5 steps to create & launch your small business website

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Welcome to the internet! You made it this far, so we’re guessing you have some idea of how this works: Need some information? Go to the internet.

That’s why your new business is going to need a website. Customers who want to know more about you are going to look for you online, and a polished, helpful website goes a long way.

But just because you know how to Google something doesn’t mean you have a four-year degree in web development and speak fluent HTML. Actually building a website from the ground up can seem a little scary for most people.

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However, you might be surprised to learn that it really doesn’t need to be that hard. In fact, it’s more than possible to have your own site up and running in a couple of days. You can even do it in one day if you really want to hustle.

 

Like personal credit, it’s important to regularly monitor your business credit. Having a business solid score can help you in a number of ways, including:

  • Obtaining a business loan or line of credit more easily and with better terms;
  • Convincing suppliers to extend business credit and/or offer you better payment terms; and
  • Boosting your business’ reputation with potential partners, vendors, and suppliers.

You should begin building your business credit rating as soon as your business is up and running. And if you’re already going, it’s never too late to start. Here are some ways to do it.

 

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If your business is a sole proprietorship, it may be harder to keep your business and personal finances separate. Building business credit is one reason why forming an LLC or corporation could be the right structure for your business. A Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) combines the limited liability of corporations with certain tax benefits.

 

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Get an EIN for your business. This 9-digit number, like a Social Security number for businesses, is assigned by the IRS. Having an EIN number can make it easier to open a bank account or secure funding from lenders.

 

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It’s a best practice to operate your business as a separate financial entity. Opening a business bank account and keeping personal and business funds separate not only provides an opportunity to build business credit, but it can also simplify tax preparation.

 

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Business loans—in addition to helping keep your personal and business finances separate—can help build your business credit as well as categorize and track expenses.

 

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Paying all of your debts on time—including payments to utility companies, vendors, landlords, credit-line payments, and business credit card companies—is critical to building a strong business credit rating.

 

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Consider how much available credit you want on-hand as a financial cushion if you run into a cash flow crunch. If you have more credit available than you need, and keep your utilization across each line of credit to less than 30% you’ll gradually build your business credit rating.

 

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Business loans and lines of credit are powerful tools for funding necessary expenses, including hiring, marketing, or covering unexpected emergencies. They also enable you to grow your business without relying on high-interest credit cards. They’re a great way to build your business credit rating.

 

 

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Make sure the three major business credit reporting agencies have complete and accurate information on your business, including your EIN. Keep them updated on any changes to your business, such as a new address or contact information. Quickbooks Capital partnered with a leading agency, Dun & Bradstreet to provide a free business credit score to to help Quickbooks customers get a better handle on their score.

 

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Not all companies report payments to the business credit bureaus. Therefore, you may have to ask your vendors directly to do this on your behalf. Quickbooks Capital reports to the agencies to help customers build their credit score.

 

 

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Once a quarter, check your business credit report and your business credit rating with each of the three credit bureaus. If you spot any errors or inaccuracies, take steps to correct them. You’ll also be able to see if your credit rating is declining for legitimate reasons, such as late payments or overused credit, and take steps to change that behavior. If you’re a Quickbooks Capital customer, you may already have access to a free score provided to our customers by Dun & Bradstreet.

A strong credit rating is critical for small business. Taking these long- and short-term steps can help you have more and better options available when you decide to seek additional funding for your business.

To learn more, check out this comprehensive guide on how to start a business.

This article originally appeared on the Quickbooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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Building your small business website: 5 steps to follow

As with anything, getting started is the hardest part. If you’ve explored creating your own website before, you probably took one glance at all the jargon (uhh…hosting, responsive design, and search engine optimization?), closed your browser tab, and vowed to live off the grid forever.

Not so fast. If you’ve got a keyboard and a mouse, you can do this. Here are a few easy steps you can take to create your own small business website—without all the stress and confusion.

1. Purchase and register your domain name

First things first: You need a domain name. This is just a fancy way of saying the URL or website address (starting with “www”) that people will use to get to your website.

When it comes to choosing your domain name, you want it to be something simple and relevant to your business. Ideally, it’ll be intuitive enough for your customers to remember easily.

Let’s say you’re opening your own bagel shop called The Corner Bagel Shop. You’d want your domain to be something simple and to the point, like www.cornerbagelshop.com.

That’s a great URL! Nice choice. But you actually have to buy it before you can claim it.

Where do you purchase a domain name? Today, almost everything you need to build your business website—your domain name, hosting (which we’ll talk about next), templates, and more—is included in one platform or website builder. Something like Squarespace or Wix will get you everything you need in a one-stop shop.

But if you’re looking to just purchase a domain to get started, there are plenty of places you can do that. These include:

Using one of those platforms, search for the domain name that you want to use. If it’s available, you’ll purchase it and fill in your information—and you’re the proud new owner of that domain.

What if your domain name is already taken?

It’s not uncommon that the domain name you want to use is already taken and unavailable for purchase. What then? There are a few things you can do, including:

  • Change the ending: It’s true that .com endings are the most common (and they’re probably your best bet if you can swing it). But there are other options you can use, like .net, .info, or .us.
  • Add another word: Even adding one small word can make your domain different enough to be available. So, if www.cornerbagelshop.com is taken, you might be able to secure www.thecornerbagelshop.com.
  • Add your location: No dice? Try incorporating your location in some way. For example, www.nycornerbagelshop.com might be available.

How much does a domain name cost?

Domain names can be surprisingly cheap. For example, Google Domains says that purchasing www.cornerbagelshop.com will cost just $12 per year. Exactly how much you’ll need to spend will vary, but planning for $10 to $20 per year for your domain is probably a safe bet.

2. Secure your website hosting

The idea of website hosting can feel a little technical and complex, but think of it like this: It’s where your website gets stored. The information on your website needs to live somewhere, and that’s the job of hosting. It stores that information and then makes it accessible to visitors.

There are two types of hosting for websites:

  • Hosted: Your website is built on a ready-made website builder like Wix or Squarespace.
  • Self-hosted: You purchase hosting separately and then build your own website from scratch.

While a self-hosted website gives you far more flexibility and customization options, a hosted website is best when you’re just getting started. You’ll have a far easier time using a drag-and-drop website builder as opposed to trying to start from scratch with a self-hosted website. That can come later when you have the resources to work with a professional.

With that in mind, you’ll likely end up purchasing your domain and hosting all in one spot: from the website builder you choose (which we’ll talk about in the next section). If you decide to purchase hosting separately, most of the domain providers we listed above also offer hosting for the domain you choose.

3. Find your website builder

There are several website builders available that will offer the following wrapped up in one solution:

  • Domain name
  • Hosting
  • Easy interface to design and build your website

A website builder is a great choice for business owners who need to create a simple website but don’t necessarily have a lot of experience.

As you explore the different website builders available, keep in mind the features you need. For example, will your bagel shop need e-commerce functionality so people can order bagels and seasoning online? That’s an important consideration as you evaluate your options.

Once you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to look at the different builders. Some of the most popular ones include:

  • GoDaddy
    • Best for: Businesses that need to get a simple website set up fast.
    • Price: Plans start at $9.99 per month (when billed annually).
  • Shopify
    • Best for: Businesses that plan to focus primarily on e-commerce.
    • Price: Plans start at $29 per month.
  • Squarespace
    • Best for: Businesses that want a huge selection of website templates.
    • Price: Plans start at $12 per month.
  • Weebly
    • Best for: Brick-and-mortar businesses that also want smaller e-commerce functionality.
    • Price: Plans start at $6 per month.
  • Wix
    • Best for: Businesses that want an easy-to-use interface.
    • Price: Plans start at $14 per month.

Using these platforms, you can get your domain, hosting, and templates that make it easy to design a beautiful, impressive website for your small business.

As you explore your options, you’ll likely also run across WordPress. It’s one of the most popular website builders around, with an estimated 30% of websites running on the platform.

However, it’s important to note that WordPress has two different options for websites—and they can cause a bit of confusion. Here’s the gist:

  • WordPress.com: This is the company’s hosted website builder, meaning you’ll build your website on WordPress’s platform. You’ll need to purchase a domain elsewhere and register it with WordPress.
  • WordPress.org: This is by far the more popular WordPress option. Websites built using WordPress.org are self-hosted. They’re completely customizable because there’s no drag-and-drop builder—meaning you’ll likely need to work with a web designer to build your website.

There’s no shortage of options, and there’s not one right choice for every type of business or business owner. Nonetheless, going with Wix or Squarespace is a safe bet to create a functional website without a lot of stress.

4. Collect your website content

Take a deep breath, because now a lot of the head-spinning technical work is behind us. You have your domain, your hosting, and you’ve selected your website builder. Now it’s time to start to pull together the information that actually needs to go on your website.

To start, take a look at the templates your website builder offers and land on one you like. That’ll give you some direction about the type of content you’ll need to fill it up—how many photos, what blocks of copy, and more.

It’s possible that your template will come with far more pages than you need (don’t worry, they’re easily deleted). At a bare minimum, your business website should include:

  • Homepage: The “need to know” of your business.
  • About page: Details about the history of your business and even yourself as the business owner.
  • Products and services page: Information about what your business offers. If you have an ecommerce website, customers should also be able to add items to their cart here.
  • Contact page: How people can get in touch with you. If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you should also list your business address.

You might also want to add a blog, an FAQ page, testimonials, or other pages. But, for now, don’t get too hung up on the extras, and stay focused on the bare bones you need to get started.

Now it’s time to start pulling together images, product descriptions, and other written content you’ll include on your website.

Start one folder or document where you can keep all this information in one spot. It’ll make things a lot easier when it’s time to actually start dropping it into your website template.

5. Publish your site

You’ve pulled together all of the content you need. Now, all that’s left to do is add it to your website builder.

The great thing about website builders is that they’re super easy to customize. Their user-friendly interface makes it simple to:

  • Add or delete pages
  • Change fonts and colors
  • Add your logo and other branding elements
  • Reorder sections and pages

The best thing you can do is get into your website builder and just start playing around. You’ll learn a lot about how it works. Plus, you can take comfort in the fact that it’s easy to undo any changes if you make a mistake.

Once you have your basic website looking the way you want, publish it. Don’t obsess over it being absolutely perfect—you can always add to it and change it later.

6 dos and don’ts for your small business website

That’s it—five simple steps to get a website launched. It’s proof that the process doesn’t need to be complex. Now let’s cover a few more dos and don’ts you should keep in mind as you prepare to launch your website.

Do keep it simple

There’s a lot that you can do with your website, and it’s easy to get distracted by all of the bells and whistles. Keep it simple for now with a clean design, a straightforward navigation menu, clear text, and plenty of whitespace. It’s less stressful for you and easier for your customers.

Don’t forget about your customer

Remember that this is for your customer. That means your website should speak directly to them. Clearly state your value proposition and dedicate the bulk of your content to explaining what problems you solve for them. Your website should clearly answer the question, “Why should they want to do business with you?”

Related: How to identify your target audience in 5 steps

Do check on your website frequently

While you’ll understandably be relieved to get your website out there, that doesn’t mean your work is done. Your website isn’t a “set it and forget it” sort of thing. Be prepared to check on it frequently (at least once per month) to confirm everything is working correctly or to add new information.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

There’s no point in tearing your hair out in front of your computer screen when there are plenty of resources available to you. Website builders offer helpful customer service departments and even tutorials to help you get going. You can also connect with friends, freelancers, or even college students to get help building your website, writing the copy, and more.

Do your research

When you’re eager to get your website going, it’s tempting to jump right in. While you don’t want to succumb to analysis paralysis, you need to make the right choices for both your current and your future business. For example, think about your growth plans for your business and make sure that the builder you select is flexible enough to accommodate those.

Don’t neglect your branding

Your website is a key part of your business’ overall brand. It should use your business’ logo, fonts, and colors. If you haven’t already figured out those pieces of your visual identity, start there so you can build your website with those elements in mind. That will make the process even easier.

Eager for even more tips? We have plenty more advice for building a top-notch small business website.

Launch your small business website

Building a website for your small business can feel daunting for casual internet users—but it’s also a task that’s easy to overcomplicate. You can make a great, useful website without knowing how to code or having an encyclopedic knowledge of HEX color codes.

Keep things simple and rely on the resources available to you and you’ll get a website rolled out in no time. And remember, the internet isn’t in ink (it’s in… pixels?). You can always make changes. As your business grows and evolves, your website can, too.

Related:

This article originally appeared on the QuickBooks Resource Center and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.


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Home business tax deductions to take as a small business owner

 

Small business owners take on a considerable amount of responsibility. Beyond serving clients, they must also take care of all the minutiae of running a business, including keeping track of expenses they can deduct as a small business owner.

Fortunately, small business owners and entrepreneurs who use their home for work can benefit from various home business tax deductions that help them reduce their taxable business income. Common deductions include office supplies, software and internet access, but deductions can vary widely depending on the type of home business you run.

  • Who qualifies for home business tax deductions?
  • 25 home business tax deductions for your small business
  • How to write off home business expenses

 

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If you run your business out of your home, you may be able to deduct expenses for the use of your residence on your taxes for your small business. The home office deduction can be utilized by homeowners and renters, and any type of residence can qualify (single-family home, condominium, manufactured housing, etc.).

To qualify for the home office deduction, your home business activities must meet the following criteria:

  • Regular and exclusive use. According to the IRS, you must “regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business.” In other words, you must have a space in your home that you use only for business purposes, such as a home office or extra room that is used only for business and never for personal use.
  • Principal place of business. To qualify for the home office deduction, your home also must be the principal place your business operates from, although there are exceptions. The IRS reported that you may qualify for the home office deduction if you also have a business location outside of your home, provided you use your home for a substantial component of your business. For instance, if you conduct business in another location but have meetings with clients or patients in your home, the IRS allows you to deduct expenses for the part of your home that you use “exclusively and regularly” for business purposes.

There are some exceptions to these rules, including for those who run a home daycare. If your small business involves watching children in your home, then it would be impossible to meet the “exclusive use” criteria if you’re watching children in your own living area. To qualify for this exception to the exclusive use rule, you must provide daycare for children, persons age 65 or older or persons who are unable to care for themselves. Additionally, you must have “applied for, been granted or be exempt from having a license, certification, registration or approval as a daycare center or as a family or group daycare home under state law,” noted the IRS.

 

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If you’re eager to reduce your taxable income this year, figuring out which home business tax deductions you can take is a smart first step. Here are 25 common deductions you may be able to qualify for.

 

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Business supplies and office expenses, such as office furniture, printer paper, pens, calculators and business cards, are deductible provided they are for business use. According to the IRS, business expenses must be both ordinary and necessary, meaning they are “common and accepted in your trade” and “helpful and appropriate,” though not necessarily indispensable.

 

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Small business computers and software you need to purchase for your business, including small business accounting software, should be tax-deductible business expenses provided these purchases are ordinary and necessary for your business to remain in operation.

 

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You may also be able to deduct home repairs and maintenance performed on your place of residence, but only for the part of your residence that is used exclusively for business purposes. According to the IRS, an example could include “painting or repairs only in the area used for business,” like a new coat of paint or replacement flooring in your home office.

 

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You can deduct the business portion of your rent as an expense if the property you rent is for use in your trade or business. However, you cannot deduct rent as a business expense if you have or will receive equity in or a title to said property. Per the IRS, rent is defined as “any amount you pay for the use of property you do not own.”

In terms of depreciation, the IRS said that you can typically deduct depreciation on the business use portion of your home as well, in an amount up to the gross income limitation over a 39-year period.

 

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If you have a home office, your house utilities will also be required for your business. As a result, you can deduct a portion of your utility bills, such as gas and electric bills. However, you can only deduct a portion of these expenses since, obviously, part of your utility bills are for personal use.

 

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If you use your car for business purposes, you can deduct auto-related expenses for the business use of a car. The IRS also reported that, if you use your car for both personal and business use, you must divide your car expenses based on the mileage you drive for personal and business purposes.

 

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You can also deduct mileage for all travel related to business. The IRS offers a table of standard mileage rates and mileage deduction rules you can refer to for the last several years, including mileage expenses for 2020.

 

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You can also write off employees’ pay as a small business owner. This is true even if you operate your business out of a home office.

 

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You can also deduct contributions to retirement plans, including tax-advantaged retirement plans for the self-employed or small business owners, such as an SEP IRA or a solo 401(k).

 

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If your business is paying interest on a credit card or loan that you borrowed for business activities, you should also be able to deduct this interest as a business expense.

 

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According to the IRS, you may be able to deduct various federal, state, local or foreign taxes that are directly related to your trade or business.

 

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You can typically deduct the cost of business-related insurance products you pay for, provided they are applicable to your trade or profession.

 

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If your business creates products or purchases them for resale, you can typically deduct the cost of these products or the costs involved in manufacturing them. This can include the cost of raw materials, freight, shipping, storage, direct labor and more.

 

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Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, you may be able to deduct up to 20% of your qualified business income on your taxes. This deduction does have limitations based on your trade or business as well as how much you earn, however. Specifically, joint tax filers with incomes below $315,000 and other filers with incomes below $157,000 can claim this deduction in full provided they work in a qualifying industry. For 2018, joint tax filers with incomes between $315,000 and $415,000 and individuals with incomes between $157,000 and $207,500 were subject to phase-outs.

 

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If you use your home for business purposes, you can generally deduct cleaning services and supplies that you purchase for the business-related portion of your home.

 

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If you own your home and have a home mortgage, you can deduct a portion of your mortgage interest on your business taxes. Deductions are based on the percentage of your home that you use for your business. If your lender requires mortgage insurance, part of that can be deducted as well.

 

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Business-related travel expenses can also be taken as a business expense. This could include travel to meet with clients or to professional education or training events.

 

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If you pay for professional services, such as legal advice or tax preparation, these expenses can be deducted as business expenses.

 

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If you pay for marketing help or a business coach, these expenses can be deductible from your business income.

 

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If you ship items for business purposes, shipping costs can be deductible on your taxes. The same is true for postage when used for business purposes.

 

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A security system that protects the doors and windows in your home from intruders can also be partially deductible as a business expense, provided part of your home is used for business purposes.

 

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Professional memberships you pay for and subscriptions to business-related publications can also be tax-deductible.

 

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The IRS said that while the first local telephone landline in your home is not a deductible business expense, “charges for business long-distance phone calls on that line, as well as the cost of a second line into your home used exclusively for business, are deductible business expenses.”

 

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Health insurance for yourself and your family is deductible as a business expense when you’re self-employed, although you do not have to have a home office to qualify for this deduction.

 

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If you pay for or reimburse education expenses for an employee, you can deduct the expenses if they are part of a qualified educational assistance program, per IRS rules.

 

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of the home office business expenses you might have to keep track of, you should know that the IRS also offers a standardized home office deduction that requires less legwork upfront. Here are the two options you have when it comes to how to write off home office business expenses this year:

  • Simplified home office deduction: Since the 2013 tax year, taxpayers have been able to access a simplified option for computing the home office deduction. This option lets you determine a standard deduction based on the square footage of your home office space, thus letting you avoid tracking and reporting all of your individual home office expenses. Of course, the simplified method isn’t perfect since you can’t take some deductions like depreciation. You also cannot carry over a loss from a previous year, which is a departure from the regular method.
  • Regular method: If you keep excellent records and prefer to deduct business expenses the old-fashioned way, you are still able to do so. With this method, you would need to keep detailed records of all your actual expenses for your home office including mortgage interest, utilities, depreciation and more. From there, your deduction will still be determined based on the percentage of your home used for business purposes.

If you’re using the regular method, you should plan on using IRS Form 8829 for certain business-related tax deductions when you file your taxes. But be aware that some business expenses don’t fall under the home office deduction, so they would be deductible within other areas of your taxes, such as Schedule C or F. Examples include telephone expenses, dues and salaries.

Also note that if you use the simplified method and itemize deductions, you can deduct some expenses for your home that are otherwise deductible, including mortgage interest and property taxes, as itemized deductions using Form 1040 or 1040-SR, Schedule A.

When choosing which method to use for your home office deduction, keep in mind that both options have pros and cons. The regular method requires a lot more work, but you have the potential for a larger deduction if you have a lot of qualified expenses within a year. The simplified method is easier, but not necessarily ideal if you want to recapture depreciation when you sell your home, or if you want to be able to carry over losses. Make sure you understand each method and its limitations so you can make an informed decision.

This article originally appeared on LendingTree.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.

 

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