How to Start an Online Store

This article was written by Karol K. and originally published at

Want to start an online store? Or at least considering the possibility? You’re in the right place.

In this step-by-step guide, we show you how to start an online store from scratch. At the end of this guide, you should have a fully working eCommerce site with products and shopping cart.

Thanks to modern tools and solutions, everybody can launch their own eCommerce operation without knowing design or coding.

Table of contents:

  1. Deciding what you want to sell
  2. Choosing between dropshipping and selling your own products
  3. Choosing the exact products to sell
  4. Coming up with a business name
  5. Building an online store website by yourself
  6. Setting up payment methods
  7. Marketing your online store

1. Decide What You Want to Sell 🔍

The first step that’s an absolute must-do is to pick your niche. As it’s often defined, a niche is a specific piece of a broader market.

Sorry if this sounds a bit too dictionary-like. Let’s break it down into simpler terms. Basically, when picking your niche, you have to decide:

  • What do you want to sell?
  • Who are you going to sell it to?
  • Why would they buy?

These three questions may seem fairly obvious, but they’re actually far from.

Defining your ideal customer base and figuring out why they would buy from you will make your job much easier later on. The main mistake that people make is going too broadly in the hope that the bigger the potential market is, the more likely they are to get good sales. This is not correct.

If your target customer base is simply “people who breathe” then you’re going to have a hard time positioning your product in the market, promoting it, and explaining what’s so valuable about it.

Overall, focusing on one niche is better than going all over.

It’s best to start in an area that you already have a personal interest in, expert knowledge about, or passion for. It’s really hard to operate in a field that you know nothing about.

So, begin with your interests, navigate from there. Define who your ideal customer is, and what makes them want to buy the products that you want to offer.

A good starting point is to look at what your competition in the niche is doing. See how they position their products, who their customers are. Learn from that and build upon other people’s experiences.

2. Choose Between Dropshipping and Selling Your Own Products 🚚

Let’s start from the beginning by explaining two popular eCommerce scenarios:

Scenario no.1 is the traditional way of running an online store. In this model:

  • (1) you get products from the supplier or create them yourself → (2) you offer those products to customers via your website → (3) the customer buys the product → (4) you send the product to them

Here’s the dropshipping model:

  • (1) you start by listing the products on your website → (2) the customer buys the product → (3) the supplier sends the product directly to the customer

The main benefit of the dropshipping model is that you don’t have to hold any inventory yourself. This means that there’s no cost involved in making the products or storing them. In fact, everything you sell is pure profit since you only have to pay the supplier after you receive an order from your customer.

In the traditional model, you have to shell out money upfront to either obtain products from the supplier or get them created. You must do that before you can ever start selling them.

On the other hand, dropshipping won’t be for you if the products you want to sell are of your own production or need to be customized/personalized before they can be sold.

Overall, if you can, opt for dropshipping – and especially if it’s your first attempt to start an online store. Dropshipping is a great way to test the waters and validate that the products you want to sell are indeed something that customers will want to buy. Then, later on, you can expand and start offering your own products as well.

3. Choose the Exact Products to Sell 🛍️

One of the great things about dropshipping is that there’s an abundance of different products to choose from in nearly every niche.

This is excellent news for businesses that are just getting started and don’t want to invest in their own product development. The overall steps are:

  • Research your niche. Examine what sort of products your competitors are selling, and what their best-selling products are.
  • Go to content sites on the web to find what type of challenges, products, or things in general your target audience reads about.
  • Go to niche-related forums and see what your customers talk about.
  • Search on Google with keywords most relevant to your niche.
  • Go to Amazon and do similar research. See what products sell well.

With all this research, you can now go to some popular markets and start looking for specific products you can sell.

The biggest market of this kind is AliExpress. It’s a regular eCommerce marketplace by most standards, but it also allows you to establish relationships with merchants and offer their products as a dropshipper. Go there and look for products that are in tune with the research you’ve done, and also seem like something interesting-enough for your customer base to enjoy.


We recommend getting started with between 10-50 products. This will give you more than enough stuff to make your store complete and also not overwhelm you with what’s going on as you work with the store on a daily basis.

When you’re putting together a list of products, keep the following things in mind:

  • Make sure that the product is available for shipping in locations where your target audience is. Also, the lower the shipping costs, the better.
  • Check the shipping times and make sure they don’t exceed what you would consider acceptable (I leave deciding what’s acceptable and what isn’t to your judgment).
  • If possible, avoid brand name products (you don’t want to depend on being able to sell Adidas sneakers, for instance).
  • It’s a common practice for dropshipping stores to set their margins at around the 50% mark. Meaning, when looking for products to sell, focus on the ones that are half the price compared to what you want to sell them for.

As we mentioned earlier, having a list of 10-50 products is suitable for a start. We’ll use that list later on when importing the products to your actual online store.

4. Come Up With a Business Name and Register a Domain Name 📛

Choosing a name for your store is undoubtedly the most fun part of the whole endeavor. People love to name things. Especially businesses.

However. The name you end up with can have a lot of significance for your future success and ability to market the business effectively. Here are the things to keep in mind when brainstorming a business name:

Pick a Name That’s Easy to Pronounce

Imagine yourself talking to someone over the phone and needing to mention the name of your store. Do you have to spell it out for the other person to understand?

If you do, the name is too complex. Go for something simple and easy to pronounce on the first go.

Pick a Name That’s Easy to Memorize

This relates to the previous point, somewhat. Apart from being easy to pronounce, your name also needs to be easy to memorize.

You can achieve this in a couple of ways. Going with a completely made-up word as your name is one solution (think “Google”). Alternatively, you can put together two words that do have real meanings but create something original when put next to each other (think “Face-book”).

Pick a Name That’s Brandable

Your name should be original enough so that people won’t mistake it for any other similar business.

For example, if you want to name your pizzeria “Pizza Den” but there’s another business in town called “Pizza Pan” then it’s not a good name.

Pick a Name That’s Short(ish)

Not longer than a combination of 2-3 words.

Any longer and it’s going to be harder to remember and less brandable.

Don’t Use Any Special Characters Or Numbers

Also forget about dots, underscores, dashes, etc.

Pick a Name That is Available as a .com Domain

The .com is the most popular and most important domain name extension of the bunch. If you’re brainstorming a name, don’t go for something that doesn’t have a .com domain available.

You can check if your dream domain name is available on a site like (but don’t buy it yet).


5. Start an Online Store Website By Yourself 🛠️

Finally, it’s time to build an actual online store.

Here’s the best part: you can do it all on your own, there’s no professional help needed, and you don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the final outcome. Read: your online store is going to be just as functional and just as good-looking as if it was built by a pro.

1) Go to Bluehost And Sign Up for Web Hosting

Bluehost is our no.1 recommended web host. They’ve been around for years and have proven to deliver top-notch services. At the same time, they’re more than affordable – your monthly hosting bill is going to be only $2.75.

To get started, visit  and click on the main button:Start an online store on Bluehost

Pick the cheapest plan and click on select: select plan to start an online store

In the next step, enter the domain name that you want to register for your store:

pick domain

You’ll get this domain name for free for the first year.

2) Install WordPress

WordPress is an operating system for websites. It’s open-source, powerful, and easy to work with. We’re going to use it as the foundation for your store.

To install WordPress, log in to your Bluehost user panel, go to My Sites, and then click on Create Site.

create a site and start an online store

Bluehost will ask for some basic details, like the name you want to set for your site and a tagline.

Next, select your domain name from the list – Bluehost asks you for this just to be sure which address you want to use on the site.

assign domain

Click on Next to have WordPress installed.

After a couple of seconds, you will see a confirmation screen, and you’ll be able to log in to your WordPress admin panel.

3) Install WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress that extends it with the eCommerce functionality. This is the key plugin that will essentially allow you to start an online store. It is also free and open-source, much like WordPress itself.

To install it, log in to the WordPress admin panel and go to Plugins → Add New (from the sidebar menu).

Type in “WooCommerce” into the search field, and install and activate the plugin.

install WooCommerce

WooCommerce will then take you by the hand through the initial setup required to get your store going.

WooCommerce setup

4) Add Your Products

At this stage, it’s time to add your first products to the store’s catalog.

If you’re going to be offering your own products, you can add those in Products → Add Product. You’ll see the following screen:

add product

There’s space here for your product name, description, and also all the other details like the price and shipping info.

If you’re going to dropship, you need to install an additional plugin, which will let you import products from suppliers. One of the better solutions for new stores is You can start using it for free, and can then choose to upgrade to a paid plan if you want to import more products.

After you install, you’ll get access to more than 50,000 dropshipping products from markets like AliExpress.

5) Choose a Theme

The last step is picking a theme (a design package) for your online store.

The great thing about WordPress is that there are thousands of themes for it throughout the web.

That being said, we want to highlight three themes that come with their specific benefits:

  • Storefront. This is the official theme for WooCommerce. It has all the basic features and is easy to start with. The design is a bit basic, but it might be what you want.
  • Neve. A great-looking theme that works out the box and comes with a design optimized to work on an eCommerce store.
  • Astra. A swiss-army-knife type of theme that comes with a ton of starter sites and settings for you to dive into. If you like to tinker with things, use that one.

👉 If you want more tips on installing your online store using Bluehost and WooCommerce, we have an in-depth guide on the topic here.

6. Set Up Payment Methods 💳

The last piece of the puzzle when attempting to start an online store is accepting payments from customers.

By default, WooCommerce allows you to accept payments via PayPal. You don’t need to do much in order to enable this payment system either. You likely already took care of it during the initial WooCommerce setup.

paypal homepage

That said, you can choose a different payment system, or even use a couple of alternative systems at the same time. One of the reasons for this might be that some of your customers will prefer specific payment methods over others. So the more of them you have integrated into your store, the more sales you’ll get.

Two of the most popular additional payment methods for WooCommerce are Stripe and Square. These are particularly good choices if you want to accept credit cards (which you surely do).

Both Stripe and Square are free to get started with. However, like with every payment method, there are additional fees imposed on every transaction made (it’s the same with PayPal), so just be aware of that.

Getting a new payment method installed in your eCommerce store is simple. Those payment systems are all delivered as WordPress plugins, so you can install them the same way you installed WooCommerce.

After that, each payment system comes with its own setup procedure. Most of the time, though, all you have to do is sign up for an account and verify your details.

7. Start Marketing Your Online Store 📢

There are many different things you can do to get the word out about your store, but we’re going to focus on just four here – the four that are the most likely to work in 2020 and going forward.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is a relatively new way to promote your store. Most of it is done on Instagram.

The way it works is this:

  1. Find people popular in your niche or recognizable for whatever reason.
  2. Reach out to them and ask what their rates are for promoting products like yours. Also, pay attention to the size of their following and ask about the number of engagements they get under similar posts.
  3. Agree on a run of two or three promotional posts, and send them your products.

Paid Ads

Paid ads basically don’t ever fail. If there’s a market for something, and you target that market with ads, you will get some sales.

The most popular platform for advertising your products is Google AdWords. Getting started with them is relatively easy, and Google has its own guides to take you through the initial steps.

Social Media Marketing

While Instagram certainly is the most on-trend social media network of today, this doesn’t mean that it’s the only place where you should promote your store.

In fact, you should be present in all the places where your customers are likely to hang out. This, in the modern-day, means most of the popular social media networks. Or, at the very minimum, the top ones like Facebook, Twitter, and optionally Pinterest (if your customers use it).

Your approach to all these networks will be similar, but the goals and the way you construct your messages will be different.

The first thing you should do is research what your competition is doing and how they go about promoting their stores. Take note of their strategies and tactics, and see what you can adapt to your situation. Chiefly, pay attention to:

  • the type of messages they post
  • the posting frequency
  • how often they promote their products directly
  • what’s their general voice and how their messages make you feel

Next, set your own goals as to what you want to achieve through social media.

Most commonly, those goals should be building brand awareness among customers, and only occasionally promoting your products and trying to generate direct sales. If you push your stuff too much, you’ll alienate people quickly.

The next step is setting a publication calendar in place and preparing some social media posts in advance. You can then publish those posts with the help of tools like Buffer.

Content Marketing and SEO

Nowadays, content marketing and SEO are the most effective methods to promote any website (including eCommerce stores).

The idea behind content marketing is simple: you give people insights on topics related to your business and thus generate interest in what you have to offer.

For example, if your store sells winter socks, then you can offer people advice on things like how to pick ski socks. You can deliver that advice in the form of a simple blog post. As people read your content, they also get introduced to your store and the socks that you have in your catalog.

The same principle can be adapted to any market or niche. Find out what people want to know and then create content that delivers that info to them.

When doing so, optimize your content so that it’s more discoverable via Google. It’s reported that Google is responsible for 94% of total organic traffic on the web.

👉 Here’s more info on how to get more traffic to your online store or website using SEO.


As you can see, to start an online store is not that difficult of a task after all. All you need to launch your store quickly is plan out your steps, and take advantage of modern tools like WordPress and WooCommerce.

Just to recap, here are all the steps once again:

  1. Decide what you want to sell
  2. Choose between dropshipping and selling your own products
  3. Choose the exact products to sell
  4. Come up with a business name and register a domain name
  5. Start an online store website by yourself
  6. Set up payment methods
  7. Start marketing your online store
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How the Supreme Court’s State Tax Ruling Impacts You

President Trump tweeted his approval for a Supreme Court ruling last Thursday, saying it’s a “big victory for fairness and for our country. Great victory for consumers and retailers.”

Get ready, you are probably going to be paying a little bit more for that eBay purchase. If you run an online store, you might have just inherited a virtual state tax headache (no pun intended).
2018 State Sales Tax Ruling

What Just Happened?

In a decision with potentially enormous consequences, the Supreme Court in a close landmark decision, ruled 5-4 on Thursday (June 21,2018) to allow states to collect sales tax from online and out-of-state retailers, regardless if they have a physical presence in the state. In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy, said that times have changed to such a degree that online retailers no longer qualify for “an arbitrary advantage over their competitors who collect state sales taxes” by claiming they don’t have a physical presence in a state which came from outdated rulings dating back to mail-order days.

The ruling allowing states to tax e-commerce providers outside their state borders will be almost guaranteed to create added headaches for companies handling online transactions, but the bright side is that it may help brick-and-mortar retail businesses.

Aren’t States Already Collecting Online Tax?

Currently, forty five states collect sales tax. The only states that don’t have sales tax are: Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, and Oregon. All other states have some sort of sales tax and the tax rate for each state can differ, even down to the county level.

This is what makes it hard for online merchants to track it by hand or even in a spreadsheet. Major e-commerce sites like Amazon have already been adding state sales tax into consumers’ purchases, and is equipped to deal with the complexity, while other smaller online merchants will have to adapt to the changes.

Who’s Impacted

In short, everyone. We are all going to be paying a little more for online purchases. With millions of American online sellers be impacted the most by this ruling, it’s going to take a while to measure the entire scope of this ruling.

There are well over 10,000 state, city and local sales-tax jurisdictions in the country, and the responsibility for figuring out how much tax to collect and where to send it ultimately will be the responsibility of the online sellers.

Online sellers are among a growing segment of Americans, who either supplement their income or rely on internet sales as their sole source of income. This is made possible from digital platforms such as Etsy, Shopify, eBay and even WordPress.

It’s still unclear on the specifics including if the state where the server is located that hosts the website will be able to get their share as well. These details will have to be sorted out and may prompt Congress to introduce new legislation for national standards around interstate commerce to avoid a patchwork of state sales tax laws that can be difficult for retailers (especially small businesses) to navigate. Many major online retailers are looking to Congress to clarify the ruling with a framework to defend small businesses and provide uniformity and consistency. We can expect an overhaul on unifying e-commerce for all 50 states. It’s going to take time, is not going to be fixed over night and it’s not going to be easy.

Follow the Money

In a 2017 federal report to Congress, it was estimated that state and local governments were missing out on $8 to $13 billion in tax revenue from online retailers. Retail e-commerce sales in the United States in 2016 was $322 billion. In 2017, online consumers pushed e-commerce sales to $452 billion, which was about 9% of all retail sales with the online giant Amazon reporting $54.5 billion in e-retail sales of physical goods in 2017.

The ruling overturns a prior 1992 court decision, Quill Corp vs. North Dakota, which established the “physical presence” standard for sales tax. Approximately 2% of Americans had internet access in 1992 compared to nearly 90% today. Those of us old enough will remember that in the early days of e-commerce, purchasers of items over the internet paid NO sales tax at all. Since the advent of the internet, the dynamics of retail industry have evolved and this is just another of those evolutions.

What Can I Do?

Don’t panic, there are a several software companies that are available if you plan on tracking it yourself. The three main software providers: TaxJar, Taxify, and Avalara. TaxJar is built for small to medium sized companies, and we have found it to be the better software for our e-commerce clients. Taxify and Avalara are built to support the larger companies and with that said, also have a larger price-tag to go with it.

If the thought of tracking your own sales tax is too daunting or you just don’t have the time to do so, we would recommend that you seek out an accounting firm that you feel the most comfortable with that specializes in sales tax (or give us a call at 888-620-0770).

Like all things in the e-commerce industry, sales tax laws will continue to evolve and it is important as an e-commerce entrepreneur to keep up to date on the new rulings and laws.

Which Social Platforms are Your Customers Using?

Undoubtedly, social media has changed the world significantly. Not only has social media transformed the way we communicate with our friends and family, but it has also changed the way businesses target their potential customers. Many companies use social platforms as a tool to market directly to the potential customers they hope to reach. If you want to take advantage of social media to the largest extent possible, you should know which social platforms your customers are using the most. Here is a list of the social platforms that your customers are likely using so that you can create an effective social strategy.

1. Facebook

Chances are the vast majority of your users are on Facebook. Currently, Facebook has more than 1.6 billion users, which means that this social platform is the most diverse in terms of demographics. Facebook will serve as an excellent platform for your company to connect with potential customers not just in the United states, but also across the world.

When it comes to advertising, you will likely have an easier time with management and targeting on Facebook. You can use Facebook Ads to match your current buyers with prospects who possess the same or similar characteristics. Facebook Ads will give you the tools you need to push these prospects to an opt-in page where you can get their name and email.

2. Twitter

There are about one million accounts on Twitter. The main value of its Twitter is its ability to make posts go viral. When people “retweet” and share your posts, you will get more followers. You can post recent updates, news, and articles on Twitter. In order to build momentum for your content, you can use hashtags. As long as you know what’s trending on a day-to-day basis, you will have no problem including relevant hashtags in your posts. You should also retweet the content of individuals who have many followers. If you follow individuals on Twitter, it is likely that they will follow you back.

3. LinkedIn

There are about half a million users on LinkedIn. Therefore, it is likely that a large chunk of your potential customers already use LinkedIn. This is particularly true if professionals are your target audience. Businesses in the B2B field should definitely focus on LinkedIn. If you want to connect with business professionals, LinkedIn will make it very easy for you to do so. In fact, you will be able to target professionals by industry, job title, and more. When using LinkedIn, you should focus on building connections rather than starting with a sales pitch.

LinkedIn Groups are one of the best features on LinkedIn for businesses. Companies can establish groups in their industry or niche and invite other businesses to join. Once you’ve established strong relationships with potential customers on LinkedIn, you can then give them your sales pitch.

As you can see, social platforms are essential if you want your business to thrive in this day and age. Since you can’t focus your efforts on all the social media platforms, you should know which social platforms your customers are using the most. The three social platforms discussed above are a few of the most popular, so you can rest assured that your efforts won’t go to waste if you decide to focus on these social media websites. For more information about using social platforms to target potential customers, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Interesting Business Blogs to Follow

For budding entrepreneurs and seasoned professionals, there are many blogs that are helpful to read on a regular basis. There is always a need to continue to learn more about the things that help to be successful. Moreover, advancements in technology, especially disruptive ones, can change a business model overnight.

There are five basic areas of interest for most business owners and C-level executives, which are:

  • Finance
  • Technology
  • Innovation
  • Marketing
  • Legal Compliance


Finance is the lifeblood of every business. There is always the need to keep the organization moving forward. In order to do that, there needs to be a steady flow of cash to work with. There is always the need for owners and executives of any business to learn as much as possible about this critical area.

Some blogs that are good to read, which cover topics in this area include All Business, A VC, Venture Hacks, and The Entrepreneurial Mind.


The impact of technology affects all businesses. Business owners and C-level executives need to be aware of the newest technological trends to make sure that they can embrace the most positive trends. They also need to avoid things that could cause the greatest setbacks for their business, such as cyber attacks.

Great blogs about technology and Silicon Valley include PandoDaily, TechCrunch, SAI, and Quora (ask experts any question).


One clear priority that rules modern business is “innovate or die.” Things are always moving in new directions. This means that every organization needs to be able to keep up with the changes and lead if possible. Gigantic successes have come from market disruptions. These can be caused by an innovative startup company that discovered a new way to do something.

Terrific blogs that help with innovative concepts and industry trends include Harvard Business Review, Smart Hustle, Fast Company, and Entrepreneur Daily Dose.


Every business, in order to exist and thrive, needs to be an expert in marketing their product or service. This area includes using Internet technologies and data mining to gain a competitive advantage. It also includes proactively managing brand awareness in order to establish a good reputation and maintain it.

Marketing is a multi-faceted effort. Some of the best marketing blogs for business are LinkedIn Today (articles are curated based on your professional profile), Church of the Customer (for small businesses), the Infusionsoft Blog, CopyBlogger, Duct Tape Marketing, and the Hubspot Marketing Blog.

Legal Compliance

There is almost nothing worse than having a business shut down because of a failure to be in legal compliance. Regulations and laws change constantly. Therefore, it is important for business owners and executives to read about the changes occurring.

Some helpful business blogs that deal with legal, tax, and other compliance issues include Small Business Trends and Forbes: Entrepreneurs.


Business owners and C-level executives are very busy. Nevertheless, they need to be proactive in order to stay informed about things that are critical for their success. A good way to achieve this is to find some of the best business blogs and then, regularly read them.

Often Overlooked Tax Deductions

The Internal Revenue Service requires all citizens to ante up their share of taxes each year, but you don’t want to pay any more than necessary.

Here are some seldom notices tax breaks that may save you some money:

Ø      If you are seeking a new job in your present field, you can write off expenses, such as the cost of résumé preparation and employment agency fees.

Ø      If you are just beginning to enter the job market, and you moved more than 50 miles, you can deduct 23 cents per mile of the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new location.

Ø      If you are in the military reserve or the National Guard, and must travel for training exercises, you can deduct travel expenses, such as mileage, the cost of a hotel or motel and 50% of your meal costs.

Ø      Summer childcare and day camp costs can now be deducted. If you have a child who qualifies as your dependent, you can deduct expenses paid for a child care provider. Eligible child care programs include before and after school care and day camps, but overnight/sleepover camps are not allowed.

Ø      If you pay for the care for a parent, and your parent qualifies as your dependent, you can deduct the costs associated with caring for that person. Costs associated with in-home care and nursing home care qualify.

Ø      The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit will allow you to write off up to six thousand dollars for expenses relative to the care of a child or adult dependent.

Ø      The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) applies to low income people, and also to those who have lost a job, taken a pay cut, or worked fewer hours. To get a refund from the EITC you must file a tax return, even if you don’t owe any taxes.

Ø      Educational expense deductions can help you take up to $4,000 off your taxable income.

Ø      A child can deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid by their parents, if he or she is not claimed as a dependent.

Ø      Tax breaks for some energy-efficient home improvements are available under the Non– business Energy Property Credit.

Ø      You deduct either state and local income taxes, or state and local sales taxes. For most citizens the income tax deduction is the best deal.

Ø      You can deduct the state taxes you owed when you filed your 2016 state tax return. Include the amount with your state tax itemized deduction.

Ø      There is now a simplified home office deduction that may allow you to write off up to a $1,500 each year, if you work from home.

Ø      Miscellaneous medical costs, including travel expenses and insurance premiums can be deducted. Medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or payments for treatments affecting the body. Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and nontraditional medical practitioners.

Ø      Payments for in-patient hospital care or residential nursing home care, if the availability of medical care is the principal reason for being in the nursing home, including the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home.

Ø      When you contribute to an individual retirement account, or a workplace plan, you can get a tax savings for up to fifty percent of the first $2,000 you put into the account.

Remember, The Internal Revenue Service requires all citizens to pay income taxes, but you don’t want to pay any more than you have to, so be sure to take every tax deduction, credit or income adjustment to which you’re entitled.

Best Mobile Apps for Startups

Nowadays, just about every entrepreneur relies heavily on their tablet or smartphone to run their startup. In fact, many entrepreneurs have a hard time remembering what they did before the advent of mobile devices. While most entrepreneurs are able to recognize the advantages of tablets and smartphones, some have a hard time taking full advantage of these mobile devices. If you’re not sure which apps are worth downloading, here are some of the favorite mobile apps for entrepreneurs/startups.

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1. Evernote/Penultimate

Most entrepreneurs attend seminars, meetings, conferences, and talks on a regular basis. Entrepreneurs also spend plenty of time outside of the office meeting potential customers and partners as well as pitching their products and services. As you may know from experience, it can be very difficult to keep track of all these appointments. Evernote and Penultimate are two popular apps among entrepreneurs and startups that will help you keep track of all your appointments, notes, and thoughts whether you’re on the go or working in your office.

2. Asana

Even though it may be tempting to cut corners and build your startup as quickly as possible, entrepreneurs can benefit significantly from investing in their systems and structure early on. If you periodically make small improvements in project management tools and agile development, you will notice major positive changes in efficiency and productivity. Asana is a popular app that will help you organize your teams and tasks as efficiently as possible. Many entrepreneurs find that this app is powerful enough to help them run their entire business.

3. TripIt

If you’re an entrepreneur who uses their smartphone or tablet regularly, chances are you’ve heard of TripIt. Due to the nature of their work, entrepreneurs spend a lot of time traveling. Travel means dealing with last-minute delays, logistics, confirmations, and schedules. Fortunately, TripIt is an app that will help you keep all of this information organized and in one place. If you travel a lot, TripIt will likely become one of the apps that you use the most.

4. Highrise

Highrise is another note-taking app that is very popular among entrepreneurs and startups. Some entrepreneurs religiously check their Highrise app before going into a sales or client meeting. This app will remind you of your latest emails, notes, and conversations. Many entrepreneurs find that this app is a great way to remember all of the details, both big and small, about a client. Highrise also organizes your emails, which is a great perk for those who tend to spend hours manually organizing their email.

5. SignEasy

SignEasy is yet another popular mobile app for entrepreneurs. You can use this mobile app to sign your documents on your smartphone. This will save you time because you won’t have to print out documents, sign them, and then scan them. If you’re an entrepreneur who signs a lot of paperwork on a regular basis, this is a great option.

6. Basecamp

Basecamp is a mobile app for project management and team communication. Many entrepreneurs swear that Basecamp is the best business app that they’ve ever used. You should try out this app and it may end up becoming a game changer for you and your startup.

There are thousands of business apps available on the market for entrepreneurs. As you can imagine, it can be difficult to sift through all these apps to find the diamonds in the rough. Fortunately, you can make the search a little easier by trying the six mobile apps discussed above.

Social Media Tips for Small Businesses

Social media is one of the most effective and cheapest ways to market your company. Grow your business and interact with your customer base! If you are not using social media, or are not using it effectively, you could be missing out. Here are five of the social media marketing tips that your company should use. These can help increase sales and get feedback from customers.

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Post Consistently

One of the best tips for social media marketing is to post consistently. Ideally, you will want to post at least once a day on more quiet social websites and up to a few times a day on busy, high traffic social websites. However, when you post, make sure that the posts add value or are appealing to your customers. Let them know about new products coming out, upcoming sales, or even link to your blog posts about topics that are relevant to your business. Posting frequently helps increase the chances of your customers seeing your posts. If you only post once a week, you won’t get a lot of traffic.

Host Social Media Events

Another social media marketing tip for companies is to host social media events. When you host these events, you get potential customers and current customers to interact with you. For example, clothing and accessory companies often ask customers to post a picture of themselves wearing their favorite piece from their boutique or clothing line every Friday. This helps customers see your clothing or accessories, while also allowing current customers the opportunity to receive compliments for the pieces they are showing off. It is a win-win for both parties.

Engage With Your Customers

Many companies make the mistake of using social media only to post what they want to post. They ignore everything else. However, you can gain a lot of insight into the mind of your consumers by engaging with them and interacting with them. Many customers will post on your page letting you know about bad customer service, products that didn’t work correctly or even to compliment employees. You can then use this information to improve your products and customer service. And it gives you an outlet to apologize to the customer and make them feel important for bringing these issues to your attention.

Offer Social Media Discounts

One of the latest trends in social media marketing are exclusive offers. Offering special discounts or coupons only to your social media followers. This entices users to check your page frequently to look for discounts. It also feels like they are being rewarded or made to feel special for receiving a discount that may not be available to everyone. Putting up a coupon or discount on social media increases your business and sales.

Get Help When You Need It

Our last small business social marketing tip is to get help when you need it. Social media marketing can open many doors and increase your business and brand awareness. But if you are not using it correctly, your can be missing out on these benefits. If you don’t have the time to effectively run your social media, there are tools available. Take the time to learn about posting tools that can automate posts for you. Or services that reply to customer comments for you, even social media specialists who can handle your company’s social accounts completely.

When used correctly, social media is the perfect platform for interacting with your customers, drawing in potential new customers, increasing brand awareness and enticing both new and existing customers to do business with you. However, using social media for marketing can be tricky. Taking the time to read various tips and learn more about social media will help you to learn how to market correctly or will help you decide to get professional help for social media marketing.

The importance of financial audits to your small business

Small business owners often cringe at the mention of an audit. But while an audit by the IRS can be an extremely stressful event, an internal audit or an audit conducted by a third party is often essential to solid business operations. Auditing internal controls on a regular basis is the only way to ensure that financial statements are accurate and that there aren’t any discrepancies. Here are some advantages to financial audits.

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Catching Client and Vendor Mistakes

There are often issues with client or vendor payments that may not be caught until the books are looked at. Such as a vendor who hasn’t fulfilled their contracts or clients that have not made payments. If a client has a payment logged into another client account, for instance, it will still register a payment but on someone else’s invoice. Depending on the financial system, it’s possible that these errors may not be caught without external checking.

Ensuring the Accuracy of Statements and Returns

When the IRS conducts an audit, they aren’t trying to get additional taxes. Actually, an audit can be favorable. An audit seeks for and finds inaccurate statements. An audit assures investors that your books are accurate and that you’re doing everything you should be. Investors, both current and prospective, will feel more confident about their investment and their chances at recouping and growing their investment.

Optimizing Business Processes

Audits show areas in which businesses are able to prove their processes and streamline them. Accuracy is a measure of controls and also efficiency. Fewer steps mean less room for error. Thus in removing error during an audit, an audit also improves productivity.

Empowering Employees to Take Initiative

Improving controls often means also describing which employee is responsible for which area of the financials. This gives employees more of an idea of what their responsibility is to the company. Often employees don’t feel that they have the authority to make changes and consequently they wait or do not speak if they see problems. So, streamline operations and facilitate training.

Ensuring Regulatory Compliance

Finally, audits are often necessary to catch issues that may not necessarily be tax or accuracy issues but rather issues of compliance. As an example, companies within certain industry sectors need to be able to assure certain levels of privacy for their financial records or they may need to keep financial records for a specific amount of time. An audit doesn’t just track accuracy; it also ensures compliance.

Overall, audits are an excellent way for an organization to gain more control over their financial situation. Review your books, are they in full compliance? A regular audit can absolutely be beneficial to a company and its employees and can give assurances to stakeholders.

Are you planning effectively for the upcoming tax season?

Individuals generally prepare for their taxes once a year… and usually last minute. But business owners need to be considering their taxes with every action they take, as careful planning can reduce their overall tax burden and give them the opportunity to take advantage of some unique tax credits and deductions. If you haven’t already, it’s time to start planning for the next tax season — getting all of your documents in order, exploring any unique tax situations, and thinking about the year to come.

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Getting Your Documents in Order

Keep your documents in order. This is the first step towards a fast and well-optimized tax strategy. Your accountant will need a lot of paperwork. Your bank statements, credit statements, payroll, and anything else that directly financially related to your business. Keeping up on your bookkeeping and tracking the forms and statements you need last year can make this process easier.

Analyzing Your Tax Trends

Comparing your tax return year-over-year is one of the easiest ways to identify potential issues. Any figures that are far off from the prior year may have been forgotten or booked incorrectly. If the figures are correct but have substantially changed, this can provide insight into changes in business operations and things that may impact the organization financially later on. As businesses grow, they may need to take additional control not only on their spending but on the amount to that they spend in taxes. More controlled tracking of expenses and deductions can often afford a more favorable tax outlook.

Resolving Any Upcoming Issues

If there have been problems compiling current tax information or with the accuracy of tax information, now is likely the time to institute additional controls. Preemptively resolving issues for the next year is the best way to create a streamlined and optimized strategy that can serve you better for upcoming years. List any issues you found in the current year as well as potential suggestions for correcting these problems. This type of analysis is often called an internal audit and it is often necessary for growing businesses. They need to account for changes as their operating volume radically increases.

Thinking About Changes Early

Once you’ve completed one year’s return, it’s often a good idea to start looking ahead to the future. Tax regulation change from year to year, and your rates for certain things may differ. Educate yourself on upcoming tax changes. Prepare yourself and take advantage!

By taking control of your business tax situation, you can reduce the amount of taxes you need to spend overall. Through increased accuracy, you can also avoid situations such as audits. Therefore, assuring investors and shareholders of your company’s financial situation. An accounting firm can help organize your data and advise you for this coming year. This also saves you the time it takes to compile and complete your taxes each year.

Startup: Getting a Financial Edge

Many startups begin with a fantastic idea and highly specialized talent. But, a distinct lack of knowledge regarding the financial side. Investors and lenders see hundreds of ideas that are a great idea but not a great business. This usually dissuades them from any type of investment. But for intelligent entrepreneurs, this actually represents a great way to get a competitive edge. By using available technology to create real-time, professional, and accurate financial statements, startups can successfully court investors while also building themselves a firm financial footing.

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The Advantages of New Cloud-Based Accounting Systems

Just a decade or two ago, most enterprise accounting systems required expensive licensing and specialized knowledge. Small business owners often found themselves doing the books on paper ledgers or using spreadsheets to organize their data. Today, cloud-based accounting systems are available to give startups enterprise-grade technology at small business prices. Therefore, cloud-based accounting systems have some major benefits for new entrepreneurs:

  • Intuitive and easy. Cloud-based systems are generally as easy to use as a website. Designed for user-friendliness and a positive user experience.
  • Accessible from anywhere. Business owners access their accounting information and financials from home, client sites, and other offices. This offers a distinct advantage for business owners who need to travel or who are always on the go.
  • Advanced real-time analysis. Cloud-based systems provide advanced data analysis, in the form of professional and polished financial statements. By importing bank data and making it easier to access data from anywhere, cloud-based systems can offer real-time information — allowing a company to make better decisions faster.
  • Affordable and scalable. For a low subscription fee, you can go cloud-based. Furthermore, most companies offer different tiers of service. As a result, you can upgrade your system as you increase in volume and the system will scale to the size of your organization.
  • Secure and stable. Cloud-based systems run with best-in-class security standards, ensuring that financial information is kept safe. Small businesses are now a primary target for cyber criminals, making security a paramount concern. Cloud-based systems also have large volumes of resources available, so they will remain stable and reliable throughout a company’s operations.
  • Integrated and automated. Cloud-based systems can often be integrated directly with point-of-sale solutions and can be synced with bank accounts and credit accounts, streamlining processes and also reducing the chances of inaccuracies and mistakes. 

The Importance of Fast and Reliable Financials

Prospective investors often need to see financial statements as quickly as possible to make educated and informed decisions. Also, current investors need to see how your business is currently doing to determine whether it was a good investment. Many startups find themselves falling behind in their financial statements and it can be very difficult to catch up. After all, they are concentrating on revenue-generating activities rather than administrative activities. Investors and lenders may become frustrated, as they may feel that they are not being kept up-to-date on the company’s current performance.

Internally, fast and reliable financials empower a business owner to make the best decisions regarding their business. Startups in particular need to be able to see trends quickly. They need to know whether their current business strategies are truly working. Fast, accurate financial statements means it’s easy to see how your business is performing. So, if a business isn’t able to do this, it may have no idea of trouble until it’s too late.

Financial statements are more than administrative work; they are the core of a solid business. Through better financial statements, a business can procure new investors and keep their current investors in the loop. Luckily, the technology is there for many startups to acquire solid financial statements with ease. Cloud-based accounting systems automate many of the involved processes and can streamline the entire process. Business owners who are interested in developing their competitive edge may want to look into these systems.