Why You Should Consider A Self-Ordering Kiosk For Your Restaurant (Plus The 5 Best Kiosk POS Systems & How You Can Afford Them)

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The Truth About Third-Party Payment Processing

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The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans

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Can You Really Run A Cash-Only Business?

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The Complete Guide To Home Equity Loans For Business Purposes

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How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business?

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Maryland Small Business Loans

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Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

If you are a small business with a physical storefront, a location where you store your goods/supplies, or a strong inventory of vehicles and equipment, buying a commercial property insurance plan should be part of your risk management plan. Commercial property insurance is designed to protect your business from accidents, theft, fires, and some (but not all) Acts of God.

If the worst-case-scenarios for your property come to fruition, a solid commercial property insurance plan creates a way for your business to run and thrive despite the setbacks.

What Is Property Insurance?

Commercial property insurance is a policy of coverage that protects your business assets in the event of property damage. Accidents, fires, and vandalism are all covered by property insurance, and the policy not only provides compensation for damage to buildings but also damage done to products inside the building. Structures, fixtures, and equipment inside the building are protected under property insurance, but it’s best to check the policy and speak to an insurance expert to make sure your most important assets are included in the policy’s coverage.

When you file a claim, you can choose to receive the cash value of the destroyed items or the replacement value (how much it would cost to replace new). However, policies are often specific in what they’ll cover and what they won’t cover. Read on to see what is and isn’t covered in most policies.

What Property Insurance Covers

In general, the commercial policies will cover accidents, damage, and theft to your building and assets inside your building. In most cases, commercial property insurance policies will cover the following (although, as with any policy, ask questions about the coverage):

  • Damage and destruction from a fire
  • Losses and damage from theft and vandalism
  • Damage from tornados or a hurricane
  • Sinkholes
  • Smoke damage
  • Damage from aircraft or other vehicles crashing into your building
  • Damage from riots/civil unrest

What Property Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Most commercial property insurance policies will not cover everything and the list of things not covered is extensive. Most policies don’t cover flood, tsunamis earthquakes, and sewer backups among other things.

Sometimes the exact same damage is covered or not covered depending on how the damage occurred. For example, if your toilet backs up and sewage destroys your property, it isn’t covered. But if that same toilet backs-up because of vandalism, that is covered. Since policies vary by carrier, it’s important to learn exactly what is and isn’t covered by your insurance provider.

Who Needs Property Insurance?

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Most businesses need a basic type of commercial property insurance if they have a physical location for their business. The coverage will protect business assets in the event of damage to the property. Buildings, machinery, and some electronics are covered under the policy.

If your business is leasing or renting a commercial space, you will need to check with your landlord to see who is expected to carry the burden of insurance. Some landlords will still expect you to pay rent on a damaged building (and it is becoming more common that you will need to supply proof of insurance before signing a lease), so understanding your business insurance policy will help with surprises. Even if commercial property insurance is not required by a landlord, you don’t want to find yourself under-insured.

You should get commercial property insurance if you need to protect the following items:

  • A commercial space (that you either rent or own)
  • Computer and electronic equipment
  • Office furniture and supplies
  • Inventory and stock

Property Insurance VS. Business Owners Policy (BOP)

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

Many business owners find that it is better to bundle their commercial property insurance policy with a general liability policy. This is known as a Business Owners Policy (BOP) and is often the most economical way to protect your business from the biggest claims for and against your business.

What Is A Business Owners Policy?

A Business Owners Policy (BOP) is a bundled policy that includes both property and liability insurance. Check with specific insurance providers about what their particular BOP entails. Under a BOP, many business owners can add extra insurance coverage that exceeds the basic coverage of a commercial property policy. (And if you have employees, a BOP can also negotiate worker’s compensation insurance into the bundle.)

What Does A Business Owners Policy Cover?

All Business Owners Policies (BOP) have general liability insurance and commercial property insurance bundled into one policy. General liability coverage protects your business from the cost of a lawsuit due to accident or injury to someone’s person or property. Additionally, a BOP includes commercial property insurance which provides protection to your assets in the event of damage to your property. Most BOPs also include business income insurance or additional coverage against theft through crime insurance. (Each policy is different and most can be tailored to fit your business risks.)

Additional Types Of Property Insurance

Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance

When you start shopping for commercial property coverage, you’ll want to know what you can add to your policy to make sure it is the best fit for your business. Most commercial property policies don’t cover earthquake damage or flooding. Are you in an area where the fault lines aren’t predictable? You’ll want extra coverage. Is your business’s location prone to flooding? You’ll want additional flood insurance.

It’s important to ask about additional policies to cover the following possible situations if they are risks for your area/business type:

  • Water damage due to flooding/tsunamis
  • Damage from earthquakes
  • Mold damage
  • Acts of war
  • Debris removal
  • Employee theft
  • Sewage backups
  • Loss of business income from closure

Which Type Of Property Insurance Is Right For You?

Type of Insurance What It Covers Who It Is For

General Liability

Protects your business from the threat of a lawsuit

All businesses

Property Insurance

Protects your building and things inside your buildings from damage and accidents

Businesses with a physical property site and products located in those physical locations

Business Interruption

Provides resources if your business is forced to stop or relocate

Businesses located in riskier areas and businesses who might work with vendors in risky areas

Commercial Auto Insurance

Provides protection from accidents on your commercial vehicles

Businesses that rely on automobiles to do business

Workers Compensation

Provides protection to you and your employees should they become injured on the job

All businesses

Professional Liability (E&O)

Protects your business during a lawsuit if your business commits errors or malpractices

Any business that provides a service

Product Liability Insurance

Protects a business from a lawsuit related specifically to the product it sells

Any business that manufactures, sells, or distributes a product

Home-Based Business Insurance

Protects any business-related items inside your home not covered by home owner’s insurance

Any business owners running out of their own homes

Business Owners Policy

Includes both general liability and commercial property insurance

All businesses

Umbrella Insurance

Provides a bigger ceiling for the legal costs of a lawsuit that extends your liability coverage

All businesses

Whether you are buying a commercial property policy separately or as part of a business owner’s policy, knowing which types of insurance are available will help you make the most informed decision for your business. Here are the types of policies you can add to your general liability policy.

  • Direct Damage Property Insurance: This is your standard commercial property insurance. The policy covers any direct damage to your business location and damage to business property.
  • Business Interruption Insurance/Business Income Insurance: After a disaster, the business may need to close its doors for a bit. This insurance covers the lost income due to a closure and it also helps provide protection for expenses related to the closure (temporary locations, moving supplies, etc.).
  • Extra Expense Insurance: For businesses that cannot afford to close (a 7-day business like a clinic or a security center), in the event of a disaster or interruption to the business, this policy helps provide the finances to move to a new location or minimize the financial effects of a shutdown. It is similar to business interruption service but targeted specifically toward the extra expenses of moving a business to a new location.
  • Leasehold Interest Insurance: If a business loses its lease (especially if they had a nice lease, under market-value), this insurance covers the financial loss of losing the lease. It can also help pay back a business owner for betterments to the space that they are leaving.
  • Fine Arts Coverage: If you decorate your space with tapestries and rugs and paintings, you might need fine arts coverage if you’d want to replace it after a disaster. Because fine art needs a valuation, someone who purchases this floater coverage would want to itemize their art. However, this is specifically designed for people who use fine art as decoration and have no intention of selling it. (That would require a larger insurance policy.)
  • Contractors Equipment Coverage: This additional coverage specifically covers and replaces equipment and tools that are either damaged or goes missing on a job site. For contractors and construction businesses that might have expensive tools in a variety of locations, this floater will specifically insure machinery and tools.
  • Cyber Liability Coverage: If you are the victim of hacking or a data-breach, and your customer data is leaked (including social security or credit card numbers), it can cost your business a lot of money to comply with federal guidelines. This coverage helps pay legal fees and protects you from lawsuits arising because of the data breach. If your business is online or you collect information online, this is an important addition to your plan.
  • Electronic Data Processing Coverage: This insurance protects the equipment and the data that you collect. This is a policy that bridges a gap in your commercial policy between what electronic equipment is insured after an accident or disaster. With this add-on, your computer hardware, as well as software and data information, is all insured.
  • Employee Theft Insurance: If a dishonest employee steals equipment, money, or securities, the losses are covered under this additional policy added to your commercial property plan. This plan will even cover the losses if you don’t know which employee committed the crime, and it is part of the crime add-ons to a commercial property policy.
  • Inland Marine Insurance: A commercial property policy will only cover items at a specific business location, so what if your equipment and business materials travel from one place to another? This type of insurance covers things in transit or an instrument of transit or any equipment that is moveable.
  • Debris Removal Insurance: This section of property insurance covers the cost of removing debris after an accident or Act of God. While property insurance may cover the cost of repair, without this specific add-on to your policy, the cost to remove garbage and debris may fall on you as a business owner.

Buying Property Insurance

Once you’ve decided to invest in commercial property insurance, you’ll now need to decide what type of coverage is best suited for your business and make a list of assets you’d like to protect. After that, read our article on the steps needed to buy insurance. There are four quick steps to getting yourself secured with the right policy.

  1. Assess your risk and choose which insurance you need.
  2. Gather the necessary business information (in this case, you’ll need specific details about your commercial property including square footage).
  3. Comparison shop the costs. (You can use comparison sites like Coverwallet, Coverhound, and Insureon, or contact your local insurance provider to see what commercial plans are available.)
  4. Purchase your insurance!

Commercial property insurance is important to provide needed protection for your building and the assets inside your building. Whether it’s a fire or an unruly mob of people, if your property is damaged, don’t be left to pick up the pieces on your own. Find a policy that will give you peace-of-mind and adequate coverage to the things that matter most.

The post Everything You Need To Know About Small Business Property Insurance appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund A Consulting Business: The Step-By-Step Guide

Do you have a tendency to share your knowledge and experience with others? Do you enjoy giving advice that helps others better their businesses … or their lives? Did you know that you could get paid just for sharing your expertise?

While it may sound too good to be true, that’s exactly what a consultant does. A consultant is an expert that provides knowledge, expertise, and training to others for a fee. Consultants advise their clients on a variety of topics, from how to implement the latest technology to how to create a successful marketing campaign.

Becoming a consultant does not require special training, credentials, or education. You simply need to be an expert in your field. You also need to have passion — not just for your industry but for helping others truly find the right solutions for their problems.

Consultants are organized, know how to network, and are always willing to learn more about their field to provide the best services to their clients.

If this sounds like you, becoming a consultant may be your new career path. The great thing about consulting is that anyone with knowledge and expertise can do it. Starting your own consulting business has low overhead costs and doesn’t require a lot of capital from the get-go. In fact, you can even start your own business from your home office.

But maybe your goals are much bigger. Maybe you want to have the top consulting firm in your area. It doesn’t matter if you want to simply be your own boss and make a decent income or if you want to grow your business to epic proportions — this guide is for you.

We’ll explore the steps you need to take to get your business off the ground. From finding your niche to funding expenses and spreading the word about your business, this guide explores what it takes to open and operate a successful consulting business. Let’s jump in and get started!

Pick Your Niche

business loan reasons

We’ve all heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” When clients are seeking a consultant, they don’t want someone that knows a little bit about everything. Instead, they want to work with a consultant that knows everything about one thing. This is why it’s so important to pick your niche.

To get started, consider your skills and knowledge. What industry are you familiar with? Clients are looking for an expert in their field, so identifying the industries you already know is important when selecting your niche.

Next, you need to consider what problems and pain points your chosen industry is facing. You can do online research to find out what challenges are common in this industry. Check out blogs and industry forums to get an idea of common complaints and problems. You can even talk directly with people in the industry to find out what obstacles and setbacks they face.

Once armed with this information, you need to identify your own skills and knowledge that could be applied to this field. For example, let’s say you’re knowledgeable about the construction industry. One of the common pain points in this industry is a lack of communications. Are you familiar with mobile and cloud-based software? Great! You could use this knowledge to help businesses streamline communications and improve efficiency.

When you start your consulting business, your goal shouldn’t just be something generic like, “I want to help other business owners.” Instead, you should have a more specific purpose in mind. “I help businesses in this industry find and implement the newest and best software solutions to grow their business in just 3 months.” This also serves as your value proposition. In other words, this is the value you offer; something that sets you apart from other consultants. Remember to effectively communicate to your clients what you can do for them.

Still unsure of where to get started? Consider one of these niches for your consulting businesses:

  • Biotech
  • Cannabis Business
  • College
  • Construction
  • Customer Service
  • Dental
  • Financial
  • Food Safety
  • Grant Writing
  • Human Resources (HR)
  • Information Technology
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Medical
  • Nutrition
  • Project Management
  • Real Estate
  • Safety
  • Sales
  • Security
  • SEO
  • Social Media
  • Supply Chain
  • Technology

After you’ve selected your niche, do your research to find out what certifications and licenses you need to legally operate your business. In most instances, you’ll find that a business license in your state of operations is all that you need to open your consulting business.

One last thing to remember is that even if you’re knowledgeable about your niche right now, industry trends and changes can occur in an instant. Make sure you stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the industry to ensure you’re always qualified to assist your clients.

Make Your Business Plan

Even if your consulting business seems pretty straightforward, it’s still necessary to have a business plan. There are a few reasons you need a business plan. The first is that your plan maps out your goals and how you plan to reach those goals. A business plan is also necessary when you seek funding through banks or other lenders.

Because every business has a different vision, no two business plans are exactly alike. However, there are a few common components that should be included in all business plans. Those components are:

  • Executive Summary: Highlights what will be discussed in your plan and summarizes what your business hopes to accomplish
  • Company Description: Includes key information about your business and the customers that you will serve
  • Competitive Analysis: Who are your competitors, and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Organization & Management: An outline of the setup of your organization and names and summaries of the job responsibilities of your management team
  • Market Analysis: An analysis of your industry now and in the future
  • Marketing Plan: An outline of the marketing strategies you will use to draw clients to your business
  • Financial Projections: Your expectations for future revenue based on market research

Register Your Business

Before you launch your business, you have to register with federal, state, and local agencies. You will need to register your business name with the state in which you operate. In addition, you must register with the Internal Revenue Service to get an Employer Identification Number (EIN) if you ever plan to hire employees. It’s imperative to obtain licenses and permits to operate your business based on state and local regulations. You must register your business if you plan to seek business funding now or in the future — or if want to open a business bank account. Establishing a business is legally required, but it also makes you look more professional and legitimate to your clients.

One important step to take when registering your business is choosing your business structure. Your business structure will be important in determining what you’ll pay in taxes. Your business structure may also offer protection from personal liability for the debts and obligations of your business. The different types of business entities include:

Sole Proprietorships

This structure is the easiest to form and does not require filing with the state. With a sole proprietorship, profits and losses from the business are reported on the business owner’s personal tax return. The major drawback of this business structure is that the business owner – you – are held personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business.

Partnerships

A partnership is established by businesses with two or more owners. There are three common types of partnerships: general partnerships, limited partnerships, and limited liability partnerships.

  • General Partnership (GP): This type of partnership has the fewest ongoing requirements. These are also the easiest to form and don’t require state filing. The drawback is that partners in a GP are personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business.
  • Limited Partnership (LP): In a limited partnership, only the general partner(s) has unlimited liability. The other partners — known as limited partners – have limited liability. This simply means that personal assets can’t be used to cover the debts and liabilities of the business.
  • Limited Liability Partnership (LLP): In a limited liability partnership, all partners have limited liability. However, partners may be held liable for their personal actions. This structure is reserved for professional service businesses.

Limited Liability Companies

A limited liability company, or LLC, is independent of its owners. The personal assets of the owners are kept separate from business debts. An LLC is taxed similarly to sole proprietorships and partnerships.

Corporations

If a corporation is the right structure for your business, there are two options to consider: C corporations and S corporations.

  • C-Corporations: C-corporations are independent of their owners. There is no limit on the number of shareholders in a C-corporation. C-corporations are taxed on shareholder dividends and corporate profits.
  • S-Corporations: An S-corporation is also independent of its owners. Owners report their share of the profits and losses on their own personal income tax returns. There are limitations to the number of shareholders with this structure.

When choosing your business structure, you need to keep a few considerations in mind. If you have multiple owners, a partnership is a good route to take. If you want to protect your personal assets but don’t want a higher tax rate, consider establishing an LLC. If you plan to raise large amounts of capital in the future, a corporation might work best for you. You can learn more about what business structure best fits your needs by consulting with an attorney or accountant.

Get Business Insurance

Do I need business interruption insurance

Business insurance is critical for the protection of your business. From property insurance that protects your office building to liability insurance that safeguards you from lawsuits, there are a few different types of business insurance to consider for your consulting business.

General Liability Insurance

If you operate a brick-and-mortar business, you need general liability insurance. This protects your business in the event that something happens to a client on your property. For example, if a client slips and falls in your office, they could file a lawsuit against you. With general liability insurance, you won’t have to pay all associated costs out-of-pocket.

Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance is also known as errors and omissions (E&O) insurance. This type of insurance protects you from lawsuits that may be filed by clients. Let’s say that you consult with a client on a project, and the project ultimately ends up failing. The client believes that the failure of the project was your fault and files a lawsuit. If you have E&O insurance, attorney’s fees, settlement expenses, and court costs will be covered up to the full amount of your policy.

Worker’s Compensation

If you have employees, worker’s compensation is another type of insurance your business needs. Worker’s compensation covers the medical expenses, wages, and legal fees of an employee that is injured on the job or suffers a work-related ailment. Most states require all W2 employees to be covered under worker’s compensation insurance, but laws vary by state.

Commercial Property Insurance

If you have a commercial property for your consulting business, consider getting commercial property insurance to protect your assets. This type of insurance protects you from losses that may occur from burglary, fire, or natural disasters.

Separate Personal & Business Expenses

It may be tempting to simply use your own personal bank account and credit cards for your business. Since the business is yours, there’s no harm in mixing your business and personal finances, right?

Actually, the wisest move is to keep your business and personal finances separate. One of the most important reasons for doing this is because it will make filing your taxes much easier. Imagine that the deadline is ticking to file your return with the IRS, and you (or your accountant) are stuck spending hours separating business and personal records. If you’re audited after filing, having separate records for business and personal income/expenses will make the process go much more smoothly.

Keeping your business and personal finances separate is also helpful in limiting your liabilities from creditors. If there is no clear separation between you and the business, creditors could potentially use your personal assets for unpaid debts and obligations, even if your business is structured as a corporation or LLC.

Separation of personal and business expenses is also important for building your business credit. If you’re using your own personal credit cards, you may increase your personal credit score. However, this won’t affect your business credit history. If you plan on applying for business loans in the future, boosting your business credit profile is critical to qualifying for higher loan amounts and the best rates and terms.

The first step to separating your business and personal finances is to open a business checking account. This bank account can be used for depositing money, writing checks to vendors, making online payments, and keeping an eye on the expenses and income of your business. To open an account, you will need your EIN, Social Security Number, business address, and business license. You may also need other documentation, such as a copy of the articles of incorporation on file with your state.

Even though you can keep an eye on your finances through your business bank account, it’s also important to set up a dedicated accounting system for your business. This will allow you to closely keep track of the money coming in and going out of your business. You may opt to hire a bookkeeper for this task, or you can use accounting software to track everything yourself. We’ll go into more details on this type of software a little later.

Finally, you can apply for a business credit card to cover recurring expenses for your business, such as your lease or utility payments. Using and paying off your business credit card responsibly will help strengthen your business credit profile.

Unsure of which card is right for you? Start with these recommendations.

Chase Ink Business Cash

Chase Ink Business Cash



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The Chase Ink Business Cash card rewards you just for using your card on business expenses. You can receive 5% cash back on internet, cable, phone services, and purchases from office supply stores. However, this is capped at the first $25,000 spent each anniversary year.

You can also earn 2% back on purchases at gas stations and restaurants. This is also capped at the first $25,000 spent per anniversary year.

For the rest of your purchases, you can take advantage of unlimited 1% cash back rewards. As a new cardholder, you can receive a bonus of $500 cash back if you spend $3,000 within 3 months of opening your account.

This credit card has a 0% introductory APR for the first 12 months. After the introductory period, interest rates are 15.49% to 21.49% based on creditworthiness. There is no annual fee associated with this card.

Additional benefits for Chase Ink Business Cash cardholders include free employee cards, purchase protection, and extended warranty protection. You must have excellent credit to qualify for this credit card.

Spark Cash Select For Business

Spark Cash Select From Capital One


capital one spark cash select
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


15.24% – 23.24%, Variable

Capital One’s Spark Cash Select for Business is designed for borrowers with excellent credit scores. One of the standout features of this card is the unlimited 1.5% cash back you receive just by using your card. You can cash out your rewards at any time.

If you become a new cardmember and spend $3,0000 within the first 3 months of opening your account, you’ll receive a $200 cash bonus.

You’ll also be able to enjoy a 0% introductory APR for the first 9 months. After the introductory period, your APR will be from 15.24% to 23.24% based on creditworthiness. This card does not have an annual fee, and you can receive employee cards at no cost.

Seek Business Funding

One of the best things about setting up your consulting business is that you may be able to get started with very little capital. Ultimately, though, this depends on the goals of your business. For example, if you plan to only consult with clients online, you can work right out of your home office. This eliminates the need for a dedicated commercial office, which comes with expenses such as monthly rent and utility payments.

On the other hand, you might want to open a brick-and-mortar business immediately. This would require more capital from the start. Even if you start small, you may later expand your business by purchasing or leasing a larger building and hiring employees.

Whether you start off big or you plan to grow in the future, you’ll need capital. In some cases, you may be able to use your revenue to fund your expenses and growth. In other instances, you’ll need a financial boost from a business lender.

Fortunately, there are many financing options out there if you know where to look. Let’s explore the types of funding available to you, along with our lender recommendations.

Personal Savings

If you would prefer to not work with a lender, using personal savings is an option available to you. If you use your own money, you don’t have to worry about making payments to a lender. You’ll also save money because you won’t pay interest or fees that are charged by a lender. On the downside, if your business isn’t successful, you risk losing your savings.

Friends & Family

Have a friend or family member with cash to invest? Pitch them your business idea and let them know why investing in you is a great idea. Have your business plan in hand and present your ideas to them just as you would any other lender. If they decide you’re worth the investment, make sure to get everything in writing to protect all parties.

There are two ways to get loans from someone you know. You can choose debt financing, which means that you’ll make payments toward your principal balance plus interest on a regularly scheduled basis, just like a traditional loan. Or you can receive money in exchange for ownership in your business – also known as equity financing. While you won’t have to repay immediately, your friend or family member will collect a share of the profits over time. Depending on your agreement, they may also have some level of control in the decision-making process of your business.

Unsure of which route to take? Learn more about debt vs. equity financing to determine which option is best for your business.

Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

What if there was a way to get the capital you need to start or grow your business without taking on debt? Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? But with a rollovers as business startups (ROBS) plan, you can do just that. The only catch? You have to have a qualifying retirement plan.

Early withdrawal of your retirement funds results in penalties. However, a ROBS plan allows you to leverage your funds without having to pay these penalties.

With a ROBS plan, you set up a new C-corporation. Then, you create a retirement plan for your newly created corporation. Next, you roll over funds from your existing retirement plan. These funds can be used to purchase stock in your new business, providing you with the capital you need to start or expand your business.

The best part of a ROBS plan is that you’re using your own funds. This means no debt, no interest or fees, and no repayments to a lender. However, you are putting your retirement funds at risk if your business fails.

Recommended Option: Guidant Financial

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Pre-qualify

Many small business owners that get capital through a ROBS plan hire a ROBS provider to do the heavy lifting. Guidant Financial is a ROBS provider that can help you get started.

To set up a ROBS plan with Guidant Financial, you need to have a retirement plan or pension account with at least $50,000. Most plans qualify, including:

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

Guidant Financial can help you roll over up to 100% of your account balance. In addition to having a qualifying plan, you must also meet these requirements:

  • Must be an employee of the business
  • Must have a business to fund

You can use your funds for any business purpose, whether you’re buying an existing business, funding startup costs, or paying expenses related to expansion.

To get started, you must pay a $4,995 startup fee. Since this isn’t a loan, you won’t have to make debt repayments. However, you will have to pay a monthly administration fee.

If you don’t qualify for a ROBS plan or you’re seeking other types of funding, Guidant Financial offers other options including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, unsecured business loans, and equipment leases.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is one of the most flexible forms of financing. This is a type of revolving credit (similar to a credit card) that allows you to make multiple draws. As you repay your principal balance (plus fees and interest), funds will become available to use again. Fees and interest are only charged on the borrowed portion of funds.

With your line of credit, you can initiate draws as needed. Once you draw funds, they’ll be transferred to your bank account and are available to use in 1 to 3 business days in most cases.

You can spend up to and including the credit limit set by your lender. Most lines of credit can be used for any business purpose but are particularly useful for unexpected expenses, filling revenue gaps, or covering extra expenses due to a seasonal increase in business.

Recommended Option: Fundbox

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Fundbox is a lender that has lines of credit up to $100,000 for qualified small business owners. The lender charges set draw fees starting at 4.66% of the borrowing amount. You can choose to repay Fundbox over terms of 12 or 24 weeks, and payments are automatically deducted from your linked business checking account.

You can be approved instantly and put your line of credit to work for you immediately. Once you initiate a draw from your account, funds will hit your bank account within 1 to 3 business days.

Qualifying for a Fundbox line of credit is easy. The minimum requirements are:

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

Your credit limit will be based on the performance of your business.

Equipment Loans

Whether your consulting business is home-based or you operate out of a commercial property, you will need some equipment to get started. Some equipment you may need for your business includes a computer, printer, office furniture, and computer software. If you don’t have the funds available in your bank account, consider applying for equipment financing.

Equipment financing is a type of funding used to purchase equipment, furniture, and fixtures for your business. Equipment loans can also be used to purchase a commercial vehicle if one is needed to drive to meet your clients if you don’t want to take out an auto loan. There are two types of equipment financing available: equipment loans and equipment leases.

With an equipment loan, you’ll make regularly scheduled payments to a lender over a set period of time, such as five years. Each payment will be applied to the principal – the amount you borrowed – as well as fees and interest charged by the lender. Once you’ve made all payments as scheduled, the equipment belongs to you. You can continue to put the equipment into use or sell it.

With equipment leases, you also make scheduled payments to a lender. However, your lease terms are typically a few years shorter. Once you’ve made all scheduled payments, you return the equipment and sign a new lease for new equipment. You never truly own the equipment, but this is a good option for anyone that wants to update their equipment every few years.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio isn’t a direct lender. Instead, it’s a loan aggregator that can connect you with its financing partners to help you get the best financing offer for your situation.

One of the financial products offered through Lendio is equipment financing. You may qualify for funding of $5,000 to $5 million for the purchase of your equipment. Loan terms are 1 to 5 years with interest rates starting at 7.5%.

Your funds can be used for almost any equipment purchase, including software, furniture and fixtures, and even appliances and HVAC units for your office.

To qualify, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 12 months
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 650 or above

If you don’t meet these requirements, Lendio may still have an option for you. Just fill out a quick application to find out what you can qualify to receive. Lendio also offers additional financial solutions, including SBA loans, lines of credit, term loans, and startup loans.

Personal Loans For Business

If you’re a brand-new business, you may not qualify for other financing options. This is because lenders look at annual revenue, business credit profile, and your time in business to determine if you’re a risky borrower. If you don’t meet these qualifications, you won’t be able to get affordable small business funding.

However, there is an alternative solution. You can apply for a personal loan to use for business purposes. With this type of financing, a lender considers your personal credit history and income to determine if you qualify.

In most cases, you can use a personal loan for business for any purpose, from purchasing needed equipment to hiring new employees, using as working capital, or paying startup costs.

Recommended Option: Upstart

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Upstart personal loans are available in amounts from $1,000 to $50,000. APRs range from 7.54% to 35.99%. Repayment terms are 3 or 5 years.

Upstart’s lending partners consider more than just your credit score when determining whether to approve your loan. Your years of credit, education, area of study, and job history are also considered during the application process.

To qualify for an Upstart personal loan, you must have:

  • Personal credit score of 620 or above
  • Solid debt-to-income ratio
  • No bankruptcies or public records
  • No delinquent accounts or accounts in collections
  • Less than 6 inquiries in the last 6 months

Business Credit Cards

We’ve already discussed business credit cards earlier as part of keeping your business and personal accounts separate. Business credit cards are great to have on-hand for unexpected expenses or recurring expenses for your business.

You can even score rewards just for using your credit card. Look for a rewards card that offers cash back or points to use toward perks like travel to get the most out of your card.

Recommended Option: Spark Classic

Spark Classic From Capital One


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


25.24%, Variable

Capital One’s Spark Classic for Business card is available to business owners with average credit. This card offers a 25.24% variable APR and no annual fee. Using your card responsibly helps build your business credit profile so you can qualify for other cards and financing offers in the future.

You can earn unlimited 1% cash back on all purchases with no minimum required to redeem. Other benefits include fraud coverage and alerts and employee cards at no additional cost.

Choose Business Software

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Choosing the right business software can help you run your consulting business more efficiently. The first type of software you should invest in is accounting software or an online bookkeeping system. This allows you to keep track of your income and expenses, run financial reports, send invoices, and access your financials for tax purposes. As your business grows, you may opt to hire a bookkeeper or accountant, but in the beginning, you may be able to tackle this task yourself using the right accounting software.

New to accounting? Download our free ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting, to get a handle on the basics.

You’ll also need software that’s used for managing clients — from keeping updated contact information all in one place to setting and tracking appointments. There are programs designed specifically for consultants that offer client management, project management, tasks, and other features.

To accept payments other than cash, you’ll also need payment processing software. This software communicates between your bank and the bank of your client, allowing you to accept debit cards, credit cards, and other forms of payment. If your business is going to be based solely online, you can sign up for an online payment solution.

Finally, if you plan to do online consulting, you must invest in video conferencing software. There are multiple options available — some at no cost and others that charge a monthly fee.

Set Your Rates

In order for your business to be successful, you have to have revenue. Without revenue, you won’t be able to pay your expenses or the salaries of yourself or your employees. Without revenue, you also won’t be able to grow your business.

To make sure your business is successful and profitable, you need to set your rates. This can be a balancing act for most consultants. If you set your rates too high, it may scare away potential clients. If you shortchange yourself and set your rates too low, clients may not take you seriously or you might not bring in enough revenue to cover your expenses.

To set your rates, first decide how your pay structure will look. You have three options: per project, hourly rates, and retainers.

If you charge per project, you will need to figure out how long the project will be, what expenses may be incurred, and other factors. You may choose to bill for the entire project or break it down into monthly payments.

You can also charge an hourly rate. Take a look at your expenses and determine how much you would need to charge to be profitable. Also, be aware that the higher your rate is, the more your clients will expect from you. If you have the credentials, training, and education to justify charging $500 per hour, your clients will have high expectations of what you’ll provide.

Finally, you can also work on a retainer basis. With a retainer, you will work a specific number of hours for one set monthly fee.

When calculating your rates, make sure to list all of the expenses of your business. You will need to make at least enough revenue to cover these costs.

You also need to find out what your competitors are charging for their services. You can do this by going online to their websites, checking out their brochures, or making a quick phone call. Unless you have an obvious advantage over other consultants in your area, you want to make sure that your fees are competitive.

Bolster Your Web Presence

webbased

Prospective clients are going to have a difficult time finding you if you don’t have a web presence. This doesn’t mean that you have to invest thousands of dollars in setting up a fancy new website. However, you do need to have at least a basic website and social media profiles to provide clients with critical information about your business.

You can get started by setting up free social media pages on sites including Facebook and Twitter. Your pages should include your contact information, the services you offer, and office hours. As your business grows, you can post news and updates, videos, photos, and other media to draw in clients.

You also need to set up a company website. You could pay a web designer, but at this stage, you can certainly tackle the task yourself. Easy website builders make it simple to set up your website in just minutes, even if you’ve never created a website before. Make sure that you include your contact information, areas served, and the services you offer. If you have any credentials or training, add that information to your website, as well.

Later, you can add additional features to your website, such as videos, online appointment scheduling, and client testimonials.

If you want to learn more tips and tricks, check out our article on creating and maintaining your online presence.

Market Your Business

business loans for HVAC

Building your web presence is one way to get your name out to the public, but you should also implement a marketing and advertising campaign to further boost your business. The strategy you choose is based on a number of factors, including your marketing budget and your goals for the campaign.

One great way to market your business is through Facebook ads. You can easily set your budget and select your target audience. It only takes a few minutes to get your Facebook ads up and running. Learn more about social media marketing for your business.

Another advertising method you can use is a newsletter. Your newsletter doesn’t need an over-the-top design. Instead, a simple newsletter with important information is most effective. Use your newsletter to discuss current industry trends, current news about your business, and other relevant information. You can send a physical newsletter by mail, but this comes with costs including paper and envelopes, printing, and postage. A more affordable option is to offer an email newsletter. Make sure to include a sign-up option on your website and social media pages.

Another idea is to print up brochures for your business. Your brochure should include your services, your value proposition, the industries you serve, and biographical information, such as your credentials or training.

You can also take your knowledge and leverage it as a guest speaker at an event. You can speak at dinners, luncheons, and other functions for industry events or service organizations. If you don’t want to be a public speaker, you can attend industry events and network with potential clients. Networking is key to running a successful consulting business.

Cold-calling is also a way to attract new clients. Prepare your script before calling local businesses that could use your services. The goal of cold-calling is to get a meeting with the decisionmaker to sell yourself and your services to gain a new client.

Finally, word-of-mouth advertising is one of the easiest ways to bring in business. Satisfied clients that tell their friends, family, and colleagues about you or who take the time to write a referral or testimonial that you can use on your website can help drive more clients to your business.

Final Thoughts

Sharing your knowledge and expertise with others can be extremely lucrative if you know how to set up your consulting business. With careful planning — selecting your niche, setting your fees, and effectively marketing your business — you’ll have a better chance of reaching new clients and meeting your financial goals. Good luck!

The post How To Start And Fund A Consulting Business: The Step-By-Step Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is A Sole Proprietorship?

Before you launch your business, you have to check a few items off your to-do list. Perhaps you have to purchase inventory, find a commercial building to lease, and explore different types of business software. Maybe you operate a home-based business so your list isn’t as extensive. No matter what type of business you plan to open, though, there’s one thing all business owners must do: select a business structure.

There’s no getting around choosing your business structure. The way your business is set up determines both how you’ll file your taxes and how much you’ll pay. Your business structure may provide you with personal liability protection against the debts and obligations of the business. It will also determine specific requirements for your business, from registering with your state to ongoing requirements (like holding meetings and recording meeting minutes).

If your business has just one owner, one business structure to consider is the sole proprietorship. But before you make that critical decision, it’s important to understand what a sole proprietorship is, registration and paperwork requirements associated with this structure, and the benefits and drawbacks of being a sole proprietor.

While the business structure you choose should ultimately be what’s best for your business, we hope to make the decision process a little easier by breaking down exactly what to expect as a sole proprietor. Keep reading to find out more.

Sole Proprietorship Definition

Merriam-Webster defines a sole proprietorship as “a business owned and controlled by one person who is solely liable for its obligations.”

Let’s break down this definition. A sole proprietorship is a business that belongs to and is run by only one person. If your business has multiple owners, you’ll be unable to operate as a sole proprietorship.

In a sole proprietorship, the owner alone is liable for the obligations of the business. A sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity. This means that the owner  — you — is responsible for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business. Your personal assets may be seized to fulfill debts, and lawsuits can be brought against you personally.

Many people choose this structure because a sole proprietorship is the quickest, easiest, and most inexpensive way to start and operate a new business. A sole proprietor is not required to register with the state. Simply engaging in business activities legally establishes a sole proprietorship. However, the sole proprietor is still required to apply for the appropriate business licenses and permits needed to legally operate in their state.

Sole proprietors can operate under their own legal names or can create a fictitious trade name when doing business. Using a trade name does not establish a separate legal entity, and the business owner will still be held responsible for the liabilities of the business.

Sole proprietors do not have to file separate tax returns for their businesses. Instead, these business owners report business profits, losses, and expenses on a Schedule C form. Self-employment tax for the sole proprietor is reported on a Schedule SE. The Schedule C and Schedule SE are both filed with the business owner’s Form 1040.
We’ll dive deeper into the benefits and drawbacks a little later in this article.

Next, we’ll compare sole proprietorships to other business structures so you can better determine which works best for you.

How Is A Sole Proprietorship Different From A Partnership?

The biggest difference between a sole proprietorship and a partnership is the number of owners of the business. A sole proprietorship has a single owner. A partnership has two or more owners.

Comparing a sole proprietorship with a limited partnership (LP) and limited liability partnership (LLP) reveals a few additional differences. With these types of partnerships, limited partners are protected from personal liability. These partnerships are also more expensive and more complicated to form because they require registering with the state.

Other than the number of owners, a sole proprietorship and a general partnership (GP) are very similar. Neither has to be registered with the state to exist. The profits and losses for a sole proprietorship and general partnership are also filed on personal tax returns.

How Is A Sole Proprietorship Different From A Corporation?

A sole proprietorship is very different from a corporation. A corporation is the most expensive business entity to form, whereas a sole proprietorship is very inexpensive. Corporations must be registered with the state. There are also multiple ongoing requirements corporations must meet, such as holding meetings and having a board of directors. Sole proprietors do not have to register and there are no ongoing requirements.

Corporations may have multiple owners, whereas a sole proprietorship has just one owner. Corporations can also raise capital through the sale of stock — something a sole proprietor can not do.

Corporations also offer the best personal liability protection for its owners. As previously discussed, sole proprietors are held personally responsible for the liabilities of the business.

Another big difference between sole proprietorships and corporations is how each business structure is taxed. Sole proprietors are able to report business profits and losses on their personal tax returns. Corporations are taxed differently — a corporation is the only business structure that must pay separate income taxes. If dividends are paid to shareholders, shareholders must report this on their personal tax returns, resulting in double taxation for the corporation.

How Is A Sole Proprietorship Different From An LLC?

A limited liability company, or LLC, combines benefits of different business entities. An LLC must register with the state, and there are some fees associated with starting an LLC. This is in contrast with sole proprietorships, which are not required to register and are the least expensive to start.

Another difference between the two is that LLCs have liability protections in place to protect the personal assets of the owners. Sole proprietors do not receive these same protections. LLCs may also have multiple owners, whereas a sole proprietorship is limited to a single owner.

There may also be differences in how the LLC is taxed. Owners of an LLC can choose how they are taxed. In some cases, they may opt to be taxed as a sole proprietorship. In other cases, however, owners may choose to be taxed as a partnership or corporation.

What Types Of Businesses Are Sole Proprietorships?

A sole proprietorship is best for businesses with one owner that wants full control of the business without complicated requirements or additional expenses. Self-employed business owners, home-based businesses, independent contractors, and even some franchise owners may choose this business structure.

Any business can be a sole proprietorship provided there is just one owner and the owner is aware of the benefits and risks of this business structure. Smaller businesses are better suited for sole proprietorships. Companies that plan to grow much larger and want to take out business loans or raise large amounts of capital in the future would benefit from another business structure, such as a corporation or LLC. Some common small businesses that are sole proprietorships include:

  • Home Healthcare Businesses
  • Catering Companies
  • Housekeeping Services
  • Virtual Assistants
  • Freelance Writers, Editors, Or Designers
  • Tutors
  • Computer Repair Technicians
  • Landscapers
  • Bookkeepers

Regardless of what type of business you operate, the business structure you select should be based on the long-term needs and goals of your business.

Benefits Of Sole Proprietorships

After breaking down the definition of a sole proprietorship, you should have at least some idea of why business owners would choose this structure. However, let’s take a closer look at the full list of benefits of operating your business as a sole proprietor.

  • Less Expensive: Sole proprietorships are the easiest and least expensive forms of business structures. This is ideal for business owners that aim to keep their startup costs as low as possible.
  • No Registration Required: Sole proprietors simply need to participate in business activities to exist. No state registration is required. However, any applicable permits and licenses will need to obtained to legally operate in your state.
  • No Ongoing Requirements: Sole proprietors are not required to hold meetings, record meeting minutes, or have a board of directors.
  • Full Control Of The Business: As a sole proprietor, you will be the sole owner of your business. There are no additional owners or shareholders to consider. You get to make all business decisions and you receive all of the profits.
  • Easier Tax Returns: Sole proprietors can file their business profits, losses, and expenses on their personal tax returns with just two additional forms.

Drawbacks Of Sole Proprietorships

While being a sole proprietor definitely comes with its benefits, there are also drawbacks to consider when you’re weighing out your decision. Those drawbacks include:

  • No Liability Protection: As a sole proprietor, you will be held responsible for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of your business. If you default on a loan, lenders can come after your personal assets, such as your bank account, vehicle, or real estate. If your business goes bankrupt, your personal finances could be affected. Finally, lawsuits can be filed against you personally, which would also put your assets at risk.
  • Financing Challenges: As a sole proprietor, getting business financing can be a challenge. Most lenders — from traditional lenders like banks to online alternative lenders — only provide financing to registered entities. Sole proprietors also can’t sell stock in the business as a way to raise capital. As a sole proprietor, you may have to get more creative with your financing, such as launching a crowdfunding campaign or taking out a personal loan for business.

Final Thoughts

For many aspiring business owners, operating a sole proprietorship is the right path to entrepreneurship. However, what works for some doesn’t always work for others. After weighing out the pros and cons of a sole proprietorship, consider consulting with an accountant and/or attorney to help determine if a sole proprietorship will meet the needs and goals of your business.

Ready to learn more? Download our free beginner’s guides for business. You can also learn more about the different types of business structures to help you further pinpoint which option is best for you.

The post What Is A Sole Proprietorship? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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