One of the biggest, and most unpleasant, surprises to face the newly self-employed is the higher level of taxation that often comes with that self-employed status. When you are working for someone else, your employer shoulders a great deal of the tax burden that accrues from keeping you on the payroll. But when you leave the nine to five world and strike out on your own, that tax burden falls completely on your shoulders, and if you do not budget your money carefully you could end up short of cash when tax time rolls around. While there are many specific tips for starting a consulting business, all too few of those tips center on the unpopular subject of taxes.
That is why it is so critical for new consultants, and all self-employed individuals for that matter, to budget carefully for the taxes they expect to owe. Putting aside one third of every dollar you make as a consultant may sound excessive, but in fact it is just good business practice. Every time you receive a payment from a client, immediately put aside one third of that payment in a special savings account you will use to pay your taxes. Try to find a quality money market account so you can at least earn some interest for setting that money aside.
As a new consultant you might also be required to make quarterly income tax payments, instead of paying your taxes once a year like you did when you were working for someone else. The best way to determine if you will have to file these quarterly tax returns is to check with your certified public accountant. He or she can analyze your own situation and determine if you meet the criteria for quarterly filing. Financial professionals are often the best source of specific tips for starting a consulting business and running that business effectively, so do not overlook the expert advice your CPA can provide.
You can also run the numbers yourself during the year by purchasing a tax preparation software package designed for small business use. This will make it easier to prepare your taxes and determine how much you are likely to owe the IRS at the end of the tax filing season.
As a small business owner, you do have the ability to make the tax bite a little less painful. There are a number of excellent retirement plans designed specifically for self-employed individuals like consultants, and the contribution limits on those plans are quite generous. While in the beginning you will probably need every penny your business brings in, once the business gets going and the money starts rolling in, you can minimize your taxes and maximize your tax savings by putting money in a qualified retirement plan for your consulting business. Among the most important specific tips for starting a consulting business are the tips that help you spend less on taxes and more on growing your business and securing your financial future.
It goes without saying that few among us enjoy paying taxes, and it is certainly true that the tax burden often falls disproportionately on the self-employed. But it is also true that with the right tax planning and preparation, you can reduce the tax bite and help your new consulting business thrive.
Internet marketing consultants come in many shapes and sizes. A good consultant can take a website that is all but dead and turn it into a goldmine. What they can do for you and how well they can do it will vary, but at a minimum, they should be able to offer these three things to your site.
One of the first things that a consultant can offer a web site is new creativity and fresh ideas. This is vital specifically because tired content and advertising have no place on the fiercely competitive web. Utilizing fresh ideas and new marketing techniques, any site will be able to bring in more traffic. New life can be brought to any website, in the hands of the right internet marketing consultant. This is probably the best thing a consultant can do for a website.
They Do This for a Living
Another advantage a consultant might have is a greater understanding of the available internet marketing techniques to promote the site such as social media networking sites, creating RSS feeds for your site, issuing blogs for the same site that are SEO managed for better usage. They can also provide news releases, search engine optimization and newsletters for example. Marketing ideas and techniques like these can have a huge impact on any site. Sometimes changing the content is what is needed. Other times it could be a complete overhaul of the entire site so that it is more search engine friendly.
Helping You Monetize
The third way is by using giveaways, affiliate programs and other money making methods to increase the flow of traffic to your site and monetize it so that it brings you in other sources of income. Providing free samples or online discussion forums could also be a part of a good marketing plan for certain sites. A marketing consultant will have more than one trick up the sleeve when it comes to reviving an old website or creating a new one from scratch.
Just the Beginning
There are other ways that a consultant can help a web site besides the previous items. Utilizing good SEO strategies and proper content strategies can quickly turn a website around. Knowing something about web design can also be a big help when it comes to re-designing a site for a client in order to bring more traffic to their business. All the SEO, marketing and advertising you can buy will not make a difference unless there is solid knowledge behind it. This is what separates a poor site from a killer site that brings in plenty of visitors.
If you are considering establishing a small business, invest in the advice of business consultants during the start-up phase. A consultant can even help even after the start-up. There are many facets of creating a successful small business from applying for the right permits to writing press releases to even streamlining production processes to reduce expenses and increase profits. While you may have great products or services, do you know how to market to the customer? Do you know how to create a financial proposal to apply for a small business loan?
Whether you are just at start-up or have been in business a while, chances are at some point you will want to apply for a small business loan to establish or expand your operations. Business consultants are well-versed in creating business plans. They know how to study the marketplace, evaluate trends and forecast potential future business – things you need to know in order to draft a financing proposal to a bank or other funder. Consultants can also help you write grants to the government and other entities as well.
If you are the idea or concept person and accounting aspects of your business are just not your forte, an outside consultant can help you manage your accounts, create financial reports, and interpret them too. By understanding the financial reports, you will be able to see how your business is doing day to day as well as recognize what is profitable and what should be re-evaluated.
You may want to hire a consultant to evaluate your production processes to see where operations can be streamlined to reduce expenses. Is there a step or two being handled by people that could be accomplished with a machine? Would changing the product packaging be helpful? Could your current facilities handle the addition of a new product? Can some of the same machines be used or would you need to make a capital investment in new equipment? How long would it be before your new product made a profit, based on the capital investments in equipment? These are just a few of many aspects on the operations side to consider.
Marketing and Publicity
Sometimes, the hardest part of owning a small business is figuring out how to spread the word about your products and services. Sure, local magazines and newspapers are no-brainers but how about expanding to a website? Do you want your website to include an online store so customers can order from home? How do you boost online traffic to your website in the first place? Do you invest in pay per click advertising or offer affiliate marketing? SEO and internet marketing is an important facet for many small businesses with social media outlets gaining ground.
Should you create a brochure for your products and services? Would your business benefit from a direct mail campaign or radio advertising? Another thing to consider is purchasing booth space at exhibitions and trade shows. As you can see, there are a number of ideas to consider when it comes to marketing and publicity. Business consultants can handle a number of small business aspects so consider hiring one to make your life a little easier.
If your web site is getting far less traffic than you had hoped for, chances are you haven’t paid enough attention to good SEO practices. You might not even understand the overall concepts behind search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine results page (SERP) positioning techniques. Hiring an SEO consult can be the perfect solution if you are too busy with the other aspects of your business to worry about learning such things.
Basic SEO Principles to Understand
The overall principle of SEO involves using a variety of techniques that will result in your site being positioned high in search engine results. Most successful sites strive to be returned in the first page of search results. The higher up in the search ranking you can get, the better off you will be. This is achieved through optimizing the content on your site’s pages, using keywords and metadata, and developing a good network of links back to your site. Because search engine algorithms frequently change, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out which techniques would be most effective for your site. This is where a good SEO consultant can really help.
Things to Look for When Choosing a Consultant
When choosing a consultant, you’ll want to select one that has an overall interest in creating a good usable site. Although good search engine ranking is important for a successful site, it is also important to provide the visitors with a good user experience. Content is very important, both to your site visitors as well as to the search engines. When interviewing a consultant, look for one that focuses on improving the content of the site instead of just focusing on hidden details such as metadata and keywords. You’ll want to do a bit of homework first so that you fully understand some of the terminology and techniques that are used for SEO optimization. You may not understand every detail of what the consultant is talking about, but you’ll want to know enough so that you understand the basics of what they are telling you. Most consultants are skilled and honest, but you don’t want to have a consultant throwing important-sounding phrases around in an attempt to confuse you.
A basic understanding will allow you to make a better informed decision. Make sure that everything they are recommending seems to be on the “up and up” instead of focusing on cheap tricks. After all, you don’t want to do anything that will achieve short-term SEO results, but which could hurt your site’s ranking over time in the long run. There are even some tricks that could ultimately decrease your search engine ranking, if the search engine feels they are being used incorrectly or in a manner designed strictly to skew the search results. Choose a consultant who focuses on long-term results and real site improvements. These are the techniques that can provide both short and long-term results for your site.