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6 ways to avoid wasting time when applying for a business loan

(Business Finance) Applying for a business loan can be a huge timesuck, but it doesn’t have to be if you know the right questions to ask yourself before beginning the process.

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The small biz challenge du jour

“One of the biggest challenges faced by small business owners is finding the capital they need to fuel growth and fund working capital,” said Ty Kiisel, a contributing author at OnDeck, a tech company aiming to solve small business’s biggest challenge: access to capital.

Kiisel notes that finding a loan can be a time-consuming process, citing former administrator of the SBA ,Karen Mills, who argues that the average small business owner spends about 25 hours filling out the paperwork associated with completing a loan application.

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“Asking yourself a few key questions before you sit down with a lender will make a lot of difference in how seriously they take your loan application,” said Kiisel, adding, “how long it takes to get an approval–and help you avoid wasting a lot of your precious time.”

In his own words below, Kiisel offers the six questions you should ask yourself prior to beginning any loan process:

1. Can I really afford a loan?

Dumb question, right? Not really. One of the first questions every lender wants answered is, “Can this borrower repay the loan?” That’s one of the reasons they want to see some experience in business and your bank statements. If you can’t honestly answer, “Yes, I can afford a loan payment,” it’s not likely your loan application will end with a “Yes” from the lender.

2. How much do I really need?

“As much as I can get,” is never a good answer. Small business owners always need capital, but borrowing capital can be expensive–in some cases very expensive. Paying a premium for more capital than you really need just doesn’t make sense. What’s more, in some cases it’s possible you might need more than what you’re asking for. You’re wasting time with the “As much as I can get” answer. It tells the lender you haven’t really thought enough about what you’re going to do with the capital and can even be a red flag that causes a loan officer to disregard your request completely.

3. Why do I need the money?

This question fits hand in glove with Question #2. Borrowing capital to take advantage of opportunities to purchase such things as equipment or inventory at a discount is a great reason to access credit (provided you can positively answer Question #1). Even if you need to augment a short-term cash flow need or have some other need for financing, you should be able to articulate exactly why you need the money and how much you are looking for. This tells the lender you understand how to use borrowed capital and you’re not a waste of his or her time.

4. Do I have all my ducks in a row?

Although every loan and every lender is a little different and requires different documentation, if you have some of the most requested documents in order before you visit a lender (and this applies to both traditional and online lenders), you’ll avoid wasting everyone’s time. Start with your past two years of business and personal tax returns, the last three months of bank statements, and a list of other loans or lines of credit you may have. Standard financial documents like a current P & L statement should also be at your fingertips. It’s not enough to have the documents either, it’s important to really understand what all this information means. I once spoke with a lender who said, “If I know more about a business by looking at the financial data than they do, I’m not going to offer them a loan.”

5. What’s my current credit score?

Did you know you have both a personal and a business credit score? If you’ve only been in business for a few years, your personal credit score will be part of the equation, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Your business has a credit score too. Dunn & Bradstreet, Experian, and Equifax are the three major business credit reporting bureaus and they all have different scores for displaying a business’ credit worthiness. A bad credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get a loan, but it could mean you’ll need to pay a little more for the capital. It might also make a difference in where you should be looking for a loan.

6. What are my real chances with this lender or loan type?

It’s really important to understand the nature of the financing you’re looking for. For example, if your credit score is weak and you don’t have five or six years under your belt, a traditional loan at the bank, or maybe even the SBA, will be a waste of time. Nevertheless, even if you have less-than-perfect credit, but have a healthy business with a steady cash flow, there are a lot of online options that will work for you if your first year is behind you. Investigate and study your options before you start applying to save time.

Knowing what to avoid is the first step to escape wasting time. More importantly, it may even help you save time–time better spent making your business successful. It’s often said that time is money, ask yourself how much is your time is worth.

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Finance

Financial impostor syndrome – what it is and how to fix it

(FINANCE) Financial impostor syndrome is more common than most know, but seeing polished people in your industry may make you feel like your struggle is unique – it’s not.

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If you’ve ever felt like a fraud when it comes to your success, you’re not alone. Impostor syndrome is recognized as a “a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments.”

Typically, impostor syndrome is discussed as it pertains to your career, but it can manifest in other areas, like with finances.

Financial impostor syndrome has many components. You might feel as if you are bad with money and can’t be any different. Maybe you’ve made some bad decisions in the past.

You let these mistakes define your financial future.

Or maybe you dwell on the endless Instagram posts from people in your industry that depict the glamour of their financial successes (not knowing that they don’t own that jet, their client rented it for the weekend, or that they have a Ferrari but are potentially hiding it from being repossessed).

Some people believe money is bad or that they don’t deserve financial stability. Especially freelancers and entrepreneurs.

Alternatively, you may have money in the bank, but feel like a fake or fraud for earning it. You might think it was just luck that you have any resources, rather than believing in your own capabilities.

Financial impostor syndrome keeps you from reaching your potential.

Most people who have impostor syndrome also have low self-confidence and fear that they’ll fail. This can self-sabotage success. Instead of taking initiative and making positive changes, someone with impostor syndrome may bury themselves in work and avoid taking on extra responsibilities that could prove themselves.

When it comes to money, you might think that you can’t make changes, so why try? This type of thinking limits you.

Overcoming financial impostor syndrome isn’t going to happen overnight, but it is possible with some work.

1. Talk about it. You have to look at the reality of your situation versus your perception. Work with a mentor or mental health professional who can help you get information about impostor syndrome and help you manage your symptoms. You may want to consider getting a financial coach or manager.

2. Make a list of your accomplishments and successes. Celebrate your achievements. Learn to recognize what you contributed to your successes.

3. Create a new script for times when you feel like a failure. “I can improve my finances.” “I am able to stick to my budget.” I deserve financial freedom.”

4. Change your habits. Take small steps towards financial success. Spend cash only. Automate your savings and your bills. Cut up credit cards. Learn your strengths and weaknesses. Stick to your budget.

Additionally, you must forgive yourself for past mistakes.

Everyone has at least one or two regrets when it comes to their money. We don’t always see those mistakes, because we only hear about the person’s success. If you can’t learn to forgive yourself, you restrict your ability to make changes. Blame and shame never help anyone change behavior.

Make a plan to change your financial impostor syndrome. No matter what you’ve done in the past, you can start making small changes to your financial situation to find a way out. You deserve it.

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Business Finance

7 ways to quickly get outstanding invoices paid to you

(FINANCE) It’s easy to feel uncomfortable bringing up money with your superiors, but for a freelancer, it’s more important than ever to bring up the issue. Here are 7 tips to get your invoices paid quickly.

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For many, an awkward topic of conversation revolves around money. Whether asking for a raise or asking to borrow money, people often feeling uncomfortable when talking money.

This is equally, or possibly even more so, true for freelancers who are solely in charge of their finances. Without a system of weekly direct deposit, freelancers have to work overtime to keep their earnings in order.

The issue with this is that clients also have a lot on their plates, and something as simple as a freelancer’s paycheck is common to fall through the cracks. This causes freelancers to have to work friendly reminders into their repertoire.

However, freelancers may not always be knowledgeable of the best ways to keep their finances in check (no pun intended). Below are seven ways to enhance payment methods.

  1. You have to be willing to make billing a priority. Due to the fact that money is awkward to talk about, as aforementioned, many let this fall by the wayside. The best way to do this is to keep up to date with your invoices and send them as soon as they are done. Making a calendar specific for billing can help with this idea.
  2. This second bit dates back to when we were young and learning our manners: it is crucial to be polite. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it also increases speed in payment. Using “please” and “thank you” in invoicing emails are said to get you paid five percent faster.
  3. It is best to try and keep a complicated concept like finance as simple as possible. Make sure you are creating specific due dates. This will help to signify importance of payment.
  4. Now that virtually anything can be done online, it would make sense to use electronic payment verses an old-school check. Accepting online payments will get a user paid, on average, eight days faster as opposed to a check.
  5. This is an important notion to keep in mind for any aspect of your business life: be professional. Invoices are often seen by many eyes so it is best to include your business’s logo on said invoice. This has been found to increase chances of being paid on time by 10 percent.
  6. Specificity is urged again in the form of transparency. Make sure you are giving detailed descriptions on each invoice so that anyone looking at it knows exactly what you are being paid for. By doing this, you are 15 percent more likely to be paid on time.
  7. While you may be invoicing month by month, try to avoid sending on the 30th or 31st. Being that everyone, generally, sends their invoices in on these dates, it takes 10 – 20 percent longer to be paid. With everyone sending it at the end of the month, it has a tendency to back up payroll.

The most important thing to remember is that while the topic of money may be awkward, it is your money. If you let a few invoices fall behind because you are uncomfortable reminding your client, this has a way of adding up. Be sure to keep on track with your finances to earn what you are working for.

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Business Finance

How freelancers, entrepreneurs can start accepting cryptocurrencies

(FINANCE) If you’re considering accepting cryptocurrencies for your good or services, there are a growing number of options available these days – here are just a few.

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There are many reasons a small business owner, freelancer, or entrepreneur might consider accepting cryptocurrencies as payment.

One of the most noteworthy is the access to the more than 2.3 million people who used bitcoin as payment last year alone – that’s a growing pool of people who want to pay with a decentralized means of digital currency. Many have gravitated to cryptocurrencies as some believe they have proven to have clearer policies compared to traditional banks, less hidden fees, and more security against chargebacks.

More importantly than why though (especially in determining if its worth it to you and your business) is how you can start accepting bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for your product or service.

Just like PayPal or credit card payments, you’ll need to first integrate a crypto payment processor wherever you plan to accept payment. This can be from your phone, your Shopify website, or your independently designed website. When deciding on which processor (and there are plenty to choose from), it’s important first understand the two types of cryptocurrency services available to you.

Custodial Wallets – These kind of wallets work like a bank do, in that they serve as a third party entity in control of your assets. Custodial services store your private keys, which is the secret alphanumeric code paid with your public keys. When you receive your crypto payments, they go into a wallet, where you request your money by withdrawal. These are popular for freelancers who are interested in converting cryptocurrency to traditional currency. Another advantage for this kind of wallet is you can contact your custodian’s customer service for access to your account if you’ve lost your password. The major disadvantages are that you don’t have complete control of your funds; so your wallet can be frozen by the custodian in case of maintenance, or stolen by hackers if they get into the processor.

Non-Custodial Wallets – These wallets can exist on paper, desktop, hardware, or mobile and are called cold wallets. No matter where it is stored, it is defined as an offline wallet provided for storing bitcoins. Your information is usually stored on a platform not connected to the internet, offering an added level of protection against cyber hacks and other vulnerabilities that a system connected to the internet is vulnerable to. If you don’t already have one of these cold wallets, you’ll need to establish one for a non-custodial processor. These kind of processors do not store or protect your private keys’ information, which allows the user complete control over their coin which can be important to you if you are accepting large amounts of money you want to keep safe, or you want to keep certain information very private. If you lose your private keys though, you lose your coin also since there’s no one to call and retrieve, like with custodial processors.

Once you understand the type of processor is best suited for your business, it’s easier to research and find processors that do exactly what you are looking for. Like I mentioned before, there are lots of different processors to choose from, but we’re going to go over a few custodial and non custodial processors to help inspire you in which direction to go

Custodial Processors:

Bitcharge: Bitcharge has the easiest instructions and interface on this entire list; so if simplicity is what you are after, start here. Instead of web integration, lengthy APIs or email invoices, all you need to start accepting cyrpto payments is a unique link they create for you. Once you have the link, you can give it to your clients however you choose, just like sending your Cash App or Venmo name. Another unique feature at Bitcharge is that they don’t require you to create new wallets for your cyrpto payments – all you have to do is add the address of your existing wallets to receive payment there. Bithcharge accepts Bitcoin, Etherum, and Litecoin, but are planning to add more to their portfolio. There are no transaction fees listed on the Bitcharge website.

Coingate: This payment processor is popular for accepting Altcoin (coins other than Bitcoin) payments, and currently accept over 40. This processor allows freelancers or entrepreneurs to accept payments in-store using an Android, iOS device, or other internet enabled devices. It’s also available as a plug-in so it can be easily integrated into your existing online store. There is a 1% transaction fee to use Coingate, with no additional monthly, registration, or support fees.

Cryptopay: Cyrptopay is a crypto payment processor that provides a guaranteed exchange rate, and also charges a flat 1% transaction fee. With this processor, freelancers can accept Bitcoin, Litecoin, Etherum, or Ripple. This cryptocurrency settles payments daily and provides funds straight to your bank account

Bitpay: Bitpay serves merchants in over six continents and is currently integrated with several different ecommerce solutions, including Shopify. Freelancers can also accept payment from automatically generated email invoices, or in person with a smartphone or tablet. They charge a 1% transaction Fee, with no hidden fees. The only cryptocurrency they accept is Bitcoin for now.

Coinbase Commerce: Coinbase is one of the world’s biggest payment processes and is also integrated with a variety of ecommerce solutions including Shopify and WooCommerce. With this processor, you are able to instantly convert it into fiat (traditional currency) to avoid price volatility. Users with this processor are able to accept Bitcoin Ethereum, Litecoin, or Bitcoin Cash. There is no transaction fee to accept cryptocurrency with Coinbase Commerce.

GoCoin: Go Coin is another popular gateway accepting payments in Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash, Etherum, Litecoin, Dash, and EOS. It can also be integrated into popular commerce platforms like WooCommerce. Although there is no cost to sign-up for an account with GoCoin, there is a flat 1% transaction fee for each payment you accept. The most unique factor about this processor is the one-on-one help offered for experienced and inexperienced merchants. They also help with integrating the processor, customer invoicing, and payment support.

Non-Custodial Processors

These are newer on the market so there aren’t as many non custodial options, but here are the two options:

BTCPay: This processor is a non custodial, open sourced, and self-hosted payment processor designed for the technologically and cryptocurrency inclined. This particular processor allows the merchant to be in full control with no fees, or third party control like with the aforementioned processors. Payments go directly into their cold wallet, not the processor’s wallet. There are currently no fees to use BTCPay.

Atomic Pay: Atomic Pay is a global, non-custodial cryptocurrency payment processor. They eliminate the involvement of a third party processor by allowing you to accept payments “within seconds.” Unlike the aforementioned services, Atomic Pay does not store or withhold any of your information, so you’ll need to have a cold wallet setup. Atomic Pay also boasts an API Interface that allows developers and business to integrate with their “back end systems, websites, games, mobile applications, and point of sales systems.” The processing fees are 0.9% per transaction for the personal package, 0.8% for businesses, and 0.7% for their Enterprise package.

In conclusion:

Digital currencies continue to expand globally and offers a variety of benefits to small business owners, freelancers, and entrepreneurs. No matter where your potential client is located, international or domestic, both payments are handled the same, without any clearance necessary; unlike a wire transfer payment from an international client that could take up to a week or more. Not to mention the fees are less than credit card payment fees…

Despite all these perks, I am still not a certified accountant, and am merely suggesting you take a look at your business needs and see if those more than 2.3 million potential clients can be of use to you.

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