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General Business

209 Posts authored by: Steve Strauss

These days, small businesses have no lack of data. You can run analytics for how well your Facebook posts are doing, the open rate for your e-newsletter, shopping cart abandons, what time of day products sell best, and a whole lot more.

 

The question is not whether you generate data – you do – but rather, do you have the time or insight as to how to digest these numbers and determine what they mean for your small business goals?

 

That’s where a good dashboard comes in handy. In the parlance of analytics, this is called Business Intelligence, or BI. The good news: Several innovative companies have created a slew of BI tools to analyze and interpret your data.

 

So which dashboards are worth your time and can best help you run your business?

 

Here are some of my favorites:

 

Bank of America® Business Advantage 360: This is a superior financial dashboard from our friends at Bank of America. Business Advantage 360 (BA360) is a digital tool designed to make it easy for small business owners to manage the various financial aspects of their business, especially the all-important cash flow.

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Available to any Bank of America client with a business deposit account, Business Advantage 360 provides a birds-eye view of business cash flow and access to real-time expertise and guidance. With BA360, you can:

 

      • Create and graphically display cash-flow projections
      • Integrate account information to easily keep track of finances
      • Manually adjust projections with additional data like new sales
      • Set up cash flow thresholds and display them graphically and add alerts when adjustments may be needed

 

Here’s a good video that can show you how Business Advantage 360 can help your business.

 

Dasheroo: Dasheroo began as a tool that collected and curated social media data. You could compare your Facebook Likes and Insights, Twitter follows and analytics, Instagram hits and so forth all in one place. Simply set up your customer Dasheroo dashboard, attach your different accounts, and the system would give visually interesting analysis and insight of all of your social media metrics.

 

Now, Dasheroo allows you to corral data from many of your other useful business apps, including:

 

      • MailChimp
      • PayPal
      • YouTube
      • SalesForce
      • Infusionsoft
      • Google Analytics
      • SurveyMonkey
      • QuickBooks®

 

You get the idea. A great analytical tool.

 

Zoho Reports: Most of these dashboards offer the same eye candy functionality. That is, you have access to:

 

      • Beautiful dashboards
      • Drag & drop report creation  
      • Interactivity
      • Customization
      • Visually stunning graphics

 

Zoho offers this as well. By taking the headache out of producing reports, Zoho Reports makes it easy to generate clear, powerful, useful reports based on your data.

 

Board: According to Board, “We feature some of the best data visualization tools available alongside in-depth planning and forecasting functionality, providing users with a consistent, self-service, fully integrated approach to reporting, analysis, simulation, and planning.” With Board you can:

 

      • Plan, monitor and get insight into your sales processes
      • Track, analyze and plan your sales "lead to revenue" process
      • Plan and analyze across the entire supply chain management
      • Streamline workforce planning and get better insights into human resources performance
      • Automate financial planning and analyze business performance down to operations

 

And these are just a start. Check out some of the tools listed here – you, and your business will be better for it.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

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Like you, I bet, I learned about the uncertainty that comes with owning a business the hard way.

 

The first time for me was when I opened my first business, a law firm. Starting in March of that year, I hung out a shingle, advertised the heck out of it, and made a profit my very first month. I thought I was some sort of capitalist genius.

 

That belief stuck with me… until November and December of that year, when business completely dried up. I didn’t know people generally don’t like hiring lawyers during the holidays. OK, lesson learned.

 

Fast forward a decade later: I had begun my second business, a better-fitting content creation and writing business. But much to my surprise, an unexpected recession hit, and my business completely dried up a second time.

 

These days, needless to say, potential bumps down the road are alwayson my radar.

 

And I am not alone.

 

Twice a year, our friends at Bank of America issue the Small Business Owner Report (SBOR). Always a fascinating glimpse into the mind and machinations of small business owners, the SBOR this year indicates that not a few small business owners are starting to think about, and plan for, an upcoming downturn in the economy:

 

“Overall, we found that most business owners are preparing whatever the future may hold, creating continuity plans for their business in the case of a disaster and taking steps to prepare for a potential economic downturn.”

 

According to the Report, “Concern over a variety of economic factors has ticked up over the last six months. Health care costs remain the top-ranking issue, with the political environment emerging as a close second.”

 

The good news is that according to the SBOR, confidence among small business owners remains high. For instance

 

  • Almost 60 percent of small business owners surveyed expect their business revenues to increase over the next year (almost exactly the same percentage as last year)
  • Just about a quarter plan on hiring this year (more than last year)
  • Well more than half expect to be able to grow their business over the next five years (slightly down from last year)

 

So, yes, as is their nature, small business people are optimistic. But, that said, they are also prudent, and smart, and as such, are expecting the unexpected.

 

According to the Report, “Business owners recognize the need to prepare for disruptive events such as economic downturns, natural disasters and cyber breaches, [with] a majority [having] continuity and preparedness plans in place…”

 

Specifically,

 

69 percent have taken steps to prepare for a general economic downturn. Steps taken include:

 

  • Established an emergency fund: 37 percent
  • Created an alternative business plan, reducing expenses: 25 percent
  • Opened a line of credit: 19 percent
  • Obtained a second job: 13 percent

 

61 percent have a continuity plan in place in the case of a natural disaster(flood, hurricane, earthquake, etc.) This includes:

 

  • Purchased an insurance policy: 49 percent
  • Backed up files: 40 percent
  • Implemented a communication protocol for employees: 19 percent
  • Made structural updates to building: 14 percent

 

80 percent have plans in place in case of a cyberattack:

 

  • Installed security patches: 47 percent
  • Secured customer data: 44 percent
  • Securely disposed of confidential documents: 42 percent
  • Trained employees on confidentiality protocols: 27 percent
  • Implemented a third-party security management program: 25 percent

 

As they say, what goes up, must come down. But they never said that it has to come down with a thud. What these savvy small business owners (and even your late-to-the-game author) know is that with a little planning, even the most unexpected of changes can yield a soft landing.

 

Start. Planning. Now.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Though we are surrounded by a slew of shiny new social media platforms, the backbone of all digital communications, especially in business, remains email. Even though the first email was sent all the way back in the 1970s, it has not lost an ounce of its relevance after all these years, and in fact, is now more vital than ever.

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As times have changed, however, so has email etiquette. What was acceptable at the turn of the century is different from what passes muster today. But fear not. I have compiled a list of the six most important rules when it comes to business emails. Take a look:

 

1. Write a subject line that resonates: Whether you are writing a proposal, a virtual introduction, or simply a follow-up, you want your email to get noticed and read.

 

In this regard, your subject line is your first, and easily most important, tool.

 

Quickly summarizing your email in the subject line is a great way to make sure your email does not get skipped over. By the same token, a “No Subject” email will never catch anyone’s attention, and similarly, a boring subject line will easily get ignored. So craft a short and snappy subject line that will cause them to want to read more.

 

Think of it as the headline of your story.

 

2. Keep it short: What do you do when you get an 8-paragraph email? If you are human, you tune out.

 

The secret is to keep your emails short and sweet to the extent possible. Not only does a shorter email save you time, but it also helps you build a good reputation as someone who respects other people’s time, and in the business world, it is essential to make this kind of impression.

 

Other people are just as busy as you are. Because we all skim over our emails from time to time, the details of a long email will surely get lost in the shuffle. Your emails must be short and easy to read if you want to ensure business gets taken care of.

 

One last note re: length. Keep paragraphs short, too. Attention spans are shorter these days. Long paragraphs are difficult to read. Keep it snappy, pappy.

 

3. Emojis are OK!: This is a significant – and recent – change. It used to be that emojis were seen as child’s play, literally. But not so today. Emojis help to personalize email communications. Yes, you must use them judiciously, but, that said, the right emoji at the right time helps you create rapport with the right person.

 

4. Use the correct tone: Work has become less formal and email has followed suit. Friendliness and being personable in your written communications are generally quite important.

 

Remember though that tone and intonation do not easily translate into text. Because of this, you need to be careful about using sarcasm or making facetious jokes; these can easily be misinterpreted in the context of an email.

 

By the same token, an email can quickly come across as rude or too-serious if there is no detectable levity (even if the words are innocuous spoken out loud.) An exclamation mark or lightly playful remark will remedy this, amigo!

 

5. Writing is re-writing: You. Must. Proofread. Period. While this tip may seem obvious, there are plenty of people who still forget to proofread their emails before they send them off. Using “i”  instead of “I” for instance makes your look sloppy, immature, or both.

 

Look for obvious spelling and grammatical errors, but also make sure your email is readable, organized, and formatted properly. For example, if you notice two different topics in one paragraph, you should take the time to break up that paragraph into two smaller ones. Proofreading your emails will make you look smart and will make it easier for your recipient to give you the response you need.

 

Writing is re-writing.

 

6. Remember, nothing is private: This is the key rule for using the internet generally, and email specifically. Only the illusion of privacy exists in email. People forward on emails, they bcc people, they copy and paste, etc. There is no privacy in email.

 

Although email has evolved throughout the years, the basic rules remain the same. Common sense (and good grammar) can see you through.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

One of the great things about being in business for yourself these days is that there are a lot of helpful resources to be found. Back in the day, especially the pre-Internet day, entrepreneurs were mostly on their own. They would rise or fall based on what they knew or – more accurately – did not know.

 

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Not now. Today, not only are there more resources, but they are also far more readily available. Not knowing, and not having help, is mostly a thing of the past.

 

In particular, there is especially a lot of help for women and veteran small businesses aimed at encouraging small business ownership among these groups. Here are some of our favorites:

 

Resources for Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

What with their ability to follow a mission, their commitment to teamwork, and mastery of follow-through, veterans make great entrepreneurs. Here then are some of the best small business resources available to them:

 

SBA Veteran Programs: Not surprisingly, that best friend to small business, the Small Business Administration, has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. For example, Operation Boots to Business is a program for military service personnel transitioning to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration: Similarly, the VA has a great small business resource center, the Veteran Entrepreneur Portal. Offering help for everything from starting, to financing, to growing a business, this is a great place for the fresh and seasoned veteran entrepreneur alike.

 

Veteran Entrepreneurship Courses: According to Bunker in a Box CEO Todd Conner, “Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.” Using videos, online tutorials, and articles, veterans can embark on 14 “missions” that teach entrepreneurship. Along the same lines, but in person, Patriot Boot Camp offers entrepreneurship training programs in various cities nationwide.

 

 

Resources for Female Entrepreneurs

 

While women face unique challenges when it comes to business, they don’t have to go at it alone. Community, funding, training, mentoring and much more are available both on and offline. Check out:


The SBA: Any woman looking to launch a career in entrepreneurship should begin their search by going to the SBA Office Women Business Ownership Home Page
SCORE: At SCORE, either online or off, you can get free, confidential, expert business mentoring from coaches nationwide.
Female entrepreneurship training: IGNITE straddles the line between veteran and female entrepreneurship. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities nationwide.

National Association of Women Business Owners: NAWBO has chapters throughout the country that sponsor educational meetings and networking events. NAWBO's website includes online entrepreneurial training and resources.

Entrepreneurship Websites: The internet is full of sites designed to inspire, educate, and empower women. Some offer free content, some are membership sites, and some are geared toward conferences or education. Popular sites include Woman Owned She Owns It the Female Entrepreneur Association. You can find others by searching for websites and blogs for women entrepreneurs.

 

        • Check out this collection highlighting how to embrace the unique challenges women face and thrive as small business owners.

 

Financial Resources for all

 

All entrepreneurs should know about the funding options available from the Small Business Administration. The programs below are great options, whether you are a woman, veteran or any other type of small business owner:


The 7(a) Loan Program: This bread-and-butter program is one of SBA's primary lending vehicles. It provides very favorable terms on loans to small businesses                unable to secure financing on reasonable terms through normal lending channels. One important thing to note is that the SBA does not make loans itself. Instead, it guarantees loans made by private financial institutions – banks, credits unions, and so on.

SBA CAPLines: Need working capital? This is the place to go.


Microloans: The expedited SBA Microloan program offers small business loans, up to $50,000.

 

CDFIs: Also known as local loan centers – provide capital, mentoring and financial advice supporting small businesses, affordable housing and nonprofit organizations operating in lower income communities.

 

 

Yes, it is fun to start and grow a small business, but it also can be lonely and difficult. Fortunately, there is plenty of help available today making it less so.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngSteven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss

  

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice. Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

According to the third annual Bank of America Hispanic Small Business Owner Spotlight (HSBOS), 79 percent of Hispanic business owners plan to grow their business over the next five years, a full 24 percentage points higher than non-Hispanic entrepreneurs (55 percent).

 

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According to the HSBOS:

 

Hispanic entrepreneurs are significantly more optimistic than their non-Hispanic counterparts when it comes to both their business and economic outlooks. Similarly, Hispanic business owners report greater confidence in the direction of the national economy, as well as their local economies.

 

The stats bear this out. When asked about their outlook for the next 12 months,

 

  • 87 percent of Hispanic business owners said they plan to expand (vs. 67 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)
  • 74 percent said they expected revenue will increase (vs. 57 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs), and
  • 51 percent said they planned to hire more (vs. 26 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs)

 

So yes, that is a lot of optimism!

 

One of the things I love about the Bank of America Small Business Owner Spotlight is not just that it is full of headlines, but it actually digs deep to give reasoning and context for the news it always seems to break.

 

In this case, what was so interesting is why Hispanic entrepreneurs are so optimistic. If I could sum it up in one word, it would be community and family. (OK, you got me, that’s two words, three actually, but you get the idea.)

 

The bottom line is that Hispanic small business owners are buoyed by their families around them, both actual and extended (and in that, there is a vital lesson for the rest of us. Read on.)

 

  • It’s a family investment: 23 percent of the non-Hispanics surveyed planned on passing their business onto their children. But among Hispanic small business owners, that number is almost double since they see the business as a familybusiness, making it both a motivator anda creator of optimism.
  • The community is involved: Survey participants stated that their community is another influential participant in their success, with 86 percent saying community support is an important part of their success and motivation. Furthermore, and significantly, 22 percent of the Hispanic entrepreneurs said they became a business owner specifically in order to make a difference in their community (compared to only 17 percent of non-Hispanic entrepreneurs.)
  • Employees make a huge difference: And an amazing 91 percent of survey respondents indicated that their employees are critical to their ability to achieve their goals.

 

All of this begs the question: Does all of this optimism make a difference, and if so, how? The answer is an unequivocal yes. While entrepreneurs are optimistic by both nature and vocation, that optimism eventually needs to rest on something real, lest it becomes just so much hot air.

 

In the case of these Hispanic small business owners, their optimism is tied directly to not only a strong economy but to an even stronger family and extended support network. This gives them the ability to take smart, calculated risks and grow their businesses.

 

Example: One interesting takeaway from the HSBOSis that the entrepreneurs surveyed are clearly more inventive and creative when it comes to hiring. The Hispanic entrepreneurs surveyed say they have had to refine their hiring and recruiting approach to better compete in this ultra-competitive job market. How?

 

  • They have turned to social media in far greater numbers than other groups to find and recruit talent (32 percent vs. 23 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • They have begun to offer a more flexible work culture (27 percent vs. 25 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)
  • And maybe most indicative, they are paying higher salaries (26 percent vs. 17 percent of non-Hispanic business owners)

 

As I mentioned, there is a critical lesson in here for the rest of us: By involving one’s family in the business, by getting even more involved in one’s community, and by engaging with and rewarding that extended community, you can create the sort of safety net that simultaneously reduces your risk while increasing the likelihood of your success.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

It could be said that an entrepreneurial spirit is often an inherited trait. Like many entrepreneurs, I grew up in a small business household where I watched my father’s small carpet store become a healthy chain of around 15 locations. The reality of life as a small business owner was a typical kitchen table conversation in my family.

 

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When I was seven or eight years old I was asked to write a report about what my dad did for a living. Where my classmate’s parents had easily identifiable jobs like “lawyer” or “nurse,” I struggled to find a simple way to sum up “retail carpet store owner.”

 

“Tell them that I’m an entrepreneur, Stevie” was my father’s response. When I asked what that meant, he explained that an entrepreneur was someone “who took a risk with money to make money.”

 

I have heard many definitions of the word entrepreneur since, and many are quite good, but my dad’s characterization is still my favorite. It combines the essence and thrill of entrepreneurship – it illustrates that going into business requires risk, but also the possibility of a payoff if done well.

 

In the years since that conversation with my father I have learned the best entrepreneurs strive to reduce the inherent risk of running their own business whenever possible. It’s impossible to eliminate risk entirely, and you probably wouldn’t want to because risk is what makes it possible to grow and achieve new levels of success. But the smartest small business people learn to reduce risk, and, even then, to make sure that the risks they do take are well thought out and worth the potential loss.

 

How do they do that? Here are a few ways:

 

1. Court bigger, more stable customers and clients: There are many factors that are outside of the control of the small business owner. The economy surges and dips. Clients’ needs change. One way then to counter the constantly shifting business cycle is to work with stable corporate and government clients, when possible, because bigger customers can lead to bigger budgets and long-term relationships.

 

Generating opportunities to work on coveted corporate or government contracts can be challenging but is not impossible. I recently gave a webinar on the subject for SCORE, which can be viewed here

 

2. Create additional profit centers: If having bigger and better customers helps stabilize your business cycle, it should follow that having additional products and services can also help by diversifying the kinds of clients you serve.

 

Starbucks is a simple example of this kind of development. Originally the company only sold coffee beans, but they soon added coffee drinks. Then, capitalizing on an opportunity, they added Frappucinos to boost warm weather sales. And then food, music, and so on. Small businesses can use this same method to grow their offerings. By analyzing the market segment that you’re supporting and adding additional products and services to your offerings as opportunities arise, you increase the chances of making more sales in both good times and bad.

 

3. Establish proper legal status: It may be tempting to leave legalities for the future while you get your business up and running but delaying those steps may leave both you and your budding endeavor vulnerable. Incorporate right away. Establish business credit apart from your personal credit. Make sure you have enough insurance.

 

Yes, risk is part of the game, but if you play your cards right, you can ensure that your company grows and returns the investment on the time, work and care you put into it.

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2019 Bank of America Corporation

Not long ago, I was researching a company with whom I might do some business  and, as is the case so often with social media, I ended up down a rabbit hole of tangential information. Somehow, at one point, I found myself on the personal Facebook page of the CEO. He was wearing a red baseball cap that said:

 

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“Make America Great Again”

 

That moment affected my decision (although which way I will not disclose.), The moment serves as a reminder that social media generally, and Facebook specifically, is a public, not a private, place.

 

Most importantly for our purposes, you better be darned sure that you want to publicly wade into the political and cultural wars that divide our country these days because if you do, you will surely evoke a strong response one way or another.

 

Now, maybe you are thinking that politics and small business don’t mix, and if so, I agree. People frequent your business because you provide products or services they like. My take is that they don’t really care what you think, and in fact, in this era of divided politics, I suggest what you think has more risk of doing harm than good.

 

But guess what? We may be wrong.

 

According to Forbes, a recent survey of U.S. consumers found that an amazing two-thirds say “they want brands to engage in social and political issues.” That number goes even higher for younger consumers, those 18-34 years old – 73 percent of millennials want brands to speak up.

 

But here’s the rub: That same survey found more than half (52 percent) of respondents would show greater brand loyalty if they agreed with the brand’s position while even more (53 percent) said if they disagree with the brand’s position on an issue, they would frequent the brand less with a sizable minority stating they would publicly criticize the brand.

 

Given that sobering news, while consumers might want brands to speak up, there is a lot of risk for those that do. And yet, even so, there is also clearly a lot of pressure these days on businesses to take a stand. It might be a faction of employees who want their voices heard, or maybe some customers who feel strongly about an issue.

 

So, what do you do? How can you take a stand in an era of highly partisan politics? Here are a few tips that might help:

 

1. Pick your battles: Supporting a politician, opposing a politician, whatever, is just too risky. The possibility of angering your customers is too high with, as I said, little payoff. Unless supporting a candidate or party is mostly a no-brainer for your small business, the general rule is to leave this area alone.

 

Better: Choose to support an issue that resonates with you, your business and/or your clientele. Choosing an issue that aligns with the values of your business can help reinforce your brand. An outdoor travel company can safely champion environmental causes without wading into the political battles of the day.

 

2. Be a uniter not a divider: We all know what the hot-button topics are, and again, the problem is, if you play with those issues you can get burned.

 

A better strategy for the business that wants to get involved is to pick an issue not as polarizing. A topic that aligns with your values and which people generally support allows you to do good while minimizing the risk of alienating key customers.

 

Example: In the past decade, Coca-Cola  expanded its giving portfolio beyond educational causes to include access to safe drinking water and healthy living across the globe. To illustrate, Coke supports the Global Environment and Technology Foundation’s work in Africa to “replenish water sources and improve access to safe drinking water.”

 

World NGO Day can be a first step for small businesses wanting to support a social cause.

 

3. Go incognito: If you really feel the need to share your political views, do what a pal of mine recently did. He created a new Twitter account, an incognito one, and uses it to rage against the other political team.

 

And no one knows that he owns the small business down the street.

 

Check out what Rieva Lesonsky had to say about whether small businesses should take a political stand.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

I always knew that entrepreneurs liked their work, but I never knew just how much. How much? Apparently quite a lot.

 

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If you own a business, are self-employed, or otherwise know people who work for themselves, you know this to be true. Small business owners are in it for a good many

reasons – economics for sure, necessity sometimes, and often most importantly, for the pure enjoyment of doing what they love.

 

According to Bank of America’s Fall 2018 Small Business Owner Report (SBOR), an amazing 90 percent of small business owners say they would recommend entrepreneurship as a career path to others. That is amazing.

 

But what about the long hours you say, the hard work and uncertainty?

 

Even more respondents – 91 percent – say it’s all worth it.

 

This is not to say entrepreneurship is easy, because it is not. The SBOR is a bi-annual survey that looks at the state of small business in America, and it always offers a fascinating glimpse into the real world of the small business owner.

 

For example, looking at economic and hiring trends, the Fall 2018 SBOR report zeroed in on what it takes to succeed in your own business.

 

Is it:

  • Access to capital? Partially, according to 68 percent of respondents
  • A solid network? Yup, 78 percent thought that was the answer
  • Luck? A forthcoming 56 percent agreed luck played a role

 

But in the end, and not surprisingly, the small business owners who participated in the survey thought that the keys to success were perseverance (96 percent) and good old-fashioned hard work (97 percent.)

 

One of the biggest challenges small business owners have today, and not surprising given the strong state of the economy, is attracting and retaining top talent is tougher than ever.

 

“While business owners are pleased with the direction of the economy and planning for growth, they are confronted with a new challenge. More entrepreneurs are looking to hire in the year ahead against the backdrop of one of the tightest job markets in half a century,” the report noted.

 

Consider these findings:

  • 58 percent report difficulty finding qualified candidates to fill vacancies
  • 50 percent believe the tightening labor market had a direct impact on their ability to hire, and
  • 25 percent believe it took more time to fill positions this year than last year

 

The good news: The Fall 2018 SBOR shares some interesting ways small business employers use to recruit talent.

 

For instance, fully a quarter of the respondents said they have shifted to a more flexible culture to attract talent. Specifically, the SBOR drilled down into some differences in individual cities and found employers in Boston are most likely to give holiday perks to their team. In Dallas, employers use ongoing training to keep employees involved. And in the San Francisco area, flex hours are the key.

 

With 55 percent of respondents saying they expect the national economy to improve over the next year (compared to 29 percent in 2016), it makes sense that small business owners are looking to grow their own businesses and find the right mix of employees who can help them do that.

 

And I think what those employers are looking for may be the other big surprise in this SBOR. Do they want a well-educated workforce? Of course (30 percent). Do they want a staff with experience? Yes, that too (53 percent).

 

But most of all, what these small business owners looked for were . . . people with “integrity” (60 percent). That’s amazing when you think about it. By a 2-to-1 margin, small business owners value integrity over education when choosing their staff.

 

As I said, I love when the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report comes out because I always learn something new and unexpected. I bet you will too. You can see the infographic for the report here.

 

Learn more about attracting and retaining employees:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Since 2012, “Giving Tuesday” has taken place on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving. After all of the focus on shopping around that time – what with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – Giving Tuesday is a welcome respite; a day for individuals and businesses to give back to their community.

 

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It’s not surprising that small businesses are typically enthusiastic about participating in Giving Tuesday: After all, small business people are generally highly idealistic. (You have to be if you are going to quit your job and start a business from scratch.) But, beyond that, small business people also know if it were not for their tribe and community, they would not be in business for long. So, when it comes to giving to the community, small businesses know it is important to give back.

 

How, you ask? Here are some ideas as to how your small business can give back to your community – on Giving Tuesday, and indeed throughout the holiday season.

 

1. Team up: Last year on Giving Tuesday, Tadlock Roofing partnered with Boys Town, a national nonprofit that supports children, families and communities. Tadlock Roofing offered to match donations to Boys Town up to $10,000, and additionally, the President of the company agreed to jump out of a plane if they met their goal. Sure enough, the President of Tadlock Roofing was captured jumping out of a plane to show that the sky’s the limit to give back.

 

2. Encourage a community service day or days: Many local non-profits are now, in anticipation of Giving Tuesday, creating giving events for that day. See what is happening in your area and help out. Here are some examples.

 

More broadly, Giving Tuesday does not have to be confined to that one day. Employees love being able to volunteer, especially around the holidays, so a great way to give back is to offer your team paid time off to do volunteer work within the community. Contact local food banks, senior centers, and elderly services to see where there might be volunteer opportunities.

 

3. Give a percentage of your sales to charity: Pick a cause that you like, that inspires your team, and which will resonate with your customers, and then pledge to set aside profits for that Tuesday to that group or charity. Yes, it is nice that that will be tax deductible, but what is even nicer is the good you will do and the goodwill you will foster.

 

4. Offer special discounts for the elderly, the disabled, and those in need: Offering special discounts to these groups is another way to do well by doing good. It would be a win-win for all concerned.

 

5. Organize a food drive to provide donations for a local food bank: The amount of hungry people in this country is truly astounding. By teaming-up with an appropriate Giving Tuesday organization, you can really make a difference. Indeed, helping the hungry is as giving as it gets.

 

6. Organize a toy drive for the holidays: Similarly, there are not a few parents who are unable to give their kids the sort of holiday they would prefer. You can either work with a local charity, or even simply locate a needy family and “adopt” them for the holidays.

 

7. Get your social on: One of the cool things about Giving Tuesday is that it is a national, nay international, movement. Sharing your participation is not gauche as it helps spread the word. And the Giving Tuesday organization wants to help you do just that. You can download and use their social media toolkit here. Or just remember, #GivingTuesday.

 

(You can download the entire Giving Tuesday Communications and Participation plan here.)

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Last night I went out to dinner with my family, and the restaurant we visited was unusually packed. When I asked the waitress what was up, she said that the restaurant was giving out a free dinner to all veterans this month in honor of both their service and the upcoming Veteran’s Day holiday on November 11.

 

We were happy to wait.

 

It reminded me of a great story I heard a few years ago about a sergeant named Robbie Doughty. Doughty was 32 when he lost both legs in a bomb blast in Iraq. USA TODAY did a story about the sergeant and soon after he received a phone call from Michael Ilitch, the owner of the Little Caesars Pizza chain (and the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.) Ilitch just wanted to thank Doughty for his service, but the call ended with Ilitch offering Doughty his own Little Caesars Pizza franchise. Today, Doughty is a successful entrepreneur in his hometown in Kentucky.

   

              Related: See how Bank of America shows its support and commitment to veterans and their families

 

It’s not surprising that entrepreneurship resonated with Doughty. Indeed, if you think about it, there are many reasons why veterans make great entrepreneurs, and why almost 10% of all small businesses are veteran-owned:

  • Vets understand the idea of teamwork and uniting behind a bigger mission
  • They not only take direction well, they are also well-versed in leadership
  • Creatively solving the problem is what they do

 

Given this, and the fact there are so many veterans since 9/11, I am happy to report there are a lot of great programs designed to help veterans start and grow their own businesses.

 

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The Small Business Administration: The SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran small business entrepreneur. For example, the SBA has a program called Operation Boots to Business. The program’s goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

Another great SBA program is the Veterans Business Outreach Center. The VBOC is a “one-stop-shop for transitioning service members, veterans and military spouses looking to start, purchase, or grow a business. Located nationwide, VBOCs provide transition assistance programs such as training, counseling and mentoring, and resource referrals.”

 

The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers a plethora of programs to help veteran entrepreneurs, everything from starting to financing to growing a business.

 

The National Veteran Owned Business Association: NaVOBA is a private, non-profit association that acts as a gathering place and resource for veteran small business owners.

 

The V-Wise IGNITE Program: IGNITE is operated by the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF) and the SBA. Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

The program is open to women veterans, active duty service women, and women military spouses/life-partners interested in small business ownership.  The program features nationally acclaimed speakers, expert instructors, local and military friendly business resource providers, and successful veteran women and military spouse entrepreneurs.

On this Veteran’s Day, it is great to see that “thank you for your service” is not just a phrase, but is being backed up by so many great organizations looking to help veterans transition into small business ownership.

 

       CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

About Steve Strauss

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Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss                          

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

When leaving the military, veterans are faced with a choice:

 

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What to do next?

 

For many, the choice is clear. They learned or sharpened skills during their time of service and those skills make them eminently employable. Combined with their ability to work in a team, follow direction, and lead, you see why many veterans are in high demand by employers upon discharge.

 

But, that said, interestingly, many of those same traits are also the ones needed to start a business: Taking the initiative, creating a plan, following through, etc. So yes, veterans also make great entrepreneurs, and maybe that is why they are so successful at it. According to the Census Bureau, just about 10 percent of all small businesses in this country are owned by veterans (roughly 2.5 million), and those business employ some 5 million Americans.

 

If you have a veteran-owned business, or want to start one, the good news is that there is a lot of help available, much of it absolutely free.

 

Here are some of the best:

 

Free online introduction to veteran entrepreneurship course: Bunker in a Box is a great resource.  Embark on 14 “missions” that include video, expert commentary, related articles and track your progress. According to Bunker CEO Todd Conner, “The Bunker in a Box is designed to be a first-stop for exploring entrepreneurship.”

 

Patriot Boot Camp (PBC): Speaking of training, the purpose of PBC is “to assemble and activate an inclusive community that advances veterans and military spouses in their mission to become creators, innovators and entrepreneurs leading the new economy.” Programs are held in various cities nationwide.

 

University training: The leader for in-person, live entrepreneurship training is the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University (in conjunction with a host of other major universities.) Here you will find an online 30-day curriculum, followed by a 9-day in-person session at the university. Participants also receive follow-up support and mentoring.

 

Women entrepreneurship training: IGNITE is also operated by IVMF (and the SBA.) Designed especially for female veterans, IGNITE is a one-day entrepreneurship training event offered in cities across the country.

 

Even more free training: VettoCEO is a program exclusively for verified members of the military and for veterans. Designed and facilitated by veteran entrepreneurs, the course is offered online “so that anyone, anywhere can participate in a well-designed, collaborative online environment.”

 

Small Business Administration programs: Not surprisingly, the SBA has a lot of resources for the veteran entrepreneur. Check out its Operation Boots to Business program, whose goal is to provide business training to military service personnel who are in transition to civilian life.

 

The Veterans Administration, Veteran Entrepreneur Portal: Part of the Department of Veterans Affairs, this site offers many programs to help veteran entrepreneurs - everything from starting to financing to growing a business.

 

Free money: The Street Shares Foundation gives away combined $25,000 every year for veteran entrepreneurship.

 

Even more money: If you need investments in the six-figures, check out the veteran-focused angel fund, Hivers & Strivers.

 

Contracting opportunities: The National Veteran Owned Business Association, NaVOBA’s mission is to create corporate contracting opportunities for America’s Veteran’s and Service-Disabled Veteran’s Business Enterprises through certification, advocacy, outreach, recognition and education.

 

So yes, with so much help available, it is a great time to be, or to want to be, a veteran entrepreneur.

 

Learn more about the Bank of America $20 Million Lending Program for U.S. Military Veteran Entrepreneurs

 

For more information about great business resources for veteran entrepreneurs, check out these podcast episodes:

 

Read next:

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

“First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare, Henry VI

 

My colleague ended up with a huge problem. The owner of a very popular local pub around for decades,  she never once ran into any major problems. For the most part, her employees were happy, and her customers were happy.

 

One day, a server dropped a tray and spilled a few drinks. No big deal – this is commonplace in the restaurant business. However, here’s where the story goes south: In the very small window between the spill and going to fetch the wet floor sign in the back, a customer slipped and fell. This is every restaurant owner’s worst nightmare.67504037_s.jpg

 

To complicate matters, her insurance company refused coverage, so when the customer proceeded to sue, my colleague suddenly faced a two-front war: A battle with her own insurance company and a lawsuit from a disgruntled customer. The legal fees she was facing were potentially enormous. My colleague was terrified.

 

She spent sleepless nights obsessively thinking about the problem. The legal fees were piling up. Social media was killing her. The stress was, too. In the end, although she had legitimate legal claims to rely on (the insurance company should have paid, the customer likely was at fault), she settled both claims, but not before almost going under.

 

It took two years, but eventually the business clawed its way back.

 

The fact is, every business eventually encounters big problems, sometimes catastrophic ones. It could be the big contract that got cancelled or a hurricane that severely damages the store.

 

What do you do? Here’s what:

 

1. Assessment: Even though it’s easy to panic, you can’t. The first thing when faced with a catastrophe is to properly assess the situation. Think rationally. What has happened? What is at stake? What needs to happen in the short term, and what needs to happen in the long term? What can you control and not control from this point forward? Make lists. Do your research.

 

Usually, insurance must be assessed immediately. Even if you don’t realize it, there’s certainly a chance that you are covered. Speak with your agent and your attorney. There are lots of stipulations and fine print when it comes to insurance.

 

2. Fix the immediate problem: There won’t always be a clear-cut solution like my colleague’s, and even in her case, it was not clear cut. But whatever the case, immediate issues must of course be addressed first.

 

3. Think long-term: This could mean finding experts or going through the correct bureaucratic processes. After a catastrophe, you will very likely need help. This likely means leaning more heavily on your staff. It can also mean asking your customers to give your business some extra love. People want to help, and you should let them.

 

4. Learn your lesson: Bad things happen. Sometimes the best you can do, like our restaurant owner, is to cut your losses, learn your lesson, and move on. Other times, it means gutting it out. Either way, surviving a catastrophe is typically a two-step process:

 

  • Initially, the big problem must be overcome.
  • Then, once things settle down, you need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

 

If you lost that huge contract, that means diversifying your client base so you are not dependent on one customer going forward. If you were flooded, it might mean relocating.

 

While you can’t prevent bad things from happening, at least learning your lesson and making necessary changes reduces the likelihood that a particular problem will happen again.

 

 

Read next:    

The Types of Insurance Your Small Business Really Needs

Q & A : Fighting is Expensive. What to do if You Are Sued

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

We are living in a world of part-time work and multiple jobs – that’s right, it’s the gig economy. The gig economy remains a contentious topic, but it is growing and will continue to grow. In fact, the gig economy is “expected to be 43 percent of the work force by the year 2020.”

 

Even small business owners may look for a ‘side hustle’ to earn extra income until the business gains more traction, or even consider hiring a ‘gig’ worker.

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For workers, making a living as a gig economy contractor requires a lot of self-motivation and

perseverance. Even though you don’t technically have a boss (except yourself), there are plenty of challenges that come with being a part of the gig economy.

 

The biggest one? Finding gigs.

 

The gig economy is tough because it doesn’t guarantee ongoing work – that is exactly what the word “gig” implies, after all. That means it’s up to you – the freelancer – to find work, again and again. This can be exhausting.

 

However, the good news is that finding your gigs doesn’t have to be a gig unto itself. Knowing where to look for work is half the battle, which is why we’ve compiled this list of six of the best freelance platforms to help you find your next gig.

 

Freelancer: It’s hard to beat Freelancer – the name does speak for itself, after all. There are thousands upon thousands of listings on Freelancer. The concept is pretty cool: you get to browse all the listings, click on a project, view its details and budget, and then bid on the gig. Think of it as eBay for freelance gigs.

 

Freelancer is also nice because it isn’t exclusive to any one category; you can find work whether you’re a writer, editor, graphic designer, assistant, etc.

 

Unfortunately, because there are many different freelancers competing for a single gig on Freelancer, the pricing on this site is quite competitive. Meaning, you might not make a ton of money this way. It’s great, however, for building your portfolio and being able to work on several gigs at once.

 

UpWork: UpWork is another extremely comprehensive website with hundreds to thousands of listings. UpWork differs from Freelancer in that you do not have to bid for a gig. In fact, the company or person that posted the listing will often reach out to the freelancers they think would be best for the gig. Your response rate will be public on your profile and will affect your visibility to people looking to hire.

 

99designs: If you’re a designer looking for some extra work, this is the website for you. 99designs has a contest element involved: a company will post they need a new logo for instance, and freelance designers make their submission, and the company gets to choose their favorite. Pretty neat.

 

Craigslist: Craigslist is one of the first websites to help people find new work, and it is still one of the best to this day. If you click on the “gigs” section, you will find an array of people looking for freelancers to help them out with various projects. Work for photographers, artists, computer programmers, interior designers – it’s all here.

 

Etsy: Etsy is the place for you if you’re looking to sell crafts, art, jewelry, etc. Etsy is hugely popular – in 2017, 30 million users spent $3 billion on the website. You’re sure to find gigs this way.

 

Freelance Writing Jobs: This one’s for you, writers and editors. Freelance Writing Jobs gives you a list of hundreds of different writing gigs, curated just for you.

 

Yes, the search to find new gigs can be intimidating and at times overwhelming. But if you know where to search, you are already well on your way. You can do it, freelancer!

 

Read next:

          A Guide to the Gig Economy

          Is the Gig Economy right for you? Some things you should consider

          Which Gig Economy Delivery Service is Right for your Small Business?

          How to Adjust Your Business to the Gig Economy

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

Entrepreneurs are smart, savvy people. Hard working, industrious, creative, and the kind of crew who would take a financial windfall (like the one we are offering you below) and make it work for them, unlike, let’s say, some numbskull lottery winners….

 

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    • In the mid-80’s Evelyn Adams won the lottery not just once, but twice. So, did she invest her $5.4 million in real estate or buy a business? Did she save it? No and no. Ms. Adams hightailed it to Atlantic City and promptly gambled it all away. Today she lives in a trailer park.

 

    • Denise Rossi won the $1.3 million California Lotto and promptly filed for divorce . . . except she never disclosed the lottery winnings in the divorce proceedings. Two years later, divorce completed, her husband learned the truth and sued. The judge awarded him every single penny of the payout.

 

Like I said, entrepreneurs are different, and that is why I am excited to let you know about an amazing opportunity to win $25,000 for your small business.

 

Mastercard, in association with Bank of America, is running  the second annual Grow Your Biz Contest.* One lucky winner will get $25,000 to do just that – grow their business. This really is a great opportunity.

 

Here’s how to enter:

 

  1. Create and upload a video (up to 1-minute long) that answers this question: How will you grow your small business? Not sure what to put in your pitch video? You can get entry tips from judge Bonin Bough here.

 

  1. Pitch: Four Finalists will be invited to New York City on November 8 to make their pitch to the judges. The four finalists each will receive $1,000, along with some business consulting and help from the judges.

 

  1. Win: The Grow Your Biz Panel will select one winner, who will receive the $25,000.

 

You can enter here, but remember, the deadline is September 30.

 

So, I will ask the question again, what would you do with an extra $25,000?

 

Let’s think about that for a moment. Unlike a loan, you don’t have to pay this back. And unlike income from the sale of goods, you don’t have to do work to receive it. This is money, and as such, I would suggest it be maximized.

 

What about using it on marketing for example? You could launch a very robust Facebook or Google ad campaign. And the great thing about marketing is that it is the type of investment that tends to pay off long after the actual promotion is over.

 

Or what about opening a new location? Yes, that may be a bit of a challenge on $25K, but then again, you are an entrepreneur. You eat challenges for breakfast. And the great thing about opening another location is that you are creating an additional profit center; something that can pay dividends for years to come.

 

Or what about implementing a new product or service?

 

If you are sensing a pattern to my suggestions, you are right. The chance to receive an unencumbered $25,000 is a rare thing. The savvy entrepreneur would use that windfall to create a long-term investment in the business that will multiply and pay off for years to come.

 

And anyway, it sure beats betting it all on red.

 

Are You a Small Business Owner Interested in Winning $25,000?*

 

Entrepreneurs will receive the chance to win $25,000 when they enter Mastercard’s Grow Your Biz Contest. To enter the Grow Your Biz Contest, small business owners must answer the simple question, “How will you grow your small business?” by submitting a video up to 1-minute long online . Four finalists will pitch their business to the Grow Your Biz Panel in New York City on 11/8/18 for the opportunity to win $25,000 and small business-expert consultation. Learn more at www.growyourbizcontest.com.

 

*No Purchase Necessary. Void where prohibited. Open to small business owners in the 50 US and DC, 18+. Ends 9/30/18. Restrictions apply. Click here for Official Rules and complete details.

 

 

About Steve Strauss

 

Steve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

 

By the time he was in his mid-50s, Ray was a mediocre, unhappy, traveling milkshake mixer salesman.

 

And then it happened.

 

The fateful day that changed everything. His life. Your life. And mine.

 

On that day, Ray called upon a new client – a restaurant in Southern California. It was there that Ray discovered a radical new way of running the business. So amazed was he, so enamored, that Ray committed himself 100 percent to working with and for the brothers who owned the place. Before long, they gave in to Ray’s enthusiasm and cajoling and hired him.

 

Within 10 years, Ray Kroc’s vision for what the McDonald brothers had created begat a behemoth, and he had invented the system of franchising along the way. New franchisees were taught the McDonald’s way, allowed to use its name, brand, recipes, and systems, and (for a fee of course) were able to open their own McDonald’s.

 

So yes, franchising is a remarkable way to join something bigger than oneself, but it doesn’t come without risks. Indeed, there are both pros and cons to buying a franchise.

 

Prosimageedit_2_3012441430.jpg

 

Maybe the best part of buying a franchise is that you are buying into a proven system. Here is how it works: Somewhere, some business owners created a successful business they thought could be duplicated, systematized and taught. The owners reduced their success to a step-by-step plan, and that plan – the system – as well as their business model and brand and “secret sauce” is sold to would-be entrepreneurs.

 

That is the essence of a franchise.

 

The idea is that if the franchisees do what the owners did, they will get the results that the owners got. A good franchise then is a systematic way of doing business whereby you agree to do things the franchisor’s way and are being allowed to use their business name, logo, system, and so on.

 

So, the first benefit of franchising is that you theoretically reduce your risk of failing as you are buying a proven business success system.

 

The second good thing about buying a franchise is that you should get plenty of help. Ray Kroc put it best: As a franchisee, you might be in business for yourself, but you are not in business by yourself. Whereas when you start a business from scratch you are on your own, when you start a franchise, the franchisor and other franchisees are there to help you succeed.

 

The franchisor in particular will offer expertise in a wide variety of areas: marketing, accounting, finances, labor, etc. A good franchise system therefore should train you to be a successful businessperson.

 

The last benefit of franchising is that you will get assistance with your advertising and marketing, and with the bigger franchise systems, you will get the benefit of their national advertising campaign.

 

Cons

 

While the benefits of buying a franchise are significant, the downsides must be considered too.

 

The first is that it can be expensive to buy a franchise. When you are buying a franchise, you are buying the franchisor’s name, logo, goodwill, expertise, system and training. That can be worth a lot, especially for a well-known franchise. This is not to say that all franchises are expensive, there are many that are quite reasonable, but just know that if you want to buy a name-brand franchise, you will pay for that right.

 

How much? Here are a few examples:

 

  • Want to buy a Taco Bell? Startup costs, including construction expenses, range between $1.2 million and $2.6 million for a new restaurant, according to the company's franchisee disclosure document. The franchise fee alone (the fee for buying in), is $45,000.
  • Conversely, a small home-based franchise system might have a $2,500 franchise fee and total costs of $10,000.

 

The second issue is that you will have less independence as a franchisee than you would as a regular entrepreneur. The system is the system, and you will agree in your franchise contract to run your business according to the system. Because the franchisor trusts you with its brand and goodwill, you will need to do things their way.

 

The final downside, and this is important, is that in relation to your franchisor, you will be in a position of relative weakness. The franchise contract, for example, is drafted by the franchisor’s attorney to favor them. The franchisor will know more about the business than you, and likely will be better financed than you.

 

Not insignificant, any of this.

 

The important thing to understand in this regard is that not all franchisors are created equal; some are great to work with while you should run in the other direction from others. How do you know the difference?

 

  • Speak with other franchisees to learn of their experience
  • Use Google
  • Research potential lawsuits that the franchisor has been involved in

 

All in all, if you do your homework and find a good franchisor to team-up with this, you should find that franchising can be a really great way to get started in business.

 

Related Content:

Learn about franchise financing options from Bank of America

8 Steps Toward Starting a New Business

What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Buying a Business 

How to Buy a Business in Three Steps

 

About Steve StraussSteve Strauss Headshot New.png

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2018 Bank of America Corporation

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