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Optimism Runs High for the Independent Workforce

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 16, 2014

2013 was a good year for independent workers – and the future looks even brighter. Self-described contractors, freelancers, consultants, temps, “solopreneurs,” and microbusiness owners surveyed for MBO’s Third Annual Independent Workforce Report are feeling optimistic about their employment status. Check out these positive figures if you’re thinking about joining their ranks.

Independents have a positive impact on the economy

The MBO study reports a 5% increase in independent workers when compared to 2012 – up to 17.7 million. And with these numbers comes a noteworthy contribution to the economy. Independents generated nearly $1.2 trillion in total income both globally and locally, up a whopping 20% from 2012. They also spent over $150 billion on non-payroll/contractor expenses.

Independents hire other independents

The vast majority of independent workers are “solopreneurs” and don’t have traditional employees, but that doesn’t mean they work alone. Through contract hiring over the past year, 26% of independent workers spent a total of $96 billion to hire the equivalent of 2.3 million full-time workers.

Independents want to grow their businesses

One in seven independents plan on building a bigger business, which means that close to 2.5 million independent workers will launch businesses that will create additional traditional jobs and ignite even greater economic activity.

Independents are feeling less burdened

As it becomes more conventional to have an independent work style, independents are finding more tools and solutions to overcome challenges they face. Concerns over retirement, project pipelines, benefits, self-marketing and job security all fell slightly from the 2011 base year.

Independents are happy in their work

Job satisfaction remains strong among independent workers, with 64% reporting that they are highly satisfied with their work style. Most plan to continue as independent workers, with 77% saying they will either continue as “solopreneurs” (63%) or grow a larger business (14%).

These independents – representative of all ages, professions, educational levels and geography – are part of a workforce that’s predicted to grow to 24 million workers by 2018. Will you be a part of it?

If you’re thinking about starting your own small business, check out our resources to get you started. SBA is here to help you succeed – so let us know how we can do just that.

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Financing Your Small Business With a Microloan

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 15, 2014

Are you starting or expanding a business, and in need of a loan to help make it happen? While there are some larger loan options available, many entrepreneurs – particularly freelance, online and home-based businesses – require only a few thousand dollars to get started. If this is the case for you, consider a microloan.

What’s a microloan?

Microloans are loans in what would be considered “smaller” amounts than conventional business loans. SBA’s Microloan program, for instance, provides loans of up to $50,000 to help small businesses and certain not-for-profit childcare centers start up and expand. The average microloan is about $13,000.

What can I use a microloan for?

Microloans can be used for a number of things, including:

  • Working capital
  • Inventory or supplies
  • Furniture or fixtures
  • Machinery or equipment

You can’t use funds from an SBA microloan to pay any existing debts or to purchase real estate.

What are the terms and interest rates?

Microloan repayment terms vary according to several factors, including:

  • Loan amount
  • Planned use of funds
  • Requirements determined by the intermediary lender
  • Your needs as a small business borrower

The maximum repayment term allowed for an SBA microloan is six years. 

Interest rates vary, depending on the intermediary lender and their costs from the U.S. Treasury. In general, these rates are between 8 and 13 percent.

How can I get a microloan?

SBA provides funds to certain intermediary lenders, which are nonprofit community-based organizations with experience in lending, management and technical assistance. These intermediaries manage the Microloan program for eligible borrowers. So you don’t go directly to SBA for a microloan – you work with your local lender.

Each intermediary lender has its own lending and credit requirements. Typically, they require some type of collateral as well as the personal guarantee of the business owner. You may also have to fulfill training or planning requirements before a lender considers your loan application.

Learn more

For more information about microloan and if one might be right for you, contact your local SBA District Office or check out this list of participating microloan intermediary lenders.

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

February 25 Deadline for BizClips Video Contest to Win Great Prizes and Free Publicity for Small Business

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: January 14, 2014

What small business challenges are you facing this year? Help transform these challenges into successful opportunities by making and uploading your small business video story by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. You could win great prizes and free publicity to improve your small business productivity.

Enter the Small Business Productivity Makeover Contest Today

You could win the grand prize, valued at $3,500, by sharing your story through “BizClips: The Small Business Productivity Makeover Video Contest” at www.bizclips.score.org. The Contest is sponsored by SCORE and Brother International, a premier provider of print and communications products and services. The Contest celebrates SCORE’s 50 years of helping more than ten million small businesses learn how to start a business, grow, and achieve their business goals through free business assistance and education.

MAKE a Video about Your Small Business

The Contest is easy to enter, but the entry deadline is approaching quickly. Make your 30-60 second video, describing your need for a business makeover and how SCORE could help address your challenges. Or you can also tell how SCORE previously helped your small business. The video can be simple or fancy, as long as it meets the minimum requirements. Here are some great tips on how to make a video: http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo.

UPLOAD your video to the BizClips Contest website before midnight, February 25, 2014.

Don’t be left out. The deadline to create and upload your video at www.bizclips.score.org is midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. Late entries will not be accepted.

VOTE online for your video and ask others to help you get to the final round.

Voting is easy, too. All videos that meet the minimum requirements will be eligible for online voting beginning April 1, 2014. Spread the word of your video and ask your friends, family, customers and supporters to vote for you, too. They can also help you win by spreading the word. Public voting makes up 40 percent of the judging criteria. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on April 30, 2014.

WIN great prizes and free publicity for your business.

The top 25 vote-getters will become finalists, gain significant free national media exposure, and win a Brother P-Touch prize. The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a panel of small business experts to receive a business makeover with up to $2,500 of products and services from Brother. The Grand Prize winner and a companion will be flown to Washington, D.C. in September 2014 for a special national announcement and awards ceremony at the 2014 SCORE Awards Gala. The grand prize winner will have a professional business makeover video created to be shown at the Gala and promoted by SCORE. The winner can also use the video for its own promotion. The total value of the grand prize is $3,500.

“This is a unique opportunity for your small business to be in the limelight in front of a national audience. We’ll be thrilled to help make the winning small business better, stronger and more productive to meet its challenges,” said Ken Yancey, SCORE CEO.

BizClips, The Small Business Productivity Video Contest launched on November 25, 2013. Don’t miss the deadline for this opportunity to help your small business turn its challenges into opportunities. Complete details are at www.bizclips.score.org.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

New Year, New Hires – Growing Your Business With New Employees

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 2, 2014 Updated: September 6, 2016

If the new year could mean new hires for your small business, there’s a lot to think about. Here’s some insight to consider from experts interviewed for SBA’s Learning Center Series, “Strategies for Growth.” They’ve shared some lessons they’ve learned that can help you develop a plan for expanding your team.

Short and sweet job descriptions

Casey Wilson, Retail Industry Manager, Maryland Small Business Development Center, asserts the importance of a clear, well written job description: “The position needs to be well defined in how it will contribute to the business’s growth and success. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but direct and to the point with the main responsibilities for the person.”

Communicate your vision and mission

Wilson also stresses the important of being able to clearly communicate your company’s vision statement – and mission statement, which is how you’ll accomplish that vision. Be able to “explain your reason for being” in a 30-second elevator pitch in an interview.

By clearly communicating “who” your company is and how you accomplish your goals, you’ll have a better idea during the interview process if a potential hire will be a good fit in contributing to your business’s success.

Incentivize current employees

Your current employees may be a great resource for new hires. Some business owners, like Jeanna Sellmeyer of ASSET Group, Inc., offer cash incentives to employees who refer qualified candidates. If those candidates become part of the team and stick around for a certain amount of time – usually a year – that referring employee gets a little something extra in the next payroll.

Your employees can help bring in talent on par with your standards; after all, they don’t want to compromise their own jobs. Making it financially work their while to help grow the company can help keep your employees motivated and give you confidence that you’ll have promising prospects.

Clients can help

Mary Tappouni of Breaking Ground Contracting has said that clients can be a great source of advice on personnel decisions. Customers that her company has had for years have become friends, and she values how they can look at potential hires not only as someone who might be a good fit for the company, but also as someone they’d want to do business with.

It’s important that as the company grows, Tappouni says, clients feel comfortable that the people you’re hiring will take care of them with the same level of quality that’s always existed in the business relationship.

So, involve some of these trusted clients in the interview process and gather feedback as you move forward with making a decision.

Additional Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Cybersecurity Essentials for Small Businesses

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: December 23, 2013 Updated: August 1, 2016

You may be hearing the term “cybersecurity” more frequently these days and wondering how it applies to your small business – if at all. It does. Cyber threats are an issue for everyone, and small businesses are becoming more common targets for such threats and crimes because they often have fewer preventative or responsive resources. So, what do you need to know? Here are some essentials as featured in one of our latest online trainings.

What is cybersecurity?

With the help of technology and best practices, cybersecurity is the effort to protect computers, programs, networks and data from attack and damage.

Why is cybersecurity so important?

Consider all the information you have that needs to be secure:

  • Personal information for employees
  • Partner information
  • Sensitive information for customers/clients
  • Financial and sensitive business information

It’s essential to do your part to keep these details safe and out of the hands of those who could use your data to compromise you, your employees and the foundation of your small business. Think it can’t happen to you? Think again:

  • CNN reports nearly half of the data breaches that Verizon recorded in 2012 took place in companies with less than 1,000 employees.
  • A Symantec report showed that 31% of all attacks in 2012 happened to businesses that had less than 250 employees.
  • A different Symantec report showed cyber attacks were up 81% in 2011.

What are common cyber threats and crimes?

There’s a broad range of information security threats. Some of the most common include website tampering, data theft, denial-of-service attacks and malicious code and viruses.

  • Website tampering: Website tampering can take many forms, including defacing your website, hacking your system and compromising webpages to allow invisible code that will try to download spyware onto your device.
  • Data theft: Data theft can come in various forms, and the problems that come with it depend on what kind of data is stolen. Some examples include:
    • Theft of computer files
    • Theft of laptops, computers and devices
    • Interception of emails
    • Identity theft
  • Denial-of-service attacks: A denial-of-service attack happens on a computer or website and locks the computer and/or crashes the system with which you’re working. This results in stopped or slowed workflow and prevents communication. The ultimate goal of this kind of attack is to prevent you from conducting business with your internet-connected systems.
  • Malicious code and viruses: These threats are sent over the internet and aim to find and send your files; find and delete critical data; or lock your computer or system. They can hide in programs or documents and make copies of themselves – all without your knowledge.

What can I do to protect my business? 

The first step to protecting the information in your business is to establish comprehensive security policies – and keep them up to date. Make sure your employees know and adhere to your policies and best practices for internet, email and the desktop. Here are just a few to keep in mind:

  • Don’t respond to popup windows telling you to download drives
  • Don’t allow websites to install software on your device
  • Don’t reply to unsolicited emails
  • Use screen locks and shut off your computer at the end of the day

Ensure that your computer hardware and software are updated regularly on all devices throughout the company. Change passwords periodically and use firewalls to protect your systems. You should also consider backing up your data on a regular basis so that if anything is compromised, you have a copy.

Want to learn more about how to help make your business more cyber secure? Check out our self-paced online training course, “Cybersecurity for Small Businesses,” which features more tips and additional resources to help you along the way.

Related articles:

Do Small Businesses Need to Worry About Cyber Security?

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

5 Tax and Financial Planning Actions for the New Year

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: December 19, 2013

With 2013 almost over, it’s time to focus on 2014 and get the year started off right. Here are some actions to take now or in early January that will help you optimize your tax and financial results for the coming year.

1.  Revisit your recordkeeping practices

Records are vital for both business and tax purposes. They help know whether or not you’re profitable and provide key information to help you take business actions, such as adjusting prices, cutting expenses, or raising money.

What’s more, in order to take all the deductions and credits to which your business is entitled in 2014, you’ll need good books and records. Often business owners fail to pay attention to this detail until it’s too late and the IRS is questioning write-offs claimed on a return.

Set up a recordkeeping system that satisfies tax law requirements, and make sure that employees know what to do. Check IRS Publication 583 for details on recordkeeping rules for tax purposes. Consider using apps that can help with recordkeeping, such as those for capturing receipts for travel and entertainment expenses. Some may be available for use with, or provided by, your current bookkeeping software or cloud solution.

2.  Note your odometer on January 1

If you use your personal vehicle for business, you can deduct the cost of business driving only if you have the records to back this up. This means noting your odometer at the start of the year and then tracking your business trips regularly.

Again, consider using an app for tracking mileage. Some are free; others entail a modest fee.

3.  Review your business plan

Your business plan should include projections for sales and expenses in the coming year. If you haven’t yet updated these for 2014, do so now, advises SBA blogger Tim Berry. The projections aren’t carved in stone, but they serve as a very useful benchmark against which to measure your results.

It’s a good idea to check projections monthly so you can make adjustments as needed in a timely manner. For example, if you’ve been expecting gasoline prices to remain low but they suddenly spike, you may need to reduce another expense, such as advertising, to keep your budget in check.

SBA tools can help you create a business plan.

4.  Fix your withholding/estimated taxes

If you work for your corporation, make sure that withholding for 2014 will cover your projected tax obligations. Be sure to take into account the 0.9% additional Medicare tax on taxable compensation over a threshold amount that depends on your filing status (e.g., $200,000 for singles; $250,000 for joint filers) as well as the 3.8% additional Medicare tax on net investment income.

If you’re self-employed, your estimated taxes will have to cover roughly what you expect to owe for the year. These taxes should include not only the additional Medicare taxes if you’re a high-income taxpayer, but also self-employment taxes (to cover your Social Security and basic Medicare tax obligations).

The IRS offers guidance on withholding and estimated taxes in Publication 505; the 2014 version should be available early in 2014.

5. Plan to work closely with your tax and financial advisors

Make it a New Year’s resolution to stay in touch regularly with these professionals. While there are fees for these services, likely they will save you money and trouble in the long run.

Conclusion

The economy and taxes are continually changing. Make it your top resolution to stay informed about new developments that can affect your business and impact your actions throughout the year.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

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