20 Free Tools Your Small Business Should Be Using Today

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Although your small business needs a healthy amount of software to conduct operations, it’s not necessary for you to spend a fortune on web-based products. In our comprehensive testing of business and consumer software, we’ve come across dozens of incredible and free solutions that can help you get the job done. We’ve tested free tools in almost all facets of business — from email marketing to endpoint protection to project management.

To find out what these 20 free tools are, click here.

5 Low-Cost Franchises You Can Start for as Little as $4,000

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As an entrepreneur, you are done working for other people. You want to follow your dreams, set your own goals and dive into projects you are passionate about.

But starting a business can expensive, risky and at times lonely. To mitigate those problems, we did a deep dive into 2017’s Franchise 500 List to find opportunities that are affordable, have proven growth potential and provide tremendous support.

Check out this list of five franchises you can start in your area for less than $4,000.

For the rest of the full list of amazing franchises click here.

Why Food Truck Businesses Are Revving Up

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Spring is finally here, and that means more and more people will be out and about. That means it’s a great time for people in the food industry — specifically the food truck business.

Today, food trucks are the fastest-growing channels in the food service industry. In 2012, food truck revenue was $650 million, however that number has since skyrocketed. Today, food truck revenue has reached a whopping $2.7 billion.

So why are food trucks so popular? If you’re a first-time entrepreneur, a food truck can be a much more affordable option than an actual restaurant. And for less than $100,000, someone can launch a food truck business that can make anywhere between $250,000 to $500,000.

Flexibility, diversity and communication also make food trucks an attractive entrepreneurial venture. Food truck purveyors have the ability to quickly and easily test new concepts, menu items and recipes. They can also cater to various tastes in different locations.

To learn why food truck businesses are revving up, check out Food Truck Operator’s infographic by clicking here.

For more great articles like this one check out our source entrepreneur.com

Investment Guides for Experts of All Levels

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As small to medium size business owners many times we are only thinking about investing in our businesses, our family and our fun, however, we truly need to diversify our income. When we are ready to slow down the pace during our best years we need to create ways to bring in various streams of income. Some of the ways we can do this is through real estate (rental properties), investments, affiliates, and other businesses you may invest in where you are the silent partner and others are responsible for making the business grow.

Here is a great guide for experts of all levels by Clark Howard.

Jacqueline H. Waller
Jacqueline

Jacqueline Waller, the ATL Connector is the Founder/President of Connecting Atlanta. Ms. Waller, a sales and marketing professional with nearly 20 years of experience, has assisted numerous businesses in meeting goals and objectives for their revenue, market share and profits. She also believes in the power of your ‘network is your net worth’, being a social butterfly, she has connected with hundreds of people whom she has brought into Connecting Atlanta where they have launched their businesses, moved from struggling into sustainability and provided opportunities for others to connect to build! Her background extends from collections, finance, underwriting, and information technology.

The Small Business Series: How to Conquer Email Marketing a Crash Course – Part 2

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Me, Jason Bourne (and you)Solution Provider

Email marketing is the Jason Bourne of online marketing: somebody’s always trying to kill it. It can’t be done.

Well, Jason Bourne and I have something in common.  I’m a killer too, just with email marketing strategy as a Constant Contact Authorized Local Expert.

No, it doesn’t mean I have guns and knives and physical combat experience!  That’s not what an email marketing strategist is all about. It’s about using the right tools and techniques to craft and deliver your email marketing campaigns.

When I was first introduced to Constant Contact I was simply overwhelmed and struggled trying to use the tool. It was difficult.  I didn’t know where to start and so I didn’t use it, even though I was paying for it.

So, what about you? Have you ever had a tool that could be very useful in growing your business but it was too complicated to use? Well Constant Contact is not that complicated, especially when you have an expert like Lisa Ann Landry to hold your hand. Lisa Laundry

Despite various innovative ways of marketing including social media, mobile apps, digital marketing and so much more, email marketing still remains the number one way for businesses, organizations, & marketers to keep in touch with their consumers, members and clients.

Yet, we know that not everyone is a marketer and that not everyone has experience with email marketing. Would you like to learn How to Create Stand-Out Subject Lines and Creative Content in the Small Business Series: How to Conquer Email Marketing a Crash Course – Part 2

– Create engaging subject lines

– Research subject lines with an online tool to increase engagement

– Create calls to action to drive action

– Designing the body of your message

– Using video, pictures, and buttons

– Sharing on your social site

We will go through a series of discussions, activities and demonstration. Lisa Ann will show you exactly how easy it is to use your new account to help you produce engaging and effective emails, in less time but that produce actual results for your organization.

On July 22, 2017 Connecting in Atlanta and Paradigm Shifts Training and Development are hosting the Business Series: How to Conquer Email Marketing a Crash Course – Part 2. It is a few hours of immersion for you to focus on your business. Would you like to join me?

If so, please click the register button and I’ll send you all the information! Part 2

Can’t wait!

Lisa Ann Landry
Social Media Strategist
Lisa Ann Landry headshot1

15 Inspirational Twitter Accounts Every Entrepreneur Should Follow

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There are approximately 317 million active Twitter users worldwide as of January. With such a large number, it can be tough to figure out the right people to follow. But don’t worry, we’ve done the hard work for you. We’ve pulled together a list of 15 inspiring Twitter accounts for any aspiring entrepreneur.

From Richard Branson to Randi Zuckerberg, these 15 successful people share everything from motivational quotes to business ideas to some of their favorite books, podcasts and tech gadgets.

Check out 15 inspirational Twitter accounts every entrepreneur should follow here.

Rose Leadem
Rose Leadem is an online editorial assistant at Entrepreneur Media Inc.

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The Small Business Series: How to Conquer Email Marketing a Crash Course – Part 1

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Man funeral - cartoon

Email marketing is dead, right?

If that’s true why are there over 2.586 billion email users worldwide, including both business and consumer users?

You’re probably like me and check your emails several times a day on your smartphone. We’re not the only ones. At least weekly 72% of U.S. online adults send or receive personal emails via smartphone.

No e-mail marketing is not dead. Are you convinced yet? Maybe this is more persuasive. Marketers consistently rank email as the single-most-effective tactic for awareness, acquisition, conversion, and retention. Likely that’s because email is almost 40x better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter.

E-mail Marketing’s ROI  Pig with money - cartoon

Maybe you’re thinking you can’t afford an email marketing service. The ROI of email marketing is that for every dollar spent in 2014 was $24.93 and today its $41. Additionally, the ROI is almost double that of search advertising and better than any other direct marketing channel.

Why don’t you come learn how to put e-mail marketing to use? You’re invited to join Lisa Ann Landry so that you can Learn How to be Unstoppable with Email Marketing. I’ll be demonstrating using the Constant Contact email service provider but the strategies you learn can be applied to any of your e-mail campaigns.

A Live Demonstration 

In the presentation you see a live, guided demonstration on the tools and features inside Constant Contact. In this time-efficient, highly practical 2-hour session, you will learn the basics so you can get going with your own marketing campaigns.

It’s a relaxed, friendly educational session – bring your questions!

Wondering if this is right for you?

Question mark - cartoon

This 2- hour seminar is suitable for anyone new to Email Marketing, new to Constant Contact, or who just wants a hand learning how to use our products.

On June 10, 2017, I am delivering training hosted by Paradigm Shifts Training and Development and Connecting Atlanta. It’s The Small Business Series: How to Conquer Email Marketing a Crash Course – Part 1 a two-hour program for you to focus on your business and how email marketing fits in. It’s a few hours of immersion for you to focus on your business. Bring your laptop! Here’s a Constant Contact link to get signed up with your account.

Due to the deep nature of the work, there are only 20 spaces available. (They’ll fill up fast.)

Would you like to join me?

If so, please click the register button and I’ll send you all the information!

Can’t wait!

P.S. If you know a friend who has been confiding in you that they are ready to get clarity about email marketing tools such as Constant Contact – then you have my full permission to forward this email to them. I’ll take great care of them!

Lisa Ann Landry
Social Media Strategist

Lisa Ann Landry headshot1

The Shocking Reality of Scaling an Online Business

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It’s two-thirty in the morning, and you’ve woken up from your sleep to feel the bedside table vibrating ever so slightly. A notification on your phone is making a white shadow dance across the wall next to your bed. You know you should go back to sleep, but on impulse, you grab your phone and flick your groggy fingers across the touch screen.

It’s a Gmail notification bubble. Normally this could wait until later — who the hell has time to respond to emails at two-thirty? Then, you read the subject line of the email:

Subject: You just received $1,297

You realize this is not spam; it’s real. Holy shit! You just made almost $1,300 without lifting a finger.

What would it be like to have this happen every single night? How would it change your life to know that you have a business that pays you automatically every single day, whether or not you decide to “clock in” for work that day, no matter what country you’re in, for the rest of your life?

How would your life change if you had the ultimate security of knowing that you had an army of salespeople working around the clock to make you money and you didn’t have to pay them a dime?

To some people, this might sound like science fiction – or worse yet, a sleazy late-night infomercial. If you’re rolling your eyes all the way to the back of your head right now, I get it. Trust me, I do. I thought the same thing. Then I discovered the power of starting an online business. And I can tell you one thing: All this, and much more, is possible.

Want to learn how I created the life of my dreams (and nearly unlimited income) building online products? Of course you do.

I’ll admit, the above description of online business is a bit “hypey.” Full disclosure: I took it straight from one of the sales emails for my premium training on building an online business, Startup from the Bottom. But despite being a bit over the top in its approach and copywriting, for the most part it’s true. Online business is where it’s at.

For the rest of the article, click here.

20160718164101-unspecified
Daniel DiPiazza is the founder of Rich20Something, where he teaches young people how to start businesses that they care about and live happier lives.

Read Jeff Bezos’s Inspiring Letter to Shareholders on Why He Keeps Amazon at ‘Day 1’

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‘Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.’

The following is the latest letter to shareholders from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

“Jeff, what does Day 2 look like?”

That’s a question I just got at our most recent all-hands meeting. I’ve been reminding people that it’s Day 1 for a couple of decades. I work in an Amazon building named Day 1, and when I moved buildings, I took the name with me. I spend time thinking about this topic.

“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”

To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.

I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?

Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision-making.

True Customer Obsession

There are many ways to center a business. You can be competitor focused, you can be product focused, you can be technology focused, you can be business model focused, and there are more. But in my view, obsessive customer focus is by far the most protective of Day 1 vitality.

For the rest of the article you can view it here.

The Founder of LinkedIn Says Too Many of Us Are Using the Site All Wrong

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While it could seem natural to decline a Facebook friend request from a stranger, the dynamic on LinkedIn is much different.

If you use LinkedIn, you’ve undoubtedly received invitations to connect with people you’ve never met or may never meet in your life.

The more you stay on the site and the more you gain prominence in your field, the more requests from strangers you’ll get.

And while it could seem natural to decline a Facebook friend request from a stranger because you don’t want to give them access to your personal information and photos, the dynamic on LinkedIn is much different.

You may think that because it’s a social network for professionals, you should accept all invitations and see which of them stick.

It’s the approach that Keith Ferrazzi, the author of Never Eat Alone and a management consultant to Fortune 100 companies, took for years. Not long ago, Ferrazzi wrote in the 2014 updated edition of his best-selling career guide that he had the privilege of meeting LinkedIn’s founder, Reid Hoffman, and discussing the site with him.

“‘You’re doing it all wrong, Keith!’ That is, in essence, what Reid Hoffman told me when I told him how I was using LinkedIn,” Ferrazzi writes.

Here’s the gist of what Hoffman told him, as written in Never Eat Alone (emphasis ours):

“LinkedIn is a closed network, and for a very simple reason: For the network to have value as an introduction tool, the connections need to have meaning. It’s up to you to vet each and every request so that if someone comes to you and says, ‘Would you introduce me?’ you’re in a position to evaluate whether the connection would be of mutual benefit.”

You can read the rest of the article here.

RICHARD FELONI
Richard Feloni is a strategy reporter at Business Insider. Richard joined BI in Oct. 2013 and covered the ad industry up through the Super Bowl. He previously reported in Brooklyn and wrote for alt-weeklys and newspapers in Boston, his home… Read more.

10 Marketing Lessons from Hollywood’s Biggest Box Office Successes – By Sujan Patel

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A “box office success” doesn’t earn that accolade by pure luck or merit. The main reason people flock to see a new release in such big numbers is largely due to marketing – a lot of it.
A heap of cash goes into driving awareness of a Hollywood release and securing its success – nearly as much, if not more, than goes into producing the film itself.

It should follow, then, that there are lots of lessons to be learned from how the studios choose to spend that money.

Here are 10 marketing lessons you can take away from some of Hollywood’s biggest box office successes.

1. Monsters University (and Swiffer)

In the run up to the release of the second installment in the Monsters Inc. franchise, Monsters University, Pixar was responsible for some pretty awesome marketing strategies: The “Monsters University” website, for one. The film is close to four years old, but the site’s still well worth checking out.

Designed to replicate the style and features of a genuine American university website, it’s an excellent example of movie marketing that merges the fantasy of the film into reality (something we’ll see another example of and discuss in more detail later).

What I wanted to talk about right now however, is this 30-second ad.

It’s a collaboration between Pixar and Swiffer – a household cleaning brand owned by P&G.

Now, you might wonder what a cleaning product brand has to do with Monsters University. That would be a fair question. And the answer would be… absolutely nothing.

And that’s the key.

By thinking a little outside the box, Pixar and Swiffer found a way to collaborate that promoted both brands equally. The concept is simple – the Monsters make a mess and a Swiffer product comes to the rescue – but the execution ensures the ad succeeds in driving awareness of and excitement about both products (as much as anyone can get excited about a cleaning product, at least…)

The Lesson
To check out the lesson and the rest of the article click here.

Sujan Patel owner of #Mailshake

FINANCIAL FOCUS – Don’t Get Swayed by These Investment “Myths”

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Over time, you will run into various suggestions for investing successfully. Yet upon closer inspection, many of these ideas turn out to be “myths” – which could cause you trouble if you treat them as solid advice. Here are five of these myths, along with some reasons for ignoring them:

You can find the next “big thing.” All of us probably wish we could have “gotten in on the ground floor” of Apple or Microsoft or some other tremendously profitable company. And who knows? There may indeed be a similar other business out there, waiting to take off. But it’s almost impossible for anyone to identify these potential “blockbusters.” There’s really no shortcut to investment success – you need the patience and discipline to invest for the long term, and you need to build a portfolio that’s appropriate for your goals and risk tolerance.

Investors should always seek to “buy low and sell high.” This is actually good advice – or it would be, if were possible to consistently follow it. But how can you know when the market is “high enough” to sell or “low enough” to buy? You can’t – and neither can anyone else. Trying to time the market rarely works. A more appropriate strategy is to invest regularly and to diversify your holdings among stocks, bonds, government securities and other vehicles, based on your goals and risk tolerance. Diversification can help protect you against market downturns that primarily affect just one asset class. Keep in mind, though, that diversification can’t guarantee profits or protect against all losses.

It’s always smart to buy investments that have performed well recently. You may have read, in investment prospectuses, that “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” These words are certainly true; just because an investment has had a good run recently, it doesn’t mean its success will continue indefinitely. You need to evaluate each investment on its own merits and on how well it fits into your overall portfolio.

International investing is too risky. In today’s global economy, it may be more risky not to invest some of your portfolio internationally. U.S. stocks represent less than half of global stock market capitalization – so by stopping at our borders, you are depriving yourself of a world of opportunities. It’s true that foreign investments carry some special risks relating to currency fluctuations and political and economic events, but you can help contain this risk by confining your international holdings to a relatively small percentage of your portfolio. A financial professional can suggest the best ways for you to add a global element to your investments.

You need a lot of money to make a lot of money. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a sizable amount of money to invest right away. But the world is full of people who started investing with small sums and ended up having enough money to enjoy the retirement lifestyle they had envisioned. If you’re just beginning to invest, put in as much as you can afford each month; as your income goes up, increase your investments. As an investor, time is your greatest ally.

Sticking to a consistent investment strategy can help you write your own investment tale – and you can leave the myths to the storybooks.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

marques-young

CLAIMING THE SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH CARE TAX CREDIT

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If you’re a small business owner with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees you may be eligible for the small business health care credit.

WHAT IS THE SMALL BUSINESS HEALTH CARE CREDIT?

The small business health care tax credit, part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010, is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations provide health insurance for their employees. Small employers that pay at least half of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage under a qualifying arrangement may be eligible for this credit. Household employers not engaged in a trade or business also qualify.

HOW DOES THE CREDIT SAVE ME MONEY?

The tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees’ premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers). The tax credit is highest for companies with fewer than 10 employees who are paid an average of $25,900 or less in 2016 ($26,200 in 2017). The smaller the business, the bigger the credit is. For example, if you have more than 10 FTEs or if the average wage is more than $25,900, the amount of the credit you receive will be less. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit was 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers such as charities.

Note: The credit is available only if you get coverage through the SHOP Marketplace.

If you pay $50,000 a year toward workers’ health care premiums–and you qualify for a 15 percent credit–you’ll save $7,500. If you save $7,500 a year from tax year 2013 through 2016, that’s a total saving of $30,000. And, if in 2017 you qualify for a slightly larger credit, say 20 percent, your savings go from $7,500 a year to $12,000 a year.

IS MY BUSINESS ELIGIBLE FOR THE CREDIT?

To be eligible for the credit, you must cover at least 50 percent of the cost of single (not family) health care coverage for each of your employees. You must also have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) and those employees must have average wages of less than $50,000 a year. This amount is adjusted for inflation annually and in 2016 was $52,000.

Let’s take a closer look at what this means. A full-time equivalent employee is defined as either one full-time employee or two half-time employees. In other words, two half-time workers count as one full-timer or one full-time equivalent. Here is another example: 20 half-time employees are equivalent to 10 full-time workers. That makes the number of FTEs 10, not 20.

Now let’s talk about average wages. Say you pay total wages of $200,000 and have 10 FTEs. To figure average wages you divide $200,000 by 10–the number of FTEs–and the result is your average wage. In this example, the average wage would be $20,000.

CAN TAX-EXEMPT EMPLOYERS CLAIM THE CREDIT?

Yes. The credit is refundable for small tax-exempt employers too, so even if you have no taxable income, you may be eligible to receive the credit as a refund as long as it does not exceed your income tax withholding and Medicare tax liability.

CAN I STILL CLAIM THE CREDIT EVEN IF I DON’T OWE ANY TAX THIS YEAR?

If you are a small business employer who did not owe tax during the year, you can carry the credit back or forward to other tax years. Also, since the amount of the health insurance premium payments are more than the total credit, eligible small businesses can still claim a business expense deduction for the premiums in excess of the credit. That’s both a credit and a deduction for employee premium payments.

CAN I FILE AN AMENDED RETURN AND CLAIM THE CREDIT FOR PREVIOUS TAX YEARS?

If you can benefit from the credit this year but forgot to claim it on your tax return there’s still time to file an amended return.

Businesses that have already filed and later find that they qualified in 2014 or 2015 can still claim the credit by filing an amended return for one or both years.

Don’t hesitate to call if you have any questions about the small business health care credit. And, if you need more time to determine eligibility this year we’ll help you file an automatic tax-filing extension.

ESTIMATED TAX PAYMENTS: Q&A

Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. This includes income from self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, and rent, as well as gains from the sale of assets, prizes and awards. You also may have to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax being withheld from your salary, pension, or other income is not enough. If you do not pay enough by the due date of each payment period you may be charged a penalty even if you are due a refund when you file your tax return.

How do I know if I need to file quarterly individual estimated tax payments?

If you owed additional tax for the prior tax year, you may have to make estimated tax payments for the current tax year. The first estimated payment for 2017 is due April 18, 2017.

If you are filing as a sole proprietor, partner, S corporation shareholder, and/or a self-employed individual, you generally have to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when you file your return.

To see the rest of the article please visit VAAS Professionals.

Written by Steve Julal of VAAS Professionals

Steve

VAAS Professionals, LLC
325 Edgewood Avenue, S.E
Atlanta, GA 30312
www.vaasprofessionals.com
(404)223-1058

SHOULD YOU FILE AN EXTENSION ON YOUR TAX RETURN?

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If you’ve been procrastinating when it comes to preparing and filing your tax return this year you might be considering filing an extension. While obtaining a 6-month extension to file is relatively easy–and there are legitimate reasons for doing so–there are also some downsides. If you need more time to file your tax return this year, here’s what you need to know about filing an extension.

WHAT IS AN EXTENSION?

An extension of time to file is a formal way to request additional time from the IRS to file your tax return, which in 2017, is due on April 18. Anyone can request an extension, and you don’t have to explain why you are asking for more time.

  • Note: Special rules may apply if you are serving in a combat zone or a qualified hazardous duty area or living outside the United States. Please call the office if you need more information.

Individuals are automatically granted an additional six months to file their tax returns. In 2017, the extended due date is October 16. Businesses can also request an extension. In 2017, the deadline for most businesses (whose tax returns were due March 15) is September 15th (October 16 for C-corporations).

  • Caution: Taxpayers should be aware that an extension of time to file your return does not grant you any extension of time to pay your taxes. In 2017, April 18 is the deadline for most to pay taxes owed and avoid penalty and interest charges.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF FILING AN EXTENSION?

As with most things, there are pros and cons to filing an extension. Let’s take a look at the pros of getting an extension to file first.

Pros

1. You can avoid a late-filing penalty if you file an extension. The late-filing penalty is equal to 5 percent per month on any tax due plus a late-payment penalty of half a percent per month.

Tip: If you are owed a refund and file late, there is no penalty for late filing.

To check out the rest of the tips go to VAAS Professionals.

Written by Steve Julal of VAAS Professionals

Steve

VAAS Professionals, LLC
325 Edgewood Avenue, S.E
Atlanta, GA 30312
www.vaasprofessionals.com

LAST MINUTE FILING TIPS FOR 2016 TAX RETURNS

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Any accounting, business or tax advice contained in this communication, including attachments and enclosures, is not intended as a thorough, in-depth analysis of specific issues, nor a substitute for a formal opinion, nor is it sufficient to avoid tax-related penalties. If desired, we would be pleased to perform the requisite research and provide you with a detailed written analysis. Such an engagement may be the subject of a separate engagement letter that would define the scope and limits of the desired consultation services.
Are you one of the millions of Americans who hasn’t filed (or even started) your taxes yet? With the April 18 tax filing deadline quickly approaching, here is some last minute tax advice for you.

1. Stop Procrastinating. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. It takes time to prepare accurate returns and additional information may be needed from you to complete your tax return.

2. Include All Income. If you had a side job in addition to a regular job, you might have received a Form 1099-MISC. Make sure you include that income when you file your tax return because you may owe additional taxes on it. If you forget to include it you may be liable for penalties and interest on the unreported income.

3. File on Time or Request an Extension. This year’s tax deadline is April 18. If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension, bringing the filing date to October 16, 2017. You should keep in mind, however, that filing the extension itself does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. You will still owe interest on any amount not paid by the April deadline, plus a late-payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.

4. Don’t Panic If You Can’t Pay. If you can’t immediately pay the taxes you owe, there are several alternatives. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate. You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but processing companies generally charge a convenience fee. Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government’s financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the April due date, with no fee.

5. Don’t forget to check the box for healthcare coverage. Checking the box on line 61 of Form 1040 shows that you had healthcare for all 12 months during the tax year (2016). The IRS will still process your tax return if you forget to check the box but this applies ONLY to 2016 tax returns–and you’re not off the hook for any penalty you might owe.

6. Sign and Double Check Your Return. The IRS will not process tax returns that aren’t signed, so make sure that you sign and date your return. You should also double check your social security number, as well as any electronic payment or direct deposit numbers, and finally, make sure that your filing status is correct.

Remember: To avoid delays, get your tax documents to the office as soon as you can.

Written by Steve Julal of VAAS Professionals

Steve

VAAS Professionals, LLC
325 Edgewood Avenue, S.E
Atlanta, GA 30312
www.vaasprofessionals.com
(404)223-1058

“How Smart People Handle Difficult People” Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negativity they spread, while others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos.

Come by April 15th and find out how to maximize your workday, work smarter not harder, and reduce or eliminate common distractions and time wasters in our free workshop.

Difficult people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife and worst of all stress.

Studies have long shown that stress can have a lasting, negative impact on the brain. Exposure to even a few days of stress compromises the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus — an important brain area responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to neuronal dendrites (the small “arms” that brain cells use to communicate with each other), and months of stress can permanently destroy neurons. Stress is a formidable threat to your success — when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffer.

Most sources of stress at work are easy to identify. If your non-profit is working to land a grant that your organization needs to function, you’re bound to feel stress and likely know how to manage it. It’s the unexpected sources of stress that take you by surprise and harm you the most.

Recent research from the Department of Biological and Clinical Psychology at Friedrich Schiller University in Germany found that exposure to stimuli that cause strong negative emotions — the same kind of exposure you get when dealing with difficult people — caused subjects’ brains to have a massive stress response. Whether it’s negativity, cruelty, the victim syndrome or just plain craziness, difficult people drive your brain into a stressed-out state that should be avoided at all costs.

For the rest of the article visit Entrepreneur.com

Written by: Travis Bradberry

Travis Bradberry

Award-winning co-author of the best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, and the co-founder of TalentSmart — a consultancy that serves more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies and is a leading provider of emotional…
Read more

What’s the Difference Between an Advisory Board and a Board of Directors? More importantly, which one do you need for your business?

Come by April 15th and find out how to maximize your workday, work smarter not harder, and reduce or eliminate common distractions and time wasters in our free workshop.

Many entrepreneurs I know are confused by the differences between an advisory board and a board of directors.

So, to explain in one sentence: advisory boards are voluntary and have no fiduciary responsibility. I recommend a small one for every startup, starting at inception, prior to a major investor or key business scaling initiative. This board is a good test drive for the more formal board of directors required later, when going public (IPO) or upon the interest of venture capital investors, and can give you plenty of great advice.

For both boards, members should be selected individually for their ability to independently add value to the expertise and experience of the management team, with no obligation or intent to add weight to internal views. The details of these considerations are outlined in The Board Book, the classic written by board expert and founder of The Board Institute, Susan F. Shultz.

Shultz provides a set of considerations that I recommend to every entrepreneur for deciding when and how to create the board that has the most value to a specific CEO and a specific business. These considerations include the following:

  1. Are you looking for advice or a boss? Most founders and CEOs will not voluntarily establish a formal board of directors unless they are trying to attract a major investor, preparing for an IPO or planning for an acquisition. As an alternative, every CEO needs an advisory board to help them grow, which they can ignore or fire at their pleasure

For the rest of the article visit Entrepreneur.com

Written by:
MARTIN ZWILLING

Martin Zwilling

Martin Zwilling is the founder and CEO of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to startup founders and small business owners. The author of Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur? and…

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Taking Customers With You When You Start a Business

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Come by April 15th and find out how to maximize your workday, work smarter not harder, and reduce or eliminate common distractions and time wasters in our free workshop.

Entreprenuer.com

A reader sent in the following question recently in regards to the ramifications of notifying your employer’s customers that you’re leaving to start a similar business:

“For the past several years, I’ve been employed by a local accounting firm and have have developed close relationships with several of the firm’s clients. A number of these clients have been dealing exclusively with me as opposed to the firm’s partners, and I view them (rightly or wrongly) as ‘my’ clients. I’m leaving the firm shortly to set up my own practice in the same town and would like to notify these clients of my change in status, but I’m afraid the firm will sue me for ‘stealing business’. I’ve never signed any sort of noncompete agreement with the firm. What are my legal risks here?”

First of all, no business “owns” its clients or customers. People are free to use whichever service providers they like, and agreements that prevent them from doing so are often viewed as illegal “restraints of trade” and are generally struck down by the courts.

Second of all, as I’m sure you already know, this situation is every employer’s worst nightmare: You spend years training someone in the hopes they’ll help you grow your business, and the next thing you know, they’ve quit and taken half your customers with them.

Shame on this accounting firm for not requiring all its employees to sign a “nonsolicitation” agreement, in which the employees promise not to contact any of the firm’s customers or clients for a period of XX months after leaving the firm’s employ for any reason. Unlike noncompete agreements–which prohibit ex-employees from working in the same field or profession within a certain geographic area–nonsolicitation agreements are viewed as a legitimate effort by a business to protect its goodwill, and are often upheld by the same courts that routinely strike down noncompetes.

To read the full article go to entreprenuer.com.

Written by Cliff Ennico on Entreprenuer.com

Cliff Ennico is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series MoneyHunt. His latest book is Small Business Survival Guide(Adams Media). This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. Copyright 2006 Clifford R. Ennico. Distributed by Creators Syndicate Inc.

Clifford R. Ennico

FINANCIAL FOCUS – How Can The Sandwich Generation Relieve Financial Stress?

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Come by April 15th and find out how to maximize your workday, work smarter not harder, and reduce or eliminate common distractions and time wasters in our free workshop.

Don’t worry too much if you haven’t heard, but April is National Stress Awareness Month. Of course, stress can present emotional and physical challenges to all of us, but if you belong to the “sandwich generation” – that is, you may be caring for aging parents while still supporting your own children – you may be facing some financial stress as well. What can you do to relieve it?

For one thing, be aware that you’re certainly not alone. About one in seven middle-aged adults is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child, according to the Pew Research Center.

Still, knowing that you have plenty of company won’t provide you with solutions for your own situation. So consider the following:

 

  • Suggest “downsizing.” Are your parents still paying a costly mortgage on a house that’s now too big for them? You might want to encourage them to think about downsizing. They may be emotionally attached to their home, but they might benefit substantially if they moved someplace that’s less expensive.

 

  • Talk to parents about their income sources. Are your parents maximizing their Social Security payments? Are they following a sensible withdrawal strategy for their IRA, 401(k) or other retirement accounts? You may want to recommend that they work with a qualified financial professional.

 

  • Discuss all legal arrangements. Be aware of your parents’ estate plans and the status of important legal documents – will, living trust, power of attorney, health care directive, and so on. When the time arises for any of these arrangements to take effect, you don’t want to face any unpleasant – and possibly costly – surprises.

 

  • Find out about health care. Try to learn about your parents’ health insurance coverage. And have they done anything to protect themselves from the potentially catastrophic costs of long-term care, such as an extended nursing home stay? You may not be able to do a great deal for them in these areas, but at the least, you may be able to get them to take some positive action on their own behalf.

 

  • Don’t ignore your own retirement savings. Even if you can afford to provide some financial support to your parents, don’t shortchange yourself when it comes to yourown retirement savings. You don’t get a “do-over” when it comes to putting away money for retirement, so contribute as much as you can afford to your IRA and your 401(k) or other employer-sponsored retirement plan.

 

  • Prioritize your investment choices.If you would like to help your children go to college, you might want to consider a college savings vehicle. Still, you may need to prioritize your investments. After all, your children will likely have a variety of options – such as loans and scholarships – to help them pay for school, and they may also be able to reduce costs substantially by going to a community college their first two years. But you are basically “up against the clock” when it comes to saving for retirement, so you’ll want to take that into account when allocating your investment dollars.

 

Belonging to the sandwich generation can certainly produce feelings of anxiety. But by following the above suggestions, you may be able to reduce some of this stress. And by doing so, you can help your parents, your children – and yourself.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

marques-young

Entrepreneurs, Beware This Terrible Way of Networking on Social Media

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There’s a trend emerging on social media. Someone you don’t know but who may be connected to some of your friends or your network sends you a friend request. Shortly after, they send you a private message or email telling you what they want from you.

Every single day, I get these type of friend requests and messages. Someone’s first interaction with me is to ask me to write about them or their company, or they want to pick my brain about how to book paid speaking and consulting gigs internationally. No “hello,” no small talk. They just get right to what they want and how it somehow benefits me.

This is a terrible way to network and will never make a connection with fellow entrepreneurs. Social media works a lot like real life. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger, say “hello” and then try to kiss them. There are three things you should understand in regards to networking.

1. Lead with value.

Human nature is to focus on what we want and what will help us. Networking done right leads with value for the person you’re approaching.

I’m not going to give you the old-school advice to tell people you will work for free just to get their radar. It can be as simple as sharing a book suggestion or a helpful article that complements what that person has shared on social media. It’s not about a grand gesture, it’s about finding some way to approach that person with value.

Also, understand that trying to get them on the phone right away is too much. They don’t know you, a phone call right off the bat is not a great ask. Your asks should not exceed the realities of your relationship.

To read the rest of the article, click Entreprenuer.com.

Check out Connecting Atlanta for all of our up to date business workshops.

Written by:

KIMANZI CONSTABLE

25 Features Every Business Website Must Have in 2017 (Infographic)

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Even though online businesses are becoming more prevalent, they haven’t become any easier to launch.

To give your online business a greater chance to succeed, there are certain things you need to incorporate on its website. Of course, there are the simple things such as an easy domain name, a phone number and a logo, but it’s also vital to think about the content, links and navigation that will go onto your site.

When building your website, sometimes it’s helpful to think of its setup like that of a newspaper — organizing the most important content “above the fold,” and the less exciting material “below the fold.” In addition, having a strong call to action will help hook potential customers.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Rose Leadem is an online editorial assistant at Entrepreneur Media Inc.

3 Ridiculously Easy Hacks to Get People to Sign Up to Your Email List

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Have you ever changed the oil in your car?

It’s a pretty basic skill that surprisingly few people actually know how to do. If you do, you’ll most likely have used a funnel before.

The main idea behind a funnel is to cast a wide net that you can pour the viscous liquid into it without spilling it all over the engine block. The oil flows through the wide top end of the funnel and is neatly deposited into the narrow bottom end, filling your engine up so that the car runs smoothly.

In the internet marketing world, we also have funnels. Their purpose is to cast a wide net and find people across the web who might be interested in our material, then get those people to neatly file themselves into our email database so that we can provide them with valuable content, market to them and eventually make some money.

Getting people to opt-in.

Once a member of your audience has interacted with your content, it’s time to get them on your email list. This might seem challenging at first, but think about your own inbox. How many newsletters are you subscribed to?

The average person subscribes to anywhere between 20 and 30 free newsletters from a variety of businesses. Anything from a department store doing a semi-annual sale, to the Nissan dealership giving away insane deals on the 2018 Altima, to content-based emails about things that interest you.

At one point you weren’t receiving emails from that business…and now you are. How the hell does that happen?

In most cases, it people sign up to an email newsletter to get something for free. This is called an “opt-in,” and it’s your bread and butter if you want to build an online business — especially one that’s based on information products.

For the rest of the article, click here.

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Daniel DiPiazza is the founder of Rich20Something, where he teaches young people how to start businesses that they care about and live happier lives.

3 Fun and Festive Spring Promotion Ideas that Retailers Can Use to Increase Sales

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If you’re a small business retailer, every season brings new opportunities – and new challenges. If you’re looking for some fun and festive ways to increase your small business sales now that spring has arrived and the weather is getting warmer, we’ve got just the things for you!

In this article, we’ll take a look at three great spring promotions that your small retail business can use to help drive sales, promote brand awareness, and increase customer loyalty.

Sidewalk Sales!

Spring is the perfect opportunity for sidewalk sales! These unique, fun sales allow you to get out and enjoy the nice weather and benefits that extra foot traffic can have on your business when the weather is warm and sunny.

Collaborate with other small business retailers in your area to set up your sidewalk sale – set up booths and tables all around your businesses, and encourage customers to visit all of your stores. The warm weather and high volume of customers that a sidewalk sale provides are sure to help your business succeed.

To read the rest of the article, click here.

FINANCIAL FOCUS – Time for Some Financial Spring Cleaning

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Spring is in the air, even if it’s not quite there on the calendar. This year, as you shake off the cobwebs from winter and start tidying up around your home and yard, why not also do some financial spring cleaning?

Actually, you can apply several traditional spring cleaning techniques to your financial situation. Here are a few ideas:

  • Look for damage. Damage to your home’s siding, shingles and foundation can eventually degrade the structure of your home. Your investment portfolio is also a structure of a sort, and it, too, can be damaged. Specifically, you may have deliberately constructed your portfolio with an investment mix – stocks, fixed-income vehicles, cash instruments, etc. – that’s appropriate for your goals and risk tolerance. But over time, your portfolio can evolve in unexpected ways. For example, your stocks may have grown so much in value that they now take up a larger percentage of your holdings than you had intended, possibly subjecting you to a higher degree of risk. If this happens, you may need to rebalance your portfolio.
  • Get rid of “clutter.” As you look around your home, do you see three mops or four nonfunctional televisions or a stack of magazines from the 1990s? If these items no longer have value, you could get rid of them and clear up some living space. As an investor, you also might have “clutter” – in the form of investments that no longer meet your needs. If you sold these investments, you could use the proceeds to fill gaps in your portfolio.
  • Consolidate. Do you keep your lawnmower in a shed, a rake in your garage, and your gardening tools in the basement? When working on your outdoor tasks, you might find it more efficient to have all these items in one location. You could also have your investments scattered about – an IRA here, a new 401(k) there, and an older 401(k) someplace else. But if you consolidated all your investments in one place, you might cut down on paperwork and fees, and you wouldn’t risk losing track of an asset (which actually happens more than you might think). Even more importantly, when you have all your investments with one provider, you’ll be better positioned to follow a single, centralized investment strategy.
  • Prepare for a rainy day. As part of your outdoor spring cleaning, you may want to look at your gutters and downspouts to make sure they are clear and in good repair, so that they can move rainwater away from your home. Your financial goals need protection, too, so you’ll want to ensure you have adequate life and disability insurance.
  • Seal leaks. In your home inspection this spring, you may want to investigate doors and windows for leaks and drafts. Your investment portfolio might have some “leaks” also. Are investment-related taxes siphoning off more of your earnings than you realize? A financial professional can offer you recommendations for appropriate tax-advantaged investments.

This spring, when you’re cleaning your physical surroundings, take some time to also tidy up your financial environment. You may be pleased with the results.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

marques-young

 

6 Ways That Small Businesses Can Use Snapchat to Increase Sales

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Most small business owners know about the power of social media – and it’s rare to find an entrepreneur who doesn’t have a Twitter account, and Instagram presence, or a Facebook page. However, there is one huge social media platform that’s often entirely overlooked by small businesses and their marketing teams – Snapchat.

Snapchat is a red-hot social marketing platform – there’s no denying it – and companies are beginning to capitalize on the audience provided by this fun photo-messaging app. More than 100 million users use Snapchat daily watching a staggering 10 billion videos on a typical day.

Clearly, marketing on Snapchat should be one of your priorities when it comes to promoting your business through social media platforms. But how should you use Snapchat to promote your business? We’re glad you asked! In this article, we’ll take a look at six simple ways that small businesses can use Snapchat to boost their brand awareness – and increase sales.

1. Use Snapchat for Flash Sales and Special Promotions

One of the best reasons to use Snapchat is how immediate it is. Snaps go away after you view them when you send them directly to another user – and even if you use the “My Story” functionality of the app, your story will disappear within 24 hours.

This means that people who use Snapchat a lot, check it every single day. Think about it – if they fail to check their snaps and Snapchat Stories at least once a day, they’ll totally miss out on whatever their friends – and followed brands – posted!

Because of this, Snapchat is a fantastic way to promote flash sales and special promotions that are time-sensitive. Your followers will be checking your story just about every day – so you can get a massive, immediate reach even for a sale that only lasts a day or less.

2. Promote Your Events with GeoFilters

Geofilters are an excellent way to promote events. Are you having a huge sale? Partner with a graphic designer to create a unique Geofilter that your loyal customers can use while shopping – by doing so, you provide your customers with the tools they need, to spread the word about your business.

If you do use Geofilters, make sure your customers know about them! They’re a fantastic word-of-mouth promotional tool, and if you provide them with a high-quality, memorable design, customers will be happy to use them.

So next time you have a sale, volunteer at a charitable event or are running a weekly special, consider buying a Geofilter for the occasion.

3. Give People an Inside Look at Your Business

People like feeling authentic connections with companies – and this is especially true with small businesses. That’s the primary benefit of a small business. You’re not a corporate conglomerate if you’re a small business owner – you’re a real, actual and authentic person.

Snapchat offers you an excellent way to express authenticity. You can show your true personality to customers, and give them an inside look at your business.

For example, if you run a small microbrewery, you could dedicate a Saturday to providing your followers with an inside look at your brewing facilities and your process. If you run a bike repair shop, you can show followers what the process is like to replace a bent wheel. If you run a bakery, you can show the process you use to bake cakes – the opportunities are endless.

Providing this kind of authentic, value-added content is an exceptional way to connect with your customers, drive brand loyalty, and increase sales.

For the rest of this great article please click here.

Be sure to attend our next workshop at the South Fulton Branch Library, 4055 Flat Shoals Road, Union City on How To Turn Your Contacts Into Contracts with Jacqueline H. Waller.

 

Changing Careers? Know Your Options

retirement

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What to do with your retirement funds when you change jobs or go into business full-time

There are many new challenges to face if you happen to be changing jobs or retiring – not the least of which is the decision of what to do with the retirement funds that have accumulated in your 401(k) and other retirement plans over the years of service with your employers. These decisions may have a significant impact on your future financial security in retirement.

Option 1) Your employer hands you a check for the amount in your retirement plan.
This may look like a bonanza, but selecting this option could be a mistake. First, your employer is required to withhold 20% from your lump sum distribution, so you will only receive 80%. Second, if you are younger than 59 1/2, you may be subject to a 10% additional federal income tax penalty for early withdrawal. Third, you are liable for paying income taxes on the full amount—if you fail to rollover the full amount of your funds, including the 20% that was withheld, into an IRA within 60 days.

Option 2) Leave the money with your old employer.
If you have more than $5000 in your former employer’s retirement plan, you can usually leave the money where it is. (Check with your employer.) The advantage of doing this is that it relieves you of making a decision for the time being while maintaining the tax deferral of your assets. The downside is that you are limited to the investment choices offered by your ex-employer—or even fewer choices, since some companies have additional restrictions for non-active employees. Additional disadvantages are that you cannot make new contributions to your account.

Option 3) Move your retirement money to your new employer.
This option only works if you are moving to another job. Even then, your new employer may not accept rollovers from a previous plan or may impose a waiting period. Also, the investment options offered by your new employer may not be as extensive as you want. The benefit is that you maintain your assets’ tax deferral and benefit from the convenience of having your assets in one place.

Option 4) Put the money into a traditional IRA Rollover.
By having your former employer’s retirement plan pay the IRA custodian directly, you avoid the 20% withholding or any penalties. There are numerous benefits to your own IRA Rollover: A potentially wider choice of investment opportunities—you can select the stocks, bonds, mutual funds or other investments that are right for you.

The ability to withdraw without penalty for some purposes. Withdrawals can be made without penalty by taking a series of substantially equal periodic payments for at least five years or until after you reach age 59 1/2. Withdrawals are subject to normal income tax treatment and may be subject to an additional 10% federal income tax penalty.  Thus, if you are planning to retire before you reach age 59 1/2, this method can enable you to dip into your IRA Rollover without penalty. Please note, there may be other eligible retirement plans which can accept funds.

Please be advised that this document is not intended as legal or tax advice. Accordingly, any tax information provided in this document is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The tax information was written to support the promotion or the marketing of the transaction(s) or matter(s) addressed and you should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor. AXA Advisors, LLC and AXA Network, LLC do not provide tax advice or legal advice. This article is provided by Antan Wilson. Antan Wilson offers securities through AXA Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC), 780 JOHNSON FERRY ROAD SUITE 600 ATLANTA, GA 30342 and offers investment advisory products and services through AXA Advisors, LLC, an investment advisor registered with the SEC, and offers annuity and insurance products through an insurance brokerage affiliate, AXA Network, LLC and its subsidiaries. This individual is licensed to transact insurance business in the following states: GA, DC, NJ, LA, NC; and is registered to offer securities in the following states: GA, NJ.

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Source: https://www.ameriprise.com/research-market-insights/financial-articles/retirement/what-to-do-with-your-401k-plan-when-you-change-jobs/

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Antan R. Wilson
780 Johnson Ferry Road
Suite 600
Atlanta, GA 30342
Tel: (404) 760-2418

28 Types of Content Upgrades You Can Easily Create

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1. A cheat sheet
Depending on what your blog post is about, a cheat sheet can be a simple content upgrade. For example, if I write a blog post explaining the different tags in HTML, I can create a one-pager of all the available HTML tags and how they’re used.

2. Checklist
A long, 4,000-word blog post can likely be converted into an easier-to-digest checklist. It can be an itemized step-by-step for a how-to blog post, a list of materials for a do-it-yourself project, or a list of best practices.

For example, if you’re sharing a process you have for promoting a blog post, you can create a checklist of everything the reader should do to promote the blog post.

Tools to easily create checklists: ForgettSweetProcess, and Checkli

3. List of resources
Do you mention a bunch tools or resources in your blog post? Create a master list linking to each of them for readers so they don’t have to search for each tool on their own. Then make that list available as a PDF download.

4. Transcripts for your podcast or video show
If you host interviews, have a podcast, or have a video show, transcribe your recording and make it into a downloadable PDF file. It takes less than 10 minutes of work for you to hire a transcriber and host the file.

Transcription services: Rev and Fiverr.

5. Video or audio recording
If you’ve previously hosted and recorded an interview, a webinar, or any informational video that’s relevant to the blog post, you can make the recording available as a bonus. You can create a how-to video of a blog post or record yourself reading your blog post out loud. It might sound like a strange idea, but some readers digest information differently.

Tool for audio editing: Audacity Tool for video editing: Camtasia

6. Quick start guide
You might be teaching something complicated. Simplify it. People want to get started quickly without worrying about the difficulties later on (those difficulties often prevent them from taking the first steps). Take the first three steps and simplify them to help the reader get over the initial barrier.

7. Full guide
Instead of a simple quick start guide, create a comprehensive guide that walks the reader step-by-step through the entire process. While it may be lengthier, it’ll target readers who are looking for in-depth guidance.

8. Report / whitepaper
Have you hosted a survey or done extensive research into a topic? Make it into a report that’ll educate readers about their industry or interest. Reports and whitepapers will also help you become recognized as an expert in your area of interest.

9. Printable
This could be a relevant diagram, motivational quote, or images the reader can print out and pin up on their wall. It’s a great reminder for readers to stay organized or focused.

10. Assignments or worksheets
If you’re teaching something, go beyond explaining the concept. Create homework assignments that your readers can download and immediately apply the knowledge.

For the rest of the article and to learn more visit Sumome.com

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28 Ideas for Content Upgrades To Grow Your Email List. How to make them, where to use them, providing the upgrade, and more

Check out Connecting Atlanta for all of our up to date business workshops.

You’ve written blog posts and you’ve gotten some traffic, and even though you have beautiful visitor numbers, your email list is another story.

You know that building an email list is important and you’ve started doing that, but your conversion rate is stagnant at around 1% … 2% on a great day.

What if you can get 10% of your website visitors to subscribe via email? How about 20%?

Sound too good to be true? It’s not. In fact it has already been done by other bloggers. It’s a proven method that’s possible for you to do too.

All it takes is creating tactical content upgrades to give visitors irresistible value. We’re going to give you the tools and knowledge to do just that.

In this guide, we’re going to cover:

  1. What are content upgrades
  2. Why you should create them (people have seen conversion rates improve by over 300%)
  3. 28 different types of content upgrades
  4. The simple 5-step framework to get started with content upgrades
  5. 4 questions to help you come up with irresistible content upgrades
  6. How to easily host your content upgrade in under 5 minutes
  7. 9 tips to make your content upgrades into list building machines

What Are Content Upgrades
A content upgrade is bonus piece of information that elaborates on or complements a piece of content the reader is already interested in. The bonus is both highly valuable and in context with the page’s content so we gate the bonus by asking for an email address, a Facebook share, a tweet, or an email to a friend.

In other words, a content upgrade is a valuable offer created to get a visitor’s email address or get them to promote you.

For example, if you were reading about how to fix a broken toilet, reading might not be enough. You might be interested in watching a bonus video that shows you how to fix your toilet because you can follow along with the video.

Boom. It’s a perfect content upgrade because the video showing you how to fix a toilet is both valuable and specific to the article you’re reading.

Why Content Upgrades
Successful content upgrades have helped people grow their email list exponentially.

If you’re unsure whether content upgrades will work for you, look below at the results from Backlinko by Brian Dean, an internationally-recognized entrepreneur and SEO expert.

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Yep. That’s a 785% improvement. Not too shabby.

But Brian isn’t the only one who has seen lucrative results from implementing content upgrades.

Devesh Khanal increased one blog post’s conversion rate for Growth Everywhere by 492% by implementing a content upgrade. Imagine doing that for ten blog posts.

Conversion rates are high for content upgrades because they provide an immediate reward instead of presenting a generic “subscribe for free updates” call-to-action. The reader is primed to give you their email for something useful and relevant to what they’re already invested in reading about in that exact moment in time.

It can be difficult to set up content upgrades. Keyword is can. However, using tools like Welcome MatList Builder, or Scroll Box, you can be set up in less than five minutes.

When it comes down to it, the time it takes to create a content upgrade should be thought of as an investment. As you saw above, the effects of implementing even one content upgrade can be exponential.

In fact, depending on what type of content upgrade you want to create, the whole process of ideation, creation, and implementation can take less than 30 minutes.

Before I tell you how to quickly create a content upgrade, here are 28 different types of content upgrades you can create.

Blog Received by Sumo.com for this and other great articles visit them here.

Check out Connecting Atlanta for all of our up to date business workshops.

Sales Pages, Landing Pages, and Squeeze Pages, Oh My!

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Check out Connecting Atlanta for all of our up to date business workshops.

Sales pages and Landing pages are web pages with no navigation menu, no sidebar, no footer widget area, and no links off the page — except to a shopping cart or order form. Squeeze pages also have no navigation menu, no sidebar, no footer widget area, and no links off the page.

The premise behind these pages is to eliminate all distractions from the page, and keep visitors completely focused on taking one single action — they are used solely to increase conversions.

Sales Pages
Sales pages are pages with one single call to action — to get visitors to buy something and to make a sale. They are typically used for products, programs, services, and events. (For examples click here)

Landing Pages
Landing pages are pages on your website consumers “land on” when they follow or click a link from your marketing materials, advertising, or business promotions. Many people also create custom landing pages for social media profile URLs too. (For examples click here)

Squeeze Pages
Squeeze pages are pages that are designed to squeeze information out of visitors before they leave the page — usually they squeeze your email out of you through an opt-in. They are usually very short, simple, and direct. (For examples click here)

Check out Connecting Atlanta for all of our up to date business workshops.

ABOUT JENNIFER BOURN

CREATIVE DIRECTOR · DIGITAL STRATEGIST · WORDPRESS EVANGELIST

Probably a Sith… her passion brings forth intuitive design solutions. As founder of Bourn Creative, Jennifer is an award-winning designer who has been working in the design trenches since 1997. Today she consults on branding, website strategy, and digital strategy, leads all of our graphic design and web design projects, and specializes in WordPress theme design.

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When not obsessing over pixels, margins, and type, Jennifer manages the Bourn Creative brand and the creation and iteration of our internal systems and processes. She speaks often on podcasts, summits, and live events, and writes for our blog, WP Elevation, CoSchedule, and the GoDaddy Garage. She also co-organizes the Sacramento WordPress Meetup group and WordCamp Sacramento.

How Your Small Business Can Retain More Profits by Avoiding These Common Fees

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How Your Small Business Can Retain More Profits by Avoiding These Common Fees

(Be sure to attend our next workshop at the Buckhead Library on Managing Risk in a Small Business Effectively with Jim Foster
)

It seems as though every time you turn around, there’s a fee. There are fees for starting: activation or setup fees. There are fees for ending: termination fees. If you ever tried to cancel a cell phone plan early or check out of a hotel, you’re charged a fee. While some fees are standard, there are times when we pay them blindly and unnecessarily. Here are ways business owners can avoid some common fees.

Dodge fees when traveling.

It’s easy to get caught off guard when traveling for business. Some hotels charge you a resort fee. This can be for the use of internet, gym facilities, pool or tennis courts whether or not you use them. Avoid minibars, room service and using the telephone at the hotel since those features can come with a hefty markup.

Also, scan each line item on your bill before checking out. Be sure to hold onto your bill too. I once checked out of a hotel in Maryland. I left thinking I was paying the amount that was on my receipt. Shortly after, I noticed a discrepancy for what I was actually charged. Some other random fee was tacked on. Thank goodness for credit card text alerts! I cleared that one up right away by calling the hotel. It was a good reminder to always hang on to the receipt and question any “fees” right away.

Another way to avoid travel-related fees is using the tools already available to you like your credit card for example. Most rewards credit cards offer many travel perks that could cancel out any regular fees and save you money as a result. Forbes Contributor and avid traveler, George Papadopoulos of TravelBloggerBuzz.com explains that the good news is some travel rewards credit cards can enhance your travel experience at the airport. You can gain access to an airline lounge entry, receive early boarding and more. He adds that it saves you money by avoiding baggage fees and other ancillary fees. Just be sure to read the fine print and know what you’re signing up for.

For the rest of this great article please click here. Link ( https://blog.paymently.com/how-your-small-business-can-retain-more-profits-… )

(Be sure to attend our next workshop at the Buckhead Library on Managing Risk in a Small Business Effectively with Jim Foster)

Written by: Karen Cordaway

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Karen is a nationally syndicated personal finance writer and money-saving expert who loves discovering easy solutions to common financial roadblocks. She has written articles for US News Money, Huffington Post, ClarkHoward.com, Due.com and other hot spots on the web. She has been featured in O Magazine, Money Magazine, Market Watch, The Consumerist, MSN, Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, Daily Finance and many more.

FINANCIAL FOCUS – Use Your Tax Refund Wisely

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FINANCIAL FOCUS

Use Your Tax Refund Wisely

It’s tax time again – which for many Americans means that a tax refund is on its way. If you’re going to get a refund this year, how can you use the money to your best advantage?

Of course, it’s always tempting to spend the check from Uncle Sam on something fun. But a tax refund could be sizable – the average amount in 2016 was $2,857, according to the IRS – so putting this money to work could help boost your progress toward your financial goals.

Here are some possibilities for using your refund:

  • Help fund your IRA. If you were to receive a tax refund of $2,857, you’d have slightly more than half of the $5,500 annual IRA contribution limit for 2017, although, if you are 50 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000. Consequently, you may find it much easier to fully fund your IRA for the year — and you should do exactly that, because an IRA is a great retirement savings vehicle. If you have a traditional IRA, your contributions may be fully or partially deductible, depending on your income, while your earnings can grow tax deferred. (Taxes are due upon withdrawal, and withdrawals prior to age 59½ may be subject to a 10% IRS penalty.) With a Roth IRA, your contributions are not deductible, but your earnings are distributed tax-free, provided you don’t start taking withdrawals until you’re 59½ and you’ve had your account at least five years.
  • Help diversify your portfolio. If a market downturn hits one asset class, and that’s where you keep most of your money, you could take a big hit. Owning an array of investments – such as stocks, bonds, certificates of deposit, and so on – can help prepare your portfolio to weather the effects of market volatility, By adding new investments, or increasing your holdings of existing investments, you may be able to further diversify your portfolio – and you can use your refund for this purpose. (Keep in mind, though, that diversification, by itself, can’t guarantee profits or protect against loss.)
  • Contribute to a 529 plan. If you have children or grandchildren whom you’d like to help send to college, consider using your tax refund to help fund a 529 plan. Your 529 plan contributions may be deductible from your state taxes, and your earnings are distributed tax-free, provided they are used for qualified higher education expenses. (However, withdrawals not used for higher education expenses may be subject to both income tax and a 10% penalty.)
  • Pay off some debts. You can help improve your financial picture by reducing your debt load – but it may make sense to prioritize these debts. For example, rather than make an extra mortgage payment, you might want to first tackle those debts or loans that carry a high interest rate and that don’t allow you to deduct interest payments. After all, your monthly mortgage payment will remain the same even if you make an extra payment, but if you can get rid of some smaller debts, you will free up some cash that you could use to invest for your future.

Think carefully about how to use your tax refund. It represents an opportunity that you won’t want to waste.

This article was written by Edward Jones for use by your local Edward Jones Financial Advisor.

Marques Young
Edward Jones Investments
8001 Centerview Parkway, Suite 112
Cordova, TN 38018
Office: (901) 751-0634
Email: marques.young@edwardjones.com
Member SIPC

marques-young

How to Decide Which Customer Loyalty Program Is Right for Your Small Business

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Customer loyalty programs used to be extremely expensive for small business owners to operate – they simply couldn’t afford the advanced software, POS systems, and other infrastructure required to run effective loyalty programs.

However, modern technology has changed everything. There are now dozens of companies focusing on providing customer loyalty programs to small businesses, and more are appearing every year. Their costs are quite low, and easy-to-use software makes customer loyalty systems simple to integrate into your small business.

But what’s the best kind of customer loyalty program for your small business? We’ll break down the most basic types of customer rewards and loyalty programs, allowing you to get a better idea of which type may be appropriate for your small business.

Cash Back or Rebate Programs

These programs allow customers to earn a percentage of money back from previous purchases in a set period of time and gives them the opportunity to redeem this money or store credit after a set period of time.

The advantages of such as system are:

  • Simple and easy for customers to understand
  • Gift certificates and store credit drives customers back to your business
  • Customers feel as if they’re “buying in” to your business, making them more likely to return

Some disadvantages include:

  • Lack of “instant gratification”
  • Can be expensive to implement
  • Infrequent shoppers might not be drawn by this program

For the rest of the article, click here

Considering a Merchant Cash Advance Loan for Your Business? Think Twice

the_truth_about_merchant_cash_advances_16x9When you’re running a small business, your cash flow can be sporadic early on. It can be hard to come up with money for the things you need while you’re growing and scaling a young business, so it’s normal for many small business owners to take out business loans.

Most legitimate business loans are obtained through traditional banks. However, it can be challenging for newer companies to get approved for such a loan.

In this situation, many small business owners start looking into alternative options. One of the options you’ll come across is something called a “merchant cash advance loan.” This type of loan is offered by private companies that are not banks and are not regulated as a bank.

Before we go into exactly why merchant cash advances don’t work in your favor, we’re going to cut to the chase: it’s kind of like the business loan equivalent to a consumer payday loan. It may be easy to get, but some side effects are high-interest rates, never-ending payments and other factors that could sink your business financially.

It’s a short-term solution with long-term negative implications. Of course, merchant cash advance providers don’t tell you that on their websites and marketing materials. The companies that offer merchant cash advance loans make it sound like it’s a great deal, but as you are learning, it’s not.

How Do Merchant Cash Advance Loans Work?

Merchant cash advances are geared primarily toward businesses where a lot of your income is coming from credit card and debit card sales – think retail shops and restaurants. It’s not technically a loan; it’s a cash advance that you pay back later. You get cash up front, and the merchant cash advance company gets a portion of your future revenue.

Typically there are two ways that a merchant cash advance can be structured. In one model, you get the cash up front and pay it back later with credit card and debit card sales. In the alternate model, you get cash up front, then pay for it with fixed daily or weekly debits from your bank account using Automated Clearing House (ACH) withdrawals.

The ACH model has become increasingly popular in recent years, partly because the companies offering the cash advances can market them to businesses that aren’t reliant on credit card and debit card sales. Under the ACH model, your small business keeps paying daily or weekly payments, plus fees and interest until the merchant cash advance has been paid off in full.

The total fees you’ll pay is determined by your ability to repay the merchant cash advance. The company uses risk assessment to determine this. They assign a factor rate typically ranging from 1.2 to 1.5, with higher rates reflecting increased risk.

To calculate your total repayment amount, you multiply the amount of cash you received by the factor rate. With a factor rate of 1.4, a $75,000 advance will ultimately cost your small business $105,000. That’s $30,000 in extra fees. That’s astronomical.

In the credit card sales model, a percentage of your business sales will go to the merchant cash advance company. The repayment period can be anywhere from three to twelve months. The speed at which you’re able to repay the loan can drive your annual percentage rate (APR) on the cash advance into the triple digits.

Your sales will inevitably fluctuate, and because you’re paying via a percentage of your sales, the time it takes to pay back the loan could be either longer or shorter than you initially expected. Usually, it takes longer.

With the fixed daily or weekly withdrawals model, unlike the credit card sales model, your daily or weekly payment will not go down if your business makes fewer sales and generates less revenue. This payment method can be dangerous if your business isn’t doing as well as you had expected.

For the rest of the article, click here.

3 Steps to Never Running Out of Content Ideas for Your Marketing

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A major part of running a business in the 21st century is online marketing. With a generation of consumers that spends most of their time online, you need to meet them where they are.

The art of online marketing requires that you constantly come out with new content. This includes blogs, social media posts, video, images and just about any piece of content you can post online.

From the technical perspective, it helps Google and new consumers find you. From a less technical but still very important standpoint, consistently putting quality content out there helps you build trust with potential consumers.

The Problem with Content Marketing

I speak with a lot of business owners every week. One of the most common concerns I hear as it pertains to content marketing is the fear of running out of ideas.

It’s a valid concern. Especially if you aren’t accustomed to constantly coming up with new stories, angles or content on a regular basis. The first thing you need to keep in mind is that creativity is a habit that can be learned. The more you practice the better you get at coming up with ideas.

The second thing you need to know is there are steps you can take to make sure you never run out of content ideas for your marketing.

Step 1: Ask your audience what they want.

Want to know the best way to never run out content ideas? Stop trying to come up with them by yourself. Instead, enlist the help of your audience.

What do I mean by this, exactly? It means finding ways to have a constant conversation where your audience informs you about what they need from you. There are multiple ways to do this so that it’s natural and consistent, including:

  • Asking your audience for their input on social media. Here’s an example of what I mean. On January 1st, I posted an image on Instagram with a caption that asked my followers what their money goals were for the new year. Their responses help me come up with future content.
  • Survey your audience on a regular basis. Another thing you can do is send a quick survey out to your audience where you ask them for their input. I did this in the beginning of 2015 when my company was rebranding and it completely changed the course of my marketing. Thanks to this survey, I found out my audience wanted me to create a podcast that answered their business and finance questions. Within a few months, I gave it to them.
  • Interview individuals in your market. Sometimes the best way to get new content ideas is to interview people in your market. As in, have a real life conversation with them and find out what’s going on. What are they dealing with? What are their fears? What questions do they need answers to? How can your business help them solve a problem? Pay close attention to what they tell you and how they say it.
  • Pay attention to customer service queries. If you get a lot of emails or phone calls for your business where people ask you questions, then you can pull some content ideas from it. For example, I often get questions about how to get media mentions so I created a podcast episode explaining how to do it. You can do the same with common questions you receive via social media.
  • Create an email marketing series where you encourage people to reach out to you. There are several email marketing services you can use to automate the emails people receive when they opt in to your At the end of those emails, you can encourage people to reach out to you by asking them a question and telling them they can send you a reply at any time.

The key to asking your audience what they want is to do it consistently. Make it a point to always be having some sort of conversation with them. In doing so, they’ll inform you as to what kind of content they need from you.

This way you don’t even really have to brainstorm. The content ideas are coming straight from the people your business is trying to serve. For the rest of the article click here.

Written by: Amanda Abella

Amanda Abella is a millennial financial expert and Amazon best-selling author of Make Money Your Honey. Through her writing and coaching she teaches millennials how they can have a better relationship with work and money. Her work has been featured in Forbes, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and more. She has also spoken on a national level for The Financial Blogger Conference and Femfessionals.