Posted by – April 28, 2010
We are a little biased here as we are a startup and feel everyone should enjoy the benefits of being one. However, you need to ask yourself what kind of person you are. There are predominantly two types in this world:
- People who like the security and thrive under the structure of working for “the man”
- People who can’t handle it, and have to work for themselves (otherwise known as “entrepreneurs”). BTW, one of our founders wrote a post on The Huffington Post during the financial meltdown that is as true now as it was then. It is titled “The Waffle Guy…”.
If you suspect you might be in the latter category, here are some (by no means comprehensive) obstacles and issues to consider before launching your own business:
- Finding capital. Getting your business off the ground will probably require an investment of some sort. The easiest source of capital is people you know – family, friends, etc. Sometimes if you are experienced and have good credit a bank might help, or the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) which is sometimes a great ally for entrepreneurs looking for resources or sources of capital. Often, they are willing to facilitate small business loans.
- Finding clients: Networking groups can be great resources for finding clients and customers. A search on Google by industry should reveal quite a few. Also, asking your prospective clients where they go, what they do and who they mingle with should create a list of target events/publications/venues. So can your own network of friends, family and other professionals. Throwing a few freebies out in the beginning can pay off in the long run, in terms of customer feedback and testimonials. Hey, we know freebie…it’s what our company offers on its homepage!
- Learning how to pitch your company. It can be uncomfortable selling yourself. So, envision this: your grandmother asks you “What do you do?”, you answer, “We create a platform for enterprises to regress data sets to identify and optimize consumer intent.” Lovely…that cleared things up. How about you tell the old lady, “We sell software so companies can sell more products to their customers”. Simple. Keep it that way! Now that you know what you do and can easily convey it to a non-industry person, further develop your pitch to include who your customers are, how you reach them and what qualifies you to do this.
- Revenue: People that run business that have bank loans at the onset need to focus on this VERY much. For those with internet-based, social services, you might want to focus more on fund-raising to fund the non-revenue model. Not much to say here aside from make sure no-one messes with your money and its prompt payment. Try not to give away too much free as you need to pay the piper at some point.
- Paying taxes: One piece of free advice: PAY YOUR TAXES! Consultants, freelancers, and sole proprietorships are responsible for paying quarterly taxes. You’ll need a good CPA to help you estimate the payments.
- Staying motivated and organized Sometimes difficult when you’re working in your pajamas on the couch at 3 in the afternoon, but staying motivated and organized is vital to keeping your infrastructure costs down. If you can find a place out of the home to go and mix with other professionals, do it. One of the things that make sense is renting out a desk at a shared office. It allows you to separate work from home and gives you a chance to meet others in your field that might be helpful. Do not underestimate how tedious working alone at home can be.
Of course, these are just a handful of the many barriers and learning curves that you’ll encounter on the road to being happily self-employed. But once you get far enough down the road, your initial financial and time investment may very well be worth it!
Posted by – April 21, 2010
Wanting to eat healthily (and avoid the evils of GMO foods and factory-farmed animals) can seem at odds with the pressing need to spend less money on food. Most of us have a misperception that eating healthily means spending more money. In other words, only rich people can be spoiled enough to eat well.
Wrong. Here are some tips to prove otherwise.
- Eat seasonal produce: Because it’s not shipped from Argentina or Chile, produce eaten when it’s in season in your hemisphere and habitat is notably less expensive, and also, far better for you (and the environment). Shop where produce is labeled! Hint: if you shop at local farmers markets, you can rest assured that everything is local and seasonal (and, often, organic).
- Try new foods. If you do frequent farmers markets, you’ll be exposed to fruits and veggies you may not have been raised on. And farmers love to talk about their goods. Ask them how to prepare those kale sprouts or fava beans.
- Coupons: “But, I want to shop at Whole Foods?” Yes, and even Whole Foods offers coupons. You just have to look for them, swallow your pride, and use them!
- Make homemade soup. You can use your wilting veggies to make an easy and highly nutritious broth. Just clean them, toss them in a pot with some water and seasoning (ends, rinds and all), and let the brew simmer for hours. This is a great way to conserve money on food you might otherwise throw away, and reap the benefit of using parts of the veggies you would normally consider to be scrap.
- Similarly, use your fading fruit to make smoothies. Fruit loses its appealing texture before it loses its edibility and taste. Toss it in a blender and whir.
- Grow your own herbs. This takes about two square feet of space, some sunshine, under $20 to buy a handful of your favorite herb plants as babies, and about thirty seconds a week to water them. Herbs are expensive to buy in their dried, concentrated form, and even more of a luxury to buy as fresh bunches. But herbs growing rampant on your own back deck are practically free (after that tiny initial investment), and give back an abundant lifetime of flavor.
- Check out this post on the blog CheapHealthyGood called “The 10 Cheapest, Healthiest Foods Money Can Buy”. To summarize: bananas, beans, canned tomatoes, carrots, frozen spinach, lentils, oatmeal, peanut butter, sweet potatoes, peas.
Posted by – April 15, 2010
We can all heave a big sigh of relief, because tax season is officially over. And if you’re lucky (or have a really great CPA), you’ll have netted yourself a nice fat refund check!
It’s so tempting to go out and splurge with the money you get back from your tax filings. But consider a different approach this year: re-invest your tax return.
Even a small rebate check is worth investing. Here are some ways you can invest your cash back:
- Pay off debt. This should always be your first line of defense in preparing for your financial future.
- A savings account that collects interest. This is a good emergency fund because you can access the money at any time without penalty. However, it requires a certain amount of willpower to leave it be until the day that emergency arises.
- A money market account
- An IRA (up to $4,000 per year if you’re in the right income bracket)
- A mutual fund
A competent financial advisor can help you to put your money in a safe and lucrative place.
And next year, consider this: had Uncle Sam not been holding onto your money this whole time, you could have invested it a while ago and been collecting interest all along. If you’re a salaried employee, consider adjusting your tax withholdings so that you can invest your money now… and not wait a whole year to get it back. If you’re a freelancer, your CPA should be able to recommend appropriate quarterly payments that won’t have you lending Uncle Sam your own money for the next year.
And instead of paying that extra money in taxes “just in case”, consider putting a little more into your 401k each pay period.
Posted by – April 7, 2010
In keeping with last week’s theme of greening your house to save money, consider your water footprint.
That’s right, your water footprint.
This is the latest hot expression on the environmental front, the topic of this month’s National Geographic (a truly disturbing read), and an important way to save money on household costs.
And as an added incentive, taking the responsibility to personally use less water is the best you can do to lessen the chances that you’re going to have to pay an arm and a leg for desalinated water in 25 years when we’ve completely eliminated our fresh water supply on this planet.
Waterfootprint.org has a great Water Footprint Calculator.
Some easy ways to reduce your water consumption:
- Turn the water off while you lather your hands or brush your teeth. It’s as easy as being momentarily mindful of that needlessly flowing faucet.
- If you’re a homeowner, install dual flush toilets and water-saving appliances (this can also land you a tax deduction).
- When doing dishes, use less soap. It rinses off faster. (This is a no-brainer.) You’ll also spend less money on soap!
- Buy aerators for your faucets and low-flow showerheads. Super easy to screw on and replace.
- Eat less meat. That’s right. Factory farming uses an obscene amount of water.
- Bathe less. Okay, well maybe that’s non-negotiable. But be mindful of your shower time and try to cut down on the standing-under-the-water-spacing-out bits.
- Recycle your water for your garden. Consider collecting rainwater or saving your bath water. It might seem dirty to you, but your garden won’t think so.