Choosing a Business Structure for Your New Startup

You’ve just started your small business and are a bit confused as to which structure you should choose. It can be very confusing for a small business owner to know which business structure will be best for them, especially for those that never took business courses. However, it’s important to know that the structure you choose can greatly affect your taxes. That’s why it’s important to make the best choice. Here is a bit of advice for choosing a business structure for your new startup.

Types of Business Structures

The first type of business structure also happens to be the most popular. The sole proprietorship is a business structure ran by one person, the owner. Many small business owners prefer this method because it is easy to setup and doesn’t require any special licenses, other than the license to run your business if your jurisdiction requires it. The second business structure is the partnership. There are two forms of partnership and the most popular is the general partnership in which the partners share the liability and profits of the business. A limited partnership requires one partner to take responsibility of the debt. The last structure is the corporation, which can be one of three types (C, S or LLC). This business structure is for major corporations and the exact requirements and definitions will vary from state to state.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

For the sake of this article, we will focus on the sole proprietorship and partnership structures. A sole proprietorship offers many advantages. First of all, it’s easy to set up. Other advantages include being able to file your taxes on a Schedule C rather than having a drawn out form. It’s also the most popular methods among small businesses, especially those ran from the home. However, there are a few disadvantages. First of all, everything falls on the owner. This means that any debt the business acquires will be a personal debt. Last, but not least, it can be much harder to get financing.

The partnership also has many advantages. First of all, the business may be easier to run due to the fact that each owner may excel in different areas. There will also be someone to run the business should one of the partners become ill. Last, but not least, a partnership is easier to run because the liability of the business may be shared among owners. However, a partnership also has disadvantages. The first disadvantage is that a partnership is harder to set up. Another disadvantage is that the partnership may come to an end due to the partners becoming unhappy with each other. Last, but not least, one partner may end up being liable for all the debt.

Which Should You Choose?

The only people that can honestly help you make this decision is your attorney and accountant. There are a number of legal and financial issues that go with each business structure. This means that using the wrong business structure could end very badly.

As a new startup, you have the chance to pick your business structure, but you must do it carefully. Choosing the wrong business structure can lead to bad financial and legal consequences.

Inexpensive Marketing Tools Any Business Can Utilize

There are thousands of ways to market your business, but giving customers promotional items is a way to put the marketing into the customers’ hands. However, not all promotional items work and you need to make sure this is something the customer actually wants. Here are just a few inexpensive marketing tools any business can utilize.

T-Shirts

One of the best marketing tools you can use are t-shirts. However, there are some things you need to consider. First of all, design your t-shirts to fit your target market. For example, if you own a music company, create a design that’s fun with bright colors. When the t-shirt matches the personalities of your customers, they will be more likely to wear it.

Food

Food is an excellent way to promote your business. There are a number of different methods you could use. For example, you might opt to place a coupon on the boxes of a local pizza place. Another method would be to sponsor a charity and have a coupon for your business added to their product. You could even have a local bakery design cookies or cupcakes for a customer appreciation day.

Store Receipts

Another method that businesses are using is shopping receipts. Many grocery stores print out coupons and advertising when a customer checks out. However, you don’t want to just advertise your company, because customers will just toss the paper in the trash. Offer a coupon. If your local stores don’t offer this service, ask about having your ad placed on their receipts. Some receipts features business ads and coupons on the back of the receipt.

Tote Bags

Tote bags have become a popular advertising method over the past few years and with good reason. With more and more people opting to use tote bags instead of grocery bags, your ad can be seen by people throughout town.

Bumper Stickers

Bumper stickers are another great way to promote your business, but this is another promotional item that has to be designed to suit your target market. For example, if your company is a bakery, create a design and statement that stands out and appeals to your customers.

Magnets

Magnets are another great marketing tools because customers and postential customers will see your customized magnets on a daily basis. This makes them more apt to shop with your company when they need your products or services again.

Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Last, but not least, people are turning to stainless steel water bottles to replace plastic water bottles. This is another chance to put the advertising in the hands of the consumer. Create a fun ad and make sure it’s something your customers want to carry.

There are a number of inexpensive ways to market your business. Best of all, your customers will think of many of these promotional items as gifts, rather than advertising.

About the Author: Stephen McCarl loves working with small businesses as they strive to develop their marketing campaigns. He can usually find solutions for any budget and loves watching new groups grow.

Finding the Cash to Start a New Home Business

You may have an excellent business idea, but lack the funds to get the business off the ground. This can be frustrating and often results in many people giving up on their dreams. While it may be difficult to find funding, it’s not impossible. There are a number of funding sources for small businesses. Whether you opt for something traditional or something new, you can find the money you need. Here are just a few tips for finding the cash to start a new home business.

Social Lending

If you’re afraid to approach a bank about lending, why not approach your peers? Social lending is a great option for new businesses. With social lending, you put in a request for the amount of money you need and then other individuals will fund the loan with interest rates that vary from less than 7% up to 35%. You will need a good credit score in order to get the money you need (660+) and it may take a while to get the funds you need. However, this a great, non-traditional option that is on the rise.

Local Investors

Another non-traditional method is to find local investors. A trick for doing this is to explain your business and offer free services for a period of time in exchange for start-up money. For example, let’s say you want to start a beauty salon from your home. You could offer free haircuts for several years or even a lifetime.

Government Programs

Small business has become big business with the government. There are a number of grants, loans and other financial programs that have been created to help small businesses. Start with your city government then move on to the state level and then the federal level. Chances are you’ll find at least some money to get you started.

Banks

Last, but not least, banks are the most traditional option. However, you will need to have all your ducks in a row before applying. This means having a great credit score and creating a business plan. You should also practice what you’ll say so that you are able to present your business idea in a professional manner.

There are a number of funding sources when it comes to small businesses. However, knowing about several different sources can make it easier to get all the funding you need. Just remember to only borrow what you need and not get in over your head.

About the Author: Brandon Reauish loves working with small businesses as they work to get their projects off the ground. He works closely with a logo design company to ensure each business he works with has a clearly defined brand.

Management 101: Dealing with Politics in the Workplace

Politics can be a tricky subject and are often one of those subjects that people choose to keep off limits. As a manager, you probably know that some subjects can cause tension and reduce productivity. Politics are one of those subjects. Not only may employees spend the day trying to prove which candidate is best, but they may begin to argue and neglect their duties. You may even find that some team members are unable to work together because of their differing views. Here are just a few tips for dealing with politics in the workplace.

Create a Policy About Discussing Politics

First things first. You should create a policy that forbids the discussion of politics. You may think this sounds a bit extreme, but an ounce of prevention can go a long way. The policy may state that workers are forbidden from discussing any aspect of the campaign. You should also implement a punishment for breaking the policy. For example, the first offense may be a warning and the second offense a day off from work without pay.

Have a Meeting with Employees

One you’ve created a policy and decided on the punishment, you need to have a meeting with your employees to discuss the new policy. This is a good time for your employees to ask questions and have their voice heard. However, it is important to stick to your guns and explain that this type of workplace discussion will not be accepted.

Follow Through

Chances are there will be at least one employee who doesn’t want to follow the rules. You must act quickly and have a meeting with the employee to discuss his behavior and why it is not acceptable. This will serve as a warning. Unfortunately, many will not take your warning seriously. This means you will need to follow through and send him home for the day. The good news is this will serve as an warning to other employees that you are serious.

Politics are a nasty subject that can lead to arguments. While we all have different opinions, that doesn’t mean we should openly talk about them at work. Creating a policy that outlines your stand on the discussion of politics and meeting with your employees are the first steps. However, you must follow through by enforcing the policy. Otherwise, your employees will ignore your policy and continue their discussions on the campaign.

About the Author: Shala Bortle used to managed a large team of people with varied political beliefs and had to ban political propaganda from the workplace. She now uses virtual office space – the perfect solution for working with a team of individuals who don’t really need to be in the same office building!

5 Things Every Business Owner Needs to Include in a Strong Marketing Plan

So, you are about to start your own business. How exciting! Alternatively, perhaps you already have a part-time business and you would like to see it blossom into a full time venture. Well, every business – no matter how small or large – needs a strong marketing plan in order to succeed. Here are five tips that will help give you a leg up on the competition.

Specialty

What makes you unique among your competitors? Is it your personalized service? Your pricing? What does your business offer that people cannot get elsewhere? If you do not know what you makes your business unique, then you need to come up with a specific angle that sets you apart. Be creative and think outside the box. Your specific niche is what you need to know in order to successfully market your business.

Branding

Your business needs to have an identity. A good logo design and a catchy slogan go a long way in helping give your business a “face” that people will remember. Do not just slap together a piece of clip art and some text on your own. If you do not already have one, hire a professional designer to create a logo and use it consistently on all your company materials like business cards, letterhead, etc. Good branding will ensure that people take your business seriously.

Growth

It seems simple enough that businesses have to grow in order to be profitable. However, how much should you expand? How quickly should you do it? The best way to answer these questions is to set reasonable goals for your business. Don’t let your ambition over exceed your resources. Set attainable monthly or quarterly goals for your business and keep striving to meet them. Once you start meeting your goals on a regular basis, then it is time to raise the bar.

Promotion

Advertising and marketing go hand in hand. Where are you going to sell your product? Who are you selling it to? The days of just being able to buy ad space in the phone book, then sit back, and wait for the customers to roll in are long over. There are other options like online marketing, radio commercials and attending business networking events. Set a promotional budget you can afford and then figure out which ways are the best ways to reach your target audience.

Goals

Not only do you need to have goals for your business, but you have to set personal marketing goals as well. You have to commit to doing a certain amount of marketing each month. It may be that you attend two business-networking events each month and send out five sales letters, or you write three weekly blog posts and leave ten comments on other blogs. Whatever your preferred methods of promotion are, you consistently have to keep marketing your business.

Marketing does not have to be a chore; in fact, it can actually be a lot of fun to go out and spread the word about your business. Additionally, it is exciting to see your efforts pay off when you see new customers start coming. A strong marketing plan will help your business prosper and allow you to keep doing what you love.

About the Author: Jamey Vazguez is a marekting specialist who enjoys working with small businesses. She particularly enjoys working with entrepreneurs who are in the healthcare field.

The Challenges of Working From Home

Many people believe that working from home is a luxury. Yes, you don’t have to make the commute every day, and yes, you don’t have to deal with those annoying co-workers, but while working from home may save you from the boredom of your cubicle, it still poses the following challenges.

Home Office v 2.0

1. Communication Barriers
If you work in an office, and you need to ask a coworker a question, you can simply walk to their office, pop your head in, and get your answer. When you work from home, you rely on other forms of communication, such as email, phone and/or social media. While these are all great ways to communicate, you can end up playing phone tag or waiting all day for an email response. This is fine when the answer you need is not time-sensitive, but it can be extremely frustrating if your deadline is fast approaching and you have a question about an important aspect of the project.

2. Distractions
There are distractions at the workplace, but there are more at home. Those dishes piling up could be driving you crazy. Your dog could be begging you to go for a walk. Your bed is also a short distance away, and would anyone really notice if you took a quick nap?

While you are working in an office, you can focus solely on doing your job. Aside from your co-worker’s drama, there is nothing there to distract you for the entire day like that to-do list around the house.

3. Allocating time appropriately.
If you work from home with a lax schedule, it can be hard to allocate time to complete your work. Maybe you have errands to run during the day that need to be done while the stores are open. Then when you get home, you have to make dinner, and after dinner, you have to help kids with homework. By the time you’re ready to start working for the day, the day is long gone.

4. Lack of social interaction.
Sure you are working in the comfort of your own home, but working by yourself can be depressing. We all enjoy taking that five minute break to talk about last night’s game or discuss social happenings with our coworkers. We get to know each other and build a rapport, and having an adult conversation, no matter how trivial it may be, is good for our social lives. When you work from home, you miss out on that social interaction. You don’t talk to anyone face to face, and you’re left out of the “goings ons” at the office. Plus, think of all those tasty treats you’re missing at those impromptu office parties.

While working from home does have its benefits, it also has its challenges. If you have the choice to work at the office or work from home, consider the pros and cons of both. Working from home may be the gig for you, or maybe you would be more productive in the office.

About the Author: Hillary Fox is a marketing major at the University of Texas with a passion for writing on the side. She is a proud advocate of dining on quick and easy freezer meals. Hillary cannot cook.

The Fine Art of Bidding on Freelance Websites

In the last few years more and more workers have decided to go freelance and work for themselves. This is no surprise, both with the end of the old culture of ‘jobs for life’ and the precarious nature of the economy that makes it difficult to have confidence in your employers to keep your job secure. In addition, the global job market has been revolutionised by the rise of online contracting and freelancing sites where companies and people can outsource jobs that they need for their business and call upon the global workforce of freelancers to do their work for them. Regardless of what field you are employed in, there is a site somewhere that offers freelance work for you. A quick survey of the internet will show you that there are now hundreds of websites concentrated around connecting freelancers and contracts. The most established of these sites are Odesk, SoloGig, Virtual Assistants and Elance. Each of these provide work across all sectors, from Design and Multimedia to Engineering and from Marketing and Sales to Finance or Programming. Whatever your freelance niche, you will be able to find work. The only problem you will face is how to win the contract.

That’s because with so many people across the world also going freelance like yourself, the competition for all these jobs grows every day. No matter how good you are at your job there will always be contractors out there who are as good as you, or someone out there willing to bid lower than you to win the contract. So how do you get yourself a winning bid? Try the following:

(1) Immaculate Presentation – The first thing you should do is ensure that you have a well-written profile that is also immaculately laid out and appealing to the eye. The first place a potential client will look when considering your application is your profile and portfolio. So make it good. Put your very best work in there and outline all of your industry accreditations and qualifications. In addition, there should be a mission statement as to the way you work and a link to your own website and references. This area of the site will be your portfolio, business card and cv all in one place. Make it sparkle so people want to hire you.

(2) Reputation, Reputation, Reputation – The next most important thing to your profile is your reputation. This will be defined by the feedback that you get for every job you do through the site and will mean you are only ever as valuable as the last few jobs you have done. Get a poor review and you will find yourself struggling to get any work. This is why you always have to give 110% to every job you do through an online site – so that you build a reputation as an effective and reliable contractor. Bear in mind one thing as well – when you start out you will have no feedback at all so you will need to bid low for a while in order to win the bid. If you do this and manage to win a bid, make sure you get that all important top quality review for that first job.

(3) Tactical Bidding – There are two things to remember when it comes to bidding. Firstly, only go for those jobs you have a chance of being awarded. Bid on too much and you look desperate (plus you use up all of your credits). Secondly, you need to work out a bidding strategy that suits your work-style. Some people prefer to set themselves a minimum price that they will do a job for and then be the first to bid on a job at that price. The obvious advantage of this is that their bid will be the first one the client reads and will sit at the top of the list, getting the most attention. If the buyer likes your bid they will accept it and end the bidding early. Others prefer a different method, choosing to wait until later in the process. This has the advantage that you are able to watch the bidders before you and then put in a competitive bid that combines good quality work with a bid that sits in the middle between the highest and lowest bids.

(4) Immaculate Proposal – Lastly, make sure the proposal itself speaks to the client. Make it more appealing and more impressive than any of the other bids and show the client you have thoroughly engaged with their brief. Never, ever use a standard template to bid on jobs. They never work and you will never get the job. Highlight in your proposal how you will approach their job and include a timeline for each stage of the job and for completion.

Start with these important steps and you will quickly win your first bid.

Esther is a journalist and blogger who writes about small businesses and entrepreneurship. She also blogs for a Illinois injury attorneys.

Setting up a vending machine business

Vending machines have a strange psychological effect on humans, perhaps one of the reasons why they are one of the profitable businesses today. Consider a person walking past a row of combination vending machines displaying all sorts of bottled drinks, snacks in colourful and attractive tins and packs, candies, sandwiches, dairy products – the list goes on and on. It is observed that even if a person is not that hungry, he/she will make a purchase because, for reason’s unknown, people just love to see their money go in and the food coming out. That’s the way the vending machines are designed – attractive and persuasive.

So, starting a a vending machine business may give you very quick returns and you shall be sitting on a pile of profits in no time. You can obtain a license from the government of your country or state, purchase a few vending machines, bid for a few locations where you shall set up the machines and there you go, you are all set with your business. However, there are some pieces of advice which you should keep in mind so that it works out smoothly. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts for you to remember:

DOs

Research. This is the secret behind the success of all those big companies and organisations out there. Do your research and analysis and try to find out places with high foot traffic. Find out as much information on the internet as you can. Sometimes, the government conducts certain surveys and the results of these surveys are available for free or for a little fee. Try to find out if there are any relevant surveys for you.

Calculate. You need to calculate your profit margins and plan your costs and expenses so that you are not surprised by any sudden expenses during a cash crunch. Decide the pricings of the vending items so that you can make enough profit to sustain the initial days of your business. Be vary of future expenses like maintenence or repair costs, insurance, etc..

Tie-ups. Imagine the profit you will make if you make an alliance with some organisation. Sure, you might have to share the profits but there is a certain security since incomes are guaranteed. For example, making an alliance with a hospital will assure you that your vending machine will have a busy time.

DON’Ts

Know your customers. You don’t want to set up a vending machine selling junk food in a school, do you? Have good business acumen and make sure the right products go to the right places.

Begin small. No huge investments in the initial stages, please. This fact is true for any business, no matter how lucrative the market potential may seem, start small, gain experience, get familiarised with the market and consumer behaviour, and then you may make expansion plans.

The possibilities are limitless in a vending machine business – malls, banks, stadiums, hotel lobbies, large corporations, factories, mills, etc. Just use your imagination and make it a reality.

How to Earn Appreciation in the Workplace

One of the main complaints from employees is that they don’t feel appreciated by their boss or team members. After all, you may work overtime to meet crazy deadlines, work weekends to complete new projects ahead of schedule or even run errands for your boss that aren’t part of your job description. Don’t you deserve a little appreciation? Here are a few tips on how to earn appreciation in the workplace.

Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated

Before you start expecting people to appreciate your hard work, maybe you should consider how appreciative you are of your coworkers. Do you thank them for the hard work they did to help you meet a deadline? Do you take their work on a project for granted? If so, why would they be appreciative of your work? Remember the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Notice How Other Employees Are Treated

Are you the only one who feels unappreciated? There’s a good chance that your employer may not show appreciation to any of the employees. Before you start complaining, think about whether or not Jim was congratulated and thanked for his involvement in last month’s record breaking sales or if Jill got recognition for earning 100 new clients. It may not just be you.

Ask for Feedback

Sometimes employers need a bit of prodding to remember that they need to provide feedback to their employees. You could meet with your employer to talk about your recent success and ask for feedback. If he compliments you on a job well done that’s great. If he simply talks about the success and forgets you were part of it, you may need to work harder to get noticed or give him a little help spotting your successes.

Help Others Take Notice

A subtle remark about a recent success may also be enough to get the appreciation you deserve. You could say something like, “Wow, I’m a bit worn out from last month’s project, but it was well worth it.” Chances are you’ll get the compliments and appreciation you’re looking for.

Be Thankful of Compliments

Stop blowing off compliments. When you act ungrateful for people’s appreciation, why would they continue to show it? When someone tells you, you did a great job, say, “Thank you so much for noticing. It feels great to know my job makes a difference.”

In today’s overcrowded offices and businesses, it’s hard to employers to give employees the appreciation they deserve. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it or that your employer doesn’t appreciate you.

About the Author: Coleman Tappeiner is a human resource consultant who enjoys working with employees to have the best workplace experience possible. When he’s not working he can often be found sipping the oolong tea blends he finds at www.goldenmoontea.com and surfing his favorite food and cooking websites.

What to Consider Before Becoming a Freelancer

For the employee stuck in the 9-5 workday, the allure of working from home without the watchful eyes of a manager can be especially compelling.  Many decide to follow the call and become a freelancer in order to become their own boss. However, not everyone can handle the freedom and responsibility that comes with the freelancing life. In order to determine whether becoming a freelancer is right for you, consider the following questions:

Can You Offer a Service?

Before rushing wildly into starting a business, you’ll need to undergo a level of planning and preparation. First, think exactly about the type of services you want to offer. Freelancing covers a wide spectrum of fields, including proofreading, writing, and graphic design. There are an endless number of services freelancers can offer, each with its own details concerning clients, job market, and business regulations. In addition, the prospective freelancer should carefully determine whether the

Do you have a Family Life?

Many freelancers run their business from the comfort of their own home. However, there are a number of distractions that may prevent the freelancer from fully concentrating on his or her work. Children, household chores, phone calls, family life – all these distractions can prevent freelancers from maintaining a strict schedule. Working at a coffee shop or a dedicated office is a viable option, but if you are determined to work from home, make sure that you can handle deadlines and workflow without distractions.

Do you have the Right Temperament?

As mentioned before, the freelancing life is not for everyone. Freelancing is not an easy means to quick cash – it requires dedication and independence that is uncharacteristic of a conventional job. Freelancers need to stay motivated and diligent, especially during the tough initial years, in order to see their business through.  If you’re the type of person that requires structure, stability, and security, then you may want to stay away from freelancing.

Can you build a Network?

Oftentimes, many of the freelancer’s clients come from referrals or trusted colleagues who give their recommendations. In order to increase the likelihood of success, build a network of contacts and connections that can provide referrals for your service. However, the need for a network extends beyond customers and clients – others can help you with various aspects of your business, ranging from marketing, budgeting, or simple organization. By building a network, freelancers can extend their potential sources of resources, knowledge and information.

What about Finances?

Depending on the type of service, freelancers will need to possess financing and budget skills in order to achieve success. Some tips to remind freelancers include officially registering the business and making sure that the taxes are always up-to-date. In addition, creating a marketing or business plan can help freelancers determine exactly the type of budget and costs that will go into starting a business. Remember – a freelancing business is just like any other business, and needs to be taken seriously.

Starting a freelancing business is a daunting task, a decision that is not to be made lightly. However, it is a choice that can lead to potentially high rewards, satisfaction and self-employment. By considering the questions above, the prospective candidate can determine whether the life of a freelancer is right for them.

Rachel Hyun Kim is a writer for Resource Nation, an online resource that gives advice such as B2B lead generation for small businesses and entrepreneurs. Rachel has written on a variety of topics, ranging from credit card processing to medical billing software.