More Online Business Resources
5: Your Bank
It's not the most exciting aspect of running a business, but the way in which you deal with your bank can have a big effect on your efficiency. A disorganized banking relationship can really ruin your productivity, but a good one can help things run so much more smoothly. You'll probably do a lot more banking for business purposes than you ever have for personal reasons, so it helps to know the ins and outs of your banking program.
Chances are you'll do most of your banking online, so study that website and mobile app to get the most benefit out of them. You can set up direct payments, receive bills, wire money, manage lines of credit, check your balance and make deposits without ever having to set foot in a bank. Most banks offer direct connection to bookkeeping programs like QuickBooks, which can be an enormous time-saver and also ensures accuracy.
That said, it also can't hurt to get to know the people at your local branch. If you ever have a problem or a question, having a conversation with a familiar face can be more effective (not to mention more pleasant) than dealing with an anonymous customer service representative on the phone.
4: Mastermind Groups
Starting a business — especially if you're launching an online company by yourself — can be a lonely endeavor. When you're working alone from your home office, it can be frighteningly easy to lose your sense of direction. Without a sounding board, you also might have a lot of unanswered questions about the state of your business. Sure, there are plenty of places you can go online for advice, but sometimes you need the reality check of an actual face-to-face conversation.
Mastermind groups have been around for a while but have recently been garnering attention in the business world. They're small groups of like-minded people with similar goals and experiences who meet regularly to workshop ideas, answer questions and keep each other motivated. Mastermind groups don't have to be business-related, but they're a perfect fit for entrepreneurs. If you're tired of toiling alone, a weekly powwow with a group of similarly driven folks who are sincerely interested in helping with your business could be just what you need.
3: Entrepreneur Magazine
If you Google any keyword in the general environs of "small online company" or "business advice," you'll soon realize that Entrepreneur magazine has cornered the market — its articles consistently pop up at the top of the search results page. Expert SEO and a well-known brand is part of the reason for this, but the best keyword placement and site-tweaking in the world won't matter if the articles aren't good. Entrepreneur pieces usually aren't very long — in fact, they come with a handy read-time icon that rarely exceeds a few minutes. They're custom-made for the quick searcher with a short attention span. But they're informative and filled with buzzwords and exciting ideas, which is why people come back for more.
Entrepreneur articles might lack depth, but just consider them appetizers — springboards into new subjects, if you will. When you've found an interesting topic, you can continue your research elsewhere, or maybe you'll want to read more by a certain author. Thanks to the helpful links scattered throughout the articles, you could easily go down an Entrepreneur rabbit hole and read everything on the site about any given subject.
Hanging out on the Internal Revenue Service's website probably isn't your idea of a good time. It would probably rank dead last on most people's list of things that are a good time, but sometimes we have to do things we don't like. And unless you're a tax accountant who happens to be running an online business, chances are you might need a little help come tax time. Yes, even if you hire an accountant (which we do recommend), you should still familiarize yourself with the myriad wonders of the business tax world. The IRS's Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center is the place to do that.
Don't know your Form 940 from your Form 944? Not sure if you should pay estimated taxes or not? Wondering about employment taxes? Need to get an Employer Identification Number or figure out what business structure to use? The IRS is there for you. You can also learn about record keeping and deducting expenses. The checklist for starting a business is helpful as well, but we hope you won't have to use the "closing a business" section anytime soon.
1: National Federation of Independent Businesses
NFIB is an advocacy organization for small businesses that boasts 325,000 members in the United States [source: NFIB]. Its website is a treasure trove of information on how to run your business, with a specific focus on government. NFIB.com is your place for advice on how to navigate specific government programs (like the Affordable Care Act) and information on how new laws and policies could affect your business. Anyone can check out most of the info on the site, but NFIB members have more access to the site and can also get deals on insurance, credit-card processing systems, cell phone service and computer equipment, among other things.
NFIB is an active lobbyist in Washington and all the state capitals. It endorses business-friendly candidates and posts a steady stream of breaking political and economic news stories. And if you're wondering about how your voting choices could affect your business, there's also a section that grades lawmakers — including the 31 senators and representatives who are also NFIB members — on small business issues [source: NFIB].