How Much Money Do You Need To Start A Business?

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What Is Square And How Does It Work?

The post What Is Square And How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Adobe Spark Website Builder Review: Pros, Cons, and Alternatives

Adobe Spark Website Builder Review

Adobe is a huge name in the software industry — and their website builder app, Adobe Spark Page, is no exception. Adobe Spark is a single-page website builder that makes building one-page websites (think resumes, portfolios, blog posts, presentations, etc.) easy to do with zero design experience.

Check out Adobe Spark’s Current Plans & Pricing

Recently, I gave Adobe Spark Page a try for a small project after receiving a few reader questions. But before I get into the pros and cons of my Adobe Spark review, let’s consider a bit of background on building a website in general.

There are so many considerations to take into account when choosing the best website builder for your project, such as what you want it to look like, what you need your site to be able to do, and how much time you want to spend creating the site. 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 Adobe Spark Page?

On the wide spectrum of website building solutions, Adobe Spark Page lives on the end that is all-inclusive and provides everything you need to get started with your website. It contrasts with solutions where you buy, install, and manage all the “pieces” of your website separately. I wrote a post on Website Builders, Explained for more background.

Using Adobe Spark 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 with all software, but especially with website builders.

Everything may fit together just right with a website builder like Adobe Spark Page, but that may or may not be what you’re looking for.

As far as competition, Adobe Spark competes with all-inclusive hosted website builders like Weebly, Wix, Squarespace, Gator, and WordPress.com, but has one major distinction: Adobe Spark Page focuses on creating professional-looking, single-page websites.

Instead of giving you a multi-page template, Adobe Spark Page has a few web page templates you can choose from (among other templates, since Adobe Spark Page is part of Adobe Spark, which includes the ability to make design images, web pages, AND videos).

Adobe Spark Templates

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 Adobe Spark Page Website Builder

Here’s what I found to be the pros of using Adobe Spark Page — not just in comparison to other website builders, but as an overall website solution.

Straightforward Signup Process

One of Adobe Spark Page’s best features is how quickly you can get up and running. Signing up for the platform is simple — you just create an account (or log in with your existing Adobe ID if you have one), and then choose what type of project you’d like to create (a photo, video, or webpage) and which template to use. You can also create your own design from scratch if none of the templates stand out to you.

Adobe Spark Page DIY

Simplicity

Adobe Spark Page is also seriously simple to use.  The builder is intuitive, straightforward, and requires absolutely no website experience to use it.

Adobe Spark Editing

While the website builder is not drag and drop, you can choose from a menu of page elements when you want to add additional sections / functionality below the header.

Adobe spark adding elements to the page

The whole setup is like painting by numbers.

There are obvious drawbacks to this setup, which I will cover in the disadvantages, but it is a real advantage to have an easy-to-build, nice looking one page website ready in a matter of minutes!

Adobe Product Integration

Another benefit of Adobe Spark Page website builder is the ability to use other Adobe products within the page builder. For example, take a look at this list of options I have when trying to add an image to the page:

Adobe Spark Integrations

Adobe Spark Page gives me the option to pull photos from Adobe Stock, Creative Cloud, or Lightroom (all Adobe products). This is a solid advantage for Adobe users who want all of their apps to connect. There are also options to connect to your Dropbox, Google Photos, or Google Drive — so the benefits extend beyond just Adobe users.

Cons

But of course, no review would be complete without looking at the downsides. Every piece of software will have complaints. Here are the cons I found with using Adobe Spark Page.

Limited to One Page

This one is the most glaring disadvantage. Adobe Spark Page is true to its name — it’s a page builder, which means your website is limited to a single page.

For short-term projects where you only need a single page, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you’re trying to build a website that can grow and scale (or do anything beyond the basic functionality Adobe Spark Page provides), you’re stuck.

You can add sections, but the customization is limited (more on that in a minute). Again, if you need a website builder that enables you to put some text and imagery or video on a page quickly and with little customization, this con doesn’t hurt much. But for those who need a long-term, more robust website, Adobe Spark Page likely won’t cut it.

Limited Feature Set – Design

With any technology product, there is almost always a trade-off between convenience and control.

This trade-off is very apparent with Adobe Spark’s website builder. The convenience of their design setup is great. It’s straightforward, fast, and not confusing. It makes creating a single webpage super fast and easy, especially with how intuitive the builder is.

But here’s the thing — if you want to go anywhere beyond the basics of the design they provide, you are very limited with Adobe Spark.

For starters, you’re not really given a template to work with. Adobe Spark Page shows you different types of websites you can build, but each website category leads to the same starter template (which is also what you have when you choose the “build from scratch option”).

Adobe Spark Base Template

From there, you can select certain “themes”, which are really just font/color combinations that change the header and section styles.

Adobe Spark Page Theme Changes

But you cannot change the layout. You cannot drag and drop. And you certainly cannot edit the HTML and CSS, much less add any other design element.

The best way to describe it is a ‘paint-by-numbers’ set up — a really basic paint-by-numbers. It’s great to have the ease of use, but if you want to do anything extra or outside of bounds, then you’re out of luck.

If your website is growing, or becoming a bigger part of your business, the design limitations can be crippling. And unlike other website builders that attempt to solve this issue through apps, extensions, or access to the website code or HTML, there is no outlet for Adobe Spark Page.

Limited Feature Set – Technical

The limitations on design also bleed over into technical limitations. Technical limitations are features and functionality that you don’t know that you want until you want them, and then you find out you can’t have them.

These are things like integrations with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Google Ads, social sharing options, blogging, and a whole host of every intermediate to advanced marketing tools on the internet.

Adobe Spark Page’s technical limitations are also pretty crippling. There are no plugins or apps that you can use to market your page (aside from sharing the link on social media). You cannot integrate additional functionality aside from what’s provided (photos, videos, and grids). You can’t even customize your page URL.

Adobe Spark URL

Think of it like the difference between cooking in your own kitchen and building your own burrito at a fast food restaurant.

With Adobe Spark Page, you can certainly choose the ingredients that go into your burrito, but your choice is really an illusion because you’re limited to the ingredients that are offered by the restaurant (and in this case, you’re eating at a basics-only burrito bar). Like the design, that can be a good thing if you need something simple, and will always need something simple. But if you ever need to upgrade or do something unique or custom, it can be very limiting.

Theme Examples that Aren’t Usable Pages

Another con of Adobe Spark Page is the lack of examples you can build off of in their template library. As I mentioned before, Adobe Spark Page doesn’t really give you different templates. The templates are the same for every website type. However, when you click “see more” under the website type, you are given various designed examples to pull from:

Adobe Spark Examples

Adobe Spark Options

Only problem is, they’re not actually Pages. They’re posts, which is an entirely different asset (AKA not a website page).

Adobe Spark Page Post

It’s a bit confusing, and again points to the limitations of the design.

Additionally, from what we can tell from the pricing, the additional features you get apply to this area of Adobe Spark (Posts) and not the website builder.

Adobe Pricing

When we upgraded to the monthly plan, there was no change in the templates available for website design purposes.

Adobe Spark Page Review Conclusion

Adobe Spark Page makes getting a single page website up and running easy, especially if you need something that’s done-for-you and requires little customization. They have a straightforward user-experience and easy-to-use editor that makes getting your content out there a breeze.

Check out Adobe Spark Page’s plans here.

However, there are major trade-offs to consider with Adobe Spark Page — specifically functionality, customization, and control. And this is where Adobe Spark Page falls short when compared to other all-inclusive website builders that have more customization, more functionality, allow you to add additional pages, and include DNS services so you can have a custom domain. If you’re looking to create anything beyond a simple, single page website, Adobe Spark Page is probably not the best option for you.

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

 

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

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How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide

Have you always had an affinity for furry (or scaly) things? Have you ever needed money? If you answered yes to both these questions, you may want to consider starting a pet-sitting business.

But before you pick up the leashes and pooper-scoopers, it’s a good idea to sit down and plan out the trajectory of your business. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t fret. Below, we’ll lay out the steps you can take to start a pet-sitting business.

Decide On A Location

Since you’re going to be dealing with people’s pets, you’ll need to take into account your proximity to your clients. If they’re dropping their pets off with you, you’ll want to be located somewhere easily accessible to most of your customers, and one that can accommodate animals. Depending on where you live, this can be tricky as the space necessary to accommodate animals will usually be cheaper in less centralized locations.

On the other hand, if you’re going to your customers, you’ll need to take into account the amount of time you need to spend with each client’s pets, the costs of commuting to the job, and how animal-friendly/animal-hostile the infrastructure in your service area is (dog parks, etc.).

Register Your Business

Why should you register your business? Depending on your local laws, you may actually be required to register your business in order to legally pet-sit. But even in jurisdictions where it isn’t compulsory, there are some advantages to doing so.

The first is that you can do business under a name other than your own. So instead of Martha Swearingen, LLC, you can do business as Baron Bark’s Pet Pampering Service (you can have that one for free).

The default configuration for businesses is a sole proprietorship (or a partnership, if you’re starting it with someone else). This essentially means that you’ve started a business with your own name or, if you file a DBA (Doing Business As), a name of your choice.

Sole proprietorships have the advantage of being cheap and easy to start. Your taxes will also be easier to file (and lower) than they would generally be with other forms of incorporation. Keep in mind, however, that for liability purposes, sole proprietorships and the individuals behind them are essentially one and the same.

Other forms of incorporation will require a bit more work and come with their own advantages and disadvantages. Most pet-sitting companies aren’t going to be interested in forming C-suites for governance, so you can probably ignore S-Corps and C-Corps for now. You may, however, want to consider forming an LLC to provide some separation between your personal finances and liabilities and your business ones.

Here are the most popular ways to incorporate:

  • Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs): If you’ve seen LLC after a corporation’s name, you’re dealing with this type of company. LLCs offer limited liability protection for their owners without the full complexity of a corporation. Each state has its own rules for how to start and maintain an LLC, and you don’t necessarily have to register your LLC in the state where you’re doing business (although you’ll generally want to). LLC owners report their business earnings and losses on their personal taxes.
  • C-Corp: This is the “basic,” default form of incorporation. Shareholders are considered the owner(s) of the company and receive limited liability protection; however, the business decisions are made by corporate officers who may or may not be shareholders. The corporation is taxed separately and shareholders pay income tax on dividends. To form a C-corp, you’ll file articles of incorporation with your state.
  • S-Corp: S-corps are similar to C-corps in most ways, but come with a few additional restrictions: you have to have fewer than 100 shareholders and they have to all be U.S. citizens or residents. Unlike C-corps, profits and losses are reported on personal taxes, not unlike an LLC. In addition to filing articles of incorporation, you’ll also need to file IRS Form 2553.

Get Business Insurance

As a pet-sitter, you’re not just dealing with property, you’re dealing with animals whose owners often view them as part of their family. In other words, if something goes wrong, things could get ugly.

Depending on your local laws, you may be required to carry certain types of insurance.

The type of insurance that will probably be of most interest to you is general liability insurance. This protects you in the event of a lawsuit or accident, whether it’s an accidental injury to the animal or if you accidentally damage property within a client’s home. It doesn’t only protect you, however; it also makes you look like a safer option than a business that isn’t covered.

There are other, more specialized types of insurance that are worth taking a look at depending on the specifics of your business. These include:

  • Property Insurance: Protects the property needed to run your business (as opposed to damages you cause to clients’ property).
  • Business Interruption: Covers costs related to unforeseen events that make your business unable to function.
  • Professional Liability (Error and Omissions): Covers the costs of defending your company in lawsuits in cases where your business caused a financial loss.

If you aren’t sure where to look, we can help you.

Invest In Business Software

While not absolutely necessary, you can save yourself and your customers some hassle with strategically chosen business software. For pet sitting, there are probably three types most worthy of consideration.

Payment Processing

Doing business with cash can be convenient when you’re first starting out, but as you grow, you’ll probably be missing out on clients if you can’t accommodate other forms of payment.

Recommended Option: Square

Best Overall Mobile POS


Review Visit Site

Highlights

  • No contract or monthly fee
  • Instant account setup
  • Retail upgrade available
  • Restaurant upgrade available
  • For iOS and Android mobile devices
  • 2.75% per in-person card swipe

Retail POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Restaurant POS: Free trial ($60/mo value)

 

Square POS: Always free

If you have an iOS or Android device, Square offers an extremely convenient way to accept mobile payments while on the go via a small add-on you plug into your device. It’s also a very scalable service; if you’re running a retail location, there are even more features and service options you can take advantage of.

Best of all, there aren’t any monthly fees to worry about. Square charges between 2.75  – 3.5 percent per transaction (depending on whether you swipe or key in the info), so you’ll want to factor those costs into your expenses.

Scheduling Software

As you add clients, it will get harder to remember their particular preferences, not to mention more difficult to fit them all into your schedule. With booking or scheduling software, you can track your time, note customer needs, and efficiently plan your days’ work. Many of these offer their basic features free of charge.

Accounting Software

Most businesses can benefit from accounting software. What you don’t want is to spend money unnecessarily on one. Wave offers most of the features you need at no cost.

With no monthly fee, you’ll get invoicing, estimates, contact management, expense tracking, accounts payable, and inventory tracking.

Seek Funding

Pet-sitting, especially, if you’re going to your clients, doesn’t have a lot of overhead when you’re first starting out. In the event that you do need to scare up some money to cover starting expenses or equipment, there are a number of options available to you.

Personal Savings

If you can avoid taking on debt, it’s usually a good idea. It may hurt to part with some of your rainy day funds, but you won’t be accumulating expensive interest and fees.

Tap Your Support Network

If you do need money from an outside source, you can often get a better deal from your support system than you can from a private lender.

Keep in mind that this comes with its own risks. You may stress your relationships, especially if you aren’t able to pay back these so-called friendly loans quickly. One way to avoid this is to formalize any agreements you make with friends and family so that everyone fully understands what they’re getting into and what the expectations are. You may even want to draw up a formal contract that outlines any expected payments and return on investment.

Credit Cards

For the relatively low expenses you will encounter when you start a pet-sitting business, credit cards can probably suffice for most of your needs.

The general rules of thumb when it comes to using credit cards effectively are these:

  1. Use credit cards for expenses that you can pay off within their interest-free grace period.
  2. Pick a card with a reward program that matches your spending habits and needs.
  3. Do not take out cash advances on your credit card.

If you follow these rules, you can actually save money by using your credit card to make purchases.

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

Amex’s SimplyCash Plus offers one of the best cash back programs available without an annual fee. You’ll get 1 percent back on generic purchases, 5 percent back on wireless telephone purchases and office supply stores in the U.S. But it’s the middle tier that’s most interesting. You can select a category of your choosing (airfare, hotel rooms, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising, shipping, or computer hardware) to get 3 percent back.

It also carries an introductory 0% APR for the first nine months, which can be helpful if you’re just starting out.

Recommended Option: Amazon Business Prime American Express Card

Amazon Business Prime American Express Card


Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24% – 24.24%, Variable

This one’s a little more niche. But if you find yourself buying supplies and random pet-related doodads on Amazon frequently, you can get a lot of value out of the Amazon Business Prime American Express Card.

If you have a Prime membership, you’ll earn a whopping 5 percent back on purchases made at Amazon.com, Amazon Business, AWS, and Whole Foods Market — or an extra 90 days interest-free grace period for purchases made at those places. Even if you’re not a Prime member, you’ll get 3 percent or 60 days, respectively. You’ll need to spend around $6,000 to recoup the cost of a $119 Prime membership with points alone, but that’s without factoring in money saved through Prime’s programs (shipping, deals, etc).

Personal Loans

If you need more money than you can safely put on a credit card, or need longer to pay it off, you should consider getting a personal loan that can cover business expenses.

There are some disadvantages to taking this route, namely that you’re on the hook rather than your business, but if your credit is good, it’s not the worst option out there.

Recommended Option: Lending Club Personal Loans

lending club logo

Review

Check Rate

Lending Club is a good option for individuals who may not have the strongest credit, but have a good debt-to-income ratio. The borrowing range is fairly narrow at $1k to $40k, but when you’re just starting out, you don’t want to go too deeply into debt anyway. You’ll have three-to-five years to pay it off, which makes it fairly manageable.

Recommended Option: Lendio

Review

Visit Site

If you’re just entering the alternative loan market for the first time, it can be pretty overwhelming. Lendio takes some of that burden off of you by allowing you to effectively apply to their whole network of lenders with one application.

Need more options? Check out our feature on startup loans.

Create Contracts

If you’ve just been watching your friends’ pets, you’ve probably had an informal agreement about the services you’d provide and the expectations of safety and liability involved. And that was probably enough.

When you’re dealing with strangers in a professional capacity, however, it’s smart to formalize these elements in a contract. This can save you a lot of headaches, if not legal troubles, down the road. You’ll want to include critical information about the pet (when and what they eat, how they are with strangers, pertinent medical history, etc.), what’s included in your services, and the client’s expectations for how their home will be treated under your care (if applicable). You’ll also want to include your fees and rates.

If you can, have a lawyer look it over to make sure it checks out legally.

Market Your Business

Getting the word out is always one of the most challenging parts of getting a business off the ground. The easiest place to start is through word of mouth. Are you already looking after the pets of a family or two? Let them know you’re looking to take on more clients, along with your friends, family, and social contacts.

At some point, you’ll probably want to expand outside the reach of your current contacts, which means advertising. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You can post flyers on bulletin boards and leave business cards in places trafficked by pet owners. Online classified sites like Craigslist can also cover a large audience in your area.

Bolster Your Web Presence

When it comes to promoting small business, the internet is one of those things that’s easy to both over- and underestimate. On the one hand, simply buying an ad and hoping for the best likely won’t yield amazing results. On the other, you do need an internet strategy to grow your business.

It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you’ll probably want a website that details your basic services and contact information. Don’t overthink it. There are a lot of great tools available that can help you build a website.

Remember, too, that social media isn’t just for sharing pictures of your dinner with your friends. You can use to communicate with customers, make engaging content that makes them keep your brand in mind, and announce special deals and service changes.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, everything we covered doesn’t look too intimidating. If you’re good with animals and don’t mind turning that love into a source of revenue, you can get a pet-sitting business up and running in no time!

Having second thoughts about pet-sitting but are still looking to open a business? Check out our other beginners’ guides.

The post How To Start A Pet Sitting Business: The Complete Guide appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees

best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees

Your credit card might come with some nice rewards for your spending. It might even offer some nice travel benefits. But if it carries a foreign transaction fee, that means that every charge you make while outside the US is subject to an extra fee, usually 3%. Think of it this way: for every $100 in overseas charges you make, you’ll be spending another $3 in fees.

Spend enough on purchases outside the country, and foreign transaction fees will eat into whatever net benefit your card use would have otherwise brought you. Thankfully, the solution is clear. If you’re going to be using your credit card outside the US with any frequency, use a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.

Most credit card companies offer both cards that carry a foreign transaction fee and cards that don’t. However, there are two prominent exceptions to this general rule: Capital One and Discover. Neither credit card issuer charges a foreign transaction fee on any of their cards, making their credit card lineups particularly appealing to the traveler who spends a significant amount of time and money outside the US.

Let’s survey the landscape and highlight the best credit cards with no foreign transaction fees.

Credit Card Best For
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Cash Back with No Annual Fee
Chase Ink Business Preferred Business
Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Average Credit
Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard Travel Rewards
Chase Sapphire Preferred Transferable Travel Rewards
The Platinum Card from American Express Luxury Travel Benefits
Uber Visa Restaurants/Dining
Discover it Cash Back Rotating 5% Cash Back Categories

Best For Cash Back With No Annual Fee: Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards

Quicksilver from Capital One



Compare

Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


16.24 – 26.24%, Variable

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is a great cash back credit card for the international traveler who can’t be bothered with category restrictions on earning cash back and just wants to earn cash back at a flat rate — all without paying an annual fee.

The highlight of this card is undoubtedly the unlimited 1.5% cash back you’ll earn on every purchase, everywhere. You won’t have to worry about spending categories and there is no limit on the amount of cash back you can earn. You won’t have to weigh the benefits you’ll accrue against foreign transaction fees or an annual fee either, as there are no such fees.

Another great feature of the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards card is the 15-month 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers. Most credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR for a year or less (if they offer one at all), so with the Quicksilver card, you’ll get an extra buffer period before you’ll have to start thinking about monthly interest charges.

Best For Business: Chase Ink Business Preferred

Chase Ink Business Preferred



Compare 

Annual Fee:


$95

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 23.24%, Variable

Chase Ink Business Preferred is a business credit card that confers some nice travel benefits. One of these benefits, of course, is the lack of a foreign transaction fee.

Ink Business Preferred offers an eye-catching bonus offer: 80,000 bonus points after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. When redeemed for travel, that’s a $1,000 reward. That’s because points are worth 25% more when you redeem them for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards.

On the subject or points-earning, you’ll earn 3 points per $1 on your first $150,000 spent in combined purchases on travel, shipping purchases, Internet, cable/phone services, and on social media/search engine advertising each year. You’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Not only will you get a 25% boost to your points value when booking travel via Chase’s travel portal, but you can transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to the travel rewards programs of partners like United Airlines and Marriott.

The Ink Business Preferred does, however, carry a $95 annual fee.

Best For Average Credit: Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards

QuicksilverOne from Capital One



Compare

Annual Fee:


$39

Purchase APR:


26.99%, Variable

Not to be confused with Capital One’s other Quicksilver card, the QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards credit card is one of the few credit cards out there that both lacks a foreign transaction fee and is available to applicants with average credit.

The Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards card offers the same unlimited 1.5% cash back as the Quicksilver Cash Rewards card. Not bad for a card available to people with average credit!

Of course, there are some trade-offs to be made here. Unlike Capital One’s other Quicksilver card, this card offers no introductory 0% APR, an annual fee of $39, and a high variable APR that currently stands at 26.99%. The high APR combined with the lack of an intro 0% APR period means that you’ll want to avoid carrying a significant balance on this card from month-to-month. You’ll also need to spend at least $2,600 a year in order to earn enough cash back to make up for the annual fee.

Best For Travel Rewards: Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard

Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard


Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard
Compare

Annual Fee:


$89 (waived the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Barclays Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard makes some tantalizing offers to the frequent traveler. Along with no foreign transaction fees, this card offers three big perks for the international traveler.

  • Earn 70,000 bonus miles when you spend at least $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days — the equivalent of a $700 travel statement credit
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase
  • Get 5% of your miles back to use toward your next redemption each time you redeem them

The 2X miles you’ll earn with every purchase is one of the highest flat earning rates of any travel credit card. And since you’ll get 5% of your miles back whenever you redeem them, the cash back rate is effectively 2.1%.

What’s more, your miles can be redeemed for a lot more than just airfare. You can redeem them for hotel stays, car rentals, trains, buses, taxis, and more. You can even use your miles to pay the $89 annual fee (the fee is waived the first year), though hopefully, you can find something more exciting to use them on!

Another nice card feature: If you transfer a balance to this card within 45 days of your account opening, you’ll pay a 0% introductory APR on that balance for 12 months.

Best For Transferable Travel Rewards: Chase Sapphire Preferred

Chase Sapphire Preferred



Compare

Annual Fee:


$95 ($0 the first year)

 

Purchase APR:


18.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card is another travel rewards card with no foreign transaction fee. With Sapphire Preferred, not only can you redeem your rewards through Chase’s travel portal — you can also transfer your points on a 1:1 basis to the following airline and hotel travel partners:

  • Aer Lingus, AerClub
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
  • Iberia Plus
  • JetBlue TrueBlue
  • Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
  • Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
  • United MileagePlus
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
  • IHG Rewards Club
  • Marriott Rewards
  • The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
  • World of Hyatt

The Chase Sapphire Preferred card features a bonus offer of 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Thanks to the 25% value bonus you’ll get when redeeming your points for travel via Chase Ultimate Rewards, these 50,000 points can become $625 for travel expenses.

You’ll also earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and 1X points on everything else.

Unfortunately, the card carries a $95 annual fee (waived the first year) and lacks an introductory 0% APR period.

Best For Luxury Travel Benefits: The Platinum Card from American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express


The Platinum Card from American Express
Compare

Annual Fee:


$595

 

Purchase APR:


N/A (charge card)

The Platinum Card from American Express may not have a foreign transaction fee, but it does sport a $550 annual fee. That should tell you who this card is aimed at. It’s not the average traveler looking to earn some points/miles on the side. This card is for the well-heeled traveler seeking the finest in travel perks.

Of all the travel benefits this card offers, the best benefit might just be the 1,200+ airport lounges worldwide you’ll gain access to via the American Express Global Lounge Collection. It’s the largest airport lounge network around. I may not have any personal experience with these exclusive lounges, but I’m sure they’re spectacular.

The card comes with a host of other travel perks befitting a card with such a high annual fee. You’ll earn 5X Membership Rewards points on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel and on prepaid hotels booked on amextravel.com. You’ll get a fee credit of up to $200 a year to cover checked bags and in-flight food and drinks. You’ll be enrolled in the Fine Hotels & Resorts program, giving you access to travel amenities with an average value of $550/year.

The card currently offers quite the bonus offer: 75,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new card in your first 3 months.

Just keep in mind that the Platinum Card is a charge card, meaning you won’t be able to carry a balance from month to month.

Best For Restaurants/Dining: Uber Visa Card

Uber Visa


Uber Visa
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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


17.24% – 25.99%, Variable

The Uber Visa card, a joint venture of Uber and Barclays, is a new credit card that offers great value to those who love to go out and live it up without worrying about things like foreign transaction fees or an annual fee.

The card offers an amazing 4% back on restaurants, takeout, and bars (UberEATS included), making the Uber Visa a compelling choice for you nightlife lovers. The card also offers 3% back on airfare and hotel stays, 2% back on all online purchases (yes, including Uber), and 1% back on all other purchases.

That’s not all. There’s a signup bonus of 10,000 points ($100) after you spend $500 on purchases within the first 90 days. There’s a cellphone protection plan that offers up to $600 if your phone is broken or stolen (conditions apply). There’s even a $50 credit toward digital subscriptions you’ll get if you spend at least $5,000 on your card each year.

With a system that rewards going out for food and drinks, online shopping, and offers cellphone protection, this card seems targeted at millennials, or at least the few millennials who aren’t drowning in debt already. One thing that won’t appeal to millennials, however, is the card’s lack of an introductory 0% APR.

Best For Rotating 5% Cash Back Categories: Discover it Cash Back

Discover it Cash Back



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.24% – 25.24%, Variable

The Discover it Cash Back card allows those who don’t mind tracking rotating spending categories the chance to earn 5% cash back on their purchases.

With the Discover it Cash Back, you’ll earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases each quarter on selected spending categories. The 5% categories for 2019 are:

  • January to March: Grocery stores
  • April to June: Gas stations, Uber, and Lyft
  • July to September: Restaurants
  • October to December: Amazon.com

Of course, you’ll earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.

What makes this Discover card an even better cash back value is the fact that Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year, thus doubling your first year’s cash back haul.

Beyond that, this card is a simple, reasonable credit card. There’s no annual fee, a competitive regular APR, a 0% intro APR for 14 months on purchases and balance transfers, and you can access your FICO score for free.

One word of caution: Though there is no foreign transaction fee, international acceptance of Discover cards can be hit-or-miss.

Final Thoughts

If you spend a significant amount of time outside the US, an ordinary credit card will have you needlessly paying 3% extra to your credit card company in the form of foreign transaction fees.

Don’t be a sucker. When spending money abroad, use a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transaction fee. Thankfully, the number of such cards has been expanding in recent years and you now have a wide range of choices!

Not sure which cards you’ll qualify for? Check out these helpful resources!

  • Best free credit score sites
  • Ways to improve your credit score
  • Using personal credit cards for business

The post Top Credit Cards With No Foreign Transaction Fees appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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What Is An SMS Payment And How Does It Work?

We all know and love our Short Messaging Service (SMS) — better known simply as the text message. But did you know that you can start taking SMS payments for your business? And that it is relatively easy to get started?

In the United States, we are just now warming up to the idea of sending and receiving payments by text, but businesses throughout the world have already adopted SMS payments for everything from mass transit tickets to lattes.

While Americans are less likely to pay by text for everyday purchases, text payments are still an undeniably growing trend. You may already be familiar with payments by text when it comes to charitable donations, but home service providers (e.g., AT&T) are starting to offer SMS payments for their customers as well.

Text payments offer potential growth for many other types of businesses, too. Pizza shops, salons, or any business that has ‘regulars’ could benefit from text payments. SMS payment services are probably not for everyone, however, so let’s take a look at how text-to-pay works and if it’s right for your business.

How Do SMS Payments Work?

SMS Ordering

When it comes to the nuts and bolts of how SMS payments work, it’s pretty simple, really. While there may be some variations with each company that offers text messaging payment services, generally you can expect the following elements when it comes time to pay:

  1. A business sends a text to their customer’s phone number or the customer texts a shortcode number to the business to initiate the sale.
  2. After communicating what product or service the customer wishes to purchase, the business sends the customer a link to a secure, mobile-friendly payment form.
  3. The customer enters their payment information and can typically approve saving the card on file for recurring payments or a future purchase.
  4. The customer may get a unique code to complete the purchase.

The customer may also get another verification text from the payment processing company to confirm their intent to buy. As stated above, the exact process may vary by company, but you can expect a similar procedure to complete the sale.

Mobile Carriers Vs. Payment Processors for Text Payments

Many people associate text message payments with charity donations (often the amount is added to their phone bill). What is lesser known is that phone carriers generally only allow organizations to accept donated amounts in $5 or $10 increments. By setting up these limits, phone carriers reduce their own risk from non-paying customers. While the phone carrier setup can work great for flash-giving campaigns and allow an organization to avoid paying some payment processing fees, it isn’t a viable solution for businesses.

Enter companies like Relay, Pagato, and Sonar. These companies, and those like them, support SMS payments by integrating their messaging services with secure, PCI-compliant payment processing.

What Do You Need to Accept SMS Payments?

To get started accepting SMS payments, you’ll need to choose the company with the services that fit your needs best. There are some differences between the ways companies like Relay, Pagato, and Sonar price their services. Let’s briefly take a look at each of these three examples.

Relay (formerly Rhombus):

Relay charges $50/month for 250 “tickets” which refers to completed conversations. With that, you also get 1000 free SMS texts. All plans include automated responses, unlimited contacts, customer segmentation, and other engagement tools. Don’t forget about the actual credit card processing fees, however! Relay integrates with Stripe, and you pay 2.9% + $0.30 per successful transaction. You can accept every major card at the same rate with Stripe processing. (If you aren’t familiar with Stripe, check out our Stripe Payments Review.)

SMS Payments Relay

Pagato:

Pagato integrates with Stripe, Braintree (read our review), and Quickbooks Payments (read our review). In addition to the payment processing fees of your merchant account, you’ll pay 1% per transaction with a minimum of $0.20 per transaction. With Pagato, you can accept payments through SMS and social media channels like Instagram and Facebook, too. You won’t have additional setup, monthly, or hidden fees.

SMS Payments Pagato

Sonar:

Sonar offers packages starting at $24.67/month and $0.025 per SMS message. You can send automated messages, track customer data, set up campaigns and even A/B test them as well. Sonar integrates with Stripe, and your payment processing fees are 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

SMS Sonar

These are examples of some lesser-known companies, but the more prominent players like Square and PayPal allow you to send a text with a link to pay individual customers, too. The Square Cash App and PayPal don’t have the muscle to do much beyond sending a link to pay, however. You can’t A/B test marketing campaigns for an offer that you send out with Square or PayPal, for instance.

Keep in mind that most of the SMS messaging platforms mentioned above offer a free trial period and a demo to learn more about the exact features. So don’t hesitate to ask a lot of questions to get the information you need. It’s also a good idea to meet with your team and discuss the benefits of each platform, and of course, determine if your sales team has the bandwidth to have multiple open text conversations with customers. Text can be a powerful way to connect to your customers, but it is definitely not suited for every business model.

Which Types of Businesses Benefit Most From SMS Payments?

mobile-card-payment-app-service

Without a doubt, there is value in using SMS messaging to build a marketing campaign and nurture those ongoing relationships with your customers. When you consider that the global average open rate on a text is more than 90%, it makes sense to start building your phone list and reaching out that way.

As far as what businesses benefit from adding SMS payments to the mix, consider this:

If your business model provides delivery, your revenue depends on recurring payments, or you target a “repeat” customer base, SMS payments can make a lot of business sense. However, you need to have the staff and time to support the nurturing of customers via text. Text conversations can be a bit longer than a phone call if there is a specific issue, so training your team on escalation procedures can help you both save time and money with SMS texts.

All this connection can be great, but not all customers are going to love texting or getting “salesy” texts from you. While SMS texting and payments can help your sales team if you use it the right way, some may find automated sales messages impersonal. Keep in mind who your customers are and what supports their journey with you when you set up your SMS services.

Another significant benefit to SMS payments is the secure and compliant payment processing services that you can integrate with, such as Stripe. Because you don’t transmit the credit card data or store it on your servers, you can significantly reduce your liability when it comes to fraud risks. Not to mention that your customer has a fast and easy way to pay you, and all of it happens from their phone!

Are SMS Payments Right For You?

Being able to take payments by text offers potential — as long as the benefits outweigh the costs. Features vary by company, so do compare service packages before making a decision. One company may find a lot of value in the extra capabilities to target and segment lists, while another may be more focused on cutting down telephone orders. What services you choose mainly depends on your business model. Because text messaging offers a clear path to your customers’ hands, it may be worth finding the right balance to connect, engage, and encourage your customers to pay by text, too.

If you are discovering what else is out there in payment processing, be sure to check out our resources here at Merchant Maverick. Our Merchant Account Comparison Chart is a great starting point for payment providers! 

Paymentcloud Durango Soar Payments Host Merchant Services

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Specialities

General Purpose High-Risk, eCommerce, CBD Oil, Firearms & Ammunition, Adult, Credit Repair, Bad Credit, Vape/E-cigarettes, Airlines

International, Offshore, Credit Repair, Bad Credit, Vape/E-cigarettes, Fantasy Sports, Forex Credit Repair, E-cig/vape, Moving/Storage, Web Design, Antiques & Collectibles, Debt Consolidation, Precious Metals Debt Collection, Life Coaching, Airlines, Loan Modification, SEO Services

The post What Is An SMS Payment And How Does It Work? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

“”

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

card-not-present online shopping

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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Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

As a home-based business owner, you may think that your homeowner’s insurance is enough to protect your business in the event of an accident or a disaster, but it might not provide the coverage you need. According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 30% of homeowners run a business out of their home and up to 44% of small business owners (sole-proprietors, freelancers, and home-based businesses included) are not protected with proper insurance. Some homeowners insurance plans only cover up to $2,500 of business equipment loss and some plans do not cover a home-based business at all.

Most home insurance policies are there to protect the house and the homeowners — not a business. If you run a small business out of your home, you should consider adding business insurance as an endorsement to your plan or invest in business insurance separately. Your small business is your baby and one disaster could shutter those dreams. Why roll the dice?

Read on to see how to prepare your home-based business from future risks.

What is Homeowners Insurance?

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

Homeowners insurance is there to protect your house and your assets from disaster and destruction. In homeowners insurance language, there are various “perils” your policy will protect you from. A basic HO-1 plan protects you from 10 perils; a more comprehensive plan will protect you from 18 listed perils (or perils you and an insurance agent itemize.) The basic perils are:

  • Fire/lightning
  • Hail/windstorms
  • Explosions
  • Riots or civil commotion
  • Damage from flying aircrafts
  • Damage from vehicles (but not the insured’s vehicles; only other people’s)
  • Smoke damage
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruptions

Notable exceptions to the most basic homeowners plans are earthquakes, flood protection, and sinkholes. These must be added as additional endorsements to any plan.

If you have a mortgage and are borrowing from a lender, it is usually a requirement of your loan to show you have a homeowners insurance policy. A basic homeowners insurance policy might protect up to $2,500 of business-related equipment stored inside a house at the time of a disaster, and that’s all. For businesses with more than $2,500 of equipment or which could be seriously affected by property damage, a homeowners policy is not enough coverage.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover My Business?

A homeowners insurance policy will not specifically cover your business or your business assets in the case of an accident, disaster, or lawsuit. While your policy may cover up to $2,500 of business property stored inside your home, your policy will likely not cover more than that, and unless business items are listed specifically as covered in an expanded homeowners policy, you could see your business assets go up in smoke (or walk out in an act of theft, etc.). If you want to pay an additional $50 a month, you may be able to get an extended ceiling of protection on business-related items, but even that may not cover all the disasters or accidents your business might encounter.

True small business side-story: My mom, who taught childbirth and Lamaze classes as an independent contractor, kept all her teaching supplies in our garage. In 1996, Portland flooded, my house included. A box of my mother’s childbirth teaching tools washed away and, thankfully in an era before viral-videos, somehow our neighbor captured some pictures of plastic pelvises and laminated birth photos just floating down the street…

Why risk it? Right? Additional coverage will make sure that any business supplies (plastic pelvises included) are protected.

Most small business owners don’t think about insuring their businesses until an accident or disaster has already occurred. Don’t let insurance be an afterthought until it’s too late.

When To Buy Business Insurance Instead

If you are a home-based business owner and you are contemplating business insurance, it’s important to understand the benefits. Even minimal coverage could save thousands of dollars and grant you peace of mind. Homeowners insurance won’t protect your business from a potential lawsuit — or help if your business information is hacked online. Statistics from insurance giant Insureon show that 1 in 3 businesses go bankrupt because they are under-insured.

Do not rely on your homeowner’s insurance to cover you or your business assets in the case of an emergency, accident, or disaster. If you can say yes to any of the following, then you should consider looking into business insurance. Do you:

  • Work with clients/customers?
  • Keep work equipment at your house?
  • Store customer data on your computer?
  • Drive places to meet clients?
  • Drive around with business supplies in your car?
  • Give advice as part of your business?
  • Have a home located in a high-risk-zone for natural disasters?
  • Employ others?
  • Have clients visit you at your house?
  • Have inventory at your house or somewhere off-site?

5 Types Of Insurance For Home-Based Business

home-based business insurance

Once you’ve decided to take the step to insure your home-based business, you’ll have to choose which plan and policy will be the right fit. Allow your mind to temporarily wander to the dark list of worst-case-scenarios, and find the policies that will match with how best to protect yourself. Every business has risks and there are no risk-free guarantees, but you also don’t need to insure yourself for things that aren’t a risk for your particular business.

Here are the top five most common home-based business insurance policies worth looking into:

1. Home-Based Business Insurance

Many insurance providers have a home-based business insurance plan that bundles several of the most common types of insurance freelancers, sole-proprietors, and home-based business owners might need. Each insurer’s plan and policy is different, so check with providers to get a list of what their current home-based business insurance covers. Most home-based business plans include general liability and commercial property coverage, and also have business interruption service and business data-protection.

2. General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance protects you in the event of a lawsuit or an accident. Claims against a business can arrive in the form of bodily injury, property damage, personal injury to a customer (including slander or libel), or false advertisement. General liability insurance guards a business against financial ruin if a client slips and falls or if someone is offended by a social media post and decides to sue you.

3. Commercial Property Insurance

This type of insurance protects all of the property needed to run your business. Even if you run a home-based business, this coverage would be a way to protect the cost of your home office and the equipment stored at your house. A commercial property policy covers business products inside your house — and other people’s property while it’s in your care. Property damage due to theft also falls into this policy. Property insurance is the policy that will cover your home and your business property when it’s away from your home.

4. Business Interruption Service

If a business needs to close its doors due to a disaster — natural or otherwise — business interruption service will repay the costs of lost revenue and business expenses accrued during the interruption. For example, if your house catches fire, your property insurance will get you back up and running in terms of damage, but if you had to close your business for a few weeks, business interruption service will help offset the financial loss.

5. Professional Liability (E&O)

Professional liability insurance (commonly referred to as errors and omissions or E&O) covers the cost of defending your company in a lawsuit where the claim is that your business caused a financial loss for a client (error) or did not perform a service as required (omission). This type of insurance may be required for medical and legal businesses, but it is generally an add-on to liability insurance and can be an important addition for home-based businesses. If you give advice as part of your business plan, you’ll want professional liability to protect you from lawsuits.

Some other options to consider: If you drive a lot as part of your business model, you might want to consider commercial auto insurance and make sure to check and see if extra endorsements are needed to add flood and earthquake protection.

A good rule is: If you use it for your business, insure it properly. No business is exactly the same and but your unique needs can be met.

Finding The Best Insurance For Your Home-Based Business

Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business?

You’ve decided to insure your home-based business: Great! If anything happens to your home, to your supplies away from home, or to the things you need to run your business, you won’t have to be one of the 33% of businesses that has to close after a disaster or accident.

Whether you’ve decided on hunting for an insurance company that offers home-based business insurance specifically or you want to work with an insurance professional to piece together a plan that covers your unique needs, the hunt for business insurance doesn’t have to be arduous. You can buy business insurance in 4 easy steps:

  1. Choose the insurance you need
  2. Gather business documents (square footage of your office space, how much income you earn, equipment you’d like insured)
  3. Compare costs (some sites like Coverwallet, Coverhound, and Insureon compare multiple agencies at once for you)
  4. Make your purchase

How much does business insurance cost? The answer is simple: It depends. The size of your business and the endorsements you might add will determine the amount you pay. Basic coverage will run between $300-$1000 dollars a year on average. (Rates also depend on deductibles and whether or not you have other policies with the company.)

All businesses will have hiccups and accidents, but only some businesses will have coverage for those moments. Don’t put off thinking about protection until it’s too late. The question a business needs to ask itself is: Can I afford not to buy insurance?

The post Do I Need Insurance For My Home-Based Business? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

Everyone wants their small business to succeed, which means everyone needs a small business accountant. Yes, even if you use accounting software and do your own bookkeeping, a professional accountant is indispensable.

But how do you even find an accountant? And once you do, how do you know if they’re any good?

In this post, we’ll provide five easy steps for finding an accountant for your business. We’ll teach you where to look and how to tell a good accountant from a bad accountant. We’ll also give you the top tips and tricks for choosing the perfect accountant.

How To Find An Accountant For Your Business
Step #1: Pinpoint Why You Need An Accountant
Step #2: Choose the Right Type of Accountant For Your Business
Step #3: Know Where To Look
Step #4: Learn What To Look For
Step #5: Ask The Right Questions

Know When & Why You Need An Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

The first step is knowing when to hire an accountant. Spoiler alert: the answer is now.

Sure tech-savvy business owners can use accounting software to manage their own bookkeeping, but when it comes to actual accounting, you’ll want the many advantages of having an expert onboard. As a small business owner, you should do everything you can to set yourself up for financial success; the best way to do that is to hire an accountant.

Accountants do so much more than just help you file your taxes. An accountant can give sound business advice when you’re setting up your business, analyzing your cash flow, trying to improve efficiency, facing an audit, and much more. Read our full post When Should You Hire An Accountant For Your Business to learn every instance when an accountant can help.

When beginning the process of hiring an accountant, it’s important to pinpoint why you want help and exactly what you want your accountant to do for you. Common tasks accountants can perform include:

  • Basic bookkeeping tasks
  • Verifying your bookkeeper’s work
  • Setting up your business
  • Offering business advice
  • Creating reports
  • Analyzing your business’s finances and assets
  • Cash flow management and projections
  • Providing tax advice
  • Filing tax returns
  • Maximizing your tax deductions

It’s important to know which tasks you want your accountant to perform before starting your search as services vary from accountant to accountant.

For example, if you just want tax advice and help filing your tax returns, you may want an enrolled agent (EA) instead of a full-on accountant. If you want business advice and tax advice, a certified public accountant (CPA) with expertise in your business industry may be a better way to go.

Take a careful look at your finances and your business’s current situation and create a list of problem areas where you would like help from a professional. Do you need help managing your cash flow? Are you worried you aren’t taking all of the deductions you’re eligible for? Are you simply overwhelmed by finances and need a helping hand with the day to day work? Pinpoint these concerns and write them down in a list. Later, when you interview prospective accountants, you can return to your list and determine if their services would be a good solution to address your business’s needs.

Why Picking The Right Accountant For Your Business Matters

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

As a business owner, you pick tools all the time that help your business — accounting software, a new ecommerce site, a file organizer for your office — you name it. One, if not the, most important tool you can pick is a good accountant. A good accountant will help you successfully manage your finances so that your business can be successful and grow.

But there isn’t a one size fits all accountant. The second step in finding the perfect accountant for your small business is knowing which type of accountant you need. There are three main types of accounting professionals: bookkeepers, accountants, and CPAs.

Type Definition

Bookkeeper

Bookkeepers handle the day-to-day finances and bookkeeping tasks of a business. Tasks can include invoicing, reconciling accounts, managing accounts payable and receivable, creating reports, entering data, and running payroll.

Accountant

Accountants offer business and tax advice and handle the big picture finances of a business. Tasks can include bookkeeping, business advice and planning, tax advice, tax filing, cash flow management, creating reports, and analyzing business financials.

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

A CPA, or certified public accountant, is and accountant who has passed a certification exam. Often considered more knowledgeable and trustworthy because of the education and work it takes to get and maintain their licensing. Tasks can include everything an accountant can do, plus the ability to create audit reports and represent your business legally before the IRS.

If you are overwhelmed by daily financial takes and looking to save time, a bookkeeper might be the best way to go as they are often cheaper than accountants. However, that doesn’t mean you should hire just a bookkeeper and call it good. You still need an accountant. An accountant will provide insightful business and tax advice that a bookkeeper can’t.

So the real question becomes, does your business need an accountant or a CPA?

All CPAs are accountants, but not all accountants are CPAs. Here’s how accountants and CPAs differ and what advantages each can offer your business:

Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Accountant

Must have a Bachelor’s and have successfully passed the CPA certification exam

Generally has a bachelor’s degree, preferably in accounting

Offers advice and insight about the big picture finances of a business, and can often offer deeper knowledge of tax codes

Offers advice and insight about the big picture finances of a business

Can create audit reports and review reports

Can only create compilation reports

Can legally represent a client

Cannot legally represent a client

Often an experienced CPA will charge more than a traditional accountant, but because of their rigorous education and certification, many business owners view CPAs as more qualified and trustworthy. Plus, a CPA can legally represent your business before the IRS in case of a tax audit. If these are qualities your business requires, you can narrow your search down to CPAs specifically.

Another thing to be aware of is that accountants can specialize in certain areas.

Type Definition

Forensic Accountant

An accountant who analyzes books for fraud, inaccuracies, and discrepancies. Often tasked with figuring out if an employee is stealing from the business.

Management Accountant

An accountant who helps businesses understand how certain decisions affect their finances. Tasks include planning, budgeting, business strategy, and risk management.

Cost Accountant

An accountant who focuses on current costs and how they can be improved. Tasks include cost analysis and budgeting.

Project Accountant

An accountant hired on a project-by-project basis to manage and oversee a specific business project. Tasks include management, approving expenses, project invoicing, job costing, and maintaining budgets.

Knowing which type of accountant you need and what you need them to do will help guide your search.

Where To Find An Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

Step three: where can you find an accountant?

Well, there’s always the good ol’ Internet, but let’s face it — there are just some things you shouldn’t Google and an accountant is one of them. The best way to find an accountant is by getting a referral.

Ask your friends and family if they know of any good local accountants. See what accountant your fellow business owners use. Ask your local Chamber of Commerce or other local small business organizations and clubs if they have any recommendations. One tip from the accounting software provider Patriot Software is that oftentimes if you are a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, you’ll have access to accountants who partner with the organization and provide discounts for their services.

A personal referral is one of the best ways to find a trustworthy accountant, but if this doesn’t work, there are some trusted sources you can use to find and vet a potential accountant including:

  • The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • The IRS Directory
  • CPAdirectory.com
  • Accountant-finder.com

If you use existing accounting software, you can often find referrals to certified accountants through your accounting software company. The nice part about this is that the accountants will already be familiar with the software you use.

Factors To Consider When Choosing An Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

The fourth and most important step to finding the perfect accountant is knowing what to look for. Here are some of the key factors to consider.

Credentials

Pay attention to the prospective accountant’s credentials. Are they a certified public accountant? Do they have any additional credentials such as a CMA (certified management accountant) or CFE (certified fraud examiner)? Are they licensed to practice in your state? Find an accountant whose credentials you value and trust.

Experience

In addition to credentials, an accountant’s experience speaks volumes. Learn where they went to school, how long they’ve been in business, and what area they specialize in. Do they have experience with your specific type of business and industry? This expertise will be key in choosing an accountant who will help you grow.

Services Offered

Every accountant specializes in different areas and offers a variety of services from basic bookkeeping to taxes to audits to business planning and more. Learn exactly which services and tasks a prospective accountant will perform and make sure their work lines up with your business’s wants and needs.

Location

Ask yourself if location matters. In the past, a local accountant was the only way to go. Now, with the rise of the internet, you could opt for a remote accountant. Ask yourself how important face-to-face interaction with your accountant is so you can find the right fit for your business.

Cost

As with anything, the cost can make or break your decision. Take a careful look at your budget (or take this time to create a small business budget if you don’t already have one) and see how much you can afford to spend on an accountant. When interviewing prospective accountants, ask them about their fees and pricing structure. You want to get a good deal, but more importantly, you want to get a good accountant, so don’t sacrifice quality for cost.

Reputation

When choosing an accountant, analyze the prospective accountant’s reputation. Ask for referrals and speak to current clients. Do a little LinkedIn stalking and see how the prospective accountant interacts with their clients. Are they nice? Do they seem excited about their work? Are the customer reviews positive? These are all good signs.

Personality

As a business owner, you’re going to be working closely with your accountant so personality matters. Make sure a prospective accountant is someone you can talk with, work well with, and get along with. Figure out if they are fiscally conservative or aggressive. You want an accountant who pushes your business to grow, but you don’t want someone who is on the completely opposite end of the spectrum from you and makes you feel uncomfortable about your finances.

These factors will help you evaluate how well an accountant will fit your business and its needs.

Characteristics Of A Good Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

In addition to the key factors for evaluating an accountant, you also want to look for the qualities that make a good accountant.  A good accountant should be:

Trustworthy

Above all else, a good accountant should be trustworthy. Not only will you be turning to them for wisdom and advice, but they will also have access to sensitive information about you and your business. You want someone who you can trust and communicate with easily. You should feel confident in their ability to keep your information protected and private.

One of the best ways to gauge this is by asking about the accountant’s privacy policy and/or asking existing clients about their experience with the accountant.

Good Communicator

When looking for an accountant, you’ll want to focus on hiring a good communicator that will keep you posted on the status of accounts, taxes, and business reports. Since accountants often have to explain confusing accounting concepts, you’ll also want someone who is a good teacher and skips the accounting jargon so you can easily understand your business’s finances.

Timely

An accountant should value your time and perform the services you ask of them in a timely manner. A good indicator of this is if they show up on time for your consultation/interview with them. You can also ask existing clients about the accountant’s track record.

Detail Oriented & Organized

When it comes to accounting, it’s all in the details. Accountants have to be incredibly organized and detail-oriented to handle bookkeeping tasks and successfully analyze every aspect of your business’s finances.

Personable

A good accountant should be friendly and have a personality that you get along well with. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your accountant, so you want someone that is a good fit for your business.

Committed

Your accountant should be committed to their job as well as to your business. You want someone who is dedicated to his or her work and who is invested in the success of your business.

Knowledgeable & Wise

As accountants are a source of business advice, you want an accountant who is knowledgeable and wise. CPAs are often the most knowledgeable when it comes to accounting and taxes as they have to meet education requirements every year and stay up to date on the latest tax laws. You also want someone who is knowledgeable about your specific type of business and industry so they can offer sound advice to help your business succeed.

When you meet with a prospective accountant, try to get a feel for how well they display these key characteristics and be sure to talk to existing clients about their experiences with the prospective accountant.

Key Questions To Ask Before Hiring An Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

The fifth and most crucial step to finding an accountant is actually meeting with them face to face. You’ll want to set up a consultation to get a feeling of who the accountant is, what services they offer, and if they’re a good fit for your business. Accountants want you to work with them, so most offer free consultations.

Treat the consultation like an interview. Just as you’d perform a job interview to see if a potential employee is going to work for your business, interview a prospective accountant to see if he or she can fill the role you need for your business.

Here are fifteen key questions to ask before hiring an accountant:

What experience and credentials do you have?

Ask the accountant what experience, credentials, and licensing they have. Are they a CPA? Do they have any extra credentials like a CMA? And do these certifications match up with the needs of your business?

How long have you been an accountant?

Often, you’ll want a seasoned accountant who has a lot of experience with accounting and your business’s industry.

What made you decide to become an accountant?

This question allows you to get a feel for the accountant’s priorities and personality. Did they go into accounting because they love their work and want to help businesses or did they want a good paycheck? The answer to this can speak volumes about a person and be a good indicator of how well you’ll get along with them.

What types of clients and size of business do you work with?

You want an accountant who has experience working with your business size and type. For example, if you’re a freelancer, you don’t want an accountant who has never had to file Schedule Cs. The more experience an accountant has with businesses similar to yours, the better they’ll be able to help you succeed.

Do you have experience working with the IRS?

If having a CPA who can represent you before the IRS is important to your business, you’ll want an accountant who has previous experience with audits.

What services can you provide my business?

This question is key. Different accountants may perform different services and tasks. Before hiring an accountant, you’ll want to be 100% clear about what they can do for you. If their services match up with your list of business needs, great! If not, you’ll want to move on to the next prospect.

Which accounting programs are you familiar with?

This could be a make it or break it situation for your business. Not every accountant will work with every accounting program. Some require you use QuickBooks, some only work with Xero. Others may be more willing to work with your existing software. If you’re incredibly attached to your accounting software, you’ll need to find an accountant who works with it.

How much do you charge for your services, and how do you bill your clients?

This is probably one of the first questions that come to mind. It’s important to have a clear understanding of exactly how much an accountant charges and how they bill their clients. Some charge per hour, some charge fixed fees for tasks, and others use monthly retainers. Make sure you know exactly how much to pay ahead of time, but also remember that cost isn’t everything. The accountant’s experience and valuable services they can provide your business are just as (if not more) important than the cost.

Will you be doing all of the work or do you delegate or outsource tasks?

Oftentimes, accountants will delegate certain tasks internally to other members of their firm or even outsource certain tasks. Ask who you will be working with most often and what privacy policies they have in place for their outsourcing. As always, never do anything you don’t feel comfortable with, so if you want an accountant who will be doing all of the work themselves, that’s totally okay. There are plenty out there who do.

Will you work directly with my bookkeeper?

If you already have a bookkeeper, ask if your accountant is willing to work with them. Oftentimes accountants will have specific instructions for bookkeepers about how certain transactions should be recorded, and the two should work closely together to ensure your books are balanced and accurate.

When are you available to your clients and how would we communicate with you?

Make sure you know how and when you can reach the accountant if you need them. Choose an accountant whose availability and response times match your wants and needs as a business owner.

What is your privacy policy?

Accountants have access to sensitive information about you and your business, like your social security number. Ask what security procedures they have in place and how they protect your privacy. Verify that they will not share your information with third-parties.

How can you help me grow my small business?

This question can give you an idea of what the accountant can do for your business and how they can help your business succeed.

Do you have any references I can contact?

Contacting current clients and asking about their experience with a prospective accountant is one of the best ways to gauge the accountant’s reputation and work.

Is there anything else I need to know about working with you?

This question allows your accountant to mention anything you may have forgotten and gives them a chance to explain why you should work with them.

Do you have any questions for me about my business?

If they say “no,” it’s a red flag. You want an accountant who is interested and invested in your business. This question gives them a chance to demonstrate that care.

Tips For Finding The Perfect Accountant

How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business

Here are some of our tops tips and trick to help you in your search for the perfect small business accountant.

1. Ask For Referrals

Networking isn’t just about gaining potential clients but also accessing more resources. Put those networking skills to good use and ask friends, family, and other businesses for accountant referrals. This is often the quickest way of finding an accountant you can trust.

2. Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

We all like to save money, but sometimes cheaper isn’t always better. For example, an accountant just starting out might charge less to file your tax return, but an experienced accountant who charges more could get the tax return done in half the time. When choosing an accountant, don’t just look at the numbers. Look at quality as well.

3. Do Your Research

Choosing an accountant is one business decision you don’t want to rush. Don’t be afraid to take your time, meet a prospective accountant face to face, and ask questions. Check out the accountant’s reputation on LinkedIn and Yelp to see what customers have to say. View how they interact on their social media accounts. Do as much research as you can so you can feel confident in your decision.

4. Treat It Like An Interview

Choosing an accountant can seem daunting, so treat it like something you already know. Hiring an accountant is just like hiring an employee. You’re interviewing them to see if they’d be a good fit for your business. If you like them, great! If not, there are plenty of accountants in the sea.

5. Negotiate Your Fees

It’s always worth a shot. Test the waters and see how movable your accountant’s fees and pricing structure are. Try negotiating for lower fees or ask the accountant’s advice on how you can keep the fees low. Maybe they won’t change the rates, but they might tell you certain bookkeeping tasks you can perform to make their job faster (since most accountants charge by the hour, this can help save you some money).

Bottom Line: Trust Your Gut

When choosing an accountant, it all comes down to trusting your intuition. Trust your gut, listen to your instincts, follow your heart, and so on (don’t make us sing a Disney song about it). Seriously though, if you have a bad feeling about someone, or even if your personalities just don’t mash up, move on and look for an accountant you can trust and work well with.

The Hunt Is On

It’s as simple as that!

  • Step 1: Know what you need your accountant to do for you.
  • Step 2: Know which type of accountant you need.
  • Step 3: Know where to look for an accountant.
  • Step 4: Know what to look for in a good accountant.
  • Step 5: Know what questions to ask a potential accountant.

Follow our tips and tricks to help you find the perfect accountant and read our comprehensive accounting reviews to find the perfect accounting software to work with them.

The post How To Find The Perfect Accountant For Your Small Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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How To Start And Fund A T-Shirt Business

In the world of fashion, trends come and go, but a few select pieces stand the test of time. One piece of clothing that’s found in almost any wardrobe is the t-shirt. From comfy shirts made for the gym to shirts with trendy designs worn for a night out with friends, t-shirts are a staple for men, women, and children.

T-shirts are here to stay, so why not capitalize on this fashion staple? Whether you have a degree in fashion design or you just want to become an entrepreneur, starting your own t-shirt business could be the opportunity you’ve been looking for.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at what it takes to get your own t-shirt business off the ground. We’ll start with basics such as designing and printing your shirts. We’ll discuss the importance of registering your business. Then, we’ll look at startup costs, as well as how you can get the capital you need to start your business and keep it operating. Finally, we’ll look at ways you can advertise your business to bring in customers and revenue.

Ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship? Read on to find more.

Design Your Shirts

Before you begin selling t-shirts to the masses, you have to create designs that people want to buy. The first step is identifying your target market. Are you going to sell t-shirts to men, women, children, or a combination of the three? Are your t-shirts going to be more fashionable, or are they better suited for lounging around the house or hitting up the gym?

Once you’ve identified your target market, it’s time to think about the designs you’ll use. Let’s say that your t-shirts are aimed at the active man or woman. Your designs should incorporate fitness or motivational graphics. You can also determine other features of your shirts based on your target audience, such as the type of material used. If your shirts are designed for the fitness-minded consumer, for example, select a moisture-wicking fabric.

Your t-shirt designs don’t have to be overcomplicated as long as they appeal to your target audience. The key, though, is to make sure your designs are completely original. Not only does ripping off other designs make you look like a copycat, but you could face some serious legal issues if you use the artwork or designs of others without permission.

It’s also important to remember that sometimes a design may be a complete flop. Even the most well-known fashion designers in the world have released items that weren’t a hit with their devoted fans. If one design isn’t doing the job, try something else until you find what works best for your target audience.

Also, it doesn’t matter whether or not you have any design experience. As long as you have some ideas, you can hire a designer to bring your visions to life.

Decide How To Print Your Shirts

Once you have your designs, it’s time to think about how you’re going to bring the design from your computer or tablet screen to the front of a t-shirt. In other words, you need to decide how to print your shirts.

First, you’ll need to determine the method you’ll use to print your shirts. Screen printing is one option; it is a tried-and-true method that allows you to add long-lasting graphics to t-shirts. Screen printing is best for creating large batches of shirts since the initial setup is so time-consuming. Printing smaller batches is not cost-efficient with this method.

Another thing to note is that screen printing is best for very simple designs. Complex designs or multiple colors in one design can be problematic. If you have a more complicated design or pattern, consider direct-to-garment printing.

Direct-to-garment printing works similar to your color printer at home or at the office. The DTG printer prints directly on the t-shirt. With this method, you can use multiple colors and print complicated designs and patterns. Shirts printed with a DTG printer can be extremely detailed.

Setting up a DTG printer isn’t difficult or time-consuming. However, the actual printing process does take some time, so this method is best for smaller batches of t-shirts.

Another option to consider for printing your t-shirts is using a heat transfer machine. These machines transfer designs from heat transfer paper to the t-shirt. Full-color images can be printed using the heat transfer method, and you can easily print shirts on-demand. However, the quality is often lower and the design far less durable than using the other printing methods.

Regardless of which method you choose, there are two ways you can go about printing your shirts. You can use a third-party printing service or you can purchase the equipment and do it yourself. Let’s review the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Hiring A Third-Party Printer

Many t-shirt businesses do not do the printing themselves. Instead, these businesses hire a third-party service to handle the printing for them. There are a few benefits to hiring a third party to print your shirts. The first is that you won’t have to make an upfront investment in expensive printing equipment. You also won’t have to learn how to use the equipment or spend time running it.

However, there are some drawbacks to using a third party. You’ll have to shop around to find a printing company that provides high-quality workmanship. You don’t want your customers receiving t-shirts with graphics that fade or crack or that fall apart after the first wash. Many companies offer low-cost samples so you can check the quality before placing a larger order.

You also need to shop around and compare the pricing of different t-shirt printing companies. Some companies only fill bulk orders, which could put you at a disadvantage if you want smaller batches.

If you plan to only sell your designs online, you can work with an on-demand dropshipper. Once an order is placed on your website, the dropshipper will print and ship out the order to your customer. Before choosing a dropshipper, it’s necessary to place your own order to check out the quality of the shirts. You also need to evaluate pricing to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck. The major disadvantage to using a dropshipper is that if an order is wrong, slow to ship, or not printed correctly, the blame will fall on your shoulders, even if you don’t have control over any of these issues.

Purchasing Your Own Equipment

The alternative is to purchase equipment and print your own t-shirts. The advantage of this is that you have total control over both the quality and the number of shirts that are printed.

The major drawback, of course, is that t-shirt printing equipment is very expensive. Expect to spend at least a few hundred dollars for a heat transfer machine. If you want a DTG printer, expect to pay tens of thousands of dollars. You will have to pay for ink and maintenance of your machine. In some instances, you may be able to lease equipment to save on upfront costs.

You also have to take the time to learn how to properly use the equipment or train someone else to take on the job.

Decide How To Sell Your Shirts

Now that you’re closer to getting your shirts designed and printed, it’s time to decide how you plan to sell your items. You can set up an online shop, open your own brick-and-mortar store, or bring your designs to local stores in your area. You may also maximize profits by combining these selling tactics.

One of the easiest sales methods is to open an online shop. Customers can browse your designs and make their purchases directly online. You can ship out the orders yourself, or you can work with a dropshipper to make t-shirts on-demand when an order is placed. This option has low startup and overhead costs.

You can also open your own brick-and-mortar store. While you’ll be able to reach customers in your local area, this option has much higher startup and operating costs. Expenses may include rent for your commercial property, utilities, fees for business licenses and permits, and equipment. You’ll also have to purchase inventory to keep in stock. If you go this route, make sure to consider your local area. For example, if you live in a remote area, you may not have a large customer base. However, if you live in a thriving city or popular tourist destination, opening your own brick-and-mortar store may be a profitable venture.

The third option is to print out smaller batches of your t-shirts and network with local boutique and business owners in your area. With this method, you won’t have to pay for your own commercial space, but you will have to give the business owner a cut of your profits.

To determine what is right for your business, keep a few things in mind. Is this going to be your full-time job, or are you just trying to make a little extra money on the side? If you don’t plan on devoting yourself full time to your t-shirt business, stick to an online shop or sell your t-shirts through other businesses and boutiques.

Calculate Startup Costs

Once you have an idea of the direction you want your t-shirt business to take, you can start thinking about startup costs. The route you’ve chosen with your business will determine how much your startup costs will be.

If you plan to open a brick-and-mortar business, you’ll have expenses including a rent or lease payment, equipment and furnishings, utilities, a point-of-sale system, and inventory. Unless you plan to do all of the work yourself, you also have to hire employees. If your business will be based solely online, your costs will be much lower — think shipping costs, plus the price of a website, software, and ecommerce platform subscription fees.

Startup costs vary significantly based on the goals of your business. You can start big with a brick-and-mortar shop and may pay tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars to launch your business. Start a smaller online shop, and you can get started for as little as a few hundred dollars to launch your website and register your business.

Register Your Business

You’ve started laying the groundwork for your t-shirt business, and now it’s time to make everything legal. The first step is to determine what type of business structure you will form. The business structure you select will determine how much you pay in taxes, as well as whether or not you will be personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business.

Sole Proprietorship

Sole proprietorships have one owner. These are the fastest and most inexpensive business entities to form and do not require registering with the state. The drawback is that sole proprietorships are not separate legal entities, so you will be personally responsible for the liabilities of the business. It may also be difficult to obtain a loan or raise capital as a sole proprietor.

Partnership

A partnership has two or more owners. A general partnership is the simplest form and does not require registration. General partners will be held liable for the debts, obligations, and liabilities of the business.

You may also consider starting a limited partnership, which has a general partner and limited partners. Limited partners are not responsible for the liabilities of the business.

Finally, you may choose a limited liability partnership, where all partners are limited partners and are not responsible for the liabilities of the business.

Corporation

A corporation is the most complex business structure. As a corporation, you will pay taxes at the corporate rate. Shareholders also pay taxes on dividends, resulting in double taxation. Corporations have ongoing requirements, such as electing a board of directors and holding annual meetings.

While a corporation is more expensive and complicated to form, this is the best structure if you see a large expansion in your future. As a corporation, you can sell stock to shareholders to raise large amounts of capital.

Limited Liability Company

A limited liability company, or LLC, combines benefits of different business entities. Like a corporation, business owners in an LLC are not personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business. However, LLCs do not have to pay corporate tax rates or face double taxation. LLCs also do not have ongoing requirements like corporations.

The type of business structure you select ultimately depends on the needs of your business and your future plans for growth. If you want to build a clothing brand that’s known around the world, choose a corporation or LLC structure. If you just want a smaller online shop that helps pay your bills, a sole proprietorship may be the way to go.

Once you’ve determined your business structure, you may be required to register with your state. Sole proprietorships and partnerships may file for a DBA (“doing business as”) under a fictitious name known as a trade name.

Depending on the type of t-shirt business you plan to operate, you may be required to obtain business licenses and/or permits from state and local agencies. Fees and requirements vary by state. You can contact local agencies including your City Clerk, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and state Department of Revenue to learn more about the business licenses and permits required for your business.

Finally, you also need to register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service. This is required if you plan to hire employees now or in the future. Many business lenders may also require an EIN when you apply for funding. If you’re a sole proprietor, you may opt to use your Social Security Number in lieu of an EIN.

Seek Business Funding

“It takes money to make money,” as the old saying goes. As the owner of a t-shirt business, the amount of money you need to start and operate your business will vary according to your business model. If you have a small online shop, for example, your funding needs won’t be as great as if you’re operating a brick-and-mortar store.

Even if you have startup costs covered, there may come a time when you need additional capital for emergencies or operating expenses. If you can’t fund these costs out-of-pocket, it’s time to apply for small business funding. Whether you turn to someone you know or apply with an online lender, there are several financing options available for your business.

Friends & Family

Know a friend, family member, or colleague looking to invest in a new business? Pitch them your business idea. Prepare your presentation carefully to let them know why your idea is a winner. In general, you have two options for getting funded by someone you know. The first is to take out a loan. Your friend or family member provides you with a set sum of money that is repaid over a period of time — along with interest. This is known as debt financing.

The next option is a strategy known as equity financing. With equity financing, an investor provides you with the capital you need to cover startup costs or operational expenses. In exchange, the investor receives ownership in your business. While you may not be required to immediately pay back the investor’s capital, they will be able to take a portion of the profits over time. They may also have some level of control when it comes to important business decisions.

No matter which route you take, always make sure everything is in writing and signed by all parties. Then, uphold your end of the bargain. Nothing can make a good relationship go south faster than a business deal gone wrong.

Small Business Loans

With a small business loan, you can receive a lump sum of money that you repay over time. In addition to repaying your principal loan balance, you’ll also pay the lender interest and/or fees. You’ll make regular payments to the lender, which may be daily, weekly, monthly, or on another schedule.

Small business loans can be used for any business purpose, including funding an expansion, purchasing equipment for your business, or for use as working capital.

Recommended Option: LoanBuilder

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You can fully customize your small business loan when you work with LoanBuilder. The LoanBuilder Configurator allows you to adjust your repayment terms and borrowing amount to create the right loan for your business.

Through LoanBuilder, you may be eligible to borrow up to $500,000. All loans come with one single fixed fee of 2.9% to 18.72% of the borrowing amount. Your fee is determined by the performance of your business and your credit history. Loans are repaid weekly over terms of 13 to 52 weeks.

To qualify for a LoanBuilder loan, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 9 months
  • At least $42,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 550 or above

Vendor Financing

As you build your t-shirt business, you’ll establish relationships with vendors and suppliers. In an ideal world, you’d always have money in your bank account to cover the costs of your inventory and supplies. However, this isn’t always the case. An emergency expense that depleted your account, a seasonal uptick in sales, or some other challenge may leave you struggling to pay your vendors upfront.

Many vendors do not offer their own credit programs, but there are lenders that offer vendor financing. With vendor financing, your vendors will be paid the full amount for their products or services while you’re able to pay off the expense over time. This prevents you from having to pay the full cost out-of-pocket for the inventory, supplies, and services you need to keep your business running smoothly.

Recommended Option: Behalf

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Behalf provides vendor financing of up to $50,000 to qualified borrowers. You can repay your loan on a weekly or monthly schedule for up to 6 months.

Behalf charges a monthly fee for its service. Fees start at 1% and are based on the creditworthiness of the borrower. There are no additional fees to receive financing through Behalf.

There are no minimum credit scores, annual revenues, or time in business requirements, although a soft inquiry will be performed when you apply. You must have a U.S.-based business and a U.S. business bank account to qualify. Funds from Behalf can’t be used to fund existing debt, such as credit card bills or payroll.

Lines Of Credit

A line of credit is a flexible financing option that allows you to access capital on demand. Instead of receiving one lump sum, a lender sets a credit limit. You can initiate multiple draws up to and including this credit limit. Once a draw is initiated, the lender will transfer the funds to your business bank account. Then, you will repay the money over time, along with any fees and/or interest charged by the lender.

Since a line of credit is a revolving form of credit, funds will be replenished as you pay off your balance. This allows you to have continuous access to capital when it’s needed. A line of credit can be used for any business purpose, including funding emergency expenses, purchasing inventory, or using as working capital.

Recommended Option: Lendio

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Lendio is a loan aggregator that gives you access to over 75 small business lenders with just one application. One of the financing options available through Lendio is a business line of credit.

Through Lendio, you may qualify for a line of credit from $1,000 to $500,000. Rates range from 8% to 24%. You could receive funds in as little as one week after you submit your application.

To qualify for a line of credit, you must meet these requirements:

  • Time in business of at least 6 months
  • At least $50,000 in annual revenue
  • Personal credit score of 560 or above

If a line of credit isn’t what you’re looking for, Lendio offers additional financing options, including:

  • Short-Term Loans
  • Equipment Financing
  • Business Credit Cards
  • Commercial Mortgages
  • Merchant Cash Advances
  • Startup Loans

Merchant Financing

If you need working capital and you use a service like PayPal to receive your payments, you may qualify for merchant financing.

Merchant financing is a short-term loan option for ecommerce businesses. Typically, qualifying is based on the performance of your business. The lender will provide you with a loan that is repaid over time with interest and/or fees.

Funds can be used for nearly any business purpose, from covering an emergency expense to buying more inventory or using as working capital.

Recommended Option: PayPal Working Capital

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If you accept payments through PayPal, you may qualify for the PayPal Working Capital program. Through this program, you can receive up to 35% of your annual PayPal sales as a loan. Your first loan can be up to $125,000.

PayPal Working Capital charges one set fee based on your sales history, the repayment percentage of your choice, and the loan amount. On days when no sales are made, no payments will be deducted. However, you must pay at least 5% to 10% of your total loan amount every 90 days.

To qualify for PayPal Working Capital, you must meet these requirements:

  • Have a PayPal Business or Premier account for at least 3 months
  • At least $20,000 in annual PayPal sales for Premier accounts or at least $15,000 in annual PayPal sales for Business accounts
  • No more than $20 million in annual PayPal sales

Business Credit Cards

Business credit cards work exactly like personal credit cards. The lender provides you with a set credit limit. You can use your card anywhere credit cards are accepted up to and including the credit limit.

The lender charges interest and fees on your balance until it is paid off. You do not have to pay off your balance in order to continue using the card provided you haven’t met your credit limit. A business credit card is a revolving form of credit, so as you pay down your balance, funds become available to use again.

Business credit cards give you on-demand access to capital whenever you need it. You can use business credit cards to pay for an emergency, purchase inventory, or buy equipment. You can also use your credit card to pay for recurring expenses, such as utility bills or software subscription fees.

Recommended Option: American Express SimplyCash Plus

SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express



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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


14.49% – 21.49%, Variable

The American Express SimplyCash Plus card puts a new spin on credit cards. This is because this card allows you to spend over your credit limit without any fees. You can also receive cash back on all purchases – even if you’re over your limit.

The amount you can spend over your credit limit is based on your usage of the card, payment history, credit profile, and other factors. If you go over your limit, you simply need to pay the amount over the credit limit each month as part of your minimum payment. There are no fees for exceeding your credit limit.

With the SimplyCash Plus card, you can receive up to 5% cash back on your purchases. Wireless phone services and office supply store purchases yield 5% cash back on the first $50,000 spent each calendar year. You can also choose one category to receive 3% cash back on, such as advertising, shipping, hardware, or software purchases for the first $50,000 spent each calendar year. All other purchases receive 1% cash back.

There is no annual fee associated with this card. You’ll also receive a 0% introductory rate for the first 9 months. After that, variable APRs range from 14.49% to 24.19% and are based on creditworthiness.

To qualify for the American Express SimplyCash Plus card, you must have excellent credit.

Recommended Option: Spark Classic For Business

Spark Classic From Capital One


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Annual Fee:


$0

 

Purchase APR:


25.24%, Variable

Don’t have perfect credit? Consider applying for Capital One’s Spark Classic for Business credit card. This rewards card gives you unlimited 1% cash back on all of your business purchases. There is no annual fee, and the card has a variable APR of 25.24%.

Additional benefits of Spark Classic for Business include free employee cards, fraud coverage, and extended warranty protection. This card also allows you to build your business credit so you can qualify for additional financing options in the future.

Applicants must have a fair credit score to qualify for the Spark Classic for Business card.

Choose Business Software

You’re one step closer to launching your business. Now, it’s time to choose the software you need to run your business effectively and efficiently. Some of the business software programs you may need for your t-shirt business include:

Bookkeeping Software

Bookkeeping software allows you to keep an eye on the financials of your business. With this software, you can easily track your business expenses, accounts receivable, and payroll. Many bookkeeping programs also allow you to track other aspects of your business, such as inventory.

With bookkeeping software, you’ll always know where your business stands financially. You’ll be able to run and print reports as needed, which may be required when you apply for business financing. Having all transactions reported in bookkeeping software can also help you prevent headaches when tax time rolls around.

No accounting experience? No problem! Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Accounting.

Payment Processing Software

If you plan to accept credit cards or other methods of payment, you will need payment processing software. Your payment processor will act as the communicator between your bank and the bank of your customers, allowing you to process credit cards, debit cards, and other forms of payment.

Point-Of-Sale System

If you want a more sophisticated way to manage your sales, you’ll need a point-of-sale (POS) system. A POS system not only includes credit card processing, but it also offers additional features including barcode scanning, inventory tracking, printing receipts, and reports and analytics.

Mobile POS systems allow you to use your app or smartphone to accept payments and keep your business running efficiently. There are also more advanced systems that include hardware such as monitors, keyboards, printers, cash drawers, and scanners.

Advertise Your Business

You’re almost to the finish line and ready to open your doors … or your online business. Before you launch, though, it’s time to think about advertising. After all, if no one knows about your t-shirt business, how are you going to make any sales? Don’t wait until after you launch to spread the word about your business — start right now with these advertising tactics.

Social Media

From middle schoolers to your own grandparents, it seems like everyone is on social media these days. Use this to your advantage to let potential customers know about your t-shirt business.

The great thing about social media is that setting up your profiles is absolutely free. You can also get started in just minutes. Set up pages for your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or Pinterest. Include critical information about your business on each profile including your contact information, website and/or online shop link, and photos of your t-shirts. Later, you can use your profile to share news about your business and new products, advertise sales, or host giveaways.

You can also look into advertising on social media. You can purchase ads for any budget and customize your target audience to get your name out to potential customers.

Another option to consider is talking to social media influencers. Social media influencers recommend products to thousands of followers, helping companies drum up new business. If an influencer wears your shirt and links to your website, you could see an influx of customers.

Some businesses will send a free sample of their products to social media influencers. While this does mean some out-of-pocket costs for you, the exposure you could receive could be well worth the small expense.

Want to learn how to take your social media marketing to the next level? Learn more in our Guide to Social Media Marketing.

Build Your Website

In addition to your social media profiles, you also need a website to build your web presence. Website builders make it easier than ever for you to create your own professional website. You can also easily build an online shop with today’s modern ecommerce platforms.

When you build your website, make sure that it is designed to appeal to your target audience. Don’t forget to include information on your website such as contact info, details on your products, and clear photos of what your business offers. As you build up your website, you can include additional information and features such as online chat options, FAQs, news and updates, and reviews and testimonials.

Word Of Mouth

Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth advertising. The trick to this one is simple: provide high-quality products and exceptional customer service. If someone buys one of your t-shirts and is pleased with the quality, they’ll be proud to wear it and tell others about your business. If the shirt was poorly made or customer service was lacking, they’ll also tell others.

Word of mouth advertising is an easy and free way to get the word out about your new business. And don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. If someone gave a great review, share it on social media and your website. Don’t be afraid to ask customers to give their feedback, but don’t be pushy. Also, learn to accept criticism. Not all of your reviews and feedback will be glowing. Instead of taking offense, learn from it. Where is your business lacking? How can you make sure that each customer that purchases your t-shirts is fully satisfied? Never stop trying to improve your business, and always provide the best products and customer service to keep your customers coming back for more.

Final Thoughts

Owning and operating your own t-shirt business can be fun, exciting, and lucrative, but don’t be fooled … a lot of hard work is necessary to make your business a success. Don’t rush the process. Instead, take the time to plan out your business, create unique designs, and provide high-quality products and service that will draw customers to your business.

Want to learn more about starting your own business? Download our small business guides for the information and tips you need to launch your business venture.

The post How To Start And Fund A T-Shirt Business appeared first on Merchant Maverick.

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