Thursday, August 17, 2017

How to Build Credit with a Secured Business Credit Card

If you have a low credit score or don’t have a credit history, you might struggle to qualify for a business credit card. If that’s the case, a secured business credit card can help you rehabilitate your credit.

But how do secured cards actually work, and when should you get one? We’ll walk through the mechanics of building credit with secured business cards and tell you some of the top options on the market.

What Is a Secured Credit Card?

First, let’s talk about unsecured credit cards. Unsecured credit cards are what comes to mind when most people think about credit cards—they let you borrow an unspecified amount of money (up to your credit limit) and pay it off over a variable loan term.

When you apply for an unsecured credit card, you qualify based on your creditworthiness, and you don’t have to put up any collateral against the loan.

Secured credit cards work a little differently. If you have bad or no credit, you probably won’t be able to qualify for a loan without offering something up as collateral.

Instead, you have to put up a security deposit when you open the account, typically equal to your line of credit. That security deposit isn’t used to pay off your debt—instead, it’s held by the bank in case you default. Once you close your account, you’ll get your security deposit back.

Since your security deposit usually equals your credit line, you aren’t actually getting any extra money to finance your business. You might (very reasonably) wonder why anyone would get a secured card. Well, they don’t provide financing of themselves, but they do help you build up your credit score so you can eventually qualify for a regular, unsecured credit card. Which brings us to….

How Can I Use One to Build Credit?

Your credit score is based on a number of factors, but the most important one is your payment history—whether you’ve made on-time payments in the past. If you have bad credit, you’re in a bind—you can’t establish a track record of on-time payments if you can’t qualify for a loan.

Secured credit cards are a way out of this catch-22: they let you establish a payment history at no risk to the lender. Almost anyone can qualify for a secured credit card, and with the card, you can show future lenders that you’re a responsible borrower.

So, how do you actually build up your credit score with a secured card? It’s the same principle: You make on-time payments using your secured credit card and keep a low debt-to-credit ratio. That helps to raise your FICO score so you can eventually qualify for an unsecured credit card. You can also request that the lender periodically review your account to see if you can “graduate” to a regular card.

Do I Need a Secured Credit Card?

As you can probably tell, secured credit cards have many downsides compared with regular cards. You don’t actually get a line of credit, and you might have to pay annual fees. If you can qualify for a regular credit card, you should probably go with that.

The Capital One Spark® Classic is a great average credit card for people who don’t have the best FICO scores but can still get unsecured cards. The Classic doesn’t charge annual or foreign transaction fees, and it even earns rewards: 1% cash back on every purchase you make. As far as average-credit cards go, it’s the perfect mix of no fees and cash rewards.

What Are the Best Secured Credit Cards?

Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card

Of the two secured credit cards we’re highlighting, the Wells Fargo Business Secured Credit Card is the only one that’s specifically a business credit card. It does come with a $25 annual fee, but you get up to 10 free employee cards and no foreign transaction fees.

You also have your choice of two rewards programs: either 1.5% cash back on every $1 spent, or a Rewards Points setup that gives you 1 point per $1 spent; 1,000 bonus points for every billing period that you spend at least $1,000; and a 10% points bonus when you redeem online (you can redeem for gift cards, merchandise, air travel, and more). Your line of credit can range from $500 to $25,000, depending on how much you deposit.

Wells Fargo reports card usage to business credit bureaus and periodically reviews your account to see if you’re eligible for an unsecured card. However, they won’t report to personal credit bureaus, so you don’t have to put your personal credit at risk. The card also offers business-specific perks like spending reports.

The Wells Fargo card’s annual fee is a pretty big strike against it, but the employee cards and accounting help are nice perks. If you’re looking for a business-specific secured card, this is a solid choice.

Discover it® Secured Card

The Discover it® Secured Card – No Annual Fee is a personal credit card, but it makes our list because it doesn’t charge annual fees. Like the Wells Fargo card, it has no foreign transaction fee, but it goes a step further and waives over-the-limit fees as well as your first late payment fee. Its minimum security deposit is lower than Wells’, at just $200.

The card also has a solid cash back rewards program—2% cash back on up to $1,000 spent per quarter on gas and restaurants and an unlimited 1% cash back elsewhere.

And after your first account anniversary, Discover matches all the cash back you’ve earned, basically raising your first-year rewards rate to 4% on gas and dining and 2% elsewhere. Discover also reviews your account every seven months to see if you qualify for an upgrade, and you can also request a review at any time.

Discover beats out the Wells Fargo card for its first-year rewards rate and lack of an annual fee, but it doesn’t offer the same business perks like employee cards or spending reports. Still, if those aren’t deal-breakers for you, it’s a great option.


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12 Free or Cheap Online Courses for Small Business Owners

For most entrepreneurs, the early days of starting a business involve a massive, never-ending learning curve. Whether you’ve graduated with an MBA or you’ve never taken a business class in your life, there is always a new problem to face, and you’ll always be learning how to improve the processes that allow your business to function and grow.

Years ago, a struggling entrepreneur’s only options were to consult a mentor, enroll in a local college class, or figure things out as they went along! Fortunately, small business owners have access to a growing number of free or cheap online courses—so no matter what the challenge of the day might be, you’ll be armed with the information you need to make the best possible decision for your company.

But with so many online courses floating around, how do you know which ones can actually move your business forward? To keep things simple, we’ve come up with our list of the top 12 online courses for small business owners that will help you take your business to the next level.

Already know just what you need? We’ve organized our favorite courses into four key pillars—business planning, finances, marketing, and operations—so you can find the perfect course for your business today.

Business Planning

Every successful small business starts with a clear plan—but business planning isn’t a one-time event that wraps up as soon as you open the doors to your first customers. Let these courses be your guide to smart, strategic business planning for every stage of your small business.

Company Formation Law: How to Register Your Business by Udemy

If you’re just getting started with your business journey and feeling overwhelmed by the initial red-tape of formally registering your business, check out this quick and useful Udemy course.

With just an hour of video and written material, you’ll quickly get the information you need to choose your business entity, register, and get on with building your business into everything you’ve hoped it could be.

Cost: $50

Who it’s for: Any U.S. based, just-getting-started entrepreneur looking for guidance on how to choose the right corporate structure and register their business efficiently.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the importance of registering your business as a formal entity.
  • Determine the right entity type (LLC vs. C-Corporation vs. S-Corporation) for your unique business needs.
  • Learn the steps you need to register your business correctly and efficiently, ensuring that you’ll start your business on the best possible legal footing.

Crafting a Business Plan by SmallBizU

You’ve heard time and again that having a formalized business plan is so critical to your success as a small business owner—but what does that even mean? What is a business plan? What is it supposed to say? And how are you supposed to have all those answers when you’re just getting started with your new business?

These are the exactly the questions that the “Crafting a Business Plan” course from SmallBizU aims to answer. In under 2.5 hours of in-depth SlideShare and audio content, this course will give you everything you need to check that ever-looming “write a business plan” task off your to-do list for good.

Cost: $29.99

Who it’s for: Any aspiring or current entrepreneur who wants to create a formalized business plan but isn’t sure how to go about it.

Main takeaways:

  • Discover why writing a formal business plan is such a powerful step in your entrepreneurship journey.
  • Identify the key questions that your business plan should address.
  • Access a simple, step-by-step approach to create your own comprehensive business plan.
  • Avoid the common mistakes that most entrepreneurs make during the business planning process.

Understanding SWOT Analysis

Are you aware of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that are impacting how your business performs from day to day?

In just 30 minutes of video training, you can quickly master the proven four-step strategy that thousands of businesses use to create effective strategic plans and assess the performance of their organizations.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs looking for a systematic way to analyze plans and performance within their business.

Main takeaways:

  • Learn to perform a SWOT analysis for your business.
  • Apply the discoveries made in your SWOT analysis to goal setting and strategic planning processes.
  • Follow specific case studies to better understand the applications of SWOT to a variety of business scenarios.


No matter what industry you’re in, the end purpose of any business is to generate a profit. But profitability isn’t just about attracting customers and selling more of your product or service—you also have to manage your finances well!

Though financial management is rarely any entrepreneur’s favorite part of running a business, these courses will help you streamline your processes more efficiently so that you can make the most of every dollar your business earns.

Cashflow Management for Small Businesses: A How-To Guide

Did you know that poor management of cash flow is consistently cited as the single biggest reason that small businesses fail? With that fact in mind, this cash flow management course from Udemy might be the most important online course you could take for your business this year.

Enroll in this short, valuable course today to learn how to properly and consistently manage your business’s cash flow, ensuring that you always have enough cash on hand to cover both projected expenses and the unexpected costs that every business eventually faces.

Cost: $25

Who it’s for: This course is relevant to any business that wants to maintain strong cash flow and avoid unnecessary business debt.

Main takeaways:

  • Master the formulas and theory behind business cashflow management.
  • Adopt consistent processes to make business decisions based on your real-time cash flow figures.
  • Learn the impact of tax savings and payments on your business’s cash flow.
  • Make accurate, relevant projections of your business’s future cash flow based on relevant data.

Financing Options for Small Businesses

In under an hour of written and video material, this self-paced course from the U.S. Small Business Administration will introduce you to the various financing options available to your small business. From business loans to grants, venture capital, angel investors, and even crowdfunding options, learn the pros and cons of each potential source of funding to make the best choice for your business.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Any small business owner who anticipates needing outside financing from loans, investors, or some other source in the short or long term.

Main takeaways:

  • Determine your business’s short-term and long-term financing needs.
  • Discover the various financing options available to your small business, and the pros and cons of each.
  • Identify the financing options that are most likely to fit within your business plan, and access resources to help you pursue those forms of funding.

Fundamentals of Accounting

Accounting software and reports can provide incredible insights into how your business is doing financially—if you know how to use them. In this course, small business owners can learn to follow along with common principles and terminology used across financial sectors. After completing these two to three hours of video instruction, you’ll be better equipped to manage your own business finances, ask smarter questions of your bookkeeper or accountant, and become a better manager of the revenue your business earns.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs who want to learn skills for managing their own bookkeeping, review accounting documents created by professional bookkeepers or CPA’s, or serve as a professional bookkeeper.

Main takeaways:

  • Master commonly used accounting principles and terminology.
  • Create your first balance sheet and income statement for your business, and understand what these reports reflect.
  • Learn to adjust discrepancies in your business’s daily bookkeeping through journal and ledger tools.


No matter how amazing your product or service may be, your business can’t succeed without a clear path to gain the awareness and confidence of your target customers, then convert those relationships into sales.

In these three free or cheap marketing courses for small business owners, you’ll develop the skills to grow your brand’s reach with customers through digital and traditional marketing channels.

Content Marketing Certification from Hubspot

The term “content marketing” has become a popular buzzword among small business owners who want to grow their audiences and gain new customers without spending a lot of money on paid advertising. But do you actually know what content marketing is, and how to implement it in a strategic way?

This free course from Hubspot Academy is an incredibly valuable starting point for anyone new to the world of online marketing. In just four hours, you’ll be ready to generate incredible content ideas, tell powerful stories that attract customers to your brand, and create and distribute your content in a systematic way.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Anyone who’s heard the “content marketing” buzzword but needs clear education and instructions to apply the strategies to their business.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand how content marketing works and why it is such a powerful tool for your business.
  • Plan a long-term content strategy that aligns with your brand’s goals.
  • Master strategies to promote and repurpose your content in order to extend your reach.
  • Learn to analyze and measure your content marketing efforts so you always know exactly what’s working for your business.

Social Media Superhero by Melyssa Griffin

You already know the value of social media as a free and accessible avenue to share your brand’s message. But how do efficiently create a social media presence that actually brings in more revenue?

Using 60 minutes of video material, a bonus 30-minute Q&A recording, and a written workbook, Melyssa Griffin offers simple, approachable strategies to help you make social media work for your small business.

Cost: $37

Who it’s for: Online entrepreneurs struggling to grow their presence without spending all their time on social media channels.

Main takeaways:

  • Create attractive, approachable social media profiles for your brand.
  • Discover specific strategies for use on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest
  • Learn streamlined processes to save time with your social media efforts.

Understanding Advertising and Promotions

Although online marketing and social media are the predominant strategies used by today’s small business owners, there is still a place for traditional media and advertising to grow your business.

Particularly if your business serves an older demographic, this course is great for learning more about tried and true advertising and public relations strategies for every form of media.

Cost: $29.99

Who it’s for: Entrepreneurs interested in learning more traditional forms of advertising and public relations strategies.

Main takeaways:

  • Learn the steps involved in creating your own advertising campaign.
  • Uncover tips and best practice to maximize your advertising resources.
  • Understand the role of public relations in small business marketing.
  • Create your own market positioning strategy and promotional message.


How does your business get things done? How do big ideas turn into actual, tangible products or services that meet your customers’ needs? To run a successful business, you’ll need clear strategies to grow your team, create clear processes, and execute every stage of the production process in an effective and repeatable manner.

If you have a head full of big ideas but struggle to make them happen, these three free online courses provide clear tools and strategies to get the right things done at the right time.

Fundamentals of Operations Management

Every day, creators and innovators just like you are designing incredible, attractive, useful products that customers would love. So, what determines which of those products actually make their way to market and become widely known and sold? The answer is operations management.

In this course, learn how to plan your capacity for producing your product, protect the supply chain of your raw materials and final offering, and effectively manage your inventory to have the right product available in the right location at the right time—without sacrificing the quality of your creation.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Product-based business owners who need to improve the efficiency of their manufacturing and distribution processes.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the relationship between operations, productivity, and the competitiveness of your business.
  • Improve inventory management and quality assurance processes for your product.
  • Master the strategic plans and decisions required to better manage the daily operations of your organization.

Introduction to Human Resources by Small Business Administration

Whether your small business is a team of one or one hundred, you’ll at some point be responsible for managing, leading, and getting the best work out of your team members.

In this short course from the U.S. Small Business Administration, learn critical strategies for hiring employees, managing personnel, complying with federal and state employment regulations, and addressing the challenging-yet-inevitable aspects of leading a growing company.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Any entrepreneur who plans to grow their business beyond a one-person operation.

Main takeaways:

  • Understand the essentials of an effective hiring process, including defining roles for each team member, recruiting top talent, and interviewing candidates to make the best selection.
  • Prepare your business to comply with all relevant employment laws and maintain a safe work environment.
  • Develop policies and procedures for onboarding team members, providing feedback, and dealing with termination or separation of a team member as needs arise.

Project Management Principles & Practices

No matter how smart or creative your business idea might be, your success as an entrepreneur will ultimately depend on your team’s ability to deliver your product or service on time, on budget, and in a consistent manner.

In this free project management course from UC Irvine, learn keys to planning, budgeting, scheduling, and managing projects across every area of your business to turn those big ideas into reality.

Cost: Free!

Who it’s for: Business owners with big dreams who are lacking clear processes to implement their ideas.

Main takeaways:

  • Learn to set projects up for success through effective planning, including identifying project roles and defining success for each endeavor.
  • Master scheduling and budgeting techniques to complete projects at cost and within the predetermined time frame.
  • Develop tools to identify and manage changes in project scope and objectives so you’re prepared to manage priorities without allowing your projects to spin out of control.

What new skills are you learning as a small business owner? No matter the challenges you face today, we hope that these courses point you in the right direction.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The 3 Best Resources to Get Xero Training Online

Xero might be the new kid on the U.S. accounting software block, but it is quickly gaining in popularity. Built “in the cloud for the cloud” and forgoing accounting jargon in favor of everyday terminology, Xero is easy for accountants and business owners alike to use and understand. Its interface is beautiful, too.

As with any accounting software, new Xero users will want to take some training courses to familiarize themselves with it. Where are the best places online to get Xero training? How do you know if you are getting good information? Should you invest in paid training, or are the free Xero training resources adequate? Following are my three favorite resources for Xero training.

1. Xero U

When it comes to Xero training, going straight to Xero itself is hands-down the best choice. Xero U offers live and online courses, webinars, and other events, making it a one-stop shop for learning the software. While plenty of courses cover the basics, Xero U also contains video courses and webinars on more advanced topics such as payroll, sales tax automation, and inventory management. The videos are thorough, beautiful, and easy to navigate, making learning at your own pace a breeze.

Xero U includes tracks for small business owners as well as accountants and bookkeepers. Each track is geared toward the learning goals most beneficial to the user. Accountants and bookkeepers may choose to become certified in Xero via Xero U. Online courses and webinars are typically free through Xero U.

2. XeroTV

Like Xero U, XeroTV is managed by Xero, so the videos are of the highest quality and contain the most relevant information. Think of XeroTV as YouTube for Xero users. It’s a little less formal than Xero U, but it is still a great resource for Xero training. XeroTV goes beyond basic “how tos” and includes an advisor series as well as an influencers series. You can also find customer stories, app reviews, and information on updates to the Xero platform on XeroTV.

3. Facebook Groups

Many people think Facebook is a big waste of time, but you can find tons of great groups for business owners and accounting professionals there. The Xero Official North America – Accountants & Bookkeepers group is a combination Q&A forum and education platform, which is great for both Xero training information and getting help with one-off issues you might encounter while using Xero. Group moderator Jay Kimelman is the Xero ambassador for the Southeastern United States region, so the information in the group is always current and accurate.

Some of the Xero groups on Facebook are geared exclusively toward accountants and bookkeepers, while others are meant for small business owners and other end users. Keep this in mind when you request to join a group. Also, when choosing a Facebook group for Xero questions or training, your best bet is to stick with the “official” groups. While other “unofficial” groups can also be good resources, they are typically not moderated or monitored by Xero or Xero partners.

Bonus: The Xero Advisor Directory

Accountants and bookkeepers who are certified in Xero can be found in the Xero Advisor Directory. You can search the directory based on your industry and location. You also have the ability to search for “Xero champions,” who are highly trained in Xero.

You may be thinking, “Wait a second! This directory isn’t specifically for Xero training.” You’re right! However, many Xero advisors encourage their clients to become knowledgeable about Xero. Doing so helps business owners become more involved in their business’ finance, which has been a proven way to encourage financial intelligence and profitability.

Consequently, many Xero advisors provide training to their clients. This is very beneficial to the business owner, because their advisor can train them on the aspects of Xero that will help them most.

What to Avoid

It’s easy to find Xero training online. How do you know what to avoid?

Watch out for paid Xero training that is only comprised of videos. With Xero U and XeroTV, there is very little reason to pay for video-only Xero training. Similarly, be cautious of Xero “training manuals” that are not distributed by Xero. The software changes rapidly, and you could easily learn you have paid for outdated information.

If you choose to pay for training from a bookkeeper or an accountant, make sure they are either certified or listed in the Xero Advisor Directory. As with any accounting software, knowing the theory and method behind accounting is not enough to effectively use Xero and train someone in it. Xero certified advisors have a proven proficiency in the software, and this in turn ensures you will be trained to use Xero to its fullest potential.

A final word of caution: Since Xero was developed in New Zealand and has been used in New Zealand, Australia, and some European countries longer than it has been used in the United States, many of the online Xero training resources and advice you will find in a Google search are not U.S.-based. This doesn’t mean the training or resources are bad, but it does mean it may be geared toward non-U.S. Xero users. Make sure you are looking at information created for U.S. Xero users before implementing any advice you find (unless, of course, you are not a U.S.-based business.)


As it becomes more popular in the U.S., Xero training will become easier to find online. This may make it more difficult to determine the good resources from those that are subpar. Going straight to Xero’s training resources will ensure you are getting the most accurate and most current information, both now and in the future. Choosing a certified Xero advisor to help you implement Xero in your business also connects you with the best guidance for your business and the best training on the features you need.

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10 Personal Finance Tips No Small Business Owner Can Live Without

When it comes to finances, small business owners have their work cut out for them: Not only do they need to manage their business’s finances, they have to manage their personal finances, too.

And with personal and business priorities not always aligning, sometimes the task of managing both can feel like a juggling act.

But as a small business owner, you can’t lose sight of your personal finances. Here are some of the top personal finance tips to help you keep a tab on your own money while you manage your business’s.

1. Set Up a Retirement Fund

When it comes to personal finance tips for entrepreneurs—and anyone, for that matter—this first tip is an absolute basic.

You, like all other workers, need to be prepared for retirement—and setting up a retirement fund will help you get there.

You don’t have to funnel a ton of money towards the fund, but what’s saved now will help curb your tax bill and grow tax-deferred until you decide to use the funds for retirement.

There are a few different retirement plan options for small businesses: a SEP-IRA, a SIMPLE IRA, a Solo 401(k) and a SIMPLE 401(k). All but the SEP-IRAs work for sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, or corporations.

Before choosing any one of these retirement plans, do your research on what each offers and how that plan can help you meet your retirement goals.

But here’s a general overview of each:

  • A SEP-IRA is a tax-deductable plan much like a traditional IRA. This plan works well if you’re the only employee of your business. If you do have other employees, you must fund SEP-IRAs for them, too. For 2017 tax returns, you can contribute up to 25% of your pay or $54,000.
  • A SIMPLE IRA works as a retirement plan for businesses of less than 100 employees. Contributions work similarly to a 401(k), where the funds you allocate towards the plan are set aside pre-taxed and taken directly out of paychecks. In 2017, contributions cannot exceed $12,500.
  • A Solo 401(k) is meant for the self-employed without employees (including self-employed people with just a spouse). The IRS allows for elective deferrals of up to $18,000 in 2017 ($24,000 if you’re older than 50), or an employer non-elective contribution of up to 25% of your compensation. Your total contribution can’t exceed $53,000.
  • A SIMPLE 401(k) is meant for businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The business owner and employees can contribute up to $12,500 in 2017 and $15,500 for people 50 and older.

If you’re unsure how to set up a retirement plan yourself, consider going to a financial adviser for help navigating the process. A Certified Financial Planner (CFP) can help you determine what your investing goals are and how to choose the right fund to get you there.

2. Diversify Your Investments

Another important personal finance tip for small business owners to live by is to diversify your investments.

Diversification is one of the most important tenets of investing.

Diversifying is an especially important tip for small business owners because entrepreneurs tend to reinvest their personal capital totally in their business.

While investing in your business will absolutely help you grow—you shouldn’t put all of your personal assets towards one bet. (Especially considering how risky a owning a small business really is—only about 50% of small business survive 5 years.)

By allocating funds into other types of businesses, side business, alternative investments, or just putting aside cash in a savings account, you’re giving yourself some breathing room. If you need to close up shop for some reason, not all your personal assets will have been funnelled into a failed business.

3. Plan for the Off-Season With an Emergency Fund

As an adult, you’ve probably been told to have an emergency fund for rainy days.

This is a personal finance tip that small business owners should follow, too.

Odds are, business won’t be booming month after month. As a business owner, you’ll likely have to deal with irregular income earnings throughout the year.

As a small business owner (especially as one of a seasonal business), it’s important to budget for those down months. Make sure that you have enough “emergency” savings on hand so you can weather any down months of business.

Like anyone else, you need to cover the expenses of housing, food, insurance, utilities, and the welfare of any dependents, so always keep those personal financial needs in mind.

4. Keep Your Business and Personal Finances Separate

As a small business owner or startup entrepreneur, this next personal finance tip is especially hard.

You are so invested and inter-connected with your business that it might feel like you are your business and your business is you.

While that enthusiasm is a key trait of successful entrepreneurs, it shouldn’t apply to your financials.

Keeping your business and personal finances separate is important for a lot of reasons, namely:

  • Saving you from headache during tax season when you’re deducting your business expenses.
  • Giving your business more credibility and legitimacy as a business.
  • Removing personal liability when something negative happens to your business down the road.
  • Making sure you’re not putting the burden of your business’s financials on your personal accounts.

When you start your business, open a business banking account and apply for a business credit card to use for your business expenses. This is a great start towards separating your business and personal accounts. (Plus, doing so will help you build business credit, separating you from your business even more clearly.)

5. Automate Your Bill Payment Schedule (for Both Your Personal and Business Accounts)

If you’re looking for personal financial tips, one that you’ll absolutely come across is to automate your bill payment schedule.

This is an easy time-saver that entrepreneurs should follow, too.

You’re spending lots of your time managing your business’s financials, so it’s easy to overlook your own personal financial obligations. If you’re making payments on business loans, business credit cards, personal credit cards, a mortgage, and so on, you have a full plate of financial responsibility.

If your bank allows it, set up specific rules to pay bills of fixed amounts, and set up alerts for those accounts you need to review before paying.

Doing so will help you stay on top of all your accounts—avoiding steep late-payment fees and hits to your credit score.

6. Keep Your Personal Finances in Mind During Business Succession

Whether you decide to sell, pass on, or simply end your business, you’ll need a strong business succession plan.

A variety of parties are involved in a business and affected by its succession: the owner, employees, contractors, clients, landlords, investors, and so on.

Creating a sound business succession plan will ensure that every party’s financial interests are met during the process of discontinuing or passing on your business. The act of ending or succeeding a business has many tax and financial considerations that come with it, so you might consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in the subject while you create the financial side of a succession plan.

7. Seek Out Professional Tax Advice

One of the most followed personal financial tips is to consult a good accountant when tax season rolls around.

This personal financial tip rings true for entrepreneurs, too.

Depending on your business entity, there are a variety of a correct ways you should be filing your business taxes. The current U.S. tax law for individuals and small business owners is very complex. And getting it right can be hard for busy entrepreneurs.

Sole proprietors have different taxation rules from C Corporations, for instance.

Speaking to an accountant or tax professional can help you figure out what your obligations are in your state, and based on your business entity.

And if you choose to go about the tax process yourself, make sure to start preparing early. Keep an organized, clear record of all your business expenses to save the headache of sorting your expenses during tax season!

8. Keep Your Expenses Low and Stick to a Budget

You probably have been told to keep to a budget for a business before.

There’s no reason to not translate this advice into a personal financial tip, too.

It can be hard to manage your day-to-day personal spending when sticking to a budget for your business is more top of mind. But don’t let managing your own money fall through the cracks while you focus on growing your business.

You can set up your own budget based on your monthly expenses, or make it even easier on yourself and use a budgeting app. Mint is one of the most popular budgeting apps out there, but You Need a Budget and Wally are also good options.

9. Check Your Interest Rates

If you’re a savvy business owner, you’re hyper aware of the interest rates you’re paying on all your small business financing. If you crunch the numbers and can’t afford a loan you’re offered, then that product isn’t for you.

Checking your interest rates is a personal financial tip entrepreneurs need to do for their own money, too.

If you have student loans or personal loans, consider your refinancing options. Or, think about which loan you should pay off first based on how steep the interest rates are. The same goes for credit card balances: pay off the balances that come with the highest interest rates first.

The bottom line: paying attention to each account’s interest rates will help you pay off debt and managing your personal finances smartly.

10. Build and Track Your Credit Score Regularly

Monitoring your credit is a personal finance tip that is important for both your personal and business finances.

As an entrepreneur, you’ll find that your personal credit score follows you into the realm of your business. Many small business lenders, creditors, suppliers, etc. will look at your personal credit score to determine whether or not to work with you.

Why will your personal credit score matter so much for your business?

Well, it comes down to the fact that you’re a small business. Whereas corporations can have business credit scores that speak to the responsibilities of the business and not the founders or executive team, lenders don’t have much business history to go off of with a small business.

Because it’s likely just you and a small team of employees at the helm, the best indication of your business’s ability to pay off its debts is how well you’ve been able to handle your personal debts and financial accounts.

Practicing good borrowing behavior with your personal credit accounts (and regularly monitoring where your score lies) will save you and your business money in the long run, so don’t turn a blind eye to your credit health.


There you have it—10 personal finances tips that every small business owner should live by.

As a busy entrepreneur, you might have to put in a little more work towards getting a hand on your personal and business finances. But being smart with your money from the moment you start your business will pay off in the long run!

What’s a personal financial tip you live by? Leave it in the comments!

The post 10 Personal Finance Tips No Small Business Owner Can Live Without appeared first on Fundera Ledger.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Small Business Spotlight: How One Business Becomes One With Nature

Kabbage spoke with Alex Shirley-Smith, the Managing Director at Tentsile, to gain insight into a company that inspires its customers to become one with nature. As a young boy, Alex was devastated when he saw the destruction of the Amazonian Rainforest on TV, and when he saw Return of the Jedi a few weeks later,... Read more

The post Small Business Spotlight: How One Business Becomes One With Nature appeared first on Kabbage Small Business Blog.

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The Economics of Becoming a Life Coach

Life coaches: They’re everywhere. You might have seen a Facebook page for one or noticed that your yoga instructor has taken on the role of personal, spiritual, or professional advisor to some of your classmates.

With over 53,000 coach practitioners globally and 17,000 in North America alone (according to a study by the International Coach Federation), the field of life coaching is clearly resonating with its clientele. What does becoming a life coach entail, and how do you know if you’re qualified to help change people’s lives?

Becoming a Life Coach

Life coaches work on helping their clients grow and develop, whether they’re focusing on the career side of life or more personal matters. They’re usually more forward-focused than having clients analyze their past experiences.

But beyond that, the field of life coaching is a fairly large general bucket. It can involve accreditation or certification, or not. It can mean an in-person or all-digital business. Unlike a lot of fields, life coaching can mean whatever you want it to mean. As long as you find people who respond to your coaching, you can call yourself a life coach.

With that in mind, here are some tips on how to get started down the path of coaching.

Decide What Kind of Life Coach You’re Going to Be

As a life coach, you might find it helpful to pick a niche and build out your reputation from there. Most life coaches focus on people’s professional or personal life, while others drill down further and help them make changes regarding health, such as nutrition and exercise plans, or to uncover their spiritual side. Undoubtedly, as a life coach, you’ll touch on more than one of these areas regardless of your central focus.

For example, Tim Toterhi is the founder of Plotline Leadership, which provides services to both individuals and organizations to help shape their success stories. Though Plotline Leadership offers three distinct service lines—coaching about careers, specific projects, or personal stories—Toterhi says that there is certainly some overlap.   

“It’s almost impossible to talk to someone about their career without touching on aspects of their life,” he says. “Maybe it’s a family-work life issue or it’s a leadership quality that’s holding them back. The biggest one is the story. That is by far my favorite, the most meaningful one, because it encapsulates everything. You want to make these major transitions, and that’s wrapped up in your story.”

Once you find your life coaching groove—which will probably be obvious to you, based on your background and what you feel comfortable talking to clients about—you’ll be in a better position to market yourself and your services accordingly.  

Let’s also identify what a coach is not. A life coach is not a mentor, or consultant, or therapist.

“There’s a huge distinction between whether you’re providing mentorship or consulting versus coaching,” Toterhi says. “The big thing with a life or business coach is that you’re trying to be content neutral. You’re trying to guide them through a process or to a goal. In the coaching world, the client owns the agenda and the outcome, whereas in mentoring you’re really pushing what you know on to another person and hoping they take up some of that to move forward.”

Get Accredited or Certified—or Don’t

So, do you need to be accredited or certified to be a life coach? Technically, no. It’s not like becoming a doctor, which requires some classes. But according to the ICF study, 89% of coach practitioners receive training that was accredited or approved by a pro coaching organization.

“When you’re a certified coach, you’re bound by an ethical guideline,” says Toterhi. “There’s a little more rigor to it. You know you have to get training every year, so there’s much more discipline with someone who brings that to the table as well.” 

But that isn’t to say that all successful coaches are technically accredited.

“I struggle here because I know and have worked with coaches who have zero official certifications and regularly make six figures in a month,” says Chelsea Quint, a spiritual health and happiness coach. “It is a case-by-case basis.”

For her part, Quint took a health coach specialized training program with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which provides nutrition and diet education as well as business basics. She says that training and accreditation is just as important for the life coach as it is for the client.

“I do think that it can be helpful internally to make you feel legit, because then you can show up to people differently and put yourself out there,” she says. “It helps having some kind of base-level certification where you can hone your skills and start to figure out what areas you want to focus on.”

If you’re looking for a place to start with certification, visit the ICF’s website to find a variety of individual credentialing options and programs that could be right for your vision of life coaching, including an Associate, Professional, or Master Certified Coach.

Don’t Forget the Nuts-and-Bolts Stuff

As a life coach, you’re not just a professional, personal, or spiritual advisor—you’re a small business owner. As a result, you need to go through the nuts and bolts of owning a small business, wherever you’re based.

That includes deciding on the structure of your business—a sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership, or corporation are popular options—and assembling a business plan that addresses startup costs, from the cost of your certification program to any overhead costs associated with renting a space and outfitting it, assuming you’ll meet people in person.

Quint has an all-digital business, and she credits that decision with helping her get her business off the ground: The upfront costs when you don’t have a physical space are negligible.

“A lot of coaches want or end up having digital businesses, which means you don’t need business cards, a printer, paper and toner and folders and handouts,” says Quint.

Create your Digital Footprint

Regardless of whether you’ll host clients or correspond with them by phone or online, it’s 2017, so you need a website. That means paying for website hosting, a domain name, and a professional business-branded email account as well.

If you have an all-digital business, this stuff, and more, become paramount. For example, you need a decent computer and camera to take photos of yourself, record videos, and conduct sessions.

“You do need photos of yourself,” says Quint. “They don’t need to be professionally photographed, but a huge part of what the product is, is you, and so having photos to put on your website and social media that look professional and are on-brand for you is really important when you first start out, so that people can get to know you as a professional in this role.”

Quint says other things that are helpful, though not required, are branding courses that come “with a little bit of coaching around creating my brand, and how to infuse it in my website, how to use different colors and fonts, how to style things for social media, how to write different copy, all of those pieces, which is helpful when you have an online business. There’s literature out there about how someone needs to interact with you seven times before they even start to enter their purchase-consideration mindset.”

Understand How to Price Yourself and Your Services

It’s difficult to put a value on helping people change their lives. But this is a business all the same, and you have to figure out what your time is worth in order to charge people accordingly.

“I spend a lot of time talking with people before they sign up—almost everybody I work with I talk to for free first to make sure they’re actually looking for a coach and not looking for something else,” says Toterhi. “As far as ROI on it, I look at it like any other service, and every client is going to value that service differently. As an example: You want a history of education—you can get that at a local community college or at Harvard—it really just depends on the value you’re seeing. And that’s part of our job—to convey that value.”

In terms of what to actually charge, Toterhi says that depends on how you approach working with clients. Will you do it by project? Is travel involved? Do you feel more comfortable charging an hourly or day rate like a lawyer or psychologist? Is this a one-time deal or an ongoing situation? Once you figure that out, you can price out what your hour is worth and go from there.

And what if a potential client thinks they can just get all the information you might provide from Google, or get advice from their friend, for much less than what you’re charging?

“Real talk: Any potential client could google or find the books or take a course or go on a retreat, and you could pretty much find all of the information that transfers from any kind of coaching package or session,” says Quint. “I’m very transparent with that with my clients. The value of coaching does not come as much from the information but moreso from your ability to give the accountability and perspective that you can’t get the same way anywhere else.”

Formulate How You’ll Work with Clients

Both Toterhi and Quint have different packages, levels of service, and areas of focus that they offer their clients.

According to Toterhi, whether he’s working with a client on their story, career, or a project, being clear and setting a goal upfront is a priority. “I like to work in three-month increments, long enough to get a meaningful change—either an entire project or enough to create a habit if it’s a small thing,” he says. “I believe in being financially responsible for both parties.”  

Quint offers a variety of packages, including The Breakthrough (one 30-minute session), The Makeover (12 50-minute sessions) and The Quickstart (one 90-minute session). How you break down your services (and price them) is entirely up to you.

But again: Have a clear goal in mind when you start out with your client. If you reach your goal, you can set up another one. But give both sides a chance to move on if the fit isn’t right. That’s life, and that’s life coaching, too.


Life coaching can be an incredibly rewarding, yet difficult and trying, career path. You need the personality for it (Quint says she’s been described as a “human can opener” for the way she gets people to open up), the background in coaching and business, and the mindset that helping people is a way to earn income, just like any other job.

“Plenty of people out there really just want to make money to get rich … I realized that if I’m going to be doing something to earn income, I would so much rather do something that helps people,” says Quint. “That feels so much better.”

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The 7 Best Websites to Help You Find Rockstar Employees

What are the best websites for small business owners to use to recruit awesome employees?

Looking for qualified employees for your small business can seem like looking for a needle in a haystack. You probably don’t have an HR director to help you, nor do you have a lot of time in your busy day to spend weeding through résumés.

But because your staff is small, the candidate you choose to hire can make a huge difference in the success of your business. The following websites can help you find rockstar employees in a variety of different categories.

1. For Professional/Executive/Senior-Level Jobs

LinkedIn’s strength is its ability to target “passive” jobseekers—those who aren’t actively looking for a job but are willing to consider a better opportunity if it presents itself. And with over 500 million members, the sheer numbers make this site a good bet.

When you post a job on LinkedIn, the site puts your listing in front of relevant candidates and provides a list of up to 50 candidates suited for the job. The cost of each posting varies depending on the geographic location. You also have the option to pay per click, so you only pay based on how many people click on your ad. (You do need a LinkedIn Company Page with a Careers page on it to post job ads.)

Of course, you can also use LinkedIn to search for prospective “passive” candidates in your industry and reach out to see if they’re interested. This works best if you’re already active on LinkedIn and fairly familiar with relevant industry and trade groups so you’re not starting from scratch.

2. For Tech Jobs

If you’re looking to recruit IT employees, is the place to be. A single job post costs $395 and promotes your listing on 3,000 partner sites, as well as, for 30 days. You can pay more for Premium Posts, which stay up for 60 days, refresh every week, and appear higher in results. also has a variety of premium services including a Sourcing Concierge and recruiting services, as well as Open Web, its social hiring platform that pulls data about tech candidates from more than 180 social platforms to give you a deeper view into job candidates’ skills.

3. For Internships or Entry-Level Jobs Requiring a College Degree

Are you looking for an entry-level employee or intern for a job that requires a college degree?

You can advertise a position on College Recruiter for $250 for 30 days. Students and recent grads of more than 7,400 colleges and universities use the site to look for internships, part-time jobs, seasonal work, and entry-level career opportunities.

One caveat: College Recruiter is primarily used by larger companies that need to hire dozens or even hundreds of graduates. If you’re just looking for one or two job candidates, you might be better off working with your local community colleges and professional or trade schools.

Find out what types of job websites they have and if there is a charge to list jobs. You might even be able to develop an ongoing relationship with a local school. For example, I used to work with a local art/design college when I needed to hire graphic designers.

4. For Niche Jobs

No matter how carefully you craft your job description, posting on bigger job boards often delivers more candidates than you need—90% of them are not qualified for the position. That’s where industry-specific job boards come in handy. You can find job boards for industries ranging from liquor distributors to horticulture and sports.

Check out this list of more than 100 industry-specific job boards, including jobs in startups, technology, financial, non-profit, retail, construction, healthcare, and restaurants.

You’re sure to find one for your industry—and you can feel confident jobseekers on these boards actually have some experience, or at least interest in, your industry.

5. For Hourly Jobs

When you’re looking for hourly employees, you usually need them ASAP. Snagajob is the place to be.

This job search site for hourly employees has more than 80,000 registered jobseekers and a robust mobile app. Jobs post immediately, and if you can’t wait for applications to roll in, you can sort through local job seeker profiles and invite them to apply. You can also filter and manage applications, schedule interviews and more, directly from your Snagajob account, so you can easily keep track of candidates.

The Starter account costs $89/month for one job posting. Or you could go with the Starter Plus, for just $10 more. That gives you access to a Personality Assessment tool and posts your jobs on 10 top jobs boards in addition to Snagajob.

6. For Remote/Virtual/Flextime Jobs

Flexjobs targets job seekers looking for what it calls TRaD—telecommuting, remote, and distributed—professional jobs. Request an invitation, and after Flexjobs vets your business to make sure it’s a legitimate job offer, you can join for free. Members can post an unlimited amount of job openings and search nearly 90,000 candidates, all for free.

You can post jobs from entry-level to executive, locally or internationally. The only unifying factor is your jobs need to be flexible.

7. For All Kinds of Jobs

You can place job ads on Facebook, but you don’t have to in order to attract potential candidates. Ask your employees to post on their personal Facebook pages that your company is hiring, include a few words about the position, and ask anyone who’s interested to contact them privately.

Then, have employees pass any interested parties on to you. You can even offer a “finder’s fee” to any employee who finds a new hire that makes it through your probationary period.

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