A $302 Fine!!

(What Freelancers MUST Know About Business Licenses)

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Starting a business? You need to research business licenses.

Why? Because if you don’t, it could cost you. Why You Need to Know About Business Licenses Ignorance is not an excuse. Failing to get a required business license can result in fines and penalties, as happened to Liz Swain, a freelance writer who worked from home. Swain was operating in San Diego, which required a $34-per-year business license. When the city learned of Swain’s operation through her taxes, it promptly issued a $302 bill—$102 for three years of the license plus $200 in fines and processing fees. Don’t let this happen to you. If you’re starting a freelance business of any kind, here’s what you need to know about business licenses:

1. You Might Need a Business License, or You Might Not

Business licenses are issued at the state and local level. You’ll need to research whether you need a license for one or more of the following: State County City Bottom line? It depends on your location. You’ll need to do your research.

2. Find State Agencies that Help Small Businesses

Each state has one or more agencies that help small businesses. In California, for example, the Secretary of State’s office and the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development are great starting places. The U.S. Small Business Association has links to many state agencies, and a few Google searches can also help you navigate both state and local government requirements.

3. Check With Your Local Chamber of Commerce

Call your local chamber of commerce to ask about local government requirements. They’ll have a list of contact information for local agencies. They’ll also be able to connect you with business owners in your area for help and advice.

4. Local Tax Attorneys Can Help

Find a tax attorney that specializes in helping small businesses. You’ll find them to be a wealth of information for freelancers and self-employed professionals. Even if you don’t plan to work regularly with a tax attorney, hire one for an hour and discuss your situation. Doing so can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fines down the road.

You Need Epic Reviews on Your Website (4 Startling Reasons)

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Here’s something true about online reputation management:

Where your reviews live is just as important as what those reviews say. Here are 4 reasons why:

1. The Best Defense Against Unfair Reviews

You have zero control over business reviews on Google or Yelp. As the business owner, you can (and should) engage with users, but you have no power to take down unfair reviews. If a competitor posts a fake review giving you a bad reputation, you can flag it (Here how in Google and Yelp). But even then, you won’t know if fake reviews will be taken down, or how long it will be until something happens. By putting reviews on your own website—however–you give potential customers a chance to see an authentic reviews—ones you can verify.

2. Customers Trust Reviews

The stats around reputation management are overwhelming: 92% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses 73% of consumers form an opinion by reading 1-6 reviews 69% of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant Bottom line? You need customer reviews. And you need to keep them fresh. Potential customers don’t trust them beyond three months.

3. You Can Keep Prospective Clients Away from Google and Yelp

No matter how good your reviews are on Google or Yelp, those websites present you as one of many businesses your potential customer could choose. That’s not what you want. You want to be the only business in consideration. If you get a potential customer to your website, including customer reviews helps you keep them there, instead of losing them to Google or Yelp.

4. Reviews Increase Conversions

Finally, don’t forget the end goal of any business’ website: to make sales. Almost 90% of customers say they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. By including reviews on your website, you increase the chances of making a sale. And isn’t that the point of your website?

3 Myths About Business Grants (Busted!)

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Starting a business? Growing one you already have?

A grant can help. First, a quick disclaimer: First, it’s not easy to find legitimate business grants. Watch out for scams and misinformation—because there’s plenty floating around. With that out of the way, here’s what you need to know:

Myth #1: The Federal Government Provides Grants for Starting a Business

Despite what you may have heard, the U.S. Federal Government does not offer grants for starting a small business. Here’s what the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) states on its website: “The federal government does NOT provide grants for starting and expanding a business.” That doesn’t mean you can’t find government grants. It just means starting a small business—by itself—is not enough to qualify for a federal grant.

Myth #2: You Can Use Grant Money for Whatever You Want

Grants almost always have restrictions about who can receive grant money and how it can be spent. For example, NASA awards grants to private businesses. But only for companies involved in developing technologies for NASA’s needs. Most grant programs are similar. They exist to help an organization develop new products, services, or technologies. Most don’t exist to help aspiring business owners pursue their dreams.

Myth #3: Startup Grant Offers Are Always a Scam

Not true! There are legitimate grant programs available for small businesses. You just need to know where to look. Be wary of those scammy websites that promise “millions in government dollars waiting for you to claim!!” Those ARE almost always scams (usually trying to sell a book or a training program). You should avoid them. Instead, try the SBA website for an unbiased look at funding options, loans and grants included: Small Business Administration loans and grants page And here’s one other resource we came across from Fundera: 107 Best Small Business Grants

How to Stop No-Shows in Your Business

No shows are revenue killers, especially for independent small businesses. Most of the time, no shows happen when good customers simply make a mistake with their calendar. People are forgetful. They enter the time incorrectly in their calendar. They get busy in a meeting or at work. These and hundreds other factors can lead to a no show. Technology is here to help. In fact, thanks to mobile devices, you can do more than ever before to reduce your no-show rate (and boost your revenue in the process!). Here are three things to try:  

1. Send Calendar Invites

thanksTry to send a calendar invite to every client who books an appointment with you. Many people live by their calendar, relying on reminders to ping them about appointments, meetings, and tasks. The best way to send invites is to have your appointment system automatically send one at the time of the appointment. If your appointment system doesn’t let you send invites this way, you’ll have to send them manually using your regular email and calendar apps.  

2. Send Reminder Emails

Reminder emails can help tremendously with “I forgot” no shows, simply by pinging your customer with an email that says where they need to be for their appointment with you. In Artichoke, email reminders can be set up to send automatically, so you never have to send them manually on your own. The app simply sends them out on whatever schedule you choose (a day before the appointment, a week before the appointment, etc.)  

3. Collect Payment Online

Finally, nothing creates commitment quite like paying for a service online at the time of the appointment. People tend to protect their money. If they’ve paid for your appointment, they’re usually much more likely to show up—simply because they don’t want the money they spent with you to go to waste.

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3 Tweaks to Make More Money While Self-Employed (Without Being Scammy)

If you work for yourself, you’re always looking for ways to make more money. Making more sales is one way to boost your income, but it’s not the only way to add cash to your bottom line. Here are three other tweaks you can make to generate more cash from products and services:  

1. Raise Your Prices

Many self-employed drastically undervalue their time. As Seth Godin wrote on his blog: “Successful freelancers need to charge at least double the hourly rate that they’d be happy earning doing full-time work. (In many fields, it’s more like 4 or 5x).” If you’re afraid you’ll lose current clients from an increase, just be honest and upfront with them. Let them know well ahead of time that you’re raising your rates. You can even turn a negative into a positive by giving current clients the opportunity to buy products or services from you “one last time” at your current rates.  

2. Create an (Expensive) Premium Service

Every market has a small percentage of buyers who “just want the best,” no matter what it costs. To them, it’s better to spend more, not less. It might be a sign of their social status, or more often it’s just a person that wants the best possible service. Every business should have a high-ticket offer for these people. Think of everything you could possibly offer a client, put it together in a package, then price it far above any of your other products. You may not sell many of them. But if you sell even one a year, the profit can equal what you’d make from dozens of your normal clients or customers. Bubbles

3. Reduce No-Shows

No-shows are a drag. Time is your most precious resource, and you should treat it that way. Sending automated reminder emails is one of the easiest things you can do to get people to actually show up to their appointments. You can also take payment upfront online when someone schedules an appointment. It guarantees you’ll get compensated for your time. Plus, people are more likely to show up if they’ve paid upfront.

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3 Business License Mistakes (#3 Could Sink Your Business)

Starting a business?

As you set up the business, here are three common mistakes to avoid:  

1. Picking the Wrong Business Structure

Picking a structure is one of the first decisions you’ll need to make when starting a new business. It’s important to get it right. Once you’ve chosen a business structure, it will be hard to change your mind later if you make a mistake. The three most common business structures are:  – Sole proprietorship

 – LLC

 – Corporation

A sole proprietorship is the easiest type of business to establish and requires limited additional forms at tax time. An LLC (limited liability corporation) can protect your personal assets in the case of a lawsuit. A corporation is the more complex than a sole proprietorship or an LLC, but it usually offers tax advantages for businesses with higher revenue levels. Other popular business structures include partnerships, S corporations, and non-profits. SBA.gov has additional information about choosing the right business structure, and you’ll probably want to consult a business attorney for help making this decision.  

2. Not Getting the Right Licenses and Permits

screenshot-2016-11-08-11-28-53The first mistake business owners make is simply not getting the right licenses and permits. Your licensing and permit requirements will vary depending on your specific business type and location. But the U.S. Small Business Association says “Virtually every business needs some form of license or permit to operate legally.” You just need to do some research to figure out what regulations apply to you. Industries like agriculture and aviation are federally regulated, for example. And if you sell goods or services, there’s a good chance you’ll need a sales tax license as well. For all these questions, SBA.gov is the best starting place to learn what licenses and permits for your business.  

3. Not Paying Your Taxes

Finally, don’t forget your taxes! Failing to do so can easily sink your business. When you start your own business, you’ll be responsible for more taxes than a company employee. There is a self-employment tax, which covers social security and Medicare—taxes your employer used to pay for you if you were a W-2 employee. According to the IRS, the self-employment tax rate is 15.3% for self-employed individuals. The rate “consists of two parts: 12.4% for social security (old-age, survivors, and disability insurance) and 2.9% for Medicare (hospital insurance).” You then pay normal income taxes above the self-employment tax. Here’s a simple calculator that can help you find your tax bracket based on your income. Most self-employed individuals pay taxes quarterly, but consult a tax attorney for help with your specific situation. A tax attorney can also help you figure out how much you should be setting aside every month for taxes—including federal, state, and local. Paying taxes is never fun, but it’s better than getting in trouble with IRS or state authorities for failing to pay them.
 

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Accepting Credit Cards Optional? Think Again.

Credit CardsIf you’re serious about improving your relationships with your customers, making it easier for them to do business with you so they talk you up and refer you to friends and family, why can’t they pay you by credit or debit? Making payment easy is crucial for your business, both to keep it afloat and to increase conversions and overall sales. Credit and debit are increasingly becoming the more common forms of payment over cash and checks. According to a 2013 study by the Federal Reserve, consumer debit use increased more than five-fold from 2000 to 2012, from 8.3 billion transactions to 47.0 billion. Credit cards transactions increased from 15.6 to 26.2 billion during the same period. Read more

Are your clients booking online?

chalkboardcalendar For many, allowing clients to book online is the perfect fit and an easy decision. (Our last post mentioned several apps to help improve your client relationships, your productivity and your sales while decreasing your stress.) Why wouldn’t you want your clients to have it as easy as possible? They make their appointments when they can, instead of when you’re available. You get to spend more time with your customers and less time planning for them. Read more

Turn Your Massage Side Gig into a Full-Time Business: 7 Steps

Massage BusinessIf you are sitting on the fence about turning your clients on the side into a full-time massage business, there’s no time like now to take the leap. Consider this: do you really have more “stability” with an employer given the perpetual risk of layoffs? Is it actually riskier to work for yourself? Remember: leaving the traditional job market doesn’t mean you can’t return. You can become your own boss if you dedicate yourself and make a plan. This article details seven steps to help you reach your dream of turning your clients on the side into a thriving business. Read more