As a small business owner, the one thing you probably lack is a large marketing budget, which is more than reasonable when considering that there are a hundred different things that require your full attention and resources.

Which is why you should do your best to exhaust every other alternative before opting for a mainstream marketing strategy that will continuously take a large part of your earnings for very little in return. What we will be discussing today are some extremely cost-effective alternatives that can hopefully show how to get and then maintain a loyal following without spending thousands of dollars.

Most of these are Small business marketing tips but they will work for all others as well.

Search Engine Optimization

I’m sure you have probably heard about SEO optimization in every other article as well, but there is a good reason for that. Search Engine Optimization, like the name suggests, will make sure that your websites, pages, blogs, and posts are discovered faster in search engines like google and Bing’s search results and hopefully shown at or near the top of the page.

The higher their ranking, the more chances of them being discovered by more and more people and in return, further increasing their own position and page authority. So you can imagine why it is stressed upon so much by industry specialists. Not to mention it doesn’t have to cost anything and can be done relatively quickly if you don’t mind learning a few new things.

Basis of SEO is pretty simple. The first thing you have to do is make sure your website is using all the necessary tools. If it’s built on something like WordPress or Wix then you have the option to use SEO plugins without any additional cost. These plugins will take care of all the basic stuff like creating sitemaps and optimizing formats and guide you with the rest of the process as much as possible.

Then come all your other social media pages. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any of the others, SEO can be done in every single one of them.

For Instagram, you can start by using Hashtags. They connect all of your posts together, making it easier to share and be discovered by others even if by accident. Another option is by optimizing the descriptions of images to be as accurate and inclusive as possible of every subject matter. This way the chances of them being discovered through google image search increase by leaps and bounds.

All public Facebook groups, pages, and posts can be shown as a result in Google searches so it’s a good idea to use the same SEO techniques you would for your official website. The content length doesn’t matter as long as it is SEO friendly.

Use Social Media to its Fullest Extent

If you haven’t done so already, get on every social media platform you can. But before you do so, its best if you understand which platform is most likely to have your target audience.

Let’s take Facebook for example. A car mechanic will surely see more visits and clicks on a platform like Facebook where there are people from every walk of life. But doing the same on Instagram or Snapchat won’t net you the same result as the majority of the users are young teens that either just don’t own a car or simply aren’t interested in seeing anything related to your business.

That’s why although it’s a good idea to be present on every platform, focusing the majority of your efforts on one platform that is going to be most beneficial and responsive to your efforts is the better option.

Customer Engagement

For all businesses, whether they are large corporations or up and coming businesses, customer engagement is the solution to most of your problems. Its anywhere from 5 to 20 times more expensive to acquire new clients than it is to keep old ones. That’s why focusing efforts to retain clients by increasing customer engagement through any number of techniques is advised at every stage.

Post interesting content on your social media pages that are connected to your field. If you have the time to spare or the resources to hire someone, start a blog and post regularly. It doesn’t have to be too often at the start and you can go slow, but pick up the pace as you get used to it and set yourself apart from the competition by showcasing your own set of unique skills through different methods.

Talk about topics that interest you or you know about. Give advice or ask for it from the experts and continue developing your brand through it.

Contests

Online contests are a great way to boost your following without opting for paid advertisements. You will have to fork out a bit for the final prize but that’s still cheaper than buying clicks and views.

There is no need to use something expensive as the final prize and instead opting for a trendy item or even something you make yourself, i.e., your product or service is a great idea. Going by the previous example of a car mechanic, the final prize can be something along the lines of a full tune-up or service for the winner’s vehicle.

This not only directly promotes your own product/service but also saves you from spending on another item. Its basically free publicity. If you’re not sure how to get started, RaffleCopter is a great little service that takes care of the entire process and even has the option to share it on all your social media platforms.

Create Partnerships

No one can do everything by themselves. Sooner or later you will need help and teaming up with another business that is in the same field can help create a symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit greatly.

Creating strategic partnerships has many advantages while doesn’t require as much work on your part. Your business is able to receive twice as much notice and partnering with an industry-relevant business will also introduce you to an entirely new audience that is looking for something in your area of specialties.

Continuing from the previous example once again, a car mechanic can partner with a car dealership and have access to an exclusive audience that would usually be out of reach. And you can even go a step further and give discounts or offer special pricing to the customers that are referred to you by the partner.

Referral Programs

Speaking of referral programs, they should not only be limited to your partnerships. Under normal circumstances even if customers like what you have to offer, they still wouldn’t just refer your services without a reason. So why not give them one?

You have a lot of freedom when it comes to designing referral programs but the one thing that should be kept in mind is the reward. It has to be enticing enough for your customers to consider referring new clients but not too enticing that they should start a campaign of their own and refer every random person. What you’re looking for is someone that will stick even after the initial purchase.

And studies have shown that referred customers have much higher brand loyalty from the get-go and larger profit margins without much work from your side. And not only this, but it would also increase the loyalty of your existing customers once they have a more vested interest in your brand.

Plus with the dozens of different software out there that are designed for the sole purpose of setting up and maintaining such referral programs, there really is no reason for you to not at least try it out.

Paid Search Discovery/advertising

After exhausting all other methods you can finally focus on some cost-effective advertising alternatives to the more mainstream strategies. Although they won’t be free, it still shouldn’t break your bank any time soon.

All major platforms offer a few deals for smaller businesses. They give you the option to target a specific demographic and you won’t be charged unless someone clicks on the advertisement. Google and Facebook are way ahead of the competition in this area as they have developed specialized algorithms that use the entirety of their massive databases and search for individuals that are looking for your exact products.

This way you won’t simply get random clicks but only actual leads that have a very high chance of making a purchase will be redirected to your business. It’s one of the best ways to get a good return on investment, other than text-based marketing of course.

SMS Marketing

If you’re like me and knew nothing about text marketing until recently, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. In the last few years, there have been a lot of new and old marketing strategies that have seen a sudden boost in popularity, and SMS marketing is one of the older ones. It has been around for a couple of decades now but only now has it really caught on, especially with the smaller to medium-sized business market for the following few reasons:

The Cheaper Alternative

Unlike what you might think, text-based marketing programs are some of the cheapest alternatives around. They barely cost anything to get started and are perfect for those business owners that want to get their money’s worth without spending thousands of dollars.

The distance between the sender and the receiver doesn’t matter at all. You have the option to send mass text messages to an entire demographic at an extremely affordable rate.

Bigger Reach

Even with today’s technological advancements, there are still a lot of places that either don’t have internet service or it is so bad that barely anyone uses it. Whereas everyone has a cell phone or two in their pockets at all times no matter the social or financial status. From kids as young as ten to retirees, text marketing has the most varied demographic and the widest reach out of all marketing methods.

Flexible

If you have ever opted for a mainstream marketing strategy then you should know the legal implications that come with it. With binding contracts, you basically have no freedom to speak off and are stuck in a relationship whether you like it or not.

But most SMS marketing methods, especially the ones being offered by industry leaders like Express Text are so versatile in their offerings that you won’t even have to sign anything to get started. The process is extremely simple and easy, that only requires you to choose from one of the provided packages. After that, you can simply enter the names and numbers of your contracts and be on your merry way.

Control

You as the client have complete control with regards to the contents of the text messages. If you want to share links of your social media profiles within the messages then there are tools in place that will not only you to do so, but do it right. They will give detailed data about the people that clicked on the links that can be then used to further refine your marketing efforts.

If you want to share details about one of the other marketing methods you are free to do so. The content of each and every text message can be changed at a moment’s notice, add to it or replace the content entirely and go with something completely different. You have complete freedom.

Conclusion

We can give you as small business marketing tips as you want, but in the end, you the only thing that matters is what best for your business. Do you want to try some free tricks to boost your following or go for a definite win?

With some of the highest ROI’s in the entire marketing industry, SMS marketing is the best option for all new businesses that are still figuring things out for themselves and their respective customers. Its plethora of features eclipse anything that the other marketing can throw out.

More Marketing Ideas


This article by Ashish Patel was originally published at Expresstext.net


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

 

Many groups, including federal and local governments and private banks and companies, have offered coronavirus assistance to small businesses. If you own a small business, these programs can help you receive grants and low-interest loans.

The coronavirus outbreak has turned everyday life on its head. People are staying indoors and practicing social distancing, aiming to reduce the spread of the disease. While these essential measures have helped keep people healthy and have saved lives, many businesses are facing the impact of enforced closures and reduced foot traffic.

More than half of Americans are worried about the economy and their individual retirement savings, and business owners are no different. Small businesses often have just a few weeks worth of operating costs saved, meaning even a short closure can doom a business.

The government and many lenders have offered assistance and other forms of relief to businesses. If you own a small business, there are options available to you to help keep the lights on and your business running.

In this guide:

How to get a Coronavirus Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan

One of the government’s programs for helping small businesses impacted by the coronavirus is the Coronavirus Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan Program. The goal of this assistance is to help small businesses keep their workers in their jobs and earning incomes.

What is an Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan?

Emergency Paycheck Protection Loans are loans offered by the Small Business Administration to businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The loans are meant to help business owners keep their employees on the payroll and pay their essential bills, like rent.

The loans come with a two-year term and an interest rate of 1%, making them incredibly inexpensive compared to most other types of loans. There is also the possibility of the SBA forgiving the balance of the loan, turning it into a grant for eligible businesses.

What are the eligibility requirements?

To apply for an Emergency Paycheck Protection Loan, your business must meet the following requirements:

  • Your business must have fewer than 500 employees. Exceptions for larger businesses in specific industries are available—for instance, businesses in foodservice and hospitality may be eligible if they have multiple locations, each with fewer than 500 employees.
  • Your business must have been impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Those are the only two requirements. Everything from a sole proprietorship to a medium-sized non-profit organization can apply for and receive a loan.

What are the requirements for the government to forgive the loan?

If you apply for and receive a loan, you won’t receive your first bill until six months from the date you receive the money. Again, the loans come with a two-year term and a 1% interest rate.

The Small Business Administration also offers the opportunity to have the loan forgiven. If this happens, you will not have to repay the loan at all. Instead, it becomes a grant provided by the SBA.

To qualify for loan forgiveness, your business must:

  • Use the funds only for payroll expenses, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest, with at least 75% of the funds going toward payroll expenses
  • Keep all employees on the business’s payroll for eight weeks after receiving the loan
  • Maintain wages similar to those comprising your business’s current payroll

A look at the Federal Small Business Stimulus Aid Programs for the Coronavirus

The Paycheck Protection Program isn’t the only government effort to help small businesses. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act includes many other opportunities for businesses and individuals affected by the coronavirus.

In addition to providing the small business benefits described earlier, the act also includes:

  • Funding for the Center for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and other health-related organizations
  • The expansion of telehealth service options for those on Medicare
  • Funding for international efforts to combat the coronavirus

Other programs that can help

Small business owners can take advantage of other assistance programs that can keep their businesses going through the crisis.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans & Loan Advance

The loan advance program offers up to $10,000 to small business owners across the United States. The eligibility requirements are similar to those for Paycheck Protection Program loans. These loan advances don’t need to be repaid, and you can receive the money within days of applying.

After getting your advance, you can go through the full disaster loan process, borrowing up to $2 million from the SBA at a rate of 3.75% and at terms up to 30 years.

The SBA website has more information about both the Disaster Loan program and the Loan Advance program. Additionally, you can check out our guide on SBA disaster loans and FEMA assistance.

SBA Debt Relief

If your business borrowed or borrows money from the SBA, you might be eligible for SBA debt relief programs that can repay your loan balance or let you defer payments.

SBA Serviced Disaster Loans that were in regular service status before March 31st receive automatic deferments until December 31st, 2020. Interest will continue to accrue, but you don’t have to make payments. The SBA will pay the interest and principal for current and new 7(a), 504, and microloans for the next six months.

The SBA website has more information about its debt relief options.

SBA Express Bridge Loan

Small Business Administration bridge loans give companies that already work with SBA lenders quick access to up to $25,000 in loans. These bridge loans are intended for quick funding while owners apply for disaster loans.

SBA Express Bridge Loans let lenders offer guaranteed loans more quickly than usual, giving businesses needed emergency funds.

The SBA has more information about the Bridge Loan Program.

Local Assistance Programs

The Federal Government and Small Business Administration have many options for business owners in need of assistance, but many states have also started assistance programs. If you live in an area with state assistance programs, there’s no reason that you can’t take advantage of both forms of help.

For example, businesses in New York City, one of the hardest-hit areas, can apply for grants of up to $27,000 to cover part of their payroll costs.

Many private banks and even corporations such as Amazon and Facebook have come up with assistance programs. Check with your local government and banks to see if they’re offering any help and keep an eye out for other assistance programs that may become available.

Additional resources:


This article by TJ Porter was originally published at Lendedu.com

About the Author:

TJ Porter is a Boston-based freelance writer who specializes in credit, credit cards, and bank accounts. He graduated with a degree in business from Northeastern University and has been featured on Credit Karma, DollarSprout, and Bankrate.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

Creative businesses can be brilliant outlets for talented professionals, but they can also take a toll – the kind of toll we are not always ready to confront or confess. I began my own entrepreneurial career as a successful makeup artist for weddings and events. I eventually moved into a storefront and expanded into wedding planning as well. Unfortunately, business success does not always equal personal well-being. I became overworked and my health deteriorated.

I knew things had to change.

Emily Sullivan Events was born of this time in my life and career, as was a laser focus on keeping my company small, overhead low and stress level down.

Do you see yourself in my story? More creatives do than you might expect. We pour our hearts and souls into our work, sometimes at a grave personal cost.

What kinds of changes would make a difference in your career and personal well-being?

Focus on the Basics

Taking stock of your personal and professional life is an important first step. What are your priorities? When you accept too many social invitations, even when they relate to business, what are you giving up? Time with your family? Opportunity to tend to self care?

Limit appointments and events to the ones that will help you achieve your goals without overwhelming your schedule. Give your family obligations, children’s events and time with your spouse as much weight, or more, as your business obligations.

Choose Your Team Carefully

Look for a team that complements your strengths. I searched for someone who could take some of the load off my plate and handle all of the physical activities. You might need someone who has the time to field phone calls, act as a leader on event days, or manage other employees day to day. Get the help you need to prevent you from overdoing things and putting your own wellness in jeopardy.

Keep Your Health In Check

You hear it from everyone – your doctor, friends and loved ones: you need to establish a routine that includes exercise, sleep and healthy meals. By the time the ramifications of ignoring these instructions start to manifest, it can be too late to repair the damage. The arthritis flare up that forced me to reconsider my business was my wake up call. It was the evidence that convinced me that the stress of the job was affecting my health. Don’t wait for your body to send such a dramatic SOS. Start incorporating healthy habits today.

Set Boundaries

Establishing your limits and making your boundaries known are the best things you can do. Accept that your to-do list will never be done, but you can still be successful even so. Don’t allow the world around you to influence your values or your self-image.

Life is simply too short to allow your business to rob you and your family of your best. Make the changes that will give you all a better quality of life before it’s too late. You simply won’t regret it.


This article by Emily Sullivan was originally published at Honeybook.com

About the Author:

Emily Sullivan is the owner of Emily Sullivan Events, a full-service wedding planning company based in New Orleans and serving couples everywhere. Her Website and Instagram


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

So… you’ve decided to go freelancing, huh? We’re just gonna be honest with you – it’s not an easy road. It’s not all smooth-sailing, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, and it’s not all as glorious as the now over-romanticized idea of “freedom from the 9-5” paints it to be….

The truth is that until you nail everything down and figure out your process, getting started freelancing is a lot of hard work. A lot of pain and struggle is involved, and there’s a pretty steep learning curve if you don’t know anything at all yet….

Don’t get us wrong here – freelancing, when you succeed, is totally worth it! But you will likely need help along this path you’ve chosen. Because of the difficulties along the way, you’ll need tools.

And the proper freelance software tools, used wisely, can really help to ease your burden.

While we could probably elaborate in much greater detail, when you boil it down, you can reduce it to seven main steps – seven stages that basically constitute a freelancer’s work, no matter their chosen field.

Below, we’re going to break these stages down, and take a look at what you’re most likely going to need to succeed. Then we’ll look at a few tools that will help you make it along the journey.

Do these seven things well, and you’ll succeed!

Best Freelancing Software

Image Credits

Nailing the Proposal

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but it’s true – first impressions matter.

As a freelancer, when you propose your services to a potential client, you want to make that first impression count. If your proposal looks unprofessional, or maybe there are just too many steps in your process, too much back-and-forth, etc. – then you may lose them in the details.

This is why there are software tools that are specifically designed to make freelancers’ lives easier by giving them access to things like attractive templates, pre-written legal contracts, a streamlining of the various steps in the process, and more.

Let’s take a look at some of these tools below.

Bonsai

When you create a new project in Bonsai, any proposal, contract, or invoice becomes integrated with the project. This means you can create contracts and invoices directly from proposals without having to enter a ton of information all over again – resulting in a major streamlining of the whole process.

Bonsai certainly has a track record and has long been acknowledged by freelancers as a fantastic freelancing software tool.

HoneyBook

Like Bonsai, HoneyBook also streamlines the entire client-onboarding process – but to an even greater degree.

HoneyBook takes it a step further than Bonsai does by reducing the process to as few steps as possible – putting the proposal, contract, and invoice together to make an appealing offer and most importantly easy 1-2-3 client experience that’s incredibly easy to say yes to!

HoneyBook also offers more branding customization, so if showing your brand is important to your presentation, then HoneyBook is your best bet.

AND.CO

Known for its free tier (where you can serve one active client at a time), and its ready-made contracts written by the Freelancers Union, AND.CO is a great option when it comes to smoothly onboarding your clients – especially if you don’t have a lot to start out with.

Prospero

Prospero is a fascinating tool that will not only make your proposals look good, but will also dynamically help you price your services…. How crazy is that?

By asking you questions about the type of work you’re doing, how long it will take you, and so forth, during the creation of the proposal, Prospero will help you come up with ideal pricing based on your answers. It almost sounds like having a personal assistant!

Freelancing: Staying Organized

Once you land the client, there can be a lot of details to sort out… documents, links, and folders are exchanged, additional people are added to the communications, and if you’re not exceedingly detailed and careful (and if you don’t have a system worked out for organizing things efficiently), you may find yourself accidentally losing track of stuff, working with the wrong revision, forgetting a certain included file – or worse.

Fortunately for you, there are a few great freelancing software tools that solve this very problem.

Basecamp

Basecamp is changing the way companies manage their project workflow with consolidation as their primary advantage. Removing the need for several distinct software tools, Basecamp takes several common problem areas, like to-dos, scheduling, and document management, which have typically been managed using multiple tools, and puts them all “under one roof,” offering a solution they say is “The only tool you need to run your entire business.”

HoneyBook

HoneyBook is rather a different creature altogether than Basecamp. Yes, HoneyBook does handle organization within individual projects with features like tasks, scheduling, and documents, but it helps take on managing the entire project from a business perspective as well. It helps with larger-scale organization with features like a customizable Contact Form, funneling leads directly into the platform; a Project Pipeline to give you a quick, visual overview of where all those Projects currently stand; and robust reporting tools to manage your success rates, financials, and more.

This means it can be used as a tool for project management and for client onboarding. So in some ways, it’s an even greater consolidation advantage than Basecamp’s, which focuses more on the project perspective.

Trello

Even with its focus on team collaboration, Trello can be a very effective tool for freelancers to organize their projects into easy-to-understand boards, lists, and cards, which represent their various projects and tasks.

Being able to see your entire project laid out in neat, organized little boxes with checklists and to-dos can be one of the most exhilarating feelings of joy! The lack of chaos in your workflow will free up your mind and greatly increase the efficiency of your work.

Staying Focused

So you’ve got all your ducks in a row now – everything’s organized, and you can start working.

There’s one problem though… You keep getting sidetracked with other things that really shouldn’t be worried about right now. Your inbox keeps notifying you, and other distractions keep coming up that take you away from the project you’re trying to complete.

Since the brain readjusts itself after a distraction, needing a re-focusing period before reaching full capacity again, this pattern is quite inefficient, and will not result in optimal productivity. It’s best to have a way to stay focused and on task, so you can pound out the work distraction-free.

There are a few excellent ways to do this, including the following freelancing software tools:

Boomerang

Boomerang is an absolutely amazing app that allows you to take total control over your inbox.

Boomerang provides several wonderful features, such as, “respondable,” which guides your writing, making it easier and more enjoyable to read, “inbox pause,” which allows you to temporarily turn off your inbox, removing distractions, and send-scheduling, allowing you to send emails at optimal times, ensuring even more optimal response rates.

If your email notifications are threatening to take over your life, then you really should look at Boomerang as a possible solution. Seriously, it’s great.

IFTTT

IFTTT (If This, Then That) saves you time and makes your work more productive by connecting your apps and devices so they work together. By linking sets of your small actions and tasks together so they are automatically triggered, you’ll save yourself a lot of time on busywork, in the long run, which results in a more focused workflow, and less time wasted navigating between apps.

BONUS TIP: 

Not a software tool, but the Pomodoro method is probably one of the best time-management methods for getting stuff done efficiently. All you need is a timer and increments of 25 minutes. Basically, every 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break. Every four cycles, take a longer break, maybe 15-20 minutes. Try it once, and not only will you be hooked, you’ll also skyrocket your productivity.

Counting Those Hours

Alright, cool. You’re now:

  • Working with a client
  • On an organized project
  • That you’re staying focused on…

…But all that work isn’t going to do you any good if you don’t record your time. (Granted, there are many freelancers who don’t bill by the hour, but since it’s such a common compensation model, we feel this is an important piece of the process to include here.)

Recording time can be a real hassle if you’re used to doing it the old-fashioned way – by hand – but there are several tools that completely eliminate the need to write down (or memorize!) anything at all.

Chrometa

The cool thing about Chrometa is that you don’t have to think about it – at all, really.

Since it’s almost entirely passive, it works in the background, automatically recording your billable hours as you work. You simply do what you need to do, and Chrometa will log your time for you!

This means you’ll actually save time, since you won’t spend so much of it logging time. Which ultimately means you’ll get more done and get paid more, right? It’s a win-win situation.

Harvest

Harvest is a pretty nifty time-tracking tool that not only allows you to make invoices directly from the app, but you can also do some neat stuff with integrations.

For example, if you integrate it with QuickBooks or Xero, for instance, you can pull your Harvest invoices and recorded payments directly into your accounting software perfectly, eliminating any problems with double entries. Or, if you integrate with Trello, you can turn cards into time entries with a Chrome extension.

These seemingly small things do add up over time to help you be more productive in your workflow!

Toggl

Few who have used it will disagree if you make the claim that Toggl is among the best time-tracking apps. To be sure, it does have it’s advantages.

Do you want over 100 compatible integrations? Toggl’s got them. That means less navigating between apps for you. Do you want tracking reminders so you don’t forget to start your timer? Toggl’s got those too. So you don’t lose track of your precious billable hours. Tracking by individual apps or time of day/week? Yep, Toggl even has that.

One thing Toggl does not have is the native invoicing feature, like Harvest does. If that’s what you’re looking for, then Toggl isn’t for you. However, if you just want a really good time tracker, Toggl is an excellent option.

Getting Paid

Ah, yes, everyone’s favorite part – the money! It’s probably the reason you started freelancing, right? Freedom from the “tyranny of the 1st and the 15th,” and all that?

But, as you may have realized, getting paid is much more of a hassle than you ever thought possible. Missed deadlines, client didn’t get the invoice, etc. There are a lot of details and minutiae that can be missed or mistaken…

Luckily, this has been going on for long enough that freelancing tools have been developed to make the whole thing much easier….

HoneyBook 

As we mentioned in Contracts and Proposals, HoneyBook has a single, integrated format for the entire proposal-contract-invoice process.

This makes client onboarding a total breeze, but it also makes it way easier to get paid faster.  Since everything is all at once, in one place, you’ll be far less likely to miss anything—and your clients are less likely to miss stuff, too! In addition to the simple invoicing process, you can also set up automated payment reminders to go out to your clients on the days surrounding a payment due date, taking that task off your plate while still making sure you get paid.

HoneyBook also makes it easy to track the status of upcoming, paid, and overdue payments both within individual projects, and collectively, via the bookkeeping tool. And best of all, when payments do come in, you’ll always be the first to know—you’ll receive instant alerts on desktop, and, if you’re a mobile app user, via the famous “CHA-CHING” push notification.

FreelancingImage Credits

Bonsai

Bonsai was one of the very first software tools that made the invoicing process consistently easier for freelancers, and it still remains a popular option to this day. They say you’ll be paid “13 days faster,” on average.

PayPal

This classic standby is an oldie but a goodie. It’s completely free, and it does the trick if you’re not keen on dishing out money for extra software tools right now. If you want something fast and reliable, without any bells and whistles at all, then PayPal will be perfect for you.

Stripe

A newer PayPal alternative, quickly on the rise for its clean and easy-to-use interface. Stripe is more easily “brandable” than Paypal, so if you’d prefer to have your branding more customized, this is the freelance software for you.

Doing Taxes

It’s just one of those things…. Nobody enjoys filing taxes (or if they insist they do… they’re joking, right?!), but one way or another, it just has to get done.

And since it’s pretty much unavoidable, why not make life easier for yourself as a freelancer by using software that is specifically designed to help make filing your taxes a lot simpler….

Here are a few tools that can really take a lot of stress off your shoulders during tax season.

TurboTax

This is the big one – the name everyone’s probably heard.

TurboTax is a well-established and trusted name in the tax software industry, and for good reason. The software has built up a great reputation for being incredibly easy to use, while sacrificing none of its functionality and thoroughness.

This excellence, though, does come at a price – TurboTax is pretty much the most expensive software of its kind that you can get. So if it’s worth it to you to have super-simple navigation through your complicated tax situation, just be prepared to pay a little extra.

H&R Block

When filing a tax return, it can be very easy to miss small details or make a careless oversight. H&R Block software does its very best to help you prevent this from happening as you file.

Many people will say that H&R Block is the most user-friendly tax software option available today, and they’re probably not wrong. The software almost makes you feel as though you have a real, live person there with you, walking you through the process as it asks thorough, but friendly-sounding questions.

If you want to have the smoothest, least stressful tax-filing experience, there’s a good chance H&R Block is the software for you. (They also guarantee to get you the biggest possible refund… so that’s a plus!)

TaxAct

If you’re willing to deal with just a smidge less sleekness in the interface, TaxAct is a prime option for freelancers for two reasons:

  • It’s cheaper than both TurboTax and H&R Block. Clearly, saving money is a plus, and
  • It has a “Price Lock Guarantee” which promises that you will never pay a higher price than what’s advertised at the time you begin your return, no matter how long you wait to file.

If you’re looking to save money in the long run, both of these can make TaxAct’s reduced elegance worth it.

Aaaand… General Finances!

After all this work, finding clients, contracting with them, getting paid, filing taxes… How do you know if what you’re doing is worth it? How can you easily track expenses and income to find out whether you’re coming out on top with a profit or not?

This is where accounting and bookkeeping software comes in handy for freelancing. Without it, you might be up all night just trying to figure out your stuff….

QuickBooks

Being made by TurboTax’s creator, Intuit, you might expect the same high standards of ease-of-use and comprehensive features for QuickBooks as you do for TurboTax – and rightly so!

QuickBooks is well-respected among accounting software tools, and it is actually the software that most accountants use.  There’s no doubt that QuickBooks is a powerful and robust program that will serve your bookkeeping needs, no matter what they are. If you’re looking to consolidate systems, QuickBooks integrates with HoneyBook which brings your booking process and finances under one roof.

FreshBooks

A newer and slightly less expensive competitor to QuickBooks, FreshBooks is also quite prevalent among freelancers and small business owners.

Users tend to feel that the FreshBooks interface has an overall simpler and more intuitive feel to it than QuickBooks does, which gives it a slight advantage. Overall, FreshBooks provides an easy way to organize and track your expenses at an affordable price and with an interface that’s a little simpler to use.

Xero

Are you a visual person? Well, this tool provides you with a fantastic way of seeing your cash flow with its intuitive reports that are pleasing to the eye.

A popular favorite among freelancers, Xero uses its visual representations to allow you to see exactly what’s happening to your money, and keep your finger on the pulse of your finances. Since you can log in at any time from any of your devices, Xero makes it quite easy to stay on top of your accounting and bookkeeping with grace.

Xero also has experts available for support 24/7. If you need help, they’ll be there to help you answer questions, so you’re never left alone.


This article by Joel DeVos was originally published at Honeybook.com

About the Author:

Joel DeVos is a content/copywriter for Tech & SaaS brands at Wizard Copywriting. As a small business entrepreneur himself, he thrives by helping startups grow and expand their business, and understands the need for powerful software tools.

Trained in the dark arts of persuasion and storytelling, Joel is an expert at crafting a gotta-have-it-now feeling in your blog and website’s reader. Head here for more info about Joel.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

With so many startups popping up every day, it seems that becoming an entrepreneur is a fairly simple thing to do. It appears that everybody with a bit of cash and a good idea can try their luck as novice entrepreneurs. In fact, it takes a lot more to succeed if you really want to bring your entrepreneurship dreams to reality.

There’s a certain set of skills shared by all successful entrepreneurs, no matter their field of expertise or years of experience. Even if they’re just starting out or they’re a seasoned professional, all truly great entrepreneurs have these common qualifications.

Read on so you too can learn how to separate yourself from the pack and pave your way to entrepreneurship stardom.

Company Entrepreneur

Image Credits

1. Managing your finances as an entrepreneur

Let’s get the most important things out of the way first. One crucial skill that all great entrepreneurs have is the ability to manage and grow their finances over time. Great financial management leads to sustainability, which will help your long-term financial goals.

From initial investments to closing major deals, knowing your way around finances is what will make or break your business development. If your personal finances are a complete mess, then it’s a safe bet that the entrepreneur lifestyle isn’t actually cut out for you.

Make sure you know the financial status of your business like the palm of your hand. You should know exactly how much money you spend and make every month, in order to make long-term strategies. Speaking of finances…

2. The essential ability to sell

It’s no use having a great product or a service if you’re unable to sell it. Some would say that selling is more of a natural talent than a skill you can learn, but we are confident it will come naturally with enough time and effort put into it.

Many entrepreneurs go through the pain of creating a great product or service, refining it to suit their market, advertising it, and then they’re unable to close a sale. It’s only natural to become nervous at this step, but if you’ve worked hard to come up with a solution to your audience’s needs, they won’t be reluctant to hand over their hard-earned cash.

If you’re not that keen on doing the sales part of your business – you can leave it up to somebody else from your team. However, the ability to sell yourself is key in attracting new opportunities, deals and becoming a successful entrepreneur.

3. Knowing how to hire and train people

There is no such thing as a great entrepreneur who made it on their own. It is always a team effort of several people who helped pave the way to a successful company. Your ability to choose those you collaborate with is extremely important in your path to success. Just like with everything else in life, don’t settle for less. If you want a top-performing team, choose A-team players.

The wrong hire will not only drain your bank account, but also your energy. They will make you waste valuable resources instead of building a foundation for your company and enabling growth.

When it comes to hiring new people, the benefits gained are twofold. First off, you will be able to grow and utilize the strengths of your new team members. Second, as your company grows, you will develop a company culture that your staff will nurture and identify with.

Just as it is important to hire new staff, they won’t go far without proper training. Ensure that new employees have proper on-boarding and guidance until they are comfortable in their role. The initial investments in time and money when you hire new staff will pay dividends in the future.

4. Managing staff

Once you’ve hired and trained new employees, here comes the hardest part. If you’re a solo player, you won’t be used to working with people. It will take time to learn the right balance between authority and friendliness.

In the early stages of your entrepreneur career, your team will be small and tightly connected. This is the right time to learn how to manage, motivate and encourage your staff. When the time comes, you will be able to effectively manage a larger group of people.

5. Building relationships

There is no such thing as a lone wolf in the world of entrepreneurship. Everybody needs a helping hand from time to time, and knowing how to connect and build lasting relationships is one of the top skills when it comes to your career as an entrepreneur.

When we say relationships, we don’t mean customers in the traditional sense. These are long-lasting connections that you can establish without spending or asking for money.

You can expand your network by giving testimonials, endorsements, training, recommendations, you name it. No matter the state your company is currently in, having friends helps out with your business goals sooner than later.

6. Trying out new things (and failing)

“Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I’ll show you someone who has never achieved much,” said Joan Collins. When it comes to new ideas, you’ll never know if you don’t try.

This rule pertains to launching a new product, coming up with a new plan, trying new marketing strategies, making a breakthrough in a new market – you name it.

One common trait of all great entrepreneurs is that they made mistakes, whether they want to admit it or not. There is no progress without struggle in the world of entrepreneurship, and some of the most valuable lessons come from making errors. Remember, when you do fail – you just found another way things won’t work.

7. Predicting future trends

This is arguably the hardest item on the list. If you take a look at the most successful entrepreneurs out there, one of the common features they have is the ability to predict the future. Admittedly, it’s hard to be Nostradamus (or Steve Jobs), but with enough experience and insight, you will be able to forecast where your specific area of business will be moving in the future.

Many entrepreneurs today are in the tech industry, which moves at an incredibly fast pace. New startups are created and shut down on a daily basis. Use this to closely follow trends and learn from other businesses’ fatal mistakes, as it could save yours.

8. Providing value

We’re not generally speaking about value, as it needs to present in order to get clients to commit to your services and products. We’re talking about value versus money.

Many entrepreneurs get trapped in thinking about money first, which is only natural, especially if they’re just starting out. However, if money is the main driving force for you as an entrepreneur, you are bound to fail in your endeavors.

Putting money first means that you are bound to cut corners and think only about the bottom line. You will focus on the end goal and forget about all the steps it takes for you to establish a successful brand.

Instead, focus on what you can provide to your customers and what your unique proposition is. If you have a great product or provide a great service, with hard work money will come naturally.

9. Empathy

Related to our previous point, you can only provide true value to your customers if you have a strong sense of empathy. Some would say this is more of an innate talent than a skill you can attain as an entrepreneur, but it can and should be learned.

The ability to empathize as an entrepreneur means putting yourself in the shoes of your target audience and thinking about how to solve their problems, identify their obstacles and goals and think with a customer-first approach.

In fact, a lack of empathy can hurt your business so much to the point where it can completely fail. Many startups have gone down the drain because their target market simply could not believe that the company cares for them and wants to provide genuine solutions to their problems.

10. Being authentic

Authenticity naturally links to empathy. More of a sophisticated skill, being authentic means being true to what you say and walking the walk. In other words, saying that you care and want to provide value for your customers won’t mean much if you don’t actually show it in your actions.

With so much focus on social media presence nowadays, it is fairly easy for customers to see if a brand is not authentic and true to themselves. This is why you should use your social media channels to nurture connections with your customer base. What’s more, seize every possible opportunity to genuinely connect with your customers and establish a relationship.

If you’ve decided that becoming an entrepreneur is a path you want to pursue, these are some of the major skills you need to help you on your way. Don’t let this list discourage you – becoming an entrepreneur is no easy feat, and few can achieve excellence. Note that these skills can be taught and improved upon, and that success will come with hard work and dedication.


This article by Mile Zivkovic was originally published on Honeybook.com

About the Author:

Mile Zivkovic

Mile Živković is a content writer and work-life balance expert at Chanty  – a simple and AI-powered Slack alternative. When Mile isn’t busy writing epic posts on productivity, work-life balance and time management for Chanty blog, he’s probably driving somewhere. His hobbies include cars (huge fan of Alfa Romeo), photography and collecting pocket knives. You can catch him on LinkedIn.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

With over 100 million startups opening each year, it is becoming critical for new businesses to improve their online visibility and stand out among their competitors. In the digital era, the basic rule for business success is to effectively use SEO to engage customers, establish your brand, and drive profitability.

In this post, I’ll discuss some basic, but effective SEO tips that will maximize your startup’s visibility and connect you with your target audience.

  • Know Your Audience
  • Optimize Your Website with What Customers Are Looking for
  • Utilize Social Websites and Social Media
  • Your Blog Page Is a Star
  • Leverage Free SEO Tools

1. Know Your Audience

Most businesses assume that SEO comprises preset rules and standard techniques. However, the fact is that your firm’s SEO efforts largely depend on how well you know your audience.

Which industry are you in? Which SEO strategies are your top competitors using to engage audience? Where does your target audience spend most of its time? Which social platform are they active on? How much time do they spend on their smart device? The answers to these questions will help you create and optimize a tailored SEO strategy for your new venture.

More than half of the world’s population is active online looking for solutions to their day-to-day issues, expressing their opinions, and making decisions. Therefore, it is critical to identify your audience’s unique traits, online behavior, and preferences.

Internet Users Worldwide

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For instance, if you are an online yoga instructor, 80% of your time should be spent on understanding where your audience is likely to find you and take an action in your favour (sign up for the yoga retreat or recommend others).

If you are targeting health-conscious customers, chances are you may find them on health and nutrition tracking apps, fitness blogs, or social media sites. Engaging your audience through these channels will strengthen your brand visibility. Set up your listing in various online directories like Google My Business, Yelp for Business Owners, Bing, and Yoga Trail, enabling your customers to find you.

2. Optimize Your Website with What Customers Are Looking for

Once you have defined your target audience, it is necessary to pinpoint what they are looking for. Here, you need to consider two critical areas: what your audience is searching for and how they are conducting the search.

Study the user’s intent behind typing a particular keyword. For instance, your user initially searches for “musical instruments seller,” however, you eventually discover keyword variations like “musical instruments for sale” or “local musical instruments shop.” Incorporating each of these variations will boost your startup’s SERP ranking.

It is a good idea to do some solid keyword research and design your website in a way that it lands your audience on what they are looking for (your webpage or blog).

Once the searchers are directed to your website or mobile application, your ultimate goal should be to offer an amazing user experience (UX). Firstly, is your website mobile-friendly? With people spending an average of six hours per day on smart devices like mobiles and tablets, it is pertinent that businesses use Responsive Web Design to cater to various device types, thereby improving the user experience.

Users typically take 0.05 seconds to decide whether or not to stay on your site. What’s more, nearly 60% of searches on the internet come from mobile devices. Thus, in order to optimize your SEO efforts, you should leverage responsive web app development.

Focus on user experience to improve the site speed and ensure ease of navigation, thereby converting the clicks into conversions. Browse through the top UX design websites to learn how you can use the best illustrations, user interface, and branding to engage your audience.

3. Utilize Social Websites and Social Media

In 2017, 71% of internet users had an active social media account and this figure has only grown since then. The ever-increasing social network penetration is making it imperative for businesses to stay active on these platforms to engage their target audience and drive conversions.

Social Media Users

Image Source Statista

StumbleUpon (now Mix) is one such social networking website that categorizes and recommends tailored content to users based on their personal tastes and interests. Thus, if a user has liked your webpage, it gets added into the StumbleUpon lineup and is featured to other users who are randomly searching on a specific topic using the Stumble button. Submitting your site to StumbleUpon can help you improve your social following and brand awareness.

Social media sites possess the largest demographics globally, making it critical for businesses to build a massive following on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and, Snapchat, among other platforms.

Popular Social Networks -SEO

Image Source Statista

People aren’t merely interacting on these social platforms, they are using them to make purchasing decisions and recommend a product or service to their friends. Did you know that 70% of B2C marketers have acquired their customers through Facebook? That’s the power of staying active on social networking platforms.

4. Your Blog Page Is a Star

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 80% of B2B marketers and 75 percent of B2C marketers include blogging in their current marketing strategies. Devising an effective content marketing strategy for your blog can help you retain loyal customers, attract qualified leads, promote your brand, and nurture customer relationships.

The content presented to the target audience should be relevant, insightful, and value-adding. Serving your audience with the content they are looking for on Google is a sure way of getting their attention and engaging them on your website.

In order to improve your startup’s visibility, share knowledge, advice, or entertainment in consumable formats like blog articles, videos, podcasts, emails, infographics, and webinars. When you share informative content on your blog, you come across as a domain expert, thereby increasing your website traffic and generating conversions.

5. Leverage Free SEO Tools

If yours is a young startup, you will need to conduct keyword research, analyze competitor performance, track traffic and conversion trends for your site, and assess the performance of your content marketing strategy. However, technology has made it possible to effortlessly measure new business success with several effective and free SEO tools.

SEO tools, such as Google Analytics, Google PageSpeed Insights, Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, and Ahrefs can help you create a strong online presence without spending a dime. Another free SEO tool, SEO Minion is an amazing Google Chrome extension that analyzes on-page SEO, checks broken links and redirects, simulates multi-location SERP, and improves the CTR by boosting your site’s search engine ranking.

These SEO tools can help you gain organic traffic and nail the SERP ranking with the least marketing budget.

With the world going digital, new ventures heavily depend on fresh and organic traffic to stand out from the competition and drive business profits. Building your startup’s visibility allows potential customers to know about your products/services and helps strengthen your online brand reputation.

SEO has been a key marketing tool used by startups to thrive in today’s competitive business environment. Use the effective SEO tips shared in this post to improve your brand performance and conversions.


This article by Jaykishan Panchal was previously published on Smallbizdaily.com

About the Author:

Jaykishan Panchal is an SEO & Content Marketing Manager at E2M Solutions Inc. and implements cutting edge SEO strategies to help businesses strengthen their online presence. Apart from helping small and big businesses he loves to jot down valuable resources for Entrepreneurs, Start Ups, and Technology Geeks.


Featured Image Credits: Pixabay

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