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Starting Your Own Business in a Post COVID-19 World

Starting your own business can be daunting at the best of times. For young entrepreneurs who have been building plans to put their ambitions into action, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic can feel like a wrench thrown into the works. The business landscape has changed rapidly, and — in some ways — permanently.

While this almost certainly means that changes may need to be made, it doesn’t necessarily mean an end to even your loftiest enterprise ambitions. Rather, our post-COVID-19 world can offer new opportunities to design a more robust company from the ground up. Beginning your entrepreneurial journey at this time allows you to make these adjustments an integral feature of your business, rather than a crisis you have to react to.

We’re going to take a look at some areas in which entrepreneurs need to focus. What are the new options, in addition to the essential elements all start-ups needed prior to this pandemic? How can you help make certain that your new venture can not only navigate the challenges of this crisis but be prepared for those in the future?

Gathering Resources

There can be significant costs involved in starting a new business. Quite aside from employees and raw materials, there are often hidden costs such as insurance and permits. Gathering your resources during a pandemic can be especially challenging. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that even prior to the coronavirus, many startups launched with limited resources, operating out of bedrooms and basements in order to build their profiles and finances before moving on up to more traditional environments.

As a result, the last couple of decades have seen the development of resources aimed at home entrepreneurs, and are now relevant to the challenges you face in a post-COVID-19 business environment. Marketing tools such as Google Analytics and Mailchimp are accessible from anywhere in the world you happen to be and don’t necessarily need an entire marketing team to function. Similarly, the gig economy has seen the emergence of invoice payment platforms such as PayPal and Square, and Wagepoint can be used to handle your payroll needs.

You also have to acknowledge that there has been something of an investment crisis as a result of this pandemic, with some investors reluctant to commit. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean getting funding is impossible. According to a report by Startup Genome, during the last two recessions, though there were fewer dollars loaned to startups, a higher number of businesses received investment. This suggests that if you can adjust your business plans to demonstrate that your operations can be more cash efficient, you are more likely to be able to attract investors — even in economically bleak times. It may also point to the necessity of services of these funded businesses.

Online Operations

Another of the key results of the pandemic has been a shift to remote working operations. Some established businesses have struggled to adapt to this model, needing to invest additional funds into equipment, or finding that some of their employees aren’t suited to a work-from-home environment. However, by starting your business at this challenging time, you have the opportunity to build remote working into your operations as a foundational feature, and can benefit from the potential for greater productivity and lower overheads.

Begin with your search for employees. By embracing a remote culture, you have the ability to choose from a global talent pool, depending on the labor regulations in your state, and build a diverse workforce that can help you not just function but innovate. As the popularity of remote working has grown, there has also been a development in hiring platforms specifically aimed at those who have experience working remotely. AngelList, Remotive, and Working Nomads are among the most popular venues for this.

This also gives you the opportunity to source and invest in the technology and software that is optimized for remote operations from the get-go. Ensure employees have the software needed to complete tasks wherever they are and organize the workflow to utilize remote project management platforms such as Slack, Asana, or Trello. Your website also needs to be optimized to act as the storefront of your remote business. Place focus on how easy it is for the user to navigate your site and make contact with you, and thoroughly test this for any potential bugs or performance issues before going live.

Protection from Disaster

Believe it or not, there is value to be found in starting your own business during a pandemic. You have the ability to gain an insight into how various aspects of the crisis are affecting businesses the world over, where mistakes have been made, and what solutions appear to work best. This means you already have some tools to help you build disaster management into your business operations, which can help you mitigate the impact of future problems.

Young entrepreneurs starting their first businesses should already be committing to some in-depth research. Deep dives into business publications — whether popular articles on Forbes, or videos in which entrepreneurs share their experiences — can help you to also identify where the key areas of concern have been during this crisis. Many business leaders have been candid about what solutions have worked for them, and the causes of failure.

Seriously assess whether your current business plan suggests you could weather these types of challenges. Is your business agile enough to make changes at short notice? Have you diversified your supplier pool enough to continue functioning if one or more of them suddenly drop off the radar? Have you created a disaster recovery plan that considers various scenarios? This hasn’t been an easy time for any of us, but you can use it to make your business more flexible and competitive.

Conclusion

The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly served to shake the confidence of business leaders, and it can feel as though starting a new enterprise at a time of crisis can be unwise. However, you can use the tools, practices, and experiences of this difficult time to build a business that can be successful. It’s never going to be easy, but you can use this period as another resource at your disposal.

Guest Post: About the Author

Luke Smith is a writer and researcher turned blogger. Since finishing college he is trying his hand at being a freelance writer. He enjoys writing on a variety of topics but technology and digital marketing topics are his favorite. When he isn’t writing you can find him traveling, hiking, or gaming.

Unique Business Ideas for 2020 with Zero or no Investments

If you want to start a business but don’t want to invest funds now, then you have put some extra effort towards finding a special type of business plan . Guess what! Today is your lucky day – here I am going to talk about some unique and profitable business ideas where you don’t have to invest money initially or may need very little money which you may happily afford.

Generally, these small business ideas will give you diverse options to cover in the business or service industry. If you have some specialized skills in a specific subject then you should consider these below-given ideas to improve your own business.

1. A personal or virtual assistant

You may start this home-based business any time, you just need a desktop computer, or laptop, or a smartphone with few important office apps. 

You will also require an internet connection and a fixed phone number to receive calls. Initiating virtual assistant business may include services such as checking and answering emails, organizing daily appointments and to-do lists, updating schedules by interacting with clients. 

Few tasks you may need to do as a virtual assistant may include:

  • Calendar management
  • Email management
  • Travel arrangements
  • Social media promotion
  • Receiving calls
  • Audio/video editing

This service industry is getting popular day by day, as it requires minimum investment and the pay is good. Most of us have a computer and smartphone, so starting such a service is easy. 

The biggest benefit of this business is you don’t have to go anywhere to get your jobs are done, which gives you a lot more freedom. If you want to find potential clients, use websites like Upwork.com and you may choose suitable clients, preferable work hours, and your hourly, daily, or monthly pay rate. But, those websites might require a subscription to find clients for you, so it is up to you if you want to get their service or not.

2. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is quite popular these days as a small business. It includes promotional work for the products & services of other companies & websites via the world wide web. You’ll be doing the promotional work for others, and for each sale generated through you, you will earn a certain commission. 

Affiliate marketing is one of the easiest and profitable businesses to promote ones’ products and services on the internet. The best thing about this business is you don’t need your product to sell, or a big establishment to start the business. 

You need a personal computer and internet connection. Everything else you can do online to make money by selling other products.

If you own any website that you have maintained for a long time, it could be your advantage as you can use it for promoting other websites or products from other companies. You may use social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, Twitter, etc for affiliate marketing.

To become a successful affiliate marketer, you should focus on:

  • Having your website or blog
  • Maintaining your visitor statistics as proof (for clients)
  • Create profiles on social media platforms, and also on Linkedin

3. Freelance secretarial services

This is a similar concept like virtual assisting. You may provide remote secretarial services to professionals or an organization, with little to no experience. But you need some special sort of skills to get the job. They are as follows:

  • A high level of autonomy
  • Good communication skills
  • Strong organizational skills
  • Good time management

Being a freelancing secretary you may have to perform

  • Organizing calendars and handle schedules
  • Replying to emails, and forward important documents
  • Booking meetings and appointments
  • Putting together presentations
  • Answering phone calls and deal with vendors

 4. Dropshipping and selling products online

Dropshipping practically meant getting products in bulk from suppliers at lower prices and selling them to third parties or the end-user at higher prices. If you have the talent to negotiate with the vendors and stock products at lower prices, then you may start this business by reselling those products at third-party websites like Amazon, eBay, AliExpress.

To become successful in this dropshipping business, there are certain skills that you need to develop. You must work on market demand reviewing and identify products in high demand. Then you need to make contacts with the vendors who can supply you those products at discounted prices. For that, you need to research high-selling products that are on-demand on the leading e-commerce sites. This way you may assume the current trend. Once you stock the product, contact online e-commerce websites and retail sellers who can buy that product at a higher price. If you have a website, you may also sell or market your products there. This is one of the best ways to promote small businesses and make a profit

5. Content developing

You may start a content developing business if you are good with content writing such as good writing skills and knowledge about grammar. You may also work as a mentor and contact a group of good content writers, who can deliver high-quality content to your customers. This is one of the most creative and profitable ways of money-making that need very less start-up capital to initiate. 

Improving business will be easier if you also follow the tips on self-improvement. So, you also learn different, new techniques of content writing and improve yourself.

6. Electronics repairing

If you have knowledge about electronic devices and know multiple hacks to repair them, you can think of starting this business. 

You need some specific tools for repairing work. This type of business has great opportunities in the future. You may offer multiple device repairing services such as Computers, smartphones, cameras, Speakers and musical equipment, gaming devices like PS4 OR Xbox one, TVs, small gadgets, etc.

7. Graphic designing works 

You can start your own graphic designing business and deliver services to multiple IT companies. Starting from designing banners, posters, logos to designing web pages, you have much to discover. 

You may promote your design skills to small business owners or individuals. Being a promising graphic designer you have the option to join freelance websites to find suitable projects.

8. Mobile app making

The mobile app making business has flourished rapidly and has a huge potential with lots of opportunities. 2.5 billion active Android users are using different apps as per their choice. 

Today, the downloading rate of the mobile app is 30 million per day. 

So, if you have the knowledge of developing apps and you have some unique ideas in your mind, you should go for this business.

9. Interior designing

Interior design and home decorating services are quite essential to both homeowners and business owners. You must get a degree or certification before starting this business. To become a good interior designer you must know about the different functions of a home or office. 

You must also need to understand your client’s demand to optimize the space with good designs and decorations.

Guest Post: About the Author

Patricia Sanders is a professional content developer. She specializes in the financial niche and is well known for her unique financial tips that can be very effective. She always tries to help people, suffering from financial hardships, through her writing. Her continuous effort has earned her recognition and honor in the financial blogging industry. Besides writing, she loves to travel and gather information on various financial topics.

Does Your Small Business Need a Legal Team?

As with most business advice, the answer to whether or not your small business needs a legal team isn’t a straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

There’s no doubt that your business needs some form of legal aid, as trained attorneys and paralegals can help ensure that your business is legally sound. They’ll be able to spot issues in your operations that you might not have considered, and they’ll work with you to come up with solutions. But at what capacity is necessary for your business?

Legal Considerations to Keep in Mind

Picking the right legal help requires understanding the potential roadblocks you might face. So, with that in mind, here are some common legal issues for small businesses:

Business Structure
Entrepreneur cites failing to choose the right business structure as a huge issue small businesses often face. Setting your business up as a sole proprietorship versus an LLC or S Corporation has its own set of disadvantages and benefits, for example, that not many account for.

Copyright
There’s no shortage of small businesses nowadays, with new ones popping up almost every month. Protecting your name, branding, and products under copyright laws (remember that each of these is protected by different laws) allows you to differentiate from your competition.

Cybersecurity
A strong cybersecurity protocol is important in any business, especially in today’s tech-heavy world. Having lax cybersecurity policies could lead to a huge data breach, thereby slowing down operations and costing your business.

Factors you Need to Consider

With these situations in mind, here are some ways to help you choose the legal aid that suits your business best:

Understand the landscape
Many business owners shy away from seeking legal services because of the misconception that they cost lots of money. Small Business Trends’ list of low-cost legal services can be a great starting point for your business, as you’ll be able to get a quick overview of where your business needs help. Using these resources narrows down your selection of law firms that can tackle the issues that you need help with.

Set a budget
Most investments start with a budget, and seeking legal help is no different. Once you’ve surveyed the landscape, you’ll have a better price range in mind. You should also remember the different kinds of solutions available to you. A full-blown legal team costs more than a sole business lawyer, which then costs more than a quick consultancy or ad hoc team.

Keep trust in mind
You want to make sure that you trust whoever is handling your company’s legal affairs. After all, they have to know the ins and outs of your business—and they might even represent you in key meetings. An article by Special Counsel on ‘How to Choose Outside Counsel for Your Company’ points out that the best legal teams will get to know their clients on a deeper level. Firms who are worth partnering with understand the importance of cultivating a lasting relationship in order to give the best assistance. Working with someone you trust also makes it easier for you to let them into every nook and cranny of your business.

Our post on the ‘7 Ways to Avoid Financial Stress When Running a Business’ outlines that adopting shady practices can end up causing you stress in the long run. Investing in the right legal protection is exactly that—an investment—but it’s one that will save you a lot of heartache.

There are lots of factors that come into play when deciding what kind of legal aid you need. A legal team is but one of the many solutions you can adopt, so picking the right one comes from understanding the scope of your needs.

Guest Post: About the Author

Working as a business consultant for over 4 years, Alaia Catherine has found a passion in writing. Working as a freelance writer on the side, Alaia provides business advice to a variety of blogs and websites. When she isn’t writing or working, she’s trying out new restaurants with her husband near their home in Seattle.

6 Security Tips For Small Business Websites

Website security is something that matters just as much to any business with an online presence, though the reasons vary. An enterprise-level company has a huge amount to lose from a data leak — customers might desert it, and its reputation might be left in tatters. A small business, however, is trying to get established, and its website is key to that: should it become compromised, it might completely arrest any momentum and prove very costly to address.

If you’re running a small business website, then, it’s important that you commit the necessary time and attention to maintaining a reasonable level of security. Fail to manage it, and the consequences could be dire. Here are 6 simple tips for how you can keep on top of it:

Don’t leave passwords around the office

When you’re just starting out, or you just don’t have a large enough operation to feel like a viable target, it’s very easy to form bad habits when it comes to password security — even to the extent of leaving your admin passwords on sticky notes attached to PC displays. This is a really bad idea! At some point, you’re likely to want clients, business partners and/or prospective employees to visit your office, and you can’t afford to have them learn your login details.

A lot of businesses manage to get through the digitization process without truly grasping the basics of cybersecurity, so this is your opportunity to revisit the essentials. Sure, it’s unlikely that someone who sees your password notes will do anything with them — but if someone unscrupulous doestake the opportunity to access your system, they could blackmail you for money, or leak your data just to be vindictive. Don’t take the risk.

Update your plugins when possible

Whether they’re billed as plugins, extensions, apps, or add-ons (this will depend on the CMS you’re using), you can accomplish a great deal with plugins — they’re often free, and can add a huge amount of functionality to a small site without the budget to invest in custom development.

That said, every plugin you add constitutes a fresh security risk, because it has extensive access to the main system. If one of your active plugins got hacked, the hacker may well be able to take control of your entire website — and the longer you go without updating your plugins, the more vulnerable they become to attack.

You may be able to enable automatic updating, so consider that if it’s an option, but the only thing that ultimately matters is that you install updates when they’re available.

Use two-factor login authentication

Two-factor login authentication demands more than just a username and a password to gain access to a system — it adds a second step, usually in the form of a temporary verification code sent to a phone number or email address. Add it to your website, and you’ll make your admin dashboard far harder for hackers to access. Here’s a more extensive guide to give you pointers.

Use a website host you can trust

If you’re not running any enhanced ecommerce features, and using a popular platform like WordPress, then find a suitable host to back you up. If you’re an online merchant, that’s still a great option, though you should also consider hosted ecommerce platforms because they’re designed to scale: either WooCommerce or Shopify would be a great choice, the former being a self-hosted WordPress plugin and the latter being a paid SaaS option.

Make regular site backups

Over time, the amount you have invested in your website will inevitably go up. You’ll accrue valuable content that brings in traffic, resources that establish your expertise, and (eventually) a notable level of domain authority. Leaving aside the prospect of blackmail for a moment, you still have a lot to lose from a hack — namely, the current form of your website.

Imagine that someone gained access to your admin dashboard and deleted every post on your site, or even got into your hosting account and deleted the entire website. Would you be able to recover? If you get into the habit of making and storing full-site backups, then a hack — no matter how catastrophic — won’t be able to completely shut you down, because you’ll always be able to go back to a slightly-older version.

Follow industry news

Security demands change over time, and while some threats enter public awareness, many only get mentioned in industry publications. Even if you don’t understand the underlying principles (you may not be particularly technical), it’s worth following such publications, visiting them occasionally so you can scan the headlines.

In the event that you read about a new type of hack or fraudulent activity that’s making waves, you can take action to guard your website against it, and be more alert about possible signs of intrusion. Sites like ThreatPost and the TrendMicro Business Security blog are particularly worth checking out for small business owners.

These days, the website of any small business is its primary hub: its main platform for communicating with the world, promoting its wares, and driving interest. Given that importance, it makes no sense to give security short shrift. It needn’t be especially complicated to protect your site, so follow these tips, keep an eye on developments in the website security world, and you’ll have a stronger foundation for further growth.

Guest Post: About the Author

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer and campaign designer for MicroStartups, a website focused on the charity world, and microbusinesses. With years of experience in the sustainability, marketing and creative the industries, Kayleigh knows how to grow a business from the ground up. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest startup and entrepreneur-based news and tips.

Tools Bootstrapped Business Owners Will Love

The most obvious weakness that a bootstrapped business has is its lack of capital. Without investment, a business simply can’t grow. The biggest strength of a bootstrapped business? Most often, it’s the creativity and enthusiasm of the founders. By hook or by crook, they find a path to success, using their minimal resources effectively.

Tools also help. In 2018, there’s a tool for everything, and if you run a bootstrapped business, there are tools that can help you cover many things, from logo creation to organization. Let’s take a look at the best affordable tools that bootstrapped business owners will love:

Google Search Console

100% free, Google Search Consoleis a great way to monitor the performance of your website.

You can use it to gauge where search traffic is coming from, and assess what’s working and what isn’t on your website. Once you have this invaluable information, you can start to fine-tune your SEO efforts so that you drive more, high-value traffic to your website. Over time, this will boost conversions and help you grow a stronger audience.

Shopify’s Logo Maker

All businesses need a logo – a logo essentially represents the face of the brand and it’s the first thing we picture when we think of a company. Try to think of Coca-Cola without picturing the logo! Of course, creating logos can be expensive, especially if you hire a professional graphic designer.

This is where Shopify’s Logo Maker comes in. It’s a neat tool that lets you put together a creative and stunning logo or banner in a matter of minutes. For bootstrapped business owners, it’s absolutely ideal.

MailChimp

MailChimp is an email autoresponder that you’ll need once you start building your email list.

It’s free until you’ve got around 2,000 subscribers, or alternatively you can sign right up to their ‘Growing Business’ plan for $10 a month that gives you access to unlimited sending and advanced testing tools.

Email lists are important for all businesses. They’re a very cheap way of bunching our customers together in one place, and when you use a tool like MailChimp – which can segment your list so that the right customers receive the right emails – it’s super easy to build awesome relationships with people.

BuzzSumo

All online companies – no matter how big or small – produce content. But what happens when we run out of content ideas? Worse still, what if we keep pumping out content that no one wants to read? Conversions drop, as do sales. Our business loses its presence online.

BuzzSumo is a tool that resolves these problems. It analyzes the best performing content on the Internet so that you can generate better content ideas. In other words, you can use BuzzSumo to create a content marketing plan that will score you more readers. This, in turn, can improve your conversions and sales.

HootSuite

You don’t need a massive pot of gold to succeed on social media if you’ve got a tool like BuzzSumo for content ideas – and a tool like HootSuite for managing your social media channels.

Social media can easily get on top of us, which is why HootSuite was created. It comes with a 30-day free trial, links up over 35 social networks, and measures things such as trends, which posts are performing best, and what’s working and what isn’t on your platforms.

Slack

In 2018, more and more teams are remote-based. Keeping track of everyone can be tricky, especially when cash is sparse and you don’t have office space.

A tool like Slack helps to keep your team together in one, digitized space. It’s great as a  communication resource, and it helps to keep your team on track and up-to-date. It works well as a project management tool and comes with real-time messaging.

Pitcherific

Pitching isn’t easy, but it’s essential. A solid, well-crafted and compelling pitch can be the difference between you securing investment for your business and going back to the proverbial drawing board.

Pitcherific is the tool that raises your presentation to the next level so that your pitch convinces investors to do business with you.

Conclusion

Overall, bootstrapping is exciting and there are affordable and even free tools that can help you grow your business.

However, businesses ultimately live and die by cash flow. If you feel like your business could do with some extra capital right now, we at IOU Financial provide affordable small business loans to help you scale. For instant pre-approval and funding, apply now.

Guest Post: About the Author

Michelle Deery is a content writer for Heroic Search in Tulsa. She helps businesses improve their sales by writing educational and engaging content.

13 Finance Terms You Should Know as a Business Owner

Entrepreneurs bring all sorts of skill-sets to their venture, such as the ability to sell, or to organize activity, or to raise funding. Some might have a business background, but others might need to learn the ways of business while on the job. Here are 14 terms you and every entrepreneur should know, because they involve central concepts that affect your business.

Accounts receivable:

Money owed to your business by clients. Typically, you invoice a client and receive payment some time later. An account is receivable until it is paid.

Assets:

Economic resources your business owns. Current assets are items like cash, receivables and inventory. Long-term assets include equipment, buildings, vehicles, furniture and patents. You utilize assets to generate income.

Capital:

These are the total resources available to your business, and is equal to your equity and debt. Working capital is equal to current assets minus current liabilities, and represents the resources available to run day-to-day operations.

Cash flow:

The movement of money into, through and out of your business. Inflows bring in money and include collections of sales revenues, tax refunds, and interest earned. Outflows are expenditures of cash and include payment of expenses and acquisition of assets.

Depreciation:

The decrease in the value of long-term assets due to the passage of time. Depreciation is a tax-deductible expense that spans a set number of years.

Equity:

Your ownership interest in your company. It is equal to your assets minus your liabilities. Equity is evidences by stock shares distributed to owners based on their percentage of ownership.

Expenses:

The costs of running your business, including rent, salaries, legal costs, advertising, taxes paid, and utilities. A good business tries to minimize expenses while not skimping on essentials.

Financial statements:

Highly structured reports that indicate your business’ financial condition. They include the balance sheet (a snapshot of assets, liabilities and equity), income statement (revenues and expenses for a given period), and cash flow statement (inflows and outflows for a given period).

Liabilities:

Debt owed by your business. Current liabilities are due within one year and include obligations to pay credit-card balances, invoices from suppliers, taxes due, and wages earned but not yet paid. Long-term liabilities include mortgages and loans that mature in more than one year.

Losses:

Negative net income, created when your costs exceed your revenues. If you have too many losses, the chances are that your business will fail unless you have other sources of funds.

Profits:

Also called net income or the bottom line, these are revenues minus costs for a given period. Profits can be drawn off by owners or accumulated in an account called retained earnings. You can use profits to expand your company.

Revenues:

Also called gross income and sales, this is the money you earn from operations. You direct your marketing and sales activities to generate revenues.

Valuation:

A number representing how much your business is worth. Valuation is important when you are seeking funding from investors.

You don’t need to be a financial expert to have a successful business, but knowing basic financial terms will help you communicate with other stakeholders. For those wanting to broaden their knowledge, the Internet is loaded with learning resources, and many colleges offer continuing education courses that might be useful.

Building a Brand: The Basics

If you are a small business owner, you should be aware that the key to growing your business is to create a solid brand. Instead of simply concentrating on day-to-day sales, it is imperative to create a story to help your target audience connect with your business.

While you may have a hit product one day, creating a strong brand identity will help you maintain customer loyalty after the product’s life cycle has ended. Today’s customers are different than ever before; they aren’t as interested in shopping at random retailers, but want to build connections with business they know and trust.


What is a Brand?

A brand is a mix between “psychology and science brought together as a promise … Brands convey a uniform quality, credibility and experience,” according to Forbes.com.

A brand identity consists of many different factors, such as a company name, logo, slogan, marketing materials, as well as all the actions you conduct on a daily basis.

What Are the Three Basic Steps to Creating a Brand? 

 

Concentrate on Your Audience

The first step to creating a brand identity is determining who your potential clients will be; this group is your target audience. Before trying to connect with these individuals, you need to figure out who they are – their age group, location, gender, marital status, shopping trends, income, hobbies, etc. The more you know about your main customer base, the easier it will be to create a strategy to market to them.

For example, if you are developing a software to help retirees manage their retirement income, your messaging should not be as “techy” as if you would be targeting millennials. Knowing your target audience provides you with a blueprint for crafting your identity in the most strategic way to engage with your customers.

Research the Competition

In order to stay relevant in your niche market, you need to stay ahead of the competition. The way to do that is to research your competitors when creating a brand image, and continue that research on a regular basis.

It is beneficial to know who the other players in your industry are, and how they are crafting their message. In order to create a strong brand identity, you need to be able to separate yourself from competing businesses, which is why you need to know everything you can about them.

Make note of how your competitors design their websites, what products or services they sell, how they write their offering descriptions, how they market themselves, etc. If you find a problem that none of your competitors have solved yet, that will be your ticket to establishing your identity in that space.

Stay Consistent

Once you determine your target audience and research the competition, it’s time to craft your brand identity. The secret to this process is to stay consistent in all the messaging you put out about your business.

Consider Target’s clever branding – all of their advertisements, online, on TV and in store – have white backgrounds, bright colors, simple designs and their red and white logo.

Having a consistent brand identity makes it “so synonymous with your product experience that when a consumer sees your signature brand logo they are already thinking about making their next purchase from you without you even having to ask,” according to a source.


When customers feel they can rely on your company to be consistent, they are able to form emotional relationships with your business, which leads to long-term clients and a successful business!
If you want to invest into creating a strong brand identity, but need financial assistance to develop your marketing materials or hire an expert in this field, turn to IOU Financial, which has been instrumental in helping small business owners secure loans in under 24 hours!

Why Now is the Time to Move Online

If you do not yet have a business website, you should make this a priority in 2017! Not showcasing your products or services online is likely hurting your company’s bottom line, as you are losing out on potential customers around the world that may not have the ability to walk into your physical location. What are the main reasons to go online this year?

Brick-and-Mortar Locations are Declining

The reality is that e-commerce websites are quickly replacing brick-and-mortar locations. When big brands, such as Sports Authority, Staples, and Macy’s are either declaring bankruptcy or closing down stores, smaller enterprises that don’t have the same advertising budgets and funds to stay open may not fare much better. Brands such as Target and Walmart, which sell goods online as well as in physical stores, are investing funds into their e-commerce websites, which is where the majority of people are shopping.

E-Commerce Requires Less Overhead

For a brick-and-mortar to be profitable, it needs to be in a location with a lot of foot traffic; however, renting or leasing a corporate space in a popular location is expensive. It is much more cost effective to sell goods online than out of an expensive storefront.

Not having to pay rent for a retail space, as well as insurance, electricity, employee wages, etc. can leave more funds for inventory and advertising. All business owners would need is a warehouse, which is more affordable to run than a store, as well as order takers, packers, fulfillers, and shippers… saving money on paying the salaries of customer service representatives and sellers.

Furthermore, moving operations, such as supply chain management, procurement, or billing online can lead to a savings of up to 5 percent on “maintenance, repair and operation costs; this five percent savings can turn into 50% of a company’s net profit,” states The Web Doctor.

Ability to Target a Specific Audience at Lower Costs

While a physical location relies heavily on foot traffic and traditional advertising, such as television and flyers, an online website allows business owners to target who they want to advertise to.

For example, social media platform Facebook provides options to advertise to specific groups of people with 89 percent accuracy. Choose audiences based on location, demographics (age, gender, relationship status, education and employment), interests, hobbies, and behaviors.

Targeted advertising allows owners to save money and efforts by not reaching out to those that would not be interested in their services, and provides a greater return on investment (ROI) on marketing only to a specific audience base.

Online Presence is a Necessity

Companies that choose not to sell items online should still concentrate on establishing and promoting their online presence. Customers are demanding more from the businesses they patronize than a simple financial transaction. They want to learn about the brand and what it stands for. When companies are able to forge emotional attachments between their customers and their brand, they retain loyal customers.

An online presence allows business owners to share relevant company news, information about new products, as well as philanthropic initiatives – all topics that can be interesting to current and potential clients. A small investment into a corporate website can provide a new revenue stream from online buyers. If you need help financing your move online, contact IOU Financial. Our company can provide a small business loan in under 24 hours.

5 Things You Should Have Done by Your 2nd Year in Business

Congratulations. You’ve made it past the first year in business. That’s no small feat, as the Small Business Administration points out that 20 percent of small businesses fail in their first year. Sure, there are no guarantees when you open a business, and things can always change, often due to forces beyond your control. Nonetheless, you’re on your way. If you haven’t done the following 5 things by now, get moving!

  1. Stabilized Your Cash Flow: By now you’ve learned how much money you need to have come in every week to make sure you can pay your bills, buy your inventory, earn some money to live on, and so forth. If your cash flow seems wildly unpredictable, workout a revised sales and marketing plan so that you have decent estimates of your revenues if you haven’t already. You should also have a fair idea from your books and records of how much you have to spend each week, how much money you can keep in the bank, and what kind of profit margins you should expect. You need to tweak your strategy, tactics and/or operations to get your margins to where they can sustain themselves. Remember, without sufficient cash, your small business is fried.
  2. Made Plans to Expand/Optimize Your Business: You have probably learned quite a few lessons about your small business during the first year. For example, you may have realized that your original plans were overambitious or too timid relative to the market conditions and to the availability of capital. You might have uncovered underserved elements in your market that you can capture by expanding your product /service line, your geographic locations, and/or your operating hours.
  3. Secured Adequate Working Capital: Based on your performance so far and your plans for change, you need to establish an adequate amount of working capital to fund your operations, including inventory purchase. Your best bet after one year in business is to contact IOU Financial to borrow up to $150K effortlessly and at an affordable APR. If you own at least 80 percent of your business, have an average credit score, have a positive daily cash flow that lets you keep on average at least $3,000 in your business account, and you clear $100,000 a year in revenue, you have an 85 percent chance of getting the loan you want from IOU Financial. Forget about bank loans, they are really hard to get.
  4. Hired the Proper Staff: You might have started off as a one-person operation, or maybe you began with a small staff. After a year, you have a better idea of how many and what kind of people you need. If you haven’t done so already, dismiss any unproductive staff  and find the best people you can afford.
  5. Developed Your Social Media Strategy: Your website should be search-engine optimized, bug free, contain perfect content (if not, hire a good freelance writer), and include, if appropriate, a bullet-proof online checkout facility. You should have set up your accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and so forth, and made sure you continually add new material onto your social media sites.

Enjoy your second year – with sufficient know-how and capital, you’ve got a good shot at long-term success.

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Start Small, Think Big

Starting your own small business is at once exciting and threatening. Any entrepreneur spends a lot of time planning and fretting about a new venture, with alternating periods of exhilaration and despair. So much progress, but so many pitfalls! As the time comes to pull the trigger, your doubts rise and you hesitate. That’s normal, and you can get through the opening jitters by thinking big –turning your dream from a small enterprise to an industry legend. You may not get there, but the trick is to operate as if you will. This requires playing attention to the big picture while managing the many small tasks needed to advance the business. Here are three important tips for starting small but thinking big.

  1. Get Your Head Right
    The energy needed to make a business succeed is more akin to the output of a marathon runner rather than a sprinter. The overwhelming anxiety creates the urge to do everything at the same time. Unfortunately, this way lies madness, or at least exhaustion. Do not become a burnout, a working machine who sacrifices family, friends and enjoyment. Instead, concentrate on those tasks that will tend to sustain the long-term success of your business. Then, set a realistic pace that you can sustain for at least a year, maybe several.Behavior management is key to creating helpful habits and extinguishing self-defeating ones. To prevent burnout, first set the boundaries between work and personal life — if you commit to 10 hours a day at work, make sure the other 14 are devoted to non-work activities. Take weekends off, or at least Sundays. Reserve time for creativity and relaxation, and go on vacations a few times a year. This is how a top executive handles life — so should you.
  2. Grab the Bravery Stick
    Experimentation requires a certain amount of bravery, but it’s needed in order to contemplate the large questions that will propel the growth of your business. Ask yourself the fundamental questions:

    • What are the major challenges you wish to solve?
    • How will you recognize and measure success?
    • How will your actions alter your industry?

These kinds of questions are harder and more nebulous than figuring out whether to order the red widgets or the blue ones. You need both types of thinking, and you’ll soon discover that there is no one “correct” answer — you can succeed via several different paths.

Overcome the ambiguities by embracing experimentation. That’s right, instead of adopting the “ideal” strategy, try several different ones and see which one yields the best results. You’ll learn a lot from experimentation and get a better gauge of your market. You will also learn to let go of perfectionism, to get products and services into the marketplace quickly, and to use marketing resources such as product focus groups or pilot projects for services. Ask yourself what are the biggest questions confronting your endeavor and then design experiments that will yield the answers.

  1. Don’t Know Much About History…
    That’s a great way to fail. If you want to succeed, identify entrepreneurs and businesses that provide inspiration. These are the businesses you want to resemble when you become big. Remember, titans of industry usually had modest roots, just like you. Research their early years and pay attention to their decisions and milestones. See how they handled their challenges and doubts – it will take some of the mystery out of your future.Another thing to research is how they funded and grew their finances. This means forming strategic relationships with lenders, such as IOU Financial, to ensure money is available when you need it.

Stay focused on your long-term growth, create good habits and take small steps that build your momentum for success.

 

Focus on your business