Filing an LLC online
If you are a small business owner looking to expand your service into a full-fledged company, an LLC is the way to go. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is a form of enterprise that combines both partnership and corporate structures and is commonly used by independent real estate brokers, retailers and service providers. Easy to set up, LLCs allow business owners to have a flexible management and ownership structure while being able to protect personal assets behind the corporate veil.
The process of creating an LLC can be done through many means. While some business owners tend to go through the expertise of an LLC start-up attorney which is ideal, the costs of legal advice can be prohibitive to some, anywhere from $200 to $450 an hour. In the age of the Internet, more and more business owners look to structure their LLC through an online service. Online LLC filing services offer many perks to small business owners looking to expand, and although there are many options for web filing, we are highlighting five up-and-coming services that can help you take the next step from sole proprietor to LLC member.
BizFilings, an online incorporation provider based in Madison, Wisconsin, has incorporated over 500,000 entrepreneurs since its inception in 1997. They offer multiple options for its incorporation services, with a five-step process that strives to give you a unique and bureaucratically-sound company. Buyers can start off with a basic package for $97 plus tate fees which includes business name availability verification, document filing, phone and email support, six months of agent service, and BizComply, an online compliance tool. For $237 and $347, more goods and services are included that ease the process of incorporation.
Verdict: While one of the more expensive options, BizFilings has over a dozen years of experience, half a million success stories and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.
EZOnlineFiling promises a staff of experienced professionals that aim to give the easiest online LLC filing process on the web. From first glance, on the website are two notable features. One, a graphic box with a giant “$39”, and two, a 100% satisfaction guarantee, committing to matching or beating any competitor’s price. EZOnlineFiling has extremely low prices considering the services rendered, charging $39+ state fees for preliminary LLC name research, a custom Articles of Organization, filing the documents with the Secretary of State, unlimited phone and email support, and free business tax consultation. The Standard and Premium packages will run you $169 and $329 respectively, but look for inclusions such as EIN application filing and custom LLC member certificates.
Verdict: A value service that doesn’t appear to skimp on quality, EZOnlineFiling is banking on low prices and guarantees. PRWeb.com names EZOnlineFiling “the fastest growing online incorporation service”, a sign that EZOnlineFiling is known for getting the job done well.
AAAFiling is a rapidly growing Internet-based legal document filing company that has been helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, musicians, and film/movie producers since 2006. While many online incorporation services offer multiple package deals, AAAFiling offers one standard deal of $48+ State fees, including preparation and submittal of the Articles of Organization, reviewing the documents, 24-hour order processing, and unlimited phone and email support. For additional costs, users can add expedited filing, Federal Employer Identification numbers, or an LLC kit with binders, certificates, documents, waivers, and more.
Verdict: Swift and simple, AAAFiling supplies an affordable service that allows customers to add individual supplements to their purchase as seen fit. Clients like Erick Hoffman created Cascadia Equity Holdings LLC and Steve Quan created OverstockPB.com, a paintball gear supplier through the company.
IncorporateFast, celebrating its eleventh year of existence, provides both solid information of the benefits of incorporation, and an affordable service to help your business become an entity of its own. A five-minute questionnaire and $49 plus State fees is all it takes for your documentation to be professionally prepared and sent off to the state for filing. Your money will get you preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, preparation of your documents, filing, and unlimited toll-free and email support throughout the process. Like many other services, IncorporateFast offers more premium packages, with the first $173 step getting you Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit, and a CD with essential forms. The most expensive $265 package will get you professional registered agent service.
Verdict: Relatively more affordable than most services, IncorporateFast will take care of the entire filing process and make certain you are satisfied with your result. With a 4/5 star rating on LegalSpring.com, their reliability is proven.
LegalZoom is one of the best known eLawyering services in the world, and their good reputation extends well into the field of LLC filing. $99 plus State fees will get you the Economy Package- preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, filing of the Articles of Organization, a custom Operating Agreement, and LegalZoom’s trademark “Peace of Mind review.” The Standard Package will run you $289 plus State fees, but includes Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit with custom embossing seal, 20 membership certificates with transfer ledger, and a boost in online presence with the PRWeb.com visibility package. For a higher $359+State fees, you can get the Express Gold Package, which will give you priority rush service on ALL filings, a 30 day trial of Business Advantage Pro Attorney assistance, over 100 important business forms, and a fully functional Peachtree accounting software.
Verdict: LegalZoom is easily the most costly option listed, but it’s also the most recognized and historically successful eLawyering service in recent history. The cost is dwarfed by their reputation for outstanding customer service and speed in which your documentation will be filed. If you can afford the extra cash, LegalZoom is a reputable option.
Making your choice
There are many routes you can take when making the leap from small business to Limited Liability Company, but all will lead you to a golden opportunity for your business to expand and thrive under the corporate veil. Whether it’s low price, fast results, or a record of merit and satisfaction, you will be able to find the service that is tailored to your personal needs. These companies will help you, but first you need to take the leap and plan to create something special and ride the entrepreneurial spirit all the way to the bank!
10 must-listen-to podcasts for business owners
(MARKETING) If you’re a business owner and want to learn something…anything…give one (or all) these podcasts a listen.
As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.
From interviews with business leaders to industry-specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.
This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.
How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.
Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.
The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.
The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly popular show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.
StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.
If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.
The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.
One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America, and more.
Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.
Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further than Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.
Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.
One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.
The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.
Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real-world applications and cover everything from marketing to technology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.
This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.
This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo, or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.
The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.
This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.
Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help, and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.
Why your coworkers are not your ‘family’ [unpopular opinion]
(MARKETING) “I just want you to think of us as family,” they say. If this were true, I could fire my uncle for always bringing up “that” topic on Thanksgiving…
The well-known season 10 opener of “Undercover Boss” featured Walk-On’s Bistreaux & Bar. Brandon Landry, owner, went to the Lafayette location where he worked undercover with Jessica Comeaux, an assistant manager. Comeaux came across as a dedicated employee of the company, and she was given a well-deserved reward for her work. But I rolled my eyes as the show described the team as a “family.” I take offense at combining business and family, unless you’re really family. Why shouldn’t this work dynamic be used?
Employers don’t have loyalty to employees.
One of the biggest reasons work isn’t family is that loyalty doesn’t go both ways. Employers who act as though employees are family wouldn’t hesitate to fire someone if it came down to it. In most families, you support each other during tough times, but that wouldn’t be the case in a business. If you’ve ever thought that you can’t ask for a raise or vacation, you’ve probably bought into the theory that “work is a family.” No, work is a contract.
Would the roles be okay if the genders were reversed?
At Walks-Ons, Comeaux is referred to as “Mama Jess,” by “some of the girls.” I have to wonder how that would come across if Comeaux were a man being called “Daddy Jess” by younger team members? See any problem with that? What happens when the boss is a 30-year-old and the employee is senior? Using family terminology to describe work relationships is just wrong.
Families’ roles are complex.
You’ll spend over 2,000 hours with your co-workers every year. It’s human nature to want to belong. But when you think of your job like a family, you may bring dysfunction into the workplace.
What if you never had a mom, or if your dad was abusive? Professional relationships don’t need the added complexity of “family” norms. Seeing your boss as “mom” or “dad” completely skews the roles of boss/employee. When your mom asks you to do more, it’s hard to say no. If your “work mom or dad” wants you to stay late, it’s going to be hard to set boundaries when you buy into the bogus theory that work is family. Stop thinking of work this way.
Check your business culture to make sure that your team has healthy boundaries and teamwork. Having a great work culture doesn’t have to mean you think of your team as family. It means that you appreciate your team, let them have good work-life balance and understand professionalism.
Market your side hustle with these 6 tips
(BUSINESS MARKETING) It can be hard to stand out from the crowd when you’re starting a new side hustle. Here are some easy ways to make your marketing efforts more effective.
Side hustles have become the name of the game, and especially during these turbulent times, we have to get extra creative when it comes to making money. With so many of us making moves and so much noise, it can be hard to get the word out and stand out when sharing your side hustle.
Reuben Jackson of Big Think shared five ways that you can market your side hustle (we added a sixth tip for good measure), and comment with your thoughts and ideas on the subject:
- Referrals: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask!
If you’re going to make a splash, you have to be willing to ask for favors. Reach out to your network and ask them to help spread the word on your new venture. This can be as simple as asking your friends to share a Facebook post with information that refers them to your page or website. Word of mouth is still important and incredibly effective.
- Start Where You Are
Immediately running an expensive ad right out of the gate may not be the most effective use of your (likely) limited funds. Use the resources you do have to your advantage – especially if you’re just testing things out to see how the side hustle goes in the real world. You can do this by creating a simple, informational landing page for a small fee. Or, if you’re not looking to put any money into it right away, create an enticing email signature that explains what you do in a concise and eye-catching way. Check out these tools to create a kickin’ email signature.
- Gather Positive Reviews
If you’ve performed a service or sold a product, ask your customers to write a review on the experience. Never underestimate how many potential customers read reviews before choosing where to spend their money, so this is an incredibly important asset. Once a service is completed or a product is sold, send a thank you note to your customer and kindly ask them to write a review. Be sure to provide them with links to easily drop a line on Yelp or your company’s Facebook page.
- Be Strategic With Social
It’s common to think that you have to have a presence on all channels right away. Start smaller. Think about your demographic and do some research on which platforms reach that demographic most effectively. From there, put your time and energy into building a presence on one or two channels. Post consistently and engage with followers. After you’ve developed a solid following, you can then expand to other platforms.
- Give Paid Marketing A Shot
Once you’ve made a dollar or two, try experimenting with some Facebook or Twitter ads. They’re relatively cheap to run and can attract people you may not have otherwise had a chance to reach out to. Again, the key is to start small and don’t get discouraged if these don’t have people knocking your door down; it may take trial and error to create the perfect ad for your hustle.
- Go Local
Local newspapers and magazines are always looking for news on what local residents are doing. Send an email to your town/city’s journal or local Patch affiliate. Let them know what you’re up to, offer yourself for an interview, and give enticing information. The key is doing this in a way that your hustle is seen as beneficial to the public, and is not just an ad.
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