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Entrepreneurship

Must-Have Business Tools and Resources to Grow Your Startup Online

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Have a business of your own, or currently working towards starting one of your own? Great work!

Whether you’ve already started or just in the pre-planning process, you will likely have noticed that the world of online and offline business has changed a lot over the years. Not only is it now easier to get started with a business of your own, it’s also more saturated and flooded than ever before — which also mean more competition, headaches, day to day tasks, and overall management of your business to get that upper edge.

In short, if you want to survive and compete against the best, you will need a little help from some of the top tools, services, solutions, and guides on the internet today. To help with this process, today we are going to take a look at some of my favorite tools and resources that I use and recommend for every business owner.

Web Hosting and Site Development

I first started created websites back in the mid-90s, and everything was straight HTML back then. I even had one site that was made up of more than 10,000+ pages of HTML — all done by hand (no programming at all, and also powered by 16 dedicated Dell servers). This would all seem like a nightmare today, as WordPress and shared hosting has made the process of creating a website or blog extremely easy and affordable. There are NO technical skills required to start a website these days — all it takes is a click of a button and walking through a few simple steps. Best of all, WordPress makes it possible to have a great looking site without ever needing to touch a line of code or be a graphic designer.

When it comes to web hosting, you have more than enough to choose from. In short, if you want to go live with your first website or blog and need to grab a domain name, it’s best to go with a shared hosting plan — usually under $5 to $10 per month. I personally recommend Bluehost, as they are one of the largest and most trusted hosting brands in the world today. They are also the #1 hosting solution, as recommended by WordPress.

As a reader of ZacJohnson.com, all new sign-ups to Bluehost through this blog will receive a free domain name, 60% off hosting plans and also have SSL and WordPress set up on their new site for free.

Email Lead Generation, Mailing and Call to Actions

No matter what type of business or brand you are running, email and content marketing are key. If you have a website or blog, it’s crucial to have a website loaded with great content, but also call to actions to get your audience to take action and engage.

At the same time, you also need to make sure your content is working for you 24/ — specifically bu getting new subscribers to your mailing list daily. Here are two of (my favorite and) best ways to implement these strategies into your business right now.

  1. OptinMonster – You’ve likely seen popup subscribe and call to action forms online. They’re also likely to have been created and running through the power of OptinMonster (created by Syed Balkhi). This tool not only provides the best popup and newsletter subscription forms online, they also have full integration with WordPress to create call to actions and split testing throughout all different areas of your site.
  2. AfterOffers – If you are looking for a solution to increase your mailing list, while not having to sign a long-term contract, AfterOffers is probably a great option for you. This platform has a network of hand-selected sites that promote your newsletter list to their audience and provide only 100% opt-in subscribers delivered in realtime right to your list. Check out their site and see how you can start building your mailing list immediately.
  3. Constant Contact – Every business will need to have the ability to manage their email lists, send out to subscribers, and also have the necessary tracking features and tools to scale in the process. That is exactly what you will find with Constant Contact. You can sign up for a free trial at their site and see what email marketing and list management opportunities they have for your business.

Once you have the power of email marketing working for your business, you can scale it virtually forever. For this to work best, you will need to have solid call to actions through your site, a sales funnel, an autoresponder series, and also putting in the time and effort to set up new email campaigns and traffic sources.

Everyday Business Tools and Email Usage

Of all the tools and resources that business owners use daily, email is probably the most common. A lot of people like to spend hours per day on social media, but if you were to track my time, I think I spend most of it within Gmail — and making all of the new business connections and deals happen!

Gmail out of the box is great in itself, but there are many great tools and applications that can be added in as well. For example, I get a TON of emails daily about advertising and guest blogging on various sites. Thanks to the use of ‘Canned Responses‘, I only need to write a response email once, then click a couple of buttons to have that same template email sent in response to each request.

I’m also a huge fan of using custom email signatures. Right now I’m using Wisestamp, which instantly adds my profile photo, contact info, social profiles and site information to all of the emails I send out daily. This easily adds up to thousands of new people getting a better first impression of myself monthly through email, versus just seeing an email with the signature of “Zac Johnson”.

Lastly, Gmail and Google are great for all of the “suite” tools they have to offer such as Google Docs and Sheets. I use both of these applications daily, and best of all, not only are they free, they are also all stored in the cloud and accessible right within your account.

All in One Maintenance Software

As an entrepreneur or site owner, you are likely running many different aspects of your business. Whether it’s emails, invoicing, revenue reports or tracking your latest ad campaign, you likely have a lot of files all over the place and not many ways to connect each of them together. This might not seem like a huge problem now, but over the course of a year it could add up to hundreds of hours of wasted time.

Instead of having to open and create individual files within Excel and Word, sending out emails through Gmail, and then managing and tracking progress through phone calls and writing notes down on paper… it can actually all be done and tracked seamlessly through the power of CMMS. The ultimate dream of bloggers, affiliate marketers, and business owners is to be able to run their business and day to day operations from anywhere. Having access to an application that brings all of your daily tools and applications together is one of the best ways to move towards that goal

With more people using their mobile devices to run their business and check for updates, a mobile-powered CMMS can help anyone get more work done.

The Treasure Chest of an Entrepreneur is Always Growing!

As you can imagine, every entrepreneur and site/business owner likely has their own preferred set of tools and methods for running their own business. Today I’ve listed just a few of my favorite tools and methods for improving your day to day operations. While I’ve only scratched the surface, I’ll keep updating this article and resource as I find more time.

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Entrepreneurship

Time is Money: How to Maximize Both as an Entrepreneur or Business Owner

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Are you wearing too many hats? Being pulled in a hundred different directions? Having trouble completing tasks because new things keep coming up?

You’re probably a business owner.

The hours you spend working are as important as the money made in that hour. Your time is money; wasted time results in wasted cash. You can change this with some simple time management hacks.

Your productivity depends on your time management. Once you master this, everything in your business will become simpler. Keep reading to learn how to make the most of your time as a business owner.

Invest in Great Employees

Many business owners find themselves hiring employees far too often. A high turnover of staff means the time you take to plan and to train goes to waste.

The trick to saving time on hiring is making the right hires in the first place. And, making the job so great they don’t want to leave!

You can do this by creating an Employee Development Plan. Any employees that you truly value and depend on should have a path for growth. They should have benefits and perks that make working for you worthwhile.

When recruiting new hires, be very detailed in what you’re looking for. Weed out the lazy, unenthusiastic applicants from the hard working and passionate candidates.

Once you hire great employees who love working for you, they can take a load off your plate. Remember to ask for their feedback and input on new ideas. You trust them to do a good job, so you can delegate tasks to them.

Track your Time

Spend a week recording everything you do from morning to night. You can do this with Google Calendar or on paper. Write the tasks you work on each hour or the free time you spend.

After one week, review your log.

How many tasks did you switch between in any given hour? How many tasks comprised of you fixing other people’s work? Did you miss any deadlines or lose out on any profit?

You may realize you’re working an extreme number of hours per week. Or, that you’re struggling to move projects forward because you aren’t focused enough.

This problem is very common for business owners. It gets solved by automating and delegating tasks.

Automate Tasks

Thanks to the magic of technology, we don’t have to manually complete many tasks. If you haven’t leaned into automation, now’s the time to start.

Automation is when you let technology automatically complete tasks without your constant approval. You set up the rules and expectations, then the frequency of the automation. After that, your load is a little lighter.

Here are some tasks automation can help with:

  • Email marketing
  • Assigning inbound leads
  • Following up with networking peers
  • Offering free content to attract leads
  • Identifying the hottest leads
  • Tracking accounts receivable

The list goes on and on. Did you know that 80 percent of top-performing businesses use automation for marketing? 80 percent of these highly successful people can’t be wrong.

Look at your business’s tasks and systems. Where could automation help you?

Delegate Tasks

Not all tasks can get automated; some should get delegated. As a business owner and entrepreneur, you’re used to doing everything yourself. “If you want it done right, do it yourself” right?

Wrong.

Most of the time, “done is better than perfect.” You need to decide which tasks demand your attention and which ones your employees can do.

This might mean training your top employees on new roles and duties. This is great because it shows them you believe in them and it lightens your workload.

Look back at your time log for the week. Find at least three things that you can delegate. Start the process of transferring those responsibilities to someone else.

This will give you more time to do the things only you can.

Work in Batches

Jumping from one task to another in completely different realms is awful for productivity. Switching gears all the time ruins your focus and lowers your energy.

Instead, start working in batches through calendar blocking.

Schedule your day to complete all like-minded tasks in the same block of time. That could mean spending all of Monday morning working on payroll duties. Or, all of Monday afternoon updating the company website and planning new components.

Consider using an app for all your scheduling needs, like this company. Every employee can download the app and have access to all work-related things.

By staying in the same realm of tasks for a larger chunk of time, you can focus completely on that umbrella of tasks. You can use your time more efficiently and get more done.

Get Organized

Look around your office. Is it messy? Is there clutter everywhere, especially on your desk?

This is a subconscious productivity-destroyer. How can your mind think clearly when your space feels confused and chaotic? Both you and your employees are less productive when the space is messy.

Start by cleaning your personal office. Your desk should only have things you use every day or make you happy. File loose papers or shred them.

Declutter the floor. Boxes should get put away and objects returned to their home in the office. Hire a cleaner to deep clean the space.

Then, set new expectations for your staff on office cleanliness. Like tools need to get put back after use and don’t leave rotten food molding in desk drawers.

You may need to buy some organizational systems to keep this momentum going. Get some low-maintenance plants to put around the office and lift the mood. Make the office a calm and clean place to work for everyone.

If Time is Money, Are You Spending Yours Wisely?

As a business owner, you’re supposed to be hustling and grinding. But, you can do more by working smarter, not harder.

Boost your productivity and profits by getting better at time management. Put systems in place that save you time and let you focus on important things. Your time is money; making better use of it will result in higher earnings.

For more tips on being a business owner, productivity, and making more money, check out this article.

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Entrepreneurship

The Ultimate Guide To Streamlining Your Accounts Payable Process

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Let’s face it: the process of improving and streamlining your accounts payable process can feel like you’re drowning in a sea of busywork. It’s also one of the most important, yet overlooked, processes within a business that can actually make you go from negative to positive in monthly ROI. This is especially true with online businesses, as many of use are using various automation, SEO, and marketing tools that have built-in recurring monthly costs… but how many of them are we actually using, yet still paying for?

This is something I occasionally talk about on the blog, as it’s a great reminder to always keep an eye on not just what your monthly expenses are, but also what they are actually being spent on. We all watch the incoming and outgoing money within our businesses and brands, but many of us will forget to actually look through our credit card and banking statements to see who is billing what. Soon enough, you could have thousands in monthly recurring bills, and not even realize that you aren’t utilizing such services.

It’s not just affiliate marketers and bloggers that have to deal with these types of issues, it’s businesses of all sizes — and it really comes down to the various payment processors, invoice tracking, and tax software being used. The truth is that an inefficient accounts payable system costs you in time , money, and anxiety. Between chasing down your tax information, waiting for invoices to be verified, and frantically paying bills at the last second, things will slip through the cracks.

You won’t just lose money. Your company’s reputation will suffer as a result. You might lose important business relationships that you’ve worked hard to build.

It’s time to make a change for the better.

Read on to learn how to improve your current accounts payable procedures.

1. Look for Patterns in Your Payments

The first thing that you need to do when you’re ready to make over your accounts payable process?

Think about how you can get out in front of upcoming payments.

The best way to do this is to look for payment and invoice patterns, and then create a matching schedule of accounts payable.

For example, do you know that your supplier sends you a bill on the first Monday of every month? If so, you know that this payment to your suppliers is a fixed cost every month. You should schedule an automatic payment, since it will likely be in the same amount each time.

Additionally, figure out who you sent the most money to, the most frequently.

This will help you to keep better track of your spending pattern, and know who to prioritize when it comes to getting payments out on time.

One more thing you might discover during this review process?

The fact that you’re not exactly spending your company’s money in the most effective way. Taking a closer look at things won’t just help you to spend less time each month on accounts payable.

There’s also a good chance that it will help to save you some serious money.

2. Define Your Invoice Payment Strategy

You know that paying invoices on time and in the correct amount is an essential way to maintain excellent relationships with freelancers and suppliers alike.

However, if you’ve noticed that your accounts payable process seems to be missing the mark when it comes to invoices?

You need to make a change — and fast.

First of all, decide when you’ll pay the invoices that are sent to you. Is the goal simply to get them paid as quickly as possible? Or, is it better to send payments at a set date?

Determine the payment method that you use. Will you write them a check, or do they prefer to get their money sent to them via systems like PayPal? And which method of payment works best for your business?

You should also make sure that you have a strong record-keeping system in place when it comes to your invoices. That way, even if something does go wrong, you’ll be able to track exactly when and how it happened.

One final piece of often-overlooked advice?

It’s simple: make sure that you have the right employees working on accounts payable.

Is now the time to create a specific accounts payable department, as opposed to assigning invoices to “whoever has time” to complete them? What short of qualifications do the people working in accounts payable have? What sort of training program have you implemented?

These are certainly all things to consider — and to speak with your team honestly about.

If you need to hire someone new, then the cost of bringing them on will likely pay for itself in the time the rest of your team members will earn back.

3. Consider a Payment Automation System

Of course, if you’re truly serious about improving your current accounts payable process, then you’re likely going to need to invest in a payment automation system.

Look for a system that allows you to make payments in a variety of currencies and payment methods. You should also decide on an option that helps you to eliminate as many rejected payments as possible.

The goal here is to find a platform that helps you through every part of the AP process — including making early payments.

Also, ensure that the payment automation system you choose helps you to keeps things secure and compliant. The right system will scan potential payees and identify potentially fraudulent or problematic companies.

Finally, make sure that you take a close look at the transaction fees of any payment automation system you use. Remember that fees are usually charged on a per-transaction basis. So, cut down on the number of individual payments if possible.

Looking to learn more about what makes a great payment automation system?

If so, be sure that you check out the Tipalti website, to learn how their platform could save up to 80% of your accounts payable team’s time.

Once you’ve implemented each of these solutions and accounts payable processes, you may finally be at zen with your personal and business finances.

Ready to Overhaul Your Accounts Payable Process?

We hope that this post has helped you to understand what it takes to truly improve your accounts payable process — and eliminate errors in the process.

Of course, tackling accounts payable is just one smart of what helps you to streamline your time at the office, and get more out of every day.

You need to ensure that you have a strong digital and print marketing strategy, that you employees feel motivated within the work environment, and much more.

Keep on coming back to our blog to score even more tips on how to take your company to even higher heights.

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Entrepreneurship

How to Pick the Best Business Credit Cards for Startups

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You obviously know about the existence of business credit cards, and you may have even heard about the benefits they give to companies, but you’re still worried about getting one for your startup. If that’s that the case… don’t be. I’ve personally used credit cards for my business expenses for over 20 years now, and as long as you stay on top of your payments, they are perfectly fine.

Right now, you may think you’re playing it safe by avoiding the plastic, but in reality, you’re missing out on a ton of great deals that could help your business grow and become more successful.

There are a variety of credit cards that you could choose from, and each card offers their own unique trademarks that you could use to your advantage. Let’s have a look at some of the best business credit cards for startups.

The Best Business Credit Cards for Startups That You Should Use

Depending on your type of business, you can gain some serious perks to help you level up your business game. Keep reading to find out more.

Decide How Fast You’re Paying the Monthly Bill

The first thing you need to worry about is the amount of time you think you will need to take care of your monthly statements.

Some companies can pay off their fees in full every month like clockwork. Others may only be able to pay off the bare minimum in order to keep things rolling. There are cards for both types of businesses.

If you know how to make the full payment each month, you should go for a card that gives you longer grace periods and a lot of rewards so you can capitalize on all of the benefits.

Charge cards are also handy for those who always pay in full. These little guys give you the money you need, as long as you’re able to pay it off within a 30-day time frame.

If you’d rather take your time paying off the card, then get a credit card that has a low-interest rate or a 0% APR to allow you time to pay everything off without any backlash.

As for my own personal and business expenses, I’ve always been a fan of American Express, and have been a customer of theirs since 2003. You can see a few of my other preferred business credit cards for entrepreneurs and bloggers as well.

Think About Operating Costs

One of the biggest reasons (if not, the biggest) why you want a credit card is to take care of the operating costs that come with every business.

Look through the spending log and see which of your operations takes up the most of your money, and then find a card that gives you benefits directly related to those operating costs.

For example, if you spend a lot on customer service, get a card that offers bonus points on spending in this category. That way you get returns as you spend cash.

Credit Expenses

The last thing that you should be worried about when choosing a credit card is are the credit expenses.

Different cards offer different costs on their monthly and annual fees. More often than not, this is directly related to the number of benefits and perks you get from using it.

The general rule of thumb is that the more basic the card is, the less you’ll have to pay in fees, and vice versa. It’s up to you to decide if you’re going to take the thrifty approach or if your business can fork the extra cash for the bonuses.

If you want to learn more about what card would suit your company best, check out this website for a list of credit card reviews and other things that could help your small business soar.

The One Stop for All Your Startup Business Needs

Now that you know about some of the best business credit cards for startups, you can make moves to grow your business! When starting to apply for different cards online, you may find better success with lower level credit options and stay away from American Express until you have a decent credit score or business history. If all of that already looks good, then apply away!

As mentioned, I’ve been making money online and helping businesses grow their reach and exposure for well over two decades now. If you ever have any questions or are in need of services, just send me an email and I’ll be sure to give you the answers that you need.

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Hi, I’m Zac Johnson

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