This post originally appeared at Web Design vs. Web Development Explained via ShivarWeb
Whether you are developing an RFP for a large ecommerce website or are a small business looking for people or tools to build a website, you’ll likely run into the terms “web design” and “web development”.
Even though they are sometimes used interchangeably, they do refer to distinct aspects of a well-built website. Here’s the short version.
Web Design refers to how a website appears in a browser. Web Development refers to what appears on a website in a browser.
In other words, web design refers to a website’s layout, structure, color schemes, media placements, typography, etc while web development refers to the content, source code, and user interface that shows the user what they want. Additionally, development refers to all the logistics of storing & rendering the website as a whole.
Web design is usually short-hand for the “front-end” of a website while web development is short-hand for the “back-end” of a website.
But honestly, even this definition is so over-simplified that it’s a bit misleading.
A long, long time ago, websites were simply a collection of HTML & CSS files. Everything that showed up in someone’s browser was inside the file that loaded. Back then, a web designer did everything…because creating those files was all that you could really do.
But a little bit later (but still a long time ago), different people started managing HTML / CSS differently. Websites had become so large, that it wasn’t possible to update individual files in bulk.
Instead, all the different parts of a website were split up and put into a database. Content, templates, layouts, media files, fonts, etc – everything became a line in a database. Websites had “content management systems” to assemble different bits of information from the database into an automagically built HTML file everytime a browser requested it.
And this is when web development really became separate from web design.
Web design became more focused on the look of a website and how all these automagically generated files would fit together across an entire website. They became the architects of the website building world.
Web development became more focused on the functionality of a website and how those automagically generated files would actually get…generated. They became the engineers of the website building world.
And to stick with the building analogy, the contractors became, well, software. Website software got much, much better to where it could do the actual building based on web developers’ and web designers’ instructions.
Software as Designer & Developer
Software has also become much better at both web design and web development, further blurring the lines about who is doing what.
In the WordPress world, web designers have been handing off a lot of design work to pre-made themes and templates, thus freeing up designers to focus on branding & graphic design. Web developers have been handing off code development to pre-made plugins, thus freeing up developers to look at bigger picture speed, security, and user experience issues.
In the broader Web, hosted platforms and builders provide centralized (i.e., “global”) web development so that customers can focus exclusively on design, marketing & operations. This extends not only to website builders, but also ecommerce sites – even enterprise grade ecommerce websites.
In fact, more and more hosted platforms and builders are centralizing design with customizable templates and media libraries.
Designer vs. Developer as a Customer
Websites are a bundle of tradeoffs. There will always be a tradeoff between convenience and control. There will always be a tradeoff between quality and affordability. There will also be a tradeoff between uniqueness and support.
Deciding whether you need a professional developer or designer is no longer purely about your needs, but about your wants and current resources.
If you want maximum control, quality and uniqueness then you’ll need a professional designer and developer.
On the other end of the spectrum, if you want maximum convenience, affordability, and support – you can grab a solid, all-in-one website builder.
There is no right answer and no “best” choice – it all starts understanding your own goals and what all is on offer so that you can find the best fit.
There is no magic to web design or web development. They are both solving the same issues that websites have had since the beginning of the Web. But they have both changed…and overlap more than ever.
Be sure to browse the related posts below…or get the Best of ShivarWeb email series below where I share everything that I’ve written about building & marketing websites for myself and clients.
This post originally appeared at Mailchimp Website Builder: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives via ShivarWeb
MailChimp has been one of the fastest growing email marketing providers for years now. They’ve built an huge base of customers ranging from tiny personal accounts to some of the most prestigious enterprise brands in the world.
In 2019, they added a ton of functionality, including postcards & remarketing as they grow their positioning into a marketing platform. And as part of their growth, they’ve introduced a free website builder.
See MailChimp’s Current Plans & Pricing
I’ve been using Mailchimp for years, and was super curious when they announced the beta version of their website builder (FYI, beta just means it’s their first, trial run version. They’re looking for feedback from users to improve the product).
So I gave Mailchimp’s beta builder a try for a full Mailchimp Website Builder review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my review, let’s dive into an overview about tools to build a website.
There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing a website builder — and really, there are a thousand ways to get what you want in the end in terms of functionality, convenience, pricing, etc. The thing to remember is: whether you’re building a simple personal website or running a business, the way you build your site has a lot of consequences.
In the long-term, it affects your versatility, functionality, and, of course, your brand. In the short-term, it can certainly add/take away a lot of headaches. That said, just like choosing a physical house or office, there is no such thing as an absolute “best” or “top” choice. There’s only the right choice relative to your goals, experience, and circumstances.
What Is Mailchimp Website Builder?
On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Mailchimp’s website builder lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started and grow your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately.
Using Mailchimp is sort of like leasing and customizing an apartment in a really classy development instead of buying and owning your own house. You’re still in control of decor, cleaning, and everything living-wise – but you leave the construction, plumbing, security, and infrastructure to the property owner. That point is key because there’s usually a direct tradeoff between convenience and control.
Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Mailchimp, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.
As far as competition, Mailchimp competes with all-inclusive website builders like GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Jimdo, Yahoo!, and WordPress.com (and Shopify for online stores).
Compared to their direct competition, they focus on ease of use and their platform providing everything you need to market online — from their opt-in pages to their email software to their website builder.
Pros of Using Mailchimp Website Builder
Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Mailchimp’s website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.
Straightforward Sign Up Process
If you already have a Mailchimp account, using their free website builder is just a matter of navigating to it in the main menu and getting started. If you don’t have a Mailchimp account, it’s still incredibly easy to sign up. All you have to do is create an account with your business information + pick your payment plan to get started.
This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without an extensive sign up process.
Ease of Use
Another pro of Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s incredible easy to use. When you first get started with the platform, Mailchimp actually creates a homepage for you to use as a starting point.
Once you get into the platform, you can “drag” and “drop” additional elements onto the page, remove elements from the premade page, add new pages to your site with the click of a button.
The whole setup is like painting by numbers. You just add in your content, add additional elements if you want them / need them, add your branding colors and fonts, and click publish.
There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having an easy and quick way to get your site up and making sure it still looks decent.
It makes Mailchimp a great option for entrepreneurs / DIY-ers who want a website that gets the job done, looks clean, and doesn’t require hiring a professional to put it all together (and don’t want to worry about “messing it up”).
Another benefit Mailchimp’s website builder is that it’s completely free.
There’s no upsells, no limited access based on your payment plan, no restrictions. You can use the website builder with your free Mailchimp plan if you have under 2000 subscribers and don’t need additional email functionality, or you can use it with your paid plan for no additional charge.
While there are some limitations with the platform (more on that in a minute), it’s a great option for test projects or those who need a simple, functional website and don’t want to spend money on a platform.
Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. And for Mailchimp, there’s two big cons that stand out: limited design and functionality features.
Limited Feature Set – Design
With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control (think Android vs. iOS).
And you can really see this trade-off with the Mailchimp website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward and fast, and puts your focus on getting your content into a premade template. You can add pages and a few elements based on your specific needs, but for the most part, it’s got everything you need.
However, if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of design, you are limited with the builder.
You can’t add anything aside from the few drag and drop elements available to you, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited (AKA essentially just font and color).
If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for a Mailchimp website builder website.
Limited Feature Set – Technical
The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations.
Technical limitations are features that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.
These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.
In their beta from, Mailchimp has extremely limited integrations (social sharing, social following, file downloads, etc.), but there are a ton of technical features that Mailchimp currently doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.
There also aren’t add-ons or additional integrations to use with the platform, which makes it even more difficult to do anything besides the very basics on your site.
Ultimately, Mailchimp leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better use and market your website.
Mailchimp Review Conclusion
Mailchimp makes getting your website up and running simple and fast, which makes it a great choice for DIYers who want a quick and easy way to build a website without the hassle of getting into the code or having something custom made.
Get started with Mailchimp here.
However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control. Mailchimp leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to design customization and functionality. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.
Not sure Mailchimp fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.
This post originally appeared at Email Blasts: Definition, Examples, & Best Practices via ShivarWeb
Ah, the art of email marketing. Chances are you’ve landed here because you’re looking into sending email blasts as a part of your marketing strategy, and you’re wondering how to do it.
Email can be an incredibly effective way to connect with your customers and improve your business… when used correctly.
When used incorrectly, it can be a surefire way to land in spam (AKA where emails go to die).
So how do you use email blasts effectively for your business? What best practices should you follow?
But before we get there, let’s cover a few of the basics.
What is an email blast, anyway?
An email blast is an email that’s send to a list of subscribers.
Think of the promotional email you get from your favorite online boutique, or those newsletters you subscribe to from your favorite experts. Those are all “email blasts” that are sent out to subscribers who have “opted in” (AKA signed up) to receive content from these brands.
Why are email blasts important?
Email is an incredibly effective way to build deeper connections with your audience and build your business. When your audience opts in to receive emails from you, they’re giving you permission to reach out to them consistently. That’s huge.
Email blasts are also a great way to learn about your audience. You can see which topics your subscribers prefer, which products sell best (and when), and even which segments of your audience are most active.
That being said, when email blasts are used incorrectly, they can be pretty damaging to your business. Spamming customers with promotional content every day, not taking users’ content preferences into account, or even sending poorly written emails can get people to hit unsubscribe or even the dreaded “spam” button.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, let’s review a few key email best practices, so you can use email broadcasts effectively to connect with your subscribers and grow your business.
Email Blast Best Practices
Focus on Benefits
When you send an email, you know what you’re offering customers. But your readers don’t have a clue. Even if you write a great subject line, that still doesn’t get to the value of what you have to offer.
Too often, email campaigns revolve around features, without ever communicating the benefit these features have to the customer, which is key in the why. Take a look at the email from Zenfolio:
The 50% off discount is amazing, but what’s the benefit to me aside from saving money? Why should I take advantage of this deal? Is it because I’m a photographer who needs a platform to showcase my photos? Do I have a website already, but Zenfolio gives me more capabilities? Will it help me establish my brand more this year?
Now, take a look at this example from General Assembly:
This General Assembly email starts off by letting me know the benefit right away. A Software Engineering Immersive can help me back sure I’m in demand, always. I can use these skills to differentiate myself in a crowded tech industry — how neat!
Remember that your audience gets a ton of emails. If you want yours to stand out among the hundreds that come in daily, then you’ll need to make sure the content is something your audience actually understands the value of what they’re receiving. And it’s your job to articulate that value.
Think Quality over Quantity
Yes, you should be talking to your subscribers consistently. But that doesn’t mean you need to be sending them daily or even weekly emails.
The key to using email blasts effectively is to think quality over quantity. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to email frequency. What works for a massive retailer like Nordstrom may not work for a local dentist’s office.
It’s up to you to define how frequently you should email your customers. Here’s a few questions to get you started:
How often can you realistically send out quality content? Every week? Every other week? Once a month?
What does previous data tell you? Have your open rates been impacted when you changed frequently? Have you seen an increase in unsubscribes when you email more frequently?
If you’re just starting with sending emails, set a schedule and stick to it. See how your content is performing. Are people opening your emails consistently? Are they clicking through to take the next step? Or are they unsubscribing in droves? Use the data to make a decision about increasing or decreasing frequency.
Write Better Subject Lines
Think of your subject line like the first impression on a date. It’s the conversation opener — the thing that’s going to determine if you move forward or keep on looking.
Subject lines determine whether your audience will open your email or not, so learning how to write effective subject lines is key.
For example, take a look at this subject line from The Atlanta Jewish Film Festival…
Not exactly something that stands out in the sea of emails in my inbox.
On the other hand, look at this example from Neville Medhora:
It’s a simple question, but it gets me curious. Which headline is better? I’m opening that email.
Side note — Neville has a pretty nifty subject line generator. Check it out to learn how to write better subject lines.
Segment Your Audience
Not all of your subscribers are going to want the same thing, which is where segmentation comes in handy. Segmenting your audience simply means dividing them into various lists.
For example, say you’re an online retailer that sells homemade pet products. Not all of your shoppers are looking for the same thing. Some may be interested in your dog collars, others your homemade cat treats, and others your bedazzled leashes.
By segmenting your audience, you can create campaigns that speak specifically to each audience’s wants and needs.
But keep in mind that you don’t just have to segment audience by wants/needs. Check out MailChimp’s post about the effects of different list segmentations to see a variety of options.
Personalize Your Email Blasts
Personalization isn’t just about using a dynamic tag to insert someone’s name. It’s about establishing relevancy to your reader throughout the entire email.
You can do this by reminding your reader why they’re receiving your email. As consumers, we get hundreds of emails a day. Your audience is far more likely to engage with your message if you remind them why they’re receiving it in the first place.
For example, take this email from “Be Yourself,” a collection on Medium. This isn’t the first email in the series, but the second.
Check out the second P.P.S.
You can also personalize your email by being purposeful about point-of-view. By using second person (i.e. we, you), you put the focus on the the reader and show that you have an established relationship.
*Hint: use more you’s than we’s, like this example from American Express.
Additional Email Blast Inspiration
Looking for extra email blast inspiration? Here are a few more that we love:
This email blast makes great use of multiple calls to action (without it being overwhelming). Shoppers can pick their category directly from the email, and it also gives Huckberry great data to use in future segmentation.
This push for their referral program is creative and catchy. Notice their copywriting style — it’s fun without sacrificing clarity.
Industrious does a great job of speaking to the benefits of signing up for their office space instead of just focusing on the features. This snippet was taken from an email blast about saving $500 when you sign with their office space, and added great context into why you’d sign up for Industrious to begin with.
This is a great all around email example from Adobe, announcing their new Creative Cloud update. From the straightforward subject line to their short copy and clear call to action, it’s simple, effective, and gets me on board quickly!
Conclusion & Next Steps
Email blasts can be a great way to increase engagement with your clients, build trust, and get more sales. But only if you keep customer experience in mind.
Remember that your audience has given you permission to be in their inbox, and it’s permission they can take away if you don’t provide value, keep frequency in mind, and create an overall enjoyable experience.
Remember to look at your data to make informed decisions about what to change in your email campaigns. Check out open rates for feedback on subject lines, click through rates for feedback on your content and copy, and unsubscribes as a general indicator of whether you’re emailing too much / giving content people don’t want.
Test, improve, and test again. And always keep YOUR email habits in mind. Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want done in your own inbox.
If you own a small business and have a dedicated checking or savings account, now there’s a different way to send or receive money directly from your account. Unlike traditional transfers that can take up to three days, this transfer can be completed within minutes and is often free. The service is called Zelle, and you might already be familiar with it as a money transfer service for one of your personal bank accounts.
Zelle used to be a consumer-only banking service, but recently it’s been opened to small businesses. It’s available at most banks. If you want to learn how to pay or get paid without having to write a check or run to the bank for a deposit — and still be able to use the funds immediately —, read on to learn more.
How Does Zelle Work?
Before we get to the details of Zelle for business accounts, let’s first get a little backstory on how Zelle got its start and how the Zelle technology works.
Origins of Zelle
Zelle is a US-based money transfer service available to those who have a US bank account. It’s operated by a company called Early Warning Services, LLC, which, in turn, is owned by a handful of large banks, including Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank, Citibank, and Wells Fargo. In addition, 400+ “member” banks and credit unions participate in the Zelle service. The complete list of member banks can be found on the Zelle website, and if your small business has a checking or savings account at one of these banks, then you can probably use Zelle for your business.
The Zelle service was launched in 2017. There was an earlier version of the service called clearXchange going as far back as 2011, but accounts for personal money transfers were deactivated by December 2017 and users were encouraged to move to the Zelle service.
Zelle is basically a service started by banks, for banks. So, unlike its competitors such as Venmo or PayPal, each member bank has a lot of control over how to offer the service and whether (or how much) to charge for the service. While there is an independent Zelle app, for most users, the service is typically accessed through a bank’s website or mobile app. To sign up for the service or initiate or manage transfers, you log on to your banks’ website or app and access the Zelle service through tabs on the website or in the app. As a result, security features for the service depend on your bank’s security features.
The Zelle Network
Unlike many other money transfer services where you might have to wait up to three days to finalize a transfer, a Zelle transfer can be completed within minutes, and the money can be available for you to use immediately thereafter. This is possible because the banks that offer Zelle are “member” banks and presumably such banks have been vetted and given a greater degree of trust, so they release the money faster. Behind the scenes, Zelle transfers money via the ACH service, which–while it is possible to settle transfers in less than a day–still does not happen within minutes.
In reality, the service works like this:
Amy initiates a transfer of $100 to Beth through Amy’s banking app or web portal.
Amy’s bank debits $100 from Amy’s account, sends a message through the Zelle Network to Beth’s bank that $100 is being transferred, and moves $100 to a settlement account.
Beth’s bank notifies Beth of the transfer, credits Beth’s bank account for $100, and messages Amy’s bank through the Zelle Network that the money has been credited.
The banks then settle the account through an ACH transfer, which happens at specific times of the day during bank work days.
Can I Use Zelle For Business?
Zelle originally started as a consumer-only service, but, in 2018, it moved to allow small businesses to use the service. If you have a small business checking or savings account, then more than likely you can use Zelle for your business. However, it is possible for some banks to offer Zelle for personal use but not for business use.
If your bank does allow Zelle for small business use, be sure to check restrictions as well as fees for business accounts. They might be different from personal accounts.
Zelle For Business Accounts: What You Need To Know
If you already have a small business bank account, then you can probably already use Zelle. Here’s how.
How To Set Up a Zelle Account
Setting a Zelle account for your business is easy. Typically, a Zelle account can be used in connection with a business checking or savings account. Check your banks’ website to make sure, but if you can use Zelle, you should see tabs and buttons with the Zelle name or logo on the website or in the app.
In order to set up a Zelle account, you must have a cell phone number or email that you can associate with the account. If you already have a personal Zelle account, then you can’t use the same email or phone number for your business account even if your personal account is at another bank. Each Zelle account is uniquely identified with an email or cell number, so you can’t use something that’s already registered with the service. If your cell number is a VoIP number like Google Voice, you can’t use that number with Zelle either.
A unique cell number or email is all you really need. Because Zelle is a service through your bank, they already have your bank transit routing number and account number, so you won’t need to know that. Just follow the simple directions on your banking app or through your bank’s web portal, and you should be able to quickly set up a Zelle transfer account.
You must set up the email or cell number of each and every account you intend to send money to before you can send the money. You can’t just type the email or cell number on the fly and expect the money to be sent right away. The banks want to verify the recipient’s account before actually sending anything.
Here’s a screenshot of the Bank of America Zelle signup page (modified for privacy/security concerns):
What Types Of Transfers Are Allowed On Zelle?
Once you have your Zelle account, you can do two, possibly three things (depending on your bank):
Split a bill
In theory, you could use Zelle to request payment from customers, or receive payment from customers, or to pay vendors or partners — among other uses.
The web or app interface typically looks very simple and all you have to do is to follow directions to complete the action. Again, because your bank ultimately controls which activities it will allow, it’s difficult to show the interface here. Below is a screenshot of the Bank of America mobile app for Zelle transfers. It gives you an idea of what you’ll typically see.
Are There Any Transfer Limits Through Zelle?
There are indeed transfer limits through Zelle. Each bank decides how much that limit is, but typically there’s a limit on the amount and the number of transfers per day/week/month. For instance, Bank of America’s transfer limit is as follows:
So, in one 24 hour period, you can make one $3,000 transfer or 10 $300 transfers. The same goes for the 7 days and 30 days limits. On the Bank of America website, they specifically mention that a small business might receive a higher limit.
Again, because many details of Zelle are controlled by each member bank, be sure to check your bank’s specific number on daily, weekly, and/or monthly transfer limits.
Lastly, note that a transfer limit typically applies to outbound transfers. Usually, banks do not put a limit on how much you can receive through Zelle.
How Much Does It Cost To Transfer Money Through Zelle?
How much it costs for a business to transfer money through Zelle depends entirely on your bank. For instance, Bank of America charges no fees for your business to send or receive money through Zelle.
However, at US Bank, while there is no fee for a business account to send or request money through Zelle, there is a fee to receive money through Zelle. Each inbound transaction costs 2.5% of the transaction amount, with a $15 maximum or a $0.25 minimum per transaction. Given the different fee structure, before you start using Zelle for your business, be sure to do a little research through your bank’s website to find out for sure.
Are There Any Transfer Restrictions Through Zelle?
There is one transfer restriction for business accounts that does not apply to personal accounts. Some consumer users of Zelle bank at non-member banks. They can still use Zelle through the Zelle app by linking their debit card to the app. While this method of using Zelle is fine for personal accounts, businesses can’t send or receive money to this type of Zelle account. In order to use Zelle for business, you must bank at a Zelle member bank and receive and send money to only those who also bank at a Zelle member bank.
Protection For Fraudulent Transfers
Zelle transfers are more like debit card transactions than credit card transactions, so the legal protections available for credit card transactions do not apply to Zelle.
Zelle essentially is an ACH transfer between banks. As such, once that money is transferred, you can’t pull the money back except under very specific circumstances. You can stop the transfer if the other party doesn’t have a Zelle account and before they set one up. Otherwise, if you accidentally send money to the wrong account because of a typo, you would have to call your bank to see if they can pull the money back.
Like all ACH transfers, there is otherwise no protection for fraud, so most banks warn Zelle users to only send money through Zelle to parties they trust and carefully guard access to the Zelle account in the first place.
Zelle VS Other Mobile And Digital Wallets
Zelle was set up by the big banks to compete with mobile and digital wallets like Venmo and Cash App. There are differences between the services, and one of the main ones is that, with Venmo and Cash App, there’s an extra step to get the money into your bank account.
Zelle is a straight bank-to-bank transfer, so the money lands directly into your bank account and you can use it right away. With Venmo, Cash App, and others like PayPal, the money rests with each of these businesses. If you wish to take that money out for other general use, you must first transfer it to your bank. Typically, this is done through an ACH transfer that could take up to three business days.
Other than this main difference, as already discussed earlier, Zelle allows each member bank a great deal of control over how to operate the service and how much, if any, to charge for the service. In other words, if you have several Zelle accounts at different banks, you’ll have to pay attention to the differences between the services in order to not encounter any surprise charges or daily/weekly/monthly transfer limits.
Is It Time For Your Business To Start Using Zelle?
There are definitely advantages to using Zelle for your business. Fast transfer and immediate availability of funds are extremely convenient if you’re receiving payment. However, because ultimately your bank controls how many services they wish to provide through Zelle and how much they wish to charge, always double-check with your bank before you start any large-scale uses of Zelle.
As to how to use Zelle, you can, of course, pay or ask to be paid through Zelle. Simply provide the email or cell number you’ve associated with Zelle on your invoice and let your customers know you can take Zelle as well. You can also see whether the service providers and vendors you work with prefer to be paid through Zelle.
As a business owner, sometimes you can also transfer money to and from your personal and business accounts through Zelle (owner’s draw or increase in owner’s equity). The transfer is fast and you won’t have to write yourself a check or pay for a wire transfer.
All in all, while Zelle is not a complete solution for taking or making payments, it can do a lot. So why not try Zelle for your business? It’s fast, it’s often free, and it’s probably already available through your bank, just waiting for you to set it up.
How do you use Zelle? Leave us a comment and share any innovative ways to use the service!
The post Zelle For Business: What Small Businesses Need To Know About The New Money Transfer App appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
This post originally appeared at 20+ Considerations on The Future of Web Hosting, Website Builders & Digital Marketing Beyond 2020 via ShivarWeb
There has never been a time when running a website has been more accessible, convenient, and profitable than now.
But there has also never been a time when running a website has been so confusing, frustrating, and winner-take-all than now.
And that contradiction comes because some of the major computing & networking innovations from the 2010s are finally coming to the everyday Internet.
And as the 2010s close out and the 2020s begin, here are some of my considerations (in no specific order) that I think would be useful for DIYers, freelancers, small online business owners, and anyone planning an online presence.
Nobody Fully Knows What Is Going On
This post is deliberately a listicle because I don’t have a grand unified idea about the future of running a website on the Internet. And I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Cloud computing, machine learning, APIs, high-quality open-source software, free toolkits, mobile devices, streaming, and the lumbering giant behavior of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft all point to continuing massive disruption of entire industries that no one can predict or prepare for.
The Website + Marketing Tool Model Is Gone
For years, people built a website on a multi-purpose host with a custom domain. And then they used 3rd party tools & distribution channels to promote content, products & services that lived on the website.
But now, the website on a domain is simply one tool in a toolkit. In fact, you can build a model where your website is a backend for your other marketing tools…or you can use a marketing tool to build & run your website.
This shift is clearest with online stores. Between Buyable Pins, Checkout on Instagram, Amazon integration, dropshipping APIs, offline pop-up shops, etc – the website is just another piece in the business puzzle.
Now, websites are still critical because they remain the only piece of that puzzle that you can control & own as an asset. But…I do think they are losing their relative importance. And their importance depends massively on what industry you are in.
Platform Choice > Tool Choice
The demise of the website + marketing tool model will mean that website owners will choose their platform of choice rather than their tools of choice based on what business they have.
Online retail is in this place already. Very few successful retailers have a collection of tools. It’s all about integrations and platform. But increasingly, every business sector will move to this model.
Local small businesses will look at platforms that do their primary function plus whatever integrates well with that platform. For example, a website builder will not compete with other website builders. Instead, the website builder will compete with the CRM platform and the email marketing platform…because all three will have a website builder, CRM, and email marketing tool bundled in a single platform
In other words, a website builder like Wix no longer competes with Squarespace. Instead, Wix competes with MailChimp and HubSpot and Google.
In online retail, Shopify and WooCommerce and BigCommerce don’t really compete with each other. They all compete, as a group, against Amazon, Instagram, Depop, MailChimp, Square, Salesforce, and eBay.
In hosting, hosting companies no longer compete with each other as much as they compete against Google Business Suite, Hubspot, hosted website builders, etc.
Now, there will still be incredible power & opportunity for website owners who have the resources & wherewithal to mix & match services to get the best of all worlds. Those website owners will be able to maintain costs and control where others will cede more power to their platform of choice.
Convenience Killed Cost & Control
The big reason why DIYers are a declining & disrupted market is that when consumers distill down what they truly care about – convenience always wins.
The same reasons driving the growth of takeout, restaurant, delivery, and meal kits at the expense of cooking are also driving the growth of online platforms at the expense of websites + tools.
If you are a DIYer, it will pay to be hyper-aware of what your true wants, needs and goals are – and what tradeoffs you are willing to make. Platforms are great in many ways, but beyond 2020, the most successful DIYers will be able to manage the tradeoffs of platforms.
If you are a freelancer, it will lead to bigger rewards to both specialize in a platform and maintain familiarity with how adjacent choices work. Even if your clients do not know about or understand platform choices, you can still use them to streamline your business and add value without adding extra work.
Spam, Security & Speed Killed What Could Have Been
I am a huge fan of the Open Web. Regardless of the short-term rewards of the platform of the day, it’s still worth investing in a website for the long-term.
But in 2020, even the most die-hard prophets preaching against Google, social media companies, cloud computing, hosted builders, and big corporations will have to admit that the vulnerabilities in the Open Web & running / managing your own website are pushing people to big platforms as much as those big platforms are pulling people.
For example, Google might be pulling people & businesses to hand over their personal email & confidential documents. But hackers, spammers, and human impatience are doing plenty of pushing as well.
For example, I would *love* to run conversations via blog comments instead of using Twitter. But my blog comments are like an absolute honeypot for the worst of the Internet.
Another example, I would love to avoid ecommerce transaction fees and SSL fees but hackers only need one shot. Security is difficult and, honestly, much more effective to do at scale across thousands of websites.
Most of my clients gain a lot from controlling their own hosting rather than using a hosted website solution. But I have to set expectations to prep clients for the amount of time & money it takes to keep the site secure & speedy beyond using a solid hosting company. Web visitors will absolutely ditch a website in a heartbeat over a millisecond. That’s why so many publishers with massive brands are blindly handing control over to Google’s AMP initiative. Even the biggest brands in the world can’t compete with human impatience.
Traffic Sources Are Consolidated & Fragmented
Facebook’s properties & Google’s properties will continue to become bigger. But they’ll also become more winner-take-all. But also, a much longer tail of random completely unpredictable traffic sources will continue to fragment.
Even more traffic will be “dark” or untrackable. Planning a marketing strategy will increasingly rely solely on your target audience rather than your target traffic source.
Organic Traffic Is A Bonus
Treat any organic traffic from Google, Facebook, Pinterest, etc like a bonus. You can’t project or plan long-term around organic traffic. Agencies, freelancers, etc will have to adjust pricing and clients will have to adjust expectations.
Digital marketers spent years making fun of John Wanamaker old-fashioned quote that “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”
Online attribution was supposed to solve that problem. But now, no matter how creepy your tracking and attribution is…consumer & traffic behavior is so unpredictable that you won’t be able to truly plan long-term…unless you pay.
Marketers Growth Demands Killed What Could Have Been
More and more platforms & websites will be “walled gardens”* due to pressure to grow…and grow…and grow some more. The Web could have been a world of accessible, free-flowing information where many businesses and types of businesses made a living. But platforms have to be more closed to make more money off users. And as valuable traffic has declined, website owners have become more desperate and more annoying to drive up ad rates.
*Even previously open platforms like Reddit, Pinterest and Twitter are closing in.
For example – see basically every recipe website ever. As Google and Pinterest strive to keep more users on their sites, serving their ads…recipe content websites have become more desperate to monetize what little traffic they do have…leading to horrendous car salesman-like levels of unusability.
Users Killed What Could Have Been
Users want convenience above all. For all the pulling that Google, Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, etc are doing…users are also pushing attention there…because it’s convenient.
For example, I have no idea what to say to website owners about voice search. And anyone who does have a “strategy” for voice search – I call B*S* on. Users want it. I want it. It’s amazing, but you can’t build a publishing business or profitable content marketing strategy around it.
1,000 True Fans Is Still True
That said, the future will always have a small, tough, but sustainable spot for Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans.
On balance, there has never been a better time to run a website or online presence than right now. If you have a good product, service, or concepts, there are likely 1000 True Fans that can & will support your work. Sure, there were “Golden Ages” of organic Facebook traffic, organic Google traffic, etc…but those eras had serious issues and limitations as well.
There Is No Magic Bullet
There is no sure-fire way to build a successful website. I’ve been working in digital marketing for years now. I know that in SEO, there used to always be a sure-fire tactic that was working. Now, there are tactics that work marginally better than others. There are things that you can focus more or less on…but the magic secrets are gone.
Same goes with Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, etc. The only real magic bullet now is hard creative work, constant research, careful planning, constant learning…and a whole lot of luck.
Opportunity Costs Are Very Real
When you choose to do Action A instead of Action B, there is the cost of doing Action A plus the cost of *not* doing Action B.
In a world of limited marketing resources, choosing to create social media posts means that you are also missing out on *not* creating blog posts.
Back in the world where everything online was growing, you could afford to miss one big opportunity for another…because most every opportunity was growing.
Now, mobile devices are ubiquitous. Desktop traffic is actually declining. And many social networks have reached maturity. Choosing one over another or bouncing around chasing “shiny objects” has real costs above whatever you are paying for your main investment.
Even with aspects of running your website, many website features are standardized and predictable. There are opportunity costs to choosing what part of your site to improve or leave alone.
Lookalikes Killed Privacy
I wrote a guide to tracking marketing data on your website. I actively use any & all data to help clients & aid my own research. But on this website & my personal website, I’ve deliberately removed all tracking tags except for Google’s. Why?
Well, sure, there’s the token virtue and hand-washing hypocrisy part of it.
But also, I found that my own retargeting & tracking did not matter in comparison to the massive opportunity presented by lookalike audiences and the data gathered by the big platforms.
Because here’s the thing about “big data” that people miss. It’s that individuals do not matter. All that matters is the sample size.
Every single person has a lookalike about some part of themselves. No matter how special or unique you think you are; no matter how carefully you avoid trackers or cookies or online ads, you can be personally marketed without any kind of tracking to due to lookalike audiences.
Here’s an analogy. Think about the world of DNA testing & genealogy. There are real fears & real consequences to having your DNA in a database. But protecting your own DNA is near-pointless. If a company (or government) knows the DNA from a couple cousins or aunts or uncles or grandparents or a sibling…then they know yours as well.
Lookalikes are the same. Even if Nate Shivar avoids all retargeting trackers, there are still enough people out there similar to me that will allow marketers to reach me if they want.
So – what does this mean? It means that whether you have a large audience data set or not, you can still think creatively about how to profile & reach your audience.*
*that is – until privacy can get solved in a meaningful way. Be sure to tell your political leaders that this needs to be solved at the national / international level. Individual choice & freedom in this issue is a moot point.
Alternative Channels Matter
In investing, modern portfolio theory says that diversification pays for itself because it maximizes expected return even if it fails to maximize actual returns.
In other words, you may know that Investment A is your best bet. But you should still make Investment B as well, because you can’t be sure that Investment A will be amazing.
Same with traffic sources and alternative channels and even website tools.
You may be pretty sure that your priority is the right one. But in a world of uncertainty, alternatives are good to have.
Now – going back to Opportunity Costs Are Real – you have to be honest with the tradeoffs. If you spend time on YouTube in addition to Google Search, you might lose some in Google. But you also won’t lose it all if you have some investment in YouTube.
Web Hosting Is a Utility
Amazon made the technology of hosting files a commodity service. Web hosting companies no longer compete on technology. In fact, they don’t want to compete on technology…because Amazon / Microsoft / Google win on that. Web hosting companies make money on what they provide in addition to basic hosting.
That can include support, onboarding, graphical server management tools, bundled 3rd party services, etc. But the main point is that if hosting is a utility – then anybody can offer it as a feature…not just web hosting companies.
There will be even more plugin makers, software makers, theme designers, tool makers, etc that will simply bundle & resell hosting as a feature.
Website Builders Are a Feature
I remember when I used my first drag & drop builder in the early 2000s with Homestead. It was a “WYSIWYG” builder. And it was terrible. Actually, every WYSIWYG builder was terrible…until just a few years ago.
Now…developer and marketer snobs will turn their nose up at drag & drop…but the software is actually pretty good….and it’s only getting better.
If drag & drop were microwavable pizzas in the 2000s, they became Domino’s in the 2010s…and now they are more like Mellow Mushroom pizza. Nothing like your local sit-down Italian haunt…but consistent and really solid.
All this means is that the core website building software can be a feature bundled with everything else rather than a stand-alone business. That’s why Google, MailChimp, Shopify, HostGator, InMotion, GoDaddy, and a dozen other non-website builder companies are bundling free website builders that otherwise compete directly with Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, etc.
SEO Is a Tactic
For years, the “contract” between publishers and Google was that Google gets to copy & analyze copyrighted content in exchange for free organic traffic.
If publishers made their content easier for Google to copy & analyze (i.e., “search engine optimization“), then Google would reward them with even more free organic traffic.
It created a virtuous cycle that worked for everyone. Sure, Google had to deal with publishers who took advantage of loopholes. And publishers had to waste some time dealing changing guidelines and features (remember Author markup?).
But on whole, the deal worked for everyone.
In fact, you could build an entire marketing strategy around the deal. That’s how entire businesses got built. Help Google and they’ll help you.
But, that deal has broken down. As Google focuses more on users and advertisers – publishers will get left out more and more. And as SEO as a strategy goes away, it will really only remain as a tactic in a broader strategy of organic traffic from all the places.
IRL Original Content Is Underestimated
The Internet makes copying & sharing more convenient than ever. In fact, it’s so convenient that we often forget that there are other sources of information in the real world.
But even more so, we forget that information in the real world is the source for information on the Internet.
In fact, this instinct is true not just among social media users but also among serious website owners and professional journalists.
Because of this instinct for convenient & copyable information – there is a growing premium on original information gathered from the real world.
Anyone can get a screengrab from Google Earth. But not many people will take a picture of a location. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can get a screengrab from social media…but not many people will go an compose a proper photo in context. And which is more useful & unique?
Anyone can make a drawing or an illustration…but not many people will make an IRL video or photo sequence. And which is more useful & unique?
On my websites & my clients’ websites – I am continually amazed at how often original, IRL images get copied, cited & linked-to. It’s amazing.
It’s no magic bullet, but it’s the most magical of all bullets that SEO’s & website owners have.
IRL Data Is Underestimated
On a related note, data copying and analyzing is easy. IRL data gathered from real people is harder and harder to gather and share.
That’s what makes the US Census so invaluable. But that’s also what makes companies’ internal data so valuable and why some companies use it for incredible link building & PR efforts.
Above & Beyond Pays Off Even More
Regardless of hosting platform, marketing toolset, marketing strategy or collection of tactics – going above and beyond the competition will provide winner-take-all dividends.
The Internet & globalization continually push towards sharper and sharper winner-take-all markets for money & attention. And they also increase the long-tail of choice. And technology is continually disrupting itself. Until those core forces are fully understood, you have to play the game.
Focus on using products that you understand and match your goals. Focus on marketing strategies based on audiences that you understand and match your financial goals.
If you’re reading this, I’m going to take a wild shot in the dark and say that you probably have a PayPal account. As of the third quarter of 2019, PayPal has reported a total of 295 million active accounts worldwide. PayPal has become so embedded in people’s lives that many use their personal PayPal account to conduct business. However, by doing this, you give up the advantages that come with a free PayPal Business account.
We’re here today to explain why, if you’re a PayPal user doing business under your personal account, you should really sign up for a PayPal Business account and do business under that account instead.
Why Use PayPal For Business?
When you use PayPal for Business, you gain access to a plethora of services, both free and paid, that can be immensely helpful to any merchant making money from online sales. You’ll get three options for taking payments, two of which carry no monthly fees. You’ll get access to a plethora of eCommerce integrations, including Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Offline merchants will get access to a number of POS integrations, as well as PayPal’s in-house mobile card reader and mPOS app, both of which are bundled together under the PayPal Here brand.
Other features available through PayPal include online invoicing, a Marketing Solutions package, a Virtual Terminal, a recurring billing service, and a lengthy list of developer tools. Of course, other payment processors sport similar tools, so is there truly any advantage to using PayPal for Business? PayPal itself would argue “yes,” and in favor of that argument,Â a recent study found that when a customer chooses PayPal as their payment method, they go on to complete the transaction 88.7% of the time — an average conversion rate 60% higher than that of other digital wallets and 82% higher than the average conversion rate of all other payment methods.
All things considered, a PayPal business account makes it simple and easy to send money back and forth. Whether you’re in the business of offering online subscription services, selling your wares at “meetspace” events like crafting shows and conventions, or even collecting donations for a nonprofit organization, PayPal for Business has plenty to offer.
Differences Between PayPal Personal & Business Accounts
Both personal and business PayPal accounts allow you to send and request money, make purchases, and even receive payments for sales you make — so long as you mark these sales as being for “Goods and services,” thus incurring transaction fees (and PayPal will check to make sure you’re not dodging transaction fees by mislabeling transactions). However, without a business account, you won’t have access to a host of commerce-facilitating features such as creating shipping methods, inventory tracking, allowing employees partial access to your account, and signing up for services like PayPal Here.
PayPal Business Account Requirements
The requirements to set up a PayPal business account are pretty minimal. You’ll need the following:
An email address
A business phone number
Your legal business name — your own name is fine if your business is a sole proprietorship
The last four digits of your SSN
Your Employer Identification Number (EIN) — if you choose individual/sole proprietorship as your business type, you don’t need to provide an EIN
Your date of birth
Your home address
Your bank name, account number, and routing number
This will be sufficient to start selling, but note that after you start actually accepting payments and making money, PayPal may request further documentation, such as bank statements. Third-party processors like PayPal and Square are notorious for their stringent scrutiny of merchants and their tendency to subject merchants to holds or terminations at the slightest hint of trouble. Just be ready to provide whatever information PayPal might ask for in the event that they detect something slightly suspect.
Check out our piece on avoiding account holds, freezes, and terminations to learn more.
How To Set Up Your PayPal Business Account
Start off by clicking on the “Sign Up” box in the top right corner of PayPal’s page. Note that if you are signed in to your personal PayPal account, PayPal will prompt you to either sign out of your current account and set up a separate business account under a different email address OR delete your current PayPal account and set up a business account using the email address previously associated with your old PayPal account. I assume most of you will want to choose the former option.
Next, you’ll be prompted to enter some information about your business. Enter the legal name of your business contact, the name and phone number of your business, and your business address.
Next, you’ll be asked to describe your business type. The options you’ll have to choose from are as follows: Individual/Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, Corporation, Nonprofit organization, or Government entity.
Next, you’ll be asked to further describe your business. You’ll be asked to choose the product or keyword that best describes your business, your estimated monthly sales, and your website (this one is optional), and you may also be offered the chance to receive a PayPal Business Debit Mastercard after you receive at least $250 in payments.
Now, if your business type is anything other than Individual/Sole Proprietorship, you’ll also be prompted to enter your Employer Identification Number (EIN). If you chose Individual/Sole Proprietorship as your business type, you won’t receive this prompt as you won’t have an EIN.
Next, you’ll be asked to supply some more personal information: the last four digits of your SSN, your date of birth, and your home address.
Once this step is complete, your PayPal business account will have been created. You’ll now be asked whether you want to request or send money and whether you want to send out an invoice (which will start the process of setting you up with PayPal Invoicing, a free service that allows you to create and send customized invoices)
After that, you’ll be prompted to select other PayPal services you may want to use. You can choose which online payment package you’d like to set up for online sales. If you’re in the business of offline sales, you’ll be offered the chance to set up a PayPal Here account. And if you want to sell goods through online marketplaces that PayPal integrates with, you’ll be offered the chance to connect to such a marketplace.
Keep in mind that you can always return to the set of signup options listed above by hovering over the “More” option on your PayPal toolbar at the top of the page and then selecting “Business setup.”
Let’s go back to setting up online payments for a moment. Click on “Set Up Online Payments” and you’ll be presented with the choice of processing all your payments through PayPal or adding PayPal as a supplementary way to get paid.
Depending on which option you select, you’ll then choose how you want to sell online. Choose “Process all payments through PayPal” and you’ll be offered two further options. With Option A, you work with an eCommerce solution that’s already integrated into PayPal. Option B lets you add HTML buttons to your website yourself. Below both options, you’ll see a “Compare options” link. Click it to see the following comparison:
Now, if you chose “Add PayPal Checkout as another way to get paid”, the two subsequent options will be different. Option A will be “I want a pre-built payment solution” while Option B will be “Use our APIs to add PayPal Checkout to your website.” Clicking “Compare options” will then display the following:
After you establish your payment setup, you’ll find an “Account setup” tab next to the “Payment setup” tab. Click on that to finish setting up your account.
From there, follow the links to confirm your email, link your debit card for Instant Transfers to your bank if you wish, link your bank account, make your business name clear for customers, and, should you so desire, get the PayPal Business Debit Mastercard.
Depending on the payment options you selected earlier, you’re going to need to choose between the three available payment packages for accepting payments online:
PayPal Checkout (formerly Express Checkout)
PayPal Payments Standard
PayPal Payments Pro
If you want to add PayPal as a supplementary payment option to your existing website or if you already integrate with an eCommerce provider, PayPal Checkout is a solid choice. You’ll get PCI compliance (PayPal redirects customers to its secure site to complete the transaction), contextual checkout buttons, and localized payment methods for European customers.
PayPal Payments Standard is a more fully-featured payment solution than PayPal Checkout. Payments Standard offers the same eCommerce integrations and PCI compliance offered by PayPal Checkout along with a healthy dollop of additional features. Here’s the full list of what you’ll get with Payments Standard:
Accept credit and debit cards (your buyers don’t need a PayPal account)
Accept PayPal payments
Send invoices online for fast payment
Accept payments in 25 currencies from 202 countries
Simplified PCI compliance
No long-term contracts, setup, withdrawal or cancellation fees
Nonprofit discount available for PayPal transactions
Toll-free phone support
Offer special financing on purchases $99 and up
Both PayPal Checkout and PayPal Payments Standard have the benefit of being free to sign up for with no monthly fees. PayPal Payments Pro, by contrast, costs $30/month to use. Let’s take a look at what you’ll get for the money:
Hosted Checkout page: With Payments Pro, you can keep your customers on your website throughout the entire checkout process and customize the design of your checkout page. If you want to provide your customers with the most seamless checkout experience possible, Payments Pro is the way to go. However, this means that you’ll have to take care of PCI compliance yourself.
Virtual Terminal: PayPal’s virtual terminal allows you to accept payments via phone, fax, or mail. Once you have your customer’s card number, you can key in those numbers from a browser window. It’s definitely a handy feature, and it always helps to be able to take payments by as many means as possible. However, competitors like Square and Shopify offer access to a virtual terminal without having to pay any monthly fee whatsoever.
Recurring Billing: If you’re in the business of selling subscriptions, Payments Pro offers recurring billing tools to power your sales. Unfortunately, recurring billing will cost you an additional $10/month. Oddly enough, PayPal Checkout offers recurring billing tools for no cost whatsoever.
Bear in mind that to implement many of the features on offer with a PayPal business account, you’ll need a developer to help you do the heavy lifting.
Another feature you can sign up for on PayPal’s website is PayPal Here, a suite of services that allows you to accept offline payments via a mobile POS app and a PayPal card reader of your choosing. You’ll find the PayPal Here page under the Tools drop-down menu in the toolbar on your PayPal dashboard.
The first thing you’ll need to do is sign up for PayPal Here. Once you’ve done that, download the PayPal Here mPOS app onto your mobile device. Next, sign in to the app and order your card reader. Of the three card readers currently available, the Mobile Card Reader and the Chip and Swipe reader are both free until June 30, 2020, for new PayPal Here account holders. Also available is the Chip and Tap Reader + Charging Stand combo which you can purchase from PayPal for $79.99.
For a full rundown of the features included in PayPal Here, read our PayPal Here review.
Are There Any Paypal Business Account Fees?
There are no fees incurred when you set up a PayPal business account. It’s completely free to have a PayPal business account (unless you sign up for the PayPal Payments Pro plan). Of course, free payment processing doesn’t exist, and PayPal is no exception. This means that payment processing fees will apply when you make a sale through PayPal. If you’re a US-based merchant, Here’s what you’ll be paying per transaction in the based on the nature of the transaction:
2.9% + $0.30 per online transaction
2.7% per swiped, dipped or tapped offline transaction (when you use PayPal Here or integrate with one of PayPalâs POS partners)
3.5 + $0.15 per keyed transaction
2.2% + $0.30 per online transaction for nonprofits (check out PayPal For Nonprofits to learn more)
5% + $0.05 per transaction under the MicroPayments plan
3.1% + $0.30 per Virtual Terminal transaction
Keep in mind that the Virtual Terminal is only available if you have a PayPal Payments Pro plan, which costs $30/month. Overall, PayPal’s fees are comparable to those of other third-party processors, though as I mentioned earlier, both Square and Shopify offer a virtual terminal without a monthly fee.
One recent policy change that has sellers chagrined is that when a transaction is refunded, PayPal will not return the processing fee to you. That means that if you refund a $100 online purchase to a customer, the processing fee won’t be returned to you and you’ll lose $3.20. This may not sound like that much, but if you’re issuing a significant number of refunds, these costs add up quickly. For more on refund policies in the payment processing industry, check out our article on credit card refund fees.
This article doesn’t cover every single fee associated with using PayPal. For more on the costs of such things as card readers for offline sales, conversion fees, chargeback fees, and more, our article on PayPal pricingÂ has the full story. And if you’re a seller outside the US, have a look at PayPal’s complete list of merchant fees, as the fixed portion of your transaction fees (when considering a 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee, the 30 cents is the fixed part) will vary based on the currency you use.
The Bottom Line On PayPal For Business Accounts
We’ve established that if you’re going to use your PayPal account for business purposes, you really should get a PayPal business account. But how does PayPal stack up against competing payment processing solutions?
Overall, despite its shortcomings, PayPal is a solid option for merchants. With its relatively simple, transparent pricing and extensive eCommerce integrations, PayPal works particularly well as a starter option for new businesses and will scale with your business as it grows. What’s more, online sellers can always choose to use PayPal as a supplemental means of accepting payments. This isn’t the case with most of PayPal’s competitors.
PayPal has plenty to offer offline sellers as well — with PayPal’s in-house mPOS app along with its robust POS and accounting integrations, you’ll be able to take payments anywhere with ease. Read our full PayPal review for an even deeper look into what the payments giant has to offer your business.
That being said, PayPal obviously isn’t an ideal solution for everybody. If you’re not happy with PayPal’s business practices or if you’re in the process of comparison shopping, check out our article on PayPal alternatives. You may want to have a look at our merchant account comparison chart as well.
As always, if you’ve used — or are using — a PayPal business account to accept payments, we’d love to hear about it! Please drop us a comment!
The post Why You Need A PayPal Business Account If You Want To Take Payments Via PayPal appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you’ve looked into setting up a nonprofit organization, you’ve probably noticed a few terms floating around. The industry is usually described as “nonprofit,” but at other times the term “not for profit” is used instead. So which is it, nonprofit or not for profit? Is there an appreciable difference between these two terms, and if so, which best describes your organization?
In this article, we’ll compare the terms “nonprofit” and “not for profit.” Then, we’ll go into more detail on the advantages and disadvantages of officially registering as a nonprofit organization. Finally, I’ll point you to a few resources that can help you during the process of registering as a nonprofit.
However, before we go on, it’s important to note that we have written this article for organizations based in the United States. If you aren’t based in the US, you should look into your home country’s laws, terms, and policies regarding nonprofits.
Keep reading to learn about the difference between nonprofit and not for profit, and to find out how those terms apply to your organization!
Nonprofit VS Not For Profit
In the past few years, there has been some discussion online about the exact definitions of “nonprofit” and “not for profit.” Some writers argue that these two terms represent two entirely different types of organizations, while others say that the terms are completely interchangeable. As I researched for this article, I spent some time exploring the different sides of the argument, as well as diving into IRS resources for more detailed information. Here’s what I’ve found:
The terms “not for profit” and “nonprofit” both refer to organizations that are designed to serve the public and not intended to make a profit. These organizations are typically eligible for tax-exempt status, provided they keep up with the IRS’s requirements.
“Not for profit” is a newer term that has gained popularity because it more clearly describes what a nonprofit does. Most “not for profit” or “nonprofit” organizations do in fact make a profit at some point in their existence. However, they do not exist for the sake of making a profit. Any profits made are put to use furthering the cause of the organization, not making anyone richer. Many people feel that the term “not for profit” better expresses the intention of these types of organizations without mistakenly implying that the organization will never make a profit.
In addition, the term “not for profit” is often used as a descriptor for all organizations that serve nonprofitable purposes. These organizations include charities, sports clubs, business leagues, and more. Some of these organizations serve the public while others provide services for their own members. “Not for profit” is a good umbrella term that many people use to talk about all of these organizations.
Key Takeaway: Not for profit is NOT an official business structure, and the IRS does not use this term to describe any business. As you look into registering your organization with the IRS, you will only find them using the term nonprofit.
The word “nonprofit,” is an older and more familiar term for organizations that work for the good of society without the intent to earn a profit. While there are many types of organizations that are “nonprofit,” people tend to use this term to refer to charitable organizations such as The American Red Cross, The Human Society of the United States, and Feeding America. Nonprofit is the more common term, and it is the one that the IRS favors.
To sum things up, despite the slight differences in the ways these words are used colloquially, nonprofit and not for profit are technically interchangeable terms. They both refer to organizations that don’t profit from earnings and which are typically eligible for tax-exempt status and other IRS benefits. So, despite some nuance, there is no real difference between “nonprofit” and “not for profit”.
Types Of Nonprofit Structures
Even though “not for profit” and “nonprofit” mean essentially the same thing, there are still some distinctions that you can make between different types of nonprofits. As I mentioned above, there are many types of nonprofits, and this list goes beyond the charitable organizations that typically come to mind. Fraternities, recreation clubs, and employee associations can also apply for tax-exempt status as nonprofit organizations.
So, what category does your organization fall under? Let’s take a look.
The most common types of nonprofits are those that fall under section 501(c)(3) of the IRS’s “Publication 557: Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization.” 501(c)(3) organizations are the types of organizations that immediately come to mind when you hear the word “nonprofit.” They are charitable organizations, churches, medical research groups, and so on. These organizations are eligible to be exempt from federal income tax (and state income tax depending on state law). Here’s a quote from the IRS that describes 501(c)(3) organizations:
An organization may qualify for exemption from federal income tax if it is organized and operated exclusively for one or more of the following purposes:
Testing for public safety.
Fostering national or international amateur sports competitions (but only if none of its activities involve providing athletic facilities or equipment; however, see Amateur Athletic Organizations, later in this chapter).
The prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
To qualify, the organization must be organized as a corporation (including a limited liability company), unincorporated association, or trust. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, individuals, or loosely associated groups of individuals won’t qualify. (Publication 557: Tax Exempt Status for Your Organization)
Organizations that fall under section 501(c)(3) are also eligible for many benefits beyond just tax exemption. For more information, jump down to the Pros & Cons of Registering as a Nonprofit section of this article.
Other 501(c) Nonprofits
While section 501(c)(3) encompasses many nonprofit organizations, it is by no means the only classification of nonprofits. The IRS’s list of tax-exempt organizations includes many organizations that do not fall into any of the categories above. These include social and recreational clubs, business leagues, voluntary employee’s beneficiary associations, and more. Although these organizations do not fall under section 501(c)(3), they do fall under other 501(c) sections. The IRS lists a total of twenty-nine 501(c) sections, including the following:
501(c)(4): Civic Leagues and Social Welfare Organizations
501(c)(5): Labor, Agricultural, and Horticultural Organizations
501(c)(6): Business Leagues, etc.
501(c)(7): Social and Recreation Clubs
501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10): Fraternal Beneficiary Societies and Domestic Fraternal Societies
501(c)(13): Cemetery Companies
These 501(c) organizations tend to differ from 501(c)(3) organizations because the funds raised often go towards furthering the existence of the club or league, rather than accomplishing a charitable purpose. This means that members of these organizations benefit in a non-financial way from participating in the nonprofit.
Pros & Cons Of Registering As A Nonprofit
When you set up a nonprofit organization, you will be faced with a choice. Do you go through all the hassle of applying for tax-exempt status with the IRS, or do you forego that step and continue as usual? As you make this decision, you should keep in mind the pros and cons of each option. So, here are the pros and cons of registering as a nonprofit with the IRS.
1. Tax Exemptions
This is a pretty obvious advantage to registering for tax-exempt status with the IRS. If your organization qualifies, you are exempt from federal income tax. In addition, you can pass along tax benefits to your donors. If you are a registered nonprofit, donors can count their donations as tax-deductible.
Your organization may also qualify to be exempt from state income tax, sales taxes, and employment taxes, depending on your state.
2. Eligibility For Many Discounts
On top of the tax benefits, nonprofits–and more specifically 501(c)(3) organizations–are eligible for discounts from many services. Registered nonprofit organizations get access to reduced postal rates, and you can use your 501(c)(3) status to get discounts on many business software options. For example, many project management software apps (for example Basecamp, Asana, and Trello) offer discounts for 501(c)(3) nonprofits.
3. Lower Credit Card Processing Rates
One of the biggest discounts from which 501(c)(3) organizations can benefit is reduced credit card processing rates. These reduced fees allow nonprofits to keep more of their donor’s contributions. Take a look at our article on the best credit card processors for nonprofits for more information.
1. Applying For Tax-Exempt Status Can Be Difficult
Setting yourself up as a tax-exempt nonprofit can be a long and difficult process. You’ll need to read through the IRS’s documentation to understand the requirements your specific type of organization has to meet, and then you have to gather all of the necessary documentation. The IRS estimates that the application form alone should take you 100 hours to complete, and the whole application process typically lasts between three and six months. Fortunately, we have a few resources to help you down this path. Take a look at our Step-by-Step Guide to Registering your 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization as well as the IRS’s interactive course on Applying for Section 501(c)(3) Status for some guidance.
2. You Have To Work To Stay Exempt
Gaining tax exemption status is not a one-time event. In fact, The IRS refers to tax exemption as a “lifecycle.” In order to stay tax-exempt, you have to meet certain responsibilities. These responsibilities include maintaining good records, filing an annual return, and allowing the public to inspect certain IRS filings. And, of course, you have to always remain a nonprofit, meaning that the money that you earn should go only to furthering the purpose of your organization.
How To Register Your Organization As A Nonprofit
Have you decided to register your organization as a nonprofit? If so, you’re in for a long haul, but it should pay off in the end!
Registering your organization is an eight-step process, beginning with selecting a name.
Choose and reserve a name for your nonprofit.
Form a board of directors
File articles of incorporation
Write your organization’s bylaw
Hold your first board meeting (taking minutes, of course)
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
File your 501(c)(3) application.
Obtain business licenses and permits
Is your head spinning yet? Registering as a nonprofit is not a small task. Fortunately, we have some resources to get you started. If you’d like to see the eight steps to registering a nonprofit laid out in much more detail, check out our Step-by-Step Guide to Registering your 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization. This guide names the specific forms you have to file to register as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and it provides much more information about each step along the way.
Or, have you decided that your organization doesn’t quite fit within the category of a nonprofit? Take a look at our complete guide to the different types of business structures to find something that better fits your organization.
Whatever route you decide to take, we wish you the best of luck! And as always, feel free to share your questions and advice in the comments below.
The post Whatâs The Difference Between Nonprofit & Not For Profit Organizations? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
If you are looking to expand fundraising possibilities for your charity and are considering Square to process payments for your nonprofit, you may have a lot of questions. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place; this post covers all the information you’ll need to make an educated decision. We’ll look at the costs, fees, and all of the features that wait for you behind the curtain of Square’s processing. Square constantly updates what they offer, so there’s a good chance that within the next year, Square will offer even more features for nonprofits. That’s not to say that Square isn’t already a viable option for charities to take paymentsâyou’ll find that from setting up a free online shop to engaging your donors throughout the year, Square provides all the tools you need to get going, with options to integrate or add features as you need them. Let’s get started!
How Do Nonprofits Benefit From Using Square?
One of the biggest reasons I have a sweet spot for Square is that they have competitively-priced processing rates, and your nonprofit organization won’t face any surprise fees or markups on the backend. In addition to a straightforward fee structure, Square offers a considerable amount of free software.
Not only that, Square is so easy to set up that you can get your account up and running to start taking donations, sell merchandise, and even set up your website all on the same day.
While Square for nonprofits offers a plethora of benefits, it’s not without some potential hiccups, however. In the world of payment processing, one merchant’s dream is another’s frustration, so let’s take a look at what Square has to offer and discover if this solution is right for you.
The Limitations Of Using Square for Nonprofits
It’s important to understand that Square isn’t a traditional merchant account provider. As a third-party processor, Square offers greater accessibility to a wider amount of businesses, but there’s inherently a bit more risk involved as far as account stability with this model. When a business or charity raises a red flag, sometimes it’s hard to make things right again.
One of the most important ways to avoid issues is to accurately disclose your type of business and ensure that you don’t sell anything on Square’s prohibited goods and services list that would throw you into the high-risk merchant category.
While representing a very small fraction of all Square’s accounts, the largest complaints against Square involve account freezes and terminations. No matter what processor you go with, you’re going to have this risk, however. That’s why we encourage all of our readers to learn how to reduce their risk of termination or funding freezes.Â
Beyond this, Square offers a lot of useful tools for a very low price, but it’s certainly not all-inclusive. When it comes to SaaS (Software as a Service) for a charity, you can find other options that cover the basics for next to nothing — and there are also more complex solutions that go as high as $15K for mid-sized charitable organizations and above. It really depends on what your organization needs in ancillary tools.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what to expect with Square, and then look at how your charity can make the most of this low-cost option.
What Are Square’s Fees For Nonprofits?
As I mentioned before, what you see is what you get as far as payment processing costs. You won’t have any other additional monthly fees: no authorization fees, statement fees, refund fees or PCI compliance fees. You’ll also pay the same fee no matter what type of card your customer uses.
Be aware that accepting in-person payments versus web or invoice payments varies slightly, however.
Here are the Square fees for nonprofits:
2.6% + $0.10 for any tapped, dipped or swiped cards you take in person
Â 3.5% + $0.15 when you enter in a credit card number manually from the SquarePOS app, take payment in your Square Virtual Terminal, and process card-on-file transactions, including recurring invoices.
2.9% + $0.30Â for Square Invoices and eCommerce donations as these are both web-based transactions
You can also learn a bit more about Square’s Pricing in our article, How Much Does Square Charge?
Note that Square’s fees for nonprofit organizations are exactly the same fees that small businesses pay, and they’re designed for organizations that process less than $250,000 per year. Does your charity have higher projected donations coming in? Square may design a custom pricing package for charities and small businesses that process more than $250,000 per year in sales, but they consider that on a case-by-case basis rather than offering any sort of standard pricing for nonprofits.
Now that we’ve got the fees out of the way, let’s see what free goodies and other options await with Square for charities.
8 Ways Your Nonprofit Organization Can Make The Most Out Of Square
Square offers more than just payment processing for the nonprofit organization. Let’s take a look at the free tools Square offers that could support your charity in several ways.
1. Accept Donations Online
You have quite a few options to accept donations online with Square. The easiest option is to create a free Square site with ready-made templates that make it easy to build a simple web storefront. You can create a space that explains your mission and lets your donors contribute to the cause, or make a fully functional eCommerce store that allows you to sell things like t-shirts and other merchandise to support your organization and mission.
To start accepting donations, simply click Donations from your online dashboard and add the details. You can also allow custom donation amounts to let your donors give the amount of their choice, up to $1,000.
If you have multiple focuses for your nonprofit, you can create more than one campaign on your site. Just repeat the process in your dashboard from the donations area. That way if you want a focused fundraiser, you can do so while still maintaining the ability to accept general donations.
Below is an example of a storefront using Square’s free site template. You have a range of colors, but customization is limited. Also, take note that you do not have a custom domain with Square’s free site.
You can also upgrade the free site to a premium option through Weebly â it’s all easy to navigate and choose through your Square dashboard. This way you’ll get a custom domain and other bells and whistles that help you create a site you want for your cause.
If you already have a site, you can choose from one of the plugin integrations for Square at your Dashboard for a pretty easy setup.
If you’ve got some expertise when it comes to code (or have a developer on staff) you can build a branded checkout flow with Square Transactions API that allows you to accept digital wallets, too. Check out How To Accept Online Payments With Square for a full, in-depth explanation of each of these possibilities, and a few more (like in-app purchases).
2. Accept Donations In Person
Hoping people have cash on hand or the even more archaic option â a check â can really limit you. When you set up your Square account, you’ll get the free magstripe reader, but we strongly suggest that you opt for the Square Reader for contactless and chip. Square’s chip reader is the best way to protect yourself from chargebacks and give people more options (and convenience) to donate. That’s because chip readers better meet current security standards. The chip reader is competitively priced under $50.00. This little reader is an important tool to keep your costs down in the long run.
You have even more options in hardware, however. Whether you need something mobile or you need something a little sturdier for a kiosk or desk setup or both, you can find what you need to accept payments in person.
Want even more information on Square’s hardware options? Check out The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Square POS Credit Card Readers And Cash Register Bundles.
3. Take Donations And Orders Over The Phone
Like most point-of-sale software, Square comes with a virtual terminal right on your dashboard that allows you to take a payment over the phone or manually key in credit card data. What’s important to understand here is that a virtual terminal is really the only way to safely process credit card data. That’s because when you receive credit card information, security has to be considered during transmission and storage.
Jotting credit card information down a piece of paper or worse â keeping this information on a spreadsheet â is a big no-no. You’d be surprised to find out how many organizations store credit card data this way, but in the event of a breach, your business will face expensive fines (not to mention a huge PR issue).
Taking donations for your charity over the phone is really easy with Square. You simply enter in the credit card data on the form. Since the full credit card number isn’t visible once you key it in, you never have to worry about this information being vulnerable.
4. Recurring Donations
As a charity, there is probably nothing that feels better than an ongoing commitment from your supporters. These folks help you keep up your daily operations and allow you to plan for future growth.
Square makes setting up recurring donations super easy for your charity. Whether you’re on your mobile device or at your full Square dashboard on your PC, you can create what you need.
I’ve included the screenshot below so that you can how easy it is to set up and schedule your invoice for delivery on whatever recurring plan you want.
If you desire more consistent branding for your charity, you have some options. Check out the full post How To Use Square For Recurring Payments and Invoices for information on integrations or a pre-built workflow.
If you’re wondering about any additional cost regarding invoice scheduling for charitable donations, I have some good news: Setting up recurring donations for your charity doesn’t cost anything extra beyond the processing charge (3.5% + $0.15).
5. Sell Merchandise
Ready to sell merch at your event or want to offer online sales? As mentioned earlier, you have some options when it comes to setting up an online store via Square’s free store or upgrading for more space or design freedom.
Selling in person couldn’t be easier, either. Square’s free Point of Sale app works as a cash register or mobile app, so you can run a gift shop or merch table at a fundraiser. You can even accept payments for charity auction items right then and there (or send an invoice for payment after the event).
Whether you sell merch at an event, through your online store, or you take a phone order through your virtual terminal, Square syncs the sale at your dashboard so everything stays up to date. All your inventory is tracked across all your sales channels. When it’s time for a sale, you simply select the item from your inventory and you’re all set to make a sale. You’re also free to just enter in any amount and charge a card that way as well. After entering their email, your customer receives a digital receipt, and you now have their info.
You can also set up alerts at your dashboard to stay on top of dwindling t-shirts or other fundraising merchandise you offer. That way you can re-order supplies before stock drops to zero!
6. Manage Events And Registration
Planning an event for your charity can help you connect with both your supporters and those who become one. That’s why I’m glad to see that through Square, you can also find what you need to sell tickets for any event you have in the works. You’ll do this through your online store. You can set up your tickets for electronic delivery or you can print for shipping or in-person pickup options. Square gives step-by-step information on how to sell event tickets through their help center.
Square also has a partnership with Eventbrite so it’s that much easier to organize, manage your event, and sell your tickets.
The great thing about selling with Square is that your sales for tickets, merch, and donations all seamlessly sync to improve your record keeping. Whether you take a ticket at the door with your POS or sell a ticket online, everything stays up to date.
And that brings me to my next point: Square’s donation and sales tracking can improve your bookkeeping.
7. Track Your Income And Improve Your Bookkeeping
Square offers simple income tracking. You can download sales history, view deposits, and view everything that’s happening over a set period of time.
View income by categories like merchandise sales, donations, or ticket sales. You can also compare new givers with long-time supporters, as well as average donation size. While you’re not going to see more advanced reporting features with Square Analytics, we feel it delivers more than expected considering these features are completely free.
Need something more? One thing to note is that Square integrates with Quickbooks so you can sync sales data here and get the sales or expense reports you need all in one place. QuickBooks has some specialized accounting features for nonprofits, which can make it a must-have piece of software.
8. Collect Donor Information And Engage
You can export a list of your donations or the details about your donors from your online store at any time. All of this is accessed under Order Management right from your online dashboard.
As you collect donations, you can also manually enter any notes about your supporters. Because electronic receipts are delivered when your customer shares their email, you can also build a robust email list for future marketing.
Square has a few customer engagement features that are completely free. The emails that you collect during transactions are yours to add to a separate email campaign service, of course. You can also create, import, and manage all of your customer profiles within your Customer Directory, which you can then use to get more insights into your donors and plan future giving campaigns based on that information.
You don’t need to find a solution outside of Square for email marketing tools, however. Square Marketing gives you some pre-designed email templates with campaign suggestions and scheduling tools that help you create and manage your email list and marketing campaign. Square Marketing Starts at $15 / month. In the screenshot below, this particular campaign provides those on your list with a special offer. To the right, you can see that you have a selection of templates and themes to create something in line with your branding. Though it’s not fully customizable, you can add your logo, business name, and other images where desired.
Email remains one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, so it’s nice to see that Square makes it easy to collect emails or opt for this relatively low-cost email marketing tool.
Is Square Right For Your Nonprofit?
Square remains a strong option for most nonprofits. You can start taking donations — and even have access to a few ways to grow — without having to spend any extra money right off the bat. However, for advanced reporting features, marketing, and other integrations you may need, you’re going to pay more each month. And in my mind, that’s okay. Square provides basic reporting features so you can gain insight into patterns of giving as well as set up multiple ways to give on your site and more ways to connect, and that’s all free.
While Square does not offer any special discounts for charities, the processing fees are competitive. And with all of the freebies, it’s a bit remarkable for a processor overall. Be aware that account stability issues exist, however, but they aren’t unique to other processors by any means. Be sure to review each section or check out our full Square Review so that you understand how to make the most of this option.
Not sure if Square is right for you (or already sure it isn’t)? Read Become A Hero & Save Your Charity Money With Discounted Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits or check out the Top 7 Square Alternatives.
Want to get started with Square and open an account? This step-by-step tutorial shows you how to set up an account, navigate your dashboard, start accepting donations or selling merchandise. Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you.
The post Square For Nonprofits: Everything You Need To Know About Seamlessly Accepting Donations, Running Events, & Selling Merch With Squareâs Platform appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. Out in the fresh air, you’re surrounded by vendors selling the freshest local produce, natural products, and unique handmade gifts. No, this isn’t a dream — it’s a trip to your local farmers’ market.
Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity across the nation, so it’s no surprise that farmers, artists, and other local vendors are capitalizing on this money-making opportunity. Perhaps you’ve even pondered the idea, or maybe your family and friends have suggested you make some extra cash by selling your handmade or homegrown wares.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to become a seller at a farmers’ market. While it may seem as easy as grabbing your goods, setting up a table, and bringing in customers, there are actually tips and strategies to keep in mind to improve your odds for success … and increase your profitability. From selecting your products to marketing to buyers, we’ll cover it all to help you get started on the right foot. Read on to find out how you can start selling your goods at your local farmers’ market.
Why Are Farmersâ Markets So Popular?
From small towns to big cities, farmers’ markets are quickly popping up everywhere and attracting people of all ages. What makes a farmers’ market so appealing? It might be easier to ask what’s not to love about these local stops!
There are a number of reasons that more people are frequenting farmers’ markets. One of the top reasons is that these are places where you can purchase fresh local produce, most of which is organic and isn’t genetically modified. Compare this to your local supermarket where you aren’t sure of when the produce was picked and shipped or how it was grown. Farmers’ market produce is the freshest, and often the healthiest, that you can find.
Buying locally isn’t just good for your body — it’s also better for the environment. Produce at farmers’ markets usually comes from small family farms, which use fewer pesticides and chemicals. Because these products aren’t being shipped around the country, shopping at your local farmers’ market also conserves fossil fuels.
When you shop at your local farmers’ market, you’re supporting small businesses, whether it’s a small family farm or a local artist peddling paintings, pottery, or other handmade art that you won’t find in your local department store. In addition to supporting your local economy, attending a farmers’ market is a great way to meet new people. Farmers’ markets are family-friendly (and sometimes, even pet-friendly!) events that let you meet and socialize with people in your community. Some farmers’ markets even offer live music, classes, and other special events that only add to the fun. Add in local food trucks serving delicious meals and treats, and it’s not hard to see why farmers’ markets are truly the place to be.
Now, it’s pretty easy to see why you would visit a farmers’ market, but what are the benefits for sellers? In a 2015 survey, the USDA found that over $700 million of goods were sold at over 8,000 farmers’ markets around the United States — and the majority of that money is being funneled directly back into local economies. The USDA also found that farmers and ranchers make less than 16 cents for every dollar when selling to retailers. On the flip side, they can retain nearly 100% of their profits when selling locally through farmers’ markets.
10 Kinds Of Products You Can Sell At A Farmersâ Market
Despite its name, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmers’ market. There are lots of ways that you can connect with the community while earning a profit. Items to sell might include:
Sure, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmer’s market, but if you are, you can certainly bring your freshly grown produce to sell to your customers. Seasonal local fruits and vegetables really sell, but don’t forget about unique products you won’t find in most supermarkets (think colorful heirloom tomatoes or purple cauliflower). No matter what you bring, make sure that you only provide the freshest, highest-quality produce for your customers.
Don’t feel stuck to just fruits and vegetables, either. Mushrooms and fresh herbs that you’ve cultivated yourself are also big sellers at farmers’ markets, providing you with additional opportunities to earn some extra cash.
Milk, Meat & Eggs
If you raise cattle and chickens, it’s a no-brainer to bring your milk, meat, and eggs to the farmer’s market to share with your community while making a profit. These are popular items at farmers’ markets because of freshness, but also because many people prefer buying from small farms that treat their animals humanely, as opposed to large factories that may have questionable practices.
Not a rancher, but you enjoy hunting? Venison, bison, and other wild game can be sold at the farmers’ market. And it doesn’t stop at fresh meat, either. You can always sell your dried meats and jerky that you’ve marinated, cured, and dried yourself.
Your family and friends think you could be the next Betty Crocker, so why not bring your baked goods to the masses? If you love to bake, there are endless possibilities and a whole lot of money-making potential at your local farmers’ market. Bake your homemade cookies, cakes, pies, scones, and cinnamon rolls and sell them to customers during your free time. Again, you can think outside of the box to boost your profit potential by selling unique items such as dog treats or treats for customers with special dietary needs (i.e. vegan or gluten-free).
Flowers, Plants & Seedlings
From season to season, people spruce up their homes inside and out with colorful flowers, outdoor plants, and houseplants. From flower baskets that add a touch of color to your front porch to common and unique species of plants, many customers bypass big-box home improvement stores and instead purchase from local growers.
You don’t even have to wait to have fully grown plants and flowers. Some shoppers may prefer to buy seedlings that they can plant and grow themselves. Succulents and herbs are also popular options to consider.
If you grow roses, tulips, lilies, or other beautiful flowers, you can also create unique arrangements that shoppers may snap up for weddings, prom, Valentine’s Day, or even “just because.”
If you’re a beekeeper, cash in on the benefits of your (and your bees’) hard work by selling your delicious honey at the farmers’ market. Customers can purchase high-quality honey for use as a natural sweetener, but there are also additional benefits of eating local honey. Local raw honey is often marketed as a natural home remedy used to help with seasonal allergies, soothe sore throats, kill bacteria, or even help you get a good night’s sleep.
Want your honey to stand out from the rest? Switch up the way you process your honey to create creamed honey, or consider adding natural flavors to make your own unique honey blend.
Also, don’t overlook the value (for health and your wallet) of pollen granules. These tiny pellets contain a mixture of nectar, saliva, and pollen and are rising in popularity due to their perceived health benefits. Pollen granules are used for treating inflammation, strengthening the immune system, reducing stress, and other ailments.
Soap & Skincare Products
As we learn more about the chemicals in everyday household items, more people are stepping away from these potentially harmful ingredients and going a more natural route. If you’ve created the perfect recipe for homemade soaps, lotions, or other skincare products, set up a display at your local farmers’ market to peddle your natural concoctions.
As more people move to natural products, the farmers’ market in your area gives you the perfect platform for selling your goods. There are lots of opportunities in this space, from creating your own natural (and great smelling!) bug repellent to homemade sugar scrubs and natural deodorants.
One thing to remember is that you can be multi-dimensional at a farmers’ market. For example, if you keep bees, not only can you sell honey and pollen granules, but you can also sell natural beauty products made from pollen, honey, or beeswax.
Need some inspiration for what to sell at the farmers’ market? Look no further than the neighborhood kid with a lemonade stand. And the great news is that you aren’t just limited to lemonade, although selling freshly squeezed lemonade to hot shoppers is an easy way to make some extra cash.
If you make your own local wine or mead, brew your own craft beers, or even make a mean cup of hot apple cider, selling beverages can help draw in customers. Your booth or display can serve as a showcase for your homemade brews, or you can sell beverages in addition to other products. Many people that frequent farmers’ markets are looking for products that are unique and can’t be found in the local grocery store, so think outside the box. Flavored lemonades made with freshly squeezed lemons and natural flavorings, kombucha, and other tasty beverages can be sold by the glass, bottle, or jug.
Spending a long time at the farmers’ market can leave shoppers feeling famished. Why force hungry customers to drive to restaurants when you can bring the food right to them? If you operate a food truck, consider bringing your tasty fare to the farmers’ market. If you have openings in your schedule, a partnership with a local farmers’ market can fill your weekends with customers and the profits they bring with them.
Arts & Crafts
Whether you’re a professional or just an amateur artist, locally-made arts and crafts are big sellers at farmers’ markets. No matter what type of art you make, a farmers’ market is the perfect platform for selling your creations.
Paintings, drawings, embroidered items, crocheted blankets, hand-painted t-shirts, pottery, wood carvings, sculptures, and homemade greeting cards are just a few of the arts and crafts you can peddle at your local farmers’ market.
Other Unique Goods
Don’t see anything on the list that appeals to you? Then tap into your own unique talents. The great thing about the farmers’ market is that there are relatively few limitations when it comes to what you sell. While you can’t sell anything illegal or dangerous, you can let your creative flag fly and bring something truly unique to the table. What can you offer that is different and unique? Exotic spices, ethnic goods, homemade candles … the list goes on.
One way to be a successful seller is to think about what your customers want or need. For example, if you live in an area known for its tasty barbecue, consider selling your own dry rubs or barbecue sauce. Whatever you decide to sell, make sure that it’s unique to attract the most customers. Homemade, natural products are popular, but items like vintage clothing and shoes may also sell quickly. Whatever you do, just make sure that what you’re selling is allowed by your chosen market.
7 Ways To Prepare For Selling At A Farmers’ Market
Once you’ve decided that you want to sell at your local farmers’ market and you’ve decided what products you’ll be offering, the hard work is over, right? Not exactly. Whether your goal is to sell on occasion to earn some money on the side or you dream of bringing in a steady income by selling your goods to the community, there are some steps you need to take to help boost your chances for success.
Find Farmers’ Markets In Your Area: Once you know what to sell, the next step is to figure out where to sell it. And just like the unique products you’ll find from sellers, not all farmers’ markets are the same. Get a good idea of the culture, people, and products at each farmers’ market by visiting them yourself. Keep your eyes open for markets that have a need for what you’re offering, but don’t forget to find a farmers’ market that’s a good fit for you. For example, if there are no other artists and you’d feel uncomfortable selling your art, keep searching. If you’d like to bring your four-legged friend with you, look for a dog-friendly market. You can also turn to the internet to learn more about the farmers’ market in your city and surrounding areas. Look for official websites and social media profiles that feature pictures, posts, and information about each market. Finally, you should get an idea of the registration process. While this process varies across markets, you need to be aware that vendor registration windows aren’t always open, and you may have to sign up weeks, months, or even longer in advance to secure a spot. You can find this information online or talk to a manager in-person to learn more about signing up as a vendor.
Research Local Ordinances & Health Regulations: Nothing can bring your business to a halt faster than getting shut down by the health department or local authorities. Do your research to learn about local ordinances and health regulations, such as how produce and prepared food must be stored or how baked goods are prepared. Laws and regulations vary, so contact your local health department to learn more.
Make A Business Plan: Even if selling at a farmers’ market feels more like a hobby than a business, it never hurts to create a business plan before you get started. This business plan can be used to outline your goals, how you plan to finance your business, and your marketing plan. If you’re panicked at the thought of a business plan that’s an inch thick, don’t — a one-page plan is sufficient for keeping you on track. Don’t know where to get started? Learn how to create your one-page business plan in no time.
Get Startup Capital & Set A Budget: While selling at a farmers’ market can certainly be one of the more inexpensive ways to make money off your homemade goods, there are still some expenses to consider. One of the most common expenses is a booth rental fee. You need to consider other expenses, too — think signage for your booth, tablecloths and other items to spruce up your display, price stickers, and the cost of materials and packaging for samples. It sounds like a little, but these small expenses can add up quickly if you don’t watch out. Determine if you need to get financing before you start selling, set a budget, and stick to it. Want more tips? Check out our guide, How To Start A Side Hustle.
Look Into Business Registration: Depending on local regulations, you may be required to register your business before you take part in a farmers’ market. Some farmers’ markets require you to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) when you register as a vendor. If an EIN is required, it’s easy to obtain one for free from the Internal Revenue Service. Contact the farmers’ market you’re interested in to learn more about the requirements for sellers.
Research Business Insurance: Some farmers’ markets require their vendors to have their own business insurance. Even if this isn’t a requirement, though, you still want to research your options to protect yourself from liability. If you’re unsure of how to get started, check out our article on general liability insurance for your business and contact your chosen farmers’ market to determine if insurance is a requirement. They may even be able to recommend local insurance companies that other vendors use.
Get Accounting Software: Even if you’re just making a little extra money on the side, do you really need accounting software? Yes, you do, and though it may seem like a pain now, you’ll thank us later. No matter how much you’re bringing in from your sales at a farmers’ market, it’s important to keep track of your finances. The best way to do that? Accounting software. The good news is that there are many options available that are low cost (or even free!) and easy to use, even if you have no prior accounting experience. Tracking your finances will help you see how much money you’re making, as well as where you’re spending it — allowing you to determine where you can make changes to increase your profits. You’ll also be glad that you kept track of finances when it’s time to pay your taxes. If you don’t know where to get started, take a look at some of our top accounting software choices for small businesses.
Should You Accept Credit Card Payments At Your Farmers’ Market Booth?
In a world where paying with plastic is quickly becoming the standard, you might be wondering if you should accept credit cards at your farmers’ market booth. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer, but here’s what you should consider before making your choice.
Mobile point-of-sale (POS) apps make it easier than ever to accept credit cards. With your smartphone or tablet and a card reader provided by your chosen provider, you can accept debit and credit cards with ease without a bunch of heavy equipment and complicated systems. Some credit card readers are even available for no cost, and you could even score extras like stickers that advertise that your booth accepts debit and credit cards. There are lots of POS apps to choose from, so do your research on top choices like Square, SumUp, and PayPal Here.
On the flip side, though, you don’t have to accept credit card payments. Many farmers’ markets are prepared for customers that are paying with plastic, so they allow customers to purchase tokens which can be used to buy products from vendors. At the end of the day, these tokens can be redeemed so the seller gets their earnings. If you’re thinking of going the cash-only route, check out our article, Can You Really Run A Cash-Only Business?
If the farmers’ market you’ll be attending does not offer this service, you definitely want to consider getting a POS app and card reader so that you can serve all customers, regardless of how they’re paying. Mobile POS apps come with additional features that may be beneficial to your business, such as inventory tracking and sales reporting.
Another consideration to keep in mind is whether or not you’ll be taking larger orders or custom orders. If this is the case, you’ll need to have the ability to create invoices for tracking your orders and getting paid by your customers. Let’s say that the holidays are coming up, and you’ve been commissioned to make baked goods for a Christmas party. Before you invest your time and money into fulfilling the order, you can make sure you get paid by sending your customer an invoice that can even be paid online. Some mobile POS systems like Square Invoices allow you to create and send invoices, or you can use your accounting software if that feature is available.
Can You Accept Food Stamp/SNAP Benefits At A Farmers’ Market?
Statistics show that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped 40 million Americans each month in 2018. This program — formerly known as food stamps — provides benefits that allow low-income households to afford food. SNAP participants are provided with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is used like a debit card at participating retailers. This includes grocery stores, convenience stores, and, yes, even farmers’ markets. This system makes it easy for you to accept EBT without having to jump through hoops.
Most farmers’ markets have a system in place that allows SNAP participants to purchase tokens with their EBT cards. These tokens can then be used to make purchases. Many states even reward SNAP participants for shopping at farmers’ markets with “double-up” programs. These programs match each dollar spent (up to a certain amount), allowing these households to receive more healthy and nutritious food using their benefits.
5 Clever Marketing & Promotion Tips For Your Farmers’ Market Stand
You’ve decided what to sell and where to sell it — now, it’s time to sit back and wait for customers, right? Wrong! While you won’t have to have a huge (and expensive) marketing campaign for your farmers’ market stand, there are some steps you need to take to make your business more appealing to shoppers.
Business Cards: A customer that isn’t interested in what you’re selling now may become a customer in the future, or you might have a customer that wants to spread the word about your business. Make sure that they can get in touch with you by passing out business cards. You can easily create business cards online and have them shipped to your door for a low price. Make sure to include critical contact information, including your name, the name of your business, your email address, social media or website links, and any other relevant information.
Email List: Allow your customers to sign up for an email list. There are lots of options for the emails you send, including new product announcements, upcoming sales, or your schedule if you attend multiple farmers’ markets and events. Mailchimp is one good option that’s free for small businesses.
Social Media: Social media isn’t just for connecting with overseas relatives and old classmates. Social media is a great outlet for advertising your business. Create a social media profile for your business and provide contact information, photos of your products, customer reviews, and important updates. You can also join groups in your area that allow you to interact with customers, take preorders, answer questions about your products, and more.
Dress Up Your Display: You can’t just throw your products on a table and expect them to sell. Sure, you may make a little bit of money, but to maximize profits, it’s time to pimp out your display. For this technique, you’ll have to invest a little bit of money, so make sure you budget and plan before implementation. Use signs, tablecloths, and decorations to make your space stand out. Arrange your products neatly and make sure that everything is labeled and priced correctly. This is your chance to really show off your personality, so take advantage of the opportunity to attract customers.
Offer Free Samples: Nothing in life is free — unless you’re a customer and businesses are giving out free samples. While providing samples of your products does come with some expenses, allowing your customers to try before they buy is a good way to get them interested … and have them reaching for their wallets. Provide small bites of your baked goods or testers for your natural lotions and body products. Before distributing your samples, make sure that you’re aware of all health regulations to keep your business in operations and provide a sanitary shopping experience for your customers.
Are You Ready To Start Selling At Farmers’ Markets?
On the surface, selling at a farmers’ market seems easy, but as you can see, there’s actually quite a bit of work that goes into planning, prepping, and selling your products. While it may take a lot of hard work and expense to sell your products and make a profit, there are many benefits to peddling your goods at farmers’ markets, including low costs, more personalized interaction with your customers, and creative freedom.
It’s up to you to determine if selling at a farmers’ market best fits your business goals. Once you’ve made the decision to move forward, we offer plenty of great resources to help you launch and operate your small business. From learning how to apply for a small business loan to choosing the right accounting software and POS systems, you’ll find everything you need to make your business dreams a reality. Good luck!
The post How To Sell At A Farmersâ Market (Plus 7 Clever Tips To Succeed Before You Even Get Started) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.
The year-end payroll gauntlet is fast approaching. With the holiday season in full-swing, taxes around the corner, and fourth quarter payroll requirements looming, there is a lot of pressure on business owners to complete these tasks smoothly and accurately (especially since even simple mistakes may accrue fines and fees). If you’re looking for a simple guide to walk you through your year-end payroll responsibilities, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve broken down the year-end payroll process into 10 easy steps. This way you can close out your payroll and ensure that you file all of the proper tax forms on-time. To make things even easier for you, we’ve also created a printable Year-End Payroll Checklist so you can mark your progress.
Small Business Year-End Payroll Checklist (PDF)
You can print the Year-End Checklist now and use it to follow along, or you can jump right in.
How To Complete Year-End Payroll
Year-end payroll is all about balancing your books, ensuring you’ve paid people the right amount of money, and double-checking that you’ve sent the right amount of taxes to the government. By the end of January, employees should have access to a W-2 or 1099, which is a record of payment received and taxes paid. You will also need to submit wage and tax information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
Payroll is a year-long process: keeping your records updated as you go throughout the year will help with any end of the year accounting and paperwork management. Even if you outsource payroll, there is information you should verify and deadlines you shouldn’t miss. (Also, now is the perfect time to review your company’s payroll choices. Anything you/employees want to change before the new year?)
As always, the exact process for your payroll processing is dependent on your state and industry, so use these steps as a guide and verify with an accounting or bookkeeping professional.
Step 1: Verify All Employee & Company Information
As the year winds down, you will need to ensure that all of the information for your company and employees are correct. First, verify that your company name, tax IDs, and company tax information is updated and accurate. Next, make sure that your employee information is up-to-date. For employees, check the following:
Employee’s name is spelled correctly
Correct Social Security Number
Updated/accurate employee addresses
If you find any discrepancies between recorded information and accurate information, update your files and/or let your payroll service provider know of any changes.
Step 2: Verify Wages, Taxes, & Benefits
After you’ve checked and made sure all your employee and company information is accurate, the next step is to run through and verify that your wage, tax, and benefit numbers match up with your payroll numbers. Here’s what you’ll need to verify:
Yearly PTO accrual
Worker status (active, terminated, on leave)
Filing status (exempt or non-exempt)
Number of exemptions
Year-to-date wages and taxes
Most of the information above is on an employee’s W-4 form. Employees can change their tax information with the government at any time, so this is where you may find and remedy discrepancies. Bonus: Many payroll software programs have reporting features that will do this work for you.
Step 3: Order Your W-2s
If you run payroll yourself or if you do not have a payroll provider that manages your W-2s, you will need to order paper forms from the Internal Revenue Service. A W-2 is a tax and wage statement for your employees. Contractors will receive a 1099 form. You can also file these forms online on the IRS website. Paper forms take 10 business days to mail, so plan ahead and order these in December.
Step 4: Manage Paid Time-Off
What is your company’s paid-time-off (PTO) policy? Do you offer PTO as a lump sum at the start of the year or does your PTO accrue as the year progresses? Will your employee’s PTO reset in January? What happens to the unused time?
Some states have mandates on whether or not a company can clear PTO, so check with your accountant or bookkeeper about the laws in your state. If you pay-out accrued PTO, you will need to manage that payment with the last paycheck of the year and keep a record of that payment for tax purposes.
Step 5: Decide On Bonuses
If you are awarding bonuses, those payments must go out with the last paycheck of the year. You will need to keep a record of bonuses given for tax purposes.
Step 6: Update Your Compliance Posters
In November or December, it’s important to order your new labor law posters for the upcoming year. These posters are federally mandated and expected to be displayed in a conspicuous place where all employees can read them. Failure to post updated labor law posters could result in fines, fees, or even labor lawsuits.
Step 7: Update Payroll Information
Before you run your first payroll of the new year, you will need to update your payroll information. That includes checking for new tax rates, making adjustments to employee information, balancing PTO, and tweaking yearly deductions.
Step 8: Deliver W-2s/1099s To Employees
Your employees need their W-2/1099 forms documenting their pay and taxes for their own tax filings. You have a legal responsibility to deliver pay and tax information to employees by January 31st.
Step 9: File Your W-2s/1099s
File all W-2s and 1099s with the Social Security Administration by January 31st. (You may also need to file W-2s with your state or county, depending on location and local tax laws.) In addition to each W-2, you will send a W-3 form; this form is needed for each employee and is a summary of the information on the W-2.
Step 10: File Tax Forms 941, Form 940, and Form 944
Forms, glorious forms! You will need to pay your federal unemployment tax (FUTA) from the fourth quarter with Form 940. You must also file federal income taxes and FICA (social security and medicare taxes) through Form 941. The last form (Form 944) is an annual return of all paid payroll taxes. All are due by January 31st.
Payroll Year End FAQS
Still have questions about closing the books? Here are the most popular year-end payroll questions. Don’t see your question? Leave a comment below.
What does year-end payroll mean?
Year-end payroll is about checking that the numbers to ensure your payroll reports add up to the money you’ve given and withheld during the calendar year. This is the last opportunity before you file your taxes and year-end forms to reconcile any discrepancies, change or update information, or adjust payroll choices for the new year.
What year-end payroll forms do businesses need to file?
So many forms. The good news is that many of the payroll software options available offer tax and year-end payroll support, and many of these forms can be filed online. (Always check with your accountant or bookkeeper about your specific state and industry requirements.) Here are the most important year-end payroll forms you will need to file:
W-2 Form: This form reports wages and withholdings to the IRS
W-3 Form: This is a summary of the information in the W-2s. This goes with employee W-2s to the Social Security Administration.
1099 MISC: This is a statement of income for contractors.
Form 1096: If you’ve paid any contractors and given them a 1099 MISC, you will need to summarize that payment information and submit it to the IRS with this form.
Form 940:Â This is the form needed to pay your Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) liability to the government.
Form 941:Â This form is due quarterly and reports employee payroll taxes collected for each quarter. Payroll taxes include federal income taxes, social security and Medicare taxes.
Form 944:Â If your payroll taxes are less than $1000 annually, you may qualify to pay these taxes yearly instead of quarterly. Small businesses that qualify will fill out a Form 944 instead.
Form 1095-B: If you offer health insurance, you will need to send this form to the IRS and to your employee to document that health coverage.
When does year-end payroll have to be submitted?
All the forms related to year-end payroll reports are due by January 31st to their respective locations.
What year-end tax forms do employers have to provide their employees and contractors?
Employers need to send their employees a copy of their W-2 and contractors a copy of their 1099-MISC. This accounts for wages paid and taxes withheld.
When do employers need to complete their employee W-2s?
All W-2s need to be filed with the social security administration with copies sent to employees by January 31st.
When do employers need to complete their contactor 1099-MISCs?
All 1099-MISC forms must be sent to the IRS with copies sent to those who received nonemployee compensation by January 31st.
Get Started With Our Year-End Payroll Checklist
Small Business Year-End Payroll Checklist (PDF)
It’s understandable if all the steps above feel overwhelming. It’s best to think about year-end payroll like this: This is when you account for the wages and taxes you’ve paid and withheld throughout the year.
As you look to settle books and wrap up your fourth quarter taxes, you might find that you’re interested in outsourcing the task next year, if you don’t already. Some payroll software companies like Gusto and Intuit offer tax services as part of their payroll programs. Whether you’re running payroll yourself or outsourcing, use our Merchant Maverick Year-End Payroll Checklist to get started, and check out our other great payroll and tax resources for more help running your small business.
What Can I Write Off As A Small Business Tax Deduction?
Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Payroll
What Are Payroll Taxes? And How Do You Calculate Them?
Small Business Accounting: How To Close The Books At The End Of The Year
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