through QuickBooks Online — no prior payroll experience required!
What You Need To Run Payroll In QuickBooks Online
Before you sit down and get started, there are a few items you need to have handy in order to successfully and accurately set up and run payroll through QuickBooks Online. Unsure of why you need each item on this list? Not to worry — in the next section, we’ll break down exactly when to use each item.
Personal Info For Employees
Employee Pay Rates
Direct Deposit Authorization Forms & Voided Checks
Business Bank Account Login Information
Basic Information About Your Business
Not only can you set up payments via QuickBooks for each employee, but you can also take a few extra steps to make sure that payroll taxes are accurately calculated and paid. In order to do this, have the following information (in addition to the items listed above):
State Account & Withholding Numbers
Workman’s Comp Policy Information
How To Set Up Payroll In QuickBooks Online
After you’ve gathered everything you need, it’s time to set up your payroll. Depending on the number of employees you have, this process can be time-consuming, so make sure you’ve set aside plenty of time to make sure everything is input correctly. Though these steps can take some time to complete for each employee, the good news is that it’s all very simple and straightforward, so it shouldn’t be a problem — even if you’ve never set up payroll before.
Step 1: Sign Up For Payroll
In order to run payroll through QuickBooks Online, you have to sign up for QuickBooks Payroll. This is actually quite easy and can be done right from your dashboard.
On the menu on the left side of your screen, select Payroll. From here, you can choose whether to set up payroll for employees, contractors, or workers’ comp. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to click the Employees option.
From this point, you will need to select a QuickBooks Payroll subscription plan. You can select various features to get a plan recommendation from QuickBooks or you can choose your own. Plans are priced from $45 – $125/month plus $4 – $10/month per employee. You may be eligible for a 30-day free trial of any of the three plans. For this post, we are using the Core plan.
Step 2: Basic Information To Set Up Payroll
Next, you will need to answer a few basic questions about your business in order to set up your payroll. These questions include:
Have you paid employees in 2020?
When is your next payday?
What is the primary work location?
Step 3: Add Employees
Now, it’s time to pull out all of that employee information so you can set up payroll and get them paid. After answering the questions about your business, you’ll be prompted to add employees. Note that you may have previously added employees for other purposes. While you won’t have to re-enter all information, it’s possible that you may have to add in additional information — more on this in the next step.
For now, we’re focusing on adding new employees that you haven’t previously entered into QuickBooks Online. Once you click the Add Employee option, you’ll need to start inputting data. This includes:
For each employee, you will need to provide a legal name, hire date, and email address. You will also have the option to allow each employee to access pay stubs and W-2s through QuickBooks Workforce.
How often is this employee paid? In this step, you’ll set up a pay schedule. Fortunately, you aren’t required to set up a different pay schedule for each employee, as there is an option that allows you to use the same pay schedule for every person you add. Of course, if pay schedules differ, you want to ensure that you input the correct one for each employee.
In this step, you’ll input how much each employee is paid. You can select hourly rate, salary, or commission only. If you have an hourly employee, you have the option to set default hours per day and days worked per week if the employee works the same amount of hours each week. This allows you to automatically run payroll without having to input hours every pay period. In this section, you can also add other types of pay, such as sick time, overpay, or vacation time.
This section is for adding any deductions for retirement plans, healthcare, wage garnishments, and loan repayments.
For this section, you need to have the employee’s W-4 handy. Simply transfer all information from the W-4 directly over to the form within QuickBooks to set up and calculate payroll taxes.
In this section, you can add the employee’s date of birth.
How do you want to pay your employees? In this section, you get to choose. There are several options available: direct deposit, direct deposit to two accounts, direct deposit with balance as a check, and paper check. If you opt to pay by direct deposit, you must have the employee’s account information available. If you do not have this information available, you can choose the paper check option, which allows you to print and distribute paychecks to your employees.
If you’re paying your employees through direct deposit, you must also fill out a direct deposit authorization form, signed and dated. A voided check should also be provided by each employee (although it isn’t required) to ensure that account information is accurate. These documents are kept for your own business records and do not need to be submitted to QuickBooks. A blank direct deposit authorization form can be viewed and printed through QuickBooks.
Once all information has been added for this employee, save your changes and continue to add each employee following each step outlined above.
Step 4: Add Workman’s Comp Policy Information
The next step is to add your workman’s comp policy to QuickBooks Online. If you’re already covered, QuickBooks makes it easy to add your policy information. If you don’t have a policy, you can opt to have QuickBooks help you find a policy, or you can choose to do so yourself at a later time.
Make sure that you fully understand the workman’s comp laws in your state and that you’re in compliance. If you don’t have a policy or you’re unsure of the laws in your area, consult with an attorney, insurance agent, or CPA to learn more.
Step 5: Set Up Payroll Taxes
Now, you will need to make sure that you have the correct information in QuickBooks for payroll taxes and forms. For this section, you will need to enter your filing name and filing address. You will also need to answer the following questions:
Did you hire your first employee within the last 6 months?
Did you buy your business from a previous owner?
What is your company type?
What is your Principal Officer Title?
Is your business a non-profit?
You’ll also need:
State Account Number
State Withholding Number
If you don’t have these numbers handy or you’re a new business that doesn’t yet have these, you do have the option to skip this step for the time being. For tax purposes, however, you will need to come back at a later time and add this information.
Step 6: Connect Your Bank Account
If you are paying your employees through direct deposit, you will need to add your bank account information to QuickBooks. Adding your account info also allows you to send payments (whether you’re paying bills or paying contractors), as well as e-file and pay your taxes online.
During this point of setup, you’ll have to have some information on hand.
For this section, you will need to add or edit:
Business Phone Number
The person associated with your business bank account will need to have their information added to QuickBooks. Required info includes:
Social Security Number
Bank Account Information
For this step, you have the option of signing into your bank account. Simply select the bank that you use for your business account and input your login information. You also have the option to enter bank information manually, although this process may take several days before your account is connected.
Step 7: Sign Your Tax Forms
While this step isn’t required, it certainly doesn’t hurt to take a few extra minutes to sign tax forms. This way, you can be prepared come tax time.
If you get confused at any point in the process, QBO makes it easy to stay on track. Simply click Payroll in the side menu and go through the To-Do list in the Overview tab, or select the relevant tab to go back and add or change information. You can also take advantage of the in-software QB Assistant if you have additional questions or need assistance in getting payroll set up.
How To Do Payroll In QuickBooks Online In 6 Steps
Now that you have everything set up, it’s time to run payroll. The hard work is behind you, and the rest is relatively simple, particularly if you take advantage of the software’s automations. To run payroll in QuickBooks Online, follow each of these steps.
Step 1: Confirm Employee Information
Start running your payroll by clicking on the Payroll tab in the sidebar, then selecting the Employee tab along the top of the screen. This screen will show the name of each employee, their pay rates, pay method, and employee status. You can click each employee name to edit information as needed. You can also add more employees through this screen. Once you’ve confirmed the information on this screen, click the green “Run Payroll” button in the top right corner to begin running payroll.
Step 2: Salary, Hours & Memos
In this step, you’ll need to confirm additional information. Make sure that the pay rate for each employee is accurate. If you entered in daily hours and days worked per week during setup, you’ll notice that QuickBooks has already calculated the hours for you. If this isn’t accurate, you can easily make changes. You’ll also see total hours for each employee, as well as combined hours for all employees if you have hourly employees. You’ll also see the total pay for each employee, as well as the combined total for all employees for this pay period.
During this step, you can also add a memo if needed. You can also view and edit the pay period and pay date if necessary.
Step 3: Preview Payroll
Once you’ve confirmed that all information is accurate, select the Preview Payroll button at the bottom right of the screen. From here, you will get an overview of your payroll. This includes total payroll costs, broken down by net pay, employee costs, and employer costs. You’ll also see the total number of payments, types of payments, and a delivery date. Once you’ve run payroll more than once, you can also see a comparison of totals from the last time payroll was run.
Step 4: Submit Or Save Payroll
It’s that time — time to pay your employees! At this point, you do have the option to save your payroll for later. You may opt to do this if you’re missing information for an employee or need to make changes. But if you’ve confirmed that everything is good to go, it’s time to run payroll.
Simply click “Submit Payroll” to complete the process. If employees are being paid via direct deposit, funds will be deducted from your connected account and delivered directly to the bank accounts of your employees. If you’re paying via paper check, you can view and print each check before mailing or handing them to your employees. You can also print paycheck stubs and view and export employee and employer payroll reports. Once everything is done, click Finish Payroll and you’ll return to your QuickBooks dashboard.
Step 5: Correct Errors Or Reprint Checks
You thought you did everything right, but uh-oh! You realized after clicking “Submit” that you’ve made a mistake. No worries. You can view your paychecks and make corrections, void, or delete them. Go back into the Payroll tab and select Employees. Click on the employee’s name, and select the Paycheck List tab right under their name. Select the paycheck, then choose your action. Checks can be edited, voided, deleted, or reprinted.
Step 6: Automate The Process … Maybe
Pretty easy, right? But what if I told you that payroll processing could be even easier? The good news? QuickBooks allows you to automate payroll, so you don’t have to remember to go through the process each time payday is around the corner. The bad news? Not every business qualifies.
According to QuickBooks, Auto Payroll is available only to a select number of customers. In order to qualify, you must meet the following requirements:
All employees must be salaried.
Payroll setup must be complete.
There are no holds on your account.
Auto Payroll is not available for your first payroll.
Once you qualify, you can easily turn on Auto Payroll by selecting the gear icon, choosing Payroll Settings, and then toggling on the Auto Payroll switch.
QuickBooks will send a payroll summary to you a few days prior to payday so you can ensure that everything is accurate. If something is off, you can make changes through your QuickBooks account prior to the deadline set by QuickBooks. Otherwise, funds will be deducted from your account and paid to employees per your pay schedule. You can shut off Auto Payroll at any time through the Payroll Settings tab.
And that’s it! While this may seem like a lot to take in at first, the process is quite easy and not quite so time-consuming once everything has been set up. QuickBooks makes it very easy to set up and roll payroll by walking you through the process, and of course, providing in-software assistance when you need it.
Start Running Your QuickBooks Online Payroll With Confidence
Not only does QuickBooks Online provide a simple way to balance your books, but it also makes running payroll easy as 1-2-3. You can have your payroll set up in no time, making sure your employees are paid on time every pay period. You can also rest easy knowing that you’re compliant with payroll tax laws, even if you’re completely new to this whole small business thing. Remember to take your time, have your documents and information ready, and follow each step.
If you get tripped up in the process, don’t forget to take advantage of QuickBook Online’s resources to answer your questions and help you get your payroll set up correctly. Good luck!
The post How To Do Payroll In QuickBooks Online appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Your package is ready to go! You wrapped your products with care, sealed them up, arranged for pickup or dropoff, and let the customer know when she can expect to receive it. There’s just one more thing to take care of, and it’s a big one: the shipping label.
A shipping label is a crucial component of the process of getting packages from here to there, safely and on time, but it’s such a small part of the sales and delivery process that it’s easy to overlook how important it is. Not any more! Get ready to dial down to the basics of this important shipping component and make sure you’re doing it right â for your business, for your products, and for your customers.
What Is A Shipping Label?
You know what a shipping label looks like. It has a “to” field and a “from” field, and it’s the key to getting your shipment from here to there. The days of writing out addresses and shipping instructions by hand, either on an adhesive label or on the box itself, are long gone. That method is not only inefficient in a business context, but also dangerous, since it creates a real risk of your shipments being delayed, misdirected, or lost. This is the age of automation, and like it or not, you need to use automated labels to ship products to your customers, whether you ship one box once a month or dozens of packages each week.
Today’s shipping labels still contain the same basic information any shipping carrier will need to transport the package safely to its destination. But these days, a shipping label needs more than a “to” and “from” address. The reason? Automation.
How Do Shipping Labels Work?
A modern shipping label contains a unique bar code, a pattern of parallel lines and spaces. This code can be scanned at various points in the delivery process, such as when you send out the package, when it arrives at and leaves the shipping facility, and when it reaches its final destination. The bar code allows you, the carrier, and the customer to track the package and hopefully will keep it from going astray on its journey.
Let’s take a look at a basic shipping label. This is a generic example. The carrier you choose to ship your packages with may have some additional fields on its preferred labels. However, this example shows the most important common elements. Use the key below to identify these five elements.
Example of a shipping label
Information About The Shipper: List your company name and physical address.
Information About The Recipient: Write out the physical address to which you want the package to go. Include a company name, if applicable, and always include a person’s name if possible.
Your Internal Shipping Information: You can include information about what’s inside the package, if you use automation to pick and pull orders.
Routing Bar Code: The shipping carrier will read this code to determine the package’s destination, enabling more efficient sorting and tracking of the package, and resulting in faster and more secure delivery.
Special Instructions: You may or may not have anything to include here. You might write that a signature is required, for example. Or you might want to make notes about proper handling or storing of the package.
What About Prepaid Shipping Labels?
In addition to labels, you need to add one more very important thing to the packages you want to ship: payment to the shipping carrier who delivers them! If you use the USPS, you could pay shipping costs by affixing stamps. If you use a shipping service like FedEx or UPS, you might have an account and be billed regularly for the shipments you send. But there is a better way.
You can use the technology you already have in your office to print shipping labels that have all the key elements like bar codes, your shipping information, and the recipients’ information. And you can do it all from your desktop, using a regular printer.
What’s the benefit of using prepaid shipping labels? If you regularly ship with the same carrier or carriers, you can use their systems to create their preferred style of shipping label and pay for shipping costs in one smooth process. You’ll save time and likely even some money, as you take advantage of rewards programs and discounts with your shippers.
How To Create A Shipping Label
No matter who you use as your shipping carrier, you’ll find the process of creating a shipping label is pretty similar across the board. You may use a major carrier, like the USPS, UPS, or FedEx, or you may use shipping software to get the job done. The first step is logging in to the computer system and entering basic information about the package you want to ship. Let’s look at some of the details for each shipping provider if you:
Use A Shipping Carrier
You can choose among multiple major shipping carriers, or even use small local carriers if the majority of your packages stay close to their place of origin. No matter who you use, you should check to see if they have label printing software you can use. Read on — we will show you how to print prepaid labels with three of the biggest carriers. Wondering which is best overall? Check out our in-depth comparison of the USPS, FedEx, and UPS.
USPS Shipping Labels
If you ship regularly through USPS, you can save a lot of time by preprinting labels and paying shipping costs online. To get started, sign up for a free Click-N-Ship account through the USPS website. In addition to letting you print labels with prepaid postage from your own computer, Click-N-Ship benefits include free priority mail supplies you can order online, free insurance up to $50 on each package, and a loyalty program that lets you earn credits you can apply toward future shipping costs.
When you log in to your Click-N-Ship account, you’ll be able to build an address book to store customers’ shipping information, saving you time in the long run and reducing the possibility of errors when you make repeat shipments to the same address. You can also batch orders and print labels for up to 20 different addresses at the same time. Tracking services are included at no additional charge, and you can even schedule free pickup at your regularly scheduled mail delivery time.
To print a shipping label using USPS Click-N-Ship, you’ll need to enter the recipient’s name and mailing address and choose a shipping date. Then, you’ll enter details about the package, including its weight (if you know it) and basic dimensions. Choose your delivery service type â Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and first-class package service are the options â and add any additional services, such as signature confirmation or extra insurance. Add the item to your shopping cart, and you’re ready to pay and ship. You can enter a credit card or use PayPal, then print your label and wait for pickup.
FedEx Shipping Labels
FedEx is one of the biggest shipping carriers, and you can take advantage of the company’s network and access the best rates by creating a FedEx account. Enter your ship-from address and then credit card information to create your account. Once you sign up for a business account, you’ll qualify for discounts that reduce your costs, and you’re also eligible for the FedEx rewards program.
Even without an account, you can print labels and schedule shipments online. The process is the same either way. You’ll need to enter ZIP Codes for the package’s origin and destination, the number of packages you’re sending at this time, what type of packaging you’re using, the dimensions of your packages, and how much they weigh. You must also enter a phone number for the recipient.
You’ll be able to see the rates for a variety of shipping times and choose from Overnight, Ground Service, 2-day delivery, or Express Saver. The rates, delivery date, and time for each delivery type will be displayed to help you choose. You can schedule a pickup, for a fee, or opt to drop off packages. You can either use your account, with its stored payment information, or enter a credit card number to pay for shipping.
UPS Shipping Labels
Known for its reliability and excellent package tracking system, UPS is also an affordable option for heavy or oversize shipments. Start your shipment on its way by loading the UPS shipping calculator online. There, you’ll enter the to and from ZIP Codes and the destination street address. The system will validate that address and let you know of any discrepancies that could affect delivery. You’ll be able to see delivery options including Next Day Air, 2nd Day Air, UPS Ground, and UPS 3 Day Select. And you can opt to receive status updates on your shipment via the email address you provide.
Enter information about your shipment, including what type of packaging you’re using, its weight, and its value, and then add optional fee-based delivery requirements including confirmation, signature, or C.O.D. You can schedule a pickup or drop your packages off. Enter information about the contents, which will appear on the label, then pay via credit card or PayPal. Print and affix your label, and the hard work of shipping is almost done.
Use Shipping Software
Calculating shipping costs can be complicated. What you pay depends not only on what carrier you use but also on each package’s weight, dimensions, and destination. You can save money on shipments by comparing costs among major carriers, but that can be time-consuming â unless you use shipping software to make it easy on yourself.
When you use a software solution, you can receive real-time shipping rate calculations and receive a variety of different shipping options from different carriers at different speeds and rates. Many times, you’ll also receive discounts on shipping costs, thanks to special arrangements with carriers.
No matter if you use one or two carriers regularly, or if you use shipping software to help you get the best rate for each package you send, you’ll need to use some strategies to ensure the labels you print for packages do their part in delivering packages safely to their destinations.
Use a high-quality printer. If the information on the label is not easy to read, your shipment could be delayed.
Use self-adhesive labels when possible. You can order self-adhesive label paper online at a reasonable cost.
Cover the label with clear tape. That makes the label waterproof.
Leave the barcode uncovered, if possible. Shiny tape can interfere with scanning and may slow your shipment down.
Make sure the package is clean and dry. If the box or envelope has dust or moisture on its surface, your label may not adhere properly.
Don’t wrap the label over a corner. If the package is too small for the label, consider using a larger container.
Use packaging provided by your carrier when possible. Packaging often is provided at no charge, and you’ll see exactly where the label should be affixed for most efficient handling.
Put the label on a flat surface. If your package is lumpy or uneven, consider repackaging it.
Remove old labels. If you’re reusing boxes or envelopes, avoid confusion by making sure to remove any old labels and barcodes.
Create, Print, Label, & Go!
Shipping is an important part of the sales process. Yet it’s something so familiar that many people may overlook its potential impact. The more you know about printing and affixing labels, choosing the right carrier, and using the right packaging, the more efficiently you can operate.
If you’re ready to look for more ways to turn shipping into a business advantage, go back to basics and look for improvements that can save you money and satisfy customers. And if you’re looking for ways to get shipping costs under control, you can learn how to evaluate carriers and choose the right one for your needs. Even after you choose a preferred carrier, you can always find ways to save money on shipping costs. So keep investigating, keep adjusting, and most important â keep selling and shipping!
The post What Is A Shipping Label & How Do You Create One? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 22+ Web Design Agency Recurring Revenue Ideas via ShivarWeb
Every web design agency’s core problem is that large, profitable projects end while costs continue month after month.
Steady, monthly, and ideally passive, recurring revenue solves this core problem. Recurring revenue means that –
You can be patient and wait for the right clients
You don’t have to chase bad leads
You can hire & keep quality, long-term staff
You can multiply your business valuation when it comes to sell
You can smooth your cash flow & expenses rather than rely on credit
You have time to improve project processes & profitability
In other words, recurring revenue rocks.
Recurring revenue is why so many web design agencies try to add marketing services. It seems natural to complement project-based website design with retainer-based website marketing.
But website marketing creates a whole range of costs and risks. The number one risk is that marketing is out of your skill set…and so you actually lose clients from poor performance.
Instead, I think there’s a better way.
The key is to present your web design clients with an ongoing package of web design-related services.
The package should be invoiced monthly and should automatically recur until the package is canceled.
The package should be high-value for clients. They should be purchasing peace of mind, convenience, and high ROI.
And lastly, the package should be high profit margin with low labor, lots of automation, and obvious performance metrics for you. It’s a win-win-win for everyone.
But what kind of web design-related services can be packaged together? Here are some ideas.
Web hosting is the most natural fit for any web design agency. Your client’s website needs to live somewhere. And if you have a client who doesn’t already have hosting or specific hosting needs, you can provide website hosting as part of a monthly recurring package.
There are tons of options to provide the service.
You can purchase and mark up a regular website hosting plan.
You can purchase a Reseller Hosting account and host your client’s site there.
You can also create a hybrid option if your client has specific needs like Cloud hosting or email infrastructure.
Either way, you can have total control over pricing since you know your client better than the hosting company.
Upsides: You can generate high profit margins with low labor. Hosting companies will provide most backend support along with front-end support tools. You can also set up the account to provide additional services with lower risk (like security & backups).
Downsides: If something breaks, you own the problem. Your reputation is also totally dependent on another company. It will also require careful setup with impeccable quality control. Your client may have specific requirements to maintain website ownership.
Software / Tools: You’ll need good Reseller Hosting from a support-oriented hosting company (I use InMotion Hosting). If you are marking up a plan for each client, use a company with account management tools. For example, InMotion Hosting uses WebPro, and WP Engine has proprietary tools built just for agencies.
Websites can go down for a whole host of reasons. And when they go down, speed is critical. Uptime monitoring gives a client peace of mind. They’ll know that if their website goes down, somebody knows about it and can work to diagnose and fix the issue.
Upsides: Uptime monitoring can be completely automated. If you are using a reputable hosting company, they’ll handle most troubleshooting and response.
Downsides: You will be on the hook for getting the setup right. And if there’s a major cause, you’ll have to spend time, energy, and expertise making things right. Also, you can’t charge a lot of money for monitoring as a stand-alone service.
Software / Tools: I use JetPack for all my WordPress website uptime notifications. For non-WordPress websites, there’s Pingdom and StatusCake.
Cybersecurity is on every website owners’ mind – no matter how small they are. Even run of the mill spam can dramatically affect an infected website. Security monitoring provides clients with peace of mind and prevention of much bigger, more expensive issues.
Upsides: You can automate most monitoring and charge quite a bit, even as a stand-alone service.
Downsides: You will take on the risk of missing issues and fixing anything that comes up. If there’s a major issue, you’ll have to spend time, money, and expertise to make things right. You’ll also need a lawyer to make sure your firm does not have any legal exposure to potential lawsuits.
Software / Tools: I use JetPack for WordPress website security monitoring and Sucuri for my non-WordPress security monitoring.
Everyone (so…everyone) who has a smartphone knows about software updates. They are annoying, frustrating, time-consuming…but also critical. Unless you are building in pure HTML / CSS, websites are just big bundles of software. Software updates are critical, but can also cause problems. Clients will pay for someone to safely and consistently apply software updates.
Upsides: You can automate most software updates and charge a consistently high fee. Your client is unlikely to ever cancel the service. Your client will also benefit by saving money on future fixes.
Downsides: If a software update goes awry, you’ll be on the hook to fix the issue. You’ll also need to stay up to date on exactly what different software updates do to prevent conflicts.
Software / Tools: I use JetPack to manage my multiple WordPress website updates. I know that a lot of people also like ManageWP (now GoDaddy Pro). For non-WordPress websites, you’ll have to seek out a platform-specific solution.
A website backup is Website Ownership 101. Website backups have to be created and stored securely. Like software updates, clients know that backups need to happen, and know that they are time-consuming. They are buying peace of mind and convenience.
Upsides: You can automate the backup process and charge for both the service & storage. Your client is unlikely to cancel the service.
Downsides: You are responsible for creating a foolproof & consistent process. You’ll also have to adjust fees depending on how often a clients’ site gets backed up.
Software / Tools: I use JetPack’s VaultPress module to keep an automated backup for my WordPress website. Many hosting companies will also bundle a backup manager with your subscription. InMotion Hosting has its Backup Manager available on Reseller plans.
Software breaks, especially software that has prerequisites or integrations. A software warranty is a guarantee that you’ll fix any software issue that comes up for free in exchange for a regular fee. Clients are purchasing peace of mind and convenience.
Upsides: Like appliance warranties, you can provide high value for high fees and little labor. Since you designed & built the website, you should have an intimate knowledge of software risks.
Downsides: You are getting paid to take on risk. If something happens, you are on the hook for fixing the problem. You’ll need to carefully understand your clients’ needs and software risks. You’ll need to budget for hiring any needed expertise if something happens.
Software / Tools: No tools needed. However, you’ll need to maintain a familiarity with all your client’s software needs. Keep tabs on every software update so that you can fix any potential issues.
Every client wants to know how many visitors their website has. But few want to learn how to dig around in Google Analytics. Most would be happy with a PDF of some key takeaways. You can provide this ongoing service by setting up Google Analytics with metrics that matter to them and sending monthly PDF reports.
Upsides: Analytics Reporting is a low labor and high value service. You can automate the reports and let Google do the heavy lifting. Additionally, it can allow you to dip your toe into retainer marketing services.
Downsides: You’ll need to learn a bit about Google Analytics and set up the account correctly.
Software / Tools: I use Google Analytics to set up regular monthly reports. There is a lot of scope for customization though. Spend time getting the right Dashboards, segments, and KPIs (key performance indicators) set up, then automate.
Most clients also love to know how their Google rankings are doing, who is linking to them, and how their local listings are doing. There are many marketing intelligence tools that will provide white-label marketing reports in PDF format for you to pass along to your clients.
Upsides: You can subscribe to a marketing intelligence tool and have your clients basically pay for your subscription. Find one that has PDF reports (like SEMrush) and set it to automate your reporting. It’s low labor and high value.
Downsides: Few downsides, except that you may have to field questions about what the metrics mean and propose solutions.
Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to set up regular marketing reports. These reports can complement Google Analytics. They are also *very* high value for many clients. SEMrush has a clean setup with white label reports available, so you can provide proprietary data at very high markups with your brand everywhere.
There are three areas of SEO –
Off-page – promoting your website to other websites.
On-page – creating content that is relevant to search queries.
Technical, aka “in-page” – make sure your site is crawlable & indexable.
Unless you are running a large site, most technical SEO and on-page can now be done with automated tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush.
Even if you don’t provide SEO services, providing automated audits can be worthwhile for clients.
Upsides: You can automate this service and bundle it with other reports for higher fees. You can also use it to show the quality of your web design work or recommend new content or new initiatives. It can also allow to test marketing retainers.
Downsides: You’ll need to understand the terminology and reporting to field any questions from your clients. You’ll also need to be able to fix or at least diagnose any major issues that come up.
Software / Tools: I use SEMrush to provide SEO Audit reports in addition to Google Search Console. These reports will pull usability and small technical tasks. These reports allow you to maintain a conversation about ongoing improvements. You can bill to fix any issues or refer the client to an SEO firm.
Expertise retainers are when clients pay every month for the right to speak to you about their project. At a project-based agency, new projects demand all your attention, because that’s what pays the bills. But many completed projects will inevitably need some support.
Expertise or Support retainers allow your previous clients to stay at the front of the line when contacting you about a problem. Expertise retainers are common at the higher levels of professional services (e.g., corporate law). By definition, they require no deliverables. They only require that you remain available.
Upsides: You’ll have potentially 100% profit margin fees. Taking care of past clients will no longer come at the expense of current clients, since everyone will be a current client. You’ll be able to maintain longer relationships and make recommendations without your own financial considerations.
Downsides: You’ll need to be in business for a long time with lots of happy clients to pull off an expertise or support retainer. Many clients are not used to paying monthly fees for no deliverables. You’ll have to position this service well for clients to see the value. You’ll also have to carefully define scope so that an expertise retainer doesn’t scope creep into a website maintenance retainer.
Software / Tools: I use FreshBooks to set up recurring billing for any retainers if you don’t already have an invoicing software setup.
If you provided custom design for a clients’ website, then they will likely need a similar design for all their social media channels and website updates.
A graphic design retainer allows the client to request a certain number of graphic designs per month that fit with their brand / website.
Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate & tangible need with a low churn rate and potentially high fees compared to the amount of labor. There are lots of tools that can speed up the process.
Downsides: This service is hard to automate, but it can be low labor and high value with the right software tools / designers. There’s a risk of scope creep and revisions increasing labor costs.
Software / Tools: I use a mix of Fiverr, Canva, and Stencil to quickly work up basic graphic design. There are also services like DesignPickle that provide unlimited graphic design.
Even if your client’s website has a content management system, I’ve found that most clients simply don’t want to edit their own website. It’s too unfamiliar. They’d rather email a “website person.” You can charge monthly fees to be their Webmaster.
I’ve had clients pay me more to edit their website over the course of 2 years than they paid for the entire design.
Upsides: You’ll solve an immediate and tangible need for potentially high fees, depending on the client.
Downsides: It has the risk of lots of tedious, high labor tasks in addition to scope creep.
Software / Tools: Most content has to be edited manually. But tools like WordPress’s new Gutenberg blocks and apps like Grammarly make it fast.
This service pairs well with an SEO Audit service. Think of a content refresh like pressure washing a website. Website content gets stale over time. Businesses need seasonal content. You can go ahead and schedule out the updates on a monthly retainer.
Upsides: You’ll have an easy, straightforward sell with tasks that can be planned well ahead of time.
Downsides: You’ll have to define scope and budget for writers. There’s little to automate, though you can plan for labor costs ahead of time.
Software / Tools: Most content refresh will need manual updates based on existing knowledge. But I have hired freelancers on Fiverr to help with large edits along with WordPress plugins like Better Search & Replace.
Clients always need new content. Traditionally, agencies will sell content creation as a stand-alone project or sell it as part of a marketing campaign. But you can also sell it as a part of a monthly retainer.
Upsides: You’ll have a tangible service with a low churn rate. You can also budget for a long-term freelancer or employee. You can test out marketing retainers without a large commitment.
Downsides: It’ll require labor costs and will be hard to automate.
Software / Tools: I write a lot of content myself. But I’ve also used Fiverr, WordAgents, and ProBlogger. I’ve also worked with copywriting pros like Katelyn Dramis, Evan Porter, Nebo Agency, Knucklepuck Media, and Copywriting Course to scale up campaigns.
Social Media & Email Scheduling
Social media / email marketing presence is essential for every business, even if the business doesn’t really need a social media strategy or social engagement. You can sell your clients on convenience and take on their tedious social media tasks.
Upsides: You can charge a high fee for low labor, tangible tasks. You can also use software to automate most of the process and outsource a lot of creation.
Downsides: You’ll have to be careful and considerate of your clients’ reputation and maintain communication around posting details and project scope. You don’t want to accidentally take over social media response and customer support.
Software / Tools: I use TailWind for Pinterest & Instagram and Buffer for Facebook / Twitter. I use MailChimp my email marketing. My clients mostly use either Aweber or ConstantContact.
Software Revenue Share
Many website & software platforms offer a revenue share for agencies who use their platform. You’ll get recurring fees from the platform as long as your client’s site lives on that platform.
Upsides: You’ll get truly passive, guaranteed revenue in addition to other platform perks. The platform will also handle a lot of the support & security. Your clients will also benefit from a solid platform and can reduce their “vendor risk” away from your agency.
Downsides: Your client will be less attached to your agency (though that can also be a sales point for you). You’ll also have to sell your client on the platform for their website.
Software / Tools: I use Affluent to keep track of all partnership / affiliate revenue, though some software requires manual checking. Shopify offers a 20% revenue share for ecommerce websites (more for Enterprise sites). Aweber also offers revenue share for email. WP Engine offers revenue share for WordPress hosting.
If your client’s site is using software that you’ve developed, you charge licensing fees.
Upsides: You’ll have recurring revenue with 100% profit margin for as long as your client uses your website.
Downsides: Software licensing can introduce some obstacles to closing on web design contracts. Many clients expect a single upfront fee, so you’ll have to position the software licensing carefully.
Software / Tools: No need for tools, just an understanding of copyright and software licensing – especially if using WordPress.
Marketing Revenue Share
If you don’t provide marketing services, you can still refer clients to partner firms in exchange for a referral fee or revenue share.
Upsides: You can generate marketing retainer revenue without starting up a marketing division. Your clients can also benefit from working with a reputable marketing firm with a close relationship with their design firm.
Downsides: You’ll have to balance the referral process with your client. You’ll also have to find the right marketing firm, since you’ll both depend on each other to provide good work and good referrals.
Software / Tools: Tools will depend on your partner company. The best solution is via similar CRM software like HubSpot or SalesForce.
Website Upgrade Installment
You’ll sign a client to basically pre-pay for a future website redesign.
Upsides: You can secure a client for future projects while smoothing your cash flow.
Downsides: This arrangement will only be interesting for a certain type of client.
Software / Tools: No tools are needed, though you will need to scope the project well.
You’ll make regular data-driven optimizations to your client’s website.
Upsides: You can provide a tangible, recurring service for a high-fee.
Downsides: You’ll have to tackle many misconceptions and really sell the service without harming the reputation of your web design work (i.e., “why isn’t my website optimized from the start?”). You’ll also have to scope the work well.
Software / Tools: I use Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Mobile Friendly Test, and SEMrush’s Site Health tool to find website elements that should be improved.
A/B Testing & Reporting
You can provide regular A/B Tests and updates for clients based on a regular, consistent schedule.
Upsides: You can provide a tangible, very high value service for a high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.
Downsides: You may need to coordinate and/or compete with your client’s marketing firm. Not every client is a good fit for A/B Testing, since you really need a significant amount of traffic for relevant results.
Software / Tools: I don’t do a lot of A/B testing, but tools like OptinMonster are great for testing email opt-ins while Google Optimize and Optimizely will help you test entire pages.
Surveys & User Testing
You can run user feedback surveys and regular user testing for clients.
Upsides: You’ll have a tangible, recurring service for a medium to high fee. You can also automate portions of the process.
Downsides: Unless you have the right client, it can be hard to prove the service’s ongoing value. You may have to compete / coordinate with your client’s marketing firm.
Software / Tools: I use Google Surveys and Forms, but there are plenty of other tools available, depending on exactly what you are testing or surveying for.
One-off projects will always bring in most of the revenue for a web design agency. But that doesn’t mean that recurring revenue isn’t important.
Investors diversify between exciting stocks and dependable bonds. Car dealerships push car sales, but rely on service centers. It’s the balance & diversification that’s important.
Start by making a master list of recurring services that you can offer. Put them in different packages. Make sure they are upfront and known for your leads. They can help position you as the agency that will take care of your clients before and after the website launch.
You’ll build a stable, consistent business that will benefit you and your clients.
If you found this post useful at all, be sure to link to it from your blog or share it across your social accounts. Peace!
2020 has been a brutal year for retailers, but a shopping bonanza brainstormed by a group of retail insiders looks to turn things around.
Christened the 10.10 Shopping Festival by Coresight Research, rewards app Shopkick, and online fashion marketplace Fashwire, the event promises deals from retailers nationwide on October 10 with some sales spilling over to October 9 and 11. According to an introductory brief on 10.10 by Coresight, the upcoming shopping festival is aimed to drive consumer engagement across the US while pulling holiday shopping forward on the calendar.
Besides helping swing the holiday retail season into October, the event is meant to mimic China’s Singles Day, held November 11 and often dubbed “11.11”. That event, spurred on by Chinese eCommerce colossus Alibaba, is known for being the largest shopping day in the world; Alibaba shoppers spent $38.4 billion last November 11, a number that topped Amazon’s online sales earnings the entire 2019 third quarter.
10.10’s”gamified shopping experience” will also aim to entice consumers — participating retailers will be able to offer deals and rewards via Shopkick’s mobile app.
Coresight CEO and founder Deborah Weinswig further claims that kicking off the holiday retail season early will allow sellers to “spread out shipments over time.” Such a tactic will hopefully ensure that packages arrive at customers’ doorsteps on time.
“If we donât pull it forward, then it wonât happen,” Weisnwig told Bloomberg in an article from last week. She added: “There is no capacity. Weâre seeing people who have never shopped online shop online.”
According to Bloomberg’s article, more than two dozen “major retailers” have agreed to participate in 10.10. However, no company has publicly announced plans for the shopping holiday because an element of suspense is crucial to most sales calendars.
Several companies have signaled their intentions to begin the holiday push earlier than in years past, although none have specifically referenced 10.10.
For instance, Home Depot has pegged its Black Friday deals for early November, while Walmart has promised “an all-new Black Friday experience” that includes an earlier start to savings. Other retailers have also gotten in on scheduling a long holiday season; a Wall Street Journal report from September 12 suggests American Eagle Outfitters, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Macyâs, and Target will all have earlier-than-usual sales, with some beginning as soon as October.
Amazon’s delayed Prime Day is also around the corner. A leaked internal Amazon email indicates plans to run Prime Day October 13th and 14th. If true, shoppers will get almost a week’s worth of deals between 10.10 and Prime Day — giving the 2020 holiday shopping season a potentially profitable early jump start.
What 10.10 Means For Small Businesses
At least for 2020, 10.10 is primarily aimed at the online marketplace. When noting reasons for launching 10.10 in the era of COVID, Coresight specifically mentioned how 56% of US consumers are still avoiding going out to shopping centers. Plus — as noted above — Coresight has been very vocal on how a longer holiday shopping season will help ease the shipping crunch many online sellers face.
An early push for holiday shopping will also be key for businesses that rely on making end-of-the-year sales. With a stretched-out holiday shopping season, consumers will have more time to part with their cash — something that may prove pivotal because Americans are pinching pennies more than usual right now.
It’s also possible that some retail businesses may be eligible to be officially included in the 10.10 Shopping Festival (and thus be able to take advantage of Shopkick’s gamifying features). For retailers interested in participating, Coresight recommends contacting [email protected]
If 10.10 proves to be a success in 2020, the event has the potential to become one of the big shopping pushes of the year. With many retailers expressing wariness over Black Friday, Coresight certainly seems keen on making 10.10 either a replacement or an important supplement to the holiday retail season’s traditional start. By offering 10.10 deals, small businesses may be able to engage customers already on the prowl for savings.
Businesses that don’t need to make holiday sales can also take advantage of 10.10 (as well as Amazon Prime Day) by smartly shopping deals during the kickoff event for holiday 2020.
More Sales Tips For The Holiday Season
Keen to up your business’ game this holiday season? Take a peek at some of Merchant Maverick’s tips and tricks to successfully gearing up for the end-of-the-year festivities.
For a general guide on preparing for the holiday season, read 10 tips that will help your business thrive throughout the holidays. eCommerce focused businesses may find help in our suggestions for setting up an online store for the holidays.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post An October Shopping Festival Might Give Your Business A Jump On Holiday Shopping Season appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
Employers affected by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency have received a tax holiday that began on September 1. This tax holiday is only available for employees who have bi-weekly paychecks that are less than $4000 (or an equivalent of a salary of $104K a year).
And in the fast-changing news world of 2020, the Government Accountability Office indicated on September 16 that the tax holiday program has a chance of being overturned. Keep an eye on the news for updates about whether or not the program sticks around.
What Is The Payroll Tax Holiday?
Payroll taxes are responsible for funding social security, Medicare, and local taxes. Employees pay half and employers pay the other half of these taxes. This payroll tax holiday is a break/breather from the burden of paying payroll taxes for both the employee and the employer until January 1, 2021. This break can temporarily create more cashflow for businesses and employees, but at some point, the taxes will be paid back.
An employer has the power to choose whether or not to take advantage of the payroll tax holiday.
Companies that opt into the payroll tax holiday can withhold payroll taxes for employees and defer payments on those taxes until April 2021. And again: this is a tax deferral only. Money withheld from paychecks between September and December this year will have to be paid back.
The IRS memorandum stated:
âAn Affected Taxpayer must withhold and pay the total Applicable Taxes that the Affected Taxpayer deferred under this notice ratably from wages and compensation paid between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021 or interest, penalties, and additions to tax will begin to accrue on May 1, 2021, with respect to any unpaid Applicable Taxes.â
Given a general lack of guidance about best practices for how to assist employees to pay back the deferred taxes, many companies are choosing not to take advantage of the tax holiday at this time.
How Could The Tax Holiday Help?
The tax holiday helps create immediate cashflow from September-December. The boost to paychecks is temporary, so this assistance is essentially a temporary loan due in January.
Whether or not that loan could help is quite specific to the employer/employee; however, the US Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of thirty other organizations sent a letter to the government asking it to reconsider the tax holiday since it creates an undue hardship on the taxpayer in January.
In a signed letter to Congress, they stated:
“If this were a suspension of the payroll tax so that employees were not forced to pay it back later, implementation would be less challenging. But under a simple deferral, employees would be stuck with a large tax bill in 2021. Many of our members consider it unfair to employees to make a decision that would force a big tax bill on them next year. It would also be unworkable to implement a system where employees make this decision. Therefore, many of our members will likely decline to implement deferral, choosing instead to continue to withhold and remit to the government the payroll taxes required by law.”
If you decide to take advantage of the tax holiday, be sure to inform employees about your decision and explain why they may see a paycheck bump this last quarter. Also, explain your company’s plan for how employees will pay back their portion of the deferred taxes.
More Tax Tips
Navigating taxes and understanding various tax components and implications can be a headache for small business owners. If you need to brush up on some of the basics, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Small Business Taxes or our article on write-offs for small business owners.
If you’ve hired an accountant to manage your taxes, you can also check out Small Business Taxes: What Information Does My Accountant Need so you can show up prepared for all your appointments.
Do you have a story idea, tip, or press release for the Merchant Maverick news team? Shoot us an email: [email protected]
The post Your Business Can Now Stop Withholding Employee Payroll Taxes: Need To Know Facts About The Tax Holiday appeared first on Merchant Maverick.