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5 Ways for Small Business Owners to Stay Out of the Red

As every small business owner knows, you pay the cost to be your own boss. While there are certainly benefits to running your own enterprise, being a small business owner means you have to worry about a long list of matters – like payroll, overhead and benefits packages – that you don’t when you work for someone else. This month, the US Small Business Administration observed its 52nd annual National Small Business Week. To celebrate, here are five tips to keep your small business out of the red.

Maintain a Powerful Brand Image

No matter how small your company, a powerful brand image is essential. Your brand image is developed through repeated interactions with current and future customers, so it’s essential that your messaging be consistent. This means having the same look and feel in all forms of marketing – including direct mail and email campaigns, website development and maintenance, blog entries, and banner advertisements. Your brand image should also remain true to the products and services that your company offers. Better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.

Optimize Your Web Presence

Without search engine optimization (SEO), your business is a needle in a global haystack. Thankfully, there are several best practices for SEO that are within everyone’s means:

  • Create and maintain various social media channels to influence search rankings.
  • Include keyword phrases on your website.
  • Develop a content-rich website through blogs, videos and white papers.

For a more in-depth approach, check out the wealth of basic SEO articles online. Depending on your business (and your budget), it may be worthwhile to enlist the services of an SEO expert.

Learn and Practice Basic Accounting

A lot of small businesses fail because of cash flow and collection problems related to mismanaged accounting. To avoid this pitfall, make sure you understand basic accounting – or hire someone who can provide part-time accounting support. If you have to go it alone, online services like QuickBooks make standard accounting procedures easy.

Make Sure You Get Paid

What good is being your own boss if you don’t get paid for your work? Whenever possible, try to collect 10 to 50 percent of your fee upfront. Always use contracts, and specify clearly what the deliverables are – along with what and when you’ll be paid. Not only does this cover you from a legal standpoint, it sends a strong message about your professionalism and the degree to which you take your business seriously.

Buy a Term Life Insurance Policy for Your Key Employee.

In any company (but especially in a small business scenario), there is usually one person who is so valuable that the fate of that business rests on his or her shoulders. Whether that person happens to be you or someone else, it’s a good idea to take out a term life insurance policy equal to at least five years of this particular employee’s income. While the death benefit could never replace the value of that employee, it can at least keep your business up and running while a replacement is found and trained.

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