How to Start Your Small Business Blog - Albany Times Union

How to Start Your Small Business Blog - Albany Times Union

How to Start Your Small Business Blog - Albany Times Union

Posted: 23 Mar 2020 12:00 AM PDT

Creating a blog is an easy and effective way to raise awareness of your business and to increase traffic on your website. Making informative and sharable content is one strategy to drive traffic toward your sales funnel.

Writing content that converts isn't easy and if you've never run a blog before you might be wondering where to start.

We'll walk you through the first steps you need to take when creating a small business blog so you can focus on moving forward.

Choose a Blogging Platform

Once you've decided you want to start a small business, you can take the next step toward growing that business by making blog content.

However, before you even begin to think about content, you need to choose the blogging platform you'll use. There are several to choose from such as WordPress and Blogger. Some offer web hosting while other services require you to host a blog yourself.

If you use an all-in-one service that hosts for you, you don't have to worry about how to add a blog to your website.

Decide on your budget and take a look at some examples of other sites to get an idea of what would work best for your needs.

Pick an Appropriate Domain Name

Once you have a blogging platform and you've chosen a theme, you need to register your domain name. Choosing the right domain name takes thought since it should be both relevant and memorable.

Pick a name that's related to your business and use the trademarked name if possible. If you don't have a branded name, try to use a keyword domain or at least a relevant name.

Read it aloud and make sure there are no embarrassing mistakes or typos. Avoid choosing names that can get misspelled or are hard to understand.

Determine Your Goals

Before you write, figure out what you want your blog to accomplish. Do you want to raise awareness about your business, post updates, or create more leads? Another common purpose of blogs is to increase traffic so if you're unsure, start there.

Your goals impact the direction you should take and the voice you should use on your blog. Think about what your customers want and how your business can provide that.

If you're not sure what to write about, start by researching other small business blogs in your field. Find keywords related to your business and write them down for future posts.

If you're a local business, think about focusing more on local SEO to improve your chances of ranking higher.

When writing your blog, make sure to optimize your content. Include your primary keyword in the header and the title and make sure it sounds natural.

Create a Posting Schedule

Maintaining a consistent posting schedule on your company blog helps to keep your followers interested and engaged. Create a schedule for your blog posts and set deadlines.

Post regularly, whether that's once a week or twice a month. The key is to remain consistent and provide informative and sharable content.

Ready to Launch Your Small Business Blog?

Launching a blog is a great way to improve your website's search engine optimization and to attract new customers. Knowing what your audience wants helps you create valuable content.

Follow these steps to get your small business blog up and running and remember to stay consistent and have fun.

Need more tips on growing your business? Check out the other areas of our site for business advice, news, and more.

Trevor Anderson wrote this article on behalf of FreeUp. FreeUp is the fastest-growing freelance marketplace in the US. FreeUp only accepts the top 1% of freelance applicants. Click here to get access to the top freelancers in the world.  

Times Union and Hearst partners may earn revenue when readers click affiliate links in this article.

Small Business Loans Potentially Overwhelm Banks with Demand - The New York Times

Posted: 02 Apr 2020 09:30 PM PDT

Small business owners, desperate for help amid the economic meltdown wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, are eagerly awaiting the start of a $349 billion government relief program.

But just one day before the program's launch on Friday, the banks and other lenders that the government is relying on to fund loans and vet applicants were still waiting for much of the information they need to participate. They are also nervous about how they — and the government — will handle what is expected to be a huge crush of demand.

"The response is overwhelming — it's unlike anything I've ever seen in my career," said Craig Street, the chief lending officer of United Midwest Savings Bank, a community bank in Columbus, Ohio. "We're talking about attempting to do 10 times our normal monthly loan volume, and maybe more than that."

The so-called paycheck protection program, part of the $2 trillion stimulus package enacted last week, offers companies and nonprofits with up to 500 workers a low-interest loan to cover up to two months of payroll and other expenses. Most — and in some cases, all — of the loan will be forgiven if the borrower retains its workers and doesn't cut their wages. (The government will repay lenders for the forgiven portions of the loans.)

That's an appealing deal for many companies that would otherwise be leery of taking on debt in the midst of a global crisis. Jason Dolmetsch, the president of MSK Engineering & Design in Bennington, Vt., said he was eager to apply. His engineering firm and its affiliated architectural company are trying to hold on to their 23 workers despite a rash of canceled and postponed projects.

When he called his business's banker on Monday, he was told to be patient and wait. The bank had no information yet about how the program would work.

Late Tuesday, the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration released an overview for borrowers and a sample loan application. The S.B.A., which is backing the loans, has waived most of its usual requirements — the loans do not require collateral or detailed financial records — and is encouraging lenders to take applications digitally and make quick decisions.

"This will be up and running tomorrow," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday at a White House briefing. He added that loan checks could be disbursed "the same day" that borrowers applied.

But on Thursday evening, lenders were still waiting for technical information about how to underwrite the loans — which will be break even, at best, for most lenders — and collect reimbursement on those that qualify for forgiveness. A trade group, the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, had to postpone a training call for 1,500 lenders on Thursday because it did not have the needed information from the S.B.A.

"I've asked for the information twice today, and I still have nothing," Tony Wilkinson, the group's chief executive, said on Wednesday. "I worry that they're asking lenders to make loans without the information they need to understand the rules of engagement."

Bank lobbyist groups have warned the Treasury Department that the program as designed will not be workable, expressing alarm about their own legal liability as they try to rush money to borrowers and keep tabs on potential fraud. The Independent Community Bankers of America sent a letter to Mr. Mnuchin on Wednesday complaining that guidelines calling for low-interest loans could mean "unacceptable losses" for lenders.

S.B.A. representatives did not respond to questions about when guidance for lenders would be available.

Although the government has scrambled to pull aid together quickly, the program's slow rollout has frustrated business owners facing a daily fight to salvage their companies. Paul Caragiulo is an owner of a group of restaurants in Sarasota, Fla., that employ around 150 people. He is loath to lay off anyone — even though his restaurants' sales have cratered — but he's also hesitant about borrowing what could be millions of dollars from a program whose details are being worked out on the fly.

The information sheets posted by the Treasury Department and the S.B.A. have not reassured him. "Those are bullet points, not term sheets," he said. "We're not used to having debt, and we don't look at that lightly."

The Trump administration has said it wants the paycheck protection loans to be easy to obtain; a sample application posted on Tuesday is a four-page form that can be completed in less than 10 minutes. But the fine print contains a line that gave Mr. Caragiulo pause: Borrowers must promise to buy only American-made equipment and products "to the extent feasible."

Mr. Caragiulo, who uses Italian pizza ovens, said the requirement seemed like an absurd bureaucratic tripwire. When asked about it, an S.B.A. spokeswoman pointed to a 1992 law that requires the agency to "encourage" business owners receiving financial help to buy American goods. She did not respond to questions about how — or if — that will be enforced.

Other federal small business aid efforts have been generous but chaotic. A program offering low-interest disaster loans funded directly by the government has already had more than 100,000 applicants, according to one person familiar with its operations.

The S.B.A. started taking applications weeks ago, but last Friday's stimulus bill added a new sweetener: Applicants, including those who are rejected for loans, are eligible for up to $10,000 in cash grants. (The funds are described on the S.B.A. website as a "loan advance," but an agency spokeswoman confirmed that it does not have to be repaid.)

Abninder Mundra, who owns a franchise of the UPS Store in Portola Valley, Calif., applied for a disaster loan on March 20 and was approved four days later for $210,000. Then the stimulus bill introduced the grants. Mr. Mundra said an S.B.A. representative had told him to fill out a second loan application if he wanted the grant funds. He was still waiting for both his disaster loan check and a response to the grant application.

Mr. Mundra said he could afford to wait a few weeks and was grateful for the aid. He also plans to seek a paycheck protection loan as soon as his bank starts taking applications. He had to cut his three employees' hours to offset a drop in foot traffic, and hopes the loan will help restore them.

"I think the government really understood that small businesses are the backbone of the economy," he said. "If we stop employing people, they won't have money to pay their bills."

But with job losses already setting records and certain to worsen, lenders fear that the $349 billion Congress allocated for the paycheck program will quickly run out. Senior officials from the Treasury and S.B.A. told reporters on Tuesday that they were prepared to ask Congress for more money if needed.

Jim Donnelly, the chief commercial officer of Bangor Savings Bank in Maine, said his small staff was working around the clock to accommodate the pent-up demand. In a typical year, his bank handles hundreds of business loans. He expects to process thousands in the coming months.

And even though his bank was still waiting for critical technical information, it planned to start taking loan applications on Friday.

"We have local businesses like restaurants that have shut down and are looking at these loans as a way to reopen their doors," he said.

Many of the nation's largest banks said they planned to offer the loans, though some will restrict which applicants they will work with.

JPMorgan Chase, for example, said it would make the loans available to customers with Chase business checking accounts as of Feb. 15. Bank of America and Citi both said they planned to participate but did not yet have details.

The Treasury has encouraged non-bank lenders to also offer the loans, but some that want to do so say the process has been maddening. Kabbage, one of the biggest online lenders, said the system for becoming an approved lender was opaque.

Mr. Street, at United Midwest Savings Bank, was also desperate for more information, including details about how thoroughly banks are expected to scrutinize potential borrowers. Any choice involves trade-offs: Quick approvals and cash disbursements raise the risk of mistakes and borrower fraud, but rigorous underwriting takes time that desperate business owners and overtaxed bankers don't have to spare.

Mr. Street hopes the S.B.A. and the banking industry's regulators will give lenders leeway to err on the side of speed.

"We're trying to set things up so that we can crank these things out," he said. "We had calls starting Monday morning from people who wanted to borrow right away. It was hard telling people they had to wait. Nobody can afford to wait."

How starting a small business helps build your future - IrishCentral

Posted: 01 Apr 2020 07:34 AM PDT

The future is something every student, parent, and working individual thinks about. Prices of necessities keep going higher, and the standard of living also goes along the ride. It cannot be helped that one has to think about where they will be in the next five to ten years. 

Perhaps, you are currently employed and you think that you have a stable job that you get to keep forever. Unfortunately, nothing is certain even with big companies and businesses. 

Last 2019, over 8,000 chain stores have closed in the US alone, and that's around 3,000 more than in 2018. That same year, auto company Ford announced 12,000 job cuts by 2020 to save about hundreds of millions in US dollars. With these pieces of information, you really have to wonder whether or not you are secure in your current position.  

Starting a small business

If the above statistics got your attention, you may start to think about what you can do to secure your and your family's future. Time and time again, one idea that proves to be helpful in starting your own small business. Perhaps, it is a big leap from the usual tasks you're used to doing. However, allowing yourself some quiet time to reflect on the advantages versus the cons will help you decide on taking a chance. 

Here are ways how starting a small business can help build your future:

Allows you to have full control over your life's direction

Starting a small business means you have every right to decide what it should be all about and who your target customers will be. It is also up to you to set your working hours and decide how much you want to earn. You can control the entire process without having to sacrifice anything in your life, thus helping you steer your life to a kind of future you've always wanted for you and your family.

Generates steady cash flow

Do you feel that your job is limiting your income potential?  The primary reason why employees strike out on their own and seek greener pastures is to earn more money than they are currently getting. When your salary is not enough to sustain a growing family, it is only natural to change careers or start a business of your own.

However, it would be best if you keep in mind that along with starting a small business means making smart financial decisions. You must first consider how much you want to earn and how much time you are willing to give. In addition, you may use tools or apps, such as Wave, that will help you manage and track your expenses, sales, and revenues.

When you are handling your business well, you are better assured of steady cash flow from your small venture. In time, you will have enough to live the life you want without worries.   

Shapes you to become an expert in your field

Starting a small business allows you to form the right questions, make the right moves, and improve your problem-solving skills. Suddenly, you know how to do your taxes, keep licenses updated, and follow regulations and laws related to your small business. The said skills can eventually make you an expert in your field. When you are an expert, you can approach problems in a systematic manner. 

Furthermore, you learn from various trials and errors, and you apply what you learn along the way. Yes, you may make mistakes, but you learn not to sulk over these failures; instead, you find solutions immediately so you can and move on and deal with other important matters.

Being consistent with your professional ways produces excellent results, as well as products or services that people want and need. Because of this, they eventually learn to trust you and your brand, thus gaining more loyal customers. The bottom line of all this is that your expertise is vital to the longevity of your business and its ability to continue earning revenues, thus giving you and your family better financial security in the long run.

Exposes you to more networking opportunities

By having a business, you become exposed to people who may have specific skills or enterprises that could be beneficial to the growth of your small venture. Other small business owners are also likely to contact you for a project or a collaboration. Small businesses who help each other have a more substantial chance to survive the competitive world. 

Here some of the advantages of networking for your small business:

Building connections leads to finding the right people with whom you can have collaborations or partnerships for a long time. These are like-minded people who share the same mission and goals as yours. Making such connections is also a way of making friends. When you are friends with the people you do business with, the business becomes more fun. It not only helps the growth of your business, but you also gain more positive people in your life who will be around for years to come, through thick and thin.

Networking gives you a chance to stand out and get noticed by the right people. When you offer your best products and services, they will, in turn, put out a good word for you. This way, you are able to gain more customers.

Being at the right place at the right time, such as events for entrepreneurs, allows you to meet other business people who are already veterans in their field. These individuals are fountains of information who may be able to share tips, tricks, insights, and constructive criticisms that you can apply to your own small business.

Surrounding yourself with people who encourage and empower you is also a confidence booster. They uplift and share positive messages that will inspire you to keep doing what you are doing. When you feel good about yourself and your business, you keep going and do anything that will benefit your thriving business.

Enables you to minimize loans and pay off debts

Are you having trouble making ends meet?  Do you often take small loans with hefty interest rates?  A small business can keep you from living off on loans, allowing you to live a debt-free life.

Managing your business well to keep you earning continuously will help you avoid signing contracts to get loans. You must also exercise self-discipline and control your spending habits, especially if being a spendthrift is the reason for your constant need for cash. 

Remember that it also takes money to make money, and your business needs it for operational costs. A fraction of what you earn is also for your family's needs, insurance, savings, and retirement. If you have debts, your business will also help you pay them all off, that is, if you learn to make sound financial decisions. 

Hones your creativity

Do you work nine to five in the office for a pencil-pushing position?  When you start a small business, you take on multiple roles. You are the one to brainstorm ideas, market your offerings, and make necessary changes to your products and services to make them more useful to your customers.

By having a small business, you get to improve your creativity. With this, you're able to come up with various solutions to different issues affecting your business. Creativity is also what enables you to move swiftly and effortlessly within a competitive environment. It inspires innovation and challenges your way of thinking. If you want your business to keep thriving, it is essential to make changes and adapt to them.

Moreover, a creative business person can accept multiple points of view. They can also reimagine concepts that will keep customers interested in their offerings.

You become a better decision-maker

Your decision-making skills are of the essence when you are managing a small business. Unlike large companies with processes and protocols, you are the sole driving force behind the management. Unfortunately, not all small business owners get the chance to receive training on how to handle business operations on their own. But, this doesn't mean that you can't help improve your decision-making skills.

By having a small business, you learn to identify a specific core problem and gather all the necessary information relevant to it. You learn to list down your options, as well as the pros and disadvantages of those choices. From there, you will be able to anticipate the consequences, both good and bad. Through this, you're able to become a better decision-maker, which will not only positively impact your business but also your life in general.

In conclusion...

For a regular employee who worries about the future, starting a small business is the way to go for several reasons. It allows you to have full control over where you want to go in your life and generates a steady cash flow, but only if you manage your finances well. It also enables you to build connections with like-minded people and veterans in the industry to which you belong, as well as shape you into an expert in your chosen field. Furthermore, by having a small business, you get to improve your creativity and decision-making skills. All these things contribute to better financial security and a more flourishing future for you and your family.


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