Blog Posts by Laura Sherman

  • The Pros and Cons of Hiring: Employee vs. Independent Contractor

    [This article is a piece of part 11 of our Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business - scroll to the end to see the other parts]

    As a small business owner you will need to determine whether to hire full time employees or use independent contractors. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are basically the same thing. They aren’t.

    Although you pay both kinds of workers to do tasks for you, they are not viewed the same by the IRS. And if the IRS suspects that you are not classifying your workers correctly, they might audit you.

    The IRS defines independent contractors in this way: “The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done.”

    So, if you own a restaurant and hire two waiters, they would be employees. However, if you contracted a local handyman to come in as needed to fix anything minor that breaks in your restaurant, they would be an

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  • Is It Time To Start Up That Startup Business?

    Most entrepreneurs can remember the moment the idea for their business was born. Perhaps they had been mulling over a concept for years, when suddenly something clicked one day and their dream became a reality.

    For me, my ghostwriting career began when my first client called me out of the blue, having been referred to me by a friend of a friend. I went from being a writer to a ghostwriter in a flash. That was ten years ago.

    You know that feeling, the elation you get when you hit upon that kernel of an idea for a new business. It’s amazing! Your adrenaline pumps and you see your whole future life flash before your eyes, like the Big Bang.

    Congratulations! That needs to be said. It is no small feat.

    The decision to start a business is only the first step of a valid business plan. Keep firm to your resolve. Doubts and advice from naysayers act like mold in a piece of fruit. Keep the concept fresh and vibrant, free from fungus.

    Let’s explore what comes next.

    What is your core idea?

    Now it is

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  • How To Brand Your Business On A Budget

    If you’re the owner of a multi-billion dollar company, this article is not for you. However, if you’re a mom and pop organization and would like to learn how to brand your business on a low budget, read on…

    Large corporations spend millions on creating a brand message, but the ones that stick in our minds are based on simple concepts which have a creative spark.

    The secret is branding that can be used creatively without explanation. One example that stands out for me was when Target promoted on the reality TV show Survivor, before it was a craze. They plastered their well-crafted, bulls-eye logo all over. Although the host, Jeff Probst, mentioned the company name a few times, the large red concentric circles reminded me throughout the show of the store. It worked and they got a ton of mileage from that idea.

    You and I don’t have the budget Target does, but if you’re clever enough, you can come up with a multi-million dollar campaign without spending much at all.

    Create a standout logo

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  • Set Up and Organize Your Space and Tools for Success

    You are the creative mind behind your business. The entrepreneur. The genius. Certainly, you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of energy on mundane organizational tasks, right?

    Wrong.

    Or perhaps you think that since you’re just starting out, and can count all of your clients on your right hand, there really isn’t a need for any sort of detailed organizational system. You can easily keep track of each client in your mind.

    But for how long?

    Unless you can hire a staff of employees to help you organize your contact database, finances and sales tools, you’ll need to set up a system that works for you as a first priority. Test your tools early to make sure they work.

    If you’re well organized from the start, you can expand easily and effortlessly. This will translate directly into increased income.

    On the flipside, if you aren’t organized, clients will slip through your fingers as you try to juggle all the facts and figures mentally. Inevitably, you’ll forget to follow up with a client or two,

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  • How to structure your business correctly: From sole proprietorship to C-Corp

     

    Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork…

    There are very few people who relish this side of creating a business, but it can be dangerous to ignore. Consider your options for getting all the licenses in order, and putting in place any other legal details before you open your doors.

    This article is an introduction to the various kinds of business structure and their advantages and disadvantages. For a different take, please also read 'Setting up your business structure and rules – analternative take.'

    Structuring your business

    The good news is that you have choices. There are various ways that you can structure your business. If you are uncertain as to which way to go, consult an accountant and a lawyer for advice.

    When asked about how to structure a business, Mark Kalish, co-owner of EnviroTech Coating Systems, Inc., advised, “Each situation I’ve been involved with has been different. You can’t just make an assumption that one form is better than another.” He went on to say that people who

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  • Getting A Good Fix On Your Costs: Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business Part 8

    [This article is a piece of part 8 of our Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business - scroll to the end to see the other parts]


    For any business, it’s important to accurately estimate supply and production costs. If cost estimates are inaccurate, you can’t price your product correctly, which will lead to a faulty prediction of your potential profit. Don’t let this chain reaction be the kiss of death for your new company.

    Understanding the fixed and variable costs of your business

    When building a financial model for your business, you’ll have fixed and variable costs to consider. Make sure to list out both types of expenses, doing your best to predict them accurately right from the start. As you adjust this list, you’ll need to modify your financial model and price point.

    Fixed costs, or operating costs, don’t fluctuate much as they don’t depend on daily sales figures. Some examples of fixed costs might be:

    • Lease of office or warehouse space
    • Rental of equipment and vehicles
    • Loan payments
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  • Find Profit in Pricing Your Product Or Service For Your Target Market

    With any business, you must define your target market as a first course of action, before you can set your price and start to sell. “Everyone” is never a correct niche market, no matter how useful your product of service is. It’s too broad and highly inaccurate.

    If your target market is too small, you may need to broaden your product or service. If it is too large, find a way to specialize a bit more. When you can hit upon the correct balance, you will have continued success regardless of the economy.

    If you fail to pinpoint your target customer properly, you are likely to throw away money on the wrong advertising campaign. It’s important to confirm that the clients you will appeal to are the folks you have in mind.

    How to determine your customer base

    When you begin to consider who would most likely be looking for your company, you must zero in on their general characteristics. Here are some basic qualities to consider:

    • Age
    • Gender
    • Occupation and income level
    • Geographic location

    That’s a

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  • Keep Your Friends Close And Your Competitors Closer

    If you’re starting a new business, you want to make sure your service or product isn’t too unique forthe public. It helps to align yourself with your competition. Once you have identified your competitors, you can carve out your niche, finding the gaping hole in the industry.

    "By monitoring competitors on an on-going basis you get to know their behavior and so can start to anticipate what they will be likely to do next," says Arthur Weiss, managing director of UK-based Aware, a company specializing in helping businesses gain competitive intelligence. "You can then plan your own strategies so that you keep your customers and win (not steal) customers away from competitors."

    There are a number of effective ways to research your competition:

    Explore the internet

    The internet makes research very easy these days. Search for keywords, trying different combinations. As you grow your business, you will need to continue to do this on a regular basis, so that you stay current and fresh.

    Notice how

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  • The Name Game: How To Pick a Business name that will be successful for years to come

    Part four of a series – The Yahoo Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business.

    Once you pick your company name, and throw yourself into branding it, it is hard to change the name. Not impossible, mind you, but changing midstream can be confusing for your clients, and potentially expensive for you. It is best to pick the right name right from the start.

    Do make sure a pun will continue to be funny for years to come

    There are some funny business names, ones that make you laugh when you first hear them. However, there is a fine line. Will you and your clients find it funny in two years,

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  • Funding, Fraternity and Family: Turning three potential F’s for your business into A’s

    There’s no getting around it, running a business costs money. Sometimes it costs a lot of money. However, if you do everything in your power to avoid incurring debt early on, it will increase your odds for survival.

    Do the leg work yourself

    You can often save a lot of money by learning to do things on your own. For instance, it might cost thousands of dollars to hire someone to design a website for you, or your could learn how to do it yourself. It isn’t always the prettiest website that attracts visitors. If you know about SEO and stay active on social media, you can get nibbles from many prospective clients.

    Twenty years ago I started a little home business, which I promoted through flyers. I would canvass areas on my own, standing out at the exit of events, to personally hand out flyers one by one to individuals. Sure there were people I could have hired, who would put my flyers on every door in the city, but I couldn’t afford the hundreds of dollars it cost at that time, so I did the

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