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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

5 Effective Methods to Goal Setting for Business Growth and Success

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Have you made resolutions to get your business to the next level?

Are your goals SMART enough?

Are they inspiring your employees to take action?

Goals are the observable results of achievement. Goal setting is the process of deciding what you want to achieve, identifying the required resources, and developing an action plan.

If you have yet to set your business goals, consider the benefits of goal setting below.

Five Top Benefits of Goal Setting

As an entrepreneur or business owner, you shouldn’t ignore the importance of goals setting to your business. Goals are important in providing direction and focus to grow of your business.

This is especially true for anyone who might be working from home or stuck in a cubicle all day. When you are working on your own and not told exactly what to do, you need to be setting your own goals and the determination to get things done.

Whether it’s writing down such goals on a piece of paper and then checking them off, or using a mobile or online application, it’s all about getting your actions into motion to simply get more done.

Other benefits and methods to accomplishing this include:

1. Inspire and Sustain Progress

The importance of goals setting lies in the ability of goals to inspire and sustain focus. When your business sets SMART goals, your employees know what to do and they can gauge their performance.

As they achieve the smaller steps, they grow in confidence to work towards achieving bigger results. This results in the constant growth of your business. Your employees will grow in their skills and get motivated to keep improving as they see results.

2. Using Video to Increase Productivity

With so many different productivity tools and applications on the market today, it’s important to know where your strengths lie when trying to increase productivity or motivating others.

Through the use of an online creation tool like mysimpleshow, the ability is there to create interactive and engaging whiteboard animation videos to better portray your message.

You can see a clear example of this in the video example below.

At the same time, there are many personal benefits for creating your own whiteboard video to accomplish more and hit your goals.

As mentioned on the simpleshow website, creating such animation and explainer videos aren’t just for marketing and teaching others, they are also great for inspiration, mind-mapping, and hitting your own goals as well. In addition to goal setting, they’ve also seen massive engagement improvement with school students and professionals when delivering information in an audio and visual platform.

Their site went on to say, “Our illustration-style simpleshow explainer videos are most effective if you”:

  • need to tackle complex tasks
  • want to explain difficult topics in a simple and digestible way
  • have to explain almost inexplicable information

Before taking on your next big project, be sure to consider your options with laying everything out in video form, and them working your way through it and sharing it with team members along the way.

3. Increase Productivity and Profitability

When setting goals for your business, you’re aiming at getting more work done and increasing your earnings. Setting goals defines what exactly you want to achieve, and how you’ll get there.

The process also includes identifying the needed resources, skills, and competencies. With this knowledge, you can train your employees or hire skills, which keep your business on track for consistent growth.

Setting goals also improves the decision-making abilities of the organization. The information you collect during the goal-setting process helps you identify where the business is at and chart out a path for the future. Informed decisions will eventually result in business growth.

4. Measure Progress

Your business can’t ignore the importance of goals in measuring progress. Good goals are measurable both in the time it takes to achieve them and the results achieved.

Monitoring is a crucial part of goals setting through which your business measures how far it is at achieving its goals.

Here, the business identifies areas for improvement as well as weaknesses. This way, your business can adjust accordingly to fit into the changing economic times, and you can set bigger goals if you have achieved the previous ones.

This same task can also be accomplished by using the Seinfeld Strategy as well.

To measure progress in your achievement of goals, you need to build a monitoring system such as recording the progress of a task.

5. Collaboration Among Employees

Your employees will work together more when they have a common goal. They can share resources, expertise, and insights. Eventually, your business grows from the harmonious working of the employees.

Goal setting should be a regular practice for your business. You can learn more about how goal setting can improve your business’ performance on this blog.

Six tips that were laid out in this article for improving productivity and collaboration with other employees are:

  1. Stretch your outlook.
  2. Know the key steps of the goal-setting process.
  3. Create a nimble goal development team.
  4. Gain buy-in.
  5. Communicate, communicate, then communicate some more.
  6. Remember to celebrate achievements.

Grow Your Business In 2019

Goal setting builds the foundation of your business, which employees refer to for inspiration and direction. The above benefits of goal setting should provide you with enough reasons to set goals for your business.

However, the most important task in this whole process is making sure you have a goal in place and are taking action to achieve it.

As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have. I’d love to hear from you and see how we can start working together.

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Entrepreneurship

Top Business Expenses (and Deductions) Entrepreneurs Need to Know

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The internet has made us all potential entrepreneurs.

And the dream and reality of owning a business is one of the most liberating feelings that you can have. After all, there’s a reason why 27 million people are entrepreneurs.

While there are many benefits to owning your own company, there’s also plenty of crucial information you need to keep in mind. This is especially true when it comes to finances.

Every business is different, and so are the many ways they can save money, write off expenses, and funnel money into different companies or investments. The best way to approach any of these topics of concepts, is to first consult with a financial advisor or attorney. However, there are many resources out there to learn from before you next legal and accounting meeting.

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about common types of business expenses (and deductions). Be sure to read through the list below, take a few notes, and also have some questions in mind for the next time you meet with your financial and legal consultant.

Expenses

Whether your company has one employee or a whole team at your disposal, your business is going to have ongoing expenses. Here are some you need to keep an eye on that many people forget to consider.

Utilities

Just like when living in a home, it’s impossible to avoid utility expenses when running your business. While all of us are accustomed to paying our utility bills, business owners sometimes focus too much on tangible costs (equipment, rent, etc.).

Gas, electric, and sewage expenses are all staples when it comes to budgeting for business utilities. Additionally, you’ll need to consider your Internet service expenses, including Internet service and server hosting (if necessary).

Advertising/Marketing

You could have a product or service that shakes the foundation of your industry. But, it won’t mean much if nobody knows about your business. Whether it’s through Facebook ads or an extensive multimedia campaign, you’re going to have to allocate money for marketing as an entrepreneur.

Even if you’re a smaller, local business that doesn’t have the need for large-scale advertising, you still may need to employ the services of an SEO specialist to help get your name on the front page of Google.

If you forego including this in your budget, most of your other work will go unrewarded.

Office Supplies

As previously mentioned, entrepreneurs often focus on tangible expenses when conducting their financial planning. But, these often include larger purchases, such as furniture, computers, and company vehicles.

Office supplies, however, are a necessity that can quickly add up to hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars.

Common items that can add to the cost include:

  • Filing cabinets
  • Office chairs
  • Printers/printer ink
  • Staplers
  • Pens/pencils
  • USB thumb drives

Necessary office products can include intangible goods, as well, such as software or monthly fees for necessary applications.

Insurance

To avoid going bankrupt in the event of a catastrophe, it’s imperative as an entrepreneur to have the proper insurance coverage.

In general, liability insurance and property insurance are vital policies to budget for. For example, liability insurance will help protect you financially if someone (an employee or non-employee) experiences bodily harm on your property.

If a fire/natural disaster were to occur or if someone steals property from your business, your insurance coverage will help you cover the costs.

Deductions

Luckily, with expenses come deductions. While they vary depending on the type of company that you run, there are many most entrepreneurs can take advantage of.

For anyone running a business online, purchasing a domain name and web hosting are two examples of common deductions.

Legal Fees

When many people think of the term “legal fees”, they often picture the inside of the courtroom. They may even imagine a consultation with a lawyer.

But, legal fees can stem from many more scenarios, including accounting, bookkeeping, and consultations.

Fortunately, however, you’re able to deduct these expenses as a business owner.

But, the cost must be reasonable for the supplied service. For example, you can’t overpay a friend for their legal services and then expect to write off the entire expense.

Home Office

If you happen to run your business from home, you’ll be able to secure a significant tax deduction. This is calculated by determining what percentage of the property in square footage is used for business.

There is a catch, however: this space must be used exclusively for business.

In other words, if you have a desk in your bedroom that you use for your company, you won’t be able to claim this space as your home office.

Furthermore, there needs to be a legitimate reason to have this designated space other than as an area for productivity. Thus, if you’re not meeting with clients or conducting administrative tasks, you may not be able to get the deduction you want.

Travel

For business-related trips that require an overnight stay, you’ll be able to deduct various expenses when filing your taxes.

These can include:

  • Housing
  • Airfare
  • Meals
  • Auto expenses
  • Luggage and shipping

This is especially useful when traveling over long distances or for an extended period of time. When it comes to international travel, though, there are different rules to keep in mind.

Entertainment + Meals

This is perhaps one of the most popular deductions that entrepreneurs file for. But, this doesn’t mean that every meal or outing can result in a tax deduction.

The expenses must be necessary and business-related, and there must be a chance of an actual payoff. In other words, going to a casual lunch with friends is not a deductible expense.

Going to a bar for food and drinks with a client, however, often is. You can also deduct meals/entertainment that you provide for clients or employees on your own property.

Understanding Types of Business Expenses Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about the different types of business expenses in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making sure that you can scale your business as fast as possible.

Want to learn more about how to run your business efficiently? Make sure to check out this article.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Inspirational Entrepreneur Quotes to Keep You Inspired Through 2019

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Entrepreneurs are all of the buzz lately. Put on a television station like CNBC or visit any of the top tech or news sites online, and you will likely come across a whole set of new entrepreneurs that you’ve never heard of — yet are likely on their way to making millions of dollars or creating new technology that could change the world.

The truth is — entrepreneurs are inspiring other entrepreneurs all the time!

As a great, we often aren’t jealous of each other, and instead learn and congratulate others for what they have accomplished. Just like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates used to battle it out and “steal” from companies like IBM, it’s all about who can create the best product for their customers, and build a revolutionary and world changing brand.

To keep the inspiration alive and well, here are some of the best entrepreneur quotes to keep you striving for even more success in 2019.

You Must Step Outside Your Comfort Zone to Find Business Success

Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but only a few have what it takes to put in the blood, sweat and tears to make such a difficult life change. Along with the many benefits of having your own business, there are many stressors and responsibilities as well. It’s one thing to want to start a business of your own, it’s another to actually go through it.

The important thing to remember during this process, is that you are ultimately responsible for your own successes and failures as an entrepreneur. This can all be summed up into an entrepreneur success quote quite well.

“Rich people think big. Poor people think small.” – T. Harv

T. Harv Eker is a personal success trainer, author of “The Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” and helps people overcome their fears and succeed, eventually. With many entrepreneurs having partnership and potential failure as one of their biggest fears, learning from his own stories of success and failure is a great way to prepare for your own.

YOU are the Business YOU Create. Do your match your brand?

The internet has completely changed the way someone can build a brand or business on the internet these days. Anyone can grow a following on social media, start a blog, or even run affiliate marketing offers and make money from the comfort of their own.

A perfect example of this can be seen through the massive success that Gary Vaynerchuk has seen over the years. He’s always had that entrepreneur spirit and was driven for success, but his only following and brand wasn’t given to him. Yes, he did have WineLibrary and got to grow his parent’s retail wine business, but he leveraged that and did much more.

The key takeaway here is that Gary is Gary… and the way he acts, is how he’s always been. This can all be summed up nicely in a quote from him below.

“You have to understand your own personal DNA. Don’t do things because I do them or Steve Jobs or Mark Cuban tried it. You need to know your personal brand and stay true to it.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

As someone who has been in the industry for more than 20 years now, I can tell you there are many ways to make money online. Some are perfect, legit, and professional — while others are downright scammy, illegal, and wrong. I’ve personally always went with the path of running my business right and being able to sleep at night.

Can the same be said about your brand and how others might see your business or marketing practices online?

Without a Dream or Passion… is there really a point?

Why do most people want to have a business of their own, or become an entrepreneur? Often times, it’s because they don’t want to work for someone else, and are willing to put in even more hours and lead a more stressful (yet rewarding) life to get what they want.

This ultimately comes down to the individual dreams and passions that many of us have.

If you’ve ever had a chance to read about Walt Disney and his path to eventually creating Disney, it’s quite the wild ride. After multiple failures and leveraging a whole world of debt, he finally found massive success with Snow White. In the end, he was following his dream and aiming for what was important for him.

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” -Walt Disney

Today, Disney is one of the most well-known brands in the world today. They’ve even gotten so big and successful, that they’ve been able to acquire the Marvel and StarWars brands. Today, Walt Disney is still a huge inspirational to millions around the world today.

Your Success and Business isn’t Just About YOU

As entrepreneurs and business owners, there are many benefits and perks that come along with it. However, when you get to benefit from these perks in life, it’s often better to share with others who are less fortunate — and more rewarding at the same time.

This not only applies to entrepreneurs, but pretty much everyone in the world. It’s great to get fun and cool things in life, but that is only momentarily. When you start helping others, then you really get to benefit from your own actions.

This is also something that many bloggers, site owners, and entrepreneurs get to experience daily when they create a product or service that helps change the lives of others. This is just a perfect reminder that the best businesses in the world serve a purpose, and aren’t just to make a quick buck.

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” – Mandy Hale

Many Hale started off as a personal blogger, and is now a New York Times best-selling author. Through her content and messages to people around the world, not only has she been able to make a brand and business for herself, she’s also been able to inspire and help millions as well.

This is Your Only Chance and You Only Have One Life!

Time is a scary thing. It’s something you can’t get back, and something you can never buy more of.

Just take a look at Steve Jobs. He was worth mega-billions, but he also didn’t have the best of health at the end of his life. His time was up, and money couldn’t do anything for him.

While he did change the way the world uses mobile devices and the technology around, he also wasn’t known as the nicest person. He did change the world… but if he could look back at life again, would he do it the same way?

Marie Forelo has a nice quote that can relate to this, and many more of us in different ways.

“There has never been and never will be another you. You have a purpose – a very special gift that only you can bring to the world.” – Marie Forleo

In short, this is the life you live and before you know it… your time will be up too.

Whether it’s for personal pleasure, business goals, or simply finding a new direction and meaning in life — keep telling these words to yourself and make the most of what life has to offer.

How to Best Stay Motivated throughout 2019

A common theme across many of the quotes and entrepreneurs listed above, is that business and success in life isn’t easy. There are plenty of highs and lows that we all need to work through.

While getting inspired by others who have already walked through these paths, it’s important to also make sure you keep an eye on the competition those in the industry around you.

By learning from others and staying in touch with the industry you are currently working it, it’s only going to make you a better entrepreneur in the process.

Never stop learning, and keep sharing your success and inspiration with others!

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