Networking is often a blind spot for small business owners. It’s also essential for personal and professional growth. Here are some free and low cost resources to help you get started with networking and to build your new skill.

Networking is often a blind spot for small business owners. It’s also essential for personal and professional growth. Here are some free and low cost resources to help you get started with networking and to build your new skill.

 

Meetup

What it costs: Free

What it does: Meetup is a free social networking website that allows you to join groups of all different kinds: hobbies, classes, and of course, business networking events! Join local groups and meet up with other entrepreneurs near you.

eWomenNetwork

What it costs: Free to join

What it does: With over 500,000 members and 100+ local chapters, eWomenNetwork has workshops and events all across the country for you to meet with other women entrepreneurs. Women small business owners have many resources available to them, and you can check some others out here.

Linkedin

What it costs: Free

What it does: Linkedin is the largest social networking site specifically oriented towards business. Follow hashtags and join groups to discover other entrepreneurs (and future talent!) Post insightful business tips or updates from your own account to get your name out to small business owners who might want to connect and network with you.

YEC Next

What it costs: Free to apply

What it does: If you’re a more established small business owner younger than 45 with at least 250k in annual revenue, you should apply to join YEC Next. You get access to great online networking resources, including an entrepreneurial think tank, increased business exposure, business mentors, exclusive events, and members-only discounts on lots of business products and software.

Opportunity Fund Blog

What it costs: Free

What it does: You are probably already aware that we have a blog dedicated to our small business readers if you’re reading this, but did you know that we publish bi-weekly event roundups? Find local and online networking events and workshops that interest you.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

So you are considering starting a landscape business. You’ll need more than a lawnmower and a neighborhood kid in need of pocket change. Read how much starting a landscape business really costs.

So you are considering starting a landscape business. You’ll need more than a lawnmower and a neighborhood kid in need of pocket change. Read how much starting a landscape business really costs.

 

Whether you came from working as a landscaper and want to branch out with your own company or you are starting from scratch with no professional landscaping experience, this venture may end up costing you a lot more than you think. But you’ll do fine as long as you do your research, set realistic expectations, and do your due diligence with planning and business strategy.

What makes a landscape business different than any other kind?

A lot about starting a landscape business is the same as any other new business idea. You need a solid business plan, starting capital, and a lot of elbow grease. Running the business and managing employees is the same. Meticulously calculating the correct amount to charge clients and keeping exact records for your taxes is the same. But many aspects will also be different.

You won’t need real estate or a complicated e-commerce store.

Odds are you will just need a truck or van – at least to start. The bad news: Just because you don’t have any costs associated with a brick-and-mortar business, vehicles may cost more if you aren’t careful. They require individual insurance, maintenance and repairs, branding stickers and storage systems, and more. If you don’t have a backup vehicle, a breakdown could completely halt your business. The good news: The cost of commercial vehicles as well as the gas and mileage you drive them between clients are tax deductible.

Your marketing plan depends on word-of-mouth and a stunning portfolio.

Without the street traffic of restaurants and physical stores, it is vital that you get reviews and testimonials. The bad news: Negative reviews – especially when your business is new – will cost you in lost business. Investing in professional photography and a nice website to build an online portfolio can cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The good news: Word-of-mouth costs absolutely nothing.

Business licenses and permits will be different,

especially if you plan to work in multiple cities. The bad news: Permits take time and money to file. Work with your legal advisor (remember their fees when you budget) to make sure you have every one you need filed correctly. The good news: Making sure your business is legitimate is worth the cost. Not only will proper paperwork establish trust with potential clients, but getting caught without them will cost you much more.

Health insurance and workers compensation are more important.

With dangerous equipment and exposure to the elements, just keep the costs in mind. The bad news: Landscaping is more physically demanding and potentially dangerous than an office or retail position. Whether you’re a solo operation or your employ a team, insurance will be more expensive. Expect higher insurance premiums, more stringent OSHA requirements, and higher workers compensation if there is an accident. The good news: There are multiple kinds of insurance your business might need, but any insurance you purchase for your business is tax deductible. Always talk with your licensed tax preparer.

Landscaping is a seasonal business.

Mild climates mean you will have business year-round, but if your area has real seasons your business will dry up in the autumn. The bad news: Droughts, recessions, and fierce competition can all cost your business a lot of money if you don’t keep a healthy reserve of working capital and regularly watch your cash flow. The good news: If you diversify your services – such as adding snow removal during the winter – you won’t lose as much in the off-season. Storms are destructive for homeowners but great for you.

Products and equipment.

Don’t fall down the slippery slope of charging a credit card and personal bank accounts to pre-purchase the things you need to complete a job. The bad news: Landscaping equipment can get expensive, and oftentimes a deposit from one client isn’t going to cover the whole cost of a new piece of equipment you need to get a job done.  The good news: In this industry, you need to ask for a deposit before any job you take on. This keeps your cash flow steady and protects your business from job cancellations.

This is when you need to look into an affordable loan from Opportunity Fund for your equipment, commercial vehicle, or working capital.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Balancing your life and your small business is hard enough, and keeping to a business budget can be difficult. Balance your accounts easily with these five free tools.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. Here are five free budgeting tools.

Balancing your life and your small business is hard enough, and keeping to a business budget can be difficult. Balance your accounts easily with these five free tools.

Microsoft Office Business Expense Template

What it costs: Free

What it does: If your small business uses Microsoft Excel, here is a budget template for you to easily download and edit yourself. While this template focuses on expenses versus income, it is extremely detailed and includes graphs and charts to help you visualize your business expenses.

Intuit QuickBooks Annual Budget Template

What it costs: Free

What it does: If you are familiar with using spreadsheets but want to keep your budget accessible in the cloud, this easy-to-use template has all the formulas set up for you. Just enter your information, and this completely free template will do the rest. Remember to add it to your own Google Drive first so you can edit the file.

GnuCash

What it costs: Free

What it does: Using GnuCash’s open source software is a great stepping block for small businesses who want something more sophisticated and error-proof than using Excel spreadsheets but don’t have the budget to pay for fancy software. It will take some technical skill to install, but it is completely free to use and has a detailed Wiki full of instructions. GnuCash is available in several different languages and currencies; on Windows, Mac, and Linux; and as a complimentary mobile app. Highlighted features of the tool include double-entry accounting, stock/bond/mutual fund accounts,small-business accounting, reports, graphs, QIF/OFX/HBCI import, transaction matching, scheduled transactions, and financial calculations.

Mint

What it costs: Free

What it does: We’ve mentioned Intuit’s Mint before, but it really is a useful free tool for budgeting. While the service is more geared towards personal finance, it can be used for small businesses. Connect your business bank accounts and create trackable, real-time budget categories. Bonus: you can get free money tips, credit scores, bill schedules, and more.

Metabase

What it costs: Free

What it does: Metabase is an excellent open source software for business owners who want simple, clean, and useful tools. You don’t need to know any coding to set it up, visuals are more clean and modern than most open source tools, and it can be easily used by multiple team members in your business. The catch? It is a little more difficult to set up if you aren’t on a Mac.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

There are many reasons to choose to run a home-based business: balancing a family, lack of capital for real estate, or even just the newness of your business. Whatever the reason, technology is making it easier to successfully run your small business from your home.

There are many reasons to choose to run a home-based business: balancing a family, lack of capital for real estate, or even just the newness of your business. Whatever the reason, technology is making it easier to successfully run your small business from your home.

 

5 Ways Tech Can Help Your Home-Based Business

  • Selling your products has never been easier with ecommerce. Starting an ecommerce website for your business is the best way to sell as a home-based business. Without a store-front of your own, online is the way to go. Most major shipping services also allow you to schedule package pickups from your house at no extra charge, all from the convenience of your home computer.
  • Collaborating with remote employees can be more efficient with tech tools. If you base your business out of your home, there’s a good chance you don’t have physical space for employees. Using affordable technology to collaborate with employees can help you streamline work even when you aren’t in the same room.
  • Outsource tasks to freelancers. Your home-based business needs a lot of tasks completed, often by people who you can’t afford to hire full time. The internet allows you to reach experienced professionals from all over the country to help with your projects.
  • Use Voice Assistant Technology (VAT) to manage your home business. VAT products, such as Google Home and Amazon Echo, can help you keep track of your hectic schedule. You can set appointments and task reminders, manage your home’s security (which is extremely important if your run your business out of your personal residence), track packages and shipments, dictate emails, manage finances, pull inventory and order information, order supplies, and much more.
  • Set up your “mobile office” so you can work anywhere. If you need a break and want to do work or meet clients at a coffee shop, technology can help you here too. You can buy inexpensive portable wifi routers so you have secure access to the internet, keep your files in the cloud to access them anywhere, and so much more.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

We know that finances can be tricky and hard to develop confidence when it comes to accounting, but knowing the profitability of your small business is key to its success. Learn what the different types of profit margins are, how to identify problems, and how to increase your business’ profits.

We know that finances can be tricky and hard to develop confidence when it comes to accounting, but knowing the profitability of your small business is key to its success. Learn what the different types of profit margins are, how to identify problems, and how to increase your business’ profits.

 

What is a Profit Margin?

There are two kinds of profit margins. Gross profit measures the profitability of a single product line or service. This is calculated by subtracting the costs associated with that product from the selling price. When calculating your gross profit margins, take into account the costs of product development, manufacturing, transportation, packaging, and preparation.

Net profit measures the profitability of your business. This is calculated by subtracting your business expenses from your total revenue. Business costs include rent, utilities, taxes, employee benefits and wages, insurance, cost of goods sold, capital expenses such as equipment depreciation, and much more. Work closely with your accountant to accurately calculate your small business’ net profit margin.

There is no “ideal profit margin” because each industry differs in profitability. For example, one of the highest industries in 2017 was accounting and other professional finance services, with net profits averaging around 18.4%. Compare that with grocery stores and automobile dealerships, two of the lowest profitable industries in 2016, which average at around 2%.

Identifying the Problems

If you don’t keep a close eye on your profit margins and regularly recalculate them, you could run into trouble with your working capital. Doing a cash flow analysis is equally important, so that you don’t get taken advantage of and you know exactly how much money should be in the bank.

When you notice that you aren’t making enough money to grow or are losing money each month, it’s time to take a long look at why your profit margins are low and what you can do to increase them.

How to Increase Your Small Business Profit Margins

Once you’ve done your calculations, you notice some of your products have a low gross profit margin and your business’ net profit margin could be a little higher. What do you do now?

First, take a look at your costs. See if there is anywhere you can cut back, or if you can increase the price. Sometimes lower sales due to higher prices can equalize with a higher gross profit.

Second, make the tough call about cutting unprofitable products or services. If there’s no way you can increase your profit margin and the overall cost of production, selling, overhead, and after-sale customer service is hurting your business, it may be time to discontinue something. However, some key products or services might be worth the sacrifice when it is core to your customers’ satisfaction. Your restaurant might make the most profit off of alcoholic beverages and charging $1.00 for a dollop of BBQ sauce, but that doesn’t mean you should get rid of the free bread. Trust your intuition and business sense. You’re an entrepreneur and know your small business better than anyone.

Finally, see if there are any long-term costs you can reduce by upgrading your old equipment, purchasing a more fuel-efficient vehicle, or paying off your high-interest, predatory merchant cash advance. Need to refinance your unaffordable loan or get additional working capital to help your business in the long term? Talk to us about getting an affordable, trustworthy loan today.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Your small business’ website is crucial to success. Your potential customers will judge your business by the website, so make sure to make it the best it can be. Read how much building a professional business website really costs and learn what to expect from your different options.

Your small business’ website is crucial to success. Your potential customers will judge your business by the website, so make sure to make it the best it can be. Read how much building a professional business website really costs and learn what to expect from your different options.

 

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Business Website?

Well, that depends on what you want to use your site for and how much you want to pay for it. Once you’ve determined what your website needs and what you aren’t prioritizing,  you can decide if you want to go the DIY route or if you want to invest in a professional designer.

Building a Website Yourself – The DIY Route

If you’ve got some time on your hands and have a shoestring budget, building a website yourself using free templates and a little personalization might be the way to go. But that doesn’t mean it will be free – creating a professional business website will cost money, unlike personal blogs that don’t represent your company’s reputation.

We’ve compiled a short list of free website tools, from resources for optimizing your site to design templates. You can find templates from as little as $20 and can be as easy as copying and pasting the code into your website’s back end. Where and how you decide to host your website can make the cost vary. Never settle for a free web host, it’s worth it to pay a couple hundred a year for paid hosting: you’ll have ads on your website for your competitors; you won’t have a professional, custom domain name; and you are limited to a small bandwidth that will not be able to accommodate a content-heavy website or an ecommerce store.

In addition to the framework, you’ll need to come up with content for your business’ website. When it comes to content, you get what you pay for. Professional photography or videography, logos, ecommerce functions, blog content, cybersecurity, and other add-ons can eat up your project budget. If you can’t afford to hire an expensive agency, see if any of your employees have the skill sets you need or consider hiring a freelancer.

Hiring a Professional Web Designer and Developer

If you don’t have time but your budget has some wiggle room, consider hiring a professional. You can either contract a freelancer to implement and customize a fancy template you found or even find an agency to completely build a custom website from scratch.

Hiring a professional will cost anywhere from $3,000 – $50,000 before any of the web hosting and extras mentioned previously. This can cost so much because you are paying for the skills and time of a computer programmer, designer, and tester. Not to mention their overhead costs to run their own business. You get what you pay for, so take your time researching who you decide to hire to build your business’ website. Support fellow entrepreneurs and look for another small business or freelancer to hire.

What Does Your Budget Look Like?

Whether you decide to spend $500 or $50,000 on your shiny new website, never bankrupt your business trying to build a perfect site. Only invest in your site what fits into your business’ budget. If you’re a little short on working capital but know you should upgrade for the benefit of your small business, talk to us about getting an affordable working capital loan.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

As a business owner, you may need a loan at some point. Having healthy business credit will ensure you get the best rates and highest amount you can get for an affordable loan. Keep on top of your credit with these five free tools.

Each month, we’re sharing and promoting free or affordable tools that help small business owners run their businesses better. Here are five free business credit tools.

As a business owner, you may need a loan at some point. Having healthy business credit will ensure you get the best rates and highest amount you can get for an affordable loan. Keep on top of your credit with these five free tools.

Nav Business Credit Scores

What it costs: Free

What it does: There are different agencies and different scoring systems for business credit versus personal credit. Nav provides a free tool to check both as well as resources for interpreting business credit scoring.  

Annual Credit Report 

What it costs: Free

What it does: If your business doesn’t have a separate credit established and you currently rely on your personal credit, it’s doubly important to be aware of your credit report. Annual Credit Report offers you one free pull every 12 months from all three of the major credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax. This service is the official site authorized by the federal government. There are many lookalikes trying to scam you, so make sure you verify that you have the correct URL every time.

Department of Justice’s List of Credit Counselors

What it costs: Free

What it does: If you need help with your credit, it is important to find a reputable credit agency so you don’t get scammed. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has a comprehensive list of nonprofit budget and credit counseling agencies, organized by state. Many of these agencies may also be able to provide services in languages other than English.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

What it costs: Free

What it does: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has lots of resources free for you to learn, fix, and build your credit. This is the place to check if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, think the credit bureaus have false information, want to know your rights, and more.

CreditSignal

What it costs: Free

What it does: CreditSignal, provided by one of the business credit bureaus Dun & Bradstreet, is a service where you can get free alerts when your business credit score changes. Your life as a small business owner is busy, and you can’t be expected to keep your eye on your business’ credit every day. That’s where CreditSignal comes in – they’ll send you alerts through email and on their app whenever there is a change.

 

We’re always looking for the best affordable online resources including tools to promote to small business owners like you. If you have a tool you’d like to share with fellow business owners, contact us at sblending@opportunityfund.org.

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans including Mobile Food Truck loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $700 million and helped thousands of families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook  and Twitter

Whether you are building a small business website from the ground up or feel it’s time to update yours, here some of the essentials, wishlist ideas, and things to avoid.

Whether you are building a small business website from the ground up or feel it’s time to update yours, here some of the essentials, wishlist ideas, and things to avoid.

 

The number one thing your business website needs is a plan. Before you talk to a web developer or pick out a design template, you need to sit down and create a detailed plan. What is the purpose of your site?

Determining if you need an ecommerce website, a portfolio, an online menu and business hours, or something else entirely will help you figure out exactly what you need and don’t need. Each business will have different needs for a website, but here are the essentials everyone should have and the things most don’t need to include.

Small Business Website Essentials

You need a clean design. Carry your business’ branding guideline of colors, fonts, and voice through to your website as well. Keep it consistent and easy for customers to navigate. Use hamburger menus to minimize the number of navigation tabs, keep the amount of pages down, and make sure your text is simple and readable.

A good domain name is almost as important as a good business name. If your domain name is long, doesn’t match your business name, or doesn’t end with “.com” then customers are likely to forget your website and not be able to find your business.

SEO is hard to master but important to incorporate into your website. Consider hiring a freelancer to set up your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This includes page formatting, alt text for photos, meta tags and metadata, descriptive URLs, site index, and even more. It it likely that most of your online traffic will come from search engines, so it is important to make it as easy as possible for your small business to appear on the top of searches.

Implementing security measures is vital for any business website. Make sure your site is compliant with the GDPR and HTTPS certificates.

Having reviews both on your website and on popular review sites will establish trust with potential customers. More than 80% of people look for reviews before making a purchase decision. That’s a lot. Maintaining a positive digital reputation will help your business succeed.

Your business information should be prominent and easy to find. Include contact information, business location, hours of operation and customer support, holiday schedule, and anything else a customer needs to know about your small business.

About Us is a page where you can tell your story. Customers want to know that there are real people behind the company, and connecting on a more personal level can build trust and brand loyalty. Briefly describe how and why you started the business, who you and your employees are, what your brand mission and vision is, and what makes your business unique.

Privacy Policy and Terms of Service are both important to include. You can link to a page in your footer that leads to your privacy policy and terms of service. Privacy policies are legally required, and you can find free templates online. Always make sure to run these by your lawyer to ensure your business is protected.

Wants But Not Needs

Consider hiring a web developer to create a beautiful, clean website for you. You can find a freelancer for this one project and keep their contact info on file for when you need to make changes later. Having a professional website is just as important as a brick-and-mortar storefront – it adds credibility to your business, and it attracts customers and sales.

Make your website mobile friendly. More and more people are shopping and browsing the internet on their mobile phones. If your web host doesn’t already offer dynamic layouts that automatically adjust to a mobile orientation, hire a freelancer to build one. When you make updates to your site, always make sure it looks good on mobile.

Offer an incentive for signing up for a newsletter. If they give they sign up with their email on your site, you could send them an exclusive coupon for your restaurant, an ebook teaser for your consulting service, or something else that would entice potential customers. Now you have customers to email with company updates, promotions, news, or new releases.

Invest in professional, paid hosting. If your website gets a lot of traffic, is the main portal for your business, or is media heavy (images and videos take a while to load) you should invest in a paid web host. Free sites like WordPress or Wix may be fine for a while, but if your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load, you will lose most visitors.

Collect the most asked questions you get from your customers and create an FAQ. If a potential customer can’t find what they want quickly, they might move on. Not only will this minimize customer service inquiries and free up your associate’s time, but employees can also keep themselves knowledgeable about the business.

Things You Should Really Avoid

Avoid using multiple fonts, colors, and graphics that aren’t cohesive and make your website look busy. Customers who look at your business website don’t want to strain their eyes to read your site. Keep it clean, simple, and cohesive. A general rule of design is to stick to two fonts and font colors throughout your site.

Minimize the amount of text and photos on your informational pages. Try to keep the page length to two page scrolls – or less than a 3 minute read. As an entrepreneur, you are rightfully proud of your business’ story and the products you’ve developed, but you don’t want to overwhelm prospects with too much content. If you want to go into detail, a great way to share with your customers without turning off potential customers is to start a blog on your site.

Be careful with copyrighted material. Make sure you are legally allowed to use any content you add to your website (icons, photos, logos, etc.) If you need free stock photos, take a look at this list of free website tools.

Resist the urge to place ads on your website. While you could make a few extra dollars by having ads on your page, you really don’t want to let your customers go to a competitor. The companies who pay for this advertising space are targeting the same demographic you are.

Don’t forget to update your site periodically. Just because you have a website doesn’t mean it should collect dust. Keeping information up-to-date, including menus and store hours, is important. Consider freshening the look for holidays or seasons. Change typos and broken code as soon as you find them.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

There are many tax deductions you can take advantage of that you might not have considered. Here are 45 lucrative small business tax deductions.

There are many tax deductions you can take advantage of that you might not have considered. Here are 45 lucrative small business tax deductions.

 

Making tax mistakes can cost you and your small business a lot of money, stress, and time. Tax mistakes and IRS fees are very expensive. We’ve written before on the true cost of tax mistakes, but this time we want to share with you some of the ways you can save money on your taxes. There are many tax deductions you can take advantage of that you might not have considered.

The trick to getting any of these small business tax deductions is to keep meticulous records of your expenses – both business and personal. Yes, you can save money on your taxes for both personal expenses and business expenses if you meet certain criteria. Keep reading to find out what those are.

Top 45 Small Business Tax Deductions

  1. Accounting fees
  2. Worker’s compensation insurance
  3. Business association membership dues
  4. Donations to business organizations
  5. Business use of your car (payments, insurance, gas, and maintenance)
  6. Business trips
  7. Employee wages, benefits, and bonuses
  8. Employee education and training
  9. Meals and lodging provided to your employees
  10. Your business’ rent
  11. Taxes on leased business property (deducting property taxes as additional rent)
  12. Improvements to leased business property
  13. Franchise fees
  14. Depreciation on assets (such as cars used for your transportation business)
  15. Business use of your home (mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, and repairs)
  16. Indian Employment Credit
  17. Empowerment Zone Employment Credit
  18. Gifts to customers ($25 limit)
  19. Uniforms for your employees
  20. Disabled access
  21. Employee childcare
  22. Work opportunity credit (for hiring from targeted groups)
  23. Operating in a hurricane disaster zone or disaster area
  24. Business insurance
  25. Legal and professional fees (even for your tax accountant!)
  26. Interview expenses
  27. Energy efficient commercial buildings deduction expenses
  28. Licenses and regulatory fees
  29. Subscriptions to trade or professional publications
  30. Outplacement services
  31. Penalties and fines you pay for late performance or nonperformance of a contract
  32. Supplies and equipment
  33. Part of your personal phone bill when used for business calls
  34. Health care premiums (as a sole proprietor)
  35. Bank fees
  36. Employee pension plans or profit sharing
  37. Advertising costs
  38. Certain business start up expenses
  39. Cost of goods sold
  40. Theft and loss
  41. Freelancers/contractor labor
  42. Professional services and consultants
  43. Moving your business (more than 50 miles)
  44. Intellectual property expenses (copyrights and trademarks)
  45. Interest accrued on business loans (Need a business loan? Contact us today)

Hopefully your small business qualifies for many of these small business tax deductions.

Remember to talk to your certified accountant before attempting to deduct any of these – we are not tax professionals and are not offering tax advice. If you need help doing your taxes or would like free tools, check out these 5 affordable tax tools.

 

For information about Opportunity Fund’s small business loans, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or loans@opportunityfund.org.  For questions about your existing loan or other customer service questions, please contact us at 866-299-8173 or sbhelp@opportunityfund.org.

Loans are subject to credit review. Additional documentation may be required for credit approval. We are an Equal Opportunity Lender. Loans will be made or arranged pursuant to California Department of Corporations Finance Lenders License #6050609.


Opportunity Fund is tackling economic inequality so that hard work and perseverance means a shot at getting ahead, not just struggling to get by. Our programs are supported by a community of donors and investors whose contributions help to fund small businesses, support college students, and build stronger families and vibrant neighborhoods. Since 1994, the team has deployed $600 million and helped 20,000 families earn, save and invest in their own futures. Opportunity Fund has earned a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity evaluator, for our commitment to accountability and transparency.

Visit us online at http://opportunityfundloan.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Opportunity Fund. Working Capital for Working People. opportunityfund.org