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First impressions matter – how to win over investors immediately

(BUSINESS FINANCE) Impressing investors is nerve-wracking, but these tips can help you to nail your first impression.

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Going in for your first pitch meeting with investors can be nerve wracking—especially if you haven’t yet met these investors in person. Fortunately, if you land a solid first impression, you can set the right tone for the meeting, and make the rest of the presentation a little easier on yourself.

But why are first impressions so important, and how can you ensure you make one?

Let’s start with a recap of the benefits of a strong first impression:

  • A reputation framework. Our brains are wired to make quick judgments about our surroundings. Accordingly, we tend to judge people based on our first interactions with them, with little opportunity to change those initial judgments later on. If you strike investors as a smart, likeable, and capable person early on, they’ll see your pitch deck in a whole new light.
  • Memorability. First impressions stick with people. If yours stands out from the other entrepreneurs pitching these investors, they’ll be more likely to remember you, specifically, and therefore may be more likely to eventually fund your project.
  • Personal confidence. If you know you’ve nailed the first impression, you’ll feel more confident, and as you already likely know, confidence makes you a better public speaker. You’ll speak more deliberately, more passionately, and with fewer mistakes.

So how can you make sure you land this impression?

  • Arrive in a nice vehicle. Show up in a luxury vehicle, or at least one that’s been recently detailed, sends a message that you’re already successful. This isn’t a strict necessity, but it can speak volumes about what you’ve already achieved, and how you might look when you drive to meet your future clients.
  • Dress for the occasion. Along similar lines, you’ll want to dress nicely. You don’t need to have ridiculously expensive clothes, but you should wear standard business attire that fits you properly and has no signs of wear. It’s also a good idea to get a haircut, shave, wear tasteful makeup, and make other small touches that improve your overall appearance.
  • Smile. Smiling is contagious, and it instantly makes you more likable. Don’t force a grin (or else you’ll look like a robot), but do flash a genuine smile as often as appropriate during the first few minutes you meet your prospective investors.
  • Use your investors’ names. When you speak to your investors, try to address them by name as often as possible. People love to hear the sound of their own names, so it might help you win their favor. As an added bonus, it will help you reinforce your association with their name and face, so you eliminate your risk of calling someone by the wrong name later on.
  • Warm up with something personal. It’s tempting to get down to business right away, especially because your investors’ time is limited, but in most cases, it’s better to warm up with something personal—even if it’s only a few lines of a conversation. Tell a funny joke you heard earlier in the day, or share an anecdote about how your morning has been going. It makes you seem more personable and charismatic.
  • Find a common link. If you can, try to find something in common with each of your prospective investors. You might comment that you got your tie at the same place they did, or that you use the same type of pen. Look for subtle clues about their personalities, lifestyles, and hobbies, and forge a connection through those channels. People disproportionately like other people like them, so the more commonalities you can find with your prospective investors, the better.
  • Watch your posture. Your posture says more about you than you might think. Keep your back straight with your shoulders back, and walk confidently with your hands out of your pockets. This is crucial for projecting confidence (and feeling it internally as well).

If you can land a great first impression, you’ll set the stage for a killer presentation—but don’t think you’re out of the woods yet. You still need to make sure you have a fantastic pitch deck in place, and enough knowledge on your startup idea to handle the toughest investor questions. If this is your first pitch, don’t worry – it does get easier – but the fundamentals are always going to be important.

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. When he's not consulting, glued to a headset, he's working on one of his many business projects. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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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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Business Finance

How to spot and avoid crowdfunding scams

(TECH NEWS) Crowdfunding has become ripe for scams, don’t be a sucker — here’s how to spot ’em.

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When it comes to your personal life, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a crowdfunding campaign because if you’re turning to GoFundMe or YouCaring, it means your house has burned down, you have cancer or your dog has died.

We regularly see these campaigns pop up in our social feeds and for the most part, we believe them because they’re our friends, they’re in need and we trust them so, of course, we pitch in.

However, some people use crowdfunding to fleece you. By now, you’ve probably heard of the couple from New Jersey who teamed up with a homeless man to raise over $400,000. The campaign was a scam, the cash was split and now these crooks are facing some serious consequences in court. Ugh.

We shouldn’t need to write this article, but some people suck and they’re out there duping us. Here’s how to spot them.

This should be obvious, but do not give money to people you do not know or do not at least tangentially know. It never hurts to scroll through the donor list to see if you recognize any of your friends or acquaintances there. If you do and have questions, reach out to them before you reach deep into your wallet.

What about victims of natural disasters? Offer your money to emergency funds run by non-profit organizations. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign, but in times of crisis many platforms create verified campaigns.

If the objective of the campaign is unclear, do not donate. We’ve all come across campaigns that are strangely worded or lack enough specifics to piece together a plausible story. If it feels like a Nigerian Prince is the campaign administrator, close the tab.

If a campaign’s photo looks fishy, do a reverse image search on Google to help validate that fishy feeling. If the search yields a lot of results for the photo, scammers have stolen it and are using it to tug at your heartstrings.

Most campaigns run for a very short amount of time, typically a couple of weeks and rarely more than a month. While there is generally a final social push to get to an unmet goal, there are rarely open-ended campaigns. Again, if the goal is unclear or out-of-reach, move on.

We’ve all seen campaigns that are truly gut-wrenching – deaths of loved ones, fights with cancer, entire villages wiped out. As with the case of the three jerks from New Jersey, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. While some sites may be able to reimburse your donation, others won’t and nothing feels worse than falling for a scam AND losing your money.

And so, dear friends, this is why we at The American Genius almost never, ever write about crowdfunded projects. We care about you and we want you to use your money to help your real friends, fund YOUR next project or pay off your student loans.

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Business Finance

How small companies can compete with free shipping

(BUSINESS FINANCE) When running a smaller shop online, how can you compete with free shipping from giants like Amazon that can afford it?

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It’s hard enough for small businesses to compete with big retailers. But online shops also have to consider the additional cost of shipping. With stores like Amazon and Walmart.com offering very cheap or even free shipping, how is a smaller shop to compete?

Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online shops and point-of-sale-systems, posed this question to Thea Earl, product manager for Shopify Shipping. On the AskShopify blog, she offered some tips for managing shipping costs.

First, Earl points out that while “free shipping is an excellent marketing tool,” if you can’t afford to offer free shipping, it helps to offer a “really clear flat rate.”

Customers who think they’re getting a good deal may balk if they’re surprised by an exorbitant cost to ship. If you can consistently offer a flat rate, and let the customer know right off the bat, they’ll “know what to expect when they hit checkout” and won’t get sticker shock at the last minute, causing cart abandonment.

If you want to offer free or very cheap shipping, consider raising the prices of your products, even by a dollar or so, to help cover delivery costs. Note the ratio between the profit margin and the cost to ship.

Perhaps for highly profitable items, you can afford to absorb the shipping costs, while slightly raising the prices of less profitable products to offset the balance.

Lastly, Earl realizes that small business owners have no control over whether or not a carrier raises its prices to ship.

You do, however, have control over the packaging. Be smart about the types of packaging you use. Measure products and buy envelopes and boxes that are just the right size to save money on weight.

Paper and poly envelopes are lighter, and therefore usually cheaper than cardboard boxes. Also, Earl points out that most carriers have at least a few options for free packaging. Utilize these free options whenever you can.

And of course, you could always join a group like Shopify to take advantage of their bulk mailing partnerships with carriers like UPS, USPS, and DHL.

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