How to Add Your Business to Yelp and Optimize Your Listing

If you’re like most Internet users, you’ve used a business listing or directory website to find a restaurant, specialty store, tax preparer, or other service provider in your area.

Yelp, arguably the most popular business information directory for customer-facing services businesses, welcomes many millions of unique visitors per month. According to Expanded Ramblings, Yelp draws more than 175 million monthly visitors, with mobile traffic accounting for the majority.

Consumers use Yelp to search for service providers near them, navigating to its website or mobile app for a few minutes at a time and closing out when they’ve found what they’re looking for. But business owners have a much more intimate relationship with business directory sites like Yelp. For many small, independent outfits, business listings represent a significant source of new customers — far more than word of mouth marketing alone. If your small business doesn’t yet have a listing, it could be time to set one up.

Yelp for Business Owners: Does It Make Sense to List Your Company?

Yelp isn’t ideal for every type of business. Generally speaking, the most popular Yelp searches pertain to businesses that offer sensory experiences, such as restaurants, bars, venues, and specialized experience providers like tour companies. Searches for retailers — both independent and those tied to a larger chain — are popular as well.

Other popular Yelp categories include:

  • Hotels and travel services
  • Beauty shops and spas
  • Automotive
  • Home services, such as house cleaning, plumbing, and general contracting
  • Health and medical

Yelp also segments listed companies by location: county, municipality, and sometimes neighborhoods (mostly in bigger cities). If your business lives and dies by the number of people who walk into its physical location — for instance, you run a restaurant or retail outlet that does a large amount of business through a storefront — a business directory listing is basically mandatory.

On the other hand, if your company doesn’t have a storefront or doesn’t rely on one to drive sales — for instance, if you sell things online — then other means of driving customers to your business, such as social media marketing techniques or a listing on an e-commerce website like Etsy, are likely to offer a better payoff.

Pros of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing a business on Yelp has some key benefits, including legitimacy for businesses who’ve claimed their listings, high search rankings for Yelp business profiles and business owner accounts, and value for customer research.

1. Claimed Listings Confer Legitimacy

Regardless of how much effort you put into optimizing and curating it, the simple act of claiming your business directory listing can change how prospective customers see your business. On most business directories, including Yelp, unclaimed listings are plainly displayed as such. To the man or woman on the street, a highly visible prompt to claim a particular listing — which takes a matter of minutes — doesn’t inspire confidence that the listed business is well-run, or that the owner cares about courting new customers.

Although this is an admittedly subjective measure of an owner’s buy-in or a business’s quality, I know that I personally shy away from businesses with unclaimed directory listings unless they’re backed by a recognizable brand or I’m familiar with them by other means, such as word of mouth.

2. Listings Typically Rank Well in Organic Search (Good for SEO)

Although the details of popular search engines’ algorithms are proprietary and ever-changing, it’s clear that online directory listings rank highly in organic search results — the lists you see when you type a search term into the Google or Bing search bar.

The upshot of this: Unless its name can easily be confused with common or generic terms like “Tasty Pizza,” a typical business’s Yelp listings are likely to appear on the first results page of a search engine — an important point, since most searchers never make it to subsequent results pages. And because Yelp is a well-known and ostensibly unbiased source of information, searchers who want to get the unvarnished truth on a given business are likely to click on the results for its listings.

3. Consumers Rely Heavily on Directory Listings for Research

Despite a recent study reported by PCMag that found roughly 40% of online reviews to be bogus, 60% of consumers consider online review sites as useful as recommendations from real-life acquaintances, according to a 2017 ReportLinker survey. In an increasingly jaded world, that’s a pretty high mark — and a strong case for creating and maintaining listings on popular directory sites.

Cons of Listing Your Business on Yelp

Listing your business on Yelp does have some drawbacks, including a significant time component, limited control over reviews, and the potential for abuse.

1. Maintaining Your Business Profile Takes Time and Resources

Claiming or creating a business listing doesn’t take much time or effort. You can handle either in a spare moment.

However, optimizing and maintaining your listing is not so easy. Even free activities such as uploading photos, analyzing customer data, and responding to reviews all take time that you likely don’t have as a busy entrepreneur. If you have other social media accounts or an online store, your digital responsibilities could become overwhelming, diverting your attention from more immediate business needs.

One solution is to hire a part- or full-time marketing employee or social media manager, but that requires a new addition to the payroll — not always a realistic proposition for cash-poor small business owners. Another option is to retain an outside firm to handle your digital marketing needs, although that can be just as expensive as hiring a part-time employee.

If you currently lack the time or resources to produce a first-rate business directory profile, there’s no shame in concluding that it’s better to wait until you do have those luxuries. If you can’t do it right, don’t feel pressured to do it at all.

2. May Not Display All Users’ Yelp Reviews (or Any at All)

In the late 2000s and early 2010s, some online business directories — particularly Yelp — took lots of blowback for failing to do their part to contain the untold millions of fake reviews spreading across the Internet. Fake directory reviews came in several different flavors, but it was particularly common for listed businesses to purchase positive reviews — typically with gushing praise and the highest possible ratings — for their own listings, or post positive reviews themselves using dummy accounts. In competitive markets, less scrupulous companies likewise had no qualms about posting fake negative reviews on competitors’ listings.

Although they haven’t totally eradicated fake reviews, online directory sites have definitely cracked down on the practice. In fact, the crackdown has been so good that some legitimate reviews don’t make it through the directories’ quality filters, which are controlled by proprietary algorithms similar to those used by search engines.

If you want the opportunity to see — and ensure that your customers see — every review of your business, good or bad, this is a big drawback. And although the particulars of directories’ visibility-controlling algorithms aren’t public, one can envision an algorithm deciding that an overly enthusiastic but legitimate positive review is a fake while allowing a tepid review to be seen.

3. Directory Listings Contain Sensitive Information

If you need your customers to come to your physical place of business, they need to know where it’s located and how to contact it. A restaurant can’t survive if no one’s coming in to eat or calling to order takeout.

On the other hand, there are times when it’s better to conceal your business location, and possibly contact information, from the public. For instance, say you provide white-collar services, such as accounting or legal advice, to local businesses — but you typically visit with clients at their offices and don’t want them to know you work out of a home office or coworking hub. Listing your home address as your business address reveals where you live, while listing a coworking space can lead judgmental clients or your competitors to conclude that you can’t afford a “real” office.

Note that if an unclaimed listing already exists for your business, you may need to claim it and edit out sensitive information or request its removal altogether.

4. Your Listing Could Attract Abuse

Even if you’re not paranoid about people knowing where you live or looking down on you for basing your company out of a coworking space, there’s another reason to eschew a public business directory listing: the prospect that your listing could become a venue for abusive or hateful reviews.

Because business directory sites allow rank-and-file Internet users to post reviews on a given business’s listing without proving that they’ve actually interacted with the company in real life, it’s relatively easy to organize a negative publicity campaign utilizing Yelp or another directory site that permits user reviews. (Directories occasionally step in to delete or moderate obscene or threatening reviews, particularly in response to user flags, but you shouldn’t bank on this to single-handedly keep vitriolic reviews off your listing.)

These negative campaigns typically center around a major service gaffe or prominent public support for a controversial political position. A great example: In early 2015, the owners of a small-town Indiana pizzeria called Memories Pizza made headlines when they said they would follow the letter of the state’s recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many observers interpreted as giving businesses wide latitude to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. The ensuing backlash saw thousands of sarcastic, occasionally obscene comments posted on Memories Pizza’s website. The Indianapolis Star reported that the shop closed shortly thereafter, with the owners citing safety concerns.

In the past, lower-profile incidents of a similar nature have hit businesses expressing opposition to state minimum wage increases or support for creationism and intelligent design. To be fair, some argue that the old saying, “All press is good press,” applies here, as negative directory campaigns sometimes spark a backlash that pays off for the affected business. It’s worth noting that, as reported by Forbes, Memories Pizza raised more than $800,000 in a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign in the four days following its closure.


How to Claim or Create Your Yelp Listing

Yelp uses publicly available and user-submitted information to generate listings for operational businesses. If you’ve been open for some time, there’s a good chance you’re already in Yelp’s database. Yelp allows the legitimate owners of such a business to “claim” their existing profile.

Claiming your profile provides certain privileges:

  • Updating Listing Information. You can edit critical information about your business, including its physical address, phone number, business hours, and website address. This is important because Yelp doesn’t guarantee that its unclaimed business listings are accurate.
  • Adding Photos and Links. You can upload photos of your storefront, merchandise, and the inside of your business. This is great for restaurant owners who want to show off tasty-looking menu items, or service providers who want to display photos of a van or truck bearing a distinctive logo, which users are more likely to recognize than a faceless storefront or generic uniform.
  • Interacting With Reviewers. Claimed profile owners can respond to user-generated reviews, either by sending the user a private message through Yelp’s system or making a public post on the comments feed. This is particularly useful for owners who want to address negative feedback from users and contain issues that could hurt business. Note that you can’t edit or delete negative reviews, which might call Yelp’s objectivity into question, but you can respond to them.
  • User Views and Leads. Yelp tracks your listing’s page views and displays this information to verified business owners. It also creates Customer Leads, which provide hints about how customers are interacting with your business. Data sources for Customer Leads include:
    • Mobile check-ins
    • Mobile calls made directly to your business using Yelp’s on-site click-to-call feature
    • Map views
    • Click-throughs from your Yelp listing to your company website
    • User-uploaded photos on your business page
    • Bookmarks placed on your listing using Yelp’s bookmark feature

Claiming an Existing Business Listing

To get started, click Yelp’s “Claim Your Listing” button, then type in your exact business name and city. This takes you to a results page that displays similarly named businesses nearby and indicates whether they’ve been claimed. If your business is listed, it should say that it hasn’t been claimed.

To claim your listing, you need to create a Yelp account with your first name, last name, email address, and password. Make sure the phone number on your listing is accurate, then click “Call Me Now.” This prompts Yelp to robo-call the listed business number with a unique verification code.

Once you receive that code, you can enter it into the proper field and start editing your listing. If you’re unable to complete the phone verification process for any reason, you can also manually verify your identity as the business owner by emailing Yelp’s support team.

Creating a New Business Listing

If your business doesn’t have an existing listing to claim, you need to create one. At the bottom of the business search results page, click the “Add a Business” button and enter as much information as possible into the fields on the next screen: your business name, exact address, phone number, and website at a minimum.

After you submit this information, it takes Yelp some time — usually no more than two business days — to verify that the business exists and add it to its listings. Once added, you can search for it as described and claim the listing as your own.


How to Optimize Your Yelp Listing

Claiming or creating a Yelp listing is an important first step. However, building a top-notch Yelp presence takes time and effort.

These tips and resources are useful as you work to set your listing apart from your competitors’:

1. Fill Out Your Profile Completely

The more complete your listing is, the better it looks to Yelp’s internal algorithm — and the higher it’s likely to appear on Yelp’s search results pages. There’s no reason not to fill out your profile completely.

2. Use Google Keyword Planner or a Similar Tool

Yelp listings are visible to Google and other search engines, so it pays to use a keyword planning tool — such as Google Keyword Planner, which requires a free Google AdWords account to use — to identify keywords that relate to your company.

For instance, if you specialize in Neapolitan-style pizza and discover that your company website ranks highly for the term “Neapolitan pizza,” make sure that keyword appears at least once in your business listing.

3. Add Lots of Photos

Photos breathe life into your Yelp listing and boost customer engagement. An internal Yelp study found that consumers linger on photo-enhanced Yelp pages for two and a half times as long than on pages with no photos.

Photos are especially useful for showing off your logo — particularly if it’s already plastered on your company’s vans or outdoor advertising properties, and thus recognizable to prospective customers — as well as for highlighting particular products, especially food. If your business is open to the public, include pictures of its interior and outdoor seating areas to give visitors a sense of what to look forward to.

4. Solicit and Respond to Customer Reviews

Yelp frowns on businesses that court reviews by giving away free stuff or offering special deals to those who post positive reviews — it sees this behavior as a form of manipulation. However, you can skirt this prohibition and stay in Yelp’s good graces by placing the Yelp logo in a visible location in your store (such as at checkout or on a menu), linking to your Yelp page from your company website, and straight-up asking for reviews with no strings attached.

Separately, be sure to respond to detailed, thoughtful reviews, whether they’re good or bad. It’s especially important to respond to negative feedback, which shows other page visitors that you’re willing to address service issues and other problems. Just remember to follow social media etiquette best practices at all times.

5. Try Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates

Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates can help you monetize your Yelp listing and generate buzz around your business. Like Groupons and other social deals, both offer heavy discounts on transactions with the issuing business. Yelp Deals focus on discounts for specific local services — for instance, “20% off a haircut-and-shave package.” Yelp Gift Certificates offer across-the-board discounts — for example, “$20 in merchandise for $10.”

In both cases, Yelp takes a cut of the proceeds: 30% of face value for Deals and 10% of face value for Gift Certificates, subject to change with company policy.

6. Consider Buying Ads

If you can afford another line item in your marketing budget, consider buying ad space on Yelp. Yelp ads appear above the first non-promoted listing in Yelp’s internal search results pages, similar to the paid search ads you see on Google and other search engines.

Although they’re clearly marked “Ad,” they’re highly visible and appear only with relevant search terms, so they’re great for attracting people actively searching for what you have to offer. And because they effectively give you priority placement over competitors, they’re great if you operate in a crowded market.

Costs vary widely depending on your location and industry, but expect to spend at least $50 per month for a high-visibility ad campaign.


Final Word

Yelp isn’t the only business listing site worth looking into. There are dozens of other sites that could get your company’s name in front of potential customers. Listings on some of these sites are free to claim, while others require a one-time or monthly fee. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks.

Rather than spend significant amounts of time and marketing dollars going after them all, take a weekend or evening to research the options that work best for your business’s needs. Don’t be afraid to talk to other business owners in your industry, even if you’d normally be reluctant to share trade secrets with them. After all, with everything else you need to keep track of, the last thing you need is to make an investment with little to no chance of paying off.

Source: moneycrashers.com

12 Best Business Bank Account Promotions & Offers – January 2021

Unfortunately for small-business owners, solopreneurs, and freelancers, most of the best bank account promotions on the market right now cater exclusively to consumers. Indeed, many of the United States’ best online banks seem to favor personal account holders rather than business owners and their lieutenants.

But not all banks give business owners short shrift. You just need to know where to look to find potentially lucrative bank account bonus and referral opportunities. Let this list guide you to entrepreneur-friendly banks hungry enough for your business to pay you for it.

Best Business Bank Account Bonuses (January 2021)

These are the best business bank promotions this month. Unless otherwise noted, all are available to businesses of all sizes, including sole proprietors and freelancers without formal incorporation.

However, some accounts impose minimum balance requirements, monthly maintenance fees, and other requirements or restrictions that can impact their suitability. And all accounts must be open and in good standing when the bonus is paid.


1. Chase Business Complete Checking – $300 Bonus

Chase Bank LogoA very attractive offer awaits for Chase-curious entrepreneurs, including sole proprietors: $300 for new Chase Business Complete Checking customers who open an account and complete qualifying activities.

It’s not difficult to qualify for this opportunity. All you need to do is open a new Chase Business Complete Checking account with qualifying activities (described at the link above). No minimum opening deposit is required. Once your account is open, you’ll have multiple ways to waive the $15 monthly service fee.

Chase has ATMs and branches in the following states: AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, GA, HI, ID, IL, IN, KY, LA, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NY, OH, OK, OR, TX, UT, WA, WV, WI. This offer is available online nationwide, except for residents of AK, HI, and PR.

Apply Now


2. Wise

5e961d64942a2f00f64d30dc Primary P 800For a limited time, earn a $100 credit in your Wise account after you sign up and spend $1,000 on your Wise card within the first 30 days. All you need to do is open your account and make qualifying purchases totaling $1,000 or more during the 30-day offer period. Moving forward, earn 0.5% incentive on base deposits (credited monthly) and 0.1% cash back incentive for every $1,000 in eligible monthly purchases with your card, up to 0.5% ($5,000 monthly spend).

Apply Now


3. Huntington Unlimited Plus Business Checking — $750 Bonus Cash

Huntington BankOpen a new Huntington National Bank Unlimited Plus Business Checking account by Feb. 7, 2021, for the opportunity to earn $750 in bonus cash. Here’s how the promotion works:

  • Open your new account by Feb. 7, 2021.
  • Deposit at least $20,000 in new money within 60 days of account opening.
  • Keep your account open for at least 90 days.

Once you’ve completed these requirements, you should receive the $750 bonus in your account within 14 days.

Moving forward, the $40 monthly maintenance fee is waived for the duration of 2020 and thereafter when you maintain at least $50,000 in combined deposit relationship balances across all eligible Huntington accounts. “New money” is defined as any funds not currently deposited in any Huntington account, except maturing business CDs.

This offer is available in states where Huntington has physical branch locations, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Apply Now


4. Huntington Unlimited Business Checking — $400 Bonus Cash

Huntington BankOpen a new Huntington National Bank Unlimited Business Checking account by Feb. 7, 2021, and you could earn $400 in bonus cash. Here’s how to take advantage of this opportunity:

  • Open your new account by Feb. 7, 2021.
  • Deposit at least $5,000 in new money within 60 days of account opening.
  • Keep your account open for at least 90 days.

You’ll receive the $400 bonus in your account within 14 days after completing these requirements.

Once your account is open, you’ll have the $20 monthly maintenance fee waived for the duration of 2020. Thereafter, maintain a combined deposit relationship balance (across all eligible accounts held with Huntington) of at least $20,000 to maintain the waiver in any given statement cycle. Bonus-qualifying funds must not currently be on deposit with Huntington, save for, maturing business CDs.

This offer is available in states where Huntington Bank has physical branch locations, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Apply Now


5. Huntington Business Checking 100 — $200 Bonus Cash

Huntington BankOpen a new Huntington National Bank Business Checking 100 account by Feb. 7, 2021, for the opportunity to earn $200 in bonus cash. Here’s how this bonus opportunity works:

  • Open your new account by Feb. 7, 2021.
  • Deposit at least $2,000 in new money within 60 days of account opening.
  • Keep your account open for at least 90 days.

You should receive the $200 bonus in your account within 14 days after completing the requirements.

This account has a $3 monthly maintenance fee that’s easy to waive by signing up for e-statements. “New money” is defined as any funds not currently deposited in any Huntington account, other than maturing business CDs.

This offer is available in states where Huntington has physical branch locations, including Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

Apply Now


6. Bank of America Business Checking — Up to $750 Cash Bonus

bank of america logoFor a limited time, open an eligible new Bank of America business checking account (Business Fundamentals Checking or Business Advantage Checking) for the opportunity to earn a cash bonus of up to $750. Here’s how the bonus opportunity works:

  • Open a new Bank of America Business Checking account before the end of the offer period.
  • Make qualifying deposits within 15 days of opening the account.
  • Maintain a balance equal or greater to the amount of your qualifying deposits for the following 60 calendar days (the Maintenance Period).
  • Make at least five qualifying electronic payments during the Maintenance Period.

The qualifying deposit bonus thresholds are as follows:

  • $200 Bonus: Make cumulative deposits of $5,000 to $19,999 within the first 15 days.
  • $500 Bonus: Make cumulative deposits of $20,000 to $49,999 within the first 15 days.
  • $750 Bonus: Make cumulative deposits greater than $50,000 within the first 15 days.

Both eligible accounts charge monthly maintenance fees that can be avoided with qualifying activities. See Bank of America’s offer page for more information about the maintenance fees and how to avoid them.

This offer is available nationwide. Limit one offer per customer.

Apply Now


7. Brex Cash — 50,000 Bonus Points

Brex LogoOpen a new Brex Cash account and spend $1,000 in purchases to earn 50,000 bonus points. Moving forward, enjoy no account fees or minimum daily balance requirements, a generous ongoing rewards program, and value-added perks worth $150,000.

Learn More

*Brex Treasury LLC is not a bank; Brex Cash is not a bank account.


8. BMO Harris Bank Business Advantage Checking — $500 Cash Bonus

Bmo Harris Bank LogoOpen a BMO Harris Bank Business Advantage Checking account by Jan. 31, 2021, for an opportunity to earn a $500 cash bonus. Here’s how the bonus offer works:

  • Open a new Business Advantage Checking account by Jan. 31, 2021.
  • Deposit at least $5,000 (cumulatively) within the first 30 days your account is open.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $5,000 or more for the following 90 days (between Day 31 and Day 120).
  • Have at least 10 electronic transactions post to the account within the first 90 days your account is open.

Once you complete these qualifying activities, you should receive the $500 cash bonus within 10 days.

Eligible electronic transactions include ACH credits or debits, online bill payments, mobile deposits, wire transfers, or debit card point-of-sale (POS) purchase transactions. POS credit transactions and ATM withdrawals are not eligible.

Moving forward, avoid the $20 monthly maintenance fee when you maintain an average daily balance of at least $5,000 during the statement period or a $15,000 minimum balance across all eligible BMO Harris accounts.

This checking account bonus offer is available in states where BMO Harris Bank has physical branch locations. Limit one offer per customer.

Apply Now


9. BMO Harris Bank Essential Business Checking — $200 Cash Bonus

Bmo Harris Bank LogoOpen an eligible BMO Harris Bank Business Checking account by Jan. 31, 2021, for an opportunity to earn a $200 cash bonus. Here’s how the bonus offer works:

  • Open a new Essential Business Checking account by Jan. 31, 2021.
  • Deposit at least $1,500 (cumulatively) within the first 30 days your account is open.
  • Maintain a minimum balance of $1,500 or more for the following 90 days (between Day 31 and Day 120).
  • Have at least 10 electronic transactions post to the account within the first 90 days your account is open.

Once you complete these qualifying activities, you should receive the $500 cash bonus within 10 days.

Eligible electronic transactions include ACH credits or debits, online bill payments, mobile deposits, wire transfers, or debit card POS purchase transactions. POS credit transactions and ATM withdrawals are not eligible.

Avoid the ongoing $15 monthly maintenance fee when you maintain an average daily balance of at least $1,500 during each statement period.

This checking account bonus offer is available in states where BMO Harris Bank has physical branch locations. Limit one offer per customer.

Apply Now


10. PNC Bank Business Checking — $200 Cash Bonus

Pnc Bank LogoOpen an eligible new PNC Bank business checking account (Business Checking or Business Checking Plus) by March 31, 2021, for the opportunity to earn a $200 cash bonus. Here’s how the bonus offer works:

  • Open an eligible account by March 31, 2021.
  • Maintain an average cycle balance (account balance) of $5,000 or more for each of the first three statement cycles.
  • Complete at least 20 total qualifying debit card transactions within the first three statement cycles.

Once you’ve completed the qualifying activities, you’ll receive a $200 cash bonus in your account within 90 days.

See the respective application pages for Business Checking and Business Checking Plus for more details on avoiding the monthly maintenance fees.

This offer is available nationwide. Limit one offer per customer.

Apply Now


11. SunTrust Business Checking — $200 Bonus Cash

Suntrust LogoOpen an eligible new SunTrust business checking account (Simple Business Checking, Primary Business Checking, or Business Advantage Plus) by March 31, 2021, for the opportunity to earn $200 bonus cash. Here’s how the offer works:

  • Open your eligible new account by March 31, 2021.
  • Enroll in the offer at application
  • Make cumulative qualifying deposits of $1,500 or more within 30 days of opening the account.

Once you’ve completed these activities, including the deposit requirement, you’ll receive your reward within eight weeks.

Moving forward, all eligible accounts waive monthly maintenance fees for the first two statement cycles. Refer to the offer page for information about avoiding each account’s monthly maintenance fees thereafter.

This offer is available in states where SunTrust has a physical branch presence and is limited to new customers only. Limit one offer per customer.

Apply Now


12. Axos Bank Basic Business Checking — $100 Cash Bonus

Axos Bank LogoOpen a new Axos Bank Basic Business Checking account by the offer end date using the promo code “EARN100,” to earn a $100 welcome bonus. Here’s how it works:

  • Apply for your new Axos Bank Basic Business Checking account by the offer end date with a minimum opening deposit of $1,000.
  • Maintain an average daily balance of at least $5,000 during the first three months (new funds only).
  • You’ll receive your $100 cash bonus within five business days of your third statement cycle date.

For more information, read our Axos Bank review.

Learn More


Final Word

Most of the banks mentioned here do not cater to small-business owners exclusively. They also offer consumer accounts — in some cases, generous and expansive lineups that include free checking accounts, rewards checking accounts, CDs with above-average rates, money market accounts, and high-yield savings accounts that might just keep your emergency fund on pace with inflation.

This matters. After all, every business owner is a person too — one with personal money management needs. Which means every business owner needs a personal checking account, among other key personal banking relationships. If you’d like that relationship to involve the same bank you choose for your business banking needs, perhaps one of these promotions will seal the deal.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Most Livable Cities in the U.S. – 2020 Edition

Most Livable Cities – 2020 Edition – SmartAsset

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People choose where to live based on many factors – availability of jobs, location of family, and the weather all come into play for most folks. Something some Americans may not remember to take into consideration, though, is the livability of a city. While this can be hard to quantify, SmartAsset has tried to do just that, comparing cities across the country to find the most livable places to live in 2020.

We ran the numbers on 100 of the largest cities in the U.S. to see how they stacked up across the following metrics: walk score, violent crime rate, property crime rate, unemployment, housing costs as percentage of income, and the rate of housing cost-burden. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s second study on the most livable cities in the U.S. Check out last year’s edition here.

Key Findings

  • The living’s grand in the Grand Canyon State. While cities from all over the country crack the top of the list, four of the top 10 cities are in Arizona – Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale and Mesa. Incidentally, these four cities are also in the top 10 of our study on the most affordable cities for an early retirement. They all rank within the top 25 of the study for relatively low housing costs as a percentage of income, low rates of residents being housing cost-burdened and low violent and property crime rates.
  • Consistency at the top. Arlington, Virginia ranks as SmartAsset’s most livable city for the fourth year running. It has perennially maintained low unemployment and crime rates. Additionally, two other cities have cracked the top 10 every year since we began this study in 2016: Plano, Texas and Madison, Wisconsin.

1. Arlington, VA

Arlington, Virginia, located right outside of Washington, D.C., is the most livable city in America in this year’s edition of our study. Arlington has been our most livable city since 2017. It has the second-lowest property crime rate (1,298 incidents per 100,000 residents) and the fourth-lowest violent crime rate (138 incidents per 100,000 residents) in our study. It also has a September 2020 unemployment rate of just 4.5%, the fourth-lowest rate in the study.

2. Boise, ID

Boise, Idaho saw just 283 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents in 2019, the 13th-lowest rate for this metric in the study. It comes in seventh for property crime, at just 1,595 per 100,000 residents. Only 28.0% of residents of Boise are burdened by their housing cost, making it the seventh-least housing cost-burdened city we analyzed.

3. Lincoln, NE

Lincoln, Nebraska had the lowest unemployment rate in our study for September 2020, at just 3.2%. Lincoln also ranks fourth for both of the housing costs metrics we tested, with housing costs representing 18.96% of income and 27.0% of residents being housing cost-burdened. That said, it isn’t the easiest place to access all your needs by foot, as it ranks in the middle of the study in terms of walk score.

4. Gilbert, AZ

Gilbert is the first of four Arizona locales to make the top 10 of this study. It has the lowest number of property crimes across all 100 cities we examined (1,200 per 100,000 residents) and the second-fewest number of violent crimes (96 per 100,000 residents). On the downside, the city ranks in the bottom 10 of the study for walkability, but Gilbert is relatively affordable, coming in first for both housing costs as a percentage of income (18.75%) and the percentage of residents who are housing cost-burdened (22.0%).

5. Plano, TX

Housing costs in Plano, Texas represent 20.02% of income, ranking eighth-lowest in this study. It also scores in the top 10 for its low rates in both of the crime statistics we considered. In 2019, there were 151 violent crime incidents (fifth-lowest) and 1,717 property crime incidents (10th-lowest) in the city per 100,000 residents.

6. Chandler, AZ

Chandler is the second city in Arizona to make the top 10 of this study. Like some of the other Arizona cities in the top 10, Chandler does not fare very well for walkability, ranking in the bottom quartile. However, it has the third-lowest percentage of housing cost-burdened residents among the 100 cities we analyzed, 26.0%. Furthermore, housing costs make up 19.87% of income on average, the seventh-lowest percentage in this study.

7. Madison, WI

Madison, Wisconsin had an unemployment rate of 3.8% in September 2020, the second-lowest in this study. Madison also finished in the top third of the 100 cities on this list for every other metric but one (housing costs as a percentage of income, for which it ranked 41st). It had the 21st-lowest number of violent crime incidents overall (362 per 100,000 residents in 2019) and the 28th-lowest rate of housing-cost burden, at 31.7%.

8. Scottsdale, AZ

The third Arizona city to place in the top 10 is Scottsdale, where there were just 161 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents in 2019, the sixth-lowest rate of the cities we analyzed. Scottsdale also finishes 13th for both of the housing cost metrics we measured: Housing costs represent 20.54% of income, and 29.4% of residents are housing cost-burdened.

9. Raleigh, NC

Raleigh finishes in the top 15 for both safety metrics: It had 257 incidents of violent crime per 100,000 residents (12th-fewest in this study) and 1,795 incidents of property crime per 100,000 residents (14th-fewest in this study). Raleigh finishes 17th for its relatively low September 2020 unemployment rate (6.1%) and housing costs as a percentage of income (21.01%).

10. Mesa, AZ

The final city in the top 10 is the fourth Arizona city to make the list, Mesa. Mesa finishes in the top quartile of cities in every metric except one – walk score, for which it comes in 73rd place. The top quartile rankings, though, include a 13th-place finish for its low rate of housing cost-burden, at 29.4%, and its 15th-place finish in terms of property crime rate, at just 1,869 per 100,000 residents for 2019.

Data and Methodology

To find the most livable cities in the U.S., we analyzed data on 100 of the largest cities in the country. We examined each city according to the following seven metrics:

  • Walkability. This is calculated on a 0 to 100 scale. A lower number means the city is less walkable while a higher number means it is more walkable. Data comes from walkscore.com.
  • Violent crime rate. This is the violent crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2019 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Database for all reporting cities. For non-reporting cities, data comes from neighborhoodscout.com.
  • Property crime rate. This is the property crime rate per 100,000 residents. Data comes from the 2019 FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Database for all reporting cities. For non-reporting cities, data comes from neighborhoodscout.com.
  • Unemployment rate. September 2020 data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and is reported at the county level.
  • Housing costs as a percentage of income. This is the median housing costs divided by median household income. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Housing cost-burdened rate. This is the percentage of households spending 30% or more of their income on housing. Data comes from the Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

First, we ranked each city in every metric. We then found each city’s average ranking, giving each metric a full weight. We used this average ranking to determine a final score. The city with the best average ranking received a score of 100 and the city with the lowest received a score of 0.

Tips for Finding Somewhere to Live

  • Get expert financial support. If you want to move to one of these cities, consider working with a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Rent or buy? Not sure if you’re ready to put down permanent roots down yet? Use SmartAsset’s rent or buy calculator to see which makes more financial sense.
  • Save up. Make a budget using SmartAsset’s free budget tool so you can start putting away money to buy a home in your dream location some day.

Questions about our study? Contact press@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/adamkaz

Ben Geier, CEPF® Ben Geier is an experienced financial writer currently serving as a retirement and investing expert at SmartAsset. His work has appeared on Fortune, Mic.com and CNNMoney. Ben is a graduate of Northwestern University and a part-time student at the City University of New York Graduate Center. He is a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing and a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®). When he isn’t helping people understand their finances, Ben likes watching hockey, listening to music and experimenting in the kitchen. Originally from Alexandria, VA, he now lives in Brooklyn with his wife.
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What Is the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program?

What Is the SBA 8(a) Business Development Program? – SmartAsset

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The 8(a) Business Development program is a Small Business Administration initiative designed to level the federal government contracting playing field for small business owners who are socially and economically disadvantaged. Qualifying businesses can compete for contracts that are set aside specifically for members of the program. They also can get help from SBA experts on submitting government contract bids, connect with mentors and tap other helpful resources.

With annual purchases topping $500 billion, the U.S. government is the world’s largest customer. Federal law requires 23% of those orders go to small business sellers.  Other statutory requirements call for the various federal agencies to devote set amounts of their budgets to buying from women-owned businesses, companies owned by service-disabled veterans and others. The 8(a) business development program aims to make sure a fair share of those dollars go to business owners facing obstacles due to economic circumstances, race or ethnic background.

8(a) Benefits

The benefits of participating in the 8(a) program fall into two main categories. In addition to being able to bid on contracts set aside for them, they can use special SBA resources to help them navigate the government contracting world.

The most concrete benefit of 8(a) participation is getting exclusive access to win certain contracts as sole-source providers on government contracts. The sole-source contracts can be worth up to $6.5 million for manufacturers and up to $4 million for sellers of goods and services. For larger contracts, 8(a) participants can band together to form joint ventures and bid collaboratively.

The mentoring part of the 8(a) program encourages participating businesses to connect with larger firms so they can jointly bid on contracts that have been set aside for small contractors. The protégé small business can benefit from its mentor’s expertise as well as financial assistance. The mentor gets the green light to bid on contracts that it would not be able to go after without its protégé. Only small businesses that have never gotten a government contract can participate in this program.

Small businesses in 8(a) also can be assigned a business opportunity specialist, which is an SBA employee trained to help small contracts. SBA also puts on workshops on marketing, management and other topics for 8(a) businesses. And 8(a) participants can get access to surplus government property, SBA-backed loans and help with surety bonds.

8(a) Qualifications

To participate in 8(a), businesses must first fit SBA’s size standard for a small business.  This standard is generally measured by the size of annual revenues or number of employees. It varies according to the industry the firm operates in, as categorized under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). In the case of a manufacturer of office furniture, for example, a firm must have fewer than 1,000 employees to be considered small.

Next, the firm must be at least 51% owned by a socially disadvantaged U.S. citizen. This group automatically includes African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Subcontinent Asian Americans and Native Americans. This group also includes those who can show a social disadvantage because of coming from an environment isolated from mainstream American society.

Economic disadvantage also has to be shown. These requirements are straightforward. The owner has to have:

  • Personal net worth of $750,000 or less,
  • Average adjusted gross income for three years of $350,000 or less,
  • Assets of $6 million or less.

Small businesses can apply to participate in the 8(a) program online at the certify.SBA.gov site. Applicants have to include documentation of income, assets and net worth, as well as narratives describing how they have experienced social disadvantage.

The 8(a) certification is good for up to nine years. Participants have to submit annual updates to stay in the program.

Bottom Line

The SBA 8(a) business development can provide socially and economically disadvantaged business owners with valuable assistance in securing contracts with the federal government. To qualify, small business owners have to show they are members of disadvantaged groups and also have access to limited financial resources. Those that meet the standard can bid on sole-source government contract setasides. They can also set up joint ventures with larger firms to give both companies access to setasides and get technical assistance and training.

Tips for Small Businesses

  • An experienced financial advisor can provide invaluable help when applying to participate in the 8(a) program. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • If you have employees you’ll need to be sure you’re withholding the correct amount for federal income taxes as well as Social Security and Medicare. A free paycheck calculator can help make short work of this essential bookkeeping chore.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/stevecoleimages, ©iStock.com/yacobchuk

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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7 Best Free Business Checking Accounts of 2021

Every small-business owner knows the open secret about business banking: It’s just not as owner-friendly as consumer banking.

There’s a reason our roundup of the best online banks has few truly free business checking accounts — accounts with no monthly maintenance fees (and thus no overly burdensome monthly service fee waiver requirements) or monthly transaction limits. Unfortunately, monthly maintenance fees and transaction limits are par for the course in the business banking world.

That sets up a sharp contrast with the consumer banking space, where the free checking accounts and free high-yield savings accounts have proliferated since the global financial crisis of the late 2000s.

Free checking accounts aren’t entirely absent from business banking. They’re just more difficult to find — which means small-business owners and solopreneurs need to know where to look.

Best Free Business Checking Accounts

These FDIC-insured online banking accounts all waive monthly maintenance fees for all account holders, regardless of account balance, transaction volumes, or cash deposit requirements. They boast other user-friendly perks besides, such as mobile banking, bill pay capabilities, cash flow management tools, and ACH functionality. That puts them head and shoulders above your basic business checking account.

Here’s what you need to know about each.

1. BlueVine Business Checking

1.00% on All Balances With Qualifying Minimum Balance

Bluevine Business CheckingBlueVine Business Checking is a truly free business checking account that offers a nice yield for higher-balance account holders and waives transaction limits, nonsufficient funds (NSF) fees, and ATM fees within an expansive network. Every new account holder gets two free checkbooks to begin, which makes BlueVine Business Checking an excellent choice for businesses with vendors who don’t take electronic payments.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum balance requirement and no ongoing monthly maintenance fee.
  • Yield: Earn a 1.00% APY on all balances up to $100,000.
  • Rewards and Incentives: BlueVine has no transaction limits, waives fees at about 38,000 in-network ATMs, and delivers two free checkbooks with every new account.
  • Overdraft Options: BlueVine does not impose overdraft or NSF fees but may decline such transactions at its discretion.
  • Possible Fees: BlueVine has virtually no fees.

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2. Axos Bank Basic Business Checking

Limited-Time Offer: $100 Account Opening Bonus

Axos Bank LogoAxos Bank Basic Business Checking is a no-nonsense, maintenance-fee-free checking account that offers unlimited ATM fee reimbursements, a remote (mobile) deposit feature that’s perfect for business owners on the go, and a great welcome bonus offer.

For those keen on Axos Bank but hoping to avoid maintenance fees, Basic Business Checking is an excellent alternative to Axos Bank Business Interest Checking. And you can apply entirely online. Plus, Axos has multiple consumer bank accounts appropriate for business owners looking to manage their personal finances.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: The minimum opening deposit is $1,000. There’s no monthly maintenance fee.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: To earn the limited-time welcome bonus, apply for a new Axos Bank Basic Business Checking account by Dec. 31, 2020. Then, maintain an average daily balance of at least $5,000 (new funds only) during the first three months your account is open.
  • Overdraft Options: Axos Bank offers an opt-in overdraft line of credit that covers overdrafts that would otherwise be returned unpaid. This line of credit has a variable interest rate comparable to a high-interest credit card. Payment of at least 5% of the balance or $25, whichever is greater, is due each statement cycle.
  • Possible Fees: $0.30 per item processed after the first 200 items each month.

For more information, read our Axos Bank review.

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3. Lili

Totally Free Checking With Automatic Tax Savings and Financial Insights

Lili LogoThe Lili Account is a truly free, all-in-one checking solution that’s built with freelancers in mind. In practice, it appeals to a much broader audience: side hustlers and gig workers supplementing W-2 income, established solo professionals (one-person businesses), and full-time freelancers.

With Lili, these folks don’t need separate bank accounts for personal and business needs — just Lili. Its signature benefits include a sub-account that simplifies tax savings, early payday for qualifying account holders, instant expense categorization, cash deposits at more than 90,000 U.S. locations, an “emergency bucket” feature that allows savings transfers as small as $1 per day, and a powerful cache of financial insights and expense management tools to help you spend (and save) smarter.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: Lili has no account fees or minimums.
  • Yield: Lili doesn’t pay interest. Check back often for the latest offers.
  • Rewards and Incentives: Lili’s referral program pays $25 per successful referral and delivers a bonus of $1,000 when you make 10 successful referrals. Plus, Lili makes it easy to set aside funds earmarked for tax payments, has helpful expense management and categorization tools (like quarterly expense reports), promises an early payday for account holders with direct deposit (up to 2 days early), and delivers real-time alerts about transactions and other account activities.
  • Possible Fees: Lili charges no account fees.

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4. Brex Cash

50,000 Bonus Points After Account Approval; No Fees or Minimums

Brex LogoBrex Cash is the perfect replacement for your old business bank account: an easy-to-use cash account with no fees or minimums. New Brex Cash companies enjoy a generous welcome offer and ongoing rewards program, plus value-added perks worth $150,000, a user-friendly mobile app with impressive capabilities, and advance payment scheduling tools built to help you avoid late vendor payments.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: Brex Cash has no account fees or minimums.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: After your account is approved and open, spend $1,000 to earn 50,000 bonus Brex Rewards points. You’ll earn points on every purchase, every day, too.
  • Possible Fees: Brex Cash has no account fees.

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*Brex Treasury LLC is not a bank; Brex Cash is not a bank account.


5. Novo Powerfully Simple Business Banking

Opportunities to Earn Thousands in Free Perks

Novo Bank LogoNovo’s Powerfully Simple Business Banking product is another branchless, free business checking option geared toward self-employed users and microbusiness owners. Its key selling points include an easy application process, opportunities to earn thousands in free perks with approved partner vendors, few if any fees, and a host of third-party integrations.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: The account opening minimum is $50. There’s no ongoing minimum balance requirement and no monthly maintenance fee.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: See Novo’s website for details on opportunities to earn thousands in free perks.
  • Overdraft Options: Novo’s overdraft protection policy states that if Novo chooses to honor an overdraft, the insufficient funds fee is $27 per item. The returned-item fee is also $27 per item.
  • Possible Fees: Novo has virtually no fees besides the insufficient funds and returned-item fees.

Apply Now


6. Citizens Bank Clearly Better Business Checking

No Monthly Maintenance Fee; High Monthly Transaction Limit

Citizens Bank LogoCitizens Bank Clearly Better Business Checking is built for established small businesses with no tolerance for monthly maintenance fees. Its high monthly transaction limit (including for cash deposits) and generous overdraft options are perfect for high-volume account holders working on thin margins.

The biggest downside is the fact that eligibility is geographically limited to states in Citizens Bank’s physical branch network, mainly in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. If you happen to live and work in this part of the country, it’s difficult to envision a better free business banking option.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: The minimum opening deposit is $100. There’s no ongoing monthly balance requirement.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: None.
  • Overdraft Options: Citizens Bank offers two opt-in overdraft options. The first is an overdraft line of credit that costs $30 per year and requires a monthly payment of the greater of $20 or 2% of the balance. The second is an overdraft savings transfer program with no annual fee. Both options charge $12 for each day an overdraft transfer occurs, regardless of the number of transfers on that day.
  • Possible Fees: $0.50 per item above the 200 monthly transaction limit. See terms for information about wire fees and other possible levies.

Apply Now


7. NBKC Business Checking Account

No Minimum Daily Balance Requirements

Nbkc bankWith no balance requirements, unlimited free transactions (no transaction fees), and fee-free access to more than 34,000 ATMs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, NBKC’s business checking account is ideal for microbusiness owners and sole proprietors without significant cash reserves. Plus, it has one of the best remote check deposit features around: the Desktop Deposit feature, which pairs with a robust mobile app to facilitate seamless deposits.

  • Minimum Deposit and Balance Requirements: There’s no minimum daily balance requirement or ongoing monthly balance requirements.
  • Yield: None.
  • Rewards and Incentives: NBKC refunds ATM fees charged by other banks worldwide, up to $12 per month, and charges no ATM network fees. In other words, NBKC customers enjoy free ATM use. This account comes with unlimited transactions as well.
  • Overdraft Options: See account disclosures for details on how NBKC’s courtesy overdraft sweep works.
  • Possible Fees: NBKC charges $5 to send a domestic wire and $45 to send or receive an international wire. Otherwise, it’s virtually fee-free.

Apply Now


Final Word

Some of the banks mentioned here serve small-business owners exclusively. If you prefer to work with a bank that’s laser-focused on the needs of entrepreneurs like you, that’s a major selling point.

The other banks on this list are larger institutions that also serve consumers. If you also happen to be in the market for a new personal banking relationship, you’ll want to see what else they have to offer. Some sport rewards checking accounts, competitive CD rates, and attractive money market accounts too — not to mention high-yield savings accounts that can help you keep pace with inflation. There’s a strong case to be made for doing all your banking in the same place, whether it’s a bank or credit union.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Ways to Look for a New Job

This post can be found en Español here.

The current coronavirus pandemic has caused a large upheaval across many different areas. In addition to the changes COVID-19 has made in the areas of health and safety (masks, social distancing and quarantines), it has also caused major changes to the economy across all walks to life. The United States has experienced record levels of unemployment, and even many of those who are still employed have experienced disruptions to their unemployment. 

If you are recently unemployed or are looking for new work due to changes in your work situation (being furloughed, having hours reduced or changes in the type or location of your work), there are several different ways that you can look for a new job. In this article, we’ll look through some of the best ways to look for a new job.

Networking with friends, family and former colleagues

There’s a reason the saying “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” is so popular – it’s quite true. As it has in most industries, the Internet has disrupted the way that recruiters and HR departments source their open job positions. Since most job applications are available at no cost and with the click of a button, the volume of resumes received for each open position is staggering. You truly have to make sure that your resume stands out.

One way to do this is to have a referral from a friend, family member or former colleague. Talk to your circle of influence and see what jobs are available where they work. A referral from someone who already works where you’re looking to hire on is a great first step. In many cases, a referral from an existing employee can help to short-circuit the HR department and get you directly in front of the hiring manager.

Make sure that your Linkedin profile is up-to-date

Going along with the power of networking and referrals is making sure that your Linkedin profile is accurate and current. Linkedin can be more useful in certain professions and in certain areas, so you’ll have to take a look to see how it might work for you. Generally, you’ll find more people and companies active on Linkedin in more white-collar trades. 

Linkedin also has a setting where you can state that you are actively looking for jobs. That setting will bring your Linkedin profile to the attention of recruiters who are looking to hire in your industry. This can be both positive and negative. Most recruiters also cast a wide net, so you may find it to be distracting having to answer calls and emails from recruiters who are hiring for jobs that may be not quite what you’re looking for.

Don’t forget about a solid resume

A traditional (paper) resume is less important than it was 10-20 years ago but still is useful to keep current. Depending on where you’re looking and in what industry, you might find a resume more or less important. The big reason resumes are not nearly as important anymore is that most job applications online are done electronically. So you may fill out an online form rather than uploading a Word document or PDF. Even if you do upload your resume online, it’s likely that it is getting parsed and converted into a different format, so all the time you spent carefully formatting your resume doesn’t tend to matter.

Another great resume tip is to make sure and target your resume and cover letter to the individual company and position you’re applying for. Each job is different, and showing that you took the time to emphasize skills and experience that was directly solicited in the job posting will only help.

Scour the big job boards

All of the traditional job “boards” have also moved online, with big job sites like Indeed, Monster, CareerBuilder and Linkedin posting millions of jobs per month. With so many jobs posted, it can be challenging to wade through all of them and find ones that make sense for what you’re looking for. Some good advice is to make sure to narrow down your search as much as possible. 

You may be tempted to cast a wide net in the hopes of finding something, but unless you have a ton of time, you may find it more beneficial to focus more narrowly. Most job sites will also let you set up ongoing searches that will immediately alert you if a new job is posted that matches your criteria.

Explore the gig economy

Depending on your household’s financial situation, you may also be looking to pick up some extra income while you’re looking for a new job. Joining the gig economy may make sense as a short-term option while you’re looking for a more stable job. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash or Instacart are generally always hiring people to work through their platforms and offer flexibility that could make it an easier fit on your schedule. 

Most of these companies also offer signup bonuses from $200-$500 to incentivize new people to join with them. Taking advantage of these gigs might be a good way to stabilize your budget while looking for that perfect job.

What to do if they say no

Even in high-demand professions, you’re likely to encounter a pretty significant level of rejection. If you’re not getting rejected a lot, you’re probably not applying to enough places! Unfortunately, many companies or HR departments do not typically let you know if you are rejected. If you don’t get the job, one strategy can be to ask when would a good time to follow up. Their answer to the question can help give you an idea for possible next steps with that company. 

Again, this is where the power of having a friend or former colleague on the inside – most HR departments are historically tight-lipped because they’re afraid of getting sued. But if you have a connection on the inside, you may be able to get more and better information to help guide your path going forward.

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Guide to Small Business Loans for Women

Guide to Small Business Loans for Women – SmartAsset

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Women-owned businesses have more difficulty getting loans than companies that are majority-owned by men. Female-led firms applying for loans are more likely to get turned down and less likely to get all they requested. While there are no lending programs that are exclusively for women-owned companies, some sources of financing are more likely to approve a loan application from a woman-led business than others. A financial advisor can help you with any loan or other questions you have.

The annual Small Business Credit Survey by the Federal Reserve quantifies the problems female business owners face when applying for a business loan. The 2019 edition found that loans were the main method of financing for all firms. But while 50% of men-owned firms had their funding needs met, only 43% of women business owners had the same experience.

The Fed survey said women-owned businesses were denied credit more often because they had a low credit score or too much existing debt as reasons compared to other businesses. However, women applicants were less likely to be denied for reasons such as insufficient credit history, insufficient collateral and weak business performance.

Despite the apparent need for more credit for women-led companies, lenders cannot have business loan programs that are restricted to women applicants. The federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act bars creditors from discriminating when granting loans or on any other aspect of credit on the basis of sex, as well as gender, among other borrower characteristics.

Loan Sources for Women-Owned Businesses

However, women-owned businesses obtain loans every day. And there are some sources that have better records of lending to female-led companies than others. Among such sources are government agencies, for-profit organizations and nonprofit entities.

Federal government – Small Business Administration-backed loans are made through a network of participating financial institutions in amounts ranging from $500 to $5 million. Programs such as the main 7(a) loans and streamlined Express Loans are open to all businesses, including women-owned ones subject to size limits and other requirements like having been denied loans from other sources. The 8(a) program specifically targets disadvantaged businesses. SBA-backed loans generally have costs comparable to other loans but offer lower down payments and easier qualification.

Banks and credit unions – These are the primary source of business loans, used by 55% of companies the Fed surveyed. Banks and credit unions offer a variety of repayment terms and loan amounts as well as competitive interest rates and fees. But when it comes to women-owned businesses, not all banks are created equal. Based on the Fed credit survey, about 58% of women applications to large banks are approved, while that number rises to 64% when small banks are looking at the applications.

Online lenders – Women-owned businesses have more success with online lenders, such as peer-to-peer groups, than with banks. About 85% of loan requests by women-led companies were approved by online lenders. That’s a higher approval rate than for any other type of business, including those led by non-Hispanic white, African-American and Hispanic businesspeople. Online lenders tend to have higher interest rates and fees than banks, but may use different criteria to qualify borrowers, resulting in higher approval rates for borrowers such as women business owners.

Microloans – Small loans for amounts from $500 to $50,000 are also available to women-led companies. The SBA has a guaranteed microloan program but these loans are also available without guarantees from a number of nonprofit credit organizations. Although they aren’t suitable for borrowers seeking large amounts, microloans can work for service businesses and others with modest capital needs.

Angel investors and venture capitalists – Angels and venture capitalists primarily make equity investments, purchasing ownership in exchange for cash. However, they may also provide loans, especially in young, fast-growing companies.

Crowdfunding – These kinds of orgnizations connect business owners with individuals, each of whom is willing to put up a small portion of the required financing. Credit scores and other traditional credit qualifications are generally not relevant with crowdfunding. What matters more is making a convincing presentation and having a product that connects with potential crowdfunders.

Family and friends – As is the case with crowdfunding, loans from family and friends are not likely to turn on credit history or the existence of collateral. However, this source of funding requires having family and friends with adequate financial resources. Also, if a business funded this way fails, it could strain important personal relationships.

Credit cards – A Fed survey found 52% of small businesses used credit cards, second only to 55% that used bank loans. Credit cards charge high interest rates compared to other funding sources, but the convenience makes up for it for many business borrowers.

The Bottom Line

While women-owned businesses have a harder time accessing credit than male-led companies, business loans are available. Some sources of financing seem more open to women-led companies than others, and female entrepreneurs can increase their chances of getting a loan by applying to the right lender. Finally, keep in mind that grants for women-owned businesses are also an option.

Tips for Business Borrowers

  • If you are a female business owner looking for business financing, consider working with an experienced financial advisor to guide you through selecting and applying for a loan. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • While there are no women-exclusive lenders, many sources of assistance tailored for female entrepreneurs can help women solve the funding puzzle. They include the SBA’s national network of Women’s Business Centers and the National Association of Women Business Owners. No matter where you choose to seek a loan, be sure to follow basic loan application guidelines.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Willy Sebastian, ©iStock.com/Kerkez, ©iStock.com/YinYang

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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How to Start a WordPress Blog on Bluehost – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for a way to bring in some extra income and have a passion you’d enjoy sharing with others, blogging could be a great side gig or even potential full-time job for you. From travel to fashion, cooking to pilates, budgeting to home decor, it’s possible to blog about almost any topic, allowing you to share your interests with like-minded people while also potentially bringing in some extra cash.

To be sure, blogging is not a get-rich-quick scheme. It takes a lot of hard work, consistency, and dedication to learning everything from basic technical skills to how to drive traffic to your site through social media channels. But when it comes to getting started, you can set up your blog in a few minutes with some simple clicks. And you can do it on the cheap for only the price of your domain name and hosting, which you can get for as little as $3 per month through Bluehost.

If you’re ready to set up your blog, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process.


Step 1: Choose a Domain Name

Domaine Computer Screen Blogging Communication Global

Your domain name is your online “address”; it’s how people find you on the Web. It’s also your brand; it lets your audience know who you are and what you’re all about. So it’s worth it to take some time to think carefully about the name that will forever be attached to your blog. Although it’s possible to change your name in the future, once you’ve established an audience, it can be difficult to change it without causing confusion and potentially losing some readers.

How to Choose a Domain Name

Start by brainstorming a list of names for your blog and then decide on your top three to five favorites. Keep the following questions in mind, and if you’re still having trouble choosing something, ask friends and family for their suggestions and feedback on your top picks.

1. What Is Your Niche?

Consider what your blog will be about. What will your specific niche be – cooking, personal finance, travel, or something else?

Many bloggers choose a name that reflects their site’s core focus, such as Scary Mommy or Pinch of Yum. In these two cases, not only are the topics – motherhood and cooking – immediately apparent, but the names also convey the tone of each website. Readers know the kind of attitude or perspective to expect. That’s important because your readers will find and stick with you not only because of your topic, but also for your unique voice and perspective.

Before deciding on a name, ask yourself:

  • What general niche will you be writing in?
  • What specific topics will you cover? For example, will you have a generalized cooking blog or write about a specific type of cooking, as From Pasta to Paleo does?
  • Who is your target audience? Knowing who your readers will be directly affects your content.
  • What will be the general tone or voice of your blog? Will you be humorous or serious?  Will you relate to your readers as a mentor or as their BFF?

It’s important to consider your answers to these questions because the name you pick should reflect your niche and tone and resonate with your target audience.

2. How “Tied Down” Do You Want to Be?

While you want a name that makes your brand immediately clear to your audience, if you aren’t entirely sure at this point what you want to blog about, it might make more sense to choose a name that’s more broad than narrow. For example, Pinch of Yum covers all kinds of cooking, while Sweetapolita focuses exclusively on desserts. The benefit of such a specific name is that it lets readers know exactly what the blog is about, but it could be a potential drawback if you decide to pivot and blog about something else later on.

If you really have no idea what you want to blog about at this point – not even your general niche – consider using your own name as your blog title, as Sarah Titus does at SarahTitus.com. Sarah started out blogging about saving money but now blogs about everything from parenting to organization to her Christian faith. If you decide to go this route, your brand may not be immediately recognizable, but over time, your readers will get to know your unique voice and perspective and will come to associate that with your name, which will ultimately become your brand.

3. How Easily Do You Want Readers to Find You?

This is a rhetorical question; of course you want your readers to be able to find you easily. However, if you’re serious about making money with your blog, here are a few pointers you should keep in mind when it comes to your blog’s domain name:

  • Avoid Using Hyphens, Numbers, or Special Characters. Although it may be tempting to add these if the name you want is taken, readers will have a hard time remembering if they’re supposed to spell out a number or use its numerical symbol or if there’s a hyphen between your first name and your last.
  • Make It As Short As Possible. Readers will remember a shorter name more easily.
  • Make It Catchy and Unique. A catchy name is also easier to remember, and the more unique it is, the more it will stand out in readers’ minds.
  • Don’t Include Brand Names or Trademarks. Even if you’re planning to blog about brands, a domain name like HowToSellOnEbay.com is likely to get you sued by eBay. Instead, try something like HowToResellOnOnlineAuctionSites.com.

How to Buy Your Domain Name

Fortunately, choosing your domain name is the hardest part. If you decide to go with Bluehost as your hosting company (see Step 2), you can buy your name for free with any hosting package as part of the setup process. The benefit of this, aside from the price, is being able to manage your website and domain name in one convenient place.

However, you can also buy your name from a domain registry service, such as GoDaddy. If you plan on having multiple blogs hosted at different places, or if you’d like to buy a bunch of domain names for whatever reason, buying through a service such as GoDaddy gives you the convenience of having all your domain names in one location. I experimented with several different hosting companies for my personal blogs over the years before settling on Bluehost, and though I’m so far very happy with them, I like that my names aren’t tied down with one hosting company. It’s always possible to transfer domain names, but some Web hosts charge for it, and it can make your website inaccessible for a few days while the transfer takes place.

The other reason I like having all my domain names with GoDaddy is that I own several that aren’t currently in use, but I’ve bought them in anticipation of needing them someday. I write both fiction and non-fiction, so I have two different versions of my name – one for each genre – with two different corresponding websites. Additionally, I’m working on a number of books and novels, whose names I’ve bought solely for the purpose of making sure I’ll have them when I need them. Altogether, I have about 12 different domain names registered with GoDaddy. If you’re a domain name junkie too, you may also want to use a standalone registry service.

What to Do If Your Domain Name Isn’t Available

There’s a high possibility that whatever domain name you settle on may already be taken. You may have to go with your second or even third choice, which is why it’s helpful to brainstorm several different names and pick more than just your top choice.

However, if your heart is set on your top name, here are a few ways you can put enough of a spin on it that you’ll be able to preserve it as much as possible.

1. Add One or Two Extra Words

As a writer and author, I use my name for my blog because in my case, my name is my brand; it’s how my audience knows me. Unfortunately, Sarah Graves is a fairly popular name, and there’s another novelist named Sarah Graves who claimed that domain before I did. So, to distinguish myself, I was forced to add my middle name, Elizabeth, for my fiction website. For my non-fiction website, I added my “Ph.D.” title.

Though short domain names are easier for readers to remember, adding another word or two might allow you to hang onto the name you want without compromising it too much.

2. Get Creative

No rule says that your blog name has to be a real word. In fact, giving your blog your own “made-up” word can help it stand out. Think about brands such as Google, Twitter, or Spotify – none of these are real words.

To come up with your own made-up word that’s catchy and easy to read and remember, try a tool such as Wordoid. Take a fragment of your original domain name, plug it into Wordoid, and it will use it to generate something unique. Say, for example, that you want to blog about baking and you came up with the name Sweetapolita, which is taken. If you plug in the beginning of that name, “sweet,” Wordoid will give you several unique variations on it One of these is “Sweetable,” which would make a great blog name.

3. As a Last Resort, Try a Different Extension

Always aim for a .com extension on your domain name, for two reasons. First, while people are likely to remember your blog’s name, they’re unlikely to remember if it has another extension, such as .tv, .net, .biz, or .co. Most people assume Web addresses end in .com.

Second, chances are that if your domain name is taken, it’s because someone else is already using it as their own brand. A subtle change to the name may not be enough to distinguish your brand. For example, even though I added my “Ph.D.” title to the end of my non-fiction domain name to make it unique, if you try searching for “Sarah Graves” on the Web, you’re more likely to come across the other fiction author than you are me. That’s especially problematic because potential readers may not know we’re two different writers. In my case, it might have been better just to make up a unique pen name instead.

So keep in mind that you don’t want your audience to confuse you with another blog or brand. But if you truly have your heart set on your chosen domain name and are willing to accept that risk, you can try a different extension. There are some well-known blogs and famous personalities that have done this successfully.


Step 2: Choose a Website Host

Web Hosting Laptop Desk

Once you have your domain name, the next step is to set up hosting for your blog. Your host is where your blog will “live” on the Web.

What Is Hosting?

Think of hosting like renting a home for your blog to live in. Your domain name is your “address”; it tells Web browsers where to go to find your blog. Where you host your website is the actual physical “space” for your blog – a Web server where all your data and files are stored securely. It’s also the place where you will install the WordPress software that will allow you to design, publish content on, and manage all other aspects of your blog.

Why You Need a Self-Hosted Blog

Your blog can be “self-hosted” through a service such as Bluehost, or you can set it up on a free blogging platform, such as Blogger, Tumblr, or WordPress.com. Although you can blog for free with these platforms, if you’re serious about making money with your blog, self-hosting is the only way to go.

One of the main reasons for this is that if you opt to blog on a platform such as Tumblr, your blog will be a subdomain of theirs; it won’t be your own. On Tumblr, for example, my domain name would be “sarahgravesphd.tumblr.com” and not “sarahgravesphd.com.”

In addition to the name, you have far less control over a blog that isn’t self-hosted. You’re extremely limited in the ways you can manage it, including your ability to monetize it. If you want to have full control over your site and content – especially your ability to make money with your blog – you need self-hosting.

Choosing a Website Host

There are hundreds of hosting services available, but based on my experience, I recommend Bluehost for several reasons:

  • They Have Excellent Customer Service. It’s possible for even for the technically challenged to set up a blog, but having access to help is essential when you run into issues you can’t solve on your own. Several times, I’ve experienced technical difficulties, whether from installing faulty plug-ins or the periodic WordPress update, and have made frantic phone calls to Bluehost for help. Every time I’ve called them, their customer service reps have been helpful, patient, and understanding. I’ve never encountered the same level of customer service with a different hosting provider. Plus, they’re ready to help you fix any issues 24/7 with live support via email, phone, or chat.
  • They Make Their Service Easy to Use. Pretty much everything about Bluehost’s setup and installation processes is “plug-and-play.”
  • They Provide Fast Page Uploads. When you’re first starting out, you may not have to worry too much about page-load speed. But if you decide to monetize, you may be posting ads or videos, and the more of these you have on your site, the more they’ll drag down your load time. Your readers are likely to lose patience and go elsewhere if it takes forever for your pages to load, so the faster your upload speeds, the better.
  • Their Packages Are Highly Affordable. Bluehost offers its “Basic” hosting package for $2.95 per month, plus a free domain name if you commit to 36 months. That price is pretty much unbeatable. Once you have more readers and content and need to scale up, you can rent your own server for only $23.95 per month, which is a price many other hosting companies offer for only a shared server.
  • They Include a Free SSL Certificate. A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate authenticates the identity of a website and encrypts information sent to the server. The encryption process scrambles data into an indecipherable format that can only be read with the proper decryption key. All websites that collect user credit card information use SSL certificates to keep buyers’ information secure from hackers, but bloggers need SSL certificates too. As of 2018, Google ranks sites with SSL certificates higher in their search engine results. Plus, if you don’t have one, most browsers will alert readers with a popup that says something like “This site is not secure,” which will no doubt turn off readers. So even if you never collect any information from your readers, you’ll still need an SSL certificate.

Step 3: Set Up Hosting & WordPress

Wordpress Application Computer Phone Icon Logo

You’ve made all the tough decisions; now it’s time to get started with Bluehost. If at any point you get stuck or have questions, look to the “Chat” and “Call” links on the right-hand side of Bluehost’s upper menu. They are available 24/7 for customer support.

1. Click “Get Started”

Once you’re on Bluehost’s homepage, click the green “Get Started” button.

2. Choose Your Plan

If you’re just starting out, the Basic plan should give you everything you need for now. To get the lowest price of $2.95 per month, you will need to sign up for 36 months of hosting, and you’ll be billed for the entire amount at once. However, Bluehost has a money-back guarantee, so you can cancel at any time and get a prorated refund. You can also upgrade at any time for a prorated amount if you decide a different package will better suit your needs.

SelectPlan

3. Enter Your Domain Name

On the next page, you’ll be asked to enter your domain name. If you’d like to register one for free with Bluehost, you can do that in the left-hand box. If you already have a domain name that’s registered with an outside domain registry, such as GoDaddy, Bluehost will help you transfer it, or you can keep it where you registered it and have your domain name directed to Bluehost by updating your nameservers. Bluehost will walk you through both of these processes.

Domain Name

4. Enter Your Account Info

Enter and confirm your personal information and your chosen hosting package. Remember, you’ll have to pay the total amount of your hosting package up front. For example, if you choose 36 months at $2.95 per month, you’ll pay the full $106.20. But don’t worry; it’s completely risk-free.

Personal Info

Bluehost also offers a few other services for additional fees, but you don’t need to worry about them right now, so you can uncheck those boxes.

Package Info

Finally, enter your payment information and click “submit.”

Payment Info

5. Create a Password

Make sure your password isn’t something easy to guess; you want your site to be as secure against hackers as possible. After creating your password, make sure you write it down and keep it in a safe place. You can also use a service like 1password to store all your important passwords.

6 Password1

Password Step 2

6. Download WordPress

Click “log in.” At this point, Bluehost will automatically start downloading WordPress for you.

Login

7. Choose a Theme (Optional)

On the next screen, Bluehost will give you the option to choose a theme, or a basic look and design for your website. You don’t need to think too hard about this; just pick anything for now. In the next step, we’ll talk more about options for your theme, which is something you can change at any time.

Pick Theme1

8. Start Building

Click on “Start Building,” and you’ll be taken to your WordPress dashboard. This is where you’ll do everything from designing the look of your site to writing and publishing content to installing plug-ins, the apps for your website that allow you to do certain things such as create contact forms or sell products.

WP Dashboard1


Step 4: Install a Theme

Blog Theme Graphic Design Elements

WordPress is merely a platform for managing your blog’s content. The way you get from a white screen to a beautiful, well-branded design is with code. Every color, element placement, font, size, and spacing has code behind it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert programmer – or a programmer at all – to get a customized, branded look for your website. That’s where your theme comes in.

You could pay a Web designer to customize the look of your site for you, but it can be pricey – typically a couple thousand dollars or more. You could also install a free WordPress theme, but your options will be limited, and you may not be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. I’ve spent hours scouring the Web trying to find just the right look from a free theme.

The middle ground is to invest in a premium, or paid, theme. Many of these are fully customizable and give you an endless variety of ways to make your site your own, especially if you use a framework coupled with a child theme. A framework is essentially the structure for your website, like the frame of a house. The child theme provides all the unique, customized details, like the painting, shingles, and trim for that house. Don’t worry if that doesn’t make perfect sense to you yet; just choose a theme that provides a lot of great video tutorials, customer support, and, as much as possible, a visual page builder.

Some of the more commonly used blog frameworks and themes are:

  • Divi by Elegant Themes
  • Genesis Framework by StudioPress
  • Make by The Theme Foundry (which has both a free version with fewer options and a paid version with more functionality)

If you decide to go with any of these themes, be sure to check out their video tutorials for how to install and start designing with your new theme. You can also consider getting some DIY tech help through an independent service such as WP-BFF from Web designer Shannon Mattern. Shannon has a free five-day challenge that will walk you through all the basics of installing necessary plug-ins and designing your site so that you can get the look you want.


Step 5: Start Blogging

Desk Laptop Blogger Flowers Blogging

Once you’ve installed WordPress on your site, you’ll no longer need to go through Bluehost to manage it. Although you may need to access your Bluehost cPanel (control panel) every now and then to manage your domains or set up email, 99% of your work on your blog – including all of your website design – will be done through your WordPress dashboard.

You can always access your dashboard directly without going through Bluehost by typing your domain name plus “wp-login.” For example: https://www.mydomainname.com/wp-login.

To write your first blog post, log in to your WordPress dashboard and select “Posts” and then “Add New” from the left-hand menu column. Then, type away.


Final Word

If you’re interested in setting up a blog as a way to make some extra cash, but you’re put off by a lack of technical know-how, there’s no need to worry. Setting up a blog doesn’t require a lot of technical knowledge and can be done in as little as 10 minutes or so.

If you get stuck at any point, especially when it comes to designing the look of your website, there are plenty of options on the Web for getting answers. You may only need to perform a simple Google search of your problem to get a quick and easy-to-follow answer from any number of online sources. In no time, you may even feel like a tech genius – or, at the very least, that setting up a blog is more doable than you first thought.

Are you thinking about starting a blog? What passions or interests do you long to share?

Source: moneycrashers.com

Guide to Writing a Financial Plan for a Business

Guide to Writing a Financial Plan for a Business – SmartAsset

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your financial details.

When writing a business plan, it’s important to put together a financial plan that projects future income, cash flow and changes to the balance sheet. The financial plan section often consists mostly of spreadsheets. It’s where the business owner presents a paint-by-numbers case that the business will continue to be profitable or, if it’s a startup, become profitable. The financial section is the part of a business plan that many investors turn to first, so it deserves extra attention.

A business financial plan covers a specific time period or, more likely, set of time periods. A typical plan provides forecasts for the next couple of years. It may go out further in time if the plan is being used to solicit long-term financing.

Forecasts should also be broken down into shorter periods. Often the first year will include monthly forecasts, while the second year will contain projections for each quarter. For later years, an annual forecast is likely to be considered sufficient.

Parts of a Business Financial Plan

The financial plan portion of a business plan typically has three parts covering these topics:

  • Income
  • Cash flow
  • Balance sheet

Income Statement

The income statement portion starts by listing all sources of revenue, including sales and interest or investment income, that the business anticipates receiving over the period covered by the plan. Next it describes all the anticipated expenses, which may include inventory, wages, rent, utilities, interest on loans and taxes. On the last line of the income statement is the net income figure.

Ideally, this bottom-line net income figure will be positive, showing healthy profits. However, for many startups it may be years before the red ink at the bottom of the income statement turns black. Amazon is one of the clearest examples of this phenomenon. So, it may be less important to avoid showing losses in the early going than to demonstrate a clear path to eventual profitability.

Cash Flow Statement

The cash flow statement monitors the anticipated flow of cash through the business over the covered time period. It is different from the income statement, which covers revenues and expenses but doesn’t describe where cash will come from or how it will be used. The cash flow statement starts with a figure for cash on hand and concludes with a projection for the amount of cash that will be on hand at the end. The end goal of the cash flow statement is to show that the business won’t run out of cash and be unable to pay its bills.

The cash flow projection starts by describing sources of funds. This may include cash receipts on sales that are forecast to be booked during the period as well as cash expected to flow in from sales recorded on the income statement during an earlier period.

The uses of funds section is generally more complex than the sources of fund sections. It shows how and when funds will actually be disbursed to acquire inventory, cover SG&A (sales, general and administrative) expenses, make loan payments, fund distributions or draws taken by the owners and pay other bills.

Balance Sheet

The balance sheet portion of the financial plan aims to give an idea of what the business will be worth, considering all its assets and liabilities, at a future date. To do this, it uses figures from the income statement and cash flow statement.

The essence of a balance sheet is found in the equation: Liabilities + Equity = Assets. It can also be expressed as Asset – Liabilities = Net Worth. The goal of a balance sheet forecast is to show that the activities of the business are creating value. This can be done by paying off liabilities, by increasing assets or, more likely, a combination of both.

If the amount of equity or net worth is increasing from one period to the next, the business is creating wealth. This is what investors, lenders and business owners are looking for.

Projection Techniques

Unlike historical income statements, cash flow reports and balance sheets, the plan section deals with the future rather than the past. In order to estimate figures used to populate the spreadsheet cells, planners use scenario planning.

One way to do scenario planning is to generate high, medium and low forecasts. A planner may, for instance, have one forecast with a high annual sales figure of $1 million, a medium sales figure of $750,000 and a low sales figure of $500,000. Similarly, the plan will include best, moderate and worst outlooks for expenses for expenses. Ultimately the financial plan will likely illustrate several potential scenarios combining high, low and medium eventualities.

Of course, little about the future is certain, especially when it comes to details. So, a business financial plan is necessarily somewhat vague. It’s best to avoid over-complicating the financial plan section by drilling down very far into the details. Complex formulas are also often avoided in order to give a clear picture of what the plan writer is trying to communicate.

Bottom Line

The financial plan section of a business plan is a look into the future of the business and its ability to generate profits, pay its bills and create wealth. Its main documents are income statements, cash flow statements and balance sheets. There may be several versions of these, each demonstrating the likely effects of various scenarios. Financial plans are important to business owners, people who are investing and lenders because they aid in evaluating the prospects of the business.

Tips for Business Owners and Investors

  • When you’re crafting the financial plan section of a business plan – or when you’re considering investing in a business – it’s an ideal time to get some financial expertise on your side. So, consider talking this over with an experienced financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor who fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in five minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors who will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • A financial plan is the final part of a business plan. Be sure you know all 10 key components of a business plan.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/psisa, ©iStock.com/Artistan, ©iStock.com/andresr

Mark Henricks Mark Henricks has reported on personal finance, investing, retirement, entrepreneurship and other topics for more than 30 years. His freelance byline has appeared on CNBC.com and in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and other leading publications. Mark has written books including, “Not Just A Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You A Life.” His favorite reporting is the kind that helps ordinary people increase their personal wealth and life satisfaction. A graduate of the University of Texas journalism program, he lives in Austin, Texas. In his spare time he enjoys reading, volunteering, performing in an acoustic music duo, whitewater kayaking, wilderness backpacking and competing in triathlons.
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Source: smartasset.com

IRS Home Office Tax Deduction – Rules & Calculator

If you’re a small-business owner, freelancer, independent contractor, or self-employed person who maintains an office at home, you may qualify for a tax break by using the home office deduction.

The home office deduction allows you to deduct a portion of the cost to run and maintain your home as a business expense. Done properly, this deduction can reduce your taxable income substantially, generating a tax savings. A word of caution: This deduction is frequently abused, but, on the other hand, often overlooked. Just because this deduction is a common source of tax fraud doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it if you qualify for it.

How the IRS Defines a Home Office

Home Office Deduction

Whether you convert a bedroom, den, basement, attic, or garage into an office, the IRS does not specify what kind of facility can be an office. They do, however, have two rules about the use of the space. To qualify to deduct expenses for business, you must use that space:

  • Exclusively and regularly as your principal place of business
  • Exclusively and regularly as a place to meet clients, customers, or patients in the normal conduct of your business

“Regular use” means that you use the space on a regular basis, not on an occasional or incidental basis. If you use your den once or twice a year for a client conference, that does not meet the standard of regular use and does not qualify as a home office.

“Exclusive use” means that you use the space only for business. If you meet clients regularly in your den, but your family also uses your den to watch TV, then the den does not meet the standard of exclusive use and does not qualify as a home office.

A part of a room can be designated as an office even if other parts of the room are used for other purposes. If, for example, you have a desk, chair, filing cabinet, and copier in a 50-square-foot area of a 120-square-foot room, that space can be a home office if it meets the regular and exclusive business use criteria.

Pro tip: By using tax preparation software from a company like H&R Block, you’ll have confidence you’re getting every available tax deduction and minimizing your tax liability.

Home Expenses That Count Toward the Deduction

IRS Publication 587 notes that allowable office-in-home expenses are of three kinds:

  • Direct expenses apply to the office only (for example, repainting the office).
  • Indirect expenses apply to the entire home (for example, utilities).
  • Unrelated expenses apply to neither the office nor the home itself (for example, lawn care).

Direct expenses can be deducted on your tax return in whole. Indirect expenses are deducted proportionately, according to the office square footage compared to the square footage of the total house; unrelated expenses are not deductible.

Indirect expenses might include the following:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Qualified mortgage insurance premiums
  • Property taxes
  • Depreciation
  • Rent (if you do not own the home)
  • Utilities and services (like trash removal and cleaning)
  • Repairs (unless the repair involves only the office, then it is direct)
  • Security system
  • Casualty losses

Noticeably absent from this list is telephone expenses. The basic charge, including taxes, of the first landline to your property is a personal expense and not deductible, although long-distance costs made for business purposes are deductible separately on Schedule C (not as part of the office-in-home expenses). The cost for a second line to the office for business purposes is a direct deduction. A cell phone plan may also be partly or wholly deducted separately, depending on the percentage of business usage.

How to Calculate Your Home Office Deduction

If you opt for the general method using Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Home, the first task is to calculate the percentage of business use. To do this, you divide the square footage of your office space by the total square footage of the home. As an example, assume your home has 1,200 square feet and the part of your home used for business activity is a room that’s 10 x 12 feet (120 square feet). The percentage of office use is 120 square feet / 1,200 square feet x 100 = 10%.

If you do not know the square footage of your home, you can check with the county assessor’s office, which may be able to provide you with that information. The IRS allows you to use “any other reasonable method” to determine the percentage of business use, so if the rooms in your house are of approximately equal size, you can divide the number of rooms used as office space by the total number of rooms to find the percentage of business use. However, the square-foot method is more precise.

To continue the calculation, let’s say that you had the following indirect expenses:

  • Mortgage: $1,200 per month x 12 months = $14,400
  • Property Taxes: $1,000 x 2 payments per year = $2,000
  • Hazard Insurance: $50 per month x 12 months = $600
  • Electricity: $80 per month x 12 months = $960
  • Gas: $40 per month x 12 months = $480
  • Sewer, Water, and Trash: $60 per month x 12 months = $720
  • Furnace Repair: one-time cost of $1,840
  • Total: $21,000

In this example, the total cost of running the home for the year is $21,000. Since we previously determined that the business portion of the house is 10% of the total, then the office-in-home expense is $21,000 x .10 = $2,100.

If you had a direct expense of $200 to paint the office, you could add this amount to the indirect expense total of $2,100 to give a total expense deduction of $2,300.

Depreciation

If you are using Form 8829, after calculating your deduction for the business use of your home (Part II), you can figure your depreciation deduction in Part III. Depreciation is a mechanism for homeowners to deduct an amount for the wear and tear from normal use of the property over its useful life of. For the purpose of this depreciation, the useful life of the property is 39 years. To figure your depreciation, you need the following:

  • Your Basis in the Home on the Date You Began to Use Your Office (usually your cost plus the cost of any improvements to the property): $300,000
  • The Cost of the Land: $50,000
  • The Date You First Started Using Your Office: January 1, 2109
  • The Depreciation Factor (from the Instructions for Form 8829): 2.461%
  • The Percentage of Business Use: 10% in our example

Since land does not depreciate, the calculation is done as follows:

($300,000 – $50,000) x .02461 = $250,000 x .02461 = $6,152.50

The business use depreciation is 10% of that $6,152.50: $6,152.50 x .10 = $615.25

This amount is carried back to Part II to complete the business use expense deduction:

$2,300 + $615.25 = $2,915

This total is carried to your Schedule C, line 30.

Simplified Method

Not everyone wants to track their actual expenses and maintain proper records in the event of an audit. To make it easier for taxpayers, the IRS allows small-business owners to elect a simplified method for calculating an expense for a home office. The election is taken on Schedule C (Part II, line 30), in which case Form 8829 is not needed.

The simplified method allows a $5-per-square-foot deduction up to a maximum of 300 square feet. Therefore, for our 120-square-foot office in the above example, the simplified method would allow a deduction of 120 x $5 = $600, which is significantly less than the calculated method allowed. Moreover, with the simplified method, you are not allowed a depreciation deduction. However, the upside is that you do not have to recapture the depreciation later when you sell the property.

Additional Deductions & Exceptions

Additional Deductions Exceptions

If you use an area of your home for storage of inventory, for example, the general area does not have to be used exclusively. The area taken up by a shelving unit in the den on which you keep inventory or product samples can be included in the deduction, even though the entire den is not used exclusively for business. In addition, if you have a day care in your home, there are special rules, which are detailed in Publication 587.

Be aware, also, that if the gross income from your business is less than the deductions (including office-in-home), some of your deductions may be limited. If you use the general method, rather than the simplified method, some of the deductions may be carried forward to the next year. Again, details are in Publication 587.

Another reminder: If you’re using the general method, and you’re including home office expenses that are otherwise deductible as itemized deductions on Schedule A (such as mortgage interest, property taxes, and mortgage insurance premiums), the percentage of those indirect expenses not used on Form 8829 are still deductible on Schedule A.

For instance, in the example above, 10% of the mortgage interest of $14,400 (or $1,440) is deductible on Form 8829. The other 90%, or $14,400 – $1,440 = $12,960, can be deducted as mortgage interest on Schedule A.

Final Word

The home office tax deduction can save you a substantial amount in taxes. If you’re a small-business owner wanting to cut costs, start early to assemble your receipts, utility statements, mortgage statements, or canceled rent checks to calculate and justify your deduction for a home office. Reducing your business’s net profit not only reduces your income tax, but also your self-employment tax.

Source: moneycrashers.com