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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

Analyzing the Many Benefits of Starting a Home Business in 2019

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There are many people these days that would love to run their own business but many have no idea where they should start. Most are put off right away but the thought of raising enough money to start a business. However, what many people fail to realize is that in today’s digital era it has become far easier and cheaper to start a business because you can start it from home.

Whether you want to provide a freelance accountancy or writing service, set up an online retail business, or even start your own drop shipping business, working from home is an ideal solution. You can enjoy many benefits when you set up your business from home and this includes keeping costs down to a minimum. In fact, more and more people have been able to start their own business these days thanks to modern technology and the online revolution, which is why has become so viable for many people.

Some of the Key Benefits You Can Look Forward To

There are many fabulous benefits that you can look forward to when you set up your own business from home. As mentioned earlier, one of the key benefits is that it is far cheaper to run a business from home than to worry about paying for business premises, business rates, bills, building maintenance and other unnecessary costs. All you have to do is set up a home office, which can be done very cheaply by investing in high quality used furniture and equipment. This immediately makes it more financially viable to set up your own business.

A second benefits is that you won’t have to worry about traveling to and from work every day, which will not only save you a lot of time and hassle but also a lot of money in gas or public transport fares. You can simply have breakfast at home and then stroll to your home office, settle down, and begin work for the day. This is a great way to enjoy working for yourself and improving your work life balance.

The sheer number and types of jobs you can do from home is yet another benefit you can look forward to. Many people these days set up as freelancers working from their own home office or set up a small business from home. You can consider all sorts of options ranging from online sales through to freelance writing, web design, accountancy services, and more. All you need to do is consider your skills and interest so you can better determine the type of home career that will suit you.

If you want to enjoy the benefits of being your own boss and working from home, setting up your home business has never been easier. Thanks to high speed internet technology and the online revolution, there are all sorts of jobs you can do when you set up a home office. What’s more, you have a far better chance of making a great income if you put in the work.  

The Financial Benefits of Starting Your Own Business from Home

You must also bear in mind the many financial benefits that come with setting up your own business from home. You can benefit from minimal upfront costs because you don’t have to worry about things such as paying for business premises and associated costs. You can also benefit from big savings when it comes to travel, as you won’t have to go back and forth from the office each day.

In addition to the many savings you can make by working from home, you also have to consider the boost in income that you can look forward to. When you work for yourself, you have the ability to boost your income dramatically by putting in the hard work and commitment necessary. This means that you can look forward to a far better quality of life for you and your loved ones as well as being able to enjoy far more financial freedom. Many people spend years working for someone else and still find themselves on a low salary at the end of it all. However, when you work for yourself you have the ability to more or less set your own income based on the amount of work you are prepared and able to put in.

Improving Your Future by Setting Up Your Own Home Business

With so many benefits to look forward to, it is very easy to see how working for yourself from home could help to improve your future. You can then look forward to not only the flexibility and freedom of being your own boss but the chance to enjoy a brighter and more exciting future doing something that you actually have an interest in.

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Entrepreneurship

5 Office Decor Must-Haves to Make Your Home Office or Workspace Pop

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When you work from home, you need to have a nice place in your house that is yours, which is also secluded from other noise and distractions. At the same time, you also want to make this an area where you can work and enjoy your atmosphere.

The same holds true for employees and professionals that have their own cubicle or workspace as well.

If you are looking to spruce things up and make your workspace more enjoyable, then you my friend, have come to the right place. Let’s jump straight to it. Below you’ll find the best recommendations to turn your office from drab to fab with four office must haves.

To kick things off, let’s take a look at what my home office looks like today! For more pictures and guidance on how I set up my home office, be sure to check out the full article here.

Now, let’s move on to five helpful decor tips that you can start using to improve your own workspace!

Office Must Haves #1: Natural Light

The modern trend is shifting toward spaces flooded with natural light. The effects of natural light both energizes and inspires your employees. It’ll increase their productivity and happiness. We’re talking large, clear windows with the curtains drawn back.

Evaluate your present sources of light. Open your curtains or shutters. Do they allow enough light to come through? If not, and if you can’t replace the windows, consider changing to full-spectrum light-bulbs.

Full-spectrum bulbs offer up the same spectrum of light as our sun. You can choose wavelengths that imitate morning, afternoon, or evening sunlight to create an awesome office space.

#2 Plants and Flowers

In addition to natural light, plants and flowers will lend your industrial office an organic quality. Don’t settle for fake flowers. Regardless of what you’ve been told, they won’t give your office an organic feel.

Stick with the real stuff. Potted plants work wonders. If you water them every few days, you’ll have them for years.

Bouquets of flowers are far better, but they can be expensive. You can always compromise. Buy fresh flowers during the summer at farmers markets. They’re much less expensive than florists.

For the rest of the year, keep a few potted flowers around. Lilies are our recommendation.

#3 Interactive Whiteboard

Whiteboards are paramount in today’s communal workplaces. They offer your staff a place to throw around ideas and think through strategies. If you leave your written work on the board between sessions, your staff will unconsciously continue developing ideas.

It’s also a simple way to keep all your business’s ideas in one place. It’s much easier and less time consuming than dozens of back-and-forth email chain letters. With whiteboards, you can take in the entire scope of your strategy in one glance.

Don’t worry, they’re not hard to find. Here are a few suggested online stores for office goodies (outside of Amazon):

Next, let’s talk about your furniture choices.

#4 Comfortable Chairs

No, we’re not talking Barcaloungers. We’re talking office chairs, seats, and stools. The only reason to furnish your office with uncomfortable chairs is that you want to push people to leave. That works fine in cafeterias and coffee shops.

For everything else, think ergonomically. When your visitors or your staff sit in a comfortable chair, their stress levels decrease. This leads to an increase in their productivity.

Comfortable chairs are also a sign of prestige. They work the same as a stylish desk or a gorgeous bouquet of flowers. They signal people that you care about more than the function of your space.

You also care about the people in it.

#5 Add Some Minimalist Art and Photos

Have you ever been to a home of office where there are pictures and photos all over the place? Sometimes it can get quite overwhelming.

There is nothing wrong with having motivational messages or pictures of your loved ones around you, but there are nice ways to set this up as well.

Try to stick with only a few art frames or photos on your desk, and make sure they have a nice frame and compliment the area around you.

It also couldn’t hurt to add some motivational posters to your walls for those days that you need an extra work ethic pick-me-up.

Motivational_Posters_Zac_Johnson_Office

What’s Next?

Now that you’ve discovered our office must haves, it’s time to start shopping. But, before you do, evaluate your present office style. Look at your color schemes and overall style. Then you can match your new goodies and your old.

Was this information helpful? Then come to pick through our library full of other helpful articles.

So long and good luck!

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Entrepreneurship

Pros & Cons of Offering Small Business Benefits Packages to Employees

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If you are planning to expand your business from a one man company, to a multi-person organization, you will likely need to start thinking about employee benefits and how you might be spreading the best packages across your employees and staff. As much as I love the concept of being a sole-entrepreneur, if you want to grow and scale your business in size, this is just another process that is required to have in place.

Wondering if you should go the extra mile for your employees?

79% of employees would choose a benefits package over a salary increase. But a small business may have as much to lose as it has to gain by offering a benefits package.

Below, we’re taking a look at the pros and cons of offering a small business benefits package to employees.

Pro: Attracting Quality Employees

The most obvious advantage of offering employee benefits lies in the quality of candidates it helps attract.

A flat salary actually has limited use to the modern worker. It may help pay for basic living costs, but it leaves many of the big stresses of life up in the air. A single look at life insurance quotes will be enough to show you what your employees are up against when they’re trying to cover everything with only a salary.

Add the medley of other life expenses, and it’s clear to see why employees are getting pickier about who they work for. By offering a benefits package, you can attract employees who are more serious and selective about their careers.

Pro: Giving Something Back

“But I already pay a salary!” we hear you cry.

Think of it this way: is a salary enough compensation for the many long hours of their life an employee spends at your company? After all, we only live once. A salary represents the minimum possible compensation for the raw labor an employee provides.

In truth, most employees provide a lot more than that.

Offering benefits can give something back to the people who spend that time bringing success to your company. It also shows them that you value them as individuals with personal lives and circumstances.

Pro: Driving Motivation and Retention

A business needs more than warm bodies to become a success. It needs employees who are engaged and motivated. Motivated employees will work hard, innovate, and even boost sales.

Extra incentives are a great tool to add that extra spark of motivation. Employees with access to benefits feel they’re there for more than the “daily grind”. Not only are they less stressed, but they’re also more positive about the company they work for.

Over time, that means more productivity and less attrition through employees moving on to better opportunities.

One of the benefits of offering company health benefits to employees should be clear: fewer sick days. Your staff might take more days off for smaller problems, but the upshot is that those smaller problems won’t progress into more serious conditions.

Pro: Creating Brand Ambassadors

Even for megacorps that have achieved the status of a household name, marketing makes up a huge percentage of their business spend. For small businesses, it can bleed them dry.

So, the value of free marketing is clear. But free promotion doesn’t begin and end with social media. Have you considered the value your employees have as brand ambassadors?

People expect employees to be a little cynical about the company they work for. It’s a real achievement to turn that cynicism into positivity. A benefits package could lead to your employees singing the praises of your company.

Positive word-of-mouth about your company then starts with your employees – and ripples out through their social circles and online presence.

This is also something Sarah Lahav, CEO of SysAid, had to think about. Founded in 2002, the company has grown their customer base to over 10,000 companies, while also serving locations in more than 140 countries around the world. This simply wouldn’t have been possible as a single-person company, but being a brand ambassador and an image for her company, Sarah continues to see daily improvements and growth within the company.

Con: The Visible Cost

The additional cost of offering benefits isn’t always welcome for a small business.

On top of that, a small business also won’t have a lot of buying power to negotiate cheaper rates. For a small business, benefits might turn out to be a luxury you can’t afford.

Benefits can also obscure your cash flow. The price of insurance can fluctuate over time. Any benefits you offer based on reimbursement are unpredictable.

It’s vital for a small business to control its cash flow. Providing benefits is often undesirable for small businesses, as it introduces uncertainty.

Con: The Hidden Cost

The full cost of offering benefits isn’t obvious at first glance. We’ve outlined the obvious costs, but what about the hidden costs of a benefits package?

Offering benefits sucks up a wealth of administration time. You might even need new hires capable of delivering the details of your benefits scheme. That heaps extra costs on top of the obvious cost of offering benefits.

As you offer more benefits, your administrative time increases. For a small company, those costs can run out of control. This isn’t an option for some small businesses that struggle to control their cash flow.

Con: Legal Pitfalls

When you enter the insurance game, you’re also entering a legal minefield.

Making a misstep along the way could leave you subject to legal action. That could be a deathblow for a business operating on thin margins.

Legal action against your company will soak up time and money. It’ll also drag your reputation through the dirt, making it harder to attract quality employees in the future. It could even damage your brand.

You could take extra care to make sure this doesn’t happen, but that’s yet another expense on top of the cost of providing benefits.

Con: Finding the Benchmark

Information is one of the most powerful weapons you can have against your competition. But it can be hard to figure out what sort of benefits package your competition has on offer.

In contrast to offering a flat salary, that makes it tough to decide where your benefits package should stop. You’ll need to put some serious work into finding out what candidates in your industry are searching for.

If you lowball your benefits package, the accompanying reduction in salary will drive candidates away. Overextend, and you risk bankrupting your business. You need to find the balance that keeps you competitive.

The Small Business Benefits Package: Yea or Nay?

The exact situation of every business is different, so we can’t tell you whether a small business benefits package is right for you. But we’ve given you enough info that you’re now equipped to decide whether it’s the way to go for your business.

Looking for more business advice? Check out our top podcast episodes.

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Hi, I’m Zac Johnson

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