Archive of ‘Business’ category

Weekly Bookkeeping Checklist for Bosses

| Bookkeeping, Business, Small Business

Weekly Bookkeeping Checklist for Bosses

Bookkeeping is not the most glamorous component of running a business. I know, BIG surprise. Typically, it’s way more interesting to learn about sales, marketing, or money mindset.

And then I read statistics like “1 in 4 businesses don’t make it past their first year,” and it stops me right in my tracks.

If there’s so much information available on how to run and grow a business, why are 25% of them not making it to month 13?

Research has shown that it’s because of money. And not just money on its own but how the business owner manages the money.

When I talk to entrepreneurs about doing their own bookkeeping, the first thing they’ll tell me is that they don’t know what to do. They’re already so slammed with things to do that figuring out bookkeeping — especially when it’s not urgent — falls to the bottom of their priority lists.

But, every single of them, remembers how important it is to keep track of your money riiiight around tax season.

So the problem is NOT that they don’t want to manage their money responsibly — it’s that they don’t know how to.

That’s why I created this one-page resource for you called: Weekly Bookkeeping Checklist for Bosses.

You can check off these tasks once a week and it should take you no more than 30 minutes to do so once you get into the routine.

Download it here to stop worrying about being ready for tax season or if you’re doing what you need to with your money.

You can use it both if you handle your own bookkeeping or if you work with an accountant / bookkeeper already.

Happy Bookkeeping!

If you have questions about how to use it, comment below or send me a message.

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How She Invests: An Interview with Rebecca Tracey

| Business, Interviews, Small Business

With all of the options online for training programs and tools, it can be difficult to discern which are best for your business. That’s why I created the How She Invests in Her Business series. My hope is that the insights you read from these smart & savvy women help you decide how to make smarter financial decisions so you can stay in business for a looooong time.

Today’s Interview: Rebecca Tracey

This interview is with Rebecca Tracey, head/only honcho of The Uncaged Life, where she works with coaches, healers, and consultants from all over the world who want to have the freedom of working from anywhere by running their own online business. She helps people get clear on their brand message, create packages that sell, and learn what it actually takes to get and keep clients online. She started her business while living in a van, loves rock climbing and riding her bike around Toronto, and rappelling off cliffs with her dog, Rhubarb, on her back.

Like the other ladies who I’ve interviewed for this series, she’s a practical, no-nonsense business owner that you DEFINITELY want to have in your corner. Over to Rebecca!

HOW YOU INVEST

How She Invests: An Interview with Rebecca Tracey

What investment has made the most impact on your business? What was the impact it made?

Investing in proper website design made a HUGE difference when I was new to my business. Once I got clear on what I was doing, who my clients were, and what I was selling, I paid a designer to help me amp up my site.

I FINALLY felt excited to tell people about it and it gave me the confidence to actually feel like I was a real legit business.

What’s one investment you’re thinking of making right now?

Someone to run ads specifically for my next launch. And I just hired out a whole new website and brand design – eep!

Before you decide to invest in something for your business, what do you do?

I often just go with my gut – I tend not to shop around. When I have someone in mind, I have my mind made up. I only invest in specific things when I need to, but it seems there is always something on the go that needs money, lol.

I’m not someone who signs up for courses and then doesn’t do them. I tend to just go right to the source and hire people one on one to make sure I get the help I need.

What has been your experience with hiring your first team member / contractor?How She Invests: An Interview with Rebecca Tracey

I actually hired my first contractor before I had a business – a copywriter! I would NOT recommend this.

You definitely need to be clear on what you do, who you serve, and what you sell before you have someone write your copy. I ended up changing most of the copy within the first 3 months.

But I forked over $1000 and hired someone right off the bat. In retrospect, not the best investment, BUT I don’t regret it because it helped me get started and lit a fire under my ass – now I needed a website to actually put that copy on!

What position, if any, are you planning on hiring next? (CPA, bookkeeper, graphic designer, etc.) Why?

I don’t have any hires on the horizon! I work with a business manager and a VA right now, and then I hire out for specific stuff I need along the way. My new web designer is hard at work, so we’ll finish that project before diving into anything else!

WHY PEOPLE INVEST IN YOU

Who do you think your program “Uncage Your Business” is a good investment for? Why?

How She Invests: An Interview with Rebecca TraceyUYB is amazing for new coaches, wellness providers, and consultants who are struggling to make their businesses work because they can barely articulate what their business IS. They have a lot of passion and ideas but sometimes, to their own detriment, get scattered and overwhelmed with trying to put it all together.

We work on getting super clear on:

  • your core business message
  • who you work with
  • market research into what they want and need
  • putting together service packages just for them
  • learning how to talk about what you do in a way that gets YES’s (and learning to drop industry jargon and fluffy language that can create a disconnect between you and your clients)

This stuff is SO important, and a lot of online business courses and training skips this step and teaches you how to market your business, but the reason so many people get stuck is because they don’t have their foundations yet. It’s hard to market when you can barely even explain what, exactly, you do.

I help with that.

How do you use what you teach in your own business / life?

I come back to my own teaching allll the time in my business! Anytime I create something new or want to go in a different direction or make a new course, I go back to my foundations – my message, my niche, what those people need, and how they are talking about it. That way I can effectively create and market something that will sell.

HOW YOU INVEST IN OTHERS

How do you give back to your in-person community?

I don’t do a lot in-person (that requires pants – ew!), but I do spend a lot of time in my free Facebook community (hop in here) answering questions, doing free trainings, and just generally trying to connect with other amazing business owners and share some of what I have learned along the way.

In what other ways would you like to give back?How She Invests: An interview with Rebecca Tracey

I’d like to be a part of helping kids learn more about entrepreneurship and uncaged living. I think our values and ideals start when we’re young and what we’re exposed to.

If kids learn more about all the endless options that are out there for them from an early age, then anything will seem possible. I think we’ll end up with a lot more happy people in the world who are doing work that matters and living lives that they give a shit about.

You used to offer many different digital products around creating packages and what to do when you start a business. Why did you decide to retire those courses?

It just got too messy and confusing… And the honest truth about online courses is that they don’t often make a lot of money. People think “Oh, passive income,” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It ends up being a business model question – do I want to spend a lot of hours and $$$ trying to get huge traffic to my site so that my $35 online courses make me some decent coin — or would I rather spend that time getting higher paying clients into my group program and doing deeper work with them?

For me, the latter is where my heart is at.

BE VIRTUAL FRIENDS WITH REBECCA

Rebecca runs a free online community of over 6000 solopreneurs in her Facebook group. You can also find her hanging out on her website and on Instagram below where you’ll see loads of cute pictures of her pup. If you join her email list, she’ll give you freebies like Your First Retreat Checklist or the first chapter of Hey, Nice Package!. Go say hi to her!


 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Sales Tax & Income Tax

| Business, Business Basics, Small Business, Taxes

Why You Need to Know the Difference Between Sales Tax and Income Tax

As tax season approaches, I bet your list of questions has been growing. How much am I going to owe the government? What deductions can I take advantage of? WHY IS THERE SO MUCH TO DO?

I hear you. But let’s take it back a few steps because there are some things to know when it comes to taxes.

First, there are two major kinds to know about: sales and income. What are the differences between them, and why do you have to know them?

Before I jump into the nitty-gritty of what they are, knowing the difference between these two can help you make much better decisions for your business. That way, you charge enough for your products and services and you’re not surprised when tax time rolls around, forcing you to charge your credit cards to cover what you haven’t saved.

For the most part, this advice applies to Canada, but there are some resources for the United States. Okay, enough chatter. Let’s talk taxes.

What to Know About Sales Tax

Sales tax is the tax associated with goods and services.

For example, tax added to groceries, all of your candles and jewelry from online shops like Etsy and Ebay, or services like getting the plumbing fixed. We pay extra for almost every purchase we make every day.

For most people, that’s where it ends.

However, once you begin a business, you’re also responsible for charging Sales tax and giving it back to the government. That’s why I mentioned in the post about how much to pay yourself that not all the money you receive in business is your money.

If you make over $30,000/year in Canada, then you must charge %5 GST (goods & services tax).  

Depending on your province, either PST (provincial sales tax) or HST (harmonized sales tax). I know, lots of acronyms. Stick with me here.

I live in Quebec, so I charge %5 GST and %9.975 PST.

You can check if your province has harmonized sales rates by clicking here.

If you live in the United States, check out this resource from the Tax Foundation.

What about digital products?

Because the number of people doing business online is expanding so quickly, many countries around the world are still catching up and haven’t created tax laws for digital goods yet.

If you sell digital products in Canada, then digital products are subject to tax and follow the same rules as if you were selling a tangible product. You can learn more about that here.

In the US, it depends on your state. For example, a state like Nevada considers digital goods tax-exempt while a state like Colorado considers the products taxable. Take a look at this list to check your state.

What to Know About Income Tax

Income tax is based on your total gross sales for the year, which are the sales before your expenses.

We pay those at the end of the year, and they’re determined by percentages set out by the government. Find your tax rate by clicking here.

In an employee situation, those income taxes are deducted right off your paycheck. You don’t really have to worry about it.

In your business, though, you are once again responsible for paying those taxes. (II know, it’s the price we pay for being able to work in pajamas and eat out of the Nutella jar whenever we feel like it.)

If you don’t pay it, the government will start charging you interest the day after taxes are due (April 30). That’s not a situation you want to find yourself in, so plan ahead.

If you operate a business in Canada, you can estimate how much taxes you will be owed here: Simple Tax Calculator

If you operate a business in the US, you can use this calculator: Self-Employment Tax Calculator

Now, here’s the most important piece of advice I can give you in this article.

Once you have an estimate, start saving portions of your income every month. That way you’ll be prepared at tax time. I recommend opening a separate bank account just for taxes. You can read more about that here: 3 Must-Have Financial Pieces to Run Your Online Business

If you want ideas on how to reduce your tax owing, check out the tax guide by signing up for the free bookkeeping resources library.

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How Much Should You Pay Yourself?

| Business, Business Basics, Small Business, Tutorial

How Much Should You Pay Yourself?

How much should you pay yourself?

So many entrepreneurs falter here and end up paying themselves less thinking that it’s better for the business or that they’re being greedy by taking too much.

The truth is that too many entrepreneurs are underpaying themselves. Here’s what I mean. If you’re paying yourself $2,000 a month and you really should be paying yourself $3000, you’re missing out on $12,000 a year. That’s a couple family vacations or a significant amount of savings!

Business owners are way over-complicating this. Here’s how you can think about this.

Paying yourself is not all that different from getting paid by an employer. When you get your paycheck, you distribute your income between bills, food, fun, and savings if there’s anything left over.

The main difference when you own a business? You have to pay your own taxes.

I know it’s tough to part with your hard-earned cash, so the first mindset shift I want you to take is that not all of your hard-earned cash belongs to you.

I know, I know. I don’t like it either. I’m only here to help guide you along.

Formula: How to Pay Yourself

To make this easy, I have a formula you can use to figure out how much to pay yourself. (If you want, you can download the worksheet I have for free here in my resource library.)

Take this example: You’re making $10,000 per month (congrats!).

In Canada, that means your marginal tax rate is %26. (You can reference this list for tax rates in America.) So, I would distribute income like this:

  • %1 profit – $100
  • %23 expenses – $2300
  • %26 tax – $2600
  • %50 payroll – $5000

To keep things organized, each of the lines above should have their own bank accounts. My favorite is Tangerine.ca. (If you open an account before April 30, 2017 with a minimum of $100, you’ll earn $50. Just use my Orange Key {16898465S1}. Yay for free money!)

Why did I write 1% towards profit?

Mike Michalowicz, author of the book Profit First, explains this best. He says, and I’m paraphrasing, that we’ve learned to pay ourselves first — before bills — so we can relate that lesson to the profit we earn in our businesses.

He says that most businesses don’t make a profit, but this percentage system ensure one because you’re taking your profit out before paying bills and payroll. By following this system, you always have a profit at the end of the year, which you’ll clearly see when you close your books.

While 50% towards payroll may seem very generous, it’s reasonable if you compare it to an average wage of middle-income earners in the US.

Then you’re looking at between 2,000 – 3,000 take home pay each month. If you have contractors. you’ll be looking at another 1,000 – 2,000 in expenses.

So, like so many things in life, how much you decide to pay yourself is subjective. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure you think about taxes all year long, instead of just at the end of the year. I know so many business owners who spend, spend, spend and wonder why they don’t have a profit or enough saved up for taxes.

To sum it all up: First, determine how much you’re spending on expenses (not including subcontractors), find your tax bracket, always put away 1% profit, and work up to take %50 for payroll.

Now, this may take awhile, so be patient with yourself. Learning how to manage your money as a business owner is definitely a journey, but you wouldn’t be here reading this if you weren’t up to the challenge. 🙂

Click here to get free access to my library of financial resources so you can download the worksheet that will help you figure out how much to pay yourself, too.

Have questions about a more specific case or business? Let me know in the comments below.

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How to Close Your Books: Trial Balances

| Bookkeeping, Business, Finances, Small Business, Tutorial

How to Close Your Books: Trial Balances

In this next post in the How to Close Your Books Series, we’re going to make sure all of your accounts balance. Once you know that, you can prepare your taxes or send the files to an accountant who can prepare your taxes for you.

Before we start, make sure all of your expenses and invoices are entered. See the corresponding tutorials and do that work before moving ahead. You’ll then need to have all of the bank reconciliations done and ensure that any missing transactions are added. Once you have all that complete, you can start your trial balance as you’ll need to reference the master spreadsheet to get these numbers.

Write down all the accounts in order

Write down all the accounts in order of

1) Assets

2) Expenses

3) Liabilities

4) Revenues

5) Equity

You’ll do this for each of your accounts (bank checking, PayPal, etc.), and it can be alphabetical if needed. Usually, these accounts are assigned numbers in accounting software. For example, Assets will have 1000-1999, Liabilities 2000-2999, Equity 3000-3999, Revenues 4000-4999, Expenses 6000-6999. You may want to implement a similar numbering system for your spreadsheet as it makes it easier to find an account if a new bookkeeper is looking things over.

What are assets, expenses, liabilities, revenues, and equity?

Assets are things of value that are owned by your company. For example, cash accounts, accounts receivables, any land, equipment, or inventory. Your expenses are the costs associated with doing business such as advertising, materials, fees, etc. Your liabilities are obligations to pay later. For example, credit cards, any bank loans, or personal loans.

Revenues are any fees earned from providing services and the amounts of merchandise sold. An example of this are sales of products or consulting/coaching revenue. Equity is the amount of ownership or profit in a company. For example, the owner’s equity in a Sole Proprietorship refers to the amount of profit at year end.

You should have these numbers from your totals throughout the year, as you’ve gone through and added your expenses, invoices and then reconciled your bank accounts. Take the totals of each account from the spreadsheet and add them in the proper column like in the example below, with debits on the left and credits on the right.

There is a rule of thumb, if every account is positive, then the balances will go in the respective debit or credit column. Assets and Expenses are in normal/positive DEBIT balance and Revenues, Liabilities and Equity are in normal/positive CREDIT Balance.

To make it easy, I have the spreadsheet calculate account Totals per month, per account, and then a Grand Total for the Year.


Want the tutorial of how to close your books in one easy-to-use PDF with free spreadsheet templates? Click here to access my Bookkeeping Resources library to get the entire How to Close Your Books series as a PDF.


Example:

TRIAL BALANCE
Account Debit Credit
Bank Checking 0.0
Paypal 0.0
Accounts Receivable 0.0
Advertising 0.0
Delivery 0.0
Insurance 0.0
Purchases 0.0
Telephone 0.0
Rent 0.0
Utilities 0.0
Other Expense 0.0
Credit Card 0.0
Accounts Payable 0.0
Sales Tax 0.0
Sales 0.0
Owner Investment 0.0
Owner Withdrawals 0.0
Owner’s Equity 0.0

 

For online accounting software Once you have this done, you’ll use these numbers for your taxes, and if necessary, a Balance Sheet and Income Statement.

Trial Balances are all done automatically. Software is set up for double entry bookkeeping and makes the user enter amounts only once unless there is a manual journey but even then the system won’t let you save it until your Debits equal Credits.

For Xero

Go to Reports >> All Reports >> Detailed Reports >> click on Trial Balance. You can publish the report, which means that the report is saved with those particular numbers and can be printed or exported.

For Wave

Go to Reports >> Trial Balance. You can also export this to Excel, CSV or PDF.


If you want to get the full guide on How to Close Your Books for the year in one handy PDF, sign up below.

 

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How to Close Your Books: Expenses

| Bookkeeping, Business, Finances, Small Business, Tutorial

How to Close Your Books: Expenses

In the introduction of how to close your books, I talked about the importance of closing out and reconciling your business accounts for the start of the new fiscal year and why you need to do so.

In this post, I’ll be discussing step by step how to document your expenses from the current fiscal year and how to prepare them for the end of year wrap up. Let’s get started.

Step 1: Gather your expenses

Gather your expenses from this current fiscal year. We’ll be starting at the beginning of the year with your expenses from January.

Step 2: Set up your spreadsheet

Since not everyone has accounting software or perhaps has not kept up to date with their software throughout the year, I’m going to show you how to do this by hand, or at least in an Excel spreadsheet.

Create a new spreadsheet and include the following columns:

Date | Description | Reference | Source | Bank Account Dr, Cr | Category | GST Paid (or Sales Tax Paid)

I’ve made a sample spreadsheet for you to use and customize for your expenses, which you can access for free by signing up to the Bookkeeping Resources library and downloading the full How to Close Your Books PDF.

Step 3: Enter your expenses

Take a receipt and fill in the columns with the information from the receipt, fill out all the columns:

  • Date – Enter the date of the receipt when the purchase occurred.
  • Description – Enter the name of the company you purchased from. For example, if you purchased Facebook ads, you’ll record it as “Facebook.”
  • Reference – Here you want to record a purchase order number or invoice number that the receipt references. If you don’t have one, it’s ok to leave this field blank.
  • Source –  For this field, record where the money came out of. Was it your bank account, checkbook, PayPal, etc?

You should have a reference or a source per expense. You don’t need both, but you do need one or the other.

  • Bank Account, Debit or Credit – Here you want to record the amount of money that was debited from your bank account and/or credited to another account. I explain the different between these two options in my two previous posts What The Heck Is A Debit Anyway? and Credit- Love It Or Hate It
  • Categories – Here you want to record the type of expense. Was it advertising, shipping, bank fees? There are many expense categories to choose from.
  • GST Paid – Here you want to enter the tax you paid on your expense. In Canada, there are two taxes, so you may want to have two columns one for GST and one for Provincial tax. In the U.S., you can record the sales tax you paid on the expense, if any.

Once you’ve filled out these columns for the first expense, you need to repeat the process for all of your receipts from the fiscal year until all of your receipts are accounted for. Everything from the year goes into the same spreadsheet. Take it slow and go one month at a time.

But what about online systems? How do you enter expenses?

The good news is, if you want to set up an accounting system or start using accounting software, you can still do so.

For an online system like Xero:

Create an account with Receipt Bank and send all of your receipts virtually. Most of our receipts these days come into our email and Receipt Bank allows you to forward your receipts to a unique email just for you. You can even take a picture of your receipt, if you have one from a cash purchase with an app (available on both Apple and Android), and it will send it to your account automatically.

Receipt Bank takes care of scanning the receipt and gets it ready to publish to Xero. Once you’ve checked your receipts for accuracy and they’re set to the right expense account, you can set the program to automatically send receipts to Xero. It will even allow you to export your expenses as an Excel Spreadsheet or to PDF.

For an online system like Wave:

Shoeboxed is another system that takes care of receipts. It will scan your receipts and get them ready for export into Wave. With a click of a few buttons, you can watch all of your receipts turn into transactions inside Wave. It will even allow you to export your expenses as an Excel Spreadsheet, CSV, or PDF.

Once all your expenses are in for the year pat yourself on the back and treat yourself to a glass of wine because that was a lot of work!

And now that you know how to record your expenses, maybe next year you’ll do it year round so you won’t have to do it all in one go.

In part three of how to close your books, I’ll go over how to enter your invoices from the year. So come prepared with at least your first three months of invoices. 

If you want to get the full guide on How to Close Your Books for the year in one handy PDF, sign up below.



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How to Close Your Books: Introduction

| Bookkeeping, Business, Finances, Small Business, Tutorial

How to Close Your Books: Introduction

It’s almost time to ring in the new year but before we pop open the champagne, there’s a lot to do to close out your books for the year. There’s expenses, invoices and bank accounts to reconcile. So hold on to those champagne flutes and party hats. You’ll first need to get yourself organized.

If you start now, you won’t feel rushed or overwhelmed come the ringing in the new year. You’ll even save yourself the headache of scrambling to do the work at tax time.

Remember, tax filings in Canada are due June 15, though you have to pay your dues by April 30th. In the U.S., you’ll need to file by April 15th. And while those filing deadlines may seem like a long ways away, they always come sooner rather than later. I don’t want you to be stressed when they do! 

At the end of the fiscal year, you need to close out the business year to get ready for tax time as well as close out your accounts for the year. Most likely your fiscal year for your business follows the calendar year, so it’s best to start now before the year is over. All of your accounts have to be reconciled. You’ll want to know how much money you made and your expenses for the year. This information will all go into your tax returns, as well.


Want the tutorial of how to close your books in one easy-to-use PDF with free spreadsheet templates? Click here to access my Bookkeeping Resources library to get the entire How to Close Your Books series as a PDF.


You’ll also want to reconcile all of your “temporary” accounts (accounts like Sales, Expenses and Draws) so they are set to zero for the new fiscal year. When you close out and reconcile these accounts, it allows you to compare how much you made and spent during the year. This information is very helpful for year-to-year comparisons, too. It will help show you how financially stable your business is, how much you have to invest back into your business, or how much harder you have to work in the new year to grow your business. When you know this information, putting together a plan to get to that six-figure mark (or over it!) becomes a whole lot more tangible.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll show you how to close out your accounts for the year and help you get ready for tax time. I’ll discuss the specifics of expenses, invoices, and reconciliation of your accounts.

To get started, you’ll need to start gathering your expenses and invoices over the past year. You’ll also need to look at your business bank accounts including PayPal, Square, or the like. We’ll take it slow and I’ll show you how to go through one month at a time so you won’t be overwhelmed.

Next week we’ll start looking at your expenses. If you haven’t kept up with your bookkeeping throughout the year, or haven’t started, you’ll be just fine. Don’t fret. I’ll show you how you can get your finances in order. So to be prepared, gather your expenses for the first three months of the year. I’ll explain how to deal with them and get you started on the rest of the year’s expenses.

Get access to my Bookkeeping Resources library by signing up below.



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The Basics of Starting a Business Part 5: Online Shop

| Business, Business Basics, Small Business

LS_BLOGPOSTIMAGE_5

In this series on starting a business, I’m exploring the different types of businesses you can run, from Internet-based to brick and mortar and everything in between – all located in Canada. In each post, I lay out the various pros and cons for the type of business, as well as things you should consider. I do this through the lens of a fictitious business. This company is selling dog collars.

One of the easiest and quickest ways to set up shop is with an online store front. There are so many options to choose from these days that it can seem a bit overwhelming, but each allows you to start selling your wares in no time.

The biggest hurdle to starting your online shop is to figure out which platform to use. There are many different types to consider, and each one will have a set of features meant to help fulfill your specific needs as an online seller. But most can be split into two categories, an online marketplace or a stand alone shop. Each has their pros and cons.

Online Marketplace

The first type of online shop is an online marketplace. Etsy, Handmade at Amazon and iCraftGifts are examples of this type of shop. These marketplaces allow you to set up an individual store selling dog collars within a larger marketplace of stores selling other various items.

These are usually the easiest to set up with minimal fees and often come with a recognizable household name, so your potential customers will have already heard of the platform. But beware of what that reputation is. If you are hand making your dog collars, figure out which platform has the best reputation for handmade goods. You may want to go with that platform.

Each platform will have different fees, such as listing fees, transaction fees or setup fees. For example, Etsy charges $0.20 per listing and 3.5% of each sale. There is no setup fee. For iCraftGifts, there is a one-time setup fee of $25 and depending on the number of listings you want, there is a tiered membership fee that is charged per month between $5 and $15.

The biggest downside of these platforms is being lost in the larger marketplace. There are over 1.6 million active users on Etsy, for example, and over 35 million items for sale on the platform. It’s easy to see how your dog collars could get lost in the crowd.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Has name recognition

Cons

  • Easy to get lost in the crowd

Your Own Website

Another option is to open a shopping page on your own website. Services like Shopify, Big Cartel, Big Commerce and Squarespace allow you to do this.

Each of these types of services gives you control over the look and feel of your shop and allows you to have your own domain name. The pricing structure is usually a monthly fee along with transaction fees. So evaluate each of your options carefully.

For example, Shopify’s base plan starts at $29 a month, plus you’ll be paying 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, as well as an additional 2% per transaction if you don’t use their payment system. Big Cartel has a free plan, but you can only list five products. Their base plan starts at $9.99, and you can only list 25 products.

Because these options are for a stand-alone shop, this can be both a blessing and a curse. You won’t have the same problem of getting lost in a marketplace like Etsy, but you’ll have to work harder to get your dog collar business out in the world because it most likely doesn’t have name recognition.

You will have more control over how you market your goods. If you hand make your dog collars, you’ll have the luxury to describe how you go about your process and craft the message of your items. With a marketplace, your items are usually associated with what that service’s message is, which you don’t control.

Pros

  • More robust online shopping solution

Cons

  • Monthly fees
  • No name recognition

What to Consider

Even if you’ve decided between having a shop within an online marketplace or a stand alone shop, there are other factors to consider.

You’ll need to evaluate what features you need to have for your online store. Is it easy inventory management? Shipping management? How robust the transaction reporting is? The ability to sell physical and digital products? Each of these platforms will handle these areas in different ways, or not offer features that you want or need. So pay close attention to what they offer with which level of service to make sure you’re getting what you need out of the service.

You even may end up starting with one solution just to get going then transition to another shop platform over time. Or you may end up having multiple online shop channels to capture the different types of dog collar shoppers.

No matter which platform you end up choosing, the most important thing is that you promote and market your shop. Because if no one knows about it, you’ll never have any sales.

These are the basics of starting an online shop to help you decide if it’s the right type of business for you and your business endeavors. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. Read the series from the beginning.

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The Basics of Starting a Business Part 4: Direct Sales

| Business, Business Basics, Sales

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In this series on starting a business, I’m exploring the different types of businesses you can run, from Internet-based to brick and mortar and everything in between – all located in Canada. In each post, I lay out the various pros and cons for the type of business, as well as things you should consider. I do this through the lens of a fictitious business. This company is selling dog collars.

Direct Sales

More than likely you’ve attended a direct sales party, more commonly known as a house party. Think Tupperware. This is where the host invites friends over for snacks and drinks and a sales consultant pitches you a product, which you can see and feel in person before buying.

But today, it’s a lot more than just Tupperware.

House Parties

According to the Direct Sellers Association of Canada, nearly 800,000 people are direct sales consultants. They sell everything from loose tea to kitchen utensils. Using our fictitious business, it’s possible to sell dog collars in this way.

Selling dog collars as a sales consultant for a direct sales company offers a lot of perks. You can set your own hours. You earn a commission on sales, and you’ll likely get free training and join a team of consultants. They’ll be your support system and help push you with some friendly competition over who can sell the most dog collars.

It’s an easy business to start as you don’t necessarily need sales experience, but you do need to believe in the product you’ll be selling. Because if you don’t believe in it, you’ll have a lot of dog collars on your hands.

When researching which company’s products you want to sell, you’ll need to know the commission on sales, what support or training they offer, how much initial investment you would have to make and what level of sales are expected per month. To get started, you would purchase a certain amount of product at wholesale cost to bring to your house parties for demonstration purposes and potential sales. You’ll be able to sell some of those items during your parties, but most likely you’ll be placing orders for your guests. If you sell out of your demo products, you’ll need to order more. But that’s a good sign.

Customers like direct sales, too. They get to see and feel the dog collars before they buy in a relaxed environment, such as friend’s home. Accompanied by free drinks and snacks, it can feel like a social gathering instead of a sales pitch.

What to Look out for

If you want to sell dog collars or another product via direct sales, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Depending on the company and product, commission rates will vary, but most start at around 10%. Some companies will encourage you to build a sales team and for each new sales consultant you recruit, you’ll receive a higher commission on your sales, as well as a cut on your recruit’s sales. There may also be trips and prizes involved. This is called multilevel marketing.

You’ll also want to know how much investment you’ll need to put in up front. Some companies require you to purchase a “starter kit” with a small amount of product which usually starts around $99 and how much product you’ll need to buy each month. You also need to know if any product you purchase will be refundable if you don’t sell it.

There are some downsides to being a direct sales consultant, too. Customers who attend house parties can often feel obligated to buy product and friends can feel pressured to buy from other friends on social media. So be careful how you approach your sales and try not to alienate your friends.

And because you can earn more money by recruiting others to your sales team, this is another area where you can alienate friends. While a friend may want to be supportive by asking you questions about your direct sales business, it doesn’t mean it’s an open invitation to try and recruit her.

Start Slow

Like any business, it’s best to start off slow and grow your sales and your sales team as time goes on. You’ll need to market beyond your friend circle to do so. They’re a great entry point, but a good sales consultant will look far beyond the people they know to make sales.

Another thing to keep in mind is what customers want. You may want to sell dog collars because you believe in them and think they’re a superior product, but if your friends and clients don’t have dogs or already have quality dog collars, you’ll need to reflect on if dog collars are really a winning product.

Perhaps your customers really love tea or are always in need of a new kitchen utensil or appliance. If you see a pattern of need, pursue the company that offers products that meet that need and choose a company whose products are in demand.

Pros:

  • Flexible schedule
  • Low entry point

Cons:

  • Can alienate friends
  • Can be harder if emphasis is on multilevel marketing
  • Can be pushing unwanted product

If being a direct sales consultant sounds good to you, you can research the members of the Direct Sellers Association of Canada (DSA) to see which company would be a good fit.

These are the basics on becoming a direct sales consultant to help you decide if it’s the right type of business for you and your business endeavors. Next time we’ll explore another business iteration.

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Blog Comments: An Easy Way to Market Your Business

| Business, Creatives

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When you’re busy working in your business, it’s easy to forget about the importance of networking. But what if you could make new connections on a regular basis without leaving your workshop or home office?

A recent blog post by Sage Grayson reminded me of the power of blog comments. Grayson challenged her readers to build their business audience by developing a commenting practice on favorite and relevant blogs.

I know the power of this exercise. A few years ago, as a knitter who sold patterns, I noticed that participating and commenting on knit-a-longs really made a difference for my bottom line. I saw more comments on my content, and more people were making my patterns. I really loved seeing photos of my designs that people all over the world had made.

My blog interaction was targeted and mindful. By building those relationships through comments, I saw more product sales.

Commenting on blogs can be an important part of your marketing plan.

Can you increase your online audience this month? If you’re ready to make some new connections, here’s what to do:

  1. Find the right blogs for you. If you’re still figuring out the best blogs for your target market, think about the blogs you enjoy keeping up with on a regular basis — your favorites. Choose five blogs to comment on regularly.

Having trouble finding five solid blogs to start with? If I’m feeling stumped, I visit my favorite coach’s blog and see who else has been commenting. Many are other businesspeople who have been keeping up with the same group of professionals for some time, and have built a rapport with that small business community.

  1. Choose the most relevant posts. For each blog you decide to follow, find the latest, greatest post. A link roundup or giveaway post is a bad choice; instead, find a post that has plenty of hearty content to discuss. This is where you’ll want to join the conversation!
  1. Create a simple spreadsheet to track which blogs you’ve commented on. Include a link to the post, the date you commented, and any notes about whether you’d visit the blog again, or what you like about it. Keeping this spreadsheet prevents you from falling down an Internet black hole when you’re checking up on blogs.
  1. Comment! Set aside time each day to comment on your five chosen blogs. Check each comment thread a few days or a week later to keep up with follow-up discussion. About an hour each day should do — don’t get carried away!

So, what makes a good comment? If I was commenting on a knitting blog, I couldn’t just say, “That’s pretty!” I need to provide value through my opinion, advice, or questions. If the blogger asked about a color combination, it was a great opportunity for me to chime in and respond, “I think those colors do look good together!”

In other words, show you actually read the blog post. Superficial comments create a one-way conversation. Other readers will skim right over your comment, thinking you’re a scammer.

  1. Keep track of your results. Note any wins in your spreadsheet. The first goal is to see replies to your own comments, which meant your thoughts struck a chord with someone!

Then pay attention to the names you see commenting on your own blog. Have you “met” these people through comments you’ve left on other blogs? If a blogger I’ve commented on then comes to my website to leave a comment, I consider that a home run! It means you’re starting to build relationships and increase awareness of your business.

Should you subscribe to comments?

When I comment on blogs, I don’t usually click the option to receive replies by email. I already have enough in my inbox! Instead, follow along with your spreadsheet to ensure you’re participating on your own time, instead of feeling compelled to check in each time your email dings.

But if you discover a blog you really love, where you’ve developed a relationship with the blogger or community and visit often, it might be worth subscribing to comments.

Have you had success commenting on blogs in your industry? Comment to let us know what you’re doing and how your experience has affected your business!

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