Streamlining Your Bookkeeping Process: Tools for Small Business

Whether you’ve been running your small business for years or are just opening up shop, efficient operations are the key to business success. When it comes to bookkeeping, it’s vital you run a smooth operation that gives you timely, reliable results. Bookkeeping tasks includes setting up accounts, entering transaction data, generating reports and preparing tax returns. It is the key part of your accounting system, including invoicing, bill payment, banking, inventory management and payroll. We’ve assembled here a short prescription for streamlining your bookkeeping process and have included a list of bookkeeping tools to boost your efficiency.

Five Keys to Efficient Bookkeeping

Even minor improvements can have a major impact on your business’ efficiency. Here are five:

  1. Establish or review your system:

    If you are just now organizing your business, you will need to have a detailed bookkeeping system in place from the very start. It starts with basic tasks, such as entering your receivables and payables as soon as you can — don’t let invoices or checks pile up on a desk, as it’s all too easy for something to fall through the cracks. Review your chart of accounts to ensure its properly set up and capturing all the information you need. Establish training materials in case you change bookkeepers, as this will save much time should the need arise.

  2. Maintain your pace:

    As we just touched upon, you should never fall behind on your bookkeeping. Even a delay of a few days can snowball into bigger problems. Errors often occur when you have to play catch-up. For example, your inventory system might fail to reflect orders placed if you haven’t yet entered the data into the system. It’s wise to have at least one “backup” bookkeeper who can step in when the primary one is away.

  3. Contract with a CPA:

    You probably don’t need a full-time CPA on staff, but that shouldn’t stop you from hiring one as a part-time consultant. CPAs can ensure your books are being kept correctly. You’ll probably have the CPA prepare your tax returns and answer any questions that come up. And in a pinch, your CPA can temporarily maintain your books if you need to find a new bookkeeper.

  4. Keep receipts:

    It’s such a cliché, but nonetheless true. If you don’t keep, organize, and record your receipts, your business will likely slow down as you search for purchase information from weeks or months before. Consider digitizing each receipt, and in any event, set up a filing system that ensures you can find a receipt when you need it.

  5. Use the best tools:

    It goes without saying that, in 2019, very few businesses are run using a paper-based accounting system. Since everyone automates, it makes sense to choose the systems and tools that have impressed the experts and other users. Don’t worry, you don’t have to pay thousands to get a basic accounting package. In fact, some good ones are free! Keep reading to see some expert recommendations.

Tools for Efficient Bookkeeping

The most valuable business tool is your accounting system. If you are a small company, consider getting a modular system with separate packages for basic bookkeeping, invoicing, inventory, payroll and so forth. Here are some noteworthy systems to consider:

  1. Wave:

    This is a top-rated free accounting system with more than 1.5 million users around the world. It’s a cloud-based system accessible anywhere you can establish an internet connection. It has impressive functionality, including invoicing, receipt management and banking. The only cost is a processing fee for online payments.

  2. Sage Accounting:

    Perfect for self-employed business owners who need a simple system that can be upgraded as your business grows. Prices start as low as $10/month.

  3. FreshBooks:

    A powerful accounting system that integrates most accounting features and interfaces with popular CRM and customer service apps. Prices start at $19.95 per month.

  4. Others:

    Many other accounting systems also perform well, including QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage 300 Cloud and Sighted. If you need a payroll package, consider WagePoint, Gusto and SurePayroll. For tracking time and expenses, look at TSheets, Expensify and Neat.

Take the time to get your bookkeeping right from the start and you’ll save countless hours on error correction and rework. Your business will save money and you’ll have one less thing to worry about.

The Best Tech Tools Entrepreneurs Recommend to Boost Business Productivity

As an entrepreneur or small business owner, it’s important to make sure you’re covering all areas of business in the most effective way possible. While you’ll have different priorities at different times, your accounting department is just as important as your customer service department. Each cog is vital in running a smooth and effective machine.

However, as a small business, the chances are you’re doing a lot of these processes yourself, but thanks to the modern age, there are plenty of tools out there to help you get things done correctly while maximizing productivity. This means apps!

Today, we’re going to look at a selection of some of the best apps and tools out there that can help you get every job in your business done to the best of your ability.

QuickBooks

As we mentioned above, accounting is a crucial department you’ll want to make sure you’re nailing in your small business. Get it wrong, even on the tiniest mistake, and this can have huge consequences for your business, especially from a legal standpoint.

Fortunately, the QuickBooks app makes it easy for you to load up and connect your bank accounts to easily keep track of all your finances and get the facts spot on.

Square

Being able to take mobile and card payments as a business is essential when it comes to maximizing your revenue and providing your customers with the best experience possible. Square is an excellent solution for making sure you have all bases covered.

ZenDesk

As above, the level of customer service you offer is essential because this is what people are going to think of your business and will make or break as to whether they recommend you or never come back. ZenDesk makes it easy to offer fantastic customer service from your computer or mobile.

Toggl

When running a small business, it’s easy to get caught up with tasks, and you end up spending way more, or way less, time than you originally planned. Toggl is a free time tracking app that can help you keep on top of things and spending your time and energy in the right places.

Evernote

Every entrepreneurial tool list will mention Evernote, and that’s simply because it’s so effective at what it does and brings so many benefits to small business. “From jotting down notes and ideas for the future to keeping track of employee hours and orders, Evernote can be whatever you want it to be” shares Nina Harper, a business blogger for WriteMYX and Brit Student.

MailChimp

Marketing your business is an essential process you need to go through to get your business out into the world, and one of the best ways to market is through email marketing. MailChimp makes it easy to manage and create your email marketing campaigns, and you can get started for free up to 5,000 people!

HootSuite

Hand in hand with the marketing point above, you’re going to want to market your business on social media to get it out to the masses. While there are plenty of options to choose from, Hootsuite is a great way to manage all your accounts in one simple place.

There are all the features you could need, including post creation and scheduling to answering comments and managing the accounts you follow. Hootsuite, available on desktop and mobile devices, really does have it all.

WordPress

Every business needs a website to be an online HQ for the company, but this can be expensive and complicated if you have no experience in it. “However, WordPress is designed to alleviate these troubles and make it easy for anybody to set up a professional website in no time at all” explains Sarah Coombes, a writer for Next Coursework and 1Day2Write.

Through WordPress, you can manage everything from the theme and design of your website to the blog post and content you’re creating. Everything; all in one place.

Slack

Slack is an instant messaging platform designed to help you and your team communicate in the most integrated and effective way. Slack ensures your team can sign into their workspaces from anywhere to stay in touch and maximize productivity.

Slack is available on all devices, and with the ability to set up an infinite number of channels, which could be dedicated to different projects, different clients, or different departments, it’s easy to stay organized and one step ahead of the game.

Guest Post: About the Author

Emily Marchant is a marketing manager at Academic brits and Origin writings. She is responsible for renewing and retaining existing subscribers through campaigns that involve newsletters, sponsored content, partnerships, ads and events. An excellent project manager and a team player, and a blog contributor at Phd Kingdom.

Spring Cleaning for Your Business: Tackle These Tasks

Spring is a time of rebirth and new beginnings, and it’s not just for nature or your closet. Your business can greatly benefit from a spring cleaning to clear out the old, and streamline the new. What tasks can you tackle that can help you run a more productive and profitable company? Below are some examples for your inspiration:

Digitize

With more and more technological advances coming out daily, it is surprising that many people are still using outdated paper processes to manage their business operations. The spring is an excellent time to review how you handle your billing, filing and communication, and find more innovative and efficient ways of optimizing them.

For example, using filing cabinets to store paper files is extremely inefficient for multiple reasons—it takes up a lot of space, it is time-consuming to put away and find needed documents and it exposes your sensitive information to theft or fire. A better way to clean up your documents is to use a virtual file storage system where you can scan information and store it in a digital cloud. This way, you can access your documents from anywhere at anytime, and implement cybersecurity to protect this information. Click here to read reviews and pricing for digital filing tools.

Hold an Innovation Contest

Entrepreneurs on the hit show Shark Tank are always questioning old processes or products and finding better ways of improving them. Most of us get so preoccupied with our daily tasks that we forget to question standard processes to see how they can be optimized to be more efficient.

Now is the time to create an innovation contest, urging employees to find creative solutions for existing operations. By motivating your colleagues to think outside of the box and have a safe space to suggest an idea, no matter how crazy or silly it may sound, you can pinpoint great ideas you can implement throughout the rest of the year.

Reinvent Traditional Meetings

Did you know that 6 out of every 10 meetings are over an hour long? That means that you are wasting at least 1/8th of your day that can be spent on other, more pressing activities. While  interaction with your employees is imperative, try to reinvent traditional meetings to make them more productive and faster.

Did you know that meetings up to 18 minutes long are able to capture the concentration of attendees the best; after that, they start getting bored and distracted?

Instead of having a large interdepartmental meeting every week, why not create micro meetings that last 10 minutes or less with only the people that are directly involved? This way, you can allow colleagues that do not need be part of the conversation the opportunity to work on other tasks instead of sitting by idly wasting time.

Commit to a New Project

There are many projects that you likely have in mind, but have been hesitant to implement due to a lack of resources. Whether it is a new marketing campaign or research and development for a new product, spring is the time to commit to a new project that can grow your business.

Creating a new annual goal that can help you beat the competition and take over your niche market is imperative to stay relevant in your space. If you do not have the financial resources to invest in this task, IOU Financial is here to help. We work with small businesses to finance up to $500,000 in small business loans in as little as 24-48 Hours. Click here to contact us and learn more.

Make Your Business More Efficient With These Stunning Tips

Running a profitable business is everything but simple. A study shows that more than 540 thousand new companies are launched each month, but a staggering portion (50%) of small businesses fail within two years.

It’s obviously not so easy to start a company and keep it productive in the long-term perspective, but what can you do to prevent failure and make your team more efficient? There are tons of tricks and tactics to use here, but some of them prove to be more fruitful than others.

In this post, we will show you seven ways to make your organization super successful. Let’s take a look!

1.   Determine Business Goals

As an entrepreneur, you must have some goals that you are trying to reach. The ultimate objective is, of course, revenue generation, but this should never be the one and only business goal. On the contrary, you can only achieve it if you previously fulfill all other preconditions.

What you want to achieve depends on the nature of your business, but most companies are trying to hit the following targets:

  • Traffic increase: One of the first objectives is to raise awareness by attracting more people to visit your website.
  • Customer retention: Perhaps your goal is to build a larger base of loyal consumers.
  • Improve customer service: Customer service is an important brand differentiator, which is why you should try to improve the overall level of consumer satisfaction.
  • Lead generation: A lot of companies are trying to generate verified leads.
  • Drive conversions: Finally, you want to convince prospects to convert.

2.   Customer Service

We already mentioned that customer service is a critical part of every organization – and for good reason. According to the research, more than half of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of a poor customer service experience.

In such circumstances, you cannot afford to neglect this segment of your business. Customer service agents have to be knowledgeable and polite, answering clients’ inquiries in a timely manner. Besides that, chatbot technology made a massive breakthrough in the last few years, so we strongly recommend you to consider adding it to your customer service portfolio.

3.   Choose Marketing Channels Wisely

Small businesses should choose their marketing channels very carefully. You probably don’t have too much money to spend on brand promotion, so you better find the most productive and cost-efficient ways to tell the world about your company.

This is where digital marketing steps in to save your day. Namely, content creation costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about three times as many leads. The best thing about it is that you can distribute pretty much the same types of content through different channels, including social media, a website, email newsletters, and so on.

Digital marketing is amazing because it allows you to reach global audiences almost instantly, but you don’t even have to spend the budget on it. If you are able to create outstanding content week after week, you can earn higher search engine ranking organically and enjoy the privilege of forming a wide fan base.

4.   Make Use of Local SEO

Do you know that 46% of all searches on Google look for local information, while 70% of customers visit a store based on information found online? More and more users conduct “near me” searches, so you should exploit this fact to make your physical store visible online. All you have to do is create a business accounton Google and add company-related information such as address, phone number, etc.

5.   Retain the Best Employees

Products, services, software, and devices don’t make a company. On the contrary, employees are what makes your organization so valuable and you must give all you have to retain the best workers. This is not only common sense but rather a proven fact as the cost to replace a highly-trained employee can exceed 200% of their annual salary.

How can you stop your best people from leaving the company? You can try a number of different methods:

  • We all work to make a decent living, so it’s always a good idea to give your finest employees a raise.
  • You should embrace workplace flexibility and help employees to balance between personal and professional duties.
  • Another option is to provide workers with small perks such as free snacks or gym memberships.
  • Of course, building a friendly atmosphere is a great way to improve employee retention.

6.   Leverage Online Tools

No matter what you do or how well you do it, you can always find a digital tool to speed up, automate, or improve the process. This goes for almost all areas of business as you can quickly search and find different types of online assistants. From proofreadingand case study writing service all the way to virtual surveys and collaboration software, tons of incredibly useful tools are only a few clicks away from you.

7.   Analyze Achievements

We begin and end this list with your business goals. While the first part was dedicated to goal-setting, the last one is all about measuring the results of your professional activities. Key performance indicators (KPIs) must follow the goals you set because it’s the only way to determine whether you are doing the right thing or not.

As soon as you notice that something is not functioning the way you planned, you should change it or remove it completely. Of course, business analytics is not a one-time process, which means you have to do it regularly in order to maximize the productivity of your organization.

Conclusion

Small businesses depend on hard work and strategic planning, so you’ll have to invest a lot of time and efforts into making your company profitable. We can name dozens of interesting solutions on how to improve your organization, but there are only a few mechanisms that can guarantee excellent results both short- and long-term.

In this post, we presented you with seven ways to make your business more efficient. Make sure to remember our tips and let us know in comments if you have any other ideas to share with our readers – we would be glad to read it!

Guest Post: About the Author

Jacob Dillon is an editor and journalist at EssaysOnTime. The best way for Jacob to express himself is to write. Being passionate about what he does, Jacob likes to discuss stirring events as well as express his opinion about technological advancements and evolution of society. Find Jacob on Twitter and Facebook.

Are You Overpaying Your Business Expenses?

Running a small business is a costly undertaking in terms of time, effort and money. Unfortunately, too many businesses spend too much on their expenses. This eats into your working capital unnecessarily, possibly crimping your flexibility and your ability to take advantage of opportunities as they appear. Let’s look at some expenses for which many owners overpay.

Credit card processing:

As your business grows, so does your credit card volume. Have you asked for a quantity discount on your credit card processing fees? This is an extremely competitive market — shop around and you might find much better deals.

Design instead of content:

Your website is a tremendous lead generator. A problem surfaces when owners lavish too much money on design without paying enough attention to content. Your search results will improve if you populate your website with timely, authoritative content. While fancy design is fine, it won’t improve your Page Rank, and it can be expensive to create and maintain. Spend that money instead on quality writing and search engine optimization.

Oversized office:

Rent is expensive. Are you paying for space you don’t really need? Have you filled your office with expensive furniture and equipment? Many businesses can function in smaller spaces or even in a home office. The latter is a great option because it gives you a tax deduction without additional expense, eliminates your commute time (saving money on gasoline), and perhaps reduces your wardrobe costs.

Inefficient employees:

You might spend more on labor than any other expense. Inefficient employees are costly because you are not getting your money’s worth and you might even overstaff to compensate for some bad apples. There are ways to quantify how much an employee is returning to the business. Good employees should return 5 to 10 times what you pay them. If your employees are underperforming, replace them with better ones (even if they cost more) or use contractors instead.

Unproductive advertising:

Do you know your marketing return on investment (ROI)? If not, you don’t have a handle on how your marketing efforts are performing. Many businesses spend a lot of advertising dollars on Google and Facebook. These media sites can provide extensive information about your marketing ROI, but it goes to waste if you don’t use it.

Using paper:

OK, its 2019. Aren’t you ashamed you still haven’t gone paperless? If you had invested in a paperless office, you’d be saving a small fortune on printing and photocopying costs. Plus, don’t you want to save the trees?

Unnecessary travel:

Some transactions require in-person interaction. But does that really pertain to your business? Consider the costs of travel, hotel, meals and entertainment. Chances are you aren’t getting a good return on these expenses. Your time might be better spent conducting your business on Skype, and you’ll save a fortune.

Living the louche life:

You are a business owner, not a superhero. If you burn the candle at both ends, you’ll get burnt. Guard your health by avoiding too many nights entertaining customers, vendors and employees. Your tab will be substantial, and your health might suffer. Sure, you can probably charge off your entertainment expenses, but you may pay in other ways.

Failure to grab opportunities:

In the penny-wise and pound-foolish department, false economies can cost you in the long run. For instance, you might be offered inventory or raw materials at a discount, but you don’t make the purchase because you don’t want to borrow the funds you need. This behavior can stymie growth. The lesson is to use borrowing intelligently. If you don’t, you can be certain your competitors will.

These are just a few of the many ways you can cut waste and increase efficiency. Should you need to beef up your working capital, contact us at IOU Financial for business loans that are easy to get and easy to repay.

Designing Mobile Websites for Voice Search & Why Is It Important?

If you want to get an edge over the competition, you need to utilize every tool you can get. Some tools push you forward, others don’t let you stagnate. An example of the latter is mobile optimization. Before it was a bonus if your website was optimized for mobile. Now, however, it’s practically expected. Customers will be annoyed if they visit an unoptimized, mobile-unfriendly website. This is further exacerbated by the fact that most people do their browsing with their phones anyway.

But, a new and relevant trend now is optimizing your websites for voice search. If done properly, it can really make a difference. Read how and why below.

Why it matters

Beside the fact we mentioned (namely, getting every edge you can), there are reports that web browsing using voice search is growing steadily. This is due to the appearance of more, and higher quality, gadgets, and elements that utilize voice search. We all know about Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Cortana, Alexa… Everybody sees the potential utility and futuristic aspects of using voice search.

So, why does it matter? Because if you properly set everything up, having good voice search functionality will get you more traffic. It also improves your SEO, because people get their answers faster. This speed mitigates high bounce rates and other negative signals that influence your rankings.

But, how to actually optimize properly?

Implement locations within your content

The aspect of localized SEO can get you much better results than simply focusing on every search engine optimization elements equally. And while we do believe that you should have proper SEO done for your website, know that there is only so much you can do if you go too general. Focusing on improving your localized SEO, on the other hand, will give you better results, especially if your company localizes its business dealings to your region. Now, this all matters for voice search in that there are reports stating that almost half of all voice searches are done for local businesses.

So, here is what you should do. Include the name of your city into your metadata and into your content. Use certain phrases, words, and images that are specific to your region. Remember to tag all your images and videos appropriately, placing the name of your region within. Provide audio transcripts for your videos if said videos contain relevant localized SEO keywords.

Use callouts

You want your content and SEO to be as organic as possible. The point you should be moving towards is setting up the content within your website to sound more like a conversation, than a robotic one-sided monologue. To do this, one of the steps that you need to consider is figuring out what questions your potential clients may ask. Either use certain tools, like Answer the Public or just check Google Analytics data and Keyword Finder.

When you figure out the questions, you obviously need to answer them. The answer themselves can be placed in featured boxes within relevant pages on your website. If done properly, these answers can show up in featured snippets, attracting users even more.

You can always delegate these kinds of tasks to one of your employees. However, this can draw away valuable manpower, resources, and time from some other obligations. Another option is contacting a company like Hoppingmad Website design, that will take on the entire task of setting a website up, requiring only minimal input and time investments on your part.

This all is similar to regular SEO – figure out what the potential client is thinking, and implement it. The difference here is that you want it to be more customized towards voice search.

Common query answer locations are vital

You want to provide your potential clients with information right away. It’s pretty obvious that people want to get what they need as soon as possible, especially if they are using voice search. And this isn’t just about getting content, but also about finding your company, and what you are about, quickly. They want to find out your address, make a reservation, get info on what you offer…

For this reason, you want to place this relevant information at the top of your navigation bar. You want to put in the navigation bar, or in the header. For example, let’s say an individual wants to reserve an appointment with you or your company’s official. Furthermore, let’s say you offer stock market consulting services. They may use voice chat to search for “stock market consultations Brisbane”. If you set up your location properly (see above), and if you have this phrase somewhere at the top of your page, or in your header or title, you increase your chances greatly of being found.

Setting up “Google My Business” can also improve your odds. Register your company properly, fill in all the information that is required of you, and you will definitely see results. The reasons for this is that “Google My Business” gives you an easy and structured system to improve your Google rankings.

Conclusion

Voice search is the future. It’s simple, convenient, and gets the job done. Trying to get the best results with minimal input and investment is an intrinsic part of human nature, and voice search plays directly onto that. So, remember to take care of where you put the most common answers relevant to your business. Try to get proper localized SEO up and running, and use proper callouts.

Guest Post: About the Author

Nick is a blogger and a marketing expert currently engaged on projects for Media Gurus, an Australian business, and marketing resource. He is an aspiring street artist and does Audio/Video editing as a hobby.

How to Reward Employees Without Breaking the Bank

Us humans are driven by incentive, and modern leaders understand the importance of rewarding high-performing employees. While typical ways of doing so include bonuses and pay raises, oftentimes small business owners can’t afford to reward their employees monetarily. If you are in the start-up phase of growing your business, you don’t have to forego rewarding your staff members; instead you just need to get creative in rewarding them without breaking the bank.

4 Great Ways to Reward Your Employees Without Money

Simple Recognition

If you want to make your employees feel appreciated, oftentimes all it takes is to voice your  gratitude. If one of the members of your team just turned in a well-researched project, or another one handled a customer service issue in an appropriate manner, simply acknowledging their efforts and saying thank you can be enough of a reward for your employees.

If you want to take your appreciation a step further, you can send out a departmental or company-wide email recognizing the efforts of one of the staff members. Alternatively, you can set up an “Employee of the Month Program” where you choose one employee who has gone above and beyond that month.

Although none of these initiatives will cost your company one penny, they will make your employees feel noticed and appreciated for their efforts, and will encourage others to some friendly competition for recognition.

Time with the Boss

Most bosses are incredibly busy, and don’t have a lot of individual time to dedicate to each of their team members. However, it is extremely important to your employees to spend that time with you, which will help you create a meaningful relationship and a bond that will encourage them to be loyal to your organization.

One way to reward your employees is to dedicate some one-on-one time to a different high achiever on a weekly basis. You can take this person out to lunch; but if this is not within your budget, you can simply take a walk together or even meet in your office.

Dedicating this time to your employee will show them that you care about them, their thoughts and opinions and plans for the future. Make sure to spend that time focusing on the employee; however. This can be a time for mentoring or giving valuable advice that can help them grow in their positions.

Best Parking Spot

Parking is a hot commodity in many metropolitan areas, and many employees need to pay for their own spot, park far away or forgo driving to work altogether. As a reward for a top-performing employee, why not give them the best parking spot your company has? Even if you only have one dedicated spot that you use, that could be a great incentive for your employees that will not cost you a dime.

Ask Them

If you’re not sure what is the best way to reward your employee, why don’t you ask them about what they prefer? Some may choose a paid day off, while another one may want to reassign a project that they’re not interested in on another colleague. Within reason, letting your employees choose their own rewards will make them feel valued and important.

If your employees have truly gone above and beyond and have shown how much they are committed to the team, you may consider investing in giving them financial rewards. After all, that is a way to stay competitive within your industry and keep your employees loyal to your company.

IOU Financial is dedicated to helping you with this goal. Contact us today to find out about our quick and easy small business loans of up to $500,000.

 

Printing Marketing Collateral on a Budget: Tips, Tricks & More

You own a small business and you need printed marketing collateral. You have some great ideas for your business cards, flyers, brochures, and other materials, but there is just one problem: You are working with a very limited budget. Many business owners have faced this dilemma, so you certainly are not alone. The good news? You don’t have to have a million-dollar budget to create printed marketing materials that are both eye-catching and effective.

Whether you are a restaurant owner in need of new menus, a boutique owner in need of new signs for your displays, or a photographer in need of new postcards for your direct mail marketing campaign, you can save yourself a lot of money on the materials you need by printing them yourself.

Today’s printers—even many of the budget-friendly models—are capable of producing an impressive output. Whether you are working with a top-of-the-line laser printer or you have a simple desktop inkjet printer, you can make your own marketing materials at a fraction of the cost of hiring a pro. Here are a few tips and tricks for printing your own marketing collateral on a budget.

Keep It Simple

When you plan on printing your own marketing materials, it is best to keep them simple. This is especially true when you are designing your own materials without past design experience. If you use too many fonts, colors, or images, you risk creating collateral that is confusing or has a negative impact on your marketing strategy.

Keeping your design simple is the best way to ensure that your marketing collateral will look great and convey a clear message. If you are not confident in your ability to create an eye-catching design, there are plenty of affordable graphic designers on sites like Fiverr. Hiring a freelancer who is just starting out is a great way to get an amazing logo or a design for your marketing materials without spending a fortune.

Use the Right Paper

There are several different types of paper, and it is important to choose something that is well-suited to your project. You should also purchase high-quality paper stock to ensure that your collateral both looks and feels good. The quality of the paper you choose can create a lasting impression. The higher the quality, the better the impression you will make. If you use low-quality paper, you could create a negative perception of your brand, and that is the last thing you want your marketing materials to do.

Buy the Right Printer

The printer you use is just as important as the paper you are printing on if not more important. While you probably already have a printer, it may not be the best one for printing your own marketing collateral. Even if you are working with an extremely limited budget, purchasing a good printer is a worthwhile investment. Keep in mind that some printers do a great job of printing high-resolution photographs and graphics while others are perfect for producing text documents. Think carefully about what your marketing collateral looks like and what you need your printer to do.

For most businesses, an inkjet printer is a must-have when printing marketing collateral. They do a much better job of printing in color than laser printers, and they require a much smaller upfront investment. You may want to consider choosing a printer that uses pigment-based ink rather than dye-based ink. While cheaper, dye-based ink tends to fade faster, so it is not the best choice for creating marketing materials that last. Canon inkjet printers offer exceptional quality at reasonable prices.

Use the Right Ink

Purchasing ink that is designed to fit in your printer is, of course, vital. You may not have realized, though, that there are different types of ink that are intended for different projects. When you are printing marketing materials, your primary goal should be ensuring that each piece comes out looking crisp and perfect. To achieve this goal, you need to use the right ink. For starters, use OEM ink cartridges or remanufactured ink cartridges from a reputable manufacturer. Compatible ink cartridges are often acceptable, too, but you need to be careful when purchasing them. Read reviews and make sure the ones you purchase are sold by a third-party company that you can trust.

Adjust Your Printer Settings

Most printers have several settings that can be adjusted to ensure the best possible quality. Many devices allow you to quickly select between low-quality and high-quality output. While this is a good place to start, there are other settings that you need to pay attention to.

Select the type of paper you are using. This enables your printer to create the best quality output whether you are using plain printer paper, glossy paper, matte paper, etc. Also, select the correct size for the paper you are using. By doing this, you are ensuring that your printer can properly scale your design to fit on the paper you are using.

Do Test Prints

Before you set your printer to print a few hundred flyers, postcards, or any other type of marketing material, be sure to do a test print. While your design may look great on your computer screen, it may look totally different when your printer spits it out. Doing a test print provides an opportunity to find and correct any issues prior to running an entire stack of high-quality paper through your printer and wasting it. When you are working on a limited budget, the last thing you want to do is waste your materials.

Conclusion

Printing your own marketing collateral is a good way to save yourself a bundle and, thanks to the quality of today’s printers, it’s a project that anyone can tackle. With the right ink, printer, and paper, you can create business cards, postcards, flyers, brochures, and other materials that rival the quality of professionally printed documents at a fraction of the cost.

Guest Post: About the Author

Tania Longeau serves as the Head of Services for InkJet Superstore. Tania oversees a team of Operations and Customer Service Reps from the Los Angeles headquarters. Before joining InkJet Superstore, Tania was a team leader and supervisor working for one of the biggest mortgage and real estate companies in the country. She is a happily married mother of one who enjoys spending time with her family and reading in her leisure hours.

Small Business Tax Deductions You Should Know About

2019 continues the new tax regime passed two years ago that proved so friendly to business. The corporate tax rate now tops out at 21 percent. While that’s great for reducing your tax bill, it also means that deductions are worth less than they used to. Nonetheless, deductions help you save money and might make the difference between an overall profit and loss.

Qualified Business Income (QBI)

You can deduct up to 20 percent of your QBI from a U.S. business that operates as something other than a C Corporation. It also works for the self-employed, trusts and estates. Wage income and C Corp income do not benefit from this deduction. The deduction has certain other conditions:

  • Maximum income: Joint filers $315,000, others $157,500. Deductions above these thresholds may be limited.
  • Limit: Lesser of (20 percent QBI + 20 percent REIT dividends + 20 percent publicly traded partnership income), or (20 percent of taxable income minus net capital gains)

Bonus Depreciation

It’s back! We’re talking about 100 percent bonus depreciation that allows you to deduct the entire cost of qualifying assets with useful lifetimes up to 20 years. In addition, the cap on expensing business assets instead of depreciating them is $1 million, phasing out dollar for dollar once you place assets worth more than $2.5M into service. The universe of depreciable assets is wider, and includes lodging furnishings (refrigerators, stoves and beds), HVAC equipment, roofs, and security and alarm systems. They’ve cut farm equipment depreciation periods from seven to five years.

Business Vehicles

Bonus depreciation on business vehicles obtained after September 27, 2017 and put into service in 2018 is capped at $18,000 in year one, $16,000 in year two, $9,600 in year three, and $5,670 thereafter. If you buy a heavy pickup truck or SUV for business, you can qualify for up to 100 percent deduction in year one.

Entertainment Expenses

These generally are no longer available. But you can still deduct holiday parties. You can deduct up to 50 percent of your employees’ meals while traveling on business. The 50 percent deduction on client business meals appears to be intact, but double-check with your tax professional.

Commuter Benefits

Employers can no longer deduct transportation benefits for employees. This includes mass transit passes and parking. However, employers can deduct up to $20/month to subsidize employees who ride their bicycles to work. Alas, these bike riders will be taxed on the benefit. Employees can set aside up to $260 a month in pre-tax money to cover vanpools, mass transit passes and parking.

Net Operating Loss (NOL)

You can offset up to 80 percent of taxable income with NOL in future years. You can carry forward NOL offset indefinitely, rather than just 20 years under the old tax law. You can no longer carry back NOL.

Family Paid-Leave Credit

For 2018 and 2019, you get a tax credit for workers on paid medical or family leave. The credit amount equals 12.5 percent of the wages paid during the leave. That credit is larger when the employers pay workers on leave more than half of their normal wages. There are many strings attached to this credit, so check with your tax professional.

Cash Method of Accounting

If you are a C Corporation, you can use the cash method of accounting if your average gross receipts over the previous three years was less than $25 million. The cap used to be $5 million. This also applies to LLCs and partnerships owned by a C Corporation.

The Best News

The best news is that business loan interest is still deductible! IOU Financial will lend your business up to $500k and you can deduct every penny of interest. So why wait? Contact us today!

Smarter Offices: Tips to Automate and Update Your Workplace

What is your organization willing to do for a more efficient workforce? You can’t log on to the internet without seeing the impact of chatbots, AI or the Internet of Things (IoT) that make our devices and appliances even smarter. Some corporations are issuing Segways and microchipping employees to provide easier access to everything from building entry to snacks. Let’s take a look at what else is in store for the future.

Smart Offices Are Among Us

With technology that once seemed only the purview of sci-fi flicks, modern gadgets are now replacing the physical boundaries of traditional business with virtual pathways and surprising innovations. This phenomenon extends past the physical barriers between your company’s employees and clients; it encompasses solutions from the use of convenient websites with helpful chatbots to incorporating tech in the physical equipment of your office.

Check out these examples of a smart office:

  • Internet of Things: IoT is a network concept that can power your office with smart lights, virtual reality cameras, thermostats, speakers, and other tools to help employees feel more comfortable and concentrate better on work, even from remote locations.
  • Interconnectivity: Smart devices like relays, dimmers, and smart switches can be set up to power the office efficiently and conserve energy. Sensors detect and control UV light, temperature, and ambient light levels to operate smart windows that keep out radiation while maximizing natural light. Apps activated from wearable tech can provide instant access to Slack and similar communication-and-convenience apps so employees can order snacks or coffee from their desks.
  • Machine learning: Knowledge management and leadership tools area already taking advantage of machine learning. You can seamlessly integrate technologies that automate meeting management, file management, and interoffice communications. Employees can answer emails in a fraction of the normal time with accurate voice-to-text tools and explore other ways tech can help them concentrate on the tasks at hand.

Tech for Employees

Whether employees are looking for easier commutes or sitting/standing desks for a healthier workplace experience, there’s plenty of tech available to help make it happen. Check it out:

  • The use of standing desks and sitting/standing desks is gaining momentum in the office. When you alternate standing and sitting, you avoid back pain and remain more alert throughout the day. GeekDesk, Uplift Desk, UpDesk, VariDesk, and Humanscale are models that help employees stay healthy and productive.
  • Self-driving vehicles, like the Tesla Autopilot, are already out there. However, Volkswagen has announced plans to roll on autonomous vehicles on a much larger scale. Starting the workday while still on the commute could eliminate lost hours on the road and allow for fewer hours in the office.
  • Modern offices feature open, inviting spaces that put dark cubicles in the past where they belong and encourage collaboration and productivity.
  • Millennials and Generation Z are children of the digital era who love working with cool gadgets, like taking calls with Echo Dot, a compact speaker that connects to Google’s Alexa voice control. This kind of connectivity can help your youngest workers avoid the stress of unplugging that many of their generation suffer.
  • These young workers also use digital apps to address any task they can — for instance, calculating taxes via smartphone, warming or cooling homes remotely, or feeding pets long-distance. Make sure you’re offering digital options available to shorten workers’ wait times and to-do lists in the office.
  • Smart tools can also prevent repetitive stress injuries that cause carpal tunnel and similar conditions. Voice-activated gadgets and voice-to-text functionality embedded in office applications help reduce the amount of typing needed and give fingers a break.
  • Technology has changed conference and boardrooms, too. Many companies have implemented AI tech for conferencing that orders the tech needed for a video call with colleagues around the world, or for webinars with clients. These smart systems are self-diagnostic and can report any issues they’re experiencing as well as collect data to streamline future operations. Amazon’s Alexa for Business is a forerunner in this area, but future applications will enable workers to multitask through voice or typed commands to connect to digital tools seamlessly.

Tech for Customers

Customer and client applications will greatly benefit from the latest tech, too.

  • Customer service and client communication will also benefit from new technologies. Chromecast and Apple TV, small network appliances that can receive digital data from multiple sources, are already ideal for conferences and PowerPoint presentations. Zoom is a video call tool that only requires a 9-digit number to join.
  • Chatbots improve customers’ experience by answering simple questions on demand, collecting client information to offer personalized recommendations, and providing expanded pathways for marketing and sales.
  • Three Square Market administrates mini-markets in hospitals, hotels, and businesses. To use the market, customers have microchips implanted under their skin, which allow them to make purchases with the swipe of a finger.

Smart office tech still comes with a large price tag; however, those costs can be expected to come down, thanks to economies of scale, as more businesses join the movement. With Generation Z and millennials becoming increasingly dominant players in business and commerce, most of these trends aren’t just likely to become widely adopted — they’re inevitable. Get a head start now on improving employee and customer experiences through smart tech, and you’ll find your business in a position to thrive in the future.

Guest Post: About the Author

Laura Gayle is a full-time blogger who has ghostwritten more than 350 articles for major software companies, tech startups, and online retailers. Founder of www.BusinessWomanGuide.org, she created her site to be a trusted resource for women trying to start or grow businesses on their own terms. She has written about everything from crowdfunding and inventory management to product launches, cybersecurity trends, web analytics, and innovations in digital marketing.