Everything You Need To Know About Promotional Codes In One Place

Promo codes and discount coupons are powerful tools for marketing strategy for store owners. It’s the best method to boost your brand and products awareness on the market. Some of the best offers for coupon codes are available on the website BmarCoupons. Check it and enjoy the discount on clothes, tech, and phone accessories.

In this article we have gathered all the information about the coupons and promo codes.

What are the promotional codes?

Promo codes are the type of alphanumeric codes with numbers and letters in it. You can get various promo codes online and in the stores, and they are very flexible because customers can use them wherever and whenever they want. Here is a perfect example, Parks.Ohiodnr.gov offers discounts for camping and getaway rentals.

But you are wrong if you think this is all about the customer because promotional codes bring advantages to store owners and their marketing strategy. In the list below you can read marketing objectives you can achieve with the promotions such as these:

  • Boost online followers
  • Lift brand awareness
  • Direct online users to your points of sale, on and offline
  • Motivate customers to engage with campaigns, surveys, and subscriptions
  • Gather customer information

The difference between discount coupons and promotional codes

Most people think this is the same thing, but they are wrong because there are little differences and when you understand this you can collect and use much more discounts.

A coupon is a very visual image with a message for a special discount and gift, and they do not include a promotional code.

A promo code is a specific alphanumeric code which users must type during the process of purchase. The store owners love the promo codes because they are traceable and you can communicate with specific buyers with them. Promo codes cannot be copied or reused like coupons.

Why you should share promotional codes online

You should necessarily share your promotional code online on social networks because the new economy is based on them. Every marketing campaign on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Youtube will bring the store owners a large number of new customers.

How to set up a promotional codes campaign

Share discount with all your followers

This is the simplest way for your brand to be seen, just choose a discount and design a catchy coupon. If the customer wants the save money they need to register and write their contact details. This is an excellent way to increase your sale figures.

Share discount with a just exclusive group of fans

If you make a limit promotion, you will have the best results. Everyone wants to be an exclusive customer and 1 of the 100 buyers. It is like a competition, and people love to get first to the finish line.

Reward your customers for completing a survey

You can always improve your business with the information from the survey and every customer that completes it should be rewarded with a discount. This is a beautiful exchange.

Competition and chance.

Share promo codes and giveaway a product

The best promotion of your brand is when you give every registered participant a discount plus a possibility to win a great prize, of course, something from your products.

 

The Rise Of Social Media In The Business World

In just a few short years, social media has gone from being a niche communication tool to a must-have for any business that wants to stay relevant and connected with its customers.

One of the most popular social media platforms for businesses is X.com/Twitter. X.com/Twitter is a great platform for businesses because it allows them to share short, concise updates with their followers in real-time.

However, X.com/Twitter is not without its challenges. One of the biggest challenges businesses face when using X.com/Twitter is creating content that is both interesting and engaging.

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for your business’s X.com/Twitter account, never fear! In this blog post, we’ll give you 9 different types of content that you can share on Twitter to keep your followers engaged.

Industry News

One of the best ways to use X.com for your business is to share industry news with your followers. This is a great way to show that you’re up-to-date on the latest industry trends and developments.

To find industry news to share on X.com, you can follow industry news sources, such as trade publications and websites.

You can also set up Google Alerts for key terms and phrases related to your industry. This way, you’ll be notified whenever there’s a new development that you can share with your followers.

Company News

In addition to sharing industry news, you can also use X.com/Twitter to share news about your company. This could include news about new products or services, company milestones, or anything else that would be of interest to your followers.

Tips and Tricks

If you want to position your business as an expert in your industry, one of the best ways to do so is to share tips and tricks on Twitter. For example, if you’re a web design company, you could share tips on how to create a successful website.

How-To Guides

Another great way to share your expertise on Twitter is to create and share how-to guides. These could be in the form of blog posts, infographics, or even video tutorials.

Behind-the-scenes

People love getting a peek behind the scenes of their favorite businesses. If you give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at your business, they’ll feel more connected to your brand.

Employee Spotlights

Spotlighting your employees on Twitter is a great way to show the human side of your business. You can share employee spotlights on a regular basis or whenever you have a new employee join your team.

Customer Testimonials

Make your followers feel good about doing business with you by sharing customer testimonials on Twitter. Customer testimonials are a great way to show that your customers are happy with your products or services.

Contest and Giveaways

People love free stuff! Hosting a contest or giveaway is a great way to increase engagement on your Twitter account.

Fun Facts

Finally, one of the best ways to keep your followers engaged is to share fun facts with them. These could be facts about your industry, your company, or even just random fun facts.

We hope you found these 9 types of content ideas helpful. Remember, the key to success on Twitter is to share content that is both interesting and engaging. If you can do that, you’ll be sure to keep your followers coming back for more.

 

Expert Says S&P Will Surge in Next Two Weeks!

The blue-chip S&P 500 Index will surge 5 percent to reach a new record level in the next two weeks, investing expert Tom DeMark stated recently. He estimated that the benchmark index will rise to a level of 1,480 before global market participants become tired of the benchmark and begin selling it, according to Bloomberg.

Accurate Forecaster

Having studied the inflection points for the movements of asset prices and provided consulting to hedge funds such as George Soros’s Soros Fund Management LLC, DeMark provided an accurate prediction when he stated that the S&P would stop depreciating at 1,076 and the group of stocks started moving upward again once it reached 1,074.77 on Oct. 4, the news source reports.

‘Unfinished Business’

Demark wrote in an emailed statement that the index’s rally will fade out before it falls between 12 and 17 percent, the media outlet reports. He said that “there is still some unfinished business upside that will totally surprise and shock most market followers,” and that the recent “rally is a solo move in a sense that the overall market trend has been down since September 14.”

The S&P 500 has spiked as much as 15 percent after falling to its recent low on June 1, as markets were bolstered by news that central banks around the world will stimulate the economy through monetary easing, according to the news source. After reaching 1,474.51, its highest value of 2012, the index has since fallen 3.9 percent as markets have been roiled by worries that corporate earnings will not be in line with the expectations of analysts.

No Indicator for End of Rally

DeMark said that the S&P 500 has not exhibited behavior that would indicate that its rally is over, the media outlet reports. He said that other indices such as the Nasdaq have already reached their top value since September and have subsequently declined.

He said that the current inability of the index to complete a ‘top countdown’ is similar to its behavior in August and September of 2011, when the group of stocks did not indicate that it had reached a valley, according to the news source.

Bloomberg reported on October 22 that the blue-chip S&P 500 Index had surged 14 percent year-to-date, and as a result had displayed better performance than any other major asset class. 

Corporate Bond Sales Surge in 2012

The sales of corporate bonds have surged in 2012, approaching the record amount issued in 2009.

Near-Record Bond Issues 

Data compiled by Bloomberg reveals that earlier in October, global conglomerate General Electric Co. sold $7 billion worth of these financial instruments derived from corporate debt. Business application provider Oracle Corp. issued $5 billion worth of these corporate bonds.

These major issuances brought October’s total bond sales to $347 billion, which represented a new record for this month, according to the news source. The monthly sales figures left the 2012 corporate bond sales total within $116 billion of the record $3.4 trillion issued during the first 10 months of 2009.

Emerging Market Bonds 

Data provided by Benzinga reveals that the market for emerging market (EM) corporate debt has been growing this year, as the sovereign debt of these economies is experiencing strong demand and dwindling supply.

Investment firm Pacific Investment Management Company, LLC (PIMCO) recently wrote that “the supply of U.S. dollar-denominated EM sovereign debt is decreasing and yields are near historical lows,” according to the news source. As a result of this, the investment firm is encouraging market participants to explore the corporate debt offered by companies in these regions.

In a recent PIMCO note, Ignacio Sosa and Anton Dombrovsky stated that “the dollar-denominated EM corporate market has been growing steadily, and many corporates can offer higher yields and lower durations than sovereigns.”

Surging Bond Markets 

Exchange traded fund provider WisdomTree recently said that the market for corporate bonds in these developing economies has increased roughly 100 percent in size since 2008, the media outlet reports. In a note written earlier in the year, WisdomTree wrote that “since 2003, EM U.S. dollar-denominated corporate bond issuance has outpaced sovereign issuance in a trend we believe will make EM corporate debt an increasingly larger allocation to emerging market fixed income.”

Bonds and Monetary Easing 

In the week of the financial crisis, governments have injected record amounts of money into the economy and keeping interest rates at very low levels, according to Bloomberg. Many market participants have also sought bonds amid strong risk aversion. These factors have helped push the yields on sovereign debt to 0 percent or even lower, which has motivated investors to put their funds into corporate debt.

“There’s a lot of money out there looking for a home,” Elisabeth Afseth, an analyst at London-based Investec Bank Plc., who suggests investors refrain from putting money into debt issued by euro zone nations including Spain, Italy and Portugal, told the news source. “Government bonds give you almost nothing, so you’re left with corporate bonds, which give you a little bit more than nothing.” 

Envelope Stuffing: Legit Work At Home Business or Scam?

If you have ever looked for a home business, or even just opened up your city’s free weekly paper, you’ve probably seen an ad claiming you can make thousands of dollar stuffing envelopes.

All you have to do is pay a small fee and you will get paid for each envelope stuffed—you’ll be able to make tons of money, all from the comfort of your own home.

Are you picturing yourself going through piles of envelopes will watching Buffy reruns and eating potato chips? Your only concern is how to avoid paper cuts?

While that would be great real life is quite different. In reality, most envelope stuffing work from home jobs don’t involve either envelopes or stuffing. According to the FTC, most of these ads aren’t offering you a job at all. You send them money and they send you a letter telling you to place the same envelope-stuffing ad in newspapers or magazines, or to send the ad to friends and relatives. You get paid when they send you money looking for information about envelope-stuffing jobs. So the only stuffing that is happening is when you sucker someone else into stuffing $10 into an envelope and sending it to you. And the only thing being stuffed is a copy of the same letter they sent you.

Are there legitimate work from home envelope stuffing jobs?

Let’s look at a few facts.

Why would anyone in his or her right mind pay you loads of money to stuff an envelope?
That’s right, they wouldn’t. No sane person would pay you $10 to stuff an envelope. I called my neighborhood Kinko’s who quoted me a price of $260 to stuff 1000 envelopes. That’s no where near $10 an envelope.

Beware the “starter kit” scam
Um, do you really need a kit telling you how to stuff an envelope?

Free envelopes and stamps
Envelopes and stamps are expensive. The only way you’re going to get them for free is by people sending you self-addressed stamped envelopes—which seems so ancient and outdated now. Don’t these people know that you can reach way more people online?

Extra fees
So-called work from home business opportunities like these love to attach fees whenever and however they can: processing fees, disclosure fees, starter kit fees. You get the picture. Whenever someone asks you to pay a fee like one of these ask yourself what they need the money for. What, exactly, are they processing? A disclosure fee is the most ridiculous. They are asking you to pay them before they tell you anything, like stuffing envelopes is some highly classified secret that must be guarded with one’s life, until of course someone else shoves $20 in their face…

Work From Home Testimonials & Super Special Reports
These come in the form of special reports that tell you all about legitimate home businesses that are really, really real. These exist only to sell you the original product. The whole purpose of these “special reports” is to convince you to send more of your hard-earned money to these shysters. Testimonials mean nothing. You’ve all seen the quotes, “I’ve made thousands stuffing envelopes from the comfort of my own home!” –Susie Homemaker. Well, Susie Homemaker probably doesn’t exist. And if she does she’s probably the original scammer’s mother or girlfriend. Just because something is in writing doesn’t make it real.

Ok, so you still think there might be legitimate opportunities for you to stuff envelopes and make easy money working from home?

Here are a few warning signs you should be aware of:

  • No contact info. No email. No phone. No address.
  • If they do have a phone number no one ever answers it.
  • If they have an address it’s a P.O. Box.
  • They ask for money before they’ll tell you anything.
  • They promise you the world, or at least tons of cash.

Have you been scammed?
Report the foul deed to the Federal Trade Commission. Call 1-877-FTC-HELP
(1-877-382-4357) or log on to www.ftc.gov

Buying a home is better than investing in gold. But how do you get started?

Wondering how to begin investing, but uncertain about how the economy is going to go, and therefore, how stocks will do? Gold and real estate are a couple of your investment options if you’re not too excited about stocks.

Gold is a hedge, one investors use as backup against the dollar. If the dollar doesn’t do well vs. other currencies, the logic says gold will be a strong commodity that fetches demand around the world. But, if the dollar does well, gold isn’t going to yield great returns. Essentially, gold and the dollar compete against each other. Real estate, on the other hand, is a long-term investment that many view as safer than gold.

There will always be a demand for real estate, no matter what the dollar does. True, you can lose on real estate. But that’s if you sell when property values are lower than they were when you bought the place. You can always rent your house out, creating steady income, until the right time to sell comes along. Real estate is your smartest investment, for one because it gives you positive cash flow. But if you buy gold when it’s valuable, there’s a chance the dollar won’t tank to the same extent again. But more than that, there’s good chance you would’ve made more money on stocks or real estate.

Need any more convincing? The housing market is healthy–it’s not in a bubble like it was when the Great Recession hit. In 2016, foreclosure rates were the lowest they’ve been since 2000, and June saw property values appreciate at a rate of 5.7%, which means there’s good demand. In general it looks like lenders and buyers have learned from mistakes that led to the housing crisis. Barring some sort of unforeseen housing market disaster, the recovery can (and should) continue. Even if there’s a big collapse, this guide will help you stay away from an investment that will ruin you.

If you’ve still got your heart set on bullion, people have discovered gold in their backyards with a metal detector. In one case, US Army postal inspectors used a military-grade detector to uncover $153,150 worth of gold. So if you buy a house, there’s always the chance you’ll strike two kinds of paydirt, the practical real estate investment kind, and the shiny yellow kind.

Evaluate what you can afford

Essentially, you want to find out which properties you can afford that are going to deliver the best long-term value. There are multiple types of real estate you could invest in, but since this is your first time, I’m going to concentrate on residential real estate. Invest in a home, and you can live in it and rent out the other rooms as well. That way, your tenants make your mortgage payments for you. Once you’re ready, you can move somewhere else and begin to really take advantage of your property’s full earning potential.

The other scenario is you have a family. In that case you’re still making a good investment, because down the line, once you’ve paid off your mortgage and hopefully made some improvements on your home, you can either sell for a profit or become a landlord. Either way, you’ve made a secure investment that will pay off.

Check your credit. If your credit history is bad, do your best to fix your credit score by paying off any outstanding credit debts and debts on other loans. Check to see if there are any errors on the report, and if so, dispute them. If you have any accounts in collections, set up a payment plan to get them out. If you’re in the position to do so, pay off a credit card completely and leave it open. Have a reliable friend add you as an authorized user on their credit card. Next, find a mortgage lender and get a pre-approval letter.

A property in need of renovation can be a solid investment for your money. An FHA Rehab Loan covers both the cost of the mortgage and the cost of renovations. To qualify for one, you must do the following:

  • Find a fixer-upper house in need of rehab
  • Find a qualified lender
  • Meet the lender’s minimum credit score requirement, debt-to-income ratio requirement, and provide proof of income

After the loan is approved, your lender sets up a Repair Escrow Account, and you must begin renovating within 30 days of closing and complete renovations in less than six months.

Particularly if you have great credit and property values are high in the surrounding area, a Rehab Loan could help you flip a house (meaning you fix it then sell it) and make a great short-term return on your investment.

Research the market in your area

Your research into the right home can take multiple forms. A good realtor does all the research for you, and can lead you to properties in your price range in neighborhoods where value is likely to appreciate. Online, you can do all your own research first through sites such as Zillow and Redfin. Look into areas with low crime rates, less inventory than more, and access to desirable resources, such as shopping centers and parks. Once you’ve found an area you like, a realtor will help you get the best deal, and the seller will pay realtor fees. If it’s for sale by owner, ask if they will pay your agent’s commission fee.

Finish the deal

Once you’ve found the home for you, find out what documents your lender needs, provide them, get your loan, and make your offer. Sign a contract with the seller, complete your mortgage application, close the transaction–either through your agent or the seller–and get the keys to your new home.

Keep the place up over the years and make improvements. The value will go up, and you’ll have an investment on your hands that leaves you secure and ready for retirement.

How to Make Money Listening to People

There are millions of people in the world who need someone who can listen to them. This isn’t some sort of get-rich-quick, motivational speaker ploy. Before I tell you about this, just know that it’s not easy, but it can be rewarding. Know that you truly must be motivated to help those who need help. Know that it can change your life and how you look at the world, for good.

I’m talking about Psychosocial (or Psychiatric) Rehabilitation. This is a job very few people really can do well. Your primary task is to listen to people and help them achieve their goals, which seems like it should be easy. Yet working with people who have been diagnosed with mental health issues takes mental strength, patience, problem-solving skills, empathy, organizational skills, communication skills, and motivational skills. If you have even one of these skills, and want to help people, read on.

Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR)

First, a disclaimer: If you go into this field, it’s more than likely you will have clients who, at one point or another, are suicidal. Many of your clients will be young, and suicide disproportionately affects young people. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, and the second leading cause of death for people ages 25-34. Perhaps the reason for this is that mental health is fragile for the young, who are still working on finding their identity and making their way in the world.

That being the case, be prepared to take on young clients with parents that haven’t been able to figure out how to help their kids adapt to society. There is a sense in which the parents are also your clients.

The majority of your clients will need to learn coping skills. They don’t know what to do when they feel frustrated and angry, depressed, and anxious. They’ll need to learn social skills and how to identify healthy relationships. They’ll need to learn how to organize their lives, do homework, and get jobs. They’ll need to learn how to apply what their counselor is teaching them to their everyday lives.

Here’s the great thing about this: when I was a PSR specialist, I did stuff with clients like go to the rec center after school, play Dungeons and Dragons with a community group, go to the park, make art, play music, sit in the coffee shop, play cards, and chat about life. You’re not rehabilitating clients in a boring and stifling atmosphere, you’re doing it in the real world. There are some practicalities to consider:

Education

To get a PSR job, it helps a great deal to have a BS in psychology, sociology, or social work. Psychology is the most common degree in the field. However, If you don’t have such a degree, it’s not necessarily a barrier to entry. I became a PSR specialist with an English degree.

Driving

You’re going to be doing a lot of driving. Find out ways to save money on your car. Keep track of mileage as if you’re self-employed, because plenty of agencies you’ll work for won’t reimburse you for gas. You can, however, write off fuel expenses on your taxes. You’ll have to prove your car insurance and registration are always up to date.

Paperwork

This job requires a lot of paperwork as you regularly update client treatment plans. And, in my state, every 90 days I had a to submit an application for more client hours to the insurance company.

Location and Certification

Each state differs when it comes to PSR. Some states require you to get a CPRP certification at some point in the process, either before you get the job, or after you’ve had it for a while. Look into your state’s policies on PSR.

Continuing Education

To continue working in the PSR field, you have to get continuing education units (CEUs). You can get these simply by reading qualifying materials online or by attending qualifying events your agency will tell you about.

Pay

Like the state-by-state variation for certification requirements, the rate of pay varies per agency. Check out the job listings to get a good idea.

No matter what the pay, psychosocial rehab is well worth it. You’ll work hand in hand with therapists to help people achieve their goals. Whether the goal is to make more friends, get a job, or cope with anger, you learn a great deal as you concentrate on other people’s problems and forget your own. In the end, your perspective on life grows deeper, broader, and more colorful, because you get to know some of the most interesting and genuine people on Earth.

Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Credit Cards, Part 2

In part 1, I discussed setting up your business to do e-commerce and accepting credit card payments. In this installment, I’ll discuss personal and business credit cards for the young entrepreneur.

For some, “credit card” is like a bad word. For the young entrepreneur, it’s a necessity. Without a credit card, you have to siphon personal spending money directly from your business the minute you make a profit. Yet, at the outset, profit can be hard to come by. I’m not advocating for you to go into debt. I’m saying that using credit cards the smart way can help keep your head above water as you navigate the beginnings of a business.

Personal Credit Card Versus Business Credit Card

Some solid advice from Entrepreneur Magazine: “If you think you won’t be able to pay off purchases in a single billing period, it might be better to charge them on the personal plastic, rather than a business card.”

Business cards come with incredibly high interest rates, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found that every $1,000 of credit card debt your business accrues will make you 2 percent more likely to fail.

In other words, take on $10,000 in debt, and your chances of failure are 20 percent higher than they would have been otherwise. And that’s just due to credit card debt alone. There are countless other issues that can throw a wrench in the works, such as staffing issues, ineffective marketing, and inventory problems.

For the most part, keep business expenses and personal expenses separate when you’re paying with credit cards. But think hard about whether you should burden your business credit with expenses over a certain amount.

Establish a set baseline figure you can afford to put on the business card—it should not exceed revenue. Fill out a cash flow statement. Look at projected expenses, revenue and profits, and charge basic expenses on the business card. Then, charge additional expenses onto your personal card. If you can’t pay it off right away, your creditor can’t raise the interest rate like they can with a business card.

Consider tried-and-true methods of stacking savings—for you, the number one piece of advice here is to use a cashback credit card.

You won’t be able to get a cashback credit card unless your credit is good enough as is. Once you’re able to get one, use business profits, your own savings, as well as investor funds to pay off the card immediately. Try to pay your entire balance each month. You’ll make extra money that can go right back into the business. And you’ll build your own credit.

Building Business Credit

Your own credit score is extremely pertinent to your business credit. Before you even begin looking for a business credit card, check your FICO score and dispute any claims you think may be in error. Next, review your options for your business credit card.

Noobpreneur points out that the best option may not come from a major company. Rather, talk to the bank you’re using for your merchant account. They may be able to offer you a card more tailored to your specific business needs, and since they want to be competitive, they could give you a better interest rate.

Think about the nature of your business. If a lot of travel is involved, look for a card that earns you frequent flyer miles. If you’re confident you can pay off the card at the end of the month, find a rewards card, even if it has a higher interest rate. This is a gamble, but those rewards can really pay off. Ignoring them is one of the big mistakes small businesses make with credit cards.

Another mistake is paying interest. Again, if you can’t pay in full or miss payments, your credit issuer can immediately raise interest rates. But your credit issuer may initially give you a deal in which you pay no interest on purchases and balance transfers. For the new entrepreneur, it’s a wise idea to take advantage of those offers.

Make sure to protect your business against fraud by keeping your financial docs in a safe place, and only allow your most trusted employees access to the card for business expenses. Monitor the account and make sure no large, unfamiliar charges pop up, and be careful when you’re exchanging any sort of financial info with clients.

Watch your cash flow carefully and only charge what you can afford to the business card. Regular payment will build your business credit.

At the outset, do your best not to rack up credit card debt. Use any other means you can to finance your business. Small business loans are more forgiving than credit card debt, and your friends, family, investors, and personal savings are better sources of funding than credit cards. Once your business is on stable footing and you have good data to plug into your cash flow doc, you’ll be able to reasonably predict expenses, revenue, and profits. Then, make smart charges to your business credit card as you continue building credit.

Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Credit Cards, Part 1

As an aspiring entrepreneur, you have your sights set on pursuing your passion, competing with the best entrepreneurs in your niche, and earning enough to take care of yourself and the ones you love. But there’s a basic fact you may be overlooking: to be a great entrepreneur you must be good with finances.

At the outset, you can’t afford a financial adviser. The entrepreneur who masters finances on her own has more money to put into the business, therefore she gets more out of it. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money. Is that necessarily true? Well, now this thing called credit enables entrepreneurship. If you use credit correctly and run your business well, you can spend other people’s money to make money. This guide will help you understand how to do just that. Let’s start with making money through credit payments online.

E-Commerce and Credit Card Payments

E-commerce isn’t a buzzword and it’s not something only big corporations like Amazon do. The first quarter of 2017 saw e-commerce sales makeup 8.5 percent of the retail market. Given the fact that e-commerce has only been a thing since 1994, that number is huge. And that’s just the retail market; all sorts of e-commerce comes in the form of subscribing to software-as-a-service, buying white papers, and paying to access scientific research.

So, as a young entrepreneur you can either setup your e-commerce site on a hosted platform or choose the self-hosted option. One primary difference between a hosted platform and a self-hosted platform is that the latter allows for more customization. A hosted platform, however, will include built-in best practices.

One of the best practices is to accept credit card payments. This may seem like a no-brainer to you, but there are some things to understand about ecommerce credit card processing:

  • Open a merchant account: You must have a merchant account setup with a bank to accept credit card payments on your website

– If you have good credit and can pass a risk assessment, a dedicated merchant account will allow you to  set your own sales rates

– A third party account through Paypal or Square is easier to establish and works great for small businesses

  • Choose a secure payment gateway: This is the form through which the customer inputs payment

– The platform you use for your e-commerce site will help you determine which payment gateway to use

– Pick a payment gateway that has a plug-in for the platform you’re using; this will make it easier to setup

  • Know you’ll deal with a processor: The payment processor handles the transaction between your payment gateway and the banks involved, including your bank and the customer’s credit issuer
  • Know about fees: There are processor fees, interchange fees from credit card organizations, and possibly monthly service charges from your gateway service; pay close attention to fees involved and compare rates

Seems like a lot to think about, right? It’s worth it, because so many people use credit cards. Without accepting them, you won’t compete with all the other e-commerce sites.

There’s one gigantic issue with setting up an e-commerce site, accepting credit cards, and doing your best to steer customers to your business: security. Basically, you’ll be accumulating data when you’re operating an e-commerce site. The accumulation of data brings security risks with it.

You’ll need to do marketing to direct people to your site. The majority of effective web marketing involves analyzing your target audience’s data as well as that of your customers. You need a place to house these data, and it’s typically the cloud. What’s more, there’s all manner of data related to your internal operations. These data are a byproduct of e-commerce, just like the records you would create when running a brick-and-mortar operation. Since there’s not a lot of room on hard drives, a lot of your business data will end up on the cloud, which is a burgeoning business itself. Whether it’s on the cloud or on hard drives, the data is vulnerable.

Be careful—as you operate in the light on the World Wide Web, the dark web is there, with its huge contingent of hackers and bad actors. Basically, as people are making payments on your site and you’re collecting data, hackers operating on the dark web can tap in and steal data. They can also steal your internal data. They’re so sneaky, the average data breach takes over 200 days to detect. A third party discovers about 85 percent of breaches.

That’s why it’s very important to prioritize security. You can earn a great deal more money by taking credit payments, but there’s more to lose from threats such as ransomware and other types of malware. Do your best to keep all software up to date, and use a best-in-class data security solution to make sure you don’t fall prey to hackers.

In the next installment, I’ll talk about entrepreneurship, business credit cards, and personal credit cards.

Save money on your first small business brick and mortar location

Starting a small business? Real estate will be one of your biggest expenses. Unless you’re committed to doing nothing but ecommerce, there’s no escaping the difficulty of finding just the right location at a price you can afford. Particularly if you’re planning on starting something like a coffee shop, a type of business highly dependent on accessibility, your location is the difference between success and failure.

Getting started

First, you’ve got to determine where the money for your new location is going to come from. Just like The Lenders Network connects homebuyers to lenders, the SBA page on loans and grants is a tool for connecting entrepreneurs to a lender. But loans come at a price. You’ll have to pay the mortgage on your loan, so when all is said and done, you’ll pay more than the actual value of the real estate.

To avoid costly mortgage rates, start with crowdfunding. Indiegogo only charges 4% if you meet your goal, a much smaller amount than you’ll end up paying with a mortgage. Kickstarter allows you to crowdfund the creation of a product–if it takes a brick and mortar location to create that product, acquiring one is part of your campaign. Rockethub bills itself as “The leading global community for entrepreneurs”, with the “Elequity” funding hub as a starting point to guide you through the funding process. Peerbackers also specializes in entrepreneurial and small business funding, with its Crowdfunding Academy there to help educate you on how best to go about crowdfunding your business.

Maximizing your space for sustainability

Once you’ve procured funding to get going, choosing the right location is your next step. In terms of saving money, it pays to think about sustainability.

Have you looked into sustainable commercial real estate? Green buildings can save you up to 20% on utilities alone. If the building isn’t up to sustainability standards, according to Marylhurst University there are income tax credits, rebates, grants, and property tax abatements  “for everything from solar installation projects to interior energy retrofits of commercial buildings”.

If property values on sustainable buildings in your area are too high, the smart route is to identify a building in a good location that hasn’t been updated. Then, determine the price of green renovations and add it to the cost of the building. Next, research the federal, state, and local incentives for installing things like solar panels, double-pane windows, and high quality insulation. Subtract the estimated dollar amount of incentive kickbacks from your first figure, which was the cost of the lease combined with the cost of green renovations. Finally, compare that number with the price of buildings that are already updated for sustainability.

In the long run, you’ll only save money from updated, eco-friendly real estate, because you’ll save on utilities and repairs. You can also use your investment in sustainability as part of your branding, with environmental stewardship as a cornerstone of your business.

Incentives and practical considerations

Incentives don’t just come from modernizing a space for sustainability. Have you ever considered relocating to a different city? In terms of finding the absolute best location for your small business, there are cities such as Chicago that offer grants, loans, fee waivers, tax reductions and land-write downs in exchange for job creation. Do your research on areas where your product is needed, look into state and city incentives, and then consult with the local Small Business Development Center. If you’re willing to relocate beyond the US, consider global hotspots for entrepreneurship, such as Berlin, Tel-Aviv, and London.

Quickbooks points out, “The cheapest choice isn’t always the right choice.” Look for an area with plenty of traffic from your target customers. Be aware of how much competition there is in the area, too. The more competition, the less visibility you’ll have. However, if you find a key price point on which you can undercut competitors, and you have a unique brand, take the risky location with a reasonable price.

When it comes to relocating, some states have lower minimum wage than others. Research minimum wage along with the economic environment of prospective states, and plan accordingly.

In some states, you’ll have multiple power companies to choose from. Find the one with the best rates and be aware of whether they have additional charges during peak hours of use. Large spaces cost more to heat and cool. Don’t get a bigger space than you need. Reserve about 80% of the space for retail, and use low cost rental space for any additional storage, distribution, and offices.

As far as janitorial and maintenance costs, DIY is the cheapest. Another option is to use an app such as TaskRabbit, which connects you to inexpensive and reliable freelance janitors and maintenance personnel.

You’ll need liability insurance in case anyone gets hurt in your store, so use a broker to look hard for the insurance provider with the best rates.

Ultimately, the smart decision on your first location is finding the balance between price and location. A great location with lots of traffic will pay for itself. But if you don’t have a ton of funds at the outset, and don’t want to rack up lots of debt, look for the space with a decent price in a decent area, and work hard at marketing and branding to make customers come to you.

How to Make Money from Your Photography

This post is by guest author Amethyst Tagney. Amethyst spends her time writing on a variety of topics. She is an avid learner and loves to share what she discovers. You can find her @AmTagWrites

Snapping a picture can be easy. Selling that picture can be less so. As a photographer, breaking into the field takes a mixture of talent, connections, and luck.

With any profession in the arts, it takes an incredible amount of work to be successful, let alone make money. However, if you know the right steps to take, it can be as easy as saying, “Cheese!”

Find Your Niche

Sometimes it’s smiled upon to be good at everything. This is not the case, though, when it comes to making money in photography. If you’re aiming for success in your career as a photographer, pick one thing that you love to take photos of and become really good at that.

So, if portraiture is your thing, then take portraits. If fashion is your calling, then take fashion photos. You can even be successful with photobooths if that is the route you want to take.

Potential clients will not be thrilled to look at a portfolio that is all over the place genre-wise when they are specifically looking for a wedding photographer. The key is to tailor your collection of work around a specific client, so that when they see your photographs, they know exactly what they’re getting into.

Get the Right Equipment

Once you figure out what genre to focus on, it’s time to acquire the camera — but not just any camera. Acquiring the right camera gear is essential to a successful photography business. The type of equipment you will need will be different depending on what kind of photography you are practicing.

You would not need the same equipment for landscape photography as you would for war photography. Make sure to take the time to research what specific needs the genre of photography you have chosen will have and what equipment will fill those needs. Another option to consider is renting the gear you need if purchasing it yourself is not feasible at the time.

Make an Eye-Catching Portfolio

So you have the equipment and you know what pictures to take. Now comes the fun part: putting together your portfolio. There are many tips on how to build a better portfolio, but here are a few to get you started.

First of all, make sure to show variety. Not in genre, but in lighting, camera angles, and subjects within your chosen niche. The number one thing you do not want your client to be is bored when flipping through your photos.

However, keep the size and orientation of the photographs the same. You will also want your portfolio to start strong and end strong. Do not include pictures you are less than happy with. Chances are potential clients will be less than happy as well.

Lastly, make sure you print your photo book. Clients are looking to buy physical prints from you, so it only makes sense to show them something they can physically touch and see. This will also give them a better idea of what the finished product will look like.

Be Social on Social Media

Social media is one of the most important things you can get involved in as a photographer. You need an online presence that people can find so that your photos and services can be found as well. You also need an overarching website that connects with all the social media platforms you’re active on.

In this digital age, it’s essential to be online where your clients will be. Social media is also a great way to network with other professionals and potential clients, as freelance photographer Ashley Grant would tell you. Forming these connections is crucial to your ultimate success as a photographer.

Consider investing some time in starting a blog as well. When you make content that is useful and relevant to your clients, they will most likely follow you and use you for current or future projects.

Let’s Make Some Money

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: it’s time to make some money! There are many different avenues you can take when it comes to selling your photographs and services. Some ways to earn money as a photographer include:

  • Selling prints at art fairs, local businesses, galleries or on online stores.
  • Entering contests to not only receive validation and potentially informative critiques, but also a nice sum of money if you win.
  • Becoming an assistant for an already established photographer. More often than not, they can use the extra help with coverage over large events such as weddings. In exchange, you get much needed experience and a paycheck too.
  • Licensing your images as stock photos. Let your photos make the money for you as multiple people can pay to use a single image over and over again.

Always Continue to Learn

It’s a dangerous place to be when you think there’s nothing else for you to learn. Photography, like any artistic pursuit, is always changing. Better technology is always coming out, and if you stay in one place for very long, more ambitious photographers will pass you by — along with your clients.

Although some older techniques and methods are still used for more artistic reasons, if you want to stay in business as a photographer, you need to keep up with new advancements in your medium. This applies as well to photo editing software. If you don’t know what Photoshop is, you need to.

Taking Photoshop classes, along with classes in any other software you’re unfamiliar with, is essential to making your photographs the best they can possibly be. These programs are always being updated with new features and tools to improve your photos, so now is the time to learn all you can.

It takes a certain focus to be a photographer — even more so if you want to make money from it. However, things become more clear when you zoom in on the things that matter most in your career. It’s important to know what you want to specialize in and get the right gear for it.

Then you’ll be better equipped to make a prize winning portfolio that can be shared on your website and social media accounts. This will make receiving money from your photos much easier, especially if you keep on top of the learning curve. If you follow this guide and put in the effort, your career as a photographer will have a better chance of being picture perfect.

Snapping a picture can be easy. Selling that picture can be less so. As a photographer, breaking into the field takes a mixture of talent, connections, and luck.

With any profession in the arts, it takes an incredible amount of work to be successful, let alone make money. However, if you know the right steps to take, it can be as easy as saying, “Cheese!”

Find Your Niche

Sometimes it’s smiled upon to be good at everything. This is not the case, though, when it comes to making money in photography. If you’re aiming for success in your career as a photographer, pick one thing that you love to take photos of and become really good at that.

So, if portraiture is your thing, then take portraits. If fashion is your calling, then take fashion photos. You can even be successful with photobooths if that is the route you want to take.

Potential clients will not be thrilled to look at a portfolio that is all over the place genre-wise when they are specifically looking for a wedding photographer. The key is to tailor your collection of work around a specific client, so that when they see your photographs, they know exactly what they’re getting into.

Get the Right Equipment

Once you figure out what genre to focus on, it’s time to acquire the camera — but not just any camera. Acquiring the right camera gear is essential to a successful photography business. The type of equipment you will need will be different depending on what kind of photography you are practicing.

You would not need the same equipment for landscape photography as you would for war photography. Make sure to take the time to research what specific needs the genre of photography you have chosen will have and what equipment will fill those needs. Another option to consider is renting the gear you need if purchasing it yourself is not feasible at the time.

Make an Eye-Catching Portfolio

So you have the equipment and you know what pictures to take. Now comes the fun part: putting together your portfolio. There are many tips on how to build a better portfolio, but here are a few to get you started.

First of all, make sure to show variety. Not in genre, but in lighting, camera angles, and subjects within your chosen niche. The number one thing you do not want your client to be is bored when flipping through your photos.

However, keep the size and orientation of the photographs the same. You will also want your portfolio to start strong and end strong. Do not include pictures you are less than happy with. Chances are potential clients will be less than happy as well.

Lastly, make sure you print your photo book. Clients are looking to buy physical prints from you, so it only makes sense to show them something they can physically touch and see. This will also give them a better idea of what the finished product will look like.

Be Social on Social Media

Social media is one of the most important things you can get involved in as a photographer. You need an online presence that people can find so that your photos and services can be found as well. You also need an overarching website that connects with all the social media platforms you’re active on.

In this digital age, it’s essential to be online where your clients will be. Social media is also a great way to network with other professionals and potential clients, as freelance photographer Ashley Grant would tell you. Forming these connections is crucial to your ultimate success as a photographer.

Consider investing some time in starting a blog as well. When you make content that is useful and relevant to your clients, they will most likely follow you and use you for current or future projects.

Let’s Make Some Money

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for: it’s time to make some money! There are many different avenues you can take when it comes to selling your photographs and services. Some ways to earn money as a photographer include:

  • Selling prints at art fairs, local businesses, galleries or on online stores.
  • Entering contests to not only receive validation and potentially informative critiques, but also a nice sum of money if you win.
  • Becoming an assistant for an already established photographer. More often than not, they can use the extra help with coverage over large events such as weddings. In exchange, you get much needed experience and a paycheck too.
  • Licensing your images as stock photos. Let your photos make the money for you as multiple people can pay to use a single image over and over again.

Always Continue Learning

It’s a dangerous place to be when you think there’s nothing else for you to learn. Photography, like any artistic pursuit, is always changing. Better technology is always coming out, and if you stay in one place for very long, more ambitious photographers will pass you by — along with your clients.

Although some older techniques and methods are still used for more artistic reasons, if you want to stay in business as a photographer, you need to keep up with new advancements in your medium. This applies as well to photo editing software. If you don’t know what Photoshop is, you need to.

Taking Photoshop classes, along with classes in any other software you’re unfamiliar with, is essential to making your photographs the best they can possibly be. These programs are always being updated with new features and tools to improve your photos, so now is the time to learn all you can.

It takes a certain focus to be a photographer — even more so if you want to make money from it. However, things become more clear when you zoom in on the things that matter most in your career. It’s important to know what you want to specialize in and get the right gear for it.

Then you’ll be better equipped to make a prize winning portfolio that can be shared on your website and social media accounts. This will make receiving money from your photos much easier, especially if you keep on top of the learning curve. If you follow this guide and put in the effort, your career as a photographer will have a better chance of being picture perfect.

How to Make Change a Positive Experience for Your Millennial Employeesz

Starting your own business? You’ll need to hire and retain some excellent talent. Millennials are highly trained and skilled, and they’re ready to join your workforce. Yet, at work 71% of millennials are not engaged, and 47% will switch jobs if this doesn’t improve.z

As the millennial generation begins to mature and make career inroads, observers keep noting a salient trend: these young people change jobs a lot. Good employers are eager to buck the attrition trend and invest much-needed retention efforts in valuable millennial employees. But why do us millennials jump from job to job so often to begin with?

There’s a lot of competition for our talent. And, there are constant, often abrupt changes happening. Companies get bought out, they grow in leaps and bounds, they alter direction, or they dwindle and suddenly die. In today’s business world, change is the only constant.

You must find strength in change and help employees view developments in a positive light, even if they’re negative. This starts with management.

Empower Managers

According to Terry Petracca, an HR expert from MEL, managers are the number one reason employees leave organizations. This applies big-time to situations of company upheaval and change. Petracca believes authenticity is the number one way for managers to establish a relationship of trust with employees. She says, “A manager needs their employees to believe them because they’re the gatekeeper for truth and knowledge about the company.”

In order for a manager to be authentic, in order for a manager to impart “truth and knowledge” to employees during a time of change, you must empower your managers:

  • Encourage transparency
  • Regularly brief managers with all the facts and bottom line information that affects change
  • Reinforce and encourage their leadership abilities
  • Give them a voice throughout the transitional process, seriously consider their suggestions and act on them whenever possible

Although change is inevitable, losing employees isn’t. Employees value honesty and rapport with you and your managers. Managers are particularly close to employees during day-to-day operations. When they build strong rapport with employees through honesty and communication, employees are less likely to leave. The manager effectively leads them through change as it happens.

Encourage Stress Management

When you’re under a ton of stress due to transition, it can be hard to recognize employees are too. The weight feels like it’s all on you. For anyone, stress triggers a fight or flight response. For employees who aren’t as rooted in the business as you are, it’s easier to quit when stress gets overwhelming. Ignore the fact that employees are stressed, and risk losing employees—and that includes managers.

Coach employees on stress relief tactics; doing so will acknowledge and validate their feelings. They probably know these tactics already, but a quick refresher on the following stress relief techniques will provide everyone with a welcome moment of levity:

  • Listen to music: Listening to relaxing music can lower blood pressure and reduce the release of cortisol, a chemical related to stress
  • Talk to a friend: In and out of the workplace, communicating with someone about stressors really puts things in perspective
  • Coach yourself through it: The most successful individuals know the value of positive self-talk
  • Eat a healthy diet: Foods with high Omega-3 content, such as fish, can help reduce stress symptoms
  • Get humorous: Laughter releases endorphins and minimizes release of cortisol and adrenaline
  • Drink green tea instead of coffee: While coffee increases adrenaline, green tea has an amino acid called theanine, which has a calming effect
  • Practice mindfulness: This is the act of paying attention to one’s senses, thoughts, and surroundings (more on this important one later)
  • Get exercise: Exercise also releases endorphins and relieves stress
  • Get plenty of sleep: Seven to eight hours
  • Do breathing exercises: Deep breathing oxygenates your blood and increases calm

The more you care for the psychological state of your employees under stress, the more likely they are to stick with you. Mindfulness can even improve performance under stress.

Psychologist Ellen Langer has been studying mindfulness for 40 years. She says, “If everyone is working in the same context and is fully present, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get a superior coordinated performance.” She lists improvements in attention, creativity, interpersonal relationships, and stress management as benefits of mindfulness. “Question the belief that you’re the only one who can do it, that there’s only one way to do it, and that the company will collapse if you don’t do it. When you open your views to be mindful, the stress just dissipates.”

Know Best Practices

https://youtu.be/wL85lL5Z-zg

Langer’s advice on mindfulness can truly guide the entire change management process. Because each company is unique, there is no single set of rules or practices guaranteed to be best for your situation. Context determines the way to manage change. Yet, rules do provide guideposts. Being aware of them is like being a musician who masters the basics to enable improvisation and innovation.

Change management best practices make sense—after all, this is about initiating change as well as letting it happen:

  • Change from the top down: As a leader, take a proactive role in delineating how change will take place and who will be on the change management team
  • Pay attention to timing: You may feel a big shakeup is necessary, but can your company handle it all at once? Is right now the best time? What’s a realistic timeline to mitigate risk?
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: Facilitate communication routinely the whole way through, and disclose technical details to management
  • Pay attention to process: Watch the extent to which various stakeholders in the process need differing levels of assistance and resources, and solicit feedback
  • Plan on disruption: Even when everything seems in place for a transition to go off without a hitch, the theme here is that change is constant; prepare for things not to go as planned, and pinpoint areas where problems may arise

There are a lot of variables that leave room for disruption, such as problems or advances in technology, budget issues, compliance with local and state statutes, personnel losses, etc. Leave room for flexibility. At the same time, with best practices you’re maintaining the framework and order within which disruption and stress are good things.

You want change. You want problems. Without them you don’t improve, you remain stagnant and your employees move onto bigger and better things. Be mindful of change management strategy, and watch your employees flourish as your business does as well.

The Pros, Cons, and In-betweens of Starting Your Own Business

A black and white world doesn’t exist. If I were to tell you, “There’s absolutely no downside to starting your own business”, I would be be wrong. Rather, starting your own enterprise involves entering a world of complexity you’ve only glimpsed from the outskirts.

The good news: about one-third of new businesses survive 10 years or longer, while about half survive five years or longer. If you’re really in this for the long-term and are ready to go all out, you stand a good chance of sticking around. If you’re not, you stand a good chance of being among the two-thirds who fail.

Pros

  • There’s a lot of assistance available: Simply Google “How to start a business” and there’s a wealth of information. The Small Business Association offers a ton of resources, and you can attend conferences, or other meetups; for an example of the type of info available, check out my article about saving money on internet marketing.
  • There are a ton of options: For one, the possibility of e-commerce opens up a world in which all you need is a product and a website. If you don’t have your own product, there are organizations like Amway that supply products for you to sell. The Amway model is called “Direct Selling”, it typically provides a supplemental option for aspiring entrepreneurs. Three million people worldwide are Amway “Independent Business Owners”, and the direct selling model—in general, not just Amway’s—brought in $36.12 billion in 2015.
  • You can do what you want: What you do with your business is only limited by your own ambition. If you want to keep it small, keep it small. If you want to go big, do your best to appeal to a wider and wider audience.
  • You can offer true personalization: You are the shop-next-door, the equivalent of today’s mom-and-pop operation, the underdog, the face of what has made America great from the get-go. You can get to know your customers face-to-face, learn their names, what they like, what their friends like, and, ultimately, what your target audience wants and needs.
  • You can end your job search: Young adults ages 20-28 change careers an average of seven times before arriving where they want to be; start a business doing something you really want to do, and stop the vicious cycle of looking for a new job and being dissatisfied with what you find.

In-betweens

  • There’s a lot of responsibility: Some people thrive on responsibility and love it, while for others the level of responsibility involved in starting a business is just too much. Before starting a business, evaluate what type of person you are and ask yourself if you’re willing to invest your entire life in it.
  • There’s a ton of competition: On one hand, the many advanced, ravenous competitors make it tough to gain an advantage; on the other, competition is good for business because your competitors will push you to be better.
  • You can’t just sit there and focus on product: If your offering is all you’re passionate about, this can be a difficult truth to recognize: a great deal of your success will depend on marketing and branding, networking with other business owners, maintaining inventory and keeping air-tight books. This is why it’s important to raise funds for hiring consultants and specialists, but nothing beats learning how to do everything yourself.

Cons

  • People try to take advantage of you: The more your business grows, the more you’ll be on the radar of other businesses and individuals who will try to take advantage of you in one way or another—and there’s simply no escaping the fact that there are bad actors in the world. Beware, do your homework, and don’t go into business with anyone unless they’re squeaky clean. Make sure their proposition is legitimate in terms of how you’ll come out on the other end.
  • You can end up being out-of-touch, overconfident, or overly-stressed: Of course, this won’t necessarily happen, but single-mindedness can be the result of overzealous pursuit. Out of Forbes’ reasons why businesses fail, a big one is leadership failure. The other reasons, such as failure to properly communicate a value proposition, stem from the owner being disconnected from the people upon which the business depends.
  • It’s about nothing but money: In the beginning, making good money was going to be a byproduct, not the end-all-be-all, because you were passionate about people and ideas, not just money; don’t let dollar signs become your only reason for doing business. Those bad actors I talked about earlier? They’re motivated by moolah.
  • It becomes ho-hum: You’re not doing anything different, you’re set in your ways, and so are the people who keep you afloat; continue on this way, and you’ll soon find yourself gasping for air.

The great thing about starting a business is the cons depend on you. Decide to steer clear of the bad actors, not to be one yourself, and to stay attuned to the evolving business world. Evolve with it, even ahead of it, and you’ll see more pros than cons.

Entrepreneurs: How to Minimize Marketing Spend Online

Are you a young entrepreneur going into business for the first time? If there’s anything you don’t have a lot of at the outset, it’s money. In terms of cash flow, 28% of small businesses that go bankrupt have big problems with their financial structure. There are a multitude of expenses, from product development, to finding and leasing a quality brick-and-mortar location, to hiring and training staff, to paying consultants and accountants—the list goes on.

Thankfully, many of your first-time expenses are tax deductible. You can deduct up to $5,000 in your first year of doing business. After that, deduct your remaining expenses in installments over a period of 5 years.

Things like property, vehicles, and inventory aren’t expenses—they’re capital expenditures. Over time, you can write off the cost of tangible items through depreciation. But that doesn’t make up for the fact that you have to invest money in capital expenditures at the beginning. The same applies for expenses; you could spend well over $5,000 at the beginning. With both capital expenditures and expenses, you have a year during which you’re on your own, and you may not see any return on investment (ROI) unless you do some high quality marketing.

That’s where this guide comes in. If you lower your marketing spend, you may be able to write off all of your marketing expenses in the first year. A great place to start is right here, on the internet.

Understand Google and Internet Advertising

If you’re planning on drawing in customers, invest in a website. There will be costs, such as web hosting fees. If you want to minimize your overall spend, check out a free course on how to make a website. You can DIY and achieve awesome results. It’s purely a matter of how much time and effort you put into your site.

Once you have a site, consider the matter of making yourself visible online. There are several ways of going about this, but let me just get straight to the reality of the situation: You can spend plenty of money on advertising, but not achieve any results. When it comes to display ads, publishers and advertisers have to cope with the fact that over 200 million people use ad-blockers. You are 475 times more likely to survive a plane crash than click a display ad, and 33% of people find ads “intolerable”.

As a first-time entrepreneur, you’re nowhere near the point where you’re a publisher who can prompt people to whitelist you on their ad-blocker extension. The best, and most inexpensive way for you to gain visibility online is to rank as high as you can in Google.

There are two ways to do this. You can buy AdWords, meaning that if you pay Google for certain keywords related to your business, you’ll show up at the top of the page when someone enters that particular search phrase. The unfortunate thing about AdWords is that if someone clicks on your ad, but doesn’t buy anything, you still pay for that click. Also, if you’re looking to compete on a national level, the competition for your keywords will be incredibly fierce unless your product is so niche nobody else is selling it. Fierce competition equals expensive keywords.

The second way to rank in Google is the organic way, otherwise known as content marketing. Organic can also be the least expensive. Start a blog on your website and create informative content related to your product or service. Put the keywords you want to rank for in your posts, but don’t overdo it. Make sure the meta structure of your site is also in good shape. Send clear signals about what you want to rank for. Next, guest post on high authority blogs and create backlinks to your content. Particularly since you’re the business owner, many different sites will want to hear from you.

This is all part of the complex and competitive world of SEO. Before you undertake this, make sure you know exactly what the deal is with Google and links. Some links to your site can be negative, some can be great. You want good links to your site, and you want internal links between your pages, ultimately funneling the user to product pages where they can make purchases. The only way they’re going buy anything is if you’ve convinced them along the way.

Understand Social Media Marketing

Social media is a great tool for valuable, inexpensive marketing. You’ve probably seen plenty of it during your personal time on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other social media sites you might use. There are entire websites devoted to the topic of social media marketing; it’s an art, just as content marketing is to Google.

This is a huge subject so here’s a digestible, step-by-step intro:

  • et up your business page on Facebook, which is the social grandaddy
  • Decide on your Twitter handle, and start your business Twitter account
  • Sign up with one or two other platforms on which you’d really like to see some engagement; i.e. you’re appealing to a young audience, and they’re all over Instagram and Snapchat
  • On your website, provide social media buttons for sharing content and liking your company
  • Consult these four social media rules for businesses:
  1. Along with promotional content, provide valuable information related to your niche
  2. Pay attention to your brand message by using the right words, images, and other media
  3. Post at good times; e.g. Facebook users prefer 1-4pm, Google+ users 9-11am
  4. Create conversations that evoke emotions
  • Pay attention to video marketing trends and take advantage of them; people love video—about 65% of viewers will visit your website after watching your video
  • There are so many great free tools you can use for social media marketing; even just looking at these will help give you an idea of all the different things you can do
  • Respond to your audience as quickly as possible when they reach out to you

Overall, your reach on social media can be huge and you can get started on most networks for free. Link up your content marketing efforts with your social media efforts. Think about who your customers are and what type of customers you want, then design your marketing messages accordingly. Put your heart into this, and you’ll get great results for a very small investment.

Business Empire Consulting: Young, Yet Experienced

Bryan Young, a senior at North Carolina State University, and his business partner, Matthew Laster, may still be hitting the books in college, but they have already developed a successful service to bring solutions and success to businesses who need a strong push in the technology direction. Business Empire Consulting Group gears their focus on web design, marketing, sales, and operations management.

YOUNG MONEY: Tell us about your company.
BRYAN YOUNG:
Business Empire Consulting Group provides consulting services and an interactive virtual textbook/learning management system. Our consulting service focuses on helping our clients’ build their brand around the customer experiences and this may come in the form of build/improving their website or coming in and completely re-adjusting their operations. The interactive virtual textbook(Business Education Extension aka BEES) looks to teach from practical experience instead of theories to help individual’s go beyond the definition of a problem and actually recommend solutions for what students learn in college classes. We actually started as an online business magazine in August 2008 and then made the decision to switch our business model to consulting and an educational resource in May 2009. The combined experience of our executive team reaches well over 20 years. We’ve worked with companies as small as your local one man-shop and as large as those in the Fortune 500, with annual revenue exceeding $5 billion.

YM: What gave you the idea to start this business?
BY:
By the age of 19 my trucking company had reached $5 million in revenue, a fleet of 22 trucks, and over 30 employees. The rapid growth of my company and downward turn of the economy had my financial advisors telling me to consider filing for bankruptcy at the age of 20. It was at that time that I realized that college classes were teaching from theories not practical experience and the things they were telling me should work, weren’t. I met Envier Capps who is now the Director of NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative and her methods and philosophies helped me avoid disaster as they opened me up to being willing to change. I restructured the company so that the drivers made a bigger profit than the company and heard many tell me that was the dumbest decision ever. Those companies went out of business and my company didn’t go bankrupt. As I started to share my story more others, many of whom I had never met, came to me for advice as professors were sending my peers to talk to me. I decided to start a website to help them because so many people were contacting me for assistance. Last May we decided to start getting paid for our knowledge.

YM: Where did you get the funding for your business?
BY:
Our business is completely self funded. I no longer work with the trucking company but as I made my exit from it I started to fund Business Empire. To accommodate the expected growth of our interactive virtual textbook we are considering outside funding.

YM: What was the hardest thing you encountered while starting your business?
BY:
Many of our clients are old enough to be our parents or even have children that are older than Matt and I. Matt and I knew that once people talked to us they’d realize that our experience and knowledge far exceed our age. Early on we had to lower the price of what we knew we were worth just to get a few clients under our belts. In that process we had a company try to take advantage of us and the knowledge they thought we lacked when it came to payment for our services, but we stood our ground and learned from the situation.

YM: What surprised you the most?
BY:
Matt and I talk all the time about how “unreal” all of this still feels! We changed our business model in May and our consulting service at the moment this month alone has generated $20,000 in revenue and our interactive virtual textbook has already pre-sold to be used by 3,000 students in college business programs. We’ve also generated interest to grow to other academic departments and as a training tool for corporate employees. We did it all from word of mouth advertising and simply using our creativity to find ways to spark others interest in what we were doing.

YM: What would you do differently?
BY:
Nothing! Matt and I were introduced to each other through a mutual friend last October and we clicked instantly. We’ve seen our concept adapt and change over the past year and have grown with every client interaction.

YM: Is this your first business?
BY
: No, this is actually the fourth business that I have started through self funding. At 8 years old I used my lunch money to by candy at wholesale prices and sell it at school. At 12, I used my allowance to buy a lawn mower and built a successful lawn care company. At 17, instead of buying my first car I brought an 18-wheeler to start a long haul trucking service. Then right before my 21st birthday I launched Business Empire Magazine which has become Business Empire Consulting Group.

YM: How many employees do you have?
BY:
We currently have 9 employees and will hire 5 more over the next 2-3 weeks. In May we moved into an office and then moved out of it so we are also in the market for office space again.

YM: How do you get your name out there and get customers? What has been your
most effective marketing technique or tactic?
BY:
Actually when Matt built the new website I came up with this crazy idea to create a buzz for our old site. We had 400 t-shirts with our company logo and website, 500 friends put up a cool slogan with a link to our website on their facebook status, and we had 1,000 flyers made with a guy looking down with his mouth wide open and looking down that said “I can see your business” with a link to our website on the bottom. We put that flyer above every male bathroom stale on campus. Matt and I had his fraternity brothers, friends, professors, and random people all participate on in wearing the shirts, putting up the status feeds, and we woke up at 6 a.m. to put the flyers around campus before the lunchtime rush. Within the first hour 17,000 people rushed to our website and shut down our server for about 30 minutes. Our hosting company gave us a slap on the hand for the stunt and NC State Alumni were beating down our door to bring our creativity into their company. This guerilla and viral marketing campaign that we launched back in January was really the only one we’ve done and it only cost us $2,000. We then started getting campus media attention and I started speaking to business class at NC State and that has kept our client list steady.

YM: What effect has the recession had on your business?
BY:
The recession has made me the dumbest person in the right room. I mean that in a good way as it has allowed me to surround myself with individuals who are all very talented for pennies on the dollar. When we made the decision to finally go forward with consulting the type of clients my team had worked with included Terminix, CondeNast, Cartoon Network, Progress Energy, TruGreen, Merry Maids, and American Home Shield and that is only naming a few of the bigger ones. We recently hired Kathy Roberts who has 20 years of operations management experience as our COO, she is the only person over 28 on our staff. The key players in our operation all were making well over six figures before joining us and they we’re willing to take huge pay cuts for equity in our company.

YM: If you could offer one piece of concrete advice to other people, what would it be?
BY:
A vision is only as good as the team you put behind it. As a consultant I come across many people of all ages with good ideas, but it is the execution of those ideas that makes the difference. I always tell people to dream is to be a great thinker, but to achieve is to be great at executing.

YM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
BY:
Empower failure and use it as your greatest learning tool. So many people give so much power and effort to avoiding failure and you can only imagine what would happen if they gave that same amount of power and effort to their dreams and goals. In that regards starting a business during college or at a young age is an excellent opportunity because you have plenty of time to learn from any mistakes you make and start over if necessary. As you get older you’re weighed down by mortgages, kids, and other fixed expenses that are present for most in their youth.

How to get out of America and make good money

It’s true that an education from one of America’s universities is highly valuable. Our universities are among the best in the world, with students from all over the globe seeking admittance. But it’s also true that America’s job market is tough. It’s highly competitive and wages are relatively low, meaning grads with student loan debt often find themselves in a desperate situation, whittling away at their debt in a low-paying job.

Enter globalization. You don’t have to live in America to get a degree from one of our universities. And the job market in a foreign country may be just what you’re looking for. The option to expatriate is real, and so is online education.

Technology and globalization are two of the major trends in higher education today: around 70% of institutions offer online education, and, according to Maryville University, “Trend-setting colleges are actually expanding with physical locations overseas, in places like China and Qatar.”

For some students, the state of affairs may be such that getting an education from an American university abroad is an attractive proposition. If that’s you, there are some important things to consider.

The economies of foreign countries

Since you can access online education from virtually anywhere with internet service, one of your primary considerations will be the economies of the countries you’re considering. For one, a country with a thriving economy is more likely to have a good internet infrastructure. Two, a country with a solid economy will have more jobs to offer. Earning your degree online gives you a little more time to work and explore the local culture, because flexibility is one of the big perks of online education.

But the state of an economy is not your only consideration. In tandem with that, there’s the quality of the worklife.

According to Fast Company, if you want to work outside the US in a satisfying environment, consider the following:

  • Iceland has one of the highest employment levels at 79%, and has a great social environment, with 98% of the population reporting a supportive social network; that could be why it’s the third happiest country in the world
  • Switzerland’s employment level is also 79%, and workers between 15 and 24 have an unemployment rate lower than 8%, which is half of the global average; Switzerland is the second happiest country in the world
  • Norway’s employment level is 75%, and it’s the fourth happiest country in the world
  • Sweden ranks as the 10th happiest country, and 85% of Swedes say they have more positive experiences per day than negative ones, which is 5% above the global average

Places like Finland, Germany, and Canada also rank well when it comes to work and quality of life. But according to the Washington Post, when it comes to overall considerations for expatriation, Asian countries such as China, Singapore, and Thailand should also be in the mix. Germany and Switzerland also fare well in the overall considerations, as salaries for expats in German-speaking countries are unusually high.

There’s also the consideration of what type work you want to do. If you’re the entrepreneurial type, there’s no doubt America is one of the best countries for you. Looking to found a startup? Worldwide, Washington State University ranks Hong Kong, Canada, Singapore, and Australia as the best places, besides the U.S., in which to do so.

Practical considerations

Expatriating isn’t easy, but there are several routes to take that will make working and studying abroad easier. And of course, you don’t have to completely expatriate and give up American citizenship. There are temporary options if you just want to find out what it’s like in a different country.

First, studying abroad. More and more students are taking the community college option, which is a bit less of a commitment than university. In fact, the number of students who chose community college options abroad shot up from less than 4,000 in 2001 to nearly 300,000 in 2015.

For short-term study abroad options, CIEE Study Abroad, IES Abroad January Term, and Go Overseas all offer programs.

For a semester abroad, the California community college system, community colleges in New York, and community colleges in Texas all have a wide variety of options. But consult whichever community college you’re considering about their programs, too.

Or you could volunteer abroad and do service learning. ISA Service Learning and Global Crossroads are organizations that can help you out in this respect.

And, of course, there are study abroad options in just about any university of your choice. But if you want to expatriate, that’s a different story.

In 2014, the cost to expatriate rose by 422%, from $450 to $2,350. The State Department chalked the incredibly steep rise up to the extra work they were having to do to process departures. To put that in context, 2012 and 2013 saw a 366% rise in the number of people who expatriated. If you want to get out of here, you’re not alone.

The process is relatively simple:

  • Go to a foreign country and find a U.S. Consulate or Embassy
  • Tell a consular or diplomatic officer you want to expatriate
  • Sign a form

That’s it. But here’s the catch. When you renounce, wherever you renounce your citizenship, you’ll have to hand over your passport and will be stateless, unless you already have citizenship in another country. This will make it hard to travel, meaning you’d most likely have to stay in that country. You’ll want to choose the country where you’d like to live first. Then, either look into obtaining a work visa, or study abroad there. Next, apply for dual citizenship. After that you’ll be in a secure place to expatriate.