18 Things Entrepreneurs Need to Know
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Small Business Guide to Google Analytics
There’s an old song that goes “The best things in life are free.” That’s still true today, when it comes to things like Google Analytics, which reveals a lot of information about your website and it’s free.
Take a look at the infographic below from Headway Capital to learn more.
2—Will Labor Laws Be Changing Soon?
This summer the FLSA turns 80. Despite the fact it affects every business in America, a survey conducted by TSheets found 43% of U.S. business owners have no idea what the FLSA is.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.
Tomorrow, April 10, which is Equal Pay Day, TSheets is hosting a webinar to discuss the FLSA, what it means to businesses today and if the laws should be rewritten.
Register for the webinar here.
3—How to Create a Brand Style Guide Like These Top Tech Companies
Every entrepreneur wants to build their brands. But, wonders the experts from Venngage, “how do you ensure brand consistency? How can you quickly communicate your brand requirements as you grow your small business? With a brand style guide, of course!”
Check out the infographic for more info, and then get the details from Venngage here.
4—Spring Cleaning—It’s Time to Go Green!
Guest post by Jesse Wood, CEO, eFileCabinet
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to just be for your cluttered garage. Spring is also a great time to “spring clean” your business. Spring cleaning your business can involve anything from actually cleaning your office space to introducing new processes to increase efficiency. These are the usual changes managers and owners make to their businesses—but have you thought about going green?
Going green is a lot easier than it seems. One of the easiest, most affordable ways to turn your business into a green business is to go paperless.
How does going paperless help my company be green? Instead of printing out copies of a document for a meeting, a paperless document management system allows you to view company documents on your phone or tablet. A DMS Cloud service gives you access to all your documents at any time while maintaining security and HIPAA, FINRA, and SEC compliance.
Do you currently have hundreds or even thousands of documents stored in file cabinets? Studies estimate that each 4-drawer filing cabinet costs $1,200 per year to maintain. Eliminate the need for paper copies and physical storage—and turn your computer or tablet into a completely mobile office—by going paperless. This not only saves paper, it also saves you significant time and increases efficiency.
Removing the need to print paper copies of documents saves on paper usage, toner, ink, and printer maintenance costs, which in turn helps your company become greener.
Is going green affordable? A lot of the environmentally friendly options available to businesses today seem to be too pricey. Energy-efficient light bulbs, LED monitors, and energy-efficient appliances can quickly get expensive. Document management solutions, however, are very affordable.
Not only is a document management system affordable, but it will save you even more money by saving your employees’ time. Instead of wasting time finding documents in old filing cabinets, they’ll easily be able to find anything they need within a DMS. Your employees will be freed up to work on the other, more important business tasks at hand.
Is going green easy? A common concern a lot of people have with going green is how difficult it will be to implement the new green solutions. After all, any downtime in business costs money. If your company has to spend days on end implementing new green solutions, the costs make going green inviable.
The right document management system is very easy to implement, and it won’t cause disruptions to your existing processes. Instead, a DMS implements existing processes and speeds them up, without causing your company unnecessary downtime.
Don’t wait—start going green today!
5—Marketing Planning Calendar
The email marketing experts at Campaigner created a handy marketing planning calendar for the 2nd quarter of the year. Take a look at it below.
6—Is it Time to Upgrade Your Website?
According to The Manifest, 91% of small business owners plan to invest in at least one website upgrade this year. To improve their marketing and online presence, small business owners identified high quality content, including video, as a top priority for 2018; 22% plan to invest in improving their website content.
Plus, 17% of small businesses plan to invest in improved website security and/or better user experience (16%).
To accomplish these goals, small businesses rely on several key cost-saving resources:
- In-house staff: 52%
- DIY website builder software: 36%
- Freelancers or consultants: 35%
You can read the full report: How Small Businesses Invest in Website Maintenance in 2018
7—4 Easy (But Little Known) Steps that Protect Your Website from Hackers
According to Websites That Sell, “There is no doubt that the internet is becoming one of the biggest drivers of trade and commerce. The percentage of online transactions is increasing steadily and it will not be long before a big majority of online transactions are done online. However, along with improved online business potentials, many risks are also there along the way. The risk of hacking and phishing is something that no longer is a small threat, but something very big. Hence it is important to find out ways and means by which it can be prevented.”
Check out their suggestions below for preventing your website getting hacked.
8—Best Tips for Freelance Beginners
Guest post by Gabriel Shaoolian, founder and CEO, DesignRush.com
As CEO of a website that interacts with the freelance community on a daily basis, I’ve had a chance to see what many of them are doing right, and some are doing wrong. Here’s a quick list of best tips I’ve compiled for those just starting out in the freelance world.
Get it in writing: Have some sort of signed contract/written agreement in place before starting any work. This could be a Statement of Work or Letter of Agreement that details what you will (and won’t) be providing as a service, any limits to the extent of client revisions, delivery dates, additional cost responsibility, rights ownership and your compensation. Detail as much as possible to avoid conflicts later on. (He can provide links and resources)
Focus on your specialty: Be sure all aspects of your brand (your website, portfolio, business card, social media posts) all focus on and clearly communicate your specialty. If you’re a logo designer, don’t clutter your communications with other art you dabble in. Stick with the service you’re specifically selling. I see too many beginners diluting their portfolios with irrelevant examples.
Have a clear revenue model: Understand how much income you need to generate, taking special care to include estimated taxes, supplies, business expenses and things you might not consider like travel costs and postage.
Don’t take on too much: A common mistake beginners make is not scheduling their time adequately. Don’t take on an assignment workload you won’t be able to deliver on, or you’ll find yourself drowning in missed deadlines and angry clients
Keep track of your clients: Draft a spreadsheet from the beginning and document every one of your gigs. This way, as your list of clients grows, you can keep track of who is likely to ask for your services when, who pays on time, who you haven’t heard from in a while. Great for not letting clients fall off the radar.
Follow up with everyone: Be sure to stay in touch with every prospective job lead. Send a very brief email of better yet, written note, to follow up after every business introduction of interaction. This is key to staying top-of-mind with those who hire you or can send other work your way.
9—Entrepreneurial Parents are More Optimistic
- 77% with children under 18 believe that their children will have a better standard of living than they do, while 67% of the general population felt the same
- Small business owner parents are also more optimistic about the future of all children in the United States.
For many entrepreneurs, their businesses will serve as their own personal pension and what they rely on to provide retirement income.
- 42% say their businesses are their retirement plans.
- 66% say it’s important to protect their retirement as well
- 66% say they need to do more to ensure they have adequate income from their businesses in retirement
- 54% have a backup plan if they are unable to sell their business or if the proceeds are not sufficient for retirement
- 51% plan to retire at 65
UBS and Rent the Runway Foundation recently announced the continued expansion of Project Entrepreneur through a two-year, $2 million grant from UBS. The additional funding will help build on the program’s early success and brings UBS’s total commitment to $5 million, along with the ongoing programmatic and strategic support provided with the objective of leveling the playing field for female founders.
There will be 200 female-founded startups participating in the 3rd Project Entrepreneur Intensive in New York City on April 13-14, 2018, with a keynote address delivered by Arianna Huffington. Among the 200 are 10 finalists who have been given the additional opportunity to participate in the event’s pitch competition for a chance to receive grant funding and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.
Since its founding in 2015, Project Entrepreneur has trained over 1,600 women entrepreneurs through its educational programs and events, and has maintained its commitment to inclusivity with an ethnic diversity rate of 50% amongst applicants from nearly every state and across 25 industries. More than $18 million has been raised by program alumnae and 100% of the 2016 Project Entrepreneur Accelerator Participants raised seed rounds within 16 months of participating in the program.
Winners will receive a $10,000 grant and participate in the five-week accelerator program at Rent the Runway. The accelerator includes on-site training, introductions to investors and coaching and mentorship from Rent the Runway, UBS and other top entrepreneurs and executives.
To see the full Project Entrepreneur Class of 2018, speakers, and program agenda, go here.
Follow Project Entrepreneur on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @pjtentrepreneur, and with the hashtag #PEIntensive18.
The eighth annual Amway Global Entrepreneurship Report (AGER) had some interesting findings. The report dives into the key drivers behind the entrepreneurial spirit and the impact internal and external factors have on attitudes and perceptions about entrepreneurship. And it shows more men are interested in becoming entrepreneurs than women, and as individuals get older, their desire to start a business lessens.
The 2018 study also finds 57% of Americans want to start their own businesses, compared to global respondents (49%). This is down slightly from the previous year (61%). And yet, there is a strong sense of continued optimism among respondents. The education gap is significantly shrinking when it comes to desirability of starting a business. The report explains that having a university degree does not play a significant role in shaping entrepreneurial spirit—those with and without university degrees exhibited similar sentiments.
Amway Entrepreneurial Spirit Index
Introduced in 2015, the AESI measures three dimensions that influence a person’s intention to start a business: desire, feasibility and stability against social pressure.
- Desire: 57% of U.S. respondents expressed the desire to become an entrepreneur
- Feasibility: 60% felt prepared for entrepreneurship
- Stability: 46% wouldn’t dismiss their dreams of starting a business if their family or friends stood in the way
Age isn’t just a number
The youngest surveyed have the strongest desire to start a business (68%). This decreases to 60% for those middle aged and 48% for the oldest. Feasibility, however, is lowest for the young (58%), and highest for the middle-aged (64%).
While 67% of men wanted to start a business, only 47% of women wanted to do so. Plus, 69% of men believed they were capable of being an entrepreneur, only 52% of women thought they did.
There’s more information available here.
12—Do You Need to Sign a Prenup?
You may think prenups are for Hollywood movie stars, but the experts from Rocket Lawyer believe “Prenuptial agreements are beneficial for everyone. You should especially consider a prenuptial agreement if:
- You are contemplating marriage and wish to explain rights and obligations of each person regarding property
- You own significant amounts of property
- You have previously been married
- You have children from a prior marriage
Tips—Why People Need a Prenup
- Marriage is a contract: The recipe for mixing love and money is simple—agree in advance. Before getting married, every couple should find time to talk about money. And if the two of you are building a business together, that discussion should include a way to protect the business from problems caused by the marriage.
- What prenup protects you from:A prenup protects you from unpleasant financial surprises. By putting your financial cards on the table, you and your soon-to-be spouse can understand what you are getting into in your marriage, and make better decisions about how to combine your lives. In the event that you do get divorced, a prenup could help separate your assets from community property, ensuring that your personal property can’t be seized by creditors.
- What doesn’t a prenup protect you from:Because a prenup is only an agreement between you and your spouse, not between you and creditors, it won’t protect you from creditors coming after community property (which is anything acquired during your marriage except by gift/bequest). If you cosign on a loan with your spouse during your marriage, you will be held equally responsible for his/her debts regardless of what it says in your prenup.
13—Should You Have a 401(k)?
Here’s some great advice from Stuart Robertson, President of Capital One Advisors 401k Services: “We’re talking to a variety of small business owners who’ve already filed their 2017 taxes, and they have sticker shock regarding the amount they owe. For businesses thinking through how to proactively manage their 2018 tax bill, a 401(k) can be a smart way to reduce both personal and business taxes. Depending on their age and plan type, SBOs can contribute up to $61,000 in tax deferred investments and deduct matching contributions they make to employees, potentially dramatically offsetting their tax burden.”
Even though many small business owners stand to benefit from establishing a 401(k), many owners think their companies are too small, they’d need to provide matching contributions or a retirement plan is too complex for them to manage. In fact, the Spark 401k Small Business Retirement Planning Index found one-third of small-business owners with a 401(k) said it reduced their personal and business taxes.”
14—What Do Small Business Owners Think about the New Tax Plan?
- 64% of small business owners fully understand the impact of tax plan changes; 36% do not
- 34% believe their small businesses will be better off financially; 24% say they’ll be worse off
- 40% are more confident in their financial future; 26% are less confident
- 49% of small business owners believe that the tax plan changes will strengthen the economy while 23% believe they will not
[Editor’s Note: I’m assuming this is before they knew the proposed budget for 2019 cuts more than 25% from the SBA.)
15—Tax Strategies for Small Business and Personal Tax Savings in 2018 and Beyond
Guest post by Paul Jacobs, Certified Financial Planner and Enrolled Agent and Chief Investment Officer, Palisades Hudson Financial Group
Small-business owners and self-employed people [should] consider converting company type, changing withholding and quarterly tax payments, and other tax-smart strategies. Your 2017 tax return provides valuable clues for planning for your 2018 taxes. But with tax reform, the exercise is more complicated this year.
When reviewing your 2017 return, look for things that cost you money. Take a few extra minutes and start planning for 2018. For example, you may have an investment that has an unrealized loss and is tax-inefficient. Selling it now won’t change your 2017 tax bill, but it will help lower your taxes in 2018 and beyond. It’s also too late to make 2017 contributions to your 401(k) or 403(b) plan, but if you’re skimping, boost them now.
Also, understand how the new tax law will affect your taxes. Federal marginal tax rates have been lowered across the board. If you haven’t been itemizing deductions, your taxes will probably go down unless your income rises significantly. Nevertheless, some people will see their taxes increase. It’s important to get a handle on how tax reform will affect you.
Some people can do this calculation themselves. But because of the complexities of tax reform, many will need a knowledgeable tax preparer to help them. Then you can see if you’re likely to get a refund next year or will owe money. This will help you figure out if your payroll withholding is too high or low. If you pay estimated taxes quarterly, you should calculate your expected 2018 taxes so that you won’t overpay.
Make the most of new small-business tax breaks; consider conversion
A new 20% qualified business income deduction lets certain business owners and self-employed people take a 20 percent deduction against their 2018 income.
Taxpayers who own or have an ownership stake in a pass-through business entity such as a partnership, a limited liability company (LLC) or an S corporation are eligible. So are self-employed people (sole proprietors). The deduction will lower taxes for many business owners and self-employed people. Some of them will save thousands or more in federal income tax.
In general, to qualify for the full deduction, your taxable income must be under $157,500 for single filers or $315,000 if you’re married filing jointly. C corporations do not get the new deduction, although the top federal tax rate for C corporations has been cut to 21%. If you’re the owner of a C corporation, it’s wise to investigate if converting to an S corporation or LLC would be worthwhile, and vice versa.
Many taxpayers won’t benefit from itemized deductions anymore
The new tax rules double the standard deduction. In 2018, it’s $24,000 for married couples filing jointly and $12,000 for singles. People 65 and over and the blind or disabled get an additional deduction. Because of the higher standard deduction and a new limit of $10,000 in deductions for state and local taxes, many people who previously itemized will no longer benefit from doing so. That doesn’t necessarily mean your tax bill will increase. It might. It might not.
If you paid alternative minimum tax in 2017, it’s unlikely you will come April 2019. It’s estimated the number of taxpayers hit by AMT will drop by 96%.
Savvy tax-planning strategies
Once you know your situation, then you can make some savvy tax-planning moves. If your expected deductions are just below the new standard deduction, it can make sense to bunch charitable contributions so you’ll still receive a tax benefit.
Instead of making annual charitable contributions that aren’t deductible, you may choose to make several years’ worth of contributions in one year to get a tax benefit. If you want to give money to your favorite charities every year, a donor-advised fund may be the perfect solution. These funds let people make charitable contributions, receive an immediate tax benefit and then recommend grants to charities from the fund over time.
You could give, for instance, $10,000 to a donor-advised fund in one year instead of giving $2,500 a year to charities directly over four years. And you don’t have to give cash. A donor-advised fund will gladly accept appreciated securities.
Don’t give the IRS a free loan
Check your payroll withholding to make sure you’re not paying too much or too little during the year. The withholding tables that employers use have changed, and many people are finding that they need to adjust their withholding allowances in order to avoid a bad surprise next year. The more withholding allowances you claim, the less tax will be withheld from your paycheck.
“While people love getting refunds, a large refund isn’t necessarily a good thing. It usually means you paid too much to the government during the year and missed out on the income or investment appreciation you could have earned. If you get refunds every year, consider reducing your withholding so you’re not making interest-free loans to the government each year. You need the cash flow more than they do.
16—Explaining Explainer Videos
London-based Animate2Explain, a leading animation studio, recently produced a post explaining Explainer Videos, including how they work, where to best place them, why your business needs an explainer video and how to use them.
17—Is Your Businesses Protected from Data Breaches?
Insureon and Manta members recently surveyed small business owners about cybersecurity issues and how they’re protecting their businesses from a data breach. Unfortunately, most—82%–don’t even think small business data breaches are a threat.
Why the lack of concern? Perhaps they’re not concerned because 85% of small business owners say they’ve never experienced a data breach, and 77% say they take steps to protect their businesses against cybercriminals. However, 74% don’t have cyber-liability insurance.
The top 5 protections used:
- Anti-virus software: 89%
- Firewalls: 81%
- Anti-malware software: 80%
- Spam filters: 76%
- Regular vulnerability scans: 71%
You’ll find some solutions on their blog.
18—Boosting Cybersecurity for Networked Printers
Protecting network security is a vital job in businesses of all sizes. And it’s gotten harder since it now needs to accommodate the “Internet of Things” and mobile connectivity, which add exponentially to the number of network endpoints they must secure.
Fortunately, says Tracey Koziol, Senior Vice President, Workplace Solutions Business Group Xerox, today’s “network access control solutions ease some of their burden, by providing centralized network visibility and controls for managing security risks on their ever-expanding networks.”
Cisco and Xerox have teamed up to boost cybersecurity for networked printers. Read her blog about this important here.