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February 9, 2016, 8:06 am

How Merchant Accounts are Evolving for Customers’ needs in the Digital Age

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

 

If you’re a business owner, entering the digital age can be daunting but unfortunately it’s now a necessity. The start-up of a business’s virtual presence doesn’t have to be pricey and long term it could actually promote more success and more profit for your company. Businesses that don’t accommodate to the customers’ needs of using technology will unfortunately fall behind and lose out to their competitors who do offer a virtual shopping experience.

More and more retailers are switching to using merchant accounts to process payments. Ultimately merchant accounts make it easier for customers to pay with debit and credit cards whether that’s in store or online. Merchant accounts are a quick and easy method of processing payments securely as well. Retailers should invest in multiple merchant accounts for their stores and website as they distribute sales across the accounts decreasing the monthly volume per account and lowers your businesses risk profile.

Shopping habits have changed dramatically over the years due to the opportunities technology has opened up. Online shopping has really taken off in the past few years as customers are able to browse your website in the comfort of their own home. Merchant accounts make shopping easier for customers and retailers, as card payments are accepted and processed quicker through merchant accounts whether they are in store or online purchases.

Online shopping is also great for those who struggle with mobility or for those shopping in a different country. Most retailers recognise the popularity of online shopping and merchant accounts make this process easier for retailers. By using merchant accounts it opens up sales from different countries as they can accept all currencies. Always make sure that the physical store matches the online one as it’s important to have a clear brand image so customers won’t get confused. The physical store is still just as important as having a virtual presence, as some customers mostly older ones will want to visit the store and have a personal interaction.

So you’ve bought your business into the digital age and have an online presences as well as a physical store now what? With the digital age you need to be aware of where your customers are looking and as of 2014 people are using their smartphones more and more rather than their desktops. Many people will be looking at your website through their smartphones or tablet devices so it’s important your website is mobile friendly too. Another option to make sure your business is as accessible to all customers is to adapt your virtual presence and create an app for the use of smartphones and tablets. With merchant accounts retailers can take payments from customers who are ordering from their smartphones and tablet devices. That way you are making the most of your multiple merchant accounts and keeping up-to-date with all of your customers as well as knowing where they are looking from.

 

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January 29, 2016, 11:24 am

Comparing Business Lending: The Best Routes whether you have Good or Bad Credit

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

If you’re in the position where you want to start your own business then you might be wondering about the best ways to secure funding. Unfortunately, if you are a start-up then the established banks will rarely provide you with a loan to finance your new venture, which means you will probably have to investigate into other means of funding. Luckily there are still a lot of options on the table that are being used by business owners every day to finance new ideas, and below we’ll talk you through some of the most effective ones.

Use your home as equity

Homeowners with more than 15% equity could qualify for a loan based on the value of the home. In general, the banks will allow homeowners to borrow between 70-85% of the value of their home, including the mortgage. The main benefit of this method is that it provides you with capital at a much lower interest rate, compared to credit cards, etc. This means it’s becoming a popular choice when people need money to finance their start-up, however the downside is the potential risk of losing your home if you can’t keep on top of things.

Use friends and family

You can use friends and family if you need funding for your start-up business. You can do this in two different ways, by either selling them a share of your business or taking their money as a loan. It’s typically easier to take their money as a loan, as sometimes even small equity owners can believe they should have a say in the strategy of the business, leading to some tricky conversations down the line.

Look into crowdfunding

Crowdfunding allows you to raise small amounts of money from a number of different people, usually through dedicated crowdfunding websites. Some business owners try crowdfunding based purely on the strength of their new idea, whereas others like to offer incentives for supporters who invest. Elsewhere you get some start-ups who offer shares of the company to particularly big investors, and this encourages more people to get involved.

Get a microloan

There are some non-profit lenders who specialise in providing microloans for start-ups. You can borrow a relatively small sum of money, such as $20,000, for your start-up to get going, as long as you have adequate cash flow to make the loan payments. If you do want to go down this route then you might have to show a source of income that is independent of the business.

As you can see there are a few different choices to make when you want to finance your start-up. You should think carefully before making any firm commitments, whether it’s using your home as equity or securing a microloan. If you have explored other options then a payday loan could even provide the funding you’re looking for, as long as you look around for the best deal and know what you’re getting into. As long as you do the homework you should be able to secure the money you need to get your new venture off the ground.

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April 8, 2014, 5:00 am

How I earned a second paycheque in my spare time

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

 

This is a guest post from a blogger fella Robb Engen. After some discussion, I realized that he was running several online gigs on the side and his wife has even stopped working! He would definitely qualify for my post “Successful Double Income Stories That Don’t Lead to Quitting Your Job.” Enjoy!

 

One thing I’ve always admired about Mike is that he has managed to negotiate a four day work week so he could devote more time to his side business.  He’s struck the perfect balance between entrepreneurship and a steady paycheque.

I don’t have a four day work week but I left the job where I was working 60 hours a week in the busy hospitality industry and headed to the public sector where the hours are much more flexible and I’m home from work before 5:00pm every night.

Rather than spend my ample free time on the couch watching television or lurking on Facebook, I research and write about personal finance and investing on my blogs as well as for a national newspaper.

It all started the year my first child was born and – after she settled into a sleep routine – I found that I had nothing to do in the evenings after 7:00pm.  I started reading blogs like Million Dollar Journey and The Financial Blogger and realized that instead of consuming content all night long I could be creating my own.

Most personal finance blogs were all the same: 30-something guys trying to save and invest their way to financial independence.  I wanted something different to stand out from the pack so I talked to my mother, a former financial advisor with one of the big banks, about a tag-team approach to the blog.

The Boomer & Echo blog was launched a few months later.  We split the writing responsibilities and managed to publish five articles a week for two years.  Within eighteen months we had 100,000 page views per month and earned over $3,000 per month in advertising revenue.  The extra income allowed my wife to stay home full time to look after our two kids.

I’ve learned that you need to diversify in order to be successful online.  I went on a guest posting spree for a few months to promote my blog and got noticed by the personal finance editor at the Toronto Star.  Now I get paid to write a bi-weekly column for a major media outlet!

I also found a niche that I liked to write about – rewards cards and loyalty programs – so I started the Rewards Cards Canada blog.  The niche happened to be underserved at the time and had the potential to be highly profitable with the right affiliate partners.

Earlier this year my mom and I started a fee-only financial planning service where we help clients identify their financial goals and write a plan to achieve them.

The point is: I spread my risk from one online income source to many different ones, and even though my main blog has suffered from lower search traffic in the last year or so, my side income has continued to grow.

I expect to generate about $65,000 in revenue this year from advertising, referrals, freelance writing, and the new planning service.  The best part is that I can do all of this during the evenings and on weekends and still have plenty of spare time to play with my kids, go out with my wife, or stay home and watch Netflix.

Robb Engen is one-half of the Boomer & Echo blogging team.  He recently started a new blog called Earn Save Grow that features stories on how to earn more rather than spend less.

 

A Few Notes from TFB…

 

Last week, I discussed about four other guys doing what Robb is doing; use their free time to work harder for themselves instead of working harder for the boss. The result is always the same: more money in your pocket than you can even imagine.

 

I appreciate the insider view of the personal finance Boomer & Echo provides. I try to give a similar feel to this blog as I think people should know more about the banking and financial industry. This is definitely a great and unique angle to approach personal finance. But you can find your angle too, or find something completely different to talk about and still make money.

 

Turn off that darn TV, find something you are passionate about and start working on your website. I’ll make a bet with you: I bet you won’t quit your job with your new site but I bet you will beat your day job hourly wage!

 

If you have other stories to share like this, I definitely want to hear about them!

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April 1, 2014, 5:00 am

Successful Double Income Stories That Don’t Lead to Quitting Your Job

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Alternative Income,Business

 

 

We often read on the web about dotcom moguls who quit their job to live free and happily in the marvelous world of internet. For a while, I was skeptical about these crazy stories until I met a few of these bloggers personally. Still, I can totally understand why some of you are not too convinced it’s possible to literally live from your computer.

 

I recently dug into my network to find people who actually decided to increase their income and live a better life by creating a lucrative sideline. Through these five stories, I want to show you how it is possible to put your knowledge and talent to work and make more money than you are earning today. You can keep your job and make more income… it truly works!

 

MATT FROM DUMB PASSIVE INCOME

 

I’m starting with Matt’s story because I believe it is the most accessible and incredible at the same time. I met this guy through my master mind group (read more about this story here) about year ago. He was like most readers on this blog: a guy with a job and a website trying to figure out how to make a few bucks from it. At the beginning, I remember he wasn’t making much. In fact, his first income report (July 2012) showed a net profit of $27.13. Trust me, you don’t want to convert this amount into an hourly wage! But 18 months later, he reported a net profit of $971.10 working about the same hours he used to when he started.

 

A thousand a month is certainly not enough to enable anybody to retire from their cubicle. But the point is exactly that: look at how this guy is putting his free time to work and earn $12,000 more in net income each year. This is better than any promotion you can get. What is really neat about his small business model is that it can be done by anybody! He didn’t do anything extraordinary, he just systematically applied what he learned month after month.

 

His main sources of income are split as follow:

#1 Keyword research service: Matt understood very clearly how to efficiently work with Long Tail Platinum Pro – keyword research software. Most people who want to build a niche site lack time to search for keywords or are very bad at finding the right ones. Matt’s keyword research service is a hassle free keyword research report delivered by email within seconds.

#2 Adsense: Using his own talent to find good keywords, Matt is building small niche sites and earns about $400-$500 per month from Adsense with these sites. Nothing fancy or complicated, just a good concept applied systematically.

 

#3 Affiliate Sales: He uses his blog to promote tools he uses to build his websites. This is the most common practice on the internet but it works!

 

By the way, on top of working full time and having this side gig, Matt is also a husband and father of two great kids.

 

JON FROM AUTHORITY WEBSITE INCOME

 

Another guy from my Master Mind Group is an engineer who works lots of hours both at work and on his sites. Just to make sure he will burn out, Jon is also a father ;-). Yet, he finds enough time to build a relatively passive income business on the sideline.

 

Jon started to report his journey in October 2012 with a loss of $192.98. He recently posted record net income at $12,194 (shoot! This guy beat me with a blink of an eye!). He started with the idea of building another of those classic authority websites driven by affiliate sales.

 

He successfully built a resource for student debt consolidation. But instead of stopping his success at this point, he worked on this model and created a complete process to build niche website (remember, he is an engineer).

 

He actually uses his main talent at work to build a sustainable business. Through his efficient processes, he offers now two great search engine ranking systems. The first one finds expired domains and build links from it to your niche site. The second is a complete private blog network to build links and increase your ranking.

 

While his numbers are fairly impressive, Jon has no intention to quit his job at the moment. The thing is that he built a business that doesn’t require too much of his time and he can simply cash in from both work and his sideline. The beauty of his model is also the high price he can charge through both services. You don’t need many clients each month to reach 12K/month when you charge up to $599 for a full package!

 

TOM FROM CANADIAN FINANCE BLOG

 

The next two stories don’t include fabulous numbers and they are not reported. While I have a pretty good idea of how much they make since I’m in the same business as them, I won’t disclose my evaluation either.

 

Tom started 1 or 2 years after me in the Canadian personal finance blog universe. He quietly followed my path and started to build an online blog empire like mine. While I’ve always been pretty upfront with my empire, he remained quiet about it. All I can say is that he owns his share of the web and keeps making money from his financial websites.

 

I know he has a good job and kids. Yet, he finds time to make more money on the side through his blog. He uses multiple partnerships and hires writers to run his empire. He is now in a better position to enjoy life while raking in a few bucks every month.

 

I don’t know how he founded his first blog purchases but all I can say is that you can easily achieve a blog empire if you reinvest your profits for a while… or, like us, you borrow a few bucks to make your first purchase! I don’t know which method he used, but one thing is for sure, he owns a great portfolio of websites today and earns passive income better than any promotion he could have gotten at work. He preferred to work extra hours for himself instead of giving them to his boss – wise decision.

 

KYLE FROM MY UNIVERSITY MONEY

 

Kyle’s story is quite interesting too as he is a young and motivated teacher who thought financial education is sorely lacking in our society. Since his day job income potential is pretty limited (not that he is making a bad salary but he can’t really get promotions year after year), creating another source of income was the perfect plan for his situation. I bet it’s the case for many of you!

 

He even wrote a great book for students (I strongly suggest you buy this book for your kids!) called More Money for BEER and Textbooks. He explains how savvy students can get more for their money and keep partying over the weekend (we all know students don’t study over the weekend, been there, done that 😉 ).

 

Kyle is making money from a blog empire as well, while earning royalties from his book and now recently launched a pod cast. Guess who his latest interview was with…; Tom from Canadian Finance Blog!

 

He runs a similar business model as mine as he also partnered up with his best buddy; Justin (they even wrote the book together!). The two of them are doing remarkable work in bringing simple financial concepts to the community and helping them understand how to manage their finance. This is another great success story of a good side gig.

 

Don’t forget to get the book!

ME!

 

Well… I guess you already know about my story now ;-). Since 2008, I average about 100K in gross income from my online empire. I have a partner so you have to divide this number in two but still, 50K gross income per year is not bad.

 

I use my extra money to pay off my debts, travel and pay for utility bills. The other great thing is that I always get a premium computer or iPad since I need them to work with. It’s not always easy to work full time at a very demanding job, being the father of three and keeping my wife happy by cooking supper on Fridays and Saturdays ;-).

 

More seriously, I’ve slowed down with my business since our third child arrived but I can now see how to manage my schedule and get back full force with my online business. In the meantime, the money kept coming in and while it was tougher these past two years, it still a very generous sideline. I can’t imagine how I could earn this much by working more for someone else!

 

Because here’s the key: if you have a passion, take a few hours to work for yourself each week and you’ll start earning more than working for anybody else!

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March 3, 2014, 5:00 am

The Darn Question of Pricing

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business

 

 

Price it too low, and people think it’s cheap

Price it too high, and people think you are a nut job!

 

In marketing, the question of pricing is probably the hardest to answer. Unfortunately, this is a question we must face every time we want to sell something. You can’t start negotiating your price with each client and moving the price up and down all the time will not send the right message to clients and future customers. The early joiners will fell that they got ripped off if you drop your price from time to time and the late subscribers will simply wait forever until you put on a huge promotion before buying (who pays full price at Canadian Tire?).

 

ASK AROUND, IS IT A GOOD THING?

 

Before I launched my membership website about Dividend Growth Portfolios, I was very uncertain about the right price. It is a high-end product when you consider the knowledge put in place and the possible return on your investment. On the other hand, this is also a very crowded and competitive industry where giants such as Morningstar and Motley Fool offer services for just a few bucks per month.

 

My partner and I weren’t able to find a sweet spot where we felt comfortable so we decided to ask around. Based on my own experience, looking for an external point of view won’t help… much. The first problem when you ask feedback about pricing is who do you ask. Asking internet marketing specialists, they will answer: shoot for the sky. Asking friends, they will answer: price it modestly. Ask potential buyers, they will answer to drop your price as low as possible (they are not fools!). Nonetheless, this is what I did; I asked an internet marketer, friends and potential buyers.

 

THE BEST ANSWER STILL COMES FROM POTENTIAL BUYERS

 

If you ask a potential buyer what price they would pay for your house, chances are they will shoot low since they think they can get a bargain. But if you ask 1,100 people about your house, now you have a chance to hit a few honest people. This is what I did with my new project.

 

I’ve built a list of 1,100 potential buyers and told them about my project. I’ve sent a series of 4 emails:

#1 I’ve explained what it was about along with its main features.

#2 The second email was about the main benefits offered and requested feedback

#3 The third email went out asking a simple question: How much is your time worth?

 

The purpose of my investing website is to simplify the investor’s investment process. I want investors to save time and still make money being a DIY investor. I gave my readers a choice between 3 options:

#1 paying between $9.95 and $14.95 monthly

#2 paying between $15.95 and $34.95 monthly

#3 paying between $35.95 and $49.95 monthly

 

I received about 400 answers from this email. It took me forever but I personally replied to each one of them. Without any surprises, most readers answered option #1. However, I got about 30 or so (so 7.50%) answers telling me they would be okay with option #2 or #3. This is without counting numerous longer emails explaining their reasoning. I received a lot of details about the current offers on the web along with pricing from other competitors.

 

LOOKING AT COMPETITORS… WITH FRESH EYES

 

We always have the best product as the design, the quality and everything else is better than our competitors. Now that I’ve accepted that, I had to look at my competitors with fresh eyes; with the customer’s eyes. The target price was definitely between $9.95 and $15 per month. Most of them were charging $9.95 which didn’t give me much room to play with. I was happy to notice that most of my competitors offered almost too much info. And this is something I wanted to solve with my site: I wanted to have something that cut the crap and gets directly to the point. One of my competitors offers 20-30 page reports on a bi-weekly basis. Who has the time to read, analyze and take action on over 60 pages of information monthly? I know something for a fact; I don’t! My competitive advantage was to offer high value-added features only if I was going to charge as much (or even higher) than my competitors.

 

The fact that I had two years of great investment records behind the belt was another factor. Ideally, I would have had to wait until I have five years, but that will happen in three and I will be able to crank my price if I keep beating my benchmarks!

 

AVOID PRICE CONFUSION AT ALL COSTS

 

From my own experience, I notice that when you play with additional options or different price ranges, you increase the level of confusion for your potential buyers. And if they are confused, they will likely not proceed with the purchase.

 

It happened to me yesterday again when I tried to book a couples massage at a spa (I know, I’m a good hubby 😉 ). The item “couple massage” was priced per person, so I added the two items in my “cart”. The next screen was to search for availability. I selected 2pm. The system found 4 massotherapists available for that time. But, the system didn’t allow me to select two massotherapists at the same time! I had to select one at 2pm and another at 3pm. It’s like I had to create another account for my wife and reserve another couple massage under her name to get both reservations at the same time. Do you think I completed the reservation? No way!

 

Back to my membership website; I offer 2 pricing options: basic with a monthly subscription and premium with a rebate of 2 months + a free book for an annual subscription. In my case, I think it was the right choice. The proof is that I have about 50% of my members choosing monthly and the other half annual.

 

But I created additional confusion when I did my official launch with a combined offer including another newsletter. For a limited time, I offer both my services along with another investing paid newsletter for a package price. I didn’t sell many subscriptions for that package and I think I know the reason: it gets confusing if you go see the newsletter, then my website and then go back to the original offer. There are simply too many places to find information before you make the purchasing decision.

 

I thought it would be a good idea since I had run a promotion for that investing newsletter in the past with great success. There wasn’t any big package; just a plain rebate on an investing newsletter.

 

IF I HAD TO DO IT AGAIN

 

After looking at how I’ve priced my service, I thought I would have done something slightly different. Instead of going for $14.95/month right up front, I would have started with $9.95 for the first 100 members. Then, I would have increased it to $14.95. It would have created a bigger buzz around the launch (especially if I had told the offer was sent to 1,100 investors!).

 

On the other hand, I wanted to price the site for what it’s worth and I think investors are getting a lot from it. In fact, feedback is very good to date so I’m pretty confident that people are happy about the pricing. I wanted to make sure I make my money back quickly and it was the case as I’ve come to profit only 6 weeks after launching my site.

 

I just think that I could have generated a bigger buzz and gotten more members on board at first. Now, I can’t offer a rebate as I would feel unfair to my first members to sign-up.

 

As you can see, it’s never easy to come up with the right pricing strategy!

 

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