The ‘How-To’ For One Page Business Plans

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Strikingly Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Strikingly Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Strikingly is an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping entrepreneurs get up and running online quickly and easily. They’re platform requires zero code or design skills, meaning even those with no website experience can create a good-looking site in minutes.

See Strikingly’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Strikingly a try for a full Strikingly 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 Strikingly Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Strikingly 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 Strikingly 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 Strikingly, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Strikingly 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 speed and ease of use. Strikingly offers several website templates you can customize with no coding or design experience required (more on that in a bit).

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Strikingly Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Strikingly website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

One of the biggest pros of using Strikingly is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just two steps — enter your information, pick your theme, and you’re in!

Strikingly sign up process

This is great for DIYers who want to get up and running as quickly as possible without the hassle of creating a detailed account, selecting a niche, etc.

Template Design / Functionality

Strikingly also offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer). There are a wide variety of options to choose from, and Strikingly has them broken down by niche, so you can find a template that includes the functionality your business may need.

Now, Strikingly isn’t technically drag-and-drop (where you choose from premade sections and “drop” those onto your page), but it is fairy intuitive to use. You can customize the styles on the page (like fonts and colors), and you can add premade sections and blocks, but you don’t get the ability to add elements willy nilly.

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having limited but accessible design options. It makes Strikingly a great option for entrepreneurs/ DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend much time tweaking the design themselves.

Free Trial + Free Plan

Another benefit Strikingly is their 14-day free trial and free plan.

Strikingly allows you to trial any plan (even their highest-tiered option!) for 14 days before committing. This is great for DIYers who want to give a plan a test drive before committing.

They also offer a free plan, which includes a fair amount of features when compared to competitors, such as unlimited sites and limited ecommerce functionality.

There are some cons with the free plan, such as limited storage, limited pages, having to use a subdomain (ex: yourname.strikingly.com), and extremely limited integrations — but if you’re looking for a simple site for a short-term project, this could be a solid option.

Some Product Integration

While limited, Strikingly does offer some product integration, such as ecommerce functionality and apps in their app store (which give you the ability to add maps, forms, and other functionality to your site).

product integrations in Strikingly

You can also add on custom email for an additional $25/year. One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are all part of paid plans. This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders (particularly if you went the self-hosted WordPress route).

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Strikingly as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Strikingly is fairly easy and convenient for DIYers and small businesses, they do leave a lot to be desired when it comes to pricing. All of their plans come with some sort of limitation, whether it be domains, the number of “pro” sites you can publish, or even storage.

Strikingly pricing plans

You also can’t access the VIP plan on the monthly payment option. Again, this isn’t inherently a con… unless you need the VIP features and want to pay monthly. Then you’re out of luck. The price also changes based on how long you commit to, which is a pro if you’re looking for a long-term solution, and a con if you’re looking for a short-term solution.

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 Strikingly 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 sections 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 within the premade sections, you can’t create your own sections, and the elements you can change on the overall template are fairly limited.

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 Strikingly website builder website. You can embed HTML/CSS/Javascript with a pro plan, but you can’t manipulate the actual template you’re provided with.

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. Now, as I mentioned above, Strikingly does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email for an additional payment. They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking (but only on Pro plans).

However, there are a ton of technical features that Strikingly doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Strikingly’s SEO features. I can edit the site title, description, and add a category and social share image. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in to what I have. There’s no options for Schema, Open Graph settings, etc. – much less highly advanced options.

Even the additional add-on products / integrations are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics or putting code into the header of your website, which again, is only available for Pro plans.

Ultimately, Strikingly leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Strikingly Review Conclusion

Strikingly 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 nice website without the hassle of getting into the code or having something custom made.

Check out Strikingly’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Strikingly pricing leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Strikingly fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Strikingly Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Homestead Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Homestead Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Homestead is an all-inclusive website builder that’s tailored to helping businesses build their websites quickly, so they can have an online presence. Their platform includes “ready-to-use” templates that DIYers can customize to meet their needs, or simply “plug in” their content and hit publish.

See Homestead’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Homestead a try for a full Homestead 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 Homestead Website Builder?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Homestead 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 Homestead 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 Homestead, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Homestead 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 more on getting businesses up and running not just with an easy-to-create website, but also through traffic driving strategies and consultations.

In fact – Homestead was one of the original website builders with a positively ancient history going back to the early 2000s. They, along with Blogger, helped make websites accessible to everyone regardless of HTML knowledge. Their product has evolved over time, but they are still ticking.

One other quick aside – a disclosure – I receive referral fees from all the companies mentioned in this post. My opinions & research are based on my experiences as either a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.

Pros of Using Homestead Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Homestead website builder — not just in comparison to direct competitors like GoDaddy and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Template Design / Functionality

Homestead offers a wide selection of template designs that are responsive (AKA they look good on a mobile device, tablet, and computer), which makes the website builder a solid option for a variety of niches.

In fact, I was pleasantly surprised with just how many templates Homestead offers and how well designed they are. When I was first doing research, I checked out their sample templates. These looked… outdated… to say the least.

Once you actually get inside the platform, the template selections are great.

Speaking of being inside the platform, let’s talk about functionality. The Homestead Website Builder is incredibly easy to use. When you first log into the platform, they offer a quick tutorial of how to use the features.

The whole set up is incredibly intuitive. You can add new sections (pre-made or blank), drag and drop different elements like photos, buttons, text, etc, and customize the existing template to match your branding.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to having accessible design options.

It makes Homestead a great option for entrepreneurs/ DIY-ers who want a website that looks professionally designed without having to hire someone to build something custom or spend hours trying to figure out how to tweak the design themselves.

Free 30-Day Trial

Another benefit Homestead is their 30-day free trial.

Homestead allows you to trial any plan (even their highest-tiered option!) for 30 days before committing. This is great for DIYers who want to give a plan a test drive before committing.

It is important to note, however, that your subscription will automatically renew, which means if you don’t cancel within 30 days, your card will automatically be charged.

Homestead sign up credit card info

This isn’t necessarily a “con”, but it something to be aware of if you’re just testing out the builder.

Some Product Integration

While limited, Homestead does offer some product integration, such as ecommerce functionality and domains / email.

One thing to note — these additional integrations / functionality are either part of paid plans or require additional fees. This isn’t necessarily a con, but it is something to pay attention to… especially because you can find a lot of this functionality for less with other website builders.

Cons

Of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Let’s look at the specific cons I found with using Homestead as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

Perhaps the biggest con with Homestead’s website builder is their pricing and plan structure.

All of their plans come with storage caps, which means you’re limited to the photos, documents, files, etc. you store on your website. Their plans also limit bandwidth across all tiers.

Homestead Pricing

There are also some significant fees for add-ons and advanced features on top of the paid plans. When you compare Homestead to other all-inclusive website builders, they’re definitely on the pricier side for similar features and less storage.

Design & Branding

Trust is a huge factor when choosing a website builder (or any other website product). You want to know that whoever you’re doing business with (and giving your credit card to) is a legitimate company who is going to stand by their offer.

Trust comes in many forms — word of mouth, reviews, years of existence, etc. — but it also comes via design and branding. If a business doesn’t look particularly trustworthy or credible based on their website design, it leaves you wondering… ESPECIALLY when you’re using them to build your website design.

While we didn’t have any issues with Homestead in terms of getting started with their website builder, their website design and branding does leave something to be desired. They haven’t quite kept up with the times, and it actually made me doubt that their template designs would be worth using.

homestead branding

Limited Feature Set – Technical

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.

Now, as I mentioned above, Homestead does give some integrations, like DNS / hosting services and email for an additional payment.

They also allow you to insert code into the header of your website for things like analytics tracking, and even offer some ecommerce functionality.

However, there are a ton of technical features that Homestead doesn’t provide or that are extremely limited.

For example, let’s look at Homestead’s Advanced settings. I can edit the site meta tags and header tags, and hide the site from search engines. But aside from that, I’m pretty locked in. There’s no options for Schema, Open Graph settings, etc. – much less highly advanced options.

Even the additional add-on products / integrations are limited. There’s not much to address marketing your site, aside from adding code for Google Analytics and or adding social share functionality. Even their traffic generating / SEO service add-on sounds… less than ideal.

homestead seo add on servie

Ultimately, Homestead leaves much to be desired when it comes to product integrations and additional technical features that can help you better market your website.

Homestead Review Conclusion

Homestead has well-designed templates that allow for quite a bit of customization when compared to other all-inclusive website builders. They make getting a good-looking website up and running fairly easy.

Check out Homestead’s plans here.

However, like most all-inclusive website builders, there does come a point where there’s a tradeoff between convenience and control, especially when you factor in price. Homestead’s pricing leaves a lot to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans and take into account the technical limitations AND the extra fees for add-ons, even with the higher priced options. If you’re looking for something that offers more control and scalability for less cost, you’re better off elsewhere.

Not sure Homestead fits your needs? Check out my quiz to find what the best website builder is for you based on your preferences.

The post Homestead Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration

9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration

So you’re creating a personal website, and you’re looking for professional personal website design examples for inspiration and guidance. You’re also wondering which website platform is best to use for your website.

But before we dive into examples of what professional personal websites look like in the wild on a variety of website builders and hosting platforms, there is one thing to keep in mind when you’re evaluating a website: it’s not just about how the websites look. The functionality matters too.

Think of it like buying a car. You have a make / model in mind, and you’re probably looking to see them drive by on the road to see how they actually look. However, you also care about how they operate. Does it accelerate well? Does it have the hauling capabilities you need? How is the gas mileage?

Looking at a professional personal website examples should be done in the same way. We collected the following website examples not just to show you how they look on different platforms, but how they can function, so you can be sure you create a website that fits both the look and functionality you need!

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

Best Professional Personal Website Examples

We’ve pulled these examples based on functionality, design, and usability. Again, when you’re looking to build a professional personal website, remember that you’re not just thinking about making the site look good. You want to think about what your site actually needs to do, and find a platform that supports all of your needs.

Susannah Rigg

Susannah Rigg

Software: Squarespace

Hosting: Squarespace

This professional personal website stands out for a few reasons. First, check out the homepage. The clear navigation + simple header image (with a strong call to action button!) make it easy for visitors to find exactly what they need.

Next, the portfolio page is a great example of using a card layout with images and text to display your work.

Susannah Rigg Portfolio

If you’re wondering how to structure your professional personal website in a way that’s intuitive, clear, and polished, this site is a great place to start for inspiration (especially if you have work or content to display).

Brian Smith

brian smith website example

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Unified Layer

What stands out about this professional personal website is how simple yet effective it is. As soon as your arrive on Brian Smith’s homepage, you know exactly what he’s offering (keynote speaking).

We also liked how the website spells out why you should book him to speak. As you scroll down the page, Brian includes some short copy about what he brings to the table and why the audience would want to hear from him.

Brian smith speaking

This, combined with the logos underneath, is a great way to build in added credibility.

If you’re looking for a way to position your expertise in a way that’s simple and clear, this website is a great place to start for inspiration.

Rational Reminder (Benjamin Felix)

Rational Reminder

Software: Squarespace

Hosting: Squarespace

This professional personal website takes a unique approach. Benjamin Felix uses his website for his podcast and thought leadership content around investing.

His homepage is a collection of episodes from the podcast, and as you dive deeper into the site, you can learn more about him, investing information, and his firm.

This is a great example to use if you have content you want to display, but also want an easy way to tie it back into your company (his Find an Investor page gives information on how to work with his firm — genius!).

Ian Enders

Ian Enders

Software: Minimally-built website

Hosting: Amazon Web Services

A professional personal website doesn’t need to be a multi-page, in-depth site. In fact, this is a great example of how a single-page site can be incredibly effective for someone who wants to just give a brief overview and link out to other information.

We also liked how Ian showcases his personality in the copy, and added an extra piece of customization with the sketch of him (instead of using a photo). Remember that your personal website should show off YOU personally — which means including a bit of your personality throughout.

Dave Horak

Dave Horak

Software: Weebly

Hosting: Weebly

Speaking of showing off your personality… oftentimes, people get so focused on design that they tend to forget that what really matters on a professional personal website is, well, you.

Dave’s site is a great example of how you can build your personal brand and showcase your work without a ton of flair (in fact, great copy will do the trick).

If you’re looking for a simple layout that gives you the opportunity to tell everyone what you’re all about, this one will do the trick.

Meghan Kreidler

Meghan Kreidler website

Software: Wix

Hosting: Wix

When showcasing your personality and creativity on your professional personal website, you don’t want to sacrifice clarity in the name of creativity. Meghan’s website includes the right balance of both.

The navigation changes the main box content, making it easy to read about who she is, what she does, and what she’s done.

If you’re looking for an easy way to put your work and experience out into the world, this layout does the trick.

Heath Fogg Davis

Heath Fogg Davis

Software: WordPress.com

Hosting: WordPress

This professional personal website is another example of a straightforward, intuitive website that’s easy to navigate, clear, and gives visitors all of the information they need to learn about you, your qualifications, and your thought leadership.

We particularly liked how Heath lays out his content:

Heath Fogg Davis thought leadership

Buy using short paragraphs with “Read More” buttons, visitors can easily skim his information and choose to dive deeper into what pertains to them.

Jasmine Star

Jasmine Star

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Amazon

If you’re looking for a more creative approach to your professional personal website, check out this example by Jasmine Star. She takes a different approach than the examples we’ve seen so far. Her site is bright, with large text and plenty of photos. It’s a slightly more creative, yet still polished, look.

We also liked how Jasmine positions herself on her site. When you ARE your brand, there needs to be a lot of, well, you on the site. If you’re wanting to creating a professional personal website for your personal brand, this is a great example to use for inspiration.

Rita Gunther McGrath

Rita Gunther McGrath

Software: Self-Hosted WordPress

Hosting: Peak10

What stood out to us about this professional personal website is how Rita uses a video background header to show her speak. This, combined with a strong headline and call-to-action to learn more, immediately draws visitors in and positions her as an expert.

We also liked how Rita includes a short bio on the homepage:

Rita Gunther McGrath Bio

This is a great way to give visitors an overview of your achievements before inviting them to connect with you further.

Next Steps

Now that you have some inspiration in terms of the design, colors, and functionality you may want in your event website, where do you go from here?

Well, it really depends on where you are in your event website building journey!

If you’re ready to decide on a website builder, check out my guide to choosing a website builder here.

If you’re looking to go DIY with a specific template to match your design and functionality needs, check out my Build a Personal Website: Templates, Design, and Setup Guide.

Lastly, if you’re wondering how to market your personal website, check out my guide to creating a local marketing strategy (yes, personal websites need marketing, too!).

The post 9+ Best Professional Personal Website Examples for Inspiration appeared first on ShivarWeb.

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Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System

The post Modernize Your Business With A Good Restaurant Ordering System appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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The 12 Best Low-Cost Franchises You Can Purchase In 2019

Travel Agency Franchises

Starting your own travel agency can be a good idea for organized, self-motivated individuals who love travel and like the idea of helping people score great deals on their own dream getaways. Travel agency franchises are often home-based, meaning there is very low overhead and minimal startup costs.

1. Dream Vacations

  • Initial investment: $3,245–$21,850
  • Franchise description: Home-based travel franchise
  • Awards & distinctions: Entrepreneur Best Home-Based Franchise (2018), USA Today Top 50 Franchises for Minorities (2017), IFA 5-Star Franchise (2018–2019), #101 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019)

If you’ve ever dreamed of starting your own travel agency, Dream Vacations can allow you to do that for a 4-figure initial investment– and from the comfort of your own home. Dream Vacations has collected a lot of accolades over the years (see Awards & distinctions above) and current franchisees rate it highly on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed.com. DV lets you market your business under Dream Vacations or its sister company CruiseOne, and is currently looking for new franchisees throughout the U.S.

A major benefit of owning a home-based travel agency franchise like Dream Vacations is its low overhead. DV is also a veteran-friendly business in that it gives a 20% discount on the franchise fee to veterans. The company offers in-house financing if you can’t afford the franchise fee, or you could also get a franchise loan from a bank or online lender.

2. Cruise Planners

  • Initial investment:$2,295–$23,367
  • Franchise description: Home-based travel franchise
  • Awards & distinctions: #60 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 and #1 in Travel Agencies category (2019), American Express Travel Representative Excellence Award (2018), Inc. 5000 List (since 2012)

Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, is another low-cost, work-from-home travel agent opportunity. Don’t let the name fool you; as a Cruise Planners travel agent, you can book a lot more more than just cruises—you can also connect your customers with great deals on airfare, car rentals tours, hotels, etc. Cruise Planners claims they offer the highest commissions in the industry, and they do not require any travel experience.

When evaluating this franchise, I found their website to be very friendly and informative, though I couldn’t find a figure for the initial investment, apart from the $10,995 franchise fee (with no discounts). However, as with other work-from-home, service-based franchises, I expect a home-based business like Cruise Planners would require few startup expenses apart from the franchise fee (according to the official franchise disclosure document, the total initial investment to open a Cruise Planners franchise can range from $2,295 to $23,367). Cruise Planners offers in-house financing if you can’t afford the franchise fee, as well as a deep discount for veterans, first responders, and travel industry professionals. While Cruise Planners has a larger initial franchise fee than some other home-based travel agency franchises, a big perk you get with Cruise Planners is the American Express network affiliation.

3. Travel Leaders

  • Initial investment: $2,270–$16,910
  • Franchise description: Travel agency franchise (storefront preferred)
  • Awards & distinctions: Largest network of travel agencies in North America, highest-ranked travel management company in Business Travel News’ annual survey (2016), Top North American travel companies in Travel Weekly 2016 Power List

Travel Leaders is a quality, yet inexpensive franchise ownership opportunity if you’re an experienced travel agent who is interested in running a storefront travel agency. According to information in their FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document), it requires upwards of 10 employees to run a Travel Leaders agency. To be honest, I couldn’t find that much information online about what it’s like to work for Travel Leaders, but the brand has accumulated a number of industry accolades over the years—to be specific, over the past 131 years the company has been in business (Travel Leaders has been franchising for 35 years). Travel Leaders offers several different tiers of franchise ownership, with no long-term commitment.

Travel Leaders is currently seeking experienced travel agents worldwide.

Commercial Cleaning Franchises

If you are a dedicated hard worker but don’t necessarily have a specific skill-set, starting your own cleaning business can really pay off. Commercial cleaning is a fast-growing industry, and most of the top commercial cleaning franchises are flexible and scaleable, with a low initial investment and part-time options.

4. BuildingStars

  • Initial investment: $2,245–$53,200
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning for office buildings with part-time option
  • Awards & distinctions: #199 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500, Inc. 5000 List (2017)

BuildingStars is one of the largest, fastest-growing franchises in the commercial cleaning industry, with a sole focus on solutions for office buildings. Services include nightly cleaning, green cleaning and consulting, and carpet and floor care. According to BuildingStars, this franchise offers the highest average gross revenue of any cleaning franchise. BuildingStars also has the benefit of allowing you to start small, working part-time to start your cleaning business while you keep the income and security of your current job. The franchise offers three levels of franchise ownership: part-time technician, full-time onsite manager, and corporate manager. Depending on your goals, you can start as a part-time technician, then work your way up to onsite manager, and then corporate manager as you build experience managing larger-tenant office buildings.

BuildingStars has mostly positive reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed (average of 3.5/5 stars on both sites). The company is currently looking for new franchisees worldwide, and can offer in-house financing to cover not only the franchise fee, but also equipment and other startup costs.

5. JAN-PRO

  • Initial investment: $4,170–$54,700
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning franchise with multiple tiers of ownership
  • Awards & distinctions: #1 Commercial Cleaning Franchise and Top Franchise For Veterans in Entrepreneur Magazine (2019), Top 200 Franchise in Franchise Business Review (2018), Top 50 Franchise for Minorities in USA Today (since 2012)

JAN-PRO is another fast-growing commercial cleaning franchises with multiple tiers of investment, including a home-based option. This company’s network of 10,000+ franchisees focuses on business cleaning, healthcare cleaning, and green cleaning. JAN-PRO franchisees offer cleaning services to businesses such as car dealerships, restaurants, banks, gyms, schools, churches, medical centers, and offices. JAN-PRO’s VetConnectionSM program was the first franchise commercial cleaning program created exclusively for veterans—veterans receive a 15–20% discount on the franchise fee.

JAN-PRO can be a good place to start out with commercial cleaning, as no prior experience is required and they provide you with your own accounts so you don’t have to find customers. You can start a JAN-PRO franchise for less than $5,000, which includes initial cleaning equipment, cleaning accounts, education on JAN-PRO cleaning standards, and ongoing support. The franchisee testimonials I found online say JAN-PRO has flexible hours and good compensation, and like the fact that franchise owners can transfer ownership; however, they report that JAN-PRO can be demanding work until you have well-trained employees.

6. Stratus Building Solutions

  • Initial investment: $3,450–$64,550
  • Franchise description: Commercial cleaning franchise with multiple tiers of ownership
  • Awards & distinctions: #42 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (overall) and #2 by Entrepreneur – Top Budget-Friendly (2019), “Franchise Rankings” Winner – Janitorial (2015), Franchise Direct Top 100 Global Franchises Award (2016)

Stratus Building Solutions is a general commercial cleaning franchise that specializes in environmentally friendly cleaning solutions, with branded Green Seal Certified chemicals and equipment. From schools and malls to gyms and warehouses, Stratus’s 1,400+ janitorial franchises have customers in just about every industry. This flexible cleaning franchise boasts 16 different levels of ownership, from home-based to master franchise.

You do not need any prior janitorial experience to open a Stratus franchise. In fact, all you need is $1,000. While the total buy-in for a home-based janitorial franchise starts at $3,450, with the help in-house financing, Stratus says you can buy in with as little as $1,000 down (plus another 10% off the franchise fee if you’re a veteran).

Sports & Fitness Franchises

fitness instructor franchises

Fitness and sports coach franchises are another low-cost franchise idea if you are an aspiring fitness instructor who wants to benefit from the recognition of a name-brand sports/fitness franchise. In some cases, you can also use the facilities and gym equipment of a master franchise, while working as an independent instructor.

7. Jazzercise

  • Initial investment: $2,500–$17,155
  • Franchise description: Global aerobics class brand with instructor and center owner options
  • Awards & distinctions: #94 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500, #6 on Franchise Chatter’s 25 Best Gym and Fitness Franchises of 2019

Jazzercise might scream “80s party ideas” to the uninitiated, but the franchise has actually experienced a revival in demand in recent years (I think once people just realized it’s an easier version of Zumba), and in fact, Jazzercise never even went out of style in certain circles. In any case, demand for Jazzercise aerobics classes is going strong in 2019.

Jazzercise offers several different tiers of ownership. If you just want to teach, it costs around $2,500. If you want to own your own Jazzercise center, it can range from $9,000 to $38,000. Every instructor is technically a franchise owner, however (not an employee of Jazzercise). All new instructors are trained and certified by Jazzercise before they start teaching, and the training cost is included in the initial fee.

Generally, Jazzercise franchise owners rate the franchise approvingly on sites like Indeed.com. But as for the cons, they say the job can be physically demanding and the pay isn’t great. However, if you want to get paid to exercise and can get by on a part-time income, Jazzercise could be a good investment of your time and money, especially if you already enjoy Jazzercise-ing.

8. Baby Boot Camp

  • Initial investment: $6,050–$13,179
  • Franchise description: Stroller-fitness classes for new moms, taught by “mompreneurs”
  • Awards & distinctions: Franchise Business Review Franchise Satisfaction Awards (2016), Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2015)

Baby Boot Camp offers several different types of fitness classes for moms, including popular outdoor fitness classes designed for new moms to bring their stroller-age kids to. The main idea is for new mothers to get back into shape postpartum, though the franchise also offers fitness and nutrition classes for expectant mothers as well. Baby Boot Camp participants cite the community aspect as the main reason they like these classes; they provide an atmosphere for new moms to make friends with similar-age children in their area. As for the instructors, most of them are franchisees. The very reasonable franchise fee includes everything you need to get started, including your own territory. The company website also lists existing franchise territories for sale, which you might be able to buy at a lower rate. You do not need any fitness instructor experience to own your own Baby Boot Camp franchise.

There aren’t too many franchisee reviews online, but the ones I could find were positive and noted the company is extremely family-friendly and allows you to bring your kids with you to work. There are fewer than 150 Baby Boot Camp franchisees in the country, so this franchise could represent an opportunity to enter a market that hasn’t become oversaturated yet.

9. Soccer Shots

  • Initial investment: $41,034–$53,950
  • Franchise description: Youth soccer franchise for children aged 2–8
  • Awards & distinctions: #245 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Forbes “Best Franchises to Buy” (2019)

Soccer is a sport that many of today’s parents want to get their children involved in, not always because they want their kids to embark on a serious soccer career, but more often to simply teach their kids the fundamentals of sportsmanship and teamwork at a young age. And if your preschooler has experience with soccer, there is a good chance that they participated in Soccer Shots, as it is the most popular soccer franchise in the U.S. aimed at young children. Soccer Shots instructors/franchisees teach children basic soccer skills, via 30–40 min weekly classes that take place at their preschool, elementary school, or local community park.

While this isn’t the cheapest franchise opportunity you’ll find, it is still possible to start a franchise for under $50K, and the pay is better than many other franchises—according to the Soccer Shots website, the brand’s franchise-wide top earner makes $3,093,392 in annual revenue, while the top first-year owner made $248,240. Soccer Shots Franchising LLC offers in-house financing to cover the franchise fee, and veterans receive a 15% discount on the fee.

Soccer Shots owners also report a high level of satisfaction: 93.5% of Soccer Shots franchisees would recommend the franchise, according to the Franchisee Satisfaction Index by Franchise Business Review.

Fast Food Franchises

cheap fast food franchises

Fast food franchises are typically big earners and as such, they often carry large initial investment. However, it is sometimes possible to start a fast food franchise for under $100K, particularly if it has a non-traditional setup.

10. Chester’s Chicken

  • Initial investment: $12,385–$286,817
  • Franchise description: Fried chicken QSR (quick-service restaurant)
  • Awards & distinctions: #110 in Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 (2019), Forbes’ “The 10 Best Food Franchises For Your Buck” (2014), largest Alabama-based franchise

Chester’s Chicken is a low-cost fast food franchise, and is, in fact, one of the most affordable fast food franchises out there. Depending on your setup, you can start your own Chester’s for an initial investment of less than $15K. The franchise fee itself is amazingly low, only $3,500. For the right person and location, becoming a Chester’s franchisee could be the perfect opportunity.

A popular southern fried chicken franchise, Chester’s is unique in that it offers flexible franchise options, including store-in-store options. For example, if you already own a grocery store or convenience store, you can become a Chester’s franchisee to start selling Chester’s Chicken in your existing store. In addition to store-in-store locations, many Chester’s locations are located inside of malls, food courts, airports, college campuses, and truck stops. Chester’s was founded in 1965, but only started franchising in 2004.

11. Checkers & Rally’s

  • Initial investment:$96,414–$1,501,265
  • Franchise description: Double drive-through burger chain
  • Awards & distinctions: Best Franchise Deal by QSR Magazine (2018), Franchise Satisfaction Awards Top 50 Franchises (2019), #88 in Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Franchise Times Top 200 (2019)

Another Alabama-based fast food chain, Checkers Drive-In Restaurants merged with Rally’s Drive-In in 1999 to form a double drive-thru fast food chain, Checkers & Rally’s. Besides burgers, the chain’s varied offering also includes hot dogs, chicken, fish, and desserts. The initial investment is the highest one on this list, but is still quite low compared with most competing fast food franchises.

Versatile and eye-catching modular buildings, multiple financing options, and high ROI (28.7% according to the FDD) make Checkers & Rally’s a good bet for an aspiring fast-food franchisee on a budget. This franchise is an especially good deal for veterans, as the company will waive the $30,000 franchise fee entirely for those who have served in the military.

12. Baskin Robbins

  • Initial investment: $93,550–$401,800
  • Franchise description: Global ice cream brand
  • Awards & distinctions: Largest ice cream chain in the world, QSR Top 50 (2018), Entrepreneur Franchise 500 (2019), Franchise Times Top 200 (2017)

Becoming a Baskin Robbins franchisee means joining the world’s largest chain of ice cream stores, for potentially under $100K. With over 8,000 locations across 54 countries, Baskin’s offering includes not only its beloved rotating 31-flavors of ice cream, but also its popular ice cream cakes and frozen drinks. Though Baskin has been around since 1945, the brand is still growing and changing with the times to stay ahead of competitors. Baskin has rolled out dairy-free and gluten-free options in recent years, as well as a mobile app that allows customers to order online and collect points. In 2017, Baskin teamed up with DoorDash to offer home deliveries.

Baskin offers franchise financing for the development of new units, as well as a waiver of the franchise fee and reduced royalty rates for vets. Conveniently, Baskin lists opportunities to purchase existing Baskin Robbins locations on its website. In addition to traditional establishments, Baskin is also currently interested in non-traditional locations, such as airports, college campuses, transit terminals, and other places with a captive audience and high foot-traffic.

In case you were wondering, yes, Baskin Robbins’s sister franchise Dunkin’ Donuts is arguably an even hotter commodity right now. However, it’s also a lot pricier, with an initial investment that ranges from $228,621–$1,717,103.

Buying A Franchise: What You Need To Know

Even though it typically requires less leg-work than starting your own business from scratch, buying a franchise is still a large endeavor. There are several important things you need to understand before purchasing a franchise:

  • Opening a new franchise is different from buying an existing franchise (a franchise re-sale) and there are different steps associated with each type of transaction. You’ll probably need to hire an attorney to help you perform pre-purchase due diligence tasks like reviewing the FDD (Franchise Disclosure Document).
  • Territory is everything in the franchise business. Before buying into a franchise, you need to know how large your territory is and how many franchisees are nearby to make sure you’re not entering an oversaturated market. You can find territory information in the FDD.
  • Franchises do not run themselves. Most franchisees must be actively involved in managing their franchise in order for it to succeed. That said, once you are running a successful franchise, the franchise company will often give you the opportunity to start additional locations in your territory.
  • Pay attention to the estimated initial investment (as disclosed in the FDD), not just the franchise fee. Oftentimes on a franchise’s promotional materials (including the company’s website), only the franchise fee is listed front and center, as if to imply this figure is how much it costs to open a franchise. This is, of course, misleading, as the franchise fee doesn’t include the cost of things like inventory, labor, real estate, equipment, working capital, etc.
  • Is it a franchise or a pyramid scheme? Lots of multi-level marketing companies may sound like a franchise at the outset, promising to let you “own your own company.” But if the “opportunity” focuses mostly on recruiting other people to the company (rather than selling the actual product/service), then you’d probably be wise to run for the hills.
  • Find out what other franchisees have to say. Check reviews on Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, online forums, and anywhere else you can find information on a franchise you’re interested in. This way you’ll know whether the franchise is worth investing your time and money, and you will be prepared for the potential negatives associated with owning that particular franchise.

Read my Step-By-Step Guide To Buying A Franchise for more need-to-knows about how to buy a franchise.

How To Finance Your Franchise Startup Costs

There are various ways to finance a new franchise. Which one you choose depends on the franchise’s policies regarding financing, and the types of financing available to you. Here are a few ways franchisees finance their startup costs.

  • In-House Franchisor Financing: Many franchises have in-house financing programs that allow you to finance startup costs such as the franchise fee, equipment, inventory, etc. It’s also common for franchises to partner with third-party financing sources to offer financing for their franchisees.
  • Personal Or Business Loan: If your franchise doesn’t offer financing or you prefer not to use their financing program, you can also obtain a loan on your own (depending on if your franchise allows this). It can be difficult for new businesses to get a business loan from a bank, but you might be able to get a startup business loan or a personal loan online. To find out about some good online loan options for new franchisees, be sure to read my post on the best loans for franchises.
  • SBA Loan: If your franchise is listed in the SBA Franchise Directory, then you may be eligible for a low-interest SBA franchise loan. Read our guide to SBA franchise financing to learn how to get an SBA loan to finance your franchise startup.

There are also alternative financing options you might consider to fund part or all of your franchise startup costs, such as crowdfunding, ROBS, or even a business credit card.

It’s also important to note that most franchises have specific requirements as to franchisees’ personal net worth and liquid cash. Some franchises will not even let you buy into the franchise if you don’t have deep enough pockets to cover your startup costs yourself (in other words, they don’t allow any kind of financing). Most of the franchises on this list do allow you to finance your franchise startup costs via a loan or other means.

Final Thoughts

Buying a franchise is not cheap. In addition to the franchise fee, you have to pay for inventory, labor, a business space, and other costs. You’ll also need to have enough working capital to run your business and support yourself before your franchise makes a profit. However, there are a lot of low-overhead franchises which you can start without breaking the bank. Particularly, home-based franchises such as travel agencies, commercial cleaning companies, and sports/fitness instructor franchises can be very inexpensive to get started with. There are even low-cost fast food franchises out there if you know where to look. As long as you do your due diligence before buying into a franchise and secure adequate financing, you will be well-positioned for success as a franchisee.