The current economic outlook may look grim for small business owners, sole proprietors, and freelancers. The return to sustainable economic prosperity will take both time and persistence. With that in mind, governments and tech giants have created programs to help those most in need of some relief, in the form of ad credits, grants, and loans. Below is a compilation of resources for businesses impacted by Covid-19:
Google is offering generous credits for use on the Adwords advertising platform, egoistic altruism or not. The sooner small businesses and the confidence of consumers are restored, the sooner the tech behemoth's ad business will resume the ROI it had become known for. You can claim and review the benefits and limitations here:
Like Google, it is in the best interest of Facebook to help restore the economy to a state of normality as soon as possible. The small business grants program from Facebook is a welcome initiative. There are, however, some conditions that must be met in order to qualify. Sign up for Facebook grant updates using your work email:
Beloved by startups and small businesses for their many lifetime deals, AppSumo has extended a helping hand to companies impacted by Covid-19 in the form of a resource hub. This hub is contains helpful information and resources for freelancers and remote workers. You can apply for their software giveaway and sift through the guides, checklists, and more here:
The most vulnerable group, aside from established business owners, consists of sole-proprietors, freelancers, and gig economy workers. Luckily the CARES Act includes those who are classified as self-employed in the Paycheck Protection Program's eligibility requirements. In addition to having been in business as of February 15th 2020, there are other requirements and documents you'll need handy to apply for a loan through PPP:
You can review the full list of requirements and documents by clicking here.
The maximum amount available through a PPP SBA loan is $2 Million and can be fully forgiven if it is used for payroll, rent, or mortgage related costs within 8 weeks of being issued and the # of employees stays the same (as well as compensation). For loans that cannot be forgiven, a flat 1% interest rate applies. Check out this comprehensive guide to see more details. Applications are open as of April 3rd, 2020 for PPP SBA loans.
Want to apply for a loan through PPP? Here are two services that make the application process easy:
Please note: Cyberia does not receive any commission nor compensation for the links contained in this post. This information is offered as a courtesy to decision makers in the hopes that it helps someone. Stay safe and may the Lord bless you & yours.
Business owners around the globe are deeply concerned about the current economic outlook, and justifiably so. It goes without saying it will take months if not years for the economy to return to the full-blown bustle it was before. With so many organizations running on skeleton crews or being shuttered completely, the vast majority of business owners now share a very tangible concern about having the revenue to stay in business. Consumers are spending less and are now fully occupied in caring for their loved ones. With all this in mind, I'm going to share how to be relevant to customers during a black swan event.
Over the past two months, my inbox has been flooded with dozens of emails from banks, payment processors, software companies... you name it. Nearly every business I've transacted with over the past year has taken it upon themselves to let me know that "they're doing okay". Now don't get me wrong—this is wonderfully positive news in an otherwise bleak economic reality, but it isn't relevant to me personally. That is, not unless I plan on contacting my bank tomorrow to resolve a complex issue (though I imagine the vast majority of their customers are not).
First and foremost, I recommend against sending out generic, "cookie-cutter" email campaigns about Covid-19 and your capacity to conduct business. I'm not saying it's irrelevant to let your customers know it's business-as-usual for you. But I am saying you must use extraordinary creativity when writing content to be relevant to your customers right now. You can add this additional value to your emails and social media posts in the form of helpful links or resources that your customers might want to know about—more now than ever. This is your chance to build your brand's authority and mind-share by serving up exceptionally meaningful content. Here are some examples:
Making your content relevant during a black swan event means making it personal and heartfelt. Businesses say they care about their customers so often that it's become a cliche rather than anything special. As a business owner right now, you should avoid those cliches and focus on what it means exactly to be authentic. After all, you're a human being typing up content to help another person out there. The person who reads your content carries the same concern for their loved ones and financial survival that you do. Being vulnerable towards your customers—and not financially speaking—shows that you care more than a corporate mission statement ever could.
On that note, I pray that you are safe, healthy, and filled with joy from things that matter. Please reach out if there's anything realistic that can be done to accommodate you as we get through this pandemic.
Justin A. Ponce
Cyberia Technologies, LLC
As nearly the entire globe heads into varying degrees of lock down in order to curb the spread of Covid-19, companies of all sizes are forced to adopt a new working lifestyle—at least for the time being. If you own a small business or manage a team, you may be scrambling to identify the right tools to transition effectively. Luckily, freelancers who are already accustomed to working remotely have done some of the homework for you. In this article, I'll share 12 tools to work at home more productively.
This powerful, free video conferencing tool has gone absolutely viral. Zoom boasts good call quality, high reliability, and is refreshingly simple to use when compared to other video conferencing tools. Just remember to review screen sharing and privacy options before you start using it.
Though Hangouts is already a known favorite for video calling, they've unlocked some enterprise features for G Suite Basic in order to lessen the impact on teams suddenly finding themselves working from home.
Despite being the first major service for video calling, Skype isn't always the first choice that comes to mind for teams. That being said, Skype does possess certain features that other video calling services do not. Whether those features matter to you will determine whether or not Skype is a fit. Skype for Business, a separate service, is part of Microsoft Teams (see below),
Slack is definitely the more professional version of WhatsApp chat groups. Set up your organization in Slack, create threads for different topics, and then invite teammates to the relevant threads. You can even make certain threads private or invite-only to keep your teams focused. Slack offers a generously equipped free plan, as well as powerful upgrades.
Workplace is Facebook's answer to Slack. Since nearly everyone has a Facebook account and is familiar with the interface, Workplace capitalizes off that familiarity to keep your team's conversations in a work-appropriate environment. Workplace offers a 30-day free trial.
Teams is Microsoft's answer to tools like Slack and Zoom. the tech giant's productivity suite packs familiar features and is useful enough to provoke Slack into buying a full page 'response' in the New York Times. As you might expect, Microsoft Teams integrates with the rest of Office, allowing you to keep your back office software consolidated.
Formerly known as Wunderlist, Microsoft To-Do is a simple to use, cleanly made task management tool. Though the original Wunderlist UI was redesigned upon joining the Microsoft family, the original team was retained and continues to work on improving the tool.
Basic to-do checklists are easily managed with Google Tasks, right from your Gmail interface on Desktop. If you need to do anything too complex, you might want to consider a different task management tool.
At its core, Toggl is a simple time tracking tool, but with tons of powerful features layered behind a beautifully designed UI. You can use the live timer for your sessions or do manual time entries. Besides being able to add descriptions to your sessions, you can then assign sessions to different projects and clients. Toggl is free, incredibly easy to use, and is an absolute dream come true for freelancers & small teams.
Take a deep breath for this next one: And.CO is a time tracker, CRM, invoicing tool, accounting software, task manager, and proposal tool all wrapped into one hot mess of an app. Though And.CO is incredibly feature-rich and sports a clean, minimalist UI, it couldn't be more different than Toggl. That said, it is definitely worthy of a try-you might just be glad you did.
Time Doctor is a thorough time tracker designed for team leaders and managers. Time Doctor must be installed on the PC or Mac of each individual team member and monitors what the user has running in the background while the timer is rolling. Time Doctor is a useful remedy for mitigating time fraud or diagnosing performance issues among teammates. Reports can be useful in sharing corrective feedback to your team so they work at home more effectively. Time Doctor is not a fit for freelancers or self-managing folks.
If you aren't tied to your phone 24/7, then I tip my hat to you in respect. For the rest of you, Forest: Stay Focused uses the very temptation of your phone to help you work at home with last distractions from it. Forest is a breathtakingly simple time tracking app that uses gamification to encourage spending less time on your phone. Forest is available on Google Play and the App Store.
On the hunt for that perfect domain name before moving on to small business web design? Do you perhaps feel pressured to get the best domain name, wondering which areas of the selection process actually matter? We've found that whether you're launching a business for the first time or you're a serial entrepreneur carving out a new brand, choosing a domain doesn't exactly get easier— in fact, the thought processes involved in choosing a domain are relatively the same no matter how seasoned you are. There are some factors that matter when settling on a new domain, and some that look like they should matter but don't—and instead can get in the way. Here's what matters when choosing a domain for your business.
If your favorite domain name choice is available on many of the common top-level-domains (TLDs like .com, .net, .biz, or .info), you should try grab your-preferred-name.com or a very-close-match.com that you can live with. Less appealing TLDs like .biz or .info are often thought of as spam sites (unfortunately there is some truth to this given their usefulness as throwaway domains). Even if your small business or startup is completely legitimate, you risk creating a sour first impression when users visit your small business website. Please note this advice only relates to brand perception and the benefits of owning a .com TLD end here.
Though choosing a .com domain for your business does in fact appear to be the most legit, this TLD is very, very old. The vast majority of the best matches for your brand are snatched up by other businesses or even squatters who try to resell at premium prices. It is simply a matter of time before registering a .com domain that is ideal for your business becomes impractical or impossible.
So here's where things get really interesting: many new top-level-domains have been added to the lineup in recent years, allowing much greater creativity and new possibilities when choosing a domain for your business. Google has weighed in on how they treat the new generic TLDs, with the main takeaway being they will not help nor hurt your rankings when compared to a .com domain.
When you start dreaming up a new business idea, it's all too easy to get caught up in perceived necessities, like having the perfect brand name, the perfect colors for your logo, and some shiny new business cards. While these things are nice-to-haves, they are, simply put, expenses—they won't actually earn you a dime until you launch. Do not fall prey to creating obstacles before you get your business idea out the door. Starting a business can definitely be nerve-wracking because no one wants to fail. Having a little bit of fear is completely normal, the cold hard truth is that your business will have already failed if you never launch. You can always go buy those ridiculously sexy business cards you've been lusting over later on.
Top-level-domains based off of country codes (ggTLDs) do in fact possess an edge over generic TLDs (gTLDs) in their respective regions. Your small business website's page relevance will need to still be a good match for user searches for the edge to matter. For example, if you buy a .my domain but your business doesn't operate inside Malaysia, then you're shooting yourself in the foot.
Pro Tip: Be careful not to mix up gTLDs that sound like they could be ccTLDs, especially if you desire the geo-targeting benefits of a true ccTLD. Some gTLDs appear extremely similar to ccTLDs (e.g. .london & .nyc) but in fact do not possess any geo-targeting benefits.
Though .io TLD is technically a ccTLD belonging to the British Indian Ocean Territory region, Google treats this top-level domain as a ‘gccTLD' to stop undesired geo-targeting. This is great news for tech-focused companies, given the strong resemblance to ‘I/O' and its already global use throughout the IT industry.
In recent years, search engines have become increasingly accurate at judging the relevance of a website domain, its content, and a number of other signals when deciding where to rank a website. In short, Google Bot has become very good at smelling B.S. The hyper-improved accuracy is in no small part due to AI/machine learning. If the recent advancements on the web from learning algorithms are worth basing predictions off of, search engines like Google and Bing are going to become ever smarter over the next several years. Operating a relevant, conversion optimized website at your-brand-carpets.com will easily rank higher than a crappy competitor at carpet-cleaning-service-city-state.com. Try focusing your efforts on running the best, most relevant website you possibly can for your target keywords and your ideal visitors.
Have we missed anything? Have you found evidence that contradicts any of the above info about domains? Please leave a comment and tell us!
The act of learning the best practices for small business web design and then implementing them is both an art and a science. A lot of artistic talent can go into creating a beautiful, modern-looking website. When it comes to creating the site's layout, all that artistic effort can—and should be—backed up by hard data. Any small business web design provider worth his or her salt will have spent some time researching what works and what doesn't. Small business owners have a lot to gain by relying on all that tangible experience and wisdom.
There is (or at least should be) a methodical process that a small business web designer adheres to when designing the layout of a website's UI/UX, such as putting call-to-actions (CTAs) in the right places, picking the right types of colors, and positioning the small business' brand in a way that resonates with customers and positively reflects the industry.
For small business owners shopping for a new website, the quality of the final project may well provide the difference between a 1% conversion rate and a 10% rate. Let's break down these best practices for small business web design into further detail.
Your finished small business website must present a clear message of what you offer and why your target customers need to care. Visitors form opinions about your small business within seconds of visiting your new website, and will grant you only a few seconds before deciding to stay or leave. You must have the information they're looking for easily and readily accessible. Focus on making the first impression of your small business web design a stellar one.
Your must also plan the development of your small business website around a visitor objective you want completed. If your web traffic just comes and goes without any meaningful exchange, then it's all but useless. Common objectives can be getting visitors to subscribe to your email list, to book for your services, or to buy one of your products. Getting visitors to "convert" into customers is a science in and of itself, but any professional small business web design provider will recommend A/B testing to reveal the numbers.
This is the age of information and people expect instant results more now than ever before. There are only seconds before another distraction comes along, and visitors hate slow-loading pages. You will only get a moment to grab their attention before they click away. This is why incorporating fast loading times into your small business web design is essential.
Your website pagespeed will be affected by both the website itself as well as your web hosting server. A website requires optimized images & code and high-performance hosting to load the fastest. Your small business web designer or developer should do each of the following in some capacity:
Over half of all global traffic (including 3rd world countries without good cellular/4G networks) comes from mobile devices. In fact, nearly 54% of traffic is coming from mobile, while just 43% is coming from desktop. Often, visitors come across your small business website on mobile first, and then decide whether or not they will revisit on their laptop or desktop.
You might be asking yourself, if that's the case, why does a mobile responsive site even matter? Won't they revisit with their desktop anyways? Perhaps not—if you lose out during a potential customer's early research stage, you may have lost them for good.
Remember my earlier bit about science and conversion-tracking? Numbers indeed don't lie. When it comes to conversion optimizing, lowering bounce rates (getting visitors to stay), and boosting search engine rankings, empirical data is vital. Fortunately, search engine providers like Google make it ridiculously easy to gather this data.
Yet, sometimes I build or service websites for clients who are so eager to be done with everything, that the installation of Google Analytics is skipped. Completing the necessary steps your provider recommends, like installing Google Analytics, is important to get the best ROI out of your new small business web design. Not only are tools like these 100% free, but using them is as simple as emailing the code to your web developer. Still, some less experienced types of small business web designers or perhaps indifferent small business owners can skip over this step and forget.
Next, a professional small business web designer must be able to recommend what steps to take based on the results of the data. Many digital agencies also provide SEO services, such as on-page or off-page SEO. Cyberia Technologies leverages our close-knit network of SEO specialists to clients.
Your social media strategy must go hand-in-hand with your website, rather than exist in a parallel universe. Provide links to your small business website on your social media pages and integrate a social media tool like Monarch or Social Warfare. Put social media buttons on your website pages, blog posts, & products to get more shares, and in turn more reach.
In the age of information, security is front and center for websites both big and small. If you have a WordPress site, then it is only a matter of time before a bad actor tries to hack it. This very site receives over a thousand various attack attempts per month, and we are by no means “big time”.
Plenty of well-paid, well-respected IT experts, including web developers and system administrators, fail to properly secure their sites and servers. A professional small business web developer not ensures that your website is secured to the best it can be, but also works with you to teach the basics and best practices to keep your small business website secure post-development.
Here's an example: one of the simplest yet routinely overlooked things you can do today is use a password generator and storage locker like LastPass. Read our post covering how to secure your WordPress site and protect against hackers to learn more.
So why should you shell out the big bucks for for a professional small business web designer? Hopefully the answer is to avoid getting unfinished, botched, or otherwise sub-par work where basic due diligence wasn't followed. Professionally building a new website can get expensive very quickly, no doubt. Though considering a costly alternative like a slow, under-performing, or even broken website makes any wise small business owner see why hiring a professional to design and develop a website is the smartest choice.
Unless your name is Harvey Dent and you have a fancy coin to flip, it can be difficult to pick fonts and colors for your brand. Whether the dilemma occurs in the brainstorming stage or when you upgrade brand imagery, picking out fonts and colors to represent your business can eat up a lot of time—if you let it. On the other hand, spending a reasonable amount of time choosing the right color palette and font types is healthy.
Despite the above, if you still struggle to pick fonts and colors for your brand without obstacles, you wouldn't be alone. Veteran entrepreneurs and business owners know choosing the best font pairs and colors can still be just as challenging (and exhilarating) as it is the first time. Cyberia Technologies provides branding and logo design for small business, allowing you to consult experts and make sure you get the perfect font pairs and color palette to augment your branding. If you prefer to do it yourself, here are 3 free, powerful tools to pick fonts and colors for your brand:
Fontjoy is powered by deep learning to analyze the different properties of fonts and what constitutes a "good match". Since discovering Fontjoy, we've found it useful ourselves on more than one occasion. See for yourself and take it for a spin: if you like one font but not the others, you can 'lock' it in place while generating a new set.
Colormind is roughly the same concept of Fontjoy, but applied to color palettes. Built by the same developer as Fontjoy, Colormind uses deep learning to analyze color combinations in pop culture and recommend surprisingly beautiful color palettes. Similarly, if you like some colors but not all of them, you can 'lock' them in place to keep them in the next color set.
Though Paletton is just fine for pros and non-pros alike, its strengths really shine for people who know what they're looking for. Paletton offers much more control over your color selections, such as hue, saturation, brightness, and even degrees of separation on the color wheel. This helps you to fine-tune your brand's perfect color palette.
Though the 3 tools above will help narrow down your choices significantly, you might still find yourself on the fence. When that happens, a great way to move past it is to look at successful competitors. Are there any brands that have a voice similar to what you want? Note down your findings and what you like and dislike about each. Make your decision and move onto the next big thing!
Remember, having the perfect colors and fonts for your brand may feel important, but (unless you're already an established brand) it will make less of an impact than you think. If this decision hangs over your head and prevents you from launching your business, you won't have a bottom line.
It isn't hard to see in our culture as the digital generation. The desire, or perhaps pressure, to own a business is simple to understand. Whether you're driven by the desire to diversify your income, to be recognized, or to be able to pursue passion projects, you understand this requires freedom from the constraints of standard employment. In this article we cover the best proven and cheap business ideas for startups along with examples.
If you've spent 10 minutes on social media lately, you are almost guaranteed to have seen a meme, motivational speech, or inspirational quote about entrepreneurship. The goal to found a startup—to launch a new business that will help customers in a meaningful way—is a grand endeavor no doubt. But something about all the hype simply doesn't add up. In fact, the birth-to-death rate of small businesses in metro areas is actually negative, and has been for a decade. Without a strong reason to go into business, you risk disappointment for not only yourself but the customers you will have gained.
The reasoning behind shutting down a business is complicated and analyzing the factors involved quickly expands into a topic worthy of its own post. However, since no one launches a startup with the intention of shutting down we're going to share "known-good" business models for consideration. With a solid 'why' mixed with some wisdom & determination, you'll begin to profit from these proven and cheap business ideas for startups.
Operating a local service business may lack some of the sexiness you pictured in your martini-on-the-beach fantasies. To be brutally honest, making money is seldom sexier than spending it. A local service business is the most practical vehicle for you to earn $100K+ annually with only a few grand for an initial investment. A local service business model absolutely requires a lot of nurturing and will challenge your time management skills (especially with a full-time job).
We recommend first-time founders consider launching a local service business not just because of the cheaper costs involved, but because of the critical experience gained. You will learn first-hand about business filing requirements, day-to-day back office tasks, hiring & team-building, as well as problem-solving skills when issues arise. This business idea is proven effective in helping you earning your stripes before you move on to the bigger and better idea brewing. Here are some low cost startup ideas for new local service businesses:
Are you interested in launching one of these ideas? Cyberia Technologies specializes in web design & development for local service businesses. Be sure to view our website development services and reach out for a quote!
Running a referral agency is still relatively low-cost but has major differences. Running a referral agency requires more ad spending and testing when compared to running a local service business. If you spend your ad budget too quickly or without good A/B testing, you're SOL before getting any traction.
Since this type of business model is essentially a "middle man", your marketing and partnership chops will be tested more than your hiring or supervisory skills. This means you must possess a solid understanding of ads management, social media marketing, and content & email strategy building. Having the technical know-how to maintain a site is a huge plus. This is a fantastic business model if you've ever dreamed of working remotely or working solo. Here are some examples of referral agencies:
Though the above is a basic list of suggestions, the actual number of possibilities is nearly endless, especially when you niche down. Don't be afraid to pivot or make adjustments to your business model if you see that things aren't sustainable. Also, don't forget to test everything from your messaging to your product pricing. Last but not least, remember that when you're getting ready to launch any business, the first 6-12 months are seldom sexy in any way, shape, or form. The 'why' you chose as a foundation must be enough to motivate you through darker times. The dreams of martinis on the beach won't come true for a while, but they'll never come at all if you don't try.