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Does Your Company Have a Soul?

March
29, 2021

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In today’s society, customers remember purpose-driven brands. Purpose-driven brands are associated with positive consumer feedback, happier workforces, higher market shares and increased customer satisfaction. Having a clear purpose for your organization gives it a soul. It tells customers what problems you’re here to solve, why your organization exists and what it wants to be.Businesses that have a purpose will do more for the communities in which they work, create deeper connections with consumers, retain and attract top talent, and increase impact and results.Purpose-driven brands attract customersA recent analysis conducted by public relations firm Porter Novelli evaluated how different brand names were viewed in the eyes of consumers. The study found a clear association between purpose-driven brands and words like “transparent” or “trustworthy,” which matter when consumers have to make purchasing decisions. The study also revealed more than 71 percent of people would prefer to buy from a purpose-driven company over the alternative, if quality and cost were equal.In the same survey, 86 percent of respondents said they would trust a company more if it was led by purpose. This type of business also inspires advocacy, with over 75 percent saying they would recommend others to buy from the company, and another 62 percent saying they would use social media to share information about purpose-led companies.Related: 3 Ways Customer Relationships Will Change Forever In Light Of COVID-19Consumers prioritize strong brand trust in this day and ageAccording to the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2021, the perception of who to trust has significantly changed since the start of COVID-19. Some of the key takeaways brands can apply to their purpose-driven brand include:Leading on key issues: Brands must be able to lead on important issues, from upskilling to sustainability and even racism. Customers expect action, not just talk.Provide trustworthy content:  Customers want businesses to provide reliable, unbiased and truthful information.  Businesses must feel comfortable sharing facts with the public, but should do so while empathizing.Find a common purpose: A brand can’t act alone to make huge societal change. Instead, they need to pair with other businesses or government organizations to truly make their talk a reality.As this new wave of behavior starts to impact buying decisions, it’s essential to step back and figure out where you and your company fit in this equation. However, this doesn’t mean hosting a quick meeting with your team to determine how to market yourselves as purpose-driven. Consumers can easily see through a fake purpose, whether it be from your company culture or the way you source your products.Creating a purpose-driven business requires action. It requires you to put in the work to start a business that meets these values. This is not an easy process. It involves a lot of decision-making or culture changes from the top.Related: How to Earn Your Clients’ Trust (and Keep It)How to walk the walkIf you’re serious about making a shift in the way your brand does business, it’s time to follow through. Starting a purpose-driven business doesn’t mean you need to be a nonprofit, social enterprise or charity. Instead, it means you’re doing more with your business than just churning a profit.Having a purpose allows companies to use their platform to solve problems they care about. Plus, purpose attracts the type of talent you want for your workforce. According to a 2018 LinkedIn survey, more than 71 percent of professionals would be willing to receive less salary to work for a company with a mission they believed in.If you want to start a purpose-driven business or lead your culture to become more purpose-driven, there are a few basics you need to set up the foundation and framework. Jump into action by following these tips:Ask yourself hard questionsCreating a purpose-driven business takes self-reflection and the ability to ask yourself hard questions. Ask yourself if your business model is ethical. Go through each part of your business’s supply chain to ensure there is a good reason — besides profit — you’re using a vendor or material.If you need to make a significant decision in your business, get in the habit of asking if it aligns with your overall purpose. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Do what you believe is right, even if it’s not the easy route.Find the bigger goalWhat is the “why” behind your business? How will your business impact the world? How will others benefit from your creation? Your bigger goal can be on a global or community scale. Having a “why” helps create policies and a company culture that aligns with those values.Inspire your teamIt’s essential to have the right team in place when trying to create a purpose-driven company. If your employees aren’t invested in your company’s mission, it’ll be hard to see your purpose or intentions followed through. Ensure your employees have the right tools and equipment to meet their goals and do their jobs successfully. Keep them motivated, emotionally and mentally safe, and make them a part of your company. Share updates, company information, and wins you’re making in your business, especially towards a bigger purpose.Related: 3 Reasons Why a Strong Purpose Is a Good Business Idea

Best Invoicing Software for Small Businesses

If you buy something through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.Invoicing software provides an easy way for small businesses to streamline billing operations. These tools allow business owners and freelancers to request payments and get paid faster. Some even offer advanced features like time tracking, project management, and the ability to send recurring invoices.Every business is likely to have different needs when it comes to their invoice software. But there are plenty of options available to meet every need and manage your invoice and collect more efficiently.20 Invoicing Software Solutions to ConsiderAre you considering invoicing software as a way to get paid faster by customers and clients? Then check out our list of 20 software solutions to help you create and send invoices more quickly and easily.1. Zoho InvoiceZoho Invoice is a fully featured invoicing software for small businesses. In addition to sending basic invoices, Zoho Invoice offers advanced features like estimates, expenses, and templates. There’s also a client portal to let your customers easily complete payments and track invoice information. Zoho also provides a wide array of other solutions for small businesses. So Zoho Invoice can easily integrate with other tools like Zoho Sign to make tasks like document signing easy.There is a free plan for businesses that only need to send invoices to up to five customers per month. Paid plans range from $9 to $29 per month. And they offer advanced options like automated workflows, extra users, and custom domains.2. Quickbooks OnlineQuickbooks Online offers a full array of business accounting tools. So Intuit’s invoicing software can be used on its own or with other Quickbooks features. Quickbooks Payments lets you accept credit card payments, debit cards, and ACH bank transfers. You can send customer invoices with a simple “pay now” button to make payments easy. And there’s even a mobile app and credit card scanner to simplify in-person payments. These functions can also be used in conjunction with tools like time tracking and bookkeeping, if necessary.There are no long term contracts with the Payments feature of Quickbooks Online. You simply pay processing fees for each payment. Rates range from 1 percent for bank transfers to 3.4 percent plus $0.25 for keyed credit card purchases.3. FreshbooksFreshbooks offers invoicing and accounting solutions for small businesses. Solutions are tailored to various types of businesses, from freelancers to companies with employees and/or contractors. Invoices are designed to look professional and only take seconds to create. But the software also offers extra features like expenses, estimates, projects, and payment reports. You can even automate certain tasks like payment reminders.Plans range from $4.50 to $15 per month. There are also add-ons available like options for extra team members. Or you can create a fully custom plan based on your business’s specific invoicing and payment needs.4. Invoice NinjaInvoice Ninja offers a full suite of online business apps, with invoicing and other finance options included. The invoice software is designed to be fully customizable. You can even add your own branding, custom domains, and choose from more than 40 payment gateway integrations. In addition to sending invoices, you can also create proposals, provide quotes, time tasks, and create custom processes with your team.There is a free plan which includes basic features like quotes, payments, and integrations. The Pro plan for $10 per month offers extra customizations, templates, and bulk invoicing. There’s also an Enterprise plan for $14 per month that includes multiple users and access permissions perfect for teams.5. WaveWave offers a series of financial apps for businesses. They cover everything from accounting to payroll. But the invoicing software in particular is known for being fast, customizable, and free. Wave provides a full dashboard where you can manage all of your invoices, payments, and customer information. And you can easily integrate it with other Wave accounting products to keep track of your entire financial picture.The free account includes the ability to manage invoicing, accounting, and receipts. You can create and send invoices to unlimited clients. So it’s one of the best options for those looking for a free solution without limits. The paid plans include advanced features like payment processing and payroll. Payroll starts at $20 per month. And payments are calculated on a per transaction basis.6. Bill.comBill.com is a payments solution that is designed to integrate with your business’s accounting software. You can connect to a variety of popular platforms, including Sage, Xero, Quickbooks, and SAP. The invoicing solution uses AI to intelligently capture payment information from customers and create invoices quickly when necessary. For example, the platform can detect duplicate invoices to make sure you’re sending them to the right customers.For businesses, plans range from $39 to $69 per user per month. And there are custom enterprise plans available as well. These plans provide payment networks, document storage, and even team approval workflows. So this may be a useful option for companies that need to manage multiple types of payments or work with large finance teams.7. Square InvoicesSquare Invoices is an online tool that lets you send invoices quickly at no cost. Customers can pay with just one click from their phone, computer, or even in person. And the platform accepts credit card payments, as well as those from Apple Pay and Google Pay. So it’s meant to be a streamlined experience that helps small businesses get paid for simple products and/or services quickly. Square also offers time-saving features like auto billing, cash flow reporting, and invoice progress reports.There’s no monthly fee with Square Invoice. You only pay a small processing rate of $0.30 plus 2.9 percent per invoice paid online. So it’s an ideal solution for small businesses that just need to process a few payments and want to keep monthly costs low. It may also be useful for service providers who work with customers in person, since it’s one of the few invoicing solutions that offers this functionality.8. XeroXero offers a full suite of accounting options for small businesses. The invoicing software lets you quickly create invoices to send to customers online. A simple “pay now” button makes it easy for users to get paid quickly. And it integrates with Stripe and Apple Pay. So customers can easily pay using a credit card or bank account. It even enables automatic payments for recurring customers.Plans range from $5.50 to $31 per month. The base plan is best for freelancers and independent contractors that work with just a few clients each month. And the upgraded options provide advanced features like unlimited quotes and invoices, project tracking, and support for multiple currencies.9. PayPalPayPal is a popular online payments solution that also offers invoicing functionality. You can access the platform from nearly any device. And you can even make templates for the types of invoices you send most often. Then you can track payments, send reminders, and access all of your business’s money from one online dashboard. Of course, one of the biggest benefits of using PayPal for invoicing is that it’s so widely used and recognized. So there’s a good chance that your clients are familiar with the platform and able to pay you easily. It can also accept credit card and bank account payments.It’s free to sign up for a PayPal account. And it’s free to create invoices as well. PayPal simply takes a transaction fee of $0.30 plus 2.9 percent per transaction. So it’s ideal for users that don’t need to process a ton of payments. But the fees may add up for those with a larger volume.10. Invoice2GoInvoice2Go is a professional invoicing app that provides a simple interface, time-saving features, and plenty of integrations. The dashboard includes invoices, estimates, and business reports. And you can accept payments via credit, debit card, or PayPal. There’s even a mobile app so you can manage everything on the go. This can be especially useful for service providers that need to send information or accept payment information from work sites.Plans range from $3 to $33.34 per month. And there’s a free trial available for all plans. You can pay extra for things like unlimited invoices, time tracking, expense tracking, and appointments. But basic functions like receipts and profile pages are available with all plans.11. Sage50Sage50 is an accounting software that’s built for productivity. You can send and track invoices from the same dashboard where you manage outgoing payments and even inventory. So it’s an ideal solution for companies looking for a full financial management solution. However, the invoice software is not offered separately. So it’s more costly for those who just want the simple ability to send invoices and get paid.Plans range from $567 to $1,404 per year. That includes full accounting functionality. So you do get more than just invoicing. There’s also a free demo available. And you can get a deal on Microsoft 365 when you sign up.12. HarvestHarvest is an easy to use time tracking and invoice software perfect for freelancers and companies that charge an hourly rate. You start by creating a new timesheet for each project. Then you can designate start times and pause or stop tracking when you’re done working on a particular item. Then it’s easy to add that time to an invoice or just use it to send more accurate estimates. There are also reports and analytics features available to help you make better use of your time going forward. You can customize the experience for one user working on hourly projects or teams that need to keep track of internal processes.There’s a free version available if you just need one user and up to two projects. The paid version is $12 per seat per month. And you can work on unlimited projects with this plan.13. PaySimplePaySimple offers a flexible solution to help businesses get paid online, in person, and via mobile devices. You can create configurable online payment forms or even set up an online storefront. Then you can accept payments from credit cards or ACH bank transfers. You can also send payment reminders, manage recurring billing, and provide customers with their own payment gateways.You can get all of the PaySimple features included for $59.99 per month. And then there are transaction fees for those that want to use PaySimple to process transactions. Users that process more than $50,000 per month in transactions can also request a custom pricing quote.14. ZervantZervant is a cloud based invoicing software that is built to be easy to use. Enter a few quick pieces of information to create invoices in 60 seconds. Then you can quickly send them to your customers via email or PDF. You can even create estimates and sales reports to easily manage multiple financial aspects of your business.Zervant does offer a free plan that you can use to send unlimited invoices to up to five clients. The premium plans offer advanced invoicing features like payment schedules and quick payment reminders. Unfortunately, the service seems to use only European currency currently, so invoicing US companies may not be possible at present. Plans range in price from 8 to 36 Euros per month.15. Sliq InvoicingSliq Invoicing is a desktop invoice software. It lets you create multiple invoice templates, access invoicing reports, and even offers stock control features. Sliq is meant to help business users manage payments from beginning to end. Start by sending quotes. Then offer invoices, statements, and reminders as you track incoming payments.Sliq Invoicing is a downloadable invoice software instead of an online tool. So you pay $65.20 per year instead of a monthly subscription fee. The company sends an unlock code so you can download the tool and sign up once payment has been received.16. BillQuick OnlineBillQuick Online offers an SaaS model for payments and invoice software. You can access the company’s business tools online, via mobile app, or through integrations with other products like Microsoft Outlook. The tool is designed for professional service firms. And they provide 24/7 support to customers.BillQuick Online is a fully customizable business management solution. So they don’t offer set pricing models. Instead, you can request a free quote online to receive a customizable price for your company’s needs. Free demos are also available.17. ScoroScoro offers an end-to-end work management software that also includes invoicing. The idea is for Scoro to act as a control hub for your business. You can add on the apps you need within the platform. And it even integrates with third party programs like Slack and Evernote as well. When it comes to invoicing features, the platform lets you automate billing and create custom invoices for customers. You can also track the rest of your finances within the same dashboard.Scoro plans range in price from $26 to $49 per user per month. They all support a minimum of five users. And they include features beyond invoicing like task management and bundles. The upgraded plans offer options like recurring tasks and project templates. There are also custom plan options for advanced users.18. HoneybookHoneybook offers a client management platform that includes invoicing and more. The invoicing software lets you create branded invoices in 30 seconds. Then you can create templates, include product or service lists, and set up recurring invoices. Clients can pay from any device and even set up automatic payments or receive payment reminders. The invoice software also includes options for things like proposals, contracts, and online payments.Plans range from $9 per month to $390 per year. Advanced features include unlimited invoicing, transaction processing, and concierge support. There’s also a 7-day free trial available.19. OneUpOneUp is an online business banking solution. The invoicing software lets you input accounts, track transactions, and even forecast your company’s finances. There’s even a smart assistant that offers business advice based on the financial information you add. The invoicing portion of the tool allows users to send quotes, get paid, and even calculate expenses like sales tax.Plans range from $9 per month for one user to $169 per month for unlimited users. There’s also a 30-day free trial offered.20. ChargebeeChargebee is an invoicing software that is built for subscription based businesses and recurring payments. You can set up billing schedules, create invoicing templates and proration, and even manage your taxes. The invoice software even integrates with third party tools like Salesforce, Paypal, and Stripe. This allows you to automate everything from sales and CRM to the ability to accept online payments through various payment gateways.The invoicing tool is completely free for up to three users until you hit up to $100,000 in revenue. Then plans range from $249 to $549 per month. And it includes everything you need to manage subscriptions and recurring payments.What is the best way to create invoices for your business?The best way to create invoices is by using a tool that can automate as much of the process as possible. The specifics vary from business to business. But for many, this involves choosing an invoicing software that lets you save templates for the invoices you send regularly. Some also send recurring invoices to regular clients.What are the benefits of invoicing and billing software?In general, invoicing and billing software is designed to help businesses facilitate easy payments as well as getting paid on time. Here are some of the specific benefits:Save time: Manually creating and sending invoices can be time-consuming. Then you have to manage your payments and billing information in a separate spreadsheet or document. Invoicing software provides time-saving features like templates, automatic billing, and reminders.Get paid faster: When it’s easy for you to send invoices, your clients get invoices faster. Invoicing software can also make it easier for them to pay with credit cards or online accounts. So it removes barriers for them to actually send the money they owe.Keep financial records: Invoicing software stores your previous invoices and payments in one dashboard. So if you ever need to go back and look at a payment or find billing details, you know where to find that information.Offer accurate payment breakdowns: Sending a general invoice to clients may leave them wondering what they’re actually paying for. Many invoice software programs offer the ability to break down invoices into specific projects or hourly rates. This provides more information to clients so they’re more likely to feel comfortable with their payment.Look professional with clients: A professional invoicing software provides a streamlined experience for your clients. This contributes to your overall brand image. And it can make them more likely to continue your business relationship going forward.What is the best free invoicing software for small business?The best free invoice software depends on your company’s needs. Zoho Invoice, Square Invoice, Wave, PayPal, Quickbooks Online, and Harvest all offer free options. Zoho, Wave, and Quickbooks offer the most features for users that want to manage multiple elements of their business finances. PayPal and Square are perfect for those that just want a simple solution. And Harvest is an ideal free invoicing software for those that need to bill for hourly work.Image: Depositphotos

How to Find Keywords That Will Drive the Most Traffic to Your Website

March
8, 2016

7 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In Ultimate Guide to Local Business Marketing, Google AdWords expert Perry Marshall and lead generation expert Talor Zamir introduce you to the basic framework behind a successful local marketing campaign. In this edited excerpt, Perry and Zamir explain the importance of keyword match types to your AdWords campaign. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes or click here to buy it directly from us and SAVE 60% on this book when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.Simply selecting the right keywords isn’t enough when it comes to Google AdWords. Before you add any keywords to your campaign, you’ll need to get familiar with the concept of keyword match types. These are very important because the match type for each keyword in your campaign determines which search queries (i.e., the actual words people type into Google) can trigger your ads.If you don’t manage the match types for your keywords the right way, your ads can show up for all sorts of search queries that aren’t related to what you do. So even if you did an awesome job selecting your keywords, not using the right match types will kill your campaign.Here’s an overview of the different keyword match types you can use in your AdWords account.Broad match Broad match keywords are those you add to your campaign without any additional characters around them (as you’ll see later in this article, the other match types are designated by things like quotes, plus signs, and brackets). Adding a bunch of broad match keywords to your campaigns is one of the biggest mistakes advertisers make in AdWords.Why? Because when you add a keyword as a broad match keyword, your ad will appear when Google thinks that what someone typed is similar to your keyword. Only in very rare circumstances will you ever use broad match keywords. The reason is that broad match is really broad. With broad match, you’re leaving things up to Google to decide which search queries are similar to the keywords in your campaign. And Google’s idea of what searches are similar to your keywords may be very different from your own.For example, we’ve seen campaigns for a solar panel company that had the broad match keyword “solar panel” in their campaign. Their ads frequently appeared for searches about the solar system (and “people researching the solar system” was not the market this company was trying to reach).When you use broad match keywords, you’re giving a lot of control over your campaign to Google. That is not the position you want to be in — you want to be in control of your campaign.Using broad match can result in getting a lot of bad clicks. And, remember, when you’re starting out, it’s very important to keep it a very targeted campaign focused on your best keywords. Otherwise, you can end up paying for a bunch of bad clicks and not get many leads because your budget’s being wasted on irrelevant search terms.To keep your campaign focused on the best searches, stick with the other match types that we’re about to cover.Exact match Exact match keywords are those that you add to your campaign surrounded by brackets like this:What this tells Google is that you only want your ad to appear if someone types exactly and only what you have inside the brackets. (Note that Google will also show your ads for plurals and misspellings of your exact match keywords—exact match is not exactly exact match.)Let’s say one of your keywords is:[chiropractor in Reno]Essentially someone would have to type “chiropractor in Reno” for your ad to appear. If they typed in “chiropractor in Reno NV,” your ad would not be triggered for your exact match keyword.Exact match is great because it means you are getting very targeted clicks, and you pretty much know exactly what word(s) someone typed in to trigger your ad. We always use exact match keywords in all our campaigns and highly recommend you do the same.Phrase match Phrase match keywords are surrounded by quotation marks in your campaign like this:“chiropractor”“chiropractic”For phrase match keywords, your ads appear if someone types in a search term that includes the phrase that’s in quotations. (Again, as with exact match, Google can show your ads for plural and misspellings of your phrase match keywords.)Let’s look at the example of the phrase match keyword:“Reno chiropractor”For this keyword, your ad can show up for the search terms “Reno chiropractor in Nevada” or “best Reno chiropractor” because both search terms include the same phrase (“Reno chiropractor”) that you have as your phrase match keyword. However, your ad wouldn’t show up for the search term “chiropractor in Reno” because the words “Reno chiropractor” don’t appear in the same order as they do in your phrase match keyword. Phrase match is another great match type to use, and we highly recommend you use it in all your campaigns along with exact match.Broad match modifier Broad match modifier keywords are created by putting a plus sign in front of each word like this:+chiropractor +Reno+chiropractic +RenoFor broad match modifiers, your ads can appear if someone types any variation of your keywords. Here is an example for the Broad Match Modifier keyword:+chiropractor +RenoWith that keyword in your campaign, your ad would show for any Google search that contains both the word “chiropractor” and the word “Reno” in any manner. Here are just a few of the potential search terms your ad could show up for:best Reno chiropractorchiropractor in Reno Nevadafind a chiropractor in Renochiropractors in Reno NVBecause these search terms contain both “Reno” and “chiropractor” (including plurals and misspellings of those words), they’ll trigger ads for the broad match modifier keyword above. For broad match modifier, it doesn’t matter what order the words appear in the search query; they just have to be in it somewhere for ads to get triggered. However, the search term “chiropractor in Nevada” wouldn’t trigger an ad for that keyword because it doesn’t contain the word “Reno.”When you’re starting your campaign, you may want to stick to just exact and phrase match and see what happens after the first couple of days. Then, if you need/want more traffic, you can add broad match modifiers.Shortcut for generating keyword match types Instead of manually adding brackets, plus signs, and quotes to all your keywords to come up with the different match type variations for each for your keywords, you can shortcut the process. We use a free tool at http://AdWordsWrapper.com to make this quick and easy. When you go to the site, you enter a list of your keywords in the main box of their “Google AdWords Keyword Tool.” Then simply click the “Wrap Keywords” button, and the tool does the rest.It will generate different keywords lists with every combination of match types for your keywords. So if you only want phrase and exact match keywords, just copy the keywords in the “Phrase” & [Exact] Match results box. Want the three match types we recommended using above? Simply copy the results from the +Modified +Broad, “Phrase” & [Exact] Match box into your campaign — + and you’re done!If you have a number of keywords in your campaign, this tool will especially save you some serious time over manually setting the match types for your keywords.Did you enjoy your book preview? Click here to grab a copy today—now 60% off when you use code MARKET2021 through 4/3/21.

Zoho Sign: Digitally Request Signatures Or Sign Documents

The dramatic influx of remote work in 2020 brought about tons of new collaboration tools. But sometimes, the simplest functions, like signing documents, are those that can seem most difficult for businesses to overcome. That’s exactly the function that Zoho Sign aims to help with.The tool actually launched years before the pandemic. But the past year brought about tons of new users — and thus some new features to serve them more effectively.In addition to simply signing documents, Zoho Sign aims to provide a secure platform that helps teams automate certain functions. And through its many features and integrations, it can be a major time saver for both remote and traditional teams.Zoho SignZoho Sign originally launched back in July 2017 to facilitate digital document signing and automation. It’s available on the web, mobile apps, and as a desktop application for Mac devices. And as with many Zoho platforms, it automatically integrates with a variety of other tools in the Zoho One ecosystem.The tool works in multiple directions. You can digitally sign documents yourself and email signed copies to employees or clients. Or you can send documents to others to request signatures, or even get documents signed on the spot.Multiple plans are available, ranging from free to $20 per month for an enterprise plan. For teams that need to send and sign many digital documents, the enterprise plan is one of few in the industry that offers unlimited document signing. However, more affordable options are available for those that have fewer digital signature needs.Easy SignaturesFacilitating digital signatures is the most basic function of Zoho Sign. Here’s how it works. If you need a signature from someone, simply upload the document and add the person’s contact information. Zoho will send it to them, give them everything they need to sign, and update you when it’s done. You can even send reminders right from your dashboard.On the other end of the process, you can also use it to sign documents yourself. On your dashboard, there’s a section of documents waiting for your signature so you can review and sign them all quickly. To start signing, just enter your name, role, and email. You can also create a personal profile that includes your digital signature to make signing easy. Then you can also view analytics about your completed documents, as well as those that have been declined or are in-progress.Zoho Sign also includes some advanced features like the ability to customize documents and requests. For example, you can add your logo and create document templates. And you can even create signing processes like approvals for docs and signatures.SecuritySome of the documents that you need to sign or have signed may include sensitive information. So it’s important that your document signing software has sufficient security features.Zoho Sign includes military-grade encryption and blockchain technology to keep documents and workflows secure. You can also have documents and signatures authenticated to ensure your processes are followed. The tool also complies with e-signature laws like ESIGN and eIDAS.Chandramouli Dorai, Product Marketer for Zoho Sign & Vault said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “A lot of small businesses don’t know the difference between an e-signature and a digital signature. An e-signature is basically just an image of your signature added to a document. It’s still legally valid, but can easily be forged. A digital signature cannot be tampered with, so it provides more security. And Zoho Sign is a digital signature platform.”IntegrationsZoho Sign integrates with more than a dozen platforms in the Zoho ecosystem and beyond to make digital signatures even easier. Within Zoho tools like Zoho CRM, you can easily request document signatures in the same dashboard. This can be a powerful automation and time saving effort for sales, onboarding, or customer service teams.Dorai explains, “If you get a new lead coming into Zoho CRM, you can automatically send an NDA to them as part of your normal workflow without leaving the original application.”But there are also integrations with other platforms like Microsoft Teams, Gmail, and Zapier. So even if you or your team members or clients work from these other platforms, completing digital signatures should be relatively straightforward.Remote Work UpdatesStarting in March 2020, Zoho Sign began to see a major spike in signups. In fact, users increased by about three times the normal rate. And that usership grew on a global scale, from Asia to Latin America. So one of the first updates Zoho prioritized was enhancing the ability for the tool to operate around the world.Dorai says, “To cater to this new audience, we started rolling out Zoho Sign in more regional languages. So now the entire document signing process is available in 12 languages. And we have plans to increase that to 24 languages by the end of 2021.”However, this was just one of the many updates that Zoho Sign added throughout the past year to meet this new demand. Others include:Releasing the new Mac and iPad appsIncreasing upload limits from 25 documents to 40 at onceAdding more integrations within the Zoho ecosystemAdding extra integrations with third-party tools like Microsoft TeamsEnhancing the mobile platformsIntroducing cloud backup optionsAllowing full customization of email templatesZoho is constantly working to improve its full array of products to meet the demands of today’s businesses. The past year has changed so much about how businesses operate. And Zoho Sign provides a simple yet sophisticated solution to a common problem. So along with its integrations with other Zoho One platforms, this tool has and will likely continue to be a big part of supporting remote operations.More in: , Zoho Corporation

How Self-Acceptance Led this Entrepreneur to His Number One Success

From the small business owners I have met, I have heard many stories of resilience and success. But my interview this week on The Small Business Radio Show is different. Rarely have I heard someone that overcame so many cultural, physical and financial obstacles for success.Harma Hartouni is a self-made entrepreneur who owns a real estate company employing hundreds of residential and commercial real estate agents in Southern California, and runs the #1 ranked real estate business in his region. His memoir, “Getting Back Up: A Story of Resilience, Self-Acceptance and Success”, tells the story of his life growing up in Iran with a father “who did not know how to love” and where he suffered from bullying and abuse as a teenager. Then, Harma almost died during a horrific car accident and was told that he would never walk again. He came to America as an outcast: gay Middle Eastern man and built the life of his dreams.Interview with Harma HartouniHarma was going to be dentist here, but he was broke and had to get a real job to support his family. He begged a real estate agent for an assistant position. His first year, Harma sold 21 homes and his career took off. He proudly purchased the company 5 years later (and quit dental school).He believes that as the CEO,  you should not be the sole focus of your business; “Helping the people around you grow and thrive inspires dedication and ownership especially during the pandemic.”Harma says that the question you must ask yourself before choosing a business partner is: “If I am about to die on a canoe and I am with my son , who will I hand my son to take care of him?  If the answer is not that person, they can’t be my business partner.”He believes that every business leader needs a glass of “shut the F* up water” on their desk to become a better listener. “Whenever you are going to talk with someone in your office, drink (the stale water) instead. It forces you not to talk, stay quiet and listen. “Listen to the entire journey on The Small Business Radio Show.Image: Harma Hartouni

5 Ways to Increase Your Income By Using Your Assets

Reading Time: 3 minsFor many, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on livelihoods and incomes. With unemployment set to rise to 6.5% of all workers by the end of 2021, people are having to get creative and find new ways to earn that extra cash.
There are many ways you can utilise your skills and assets to unlock additional income and make money from the comfort of your own home.
Here we share with you some key platforms and ideas to help increase your bank balance:

1. Earn money by offering your skills on Airtasker
The task economy has boomed during the pandemic, with Airtasker, the community marketplace that connects people who need work done with people who want to work, seeing a 30% increase in registrations across the board this year compared to 2020.
If you’re a roof tiler, mechanic or a market researcher, you may have some of the most sought-after skills in the UK; but that’s not all, Airtasker has also seen a significant rise in “tech tasks” on the platform as digital natives are turning their skills into a career lifeline and offering help with everything, from digital home fitness equipment installation advice, assisting with home tech services to even creating digital presentations and CVs.

2. Get paid for your opinion
During lockdown, people are spending more time browsing the web for an escape from reality;  why not turn your scrolling time into some extra cash by getting involved in market research and completing online surveys.
There are many free online survey sites, such as YouGov or Best Paid Surveys (to name a few), offering cash for your opinion across a variety of topics, where your input will help shape organisations across the world. Now, this may not be the answer to earning a substantial income, but it is an easy way to make more cash from the comfort of your home or on the go. Top tip: never pay to sign up to a survey site!
Find out more about online surveys here. 

3. Turn your lockdown hobby into cash!
Some of us spent our lockdown refining a hobby or even learning something new (or at least trying to). Our newfound love for the great outdoors has meant that many Brits have been rolling up their sleeves and tending to their gardens. Maybe your new gardening hobby could earn you some money from those who haven’t taken to the trowel so easily? Perhaps your needlework skills have come a long way and you could fix someone’s favourite lockdown sweater or design some custom-made cushion covers. If you have caught the creative bug and painted some works of art, or tried your hand at candle making, you could sell your creations on marketplaces such as Etsy and turn your hobby into money.
Find out more ways you can turn hobbies into cash. 

4. Unused space? Rent it out!
As we move into spring and ease out of the lockdown, the UK housing market is predicted to heat up. Why not turn your unused space into a money-making asset and rent out your garage to help those in house-move limbo. Stashbee offers easy listing and earning, not forgetting those all-important Covid-19 safety guidelines.
As people start to head back into the office and wish to avoid public transport, why not rent out your parking space to make an easy bit of cash! Sites like JustPark are a great source for renting out your driveway, where you can find out how much you could earn in seconds – just make sure to check with your home insurance provider that it doesn’t affect your policy.

5. Sell your unwanted goods – or get someone to do it for you!
Spring cleaning season is upon us and as we look forward to a summer of socialising (fingers crossed), you could make some money from those unwanted items that have been gathering dust. Why not revamp your wardrobe with some new styles bought with the cash made from selling your unwanted clothes on sites such as Vinted or Depop?
For those of you who don’t have the time to photograph and list all of your products, you could always call upon help from an eBay selling assistant on Airtasker, savvy on these selling platforms they know how to get the best bang for your buck. It really couldn’t be easier! Turn your unwanted items into extra cash, after all, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

The Entrepreneurs Feeling Pandemic Success Guilt

The past year has been tough for many. Life changed and work did too. Everything once taken for granted was up in the air; seeing friends and family wasn’t possible and redundancies soared with many businesses forced to close. A global pandemic put pressure on health services as entrepreneurs worried about their families, tried to keep their businesses afloat and avoided being ill themselves.
Without digging deeper, it would be easy to assume that everyone was in the same boat. That everyone had a tough time, was feeling down on their luck and couldn’t wait for it to be over. Actually, that’s not the case. Wherever there is change there is opportunity. Wherever there is despair there is hope. When the only option is to adapt, some not only survive, but thrive.
I recently spoke to some entrepreneurs who did exceptionally well during the past twelve months, but admitted to feeling guilty about having success during a period when so many others had a rough time. This feeling, and the feeling of being unable to share their stories of success is something I’m calling pandemic success guilt.

Those who came out of the last twelve months stronger were split into two camps. The first were those whose businesses benefited from lockdown life. They changed nothing, but their business flourished with an increase in demand, akin to the success of Zoom, supermarkets and streaming services. In the second camp were those who had been hit, some quite hard, but had worked their socks off to turn a bad situation around in a spectacular way.  

Right place, right time
Office blocks saw little footfall but home workspaces were paramount. Suits and ties weren’t required but activewear was worn daily. Meals in rather than meals out. Celebrating with friends from afar and spending more time at home, for work and school. As habits changed, so did purchases, changing the fate of those that supplied them. For some, the pandemic itself grew their business.

Jatinder Spall of JS Tutoring found himself in an advantageous position. “Our tutoring business literally doubled in enquiries and turnover, but we didn’t really feel comfortable shouting about our increased business due to the pandemic and lockdowns.” Whilst normally their level of success would be worthy of press and company updates, Spall only felt comfortable sharing in closed Facebook groups of business owners who supported each other.
Iona Hardy’s company Impacters Group offers online coaching programmes that, similar to Spall, took off when March 2020 hit. “In the early days of the pandemic, I did play down my success. It felt insensitive to do it otherwise. There were lots of business owners around me who lost a lot… There were others who lost their jobs or were in complete limbo. There were a few crazy, shocking weeks.”
Hardy would play down her accomplishments, justifying them by saying that “the current situation caught [her] on the right side of the fence.” Hardy knew she had worked incredibly hard during what was the first year of her business, having moved to a new country, launched with no personal network and focused on a narrow niche with an unfamiliar way of working. “I hustled, tried and failed, made mistakes, struggled and felt alone way too many times. But a year on, I have amazing clients.” Despite this, she didn’t feel right talking about it. Then something changed.
“I had a moment of truth; playing down my success will not help [other business owners] get better and will certainly not help me. It was the difference between feeling sorry for them and inspiring them. I started talking less about the success I had and more about what works for me and what doesn’t, the resources I use, the questions I ask, offering to help for free and so on.” Hardy used her story to inspire those around her to make the best of the rollercoaster year. “An entrepreneurial journey is never a smooth ride, there is a lot of failure, learning, repeat, struggles, doubts and the like… sharing the sweat and not just the awesomeness has worked really well for me.”
Giving back
Business owners thriving in 2020 found ways of giving back. Of redressing the balance and distributing the fortune. Cycle and car parts retailer Halfords gave back £10.7million of furlough support to the British government after its sales jumped 47% during the United Kingdom’s lockdown. In December 2020 supermarket chain Sainsburys pledged to hand back £440million of business rates relief, among other supermarkets.
It’s not just big brands. Chaya Gutnick, CEO of Chaos Control was poised to capitalise on the chaos that had ensued, “doubling my business and growing to multiple six figures” during 2020. But she felt the success guilt when seeing so many people in her community suffering, so she chose to give back. “My profits increased and my giving did too. I tell myself that by making more money I can help more people and give back more. The more I think that way, the easier it becomes not to feel guilty. In fact, it becomes something to be proud of.”

The entrepreneurs feeling pandemic success guilt

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Chris Brain of Chris Brain Associates, providing property consultancy to the UK public sector, has “had a great 2020, with it showing no sign of letting up,” but says when “so many other businesses are struggling, it makes it difficult to enjoy the success as much as I should.” Brain’s coping mechanism is to “play down success to avoid feeling discomfort in myself. At the same time, I avoid being seen as bragging, which is not a good trait.” During a time when many of Brain’s public sector clients have suffered, Brain has been lending his expertise pro bono, “to local charities as a volunteer management consultant, via The Cranfield Trust. I have also offered free products and services to some in my sector that I know are particularly struggling financially.”
Pivot and prosper
Founder of GetFocused, Austin Nicholas, said 2020 made his business pivot in a big way. “Previously we were creating a phone stacking fruit bowl called iSTAQ, for meeting rooms. It was evident that in-person meetings were not going to be happening for quite some time hence we took a big step back. We created a software solution to run effective virtual meetings and changed the name of the company.” Nicholas says he is a great believer that positives emerge from all negatives, “You just have to spend time exploring to find them.”
Pamela Aiko Tironi’s pizza shop brand, The Pizza Room, thrived during the pandemic, although she admits “not without pain and stress, that’s for sure.” She remembers seeing others “struggling, shops going down and many small business owners being on the verge of depression for not being able to feed their families,” including some who “couldn’t get the government support just for tiny technicalities. It was heart-breaking.” Tironi felt torn. “I wanted to disappear sometimes, and I was proud some other times” as well as feeling both sorry and compassionate. “I wanted to hide my success to them and thought many times about what I could do to support.”
Fred Copestake, founder at sales training consultancy Brindis, had a role that previously involved a lot of international travel, so big changes were required. “I worked out how to adapt and have been successful as a result, indeed building a better business model.” Copestake experienced pandemic success guilt as he “saw many friends and colleagues having a difficult time while I was doing OK.” But he also experienced another emotion, frustration. “Frustration at them, not for them” when he saw examples of “people who played helpless despite being offered help.” Success guilt and failure frustration combine in a confusing example of cognitive dissonance, but Copestake’s experience led to a breakthrough technique for his work. “I have come to understand the change curve better and pay more attention to equipping salespeople to use it better when planning customer interactions.”
Inspiration not comparison
Is it possible to find inspiration from businesses doing well even when yours is suffering? Tom Camilleri, owner of Access China UK, thinks so. “We have had it super rough over the last 14 months, but I still love a success story. I love seeing people kicking ass!” It doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game with winners and losers. We can help each other be winners.
Cara Louise Cunniff’s company, Thrive In Midlife, helps its clients to move “from survive to thrive.” Cunniff believes “there is no failure, only feedback. It’s all about realising that it’s OK to stand out from the crowd, as when you thrive, others thrive around you.” Being able to let the success of others remind you that it’s possible for yourself can mean even the most desperate of situations have glimmers of hope. According to Cunniff, “personal transformation is so needed,” especially now. When there is only doom and gloom around you, you can be the light that shines through and shows the path.
Dream big, pivot, adapt and grow. Be the inspiration that helps others do the same. Take pride in where you are and the struggles you have overcome to get there, because playing it down helps no one. Give back and share the expertise instead of excusing and explaining your success away.