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10 Products That Can Help You and Your Business Level Up

10 Products That Can Help You and Your Business Level Up

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      Entrepreneurs have to wear a lot of hats. Running and growing your business requires thinking about customers, employees, financials, investors, and more–sometimes, all at the same time–so it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even helpless.

      Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive (even free) products on the web that can assist entrepreneurs in various tasks. From streamlining your financials to making you a better social media marketer, the following tools and products are a godsend for entrepreneurs who want to take their business to the next level:

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      Social media and relationships

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        Social Media Marketer – Founded by social media expert Laura Roeder, Social Media Marketer is an online classroom and community that teaches small businesses how to do social media right. It’s packed with courses and tutorials that instruct entrepreneurs on how to build a following and get more customers using various social tools. Best of all, Social Media Marketer is also a community made up of other entrepreneurs and experts who are always happy to offer guidance and answer questions.

        Buffer – Buffer is a great tool for the busy entrepreneur who still wants to get stay on top of social media. It lets you schedule posts with one click, right from your browser window, saving you time and effort. Buffer also offers simple analytics that tell you which of your tweets are getting the most clicks and interactions.

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        MailChimp – More and more businesses are seeing the value in mailing lists. They allow you to keep in touch with shoppers, provide updates, send coupons, and just stay in the radar of customers. If you’re thinking about email marketing for your business, MailChimp is a great option because not only does it offer a free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers, it’s also very user friendly and allows you to create forms with a simple drag-and-drop interface.

        Legal

        Small Business Bodyguard – As an entrepreneur, you’ll have to deal with a lot of legal issues. You need to pay taxes, implement contracts, obtain licenses or permits, put disclaimers and policies, and generally just cover your butt so you don’t get sued or get slapped with a huge fine. Unfortunately, getting a lawyer to help you do all those things can cost you an arm and a leg. That’s where Small Business Bodyguard comes in. It’s an incredible resource that offers lawyer-drafted and peer reviewed sample agreements, legal templates, sample disclaimers and policies, checklists, and more. Best of all, it’s presented in a fun, easy-to-understand manner, so you won’t fall asleep or get lost in all that legalese.

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        DocuSign – Getting documents signed and ready can be a pain when the parties involved are miles away from each other. Fortunately, DocuSign’s electronic signature solution makes things a whole lot easier. Just email the documents to your recipients, have them sign electronically, and you’re set. Signatures made through the service comply with the ESIGN act, and DocuSign has been tested and certified by a number of trusted entities, including TRUSTe and the US Department of Commerce Safe Harbor.

        Financials

        Vend – Looking to level-up your retail store? Consider swapping your cash register for Vend, an iPad-based point-of-sale software that lets you accept various forms of payments (cash, credit cards, PayPal), strengthen customer relationships, and manage inventory. It even links to your eCommerce site. Vend’s POS hardware and software solution is easy to set up and you can always get assistance from the company’s experts and consultants to help you get started.

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        Freshbooks – Aside from offering a simple invoicing tool, Freshbooks has some great time and expense management features that enable you to log how much time or money you spent on a job, making it easier to generate reports and invoices.  It even has a mobile app that lets you manage your accounting on the go.  Plus, if you’re getting paid via PayPal, you can send your invoices via Freshbooks and only pay 50 cents regardless of the amount, instead of PayPal’s usual cut of 2.9% + $0.30 transaction fee.

        Shoeboxed – Organizing receipts, business cards, and other paper documents isn’t fun. Good thing there’s Shoeboxed, a service that can digitize, categorize, and archive your paperwork, making it easier for you to find and store your documents.  It’s an essential service, especially during tax season when you have to stay on top of your paperwork, deductions, and filings.

        Customer service

        LiveChat – Boost the customer service in your business with live chat. According to recent data, “Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.” One of the leading companies offering it is LiveChat, a service that lets you add a customizable chat box to your website, so you can assist visitors while they’re browsing your store.  It even lets you have a LiveChat tab to your Facebook Page so you can further engage your fans.

        Rapportive – Add more personal touches to your client emails with Rapportive, a plug-in that displays descriptions and social media information about your Gmail contacts in your email interface, allowing you to further personalize your messages.  For example, if you’re typing an email to John Smith, Rapportive will show links to his social accounts, websites, and posts, so you can find information to reference to and customize your messages even more.

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        Last Updated on March 4, 2019

        How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

        How to Use Credit Cards While Staying Out of Debt

        Many people will suggest that the best thing to do with your credit cards during these tough economic times is to cut them up with a pair of scissors. Indeed, if you are already in huge debt, you probably should stop using them and begin a payback strategy immediately. However, if you are not currently in trouble with your credit cards, there are wise ways to use them.

        I happen to really love my credit cards so I will share with you my approach to how I use mine without getting into deep financial trouble.

        Ever since about 1983 when I got my first Visa card, I continue to charge as many of my purchases as possible on credit. Everything from gas, groceries and monthly payments for services like my cable and home security monitoring are charged on credit. Despite my heavy usage, I have maintained the joy of never paying any interest fees at all on any of my credit cards.

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        Here are some tips on how best to use your credit cards without falling into the trap of paying those nasty double-digit interest fees.

        Do Not Treat Credit Cards as Your Funding Sources

        Too many people treat their credit cards as funding sources for major purchases. Do not do this if you want to stay out of trouble. I use my credit cards as convenient financial instruments so I do not have to carry around much cash. In fact, I hate carrying cash, especially coins. When you buy things on credit, the purchases are clean and you will not get annoying coins back as change.

        I do not rely on my Visa, MasterCard or American Express to fund any of my purchases, large or small. This brings me to my golden rule when it comes to whether I will pull out any of my credit cards either at a retail or online store.

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        I never purchase anything with my credit cards if I do not have the actual cash on hand in my bank account.

        If I really cannot pay for the item or service with cash that I already have at the bank, then I simply will not make the purchase. Remember, my credit cards are not used as funding sources. They are just convenient alternatives to actual cash in my pocket.

        Make Sure to Always Pay Off Balances in Full Each Month

        The next very important part of my overall strategy is to make absolutely sure that I pay the balances in full each and every month no matter how large they are. This should never be a problem if the cash has been budgeted for my purchases and secured in the bank. I have always paid my full balances each month ever since my very first credit card and this is why I never pay interest charges.

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        Using Credit Cards with Rewards

        Most of my credit cards are of the “no annual fees” type, including one MasterCard on a separate account I keep at home as a spare in case I lose my wallet or incur any fraudulent charges. However, I do use a main Visa card which does have an annual fee because all purchases on that card reward me with airline frequent flyer points. For me, the annual fee is worth it since I do travel and I get enough points to redeem many free flights.

        You have to decide for yourself if you will charge enough purchases on credit each year without paying interest charges to warrant a credit card that rewards you with airline points (or other rewards). In my case, the answer is “yes” but that might not be the case for you.

        I occasionally use a MasterCard or American Express card on small purchases just to keep those accounts active. Also, I have been to the odd retailer that accepted only a certain type of credit card, so I find that having one from each major company is quite handy. Aside from my main Visa card which earns the airline points, the rest of my cards are of the “no annual fees” variety.

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        So this is how I use my credit cards without getting into any financial trouble with them. This strategy is recommended only if you are not in debt, of course. In fact, it is worth keeping in mind once you’re out of debt so that you can keep your credit cards active and treat them responsibly.

        What are your credit card usage strategies? Let me know in the comments — I’d love to hear what methods you use.

        Featured photo credit: Artem Bali via unsplash.com

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