How Franchises Work: The Complete Guide For Entrepreneurs

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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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Types Of Business Structures: The Complete Guide

If you’re starting your own business, one of the first steps is choosing a business structure. The legal structure of your business determines how much you pay in taxes, paperwork requirements for your business, your ability to raise money, and your personal liability for the debts and obligations of your business.

Every business is different, so the legal structure you choose should be based on the specific needs and goals of your business. The best option for one business may not be best for you, even if you’re in the same industry.

Before you make your choice, the first thing on your to-do list should be to have an understanding of the characteristics of each business structure. In this article, we’ll break down different business structures and the benefits and drawbacks of each to help you make the most informed decision for your business.

Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the most basic business structure. A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business that is owned and operated by one person. If you engage in business activities, you are legally considered a sole proprietor. There is no need to formally register your business. However, depending on the type of business you own, you may still be required to get the state and local licenses and permits needed to legally operate your business.

Under a sole proprietorship, you may operate under your own name or a fictitious name — also known as a trade name. This trade name does not create a legal entity separate from the owner.

The owner of the sole proprietorship records the income and losses of the business on their personal tax return by filing a Schedule C form. Sole proprietors also file a Schedule SE for paying self-employment tax. These forms are filed with the standard Form 1040.

Many small business owners choose to operate as sole proprietors because of how quick, easy, and inexpensive it is to get started. However, this type of legal structure isn’t without its drawbacks.

One of the biggest downsides is that a sole proprietorship is not a separate legal entity. In fact, it is indistinguishable from its owner. This means that the business owner can be held personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. If your business is sued for negligence, for example, your personal assets — such as your bank account and personal real estate — could be at risk. If you default on a business loan, your personal assets could be seized to repay the debt.

Sole proprietorships are best for low-risk businesses. Some entrepreneurs start off as a sole proprietorship when testing out a business idea before reorganizing under another business structure. Most commonly, sole proprietorships are selected by service professionals, freelancers, and consultants.

Pros & Cons Of Sole Proprietorships

Is a sole proprietorship right for your business? Consider these pros and cons before deciding.

Pros

  • Easy & Inexpensive: There are no costly fees associated with setting up a sole proprietorship. In fact, you don’t even have to register at all. Simply buying and selling goods or performing other business activities classifies your business as a sole proprietorship.
  • No Ongoing Requirements: Unlike other business structures, a sole proprietorship does not have requirements such as meetings or voting.
  • Simplified Taxes: You do not have to file a separate tax return for your sole proprietorship. Instead, you simply attach your Schedule C and Schedule SE to your personal income tax return. You will also have your earnings taxed just once, and you can write off your business losses on your personal return.

Cons

  • Unlimited Personal Liability: As a sole proprietor, you would be responsible for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of your business. Your personal assets could be put at risk, and lawsuits can be filed against you.
  • Financing Difficulties: Getting extra capital when you need it can be difficult as a sole proprietor. Banks, credit unions, and even some alternative lenders are hesitant to loan money to sole proprietors. You also will be unable to sell stock to raise money.

Partnership

Businesses that have two or more owners may consider forming a partnership because it is quick, easy, and inexpensive. A partnership is the simplest business structure for businesses that have multiple owners. Like a sole proprietorship, you are not required to register your partnership. Simply coming to an agreement with other owners and engaging in business activities is enough to establish a partnership. However, you may still be required to obtain the appropriate licenses and permits required to legally operate your business. You may also be required to register your partnership with your state depending on the type of partnership you form.

When it’s tax time, a Form 1065 is filed with the IRS to report income, losses, gains, deductions, and credits. The partnership does not directly pay income taxes, but instead, “passes through” profits and losses to each partner, who report this information on their personal tax returns. Profits or losses are recorded on a Schedule K-1, which is filed with personal tax returns. All partners are also required to pay self-employment tax based on their share of the company’s profits.

Before establishing a partnership, it’s always important to ensure the right partners are selected. Disagreements between partners can hinder business growth and even be the downfall of a business.

While any business with two or more owners can form a partnership, this business structure is best for low-risk businesses and professional groups. Like sole proprietorships, this structure is also a good way to test out a new business idea. If the business is successful, owners may take the next step to growth by reorganizing as a corporation.

Types Of Partnerships

We’ve established the basic definition of a partnership. However, there are three different kinds of partnership to consider. The primary difference between the three lies in the personal liability of each partner.

General Partnership

In a general partnership (GP), all owners are considered general partners. Each partner manages the business and is an active participant in day-to-day operations. Each partner is also personally liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the partnership.

Limited Partnership

With a limited partnership (LP), there is one general partner that is responsible for managing the business and overseeing day-to-day operations. The remaining partners are limited partners that do not participate in managing the business and have limited control. These partners are investors only and are commonly known as “silent partners.” In this type of partnership, only the general partner can be held personally liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business.

Limited Liability Partnership

A limited liability partnership (LLP) is made up of limited partners. Partners are not personally liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business. Partners will also not be held personally responsible for the actions of another partner.

Pros & Cons Of Business Partnerships

With the right people, a partnership can be very successful. There are several benefits to forming a partnership. Before you get started, though, it’s also important to understand the risks and drawbacks associated with this business entity.

Pros

  • Minimum Requirements For GPs: General partnerships have minimum requirements and do not require filing with the state. Partnerships are also not subject to the same requirements as corporations, such as holding meetings, recording meeting minutes, and establishing bylaws.
  • Tax Requirements: Partnerships are not required to pay taxes on income, and partners can report their share of profits or losses on their personal income tax returns. Business losses can also be deducted on personal tax returns.
  • Raising Capital For LPs & LLPs: Businesses that choose to form an LP or LLP may be able to raise capital from their investors.

Cons

  • Personal Liability: General partners are personally liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business. Each partner may also be held accountable for the actions of other partners.
  • Financing Challenges For GPs: General partnerships may have difficulties getting loans or other types of business financing if the business is not a registered entity.
  • Costs: While forming a general partnership is easy and inexpensive, forming a limited partnership or limited liability partnership may be more expensive and requires filing with the state.

Corporation

A corporation is the most expensive and complicated business structure. If you plan to raise capital through the sale of common or preferred stock, your business will need to be set up as a corporation.

There are no limitations on how long a corporation can exist. If an owner dies or retires, the corporation does not have to be dissolved.

Corporations are independent legal entities and are separate from their owners. The good news is that this provides the owners with the best liability protection. The bad news is that there are more regulations and tax requirements for this type of legal structure. Most corporations hire an attorney to ensure the corporation is set up and maintained according to state regulations.

Depending on the type of corporation, double taxation may also be a concern. This means that corporations pay federal and state corporate income tax, while shareholders also report dividends on their personal tax returns. Many corporations enlist an accountant and/or tax preparer to ensure returns are filed correctly, which adds an additional business expense.

Types Of Corporations

If you plan to grow your business in the future and want to raise large amounts of capital to fund that growth, a corporation could be the best legal structure for your business. Before you make that decision, though, there are a few different types of corporations. Let’s explore the differences between each type.

C-corporation

A C-corporation, or C-corp, is your basic corporation. This business entity is completely independent of its owners. With a C-corp, owners have the best protection from personal liability. C-corps can raise capital through the sale of stock and make profits, but double taxation, higher costs associated with formation, and more legal requirements are drawbacks of this business structure.

S-corporation

An S-corporation, or S-corp, is different from a C-corp because it is used to avoid double taxation. Profits and losses of the business can be passed through to the personal tax returns of the owners without being subject to corporate tax rates. To form an S-corp, a filing with the IRS is required.

Another way that an S-corp differs from a C-corp is that there is a limit on the number of shareholders. An S-corp may only have up to 100 shareholders, which could limit the amount of capital raised by the business.

B-corporation

A B-corporation, or B-corp, is similar to a C-corp in how it is taxed. However, a B-corp must offer a benefit to the public in addition to making a profit. In some states, an annual report must be filed to prove that the company is providing a benefit to the public.

Close Corporation

A close corporation is similar to a B-corp but is a structure typically used by smaller businesses. Close corporations are generally prohibited from public trading. Shareholders run this type of corporation, and a board of directors is not required.

Pros & Cons Of Corporations

There are big benefits that come along with forming a corporation, but like other entities, there are also negative aspects to consider before choosing a corporation as your business structure.

Pros

  • Ability To Raise Capital: Corporations give you the biggest opportunities for raising large amounts of capital through the sale of stock.
  • Limited Personal Liability: Corporations offer the most protection against personal liability for shareholders.
  • Some Tax Benefits: C-corporations offer more tax deductions than other business entities, as well as lower self-employment taxes. S-corporations also offer the additional benefit of no corporate tax rates or double taxation.

Cons

  • Higher Cost To Form: It is more expensive to form a corporation than any other business structure.
  • More Requirements: Corporations have more ongoing requirements, including holding meetings, recording meeting minutes, and establishing bylaws.
  • Shareholder Restrictions: The number of shareholders is restricted to 100 or less if you create an S-corp.
  • Higher Taxes: C-corps face double taxation. Business losses also can’t be deducted on personal income tax returns.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

Business owners that want the best of both worlds may consider forming a limited liability company, also known as an LLC. An LLC combines the benefits of other business entities to keep taxes and business requirements lower than corporations while also offering personal liability protection for its owners. All members of the LLC can fully participate in the operations of the business.

LLCs must be registered with the secretary of state in the state where the business will operate. In some states, an operating agreement will also need to be filed.

In an LLC, owners have limited liability, in most cases protecting their personal assets from being taken to pay off business debts and obligations, just like a corporation. Personal assets will also be protected in the event that the business files for bankruptcy.

Owners can select how an LLC is taxed by the Internal Revenue Service. LLCs can be taxed like a corporation, or the profits and losses can be passed through to the LLC members and filed on personal tax returns. Members must file a Form SE to pay self-employment taxes.

An LLC is best for any business that wants to protect the personal assets of its members. It’s also a good choice for businesses that want the benefits of a corporation without paying corporate tax rates.

Pros & Cons Of LLCs

Will forming an LLC best meet the needs of your business? Only you can answer this question, but make sure to fully evaluate the pros and cons of forming an LLC before making your decision.

Pros

  • Limited Liability: One of the biggest benefits of an LLC is that all members have limited liability, meaning personal assets aren’t at risk in most cases.
  • Tax Benefits: With an LLC, you have the option to choose how your business is taxed.
  • Fewer Requirements: There is less paperwork and fewer ongoing requirements for an LLC when compared to a corporation.
  • No Shareholder Limits: An LLC has no limits to its number of shareholders.

Cons

  • Expensive & Time-Consuming To Set Up: Because you will have to register with the state where you conduct operations, setting up an LLC is more expensive and time-consuming than forming an entity like a general partnership or sole proprietorship. You may also need to hire an accountant to help ensure you’re complying with the rules and regulations of your state — adding an additional expense to your list.
  • Limited Life: If a member quits, dies, or retires, the LLC may be dissolved. Some states even have laws in place that require an LLC to dissolve after a set number of years.

Nonprofit

Most businesses have one primary goal: to make a profit. One business structure is the exception: nonprofits. A nonprofit — or 501(c)(3) — is a business that is beneficial to the public.

Nonprofit corporations follow a set of rules and regulations similar to other types of corporations. However, nonprofits also have additional rules governing how profits are used. For example, profits can’t be distributed to members of the corporation.

Another difference between nonprofits and other corporations is that this type of business entity may be exempt from state and federal income taxes. However, nonprofits must register with the IRS to receive this exemption, in addition to registering with the state.

Religious, educational, literary, and scientific organizations may be eligible for nonprofit status. Charities are also businesses that are formed as nonprofits.

Pros & Cons Of Nonprofits

If the goal of your business is to benefit the public, a nonprofit structure may be the right choice for you. However, if your goal is to make a profit, consider choosing another business structure. Before you make your decision, weigh out these pros and cons:

Pros

  • Tax Exemption: Qualifying organizations may be exempt from paying corporate income tax, as well as state and local taxes.
  • Tax Deductions: Charitable contributions by a nonprofit may be tax-deductible.
  • Limited Liability: All founders, directors, employees, and members of the nonprofit are not liable for the debts and obligations of the nonprofits … in most cases. There are, however, some exceptions, such as when the organization is engaged in illegal activity.
  • Grant Opportunities: Nonprofits may be eligible for public and private grants not available to for-profit businesses.

Cons

  • Paperwork Requirements: Nonprofits must submit annual reports to state agencies and the IRS in order to maintain tax-exempt status.
  • Costs: Starting a nonprofit can be expensive in terms of time and money. Nonprofits must pay fees, and most organizations opt to hire attorneys, accountants, and/or consultants to make sure records are kept up-to-date and all regulations are followed.
  • Stricter Policies: In addition to following state laws and regulations, nonprofits are also required to follow their own bylaws and articles of incorporation.

Cooperative

project management software

A cooperative, or co-op, is a type of business that operates for the benefit of its members. Members of a co-op are known as user-owners and have the right to vote on important decisions surrounding the growth and direction of the business. Officers and a board of directors are responsible for running the co-op.

Any type of business can become a cooperative if the goal of the business is to benefit the user-owners. Businesses that aim to sell their products or services to consumers for a profit would be better suited to form another type of business entity.

Pros & Cons Of Cooperatives

If you’ve thought about your goals and you think a cooperative may work for your business, read through these pros and cons before you make your final decision.

Pros

  • Everyone Has A Voice: Member-owners get to weigh in on key issues and decisions of the business. Regardless of how many shares a member-owner holds, all votes are weighed equally.
  • Member Investments: Member-owners buy into a cooperative, providing a source of capital that can be used for operational expenses or expanding the business.

Cons

  • Funding Challenges: Finding startup loans and other types of funding through traditional lenders may be difficult. Cooperatives have to get creative with other funding sources, such as launching a crowdfunding campaign or applying for small business grants.
  • Slow Decision-Making: Voting and making decisions can be a lengthy process. This can put the cooperative at a disadvantage if a critical decision must be made immediately.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the type of business structure you select is based on the current and future goals of your business. You should consider the long term plan before choosing your business structure. While you can always reorganize if needed, this process can be lengthy and expensive. If you’re still having difficulties choosing the right business structure, consider consulting with an accountant, business consultant, and/or attorney to weigh out the pros and cons of each and make the decision that’s best for your business. Once you’re ready to your business off the ground, check out our beginner guides for business to get started on the right track.

The post Types Of Business Structures: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Duda Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Duda Website Builder Review_ Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Duda is known as an all-inclusive website builder that was originally created as an easy-to-use mobile website platform for DIYers. It has sinced evolved to help agencies, digital publishers, and hosting companies scale with an quick and easy website platform that helps their clients get up and running ASAP.

Duda is also known for making responsive websites, which means the site fits on any device (i.e. a tablet, phone, computer).

See Duda’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Duda a try for a full Duda review. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Duda 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 Duda?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Duda 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 (ie, domain name, hosting, software) separately.

Using Duda 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 Duda, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Duda competes with all-inclusive website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Gator, GoCentral, Jimdo, and WordPress.com.

Compared to their direct competition, they focus on speed, ease of use, and responsive design (again, web jargon for making your website mobile device-friendly). Duda offers several website templates you can customize, but it also allows you to build your own sections from scratch, making it a solid solution for both DIYers with zero website experience and those who consider themselves a bit more advanced.

Duda also skews its marketing toward agencies, digital publishers, and hosting companies with features like content import, PageSpeed optimization, site personalization, and more (but we’ll get to that later!).

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 Duda Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Duda website builder — not just in comparison to popular builders like Weebly and Wix, but as an overall website solution.

Free Trial Plan

One of Duda’s biggest pros is that they let you try the platform, risk-free, for 30 days. You don’t even have to put a credit card when signing up — you just create an account and get building.

Duda Free Trial

Duda doesn’t restrict your access to any of the features they offer when using the free trial option — it’s as if you’ve bought a plan and are already up and running with them.

This is a great feature if you’re looking to test out a website builder before committing. The thing to keep in mind here though is that the free trial gives you the features of Duda’s mid-tier plan, which includes things like team functionality, content import functionality, etc.

Duda Free Trial Functionality

If you were to downgrade after your 30 days, you would lose those features. Not a big deal if you’re not using them, but could also be time wasted if you do use them and then have to make drastic changes to accommodate the new plan.

Straightforward Sign Up Process

Another pro of using Duda is how easy it is to get up and running on the platform. It’s basically just one step — enter your information to create your account, and you’re in! Again, if you’re using the free trial, you don’t even have to pull out a credit card.

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.

Simplicity + Flexibility

Duda is also seriously simple to use, which makes it hard to mess up your website design. Once you choose a template, entering your own content is super straightforward.

Duda Website Editor

But Duda also combines ease-of-use with flexibility by offering pretty extensive design options. For example, by clicking the “plus” sign, you can add new, pre-made sections to the templated pages you’ve selected.

Duda Add Section

Or, you can create your own section from scratch.

Duda Section Design

This makes Duda a great option for both DIY-ers who want something that’s easy to customize and those who want to add their own design elements without having to hire an experienced designer and developer to make it happen.

Product Integration + Functionality

Another benefit of Duda is their integrations. First, Duda offers hosting on AWS (Amazon Web Services), which can be both a pro and a con depending on where you fall on Amazon.

The pros are that your site can and will still go down (it’s inevitable), but if you’re down, then big brands like Uber, AirBnB, Amazon, Reddit, etc. are down too… which means whatever is causing the downtime is likely to be fixed very quickly. Your site also has access to the best security and storage and speed people in the world.

But the cons are that since your hosting is bundled with Duda, you can’t actually access your files except through Duda (*although Duda does provide a data export). There’s also a chance that pricing changes on the AWS side will affect pricing with Duda. And of course, there’s some people who just don’t want to buy from Amazon… so if you’re in that boat, Duda probably isn’t for you.

Aside from offering DNS and hosting services, Duda also offers some pretty advanced functionality built in to its platform, like access to your website’s HTML and CSS, eCommerce functionality, content import, etc.

Duda Customization

This additional functionality gives Duda a unique edge, because it builds in more control while still giving customers the convenience of an all-in-one platform. Typically, these types of website builders see a tradeoff between convenience and control, but Duda does a good job of giving you a decent dose of both.

Just remember that not all of these features are available with all plans, so make sure you do your research.

Team Integration

While this pro is only available with the mid-tier plan and higher, it’s a pretty solid benefit. Duda features the ability to work with your team on your website, which means you can leave comments on the design of the website for your team to review.

Duda Team Functionality

This is functionality is pretty nifty if you’re a small agency, business owner with a team, or even a solopreneur who wants a designer to build your site in Duda but YOU want an easy way to leave comments.

Cons of Using Duda

But 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 Duda as your website builder.

Pricing + Plans

While Duda has a lot of amazing features, they are on the pricier side, especially when you start comparing features across their plans. For example, if you wanted a basic plan, you only have access to email support, and if you were creating an ecommerce store with a basic plan, you could only have ten products.

Duda Pricing

When you dig a bit deeper, you can see that a good bit of functionality is reserved for Team and Agency plans, especially when it comes to Team Collaboration. And when it comes to Duda’s features that give you the most control over your website, like widget builder, website export, and API, those are reserved only for the Agency plan.

Free Trial

Related to pricing, another con of Duda is its free 30-day trial. Don’t get me wrong — having the ability to use Duda’s awesome features for 30 whole days is great! But as I mentioned above, the trial uses the Team plan… which means if you don’t want to pay a higher price point, you’re going to lose a few features and functionality when you move your website to the basic plan.

There also isn’t a free plan for those who just want a basic, short-term website that uses a subdomain. This isn’t a make-or-break con, but it just depends on what you’re looking for. If you need an ultra basic website builder for a short project, you may be better off with a different website builder that’s either less expensive or offers a free plan, no strings attached.

Company Structure

My team, my clients and I have seen and worked with a lot of different software companies. One thing that I’ve noticed over the years is that companies have to follow not only the demands of their current customers, but also the demands of their business model. A company might be “good” or “bad” right now, but to know how they’ll be in a few years, it pays to spend a couple minutes thinking about their business model and how they’ll evolve to meet customer and market demands.

For example, anyone who understands that Facebook’s customers are their advertisers, not their users, can understand how & why they do the things they do. There is no inherently “bad” or “good” business model. Every model has tradeoffs. It just pays to know where you, the customer, fit in the picture, especially when you are building something as critical to your business as your website.

Duda is a private, venture funded company. They are based in Silicon Valley with venture capital partners. They’ve done several fundraising rounds since 2010.

Duda Financials

Venture-funded companies typically want 1 thing – growth. Sure, they want to make money at some point, but that will usually be at the “liquidity event” (ie, a stock market IPO or company purchase) – not with quarter by quarter profits.

In fact, most venture-funded firms will deliberately lose money if that means growing their customer base. So what are the tradeoffs?

The huge upside is that Duda’s customers will probably get more features, better support, and cheaper pricing than they would otherwise get. The venture capitalists are subsidizing your awesome product.

The huge downside is that Duda’s business model could change (e.g., “pivot”) at any moment. They want customers and revenue – but they want to follow the growth of customers more than anything else.

A publicly traded  is solidly committed to their market strategy. A non-investor funded but private builder like InMotion’s Website Creator is responsive to the founder’s vision and customer demands.

Right now, Duda is serving all markets, including DIYers. But they say right on their homepage who they *really* want to serve –

Duda Market

If you are an agency or hosting company – this is great. And if you are building a short-term project, it’s great. But if you are planning a long-term site, you should keep in mind that their product development might shift away from DIY features and more to project management features.

Duda Review Conclusion

Duda certainly makes getting a website up and running easy, and when you factor in their advanced features that give you more control, it makes the platform a pretty solid website builder for small agencies and even DIYers who need something that’s easy-to-use but can also scale.

Check out Duda’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. Duda’s pricing (and market positioning) leaves something to be desired, especially when you get into the higher priced plans.

If you’re looking for a website platform that has that many advanced features that allow you to control more of your site, you’d probably be better off with something like Wix for a drag & drop builder or using a self-hosted website builder like Website Creator or Weebly if you want an ecommerce component.

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

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

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Top 5 Project Management Apps For Mac Users

There are a lot of Mac people out there. We probably all know one of them — heck, you might even be one of them. Someone who likes a little style to go with the substance, someone who values accessibility over adaptability, someone who just really likes those clean, minimalist lines and brushed aluminum unibodies. And who can blame Mac lovers? Apple provides products that fulfill more than just a computing requirement; they have come to embody an ethos, a lifestyle, a holistic paradigm that values simplicity and ease-of-use. So while die-hard PC fans will shake their heads in numb despair at what they consider to be over-priced products that are capable of far less than their own customized, self-built, cost-effective machines, I think they are just missing the point. Macs are cool. And easy to use.

And frankly, there are some parallels here with Project Management. Sure, you can manage your projects using a spreadsheet or some open-source program. Heck, you could probably keep your tasks and projects straight with a big whiteboard and copious piles of sticky notes. But you are a Mac user. If you made the choice to use a slick, modern computer, you shouldn’t be bumming around using some clunky old software.

With that in mind, here are Merchant Maverick’s top 5 project management apps for Mac users, selected for their ease-of-use, general aesthetics, OSX desktop versions, and more.

1) Redbooth

Redbooth (read our review) has always been one of our favorites here at Merchant Maverick, and it remains so to this day. The excellent combination of simple interface, excellent visual design, and generally affordable price make it easy to recommend to just about anyone wanting to manage tasks and projects.

One of my favorite things about Redbooth is how flexible it is. You can use this app for basic task management (adding, working on, and completing tasks), and it works like a charm. But you can also add levels of detail, scan for workload analysis, create subtasks, and schedule your team with minute detail. It really is a joy to use, and I don’t find myself saying that about software very often.

I mentioned above that Redbooth is affordable, and it is, relative to other project management apps. There is a free version of the software that is somewhat limited in scope but still adequately functional. More interesting is the Pro version ($9/user/month) that gives all users access to free HD meetings with Zoom, as well as reporting features and external users. If you are willing to pay for the Business plan ($15/user/month), you can add assignable sub-tasks, business reporting, and priority support to the mix.

Overall, Redbooth definitely fits in well with the Mac user ethos: it is easy to use, beautiful to look at, and has the added bonus of being pretty affordable. Add to that the OSX app that allows you to use it directly on your computer, and you have what I would call a winner!

2) Flow

If you are anything like me, you are sometimes able to get yourself into a hyper-productive state of being where you feel as though you could accomplish an entire week of tasks in about three hours. I think I am not alone in referring to this state as “the flow.” It is that state of ultimate productivity that Flow (read our review) was named for.

While slightly less attractive than Redbooth, Flow is no slouch when it comes to visual design. In terms of usability, it is, if anything, even easier to use than Redbooth. Add to this incredible ease of use an advanced feature set that includes assignable sub-tasks, communication tools, and email integrations, and you have what I would consider a very tempting option.

And I haven’t even mentioned the price! If you pay on an annual basis, Flow is yours for the low, low price of four dollars and eighty cents a month. That is almost a painfully low price for a state-of-the-art project management app. There is also a $7.99/user/month option that comes with resource management and project timelines, and an Enterprise subscription with single sign-on, among other things.

So, in summary, we have a positively cheap project management app that is nearly comically easy to use. On top of that, it has an OSX dedicated desktop app. Sounds to me like any Mac user will find using Flow remarkably easy to get into the… Flow… with.

I’ll show myself out.

3) Clickup

All of the apps I am covering here today are easy to use. But of all of them, the one that most impressed me during my test was Clickup (read our review). Now, I know that in some ways, ease-of-use is subjective, but seriously! Clickup is as easy to use as bacon is to eat. And as an accused Pacific Northwest Hipster, I can confirm that bacon is very, very easy to eat.

Clickup divides work into Spaces, where different teams can find their various projects and tasks. These can be seen in box, list, and board view — whatever suits you best. It must be said, however, that Clickup really amounts to an extremely well-made task management system, so if you are looking for something more powerful, this might not be the app for you. On top of being easy to use, Clickup is gorgeous. It will look incredibly clean and slick on your Mac’s retina displays. Especially if you use the desktop app designed of OSX.

Clickup’s pricing is simple and affordable: you can get it for free, or you can pay $5/person/month in order to get more file storage and onboarding training straight up from the designers.  With pricing like that, I honestly feel like you owe it to yourself to at least try this app for yourself; there is nothing to lose!

When all is said and done, Clickup is a beautiful and simple task management system. If that is what you are looking for for your business, Clickup is probably my number one recommendation. If you need something with more horsepower, keep looking through this list!

4) Basecamp 3

Basecamp (read our review) is a byword for ease of use and simplicity in the project management world. So it seems like Basecamp should fit right in with our Mac-user Ethos, yes?

Yes.

Combine legendary usability with a desktop app designed for Mac OS, and you have a user experience that is bound to impress. Having said that, Basecamp is not the most attractive app I have used. It is a little cartooney, rather than clean. It feels more “living room” than “glass-walled office.” Is that reason not to use it? Not exactly, but honestly, image is part of this. Design is part of why you use a Mac in the first place, right? So your software should be similarly designed.

Fortunately, Basecamp really delivers in terms of features, focusing especially on communication tools that help keep your whole team on the same page, whether you all work in one building, one continent, or just one planet. Like Clickup, though, this app is only slightly more than a task management app. You may need to look farther afield if you need more than that.

Basecamp’s pricing is a little different than the other programs we have looked at today. Instead of charging a small price per user, Basecamp asks for a high upfront price ($99/month) but allows for unlimited users. This style of pricing is most beneficial for businesses planning to use their project management app with more than 20 users.

Basecamp is a solid choice for anyone needing task or basic project management, especially for medium-sized businesses or businesses with employees working remotely. In terms of our Mac-User ethos, it scores slightly less well due to the visual design, but it is still intuitive and simple. My advice? Go give it a try.

5) Teamwork Projects

Teamwork Projects (read our review) attempts to achieve the difficult task of building a full-featured project management app that is also easy to use. By and large, I think they have accomplished that. Including far more features than the likes of Clickup and Basecamp, Teamwork Projects can handle your tasks, projects, portfolios, communication, financials, and more. With an impressive integrations list that helps ensure you can continue using other software alongside this one, Teamwork Projects makes it easy to switch over from another task management product.

At the same time, this is an intuitive app to use. Notice I am not saying it is simple; it’s not. There is a decent amount to learn when you are just getting started with Teamwork Projects, but it might help to think of the app like an overstuffed leather armchair. There is a lot going on underneath, but it is all there to support you.

Teamwork Projects is available in four subscription levels. There is a free version, though with a maximum of five users and just 100 MB storage, I doubt many will stick with this option. You can get most of the good features for $9/user/month, though if you want single sign-on or custom URLs, you will have to go for the more expensive options.

Teamwork Projects is not the most beautiful app on this list. And it is not the easiest to learn or use. However, if you are looking for a robust project management solution for any platform — and especially for your Apple device — Teamwork Projects is a fantastic choice. I recommend trying the free plan to see if this app is for you.

Final Thoughts

There is no one answer to which of these five options you should settle on for your own business. If you need simple, fast, and efficient task management, you might be in the market for the likes of Basecamp, Clickup, or Flow. If you need a few more teeth for project-crushing, Teamwork Projects or Redbooth might be more in line with your needs.

In any case, all you Mac users out there can rest assured that each of the above apps will run beautifully on your beautiful machines.

The post Top 5 Project Management Apps For Mac Users appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Best Accounting Software For Freelancers

Best Freelance Accounting Software

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

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

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

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

heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

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Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

Characteristics Of Good Freelance Accounting Software

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

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

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

1) QuickBooks Self-Employed

Best For…Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

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

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

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

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

Limited invoice features

Calculates estimated quarterly taxes

No state tax support

Easy to use

Turbo Tax integration

Pricing

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

Features

Best Freelance Accounting Software

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

Customer Support

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

Takeaway

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

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

2) AND CO

Best For…
Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

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

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

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

Pros Cons

Suited for freelancers

No tax support

Easy to use

Unsuited for product-based businesses

Good customer support

Limited integrations

Strong mobile apps

Pricing

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

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

Customer Support

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

Takeaway

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

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

3) Wave

Best For…Best Freelance Accounting Software

Freelancers looking for a complete accounting solution for free.

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

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

Pros Cons

Free

Limited integrations

Easy to use

Poor customer support

Good feature set

Limited mobile apps

Positive customer reviews

Pricing

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

Features

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

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

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

Ease Of Use

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

Customer Support

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

Takeaway

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

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

Other Great Freelance Tools

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

The Best Invoicing Software For Freelancers

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

Zoho Invoice

Best Invoicing Software for Freelancers

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

InvoiceraBest Invoicing Software for Freelancers

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

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

The Best Receipt Management Software For Freelancers

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

ExpensifyBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

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

ShoeboxedBest Receipt Management Software for Freelancers

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

The Best Payment Processing Software For Freelancers

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

SquareBest Payment Processing for Freelancers

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

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

The Best Website Builders For Freelancers

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

WixBest Website Builder for Freelancers

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

SquarespaceBest Website Builder for Freelancers

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

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

The Best Email Marketing Software For Freelancers

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

MailChimpBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

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

BenchmarkBest Email Marketing Software for Freelancers

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

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

Picking The Perfect Freelance Accounting Software

Choosing Accounting Software

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Tax Deductions For Freelancers

Loans For Freelance Businesses: Your 13 Best Options

heading QuickBooks Self-Employed AND CO Wave

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

Best Accounting Software for Freelancers

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

ReviewCompare

Pricing

$10 – $17/month

$0 – $18/month

$0/month

Size of Business

Self-Employed

Self-Employed

Small

Ease of Use

Very Easy

Very Easy

Very Easy

Customer Service

Fair

Very good

Poor

Number of Users

1

1

1

Number of Integrations

4

10

4

Cloud-Based or Installed

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Cloud-Based

Mobile Apps

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

iOS & Android

The post Best Accounting Software For Freelancers appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Accounts Receivable Financing: What You Need To Know

Incoming cash flow is critical to your business. After all, if you don’t have money coming in, how are you going to pay for inventory, daily operating expenses, or other costs associated with running your business?

Sometimes, cash flow shortages are due to circumstances beyond your control. A slow season, for example, could leave your bank account a little short. But maybe you’re facing a different challenge. You have plenty of sales, but one big obstacle that’s obstructing your cash flow: unpaid invoices.

Depending on your company’s payment terms, you could be stuck waiting for weeks (or even months!) to receive payment from your customers. When these unpaid invoices stack up and your business is strapped for cash, this can quickly become a big problem.

You probably already know about more traditional methods of financing that can help you out of this bind, like lines of credit, credit cards, and small business loans. Sometimes, though, these options just don’t make sense. Maybe your personal credit score is low, you don’t meet a lender’s requirements, or you need funding fast.

What you may not know is that there’s a unique financing option that gives you control of your unpaid accounts. Accounts receivable financing is a way to use your unpaid invoices to get the funds you need in just days. If you have a stack of unpaid invoices sitting on your desk and a bank account that’s seen better days, read on to learn more about accounts receivable financing and how to put it to work for your business.

BlueVine Fundbox P2Bi InterNex Capital Riviera Finance American Receivable

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Credit Facility Size $5K – $5M Up to $100K $500K – $10M Up to $10M $5K – $2M Up to $3M
Average Approval Time 2 – 7 days 1 day 2 weeks 3 – 7 days 4 – 7 days 3 days
Minimum Credit Score 530 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Minimum Annual Revenue $100K $50K $500K $1M N/A N/A
Required Time In Business 3 months N/A 6 months 2 years N/A N/A

What Is Accounts Receivable Financing?

With accounts receivable financing, you receive the capital you need using your outstanding receivables, typically in the form of unpaid invoices. This is why accounts receivable financing is also known as invoice financing.

There are two common definitions used when talking about accounts receivable financing. The general definition is simply financing based around receivables. Invoice discounting and invoice factoring (more on that a little later) both fall under this umbrella.

More specifically, though, this type of financing uses your accounts receivables as collateral for an asset-backed line of credit. A lender provides you with a line of credit based on the quality and quantity of your unpaid invoices.

For small business owners, this type of financing has many benefits. Since accounts receivable is the qualifying factor, other criteria — such as personal credit score, time in business, and the financial details of your business — are often less important to lenders. If you fail to qualify for other types of funding, accounts receivable financing could help you overcome your financial challenges.

You also won’t have to jump through hoops to get the capital you need (unlike with traditional loans and other types of financing). In most cases, all you need to provide to a lender is basic information about yourself and your business and information about your unpaid receivables. You won’t have to worry about pulling old tax returns or other documentation that’s required for traditional loans. If you have qualifying invoices, you can be approved for a line of credit with accounts receivable financing.

A/R Financing VS Invoice Factoring

Earlier, we mentioned invoice factoring. This is a type of financing that is slightly different from accounts receivable financing.

Accounts receivable financing provides you with a flexible line of credit that you can draw from as needed. Your invoices aren’t sold to the lender. Instead, they’re used as collateral to secure the line of credit.

With invoice factoring, you sell your unpaid invoices to a lender for immediate payment. You’ll receive a large portion of the invoice amount upfront — think anywhere from 80% to 95% of the invoice total. Once the customer pays the invoice, you’ll receive the remaining amount, minus any fees charged by the lender.

Another difference between the two is how payment is collected. When you choose accounts receivable financing, you collect payment from your customers as usual. Your customers will not be notified that you are working with a third party.

With invoice factoring, your lender — also known as a factor — will be responsible for collecting payments from your customers. In most cases, your customers will be notified that a third-party is collecting payments.

Invoice financing is usually best for larger companies with many invoices. Invoice factoring is usually the better choice for small companies that don’t have the time or resources to collect payments from customers.

Is invoice factoring best for your business? Learn more about invoice factoring, then compare rates, terms, and requirements of top factors.

Who Qualifies For A/R Financing?

project management software

One of the biggest advantages of accounts receivable financing is relaxed borrower requirements. You don’t have to worry about having a perfect credit score, a long time in business, or high annual revenues — hard and fast requirements for most other lenders.

Some lenders do have credit score requirements, though. In general, you’ll find that the minimum score needed to qualify for accounts receivable financing is much lower than the credit score requirements for loans, unsecured lines of credit, and other financial products.

For most lenders, the number of invoices you have and the creditworthiness of your customers are the most important qualifying factors. During the application process, you’ll provide your invoices to the lender to determine if you’re eligible for funding. Some lenders may also look at your business bank statements to assess cash flow.

Most lenders only work with B2B or B2G companies, although some lenders will approve B2C companies with qualifying invoices.

How Accounts Receivable Financing Works

At this point, you should have a better understanding of accounts receivable financing, but you may still be on the fence as to whether it’s right for your business. Let’s explore exactly how accounts receivable financing works so you can determine whether or not to take this financial leap

1. Apply For Financing

We’ll go into detail a little later about how to choose the right lender for your business. For now, though, let’s assume that you’ve already selected your lender. Begin by filling out the lender’s application. Usually, this is a fairly short process that requires some basic information about yourself and your business, such as your federal Employer Identification Number, your full legal name, and contact information.

2. Submit Your Invoices

Once you’ve filled out your application, some lenders require you to securely connect your accounting software. This allows the lender to determine if the quantity and quality of your invoices are enough to qualify for financing. Other lenders may require you to simply upload your invoices.

3. Get Approved

Once you’ve completed the application and have submitted your invoices, the lender will make an approval decision. The lender will issue a line of credit based on the value of your invoices. Approval decisions may be given the same day, or you may have to wait several days for a decision.

4. Use Your Line Of Credit

Once you’ve been approved, you can now make draws from your line of credit to pay for business expenses. Most lenders transfer funds to your banking account immediately after you initiate the draw. In most cases, you should have the funds in your account within 1 to 2 business days.

5. Collect Payments & Repay Your Lender

You’ll continue to collect payment from your customers as usual. As you collect payments on your invoices, you’ll repay any funds you’ve taken from your line of credit, as well as any fees charged by the lender.

Typical A/R Financing Rates & Fees

Credit card surcharge fees illustration

The rates and fees charged by a financer will vary based on a number of factors. You’ll qualify for lower rates if you’re in a low-risk industry, have multiple invoices with creditworthy customers, and bring in steady cash flow.

On average, expect to pay about 3% to 5% each month on the portion of used funds. Some lenders may offer rates as low as 1%, which is why it’s important to shop around for the best rate. This also highlights why it’s so important to get payments from customers as quickly as possible. The longer you have an outstanding balance with your financer, the more you end up paying.

You may also be required to pay additional fees based on the lender you select. Some of the most common fees that you may encounter include:

  • Servicing Fees
  • Application Fees
  • Setup Fees
  • Withdrawal Fees
  • Processing Fees

How To Choose The Right A/R Financer For Your Business

If you’ve decided to move forward with accounts receivable financing, the next step is to find the right financer for your business. What works for one business may not work for yours, so make sure to do your research and apply the following tips when making your selection.

  • Understand & Meet All Requirements: Know what the lender requires before you even apply. While accounts receivable financing may be easier to obtain than other types of funding, some lenders have stricter requirements. Make sure that you meet all of these requirements. If the lender requires a minimum credit score, check your score for free online to make sure you’re a good fit. Also pay attention to annual revenues, minimum time in business, excluded industries, and other requirements.
  • Review Total Cost Of Borrowing: Sure, one lender’s monthly rate is low, but add in fees and other costs and you may end up paying much more. Make sure to look at the numbers — all of them — to calculate the most affordable financial solution.
  • Consider Borrowing Limits: Assess the borrowing limits of each lender. For example, if a lender only issues lines of credit up to $50,000, but you’d prefer to have a higher line, you can immediately eliminate this lender from your list.

Recommended A/R Financers

With an idea of what to look for in an accounts receivable financer, you’re one step closer to scoring the funding you need for your business. Maybe you’ve even started your search, but thousands of search engine results have your head reeling. To cut through the clutter and get you started, check out our recommended options for accounts receivable financers.

BlueVine Fundbox P2Bi InterNex Capital Riviera Finance American Receivable

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Review Compare

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Credit Facility Size $5K – $5M Up to $100K $500K – $10M Up to $10M $5K – $2M Up to $3M
Average Approval Time 2 – 7 days 1 day 2 weeks 3 – 7 days 4 – 7 days 3 days
Minimum Credit Score 530 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Minimum Annual Revenue $100K $50K $500K $1M N/A N/A
Required Time In Business 3 months N/A 6 months 2 years N/A N/A

BlueVine

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Through BlueVine, you can apply for accounts receivable financing lines up to $5 million. Rates begin at just 0.25% per week, and you can be approved as quickly as 24 hours after applying.

The application process is easy. Filling out the application takes less than 10 minutes. Once your application is reviewed, you’ll receive a decision from BlueVine. If approved, you can sync invoices from your supported accounting software, or you can upload invoices right to your dashboard. You’ll receive up to 90% of the invoice amount up front, and you’ll receive the rest (minus fees) after the customer pays. You select the invoices to submit, and there are no long-term contracts.

To qualify, you must operate a B2B company. You must have a minimum FICO score of 530, have $100,000 in annual revenue, and be in business for at least 3 months. If you need additional funding options, BlueVine also offers business lines of credit.

Fundbox

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Through Fundbox, you can receive up to $100,000 with accounts receivable financing. Advance fees start at 4.66% and repayments are weekly. One thing that sets Fundbox apart is that you can get 100% of your invoice value deposited into your bank account.

Registering with Fundbox couldn’t be easier. There’s no credit check and no paperwork requirements. All you have to do is link your accounting software, and you can receive approval in just hours. Once you’ve been approved, funds can be transferred to your checking account as quickly as the next business day.

To qualify, you must use a Fundbox-supported accounting or invoicing software. Your business must be based in the U.S. and have annual revenue of at least $50,000.

P2Bi

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Through P2Binvestor, you can receive an asset-backed line of credit up to $10 million. Through this lender, you can draw up to 80% of the value of your receivables.

There are several fees associated with a P2Bi line of credit. This includes a one-time origination fee equal to 1.5% of your credit line, an annual renewal fee of 1.5% of your credit line, and a daily discount cost. Annual rates average 8% to 20%.

To qualify, you must be in business for at least 6 months and have annual revenue of $500,000. You must also run a B2B business based in the U.S. There are no minimum credit score requirements, although personal credit is evaluated during the underwriting process.

InterNex Capital

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InterNex Capital provides asset-backed lines of credit from $250,000 to $10 million for qualified borrowers. Rates are between 7.99% and 18.99%. All lines of credit come with 12-month terms with the option to renew.

After filling out the application, you’ll receive an approval decision within 3 business days. Once you’ve accepted your revolving line of credit, you can make your first draw immediately.

InterNex Capital is more suited for large businesses. To qualify, you must have annual revenue of at least $1 million. There are no minimum credit scores required to qualify, but you must be in business for at least 2 years. InterNex Capital charges fees including an origination fee, draw fee, unused line fee, and renewal fee.

Riviera Finance

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When you work with Riviera Finance, it’s possible to get up to $2 million for your outstanding receivables. You can receive up to 95% of your invoice value within 24 hours after products have been accepted by your customers. Rates start at 2%. Standard terms are 6 months, but the company works with borrowers if different terms are needed.

Riviera Finance works with businesses in all 50 states. There are no annual revenue, personal credit score, or time in business requirements to qualify.

American Receivable

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With American Receivable, you can receive funding up to $3 million for your unpaid invoices. This company will provide up to 90% of the value of your invoices within 24 hours after submission. Rates start at just 0.8% per month.

To qualify, you must have qualifying invoices to creditworthy customers. There are no time in business, credit score, or revenue requirements.

Final Thoughts

If you deal with a lot of accounts receivable and you don’t qualify for other types of business financing, accounts receivable financing could be a smart next step for your business. Of course, this financial solution isn’t for everyone.

Weigh out the total costs of accounts receivable financing and evaluate the needs of your business. You may find that this type of financing is right for you, or you may choose another source of funding such as a business line of credit or business credit card. Regardless of what path you take, make sure that any financing you accept is financially feasible and will be used to better your business.

BlueVine Fundbox P2Bi InterNex Capital Riviera Finance American Receivable

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Credit Facility Size $5K – $5M Up to $100K $500K – $10M Up to $10M $5K – $2M Up to $3M
Average Approval Time 2 – 7 days 1 day 2 weeks 3 – 7 days 4 – 7 days 3 days
Minimum Credit Score 530 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
Minimum Annual Revenue $100K $50K $500K $1M N/A N/A
Required Time In Business 3 months N/A 6 months 2 years N/A N/A

The post Accounts Receivable Financing: What You Need To Know appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Understanding Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS)

You’re ready to start your own business, and you just need the financing to bring your ideas to life. However, in your journey to become a business owner, you may encounter challenges. Many new business owners find that securing a business loan is easier said than done. When it comes to requirements surrounding time in business, annual revenues, and personal and business credit history, you may find yourself falling a little short.

Whether you want to purchase a franchise, acquire a business, refinance your existing business, or start a new business, sometimes you have to get a little creative with your financing. One idea that probably hasn’t crossed your mind is a Rollovers as Business Startups plan. If you have a retirement account, read on to learn how you can leverage this account to start or grow your business.

What Is A ROBS?

Rollovers for Business Startups — or ROBS — is a type of transaction you can use to fund your new or existing business if you can’t take out a loan or work with outside investors. This method of funding your business does not involve borrowing money. Instead, you are rolling over funds from your individual retirement account, 401(k), or another retirement account to use as financing for your business.

Since you aren’t borrowing or cashing out your retirement account, ROBS allows you to invest your retirement funds without being penalized. A ROBS transaction is a financing choice for many entrepreneurs that don’t qualify for startup loans or traditional financing.

How A ROBS Plan Works, Step-By-Step

A ROBS plan is a complicated transaction, which is why most people that choose this funding avenue work with an attorney or a ROBS provider. However, even if you work with an expert, it’s important to understand how the process works.

Step 1: Establish A C-Corp

The first step of the rollover is to establish a new C corporation, an entity with shareholders that are taxed separately from the entity. A C corporation is the only business structure that will work with a ROBS.

Step 2: Set Up A New 401(k)

The next step is to set up a new retirement plan for the business. The business then becomes the sponsor of the 401(k) plan. In most cases, the entrepreneur will be the only employee of the new corporation and will be the only participant in the 401(k) plan, although you may wish to discuss other options with your ROBS provider or attorney.

Step 3: Roll Over Existing Retirement Accounts

Through a series of legal forms, funds from an existing retirement account are transferred to the newly-created 401(k) plan. Because these funds have been rolled over, the transaction is not a taxable distribution and will not incur penalties.

Step 4: Use Funds From 401(k) To Purchase Stock

Funds in the new 401(k) plan are then used to purchase stock in the C corporation. Now, the C corporation has cash from the sale of the stock.

Step 5: Build Your Business

With money in your pocket, you can use funds to acquire a business, fund your startup, or inject money into an existing business — all without tax liabilities or penalties.

Who Qualifies For A ROBS?

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Anyone with an eligible retirement plan qualifies for a ROBS. The most common retirement plans used for this purpose include 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans, and defined contribution plans like Traditional IRAs, Simplified Employee Pension, and Thrift Savings Plans. You may also use a combination of qualifying plans.

The retirement plan you use to fund your business cannot be from your current employer. Most employers will not allow you to roll over your account while you’re still working for them. However, plans from prior employers, your own 401(k), or self-directed IRAs are eligible to roll over.

Earlier, we discussed the steps for setting up your ROBS. Those steps included setting up a new C-corp and becoming an employee. This isn’t just something that you write on the forms and forget. You must be a legitimate employee for the business. While there are no hard rules as to how much time you devote to the business, you should expect to commit at least 1,000 hours per year. If this doesn’t work for you, consider other financing options for your business.

You also must ensure that you meet all the requirements of your chosen ROBS provider. Some providers have requirements related to the minimum amount of money in your retirement fund, how you’re using the funds, and the type of requirement account you plan to roll over. Before selecting your ROBS provider, understand their requirements. We’ll offer up provider recommendations a little later in this article.

Pros & Cons Of Using A ROBS

Cheaper alternatives to Shopify

A ROBS sounds like a great way to finance a business, doesn’t it? Approached correctly, a ROBS can be a financially-savvy move. However, it’s also important to understand that there are drawbacks to using a ROBS. Before you dive in, weigh out the pros and cons to determine if this is the right financial solution for your situation.

Pros

  • No Debt: You aren’t borrowing against your retirement account or taking out a loan. With a ROBS, you’re leveraging your retirement account to receive the money you need for your business, so you won’t be indebted to a lender.
  • No Interest: Because you aren’t taking a loan from a lender, you won’t have to worry about paying interest for borrowed funds. This means that you’ll have more money to invest in your business.
  • Easy To Qualify: If you have a qualifying retirement account, you can get the financing you need with a ROBS. You won’t have to worry about your personal or business credit score, a lack of revenue, or any other factor considered by a lender. Because you are leveraging your own account and aren’t taking out a loan, the requirements of traditional lenders do not apply.
  • No Penalties: When you withdraw your retirement funds to finance your business, you may be subject to early withdrawal penalties and taxes. With a ROBS plan, you won’t have to pay these costs, leaving more money in your pocket.
  • No Personal Guarantees Or Collateral: Remember, a ROBS is not a loan, so you won’t have to sign a personal guarantee or put up collateral to receive your funds. With a business loan, you may be required to do one or both, which means that if your business fails and you can not pay back your loan, you risk losing your personal assets. With a ROBS, the money invested from your retirement account is the only thing at risk.

Cons

  • Risk Of Losing Your Investment: Although you won’t have to worry about losing your personal assets if your business fails, you do risk losing your money for retirement. Of course, there have been many entrepreneurs that have started successful businesses using a ROBS. However, you should know that there is always a risk involved. If your business fails, you lose your retirement money.
  • Fees & Tax Liabilities: Unlike a business loan, you won’t have to pay interest to a lender with a ROBS plan. However, this doesn’t mean that this strategy doesn’t come at a price. Because you are creating a C-corp, your tax liabilities may be higher than other business structures. If your transaction is not set up properly, you may have to pay penalties to the IRS if you’re audited. This is why it’s so important to select a ROBS provider that understands the process and is able to help avoid missteps when setting up and maintaining your ROBS. Setting up and maintaining your ROBS also has associated costs. With most providers, you’ll be required to pay a setup fee, as well as monthly maintenance and reporting fees.

The Best ROBS Providers

While it is possible to roll over your retirement funds to finance your business yourself, handling the paperwork and navigating the legal requirements can be confusing. Instead of tackling this difficult task on your own, leave it to the experts. If a ROBS sounds like the right next step for you, consider working with one of these two lenders: Guidant Financial and Benetrends.

Guidant Financial

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In addition to financing options — including Small Business Administration loans and unsecured loans –, Guidant Financial offers ROBS to eligible applicants.

To qualify, you must have at least $50,000 in a rollable retirement or pension account. Eligible accounts include:

  • 401(k)
  • 403(b)
  • Traditional IRA
  • Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
  • Simplified Employee Pension (SEP)
  • Keogh

With Guidant Financial, you can roll over up to 100% of your account balance to fund your business. Most applicants receive funding approximately 3 weeks after starting the application process.

To set up your ROBS, Guidant Financial charges a setup fee of $4,995. An additional $139 per month is charged as a Plan Administration fee.

Benetrends

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Benetrends Financial offers a variety of business funding solutions, including Small Business Administration loans, equipment leases, securities-backed lines of credit, and startup loans. One of the company’s most popular funding options is its Rainmaker Plan.

The Rainmaker Plan is a ROBS that was first launched by Benetrends in 1983. With this plan, you can roll over your 401(k) or IRA to receive funding for your business in as little as 10 days. Benetrends offers an in-house team of professionals that will offer guidance throughout the process. When you apply with Benetrends, you’ll work with a Financial Funding Expert to design a custom plan to best fit your business needs.

Benetrends also offers Audit Shield protection, which protects your plan in the event of an IRS or Department of Labor inquiry or audit.

To get started, Benetrends charges an initial setup fee of $4,995, which includes setting up your plan and your C-corp. After paying your initial fee, a monthly service fee of $130 is charged for ongoing retirement plan services. Fees are all-inclusive and include services such as audit protection, legal support, and compliance at no additional cost.

Final Thoughts

A ROBS isn’t the right financial solution for every aspiring entrepreneur. In some cases, you may want to explore other options, including SBA loans, traditional loans, and startup loans. However, if you have a qualifying retirement plan, you’ve reviewed the benefits and drawbacks, and you don’t want to go through the hassle of securing a traditional loan, this may be the right financing option to launch or recapitalize your business.

The post Understanding Rollovers As Business Startups (ROBS) appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Zoho Books VS Wave

ZohoBooks-vs-Wave

Zoho Books VS Wave

Accounting

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When you think of accounting software, you usually think of big names like Xero or QuickBooks. But what about the programs that are designed specifically with the small business owner in mind? In this post, we’re going to put two of the top small business accounting software programs face to face: Zoho Books and Wave.

Redesigned in 2014, Zoho Books is a scalable, full-featured accounting software that even gives QuickBooks Online a run for its money. The software has only improved over the years. It features beautiful invoicing, strong mobile apps, excellent customer support, and decent integrations. It also gives users the unique ability to send invoices in over 10 different languages.

Wave is free accounting software that has only gotten better as time goes on. The software has grown to support over 3.5 million users and offers a robust feature set with unique additions like lending, scheduling recurring invoices by timezone, and a brand-new light ecommerce tool. The software also offers professional bookkeeping services and supports personal and business accounting.

But which service comes out on top? And more importantly, which is right for your business?

Read on to find out.

At Merchant Maverick, our goal is to help you to find the best software for your small business needs. To make your decision easier, we’ve carefully researched and tested both products. We’ll compare Zoho Books and QuickBooks Online (QBO) based on features, pricing, customer experience, reputation, and more, so you don’t have to.

Don’t have time to read the whole post? Or looking for a different accounting option? Check out our top-rated accounting solutions to see our favorite recommendations.

Accounting

Winner: Wave

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong accounting features. Each software uses double-entry accounting and offers both cash-basis and accrual accounting. Both support accounting reports, a customizable chart of accounts, journal entries, bank reconciliation, and fixed asset management.

The two are almost neck and neck in this area, although Wave sets itself apart by having recently added an additional bookkeeping service called Wave+ where users can purchase additional accounting help from professional bookkeepers. Wave also has built-in personal accounting tools.

Features

Winner: Zoho Books

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Zoho Books and Wave have a lot of similar features. Both offer expense tracking, invoicing, contact management, and more. The difference is the depth and functionality of these features.

While Wave has a strong feature set and unique additions like a lightweight ecommerce tool and lending, Zoho Books’ features are far more advanced. Zoho Books offers some of the best invoicing on the market with 15 different templates and international invoicing. The software also offers project management (which Wave lacks entirely), better inventory, better time tracking, and better reporting, making it the clear winner here.

Pricing

Winner: Wave

Zoho Books offers three scalable pricing plans ranging from $9 – $29/month. Wave is completely free. The only additional costs are payroll, payment processing, and Wave+.

When it comes to pricing, you can’t beat free. And unlike most free software, Wave doesn’t put artificial limits on features like invoicing and estimates. You get complete access to fully-functioning features for $0/month. Another point in favor of Wave is that the software actually offers payroll. The service may cost extra, but in contrast, Zoho Books doesn’t have any payroll support or payroll integrations.

Hardware & Software Requirements

Winner: Zoho Books

As cloud-based software, both Zoho Books and Wave work with nearly any device so long as you have an internet connection.

Users & Permissions

Winner: Zoho Books

Depending on your plan, Zoho Books supports between 1 and 10 users, although you can purchase additional users for an extra cost. The software offers very basic user permissions. Wave is designed for the small business owner, meaning there are no additional users. You can technically invite “collaborators” who can have “view-only” or “view & edit” access to your Wave account, but the features they are able to access are limited, making Zoho Books the winner here.

Ease Of Use

Winner: Wave

Both Wave and Zoho Books are easy to use. They each have a modern UI that is well-organized, and setup is quick. However, because of Zoho Books’ sheer number of features, the software is a bit harder to navigate and get used to. Wave, on the other hand, is easy enough for anyone to use, no matter what their accounting background (or lack thereof) looks like.

Mobile Apps

Winner: Zoho Books

It’s no question that Zoho Books is the winner here. Zoho Books has always been known for strong, fully-featured mobile apps. Their Android and iPhone apps receive high ratings across the board, and the company supports smartwatch, Microsoft, and Kindle apps as well.

Wave’s mobile apps could stand improvement. Right now, there are two separate apps, one for invoices and one for receipts. Existing Wave users complain that they want one, full-featured app.

Customer Service & Support

Winner: Zoho Books

Zoho Books offers the most excellent customer support by far. Zoho Books’ phone support has hardly any wait times, and in my experience, representatives are friendly and helpful. The company also has an expansive help center, email, live chat, videos, and more.

While Wave does offer good resources like a well-developed help center and strong blog, you can only contact Wave support by email (unless you purchase payroll or credit card processing, in which case you get phone and chat support). Wave’s email response times often take over a day.

Negative Reviews & Complaints

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave receive mostly positive customer reviews from satisfied customers. They have a similar ratio of negative to positive reviews, resulting in a tie for this section.

The few complaints Zoho Books users have are about the lack of payroll and limited integrations. Complaints about Wave revolve around poor mobile apps, limited integrations, and limited features.

Positive Reviews & Testimonials

Winner: Tie

Both Zoho Books and Wave have many satisfied customers and high customer ratings. Zoho Books receives 4.5/5 stars on Capterra and 4.6/5 stars on G2Crowd, while Wave receives 4.4/5 stars on G2Crowd and 9/10 stars on TrustRadius.

Zoho Books users appreciate the software’s ease of use, strong mobile apps, affordable price plans, and constant updates. Wave users praise the software for its ease of use, free price, personal accounting, and feature selection.

Integrations

Winner: Tie

Zoho Books offers 33 integrations while Wave only has 3 integrations. However, both Zoho Books users and Wave users complain about a lack of integrations. Each software’s saving grace is that they both connect with Zapier, an integration that connects them to 1000+ other third-party apps.

Security

Winner: Zoho Books

Both Zoho Books and Wave offer strong security. Each uses 256-bit SSL encryption, regular data backups, and 24/7 data monitoring. We gave Zoho Books the victory in this section because Zoho Books is far more forthcoming about their security information so users can be 100% confident that their data is protected.

And The Winner Is…

Zoho Books VS Wave

Wave is powerful software that puts up quite the fight, but it just doesn’t have the features and capabilities of Zoho Books — at least not yet. A more robust feature set, strong mobile apps, more integrations, forthright security, and excellent customer service give Zoho Books the advantage.

Zoho Books is ideal for small to medium businesses in need of strong accounting that want the capabilities of QuickBooks Online without having to pay the price. Zoho Books is an affordable QBO alternative with a robust feature set and some of the best invoicing on the market, which is why we’ve named it the Best Accounting Software for Invoicing. Zoho Books’ invoicing features make it ideal for business in need of international invoicing. The only drawback is the lack of payroll, which could be a deal-breaker for some businesses.

If your business does need payroll or if you’re looking for free accounting software, Wave might be the better choice for your business. Wave is ideal for small business owners looking for easy bookkeeping software to manage their businesses with. There’s a reason we’ve named it the Best Free Accounting Software. Wave has an impressive features set — particularly for a free app — and offers a few key additions that Zoho Books lacks(payroll, lending, and the brand new eCommerce checkouts tool). It also has a strong Etsy integration, making it ideal for Etsy sellers.

Maybe after reading about Zoho Books and Wave, neither option seems like the perfect fit for your business. Don’t worry! Our comprehensive accounting reviews can help you find the best software for your business. If you need extra help deciding, read our Complete Guide To Choose Online Accounting Software.

Check out our full Zoho Books and Wave reviews for more information. Take advantage of Zoho Books’ free trial or start a free account with Wave to get a feel for each software, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

The post Zoho Books VS Wave appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Long-Term Business Loans: Eligibility And How To Find The Best

You’re a business owner, and you’ve encountered a financial hurdle in the form of a large business expense. This expense could be completely unexpected, such as the sudden breakdown of equipment, or it could be planned, like a business expansion through the improvement of facilities or the purchase of commercial real estate.

No matter what it is, a big expense can be difficult to pay up front. When it’s an unexpected or emergency expense, the situation can be even worse. However, many smart business owners have found a solution for these large expenses: long-term business loans.

If spreading out the cost of a large expense over a longer period of time sounds appealing to you, this financing option may be the right choice for your business. However, you don’t want to rush to fill out an application with a lender just yet. Instead, do your research and boost your knowledge. Read on to learn more about the rates, terms, benefits, and drawbacks of long-term business loans.

How Do Long-Term Business Loans Work?

A long-term business loan is a type of loan that is paid back over a longer period of time. The lender loans the borrower a set amount of money for business expenses, such as purchasing a commercial vehicle or real estate, buying equipment, or hiring new employees.

With the help of a long-term loan, the business does not have to pay a large sum out-of-pocket. Instead, a lender will provide the needed funding, which the business will pay back in fixed amounts over several years, along with interest and fees.

What Term Lengths Can I Get With A Long-Term Loan?

The term lengths of a long-term loan vary based on a number of factors, including the amount of the loan, the policies of the lender, and how the funds will be used. In general, most long-term business loans have terms between three and 10 years. However, some long-term loans, such as those used to purchase commercial real estate, may have repayment terms of 20 years or more.

What Kind of Interest Rates Can I Expect From A Long-Term Loan?

Like other business loans, long-term loans do not come with set interest rates. Interest rates vary by lender, the creditworthiness of the borrower, and the amount of the loan. The most qualified borrowers with the best credit histories can often receive interest rates below 5% from a conventional lender like a bank. Startup businesses or businesses with a poor credit history may receive interest rates of 30% or more from alternative lenders.

Who Qualifies For Long-Term Business Loans?

project management software

Requirements to qualify for a long-term business loan vary by lender. However, there are a few general requirements set by most lenders.

Anyone applying for a long-term business loan must have a legitimate business expense that will be paid using the loan proceeds. The borrower must own at least 20% of the business. All borrowers must have a minimum credit score of 600, although higher scores are required to receive the best terms and interest rates. Most conventional lenders also require a business to be in operations for a minimum of 2 years.

There are also annual revenue requirements that must be met. For most larger loans exceeding $100,000, collateral is typically required. Even when specific collateral is not required, a personal guarantee or blanket lien will usually be part of the loan contract.

Can I Qualify For A Long-Term Business Loan If I Have Bad Credit?

Banks and other conventional lenders often have high credit score requirements, lending only to borrowers with scores in the high 600s or above.

Many lenders will also look at credit history and not just the credit score. Bankruptcies, foreclosures, or defaults on past loans can all disqualify borrowers from receiving long-term loans.

For borrowers with bad credit, alternative lenders may be an option. These lenders will approve borrowers with scores as low as 600. However, interest rates will often be much higher for these borrowers. Borrowers with scores below 600, or who want to lock in the best rates and terms, should pull their free credit report and score, work to pay off current debt, and take additional steps to boost their scores before applying for a long-term business loan.

Looking for a lender that works with bad credit?

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$5K – $250K 500 2-5 Days Apply Now

Are Startups Eligible For Long-Term Loans?

Most conventional lenders want to work with businesses that have been in operations for more than two years. For startups and new businesses, getting long-term funding can be a challenge but isn’t impossible.

While new businesses may not qualify for traditional bank loans, there are other options. Small Business Administration programs, for example, provide funding opportunities for startups. Alternative lenders are also less stringent with their time in business requirements.

Applicants should be prepared to show that the business will be able to pay back the loan. Instead of providing traditional documentation (like income tax returns), business plans and future projections may be required by the lender during the application process.

When Would A Business Need A Long-Term Loan?

business line of credit loan

There are many situations where a business might need a long-term loan. In fact, just about any large business expense could be covered via a long-term loan, including:

  • Business expansion
  • Improvement or remodel of existing facilities
  • Purchase of commercial real estate
  • Business acquisition
  • Purchase of commercial vehicle or vehicles
  • Purchase of expensive equipment
  • Purchase of inventory or supplies
  • Hire new employees
  • Refinance existing debt 

The important thing to remember here is that long-term business loans can be used for just about any business purpose. However, the overall cost of the loan (including fees and interest) should always be taken into consideration. The return on investment should always outweigh the cost of the loan, and a long-term loan should only be accepted if the extra funding will help the business grow and be successful.

Pros & Cons of Long-Term Business Loans

When there’s a need for a loan, it’s easy to get blinded by the prospect of money without really thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of borrowing. Smart borrowers look at the long-term pros and cons of taking out the loan to determine if it will truly benefit the business.

Pros

  • Small Monthly Payments: Large expenses can be broken down into affordable monthly payments by taking out a long-term business loan.
  • Low Interest Rates: Borrowers with the highest credit scores can take advantage of interest rates of less than 5%, making this one of the most affordable loan options.
  • Debt Consolidation: Borrowers that use long-term loans to consolidate or pay off high-interest debt can save thousands of dollars over the course of the loan.

Cons

  • Variable Interest Rates: Some long-term loans come with variable interest rates, so be cautious. While a variable rate may help you save money when market rates fall, there is always the possibility that rates could increase, leading to a more expensive loan.
  • Overall Costs: The overall cost of a loan over its lifetime can be quite expensive, especially for any borrower without a stellar credit rating. Even for the most qualified buyers, fees and interest can really tack on extra money to the loan, so it’s important to fully understand the total cost of the loan before signing the contract.
  • Collateral Requirements: For most long-term loans, collateral is required. In some cases, the collateral will be the item being purchased with the loan proceeds, such as equipment, a vehicle, or real estate. In other instances, borrowers will need to put up business assets, personal assets, sign a personal guarantee, or agree to a blanket lien before the loan is disbursed.
  • High Credit Score Requirements: A long-term loan can be one of the most difficult loans to obtain. To get the most affordable funding, a great credit score (with no negative items on the credit history) is required. While some lenders may work with borrowers with lower scores, interest may be much higher and terms not as favorable.
  • Documentation Requirements: Because long-term loans are often for very large amounts of money, lenders want to ensure that all borrowers are able to pay back the loan. This means that there is a lot of paperwork involved in the application process. Borrowers must come prepared to take the time needed to provide the lender with all documentation to qualify for the loan.
  • Long Approval Process: Depending on the lender, getting an approval for a long-term business loan could take months — not ideal for a business that needs funding immediately.

Where To Find Long-Term Business Loans

Once a business decides to take the leap to obtain a long-term loan, the next step is to apply with a lender. Fortunately, it isn’t difficult to find a lender that specializes in long-term business loans. Most business owners turn to three main sources for their long-term financing needs: the Small Business Administration, banks and credit unions, and alternative lenders.

The Small Business Administration (SBA)

The Small Business Administration provides lending programs that are a hit with business owners. The SBA sets guidelines that keep interest rates low for borrowers, while also providing a guarantee to lenders. Because of this guarantee, SBA-approved lenders, or intermediaries, are more willing to loan money to small businesses.

The SBA offers several long-term loan programs. The most popular is the 7(a) program, which offers up to $5 million for almost any purpose with a maximum repayment term of 10 years. Falling under the 7(a) umbrella is the Community Advantage Loan that offers the same competitive rates and terms for businesses in underserved communities, while the Veterans Advantage program offers long-term loan options for military veterans and service members.

The SBA Microloans program is another option for smaller financing needs. These loans provide up to $50,000 that can be repaid over a maximum term of 6 years.

For businesses that want to improve their facilities or purchase real estate, 504 loans provide 40% of funding toward these projects. A maximum of $5 million can be distributed through this program, with repayment terms set at a maximum of 25 years.

SBA loans can be obtained from intermediary lenders including SBA-approved banks, credit unions, non-profit agencies, and Commercial Development Companies. Learn more about the rates, terms, and requirements of SBA loan programs.

Loan Program Description More

7(a) Loans

Small business loans that can be used for many many business purchases, such as working capital, business expansion, and equipment, inventory, and real estate purchasing.

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Microloans

Small loans, with a maximum of $50,000, which can be used for working capital, inventory, equipment, or other business projects.

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CDC/504 Loans

Large loans used to acquire fixed assets such as real estate or equipment. 504 Loans are offered in partnership with Community Development Companies (CDCs) and banks.

Review

Disaster Loans

Loans used to rebuild or maintain business following a disaster. 

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Banks & Credit Unions

Banks are a very popular source for obtaining long-term business loans because of low interest rates and favorable terms. However, qualifying for these loans can be difficult. Credit scores must be very high, the application and approval process can be lengthy, and banks often have strict requirements in terms of time in business and annual revenues. Businesses that do qualify, however, will find bank loans are easily one of the most affordable loans on the market.

Credit unions also offer very competitive rates and terms, and many businesses prefer to work with these lenders because of the more personalized service they receive. Credit unions may have a bit of flexibility in terms of their requirements, but all borrowers should come to the table with a high credit score and a stable business history.

Businesses pursuing these types of loans can start with the financial institutions where they have already established accounts. Businesses that would rather shop around for the best rates and terms can check out our top banks for business loans to get started.

Alternative Lenders

Alternative lenders offer some benefits that banks, credit unions, and SBA intermediaries do not, including fast approval and funding and lower credit score requirements. However, there are also several drawbacks to working with alternative lenders. Higher interest rates are one of the biggest drawbacks. Lower maximum loan amounts are another. Learn more about the benefits and drawbacks of alternative loans.

Most alternative lenders set their maximum repayment terms at just 5 years. Depending on the amount borrowed, this could mean higher monthly payments, especially with higher interest rates that can even exceed 30% in some cases.

However, the return on investment may be enough for a business to move forward with one of these loans. These loans are best for businesses that don’t meet the qualifications of other lenders, including but not limited to credit score, time in business, or annual revenue.

Long-Term Business Loan Calculator

It is absolutely critical to understand the full cost of a long-term business loan prior to signing your loan contract. Before borrowing, use our long-term business loan calculator to get an overview of what to expect from your loan. This calculator provides estimates of monthly payments, the total amount of interest that will be paid, and the total cost of the loan. Knowing the numbers before applying for a loan is a key step for any financially-savvy business owner.

Learn more about the loan calculator and how to best use it before you apply for a long-term business loan.

Final Thoughts

A long-term business loan can be a smart and affordable way to fund large expenses. However, to get the most out of this type of financing, it’s important to do your research to find the lowest interest rates and best terms. Evaluate why you need the money and the return on investment, then find the lender that offers a loan that best fits your needs.

Looking for an online lender that provides long-term business loans? We recommend starting with the following:

Lender Borrowing Amount Term Req. Time in Business Min. Credit Score Next Steps

smartbiz logo

$30K – $350K 10 – 25 years 2 years 650 Apply Now

$2K – $5M Varies 6 months 550 Apply Now

$25K – $500K 6 months – 5 years 2 years 620 Compare

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$5K – $300K 1 – 5 years 12 months 600 Compare

The post Long-Term Business Loans: Eligibility And How To Find The Best appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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