NASE Blogs

Friday, December 11, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan -The Senate is debating health reform right now.  The Senate bill does not include any immediate, bottom line savings on health care costs for the self-employed.  Currently, a self-employed business owner (sole-proprietor) paying $7,000 annually for health insurance is also paying $1,071 in extra self-employment taxes because they are unable to deduct their health costs as a business expense on their Schedule C tax form. Over 22 million self-employed Americans are affected by this inequity. All other businesses receive this benefit. The NASE is trying to convince the Senate to include an important amendment in the ...
Friday, December 11, 2009
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - After much negotiation, Senate leaders appear to have reached an agreement on the inclusion of a Medicare buy-in in lieu of a public option in the reform package. Here's a list of other top headlines related to the self-employed and the health care debate. If you see something we forgot to include, drop us a line at media [at] nase [dot] org. Senate Continues Health Reform Debate, Dems Emphasize Patient Protections (RTT News) - "Frustrated with insurance industry practices of dropping or denying coverage for those with expensive diseases, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Democrats' reform bill would ...
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - BusinessWeek's SmallBiz was concerned that minority- and woman-owned business were not taking advantage of all the resources available to them, and so compiled this guide on the resources that are out there (from certification to peer advising) for these businesses. Don't forget to lean on your local Small Business Development Center for help and advice.  The NASE's small business and tax consultants are also available online anytime to answer your questions.  If your business is in need of a financial boost, make it your New Year's Resolution to apply for one of the NASE's Business ...
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - From the start of the climate talks in Copenhagen to the (surprising) sight of full-size evergreen trees at my urban grocery store, green seems to be everywhere this week. Don't be afraid to jump on the reclaimed wood bandwagon!  There are many ways to make your home office greener without investing in conifers.  And who knows, your utility company may even help you pay for more energy efficient upgrades. For more: Hold a Copenhagen Climate Summit in Your Home Office 10 Ways to Green Your Home Office Free Money for Energy Efficiency Upgrades Previously: Going ...
Monday, December 07, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Entrepreneur, professor and author Steve Blank has a parable worth reading about one of his experiences with having his ideas and work appropriated by others without credit.  I would recommend reading the whole post, but for those busy with the holiday rush, here are Blank's takeaway lessons: If you put your ideas into a presentation, assume that your competitors and everyone else are likely (if not guaranteed) to get their hands on those slides; Never put proprietary, patentable, TOP SECRET anything on presentation slides; If you include diagrams or drawings that you created on presentation ...
Friday, December 04, 2009
Q: I’m a sole individual running a home inspection service and will be getting my license to do appraisals as well. Should I start a new business for the appraisals or operate the two businesses under one name? A: Since both businesses are related to real estate, and you have an established business, you would not likely benefit from operating under two business identities. If one of the businesses grows more than the other or if one entity hires employees, you will want to revisit the issue of separating the businesses because of liability. It would also be a good ...
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - While it's not quite time for New Year's resolutions, you don't need to wait until January 1st to cut down on some of your business costs.  From working with competitors to changing the way you purchase inventory, this New York Times article has many helpful resources for cutting costs.    Feel free to share any tips or resources for cutting costs that you've found helpful for your business in the comments!
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Q: I’m a hairdresser working in a salon, but want to start working out of my home. What regulations do I need to be aware of? A: To determine if you can legally operate a salon in your home, you need to address several issues. First check the zoning regulations in your city. You want to find out if operating a cosmetology business from your home is allowed. If it’s allowed, you want to determine if there are any restrictions, such as limited customer traffic. If you live in a development with a homeowners’ association, also check the association’s rules ...
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Posted by Maureen Petron -- Do you think you could work with your spouse? The New York Times You’re the Boss blog has some first-hand tips about making a business partner out of your life partner, including understanding differing work styles and learning how to shut off the business. If you’re an NASE Member, chances are you could add your own tips to the NYT’s list. Because 30 percent of you work with your spouse in your business. That’s a pretty significant number, and one that the NASE keeps in mind when drawing together its benefits package every year. If ...
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Q: I’m self-employed and have a corporation. I work out of my home. If I pay someone to come to the house to watch my son during workdays, can I deduct the cost as a business expense? A: Unfortunately, this is one area where being self-employed is less advantageous than being a corporate employee. Employers generally pay for employee child care through a cafeteria benefit plan. The cafeteria plan must file an annual report with the IRS and can’t provide more than 25 percent of the benefits to highly compensated or key employees. Based on the information you provided, the ...
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Q: I’m a sole proprietor and install carpet in office buildings. There’s a new company I want to contract with, but they require that I have workers’ compensation insurance. If I get the insurance, can I deduct the cost on my business tax return? A:Yes, you can deduct the cost of the premiums you pay for workers’ compensation insurance. Because the insurance is required for you to establish or continue a working relationship, the cost is considered an ordinary and necessary business expense for you. When you file Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, you will report the expense ...
Monday, November 30, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan - I hope all of you were able to stomach your Thanksgiving dinner after taking a look at the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H.R. 3590). This legislation is the result of Senate leadership's effort to merge the Senate Finance and Senate HELP Committee's proposals for health reform.   The Senate moved the ball forward on health reform with a successful procedural vote prior to the holiday allowing for the debate on health reform and H.R. 3590 to occur this week. Debate is expected to be a lengthy process which will result in long days and late nights for Senators and staff. Some even speculate that ...
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Posted by Maureen Petron -- Blogger Dawn Rivers Baker poses this question in her Monday post, The Micro-business Oath: A Riff on a Good Idea. Suggesting that micro-business owners make a commitment to their customers about their business practices is something the NASE has toyed with doing for a while. Just like Dawn, we think “you’re never too big or small to have ethics.” But I have to admit – it’s gotten held up in legal. We’re a good-sized organization, and how responsible can we be held if a member advertises they have taken the oath, but then have shady ...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Especially as the holiday season approaches, it is important to remember to take care of yourself.  As this You're the Boss author notes, it is often too easy for small business owners to focus on running their business instead of addressing the rest and care that they need to be healthy.  Fueling your body with healthy food is going to make you feel better than sugary snacks and energy drinks, and even a small amount of exercise like walking for 20 minutes each day, can give you increased energy and focus.  A few NASE Staff ...
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Q: I hired several independent contractors during 2009. Do I have to send 1099s to all of them next year? When are the 1099s due and where can I get the forms?   A: You must issue a Form 1099-MISC to any individual you paid $600 or more during the year. In most circumstances, you don’t have to issue a 1099-MISC to a corporation. The 1099-MISC forms that you mail to contractors must be postmarked by Feb. 1, 2010 (since the standard deadline of Jan. 31 falls on a Sunday). In addition you must send a copy of each 1099-MISC ...
Monday, November 23, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Have you given any thought to who would run your business if you were unable to?  If not, you may want to consider making a plan sooner rather than later.  According to OPEN Forum, "many times, a business that is financially sound suffers because the owner did not plan for what's going to happen upon his or her disability or death." Read the whole article for more planning advice, and be sure to ask the consultants at ShopTalk and EstateTalk any other questions you might have.  
Friday, November 20, 2009
Q: I’m an entrepreneur who provides online marketing services to small businesses. My plan is to take this to the next level and target large corporations. How do I reach major players like Trump and Disney? A: The challenge is to figure out how to get ahead of the throngs of others trying to do business with the likes of Trump and Disney. If you don’t have contacts that can get you inside, you’ll need to get in front of a few underlings and work your way up the ladder to key decision makers. This approach means learning everything you ...
Friday, November 20, 2009
Q: My husband I are choosing a location for our new business. What are some sources for demographic information that can help us? A: First, specifically define your target customer. This will include age, family size, income and other demographic information. Once you have a customer profile, go to the U.S. Census fact finder Web site at http://factfinder.census.gov. There you can put in various parameters like ZIP codes to get general census data for income, family size, age and other information. Use this to identify general geographical areas that fit your customer profile. Drive around the areas to see what ...
Friday, November 20, 2009
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles. If you find an article or blog that you think should be considered, drop us a line at media@nase.org. What Will The Goldman Sachs Plan Mean To You? (NY Times - You're The Boss Blog) - "Goldman Sachs and its largest shareholder, Warren Buffett, announced a $500 million plan on Tuesday to help small businesses — including $200 million to pay for small-business owners to get business and management education at local community colleges and other places." Ask SCORE: How House Health Care Reform Bill Affects You (The Desert ...
Friday, November 20, 2009
Q: How can I select investments that are best for me and my micro-business? A: Before you select investments, you must identify your short-term and long-term needs, your appetite for financial risk, and your personal circumstances (age, children, financial state of your business, etc.). These factors are crucial to making smart investment decisions. For instance, if you are risk averse, you might choose to invest in certificates of deposit that guarantee a return and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). If you want a long-term investment and are willing to take moderate financial risk, you could invest ...
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan – Yesterday’s Small Business Financing Forum hosted by Treasury and the Small Business Administration could have been more aptly titled "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs". That is what is really on the mind of the Administration. As Treasury Secretary Geithner stated, “America's small businesses are critical engines of job growth and have historically led us out of recessions. But to play that role they need access to credit.” With small businesses continuing to struggle in the current economy, finding access to capital has become increasingly more critical to an entrepreneur’s survival and their ability to maintain and grow ...
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Goldman Sachs announced this week that it will be spending $500 million to help thousands of small businesses bounce back from the recession.  Working with its largest shareholder, investor Warren Buffet, Goldman is offering business and management education, mentoring and access to capital to 10,000 small businesses. While there has been some criticism that Goldman is only reaching out to small businesses in an attempt to bolster its public image, the company says it has been working on the program for almost a year.  The plan includes: $200 million to pay for small-business owners to ...
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - According to You're the Boss, Congress is feeling some pressure to enact mandatory sick leave laws as a result of the swine flu pandemic.  The Obama Administration has backed the Healthy Families Act, which guarantees seven sick days per year for companies with 15 or more employees.  Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) also introduced temporary legislation that would require companies with 15 or more employees to guarantee five paid sick days for employees that are sent home or encouraged to stay home. Do you offer paid sick leave to your employees?  How many days per year?  ...
Monday, November 16, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Looking for an advantage in your holiday promotions?  According to Business Week, joining a buy-local campaign and marketing with authenticity can help boost sales.    For more information on buy-local campaigns, check out this article from the most recent issue of Self-Employed magazine. 
Friday, November 13, 2009
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - Here's a sampling of this week's top health care reform articles. If you find an article or blog that you think should be considered, drop us a line at media@nase.org. House Democrats Eke Out A Victory On Health Reform [Commentary] (NASE Staff Blog) - "The House bill is important because it sets the stage for what might be in a final reform bill. Unfortunately, the legislation doesn't do much to help the self-employed and micro-business get immediate relief from high health costs. The only quantifiable item providing bottom line cost relief to small businesses in H.R. 3962 is a ...
Friday, November 13, 2009
Q: I get good marketing results for my brick-and-mortar business, but how can I drive business to my Web site? A: Marketing your Web site isn’t much different than marketing your brick-and-mortar business. It’s about motivating customers to visit the Web site. While driving people to your Web site is key, you have to give them a reason to shop and buy once they are there. So, before you spend time and money figuring out how to drive people to the site, make sure you have a site that creates buying motivation. Take a look at your competitors for ideas ...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Even though you can't read your customers' minds, SmallBusinessNewz has a great recap of a survey on holiday trends conducted by Deloitte that lets you come pretty close.  Perhaps not surprisingly, consumers indicate that social media will have a large role in their shopping experience this year.  The survey found that: 7 percent of consumers plan to use social media during their holiday shopping 60 percent plan to use it to find discounts, coupons and sales information 25 percent say they will likely purchase a product this holiday season based on an online recommendation 34 ...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Q: I need to create a business plan. Where can I find help to get it done? A: Looking at actual business plans is a good way to understand what you need. You can find sample plans online at these sites: www.bplans.com www.morebusiness.com www.bulletproofbizplans.com www.sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner/plan/index.html You’ll discover that a plan can run from 10 or 12 pages for a general business overview to 50 pages or more for a full-blown business plan. Once you decide how extensive you need your plan to be, you can decide what kind of plan to pursue. You might need a simple plan with a ...
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Q: Are there loans available specifically for woman- or minority-owned businesses or for low-income entrepreneurs? A: Yes, there are numerous organizations that serve those types of micro-business owners. Here are two worth checking out. Count Me In offers micro-loans to women business owners nationwide. The organization takes into consideration your type of business, prior experience, credit history and how you intend to use the money. The loans range from $500 up to $10,000 and are available for startups or existing businesses. You can learn more at the Web site, www.countmein.org. The Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) is a funding and ...
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Posted by Maureen Petron -- Retirement planning and saving is hard enough for micro-business owners. But add in a few employees, and the issues compound – what plan, what paper work, what contributions… The IRS recently launched a new Web site to help answer these questions. The IRS Retirement Plans Navigator helps small employers find the plan that’s right for their business. It focuses on three main components: choosing a plan, maintaining a plan, and correcting a plan (if you’ve made a mistake). It even has a pretty extensive plan comparison table. Check it out and start helping your employees ...
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Q: I own a bookkeeping business and pay my 16-year-old daughter to help around my office after school. Are the wages I pay her subject to FICA and Medicare taxes? A: The answer depends on how your business is legally structured. If your company is a corporation, then your daughter’s wages are subject to those taxes, even if you, as the child’s parent, own the corporation. If your company is a sole proprietorship or a partnership in which only the parents are partners, then the wages you pay your daughter are not subject to FICA or Medicare.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Most of us know by now not to provide sensitive personal information like Social Security and bank account numbers in response to an email from someone claiming to be a long-lost family member wanting to share an inheritance of millions of dollars with us.  While this sort of scam seems obvious because of how ridiculous/too good to be true it is, according to this article on OPEN Forum, some con artists have moved on to pretending to be the federal government to take advantage of unsuspecting small business owners.  The article quotes an identity theft ...
Monday, November 09, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan - I am one of those people who like to maintain a healthy work-life balance.  I usually do my best not to bring my work home with me, but not so this weekend.  I spent most of my Saturday watching C-SPAN and subjecting both my husband and eight-month old daughter to the debate in the House of Representatives on health reform.  Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! The big debate culminated with a late night vote on H.R. 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act, in which the House Democrats eked out a victory by a margin of 2 votes (220-215, with the ...
Monday, November 09, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Personally, I don't feel too strongly one way or the other on gift cards.  While I enjoy the thrill of the chase of finding the perfect present for someone, sometimes a gift card offers the peace of mind that the recipient will be able to pick out what they want, instead of what I think they want. My personal feelings aside, I had no idea how much the average shopper likes gift cards, and how it might help small businesses to offer them.  According to the National Retail Federation, gift cards have been the "most ...
Friday, November 06, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan -  NASE Members recently had the opportunity to visit the White House to listen to President Obama discuss health reform and why it is important to small business in this current economic climate.  Take a look at what these members had to say about their experience and the President's remarks: "For me, being able to be there while the President of the United States spoke about small business was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  As he spoke about health reform, it truly made sense and I felt that it was something that was needed for small business.  As President ...
Friday, November 06, 2009
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - Here is the latest news on health reform as it relates to small businesses. Submit articles for consideration at media@NASE.org. GOP Health Bill Focuses On Lower Costs (Politico) - "[House Minority Leader John] Boehner hasn’t released the full details of the bill but has said that it would make it easier to buy insurance across state lines, impose strict limits on medical malpractice lawsuits and allow individuals and small businesses to pool their resources to buy insurance as a group. That is designed to boost their purchasing power to help lower individual premiums." The GDP, Small Business and Health ...
Friday, November 06, 2009
Q: I formed an LLC and need to know how much it can pay for my mortgage, electricity, and other personal expenses. I would rather the LLC write a check for these rather than pay me a salary. A: It is a bad business practice to pay any of your personal bills out of your LLC business account. Even by doing so, you will still have to declare those amounts as income. No matter how the LLC distributes money to you (such as paying your personal expenses), it's going to be considered earnings. And the only deductions the business can ...
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Did you know that one in four American businesses are women-owned?  Or that those businesses created or maintained 16 percent of all jobs in a range of industries?  The Center for Women's Business Research found these facts and more in a recent report.  The research also found that only 20 percent of women-owned businesses had employees.  According to the New York Times, executive director of the National Women’s Business Council Margaret Barton, a bipartisan federal advisory group that helped pay for the research, sees those 80 percent of women-owned businesses without employees, "as an area ...
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Q: Some time ago I received a survey from the Department of Labor. I didn't complete the survey and am now getting calls almost weekly wanting the survey information. Am I obligated to participate in this program? A: There are two types of government surveys, mandatory and voluntary. For mandatory surveys, you're required to provide the information, and a government agency has the ability to assess penalties if you don't comply. If you still have the survey, it will indicate whether it is mandatory or voluntary. If you don't have the survey, ask the person calling whether it is mandatory ...
Thursday, November 05, 2009
Q: Can you recommend an accounting software package for my micro-business? Do these packages contain spreadsheets that I might need to calculate some of my information? A: You can choose from a number of accounting software packages that are useful for micro-businesses. QuickBooks from Intuit is used by many small-business owners. It provides all of the financial and tax essentials, but doesn't offer much flexibility. For more flexibility, Peachtree from Sage Software might be a better choice. It's also simple to learn. A-Systems Accounting Software from A-Systems Corporation is work a look, too. It includes free multi-media training. All of ...
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Posted by Kristie Arslan - The House Democrats released their new and improved health reform bill (H.R. 3962).  Summary: House Health Bill Summary- Oct2009.   Leadership is clamoring to get the votes it needs to pass the bill out of the House this month.  A big feat since many are concerned about the cost (over $1 trillion dollars), the inclusion of a government-run, public insurance option and other contentious issues.    Due to the limited provisions providing immediate cost savings or assistance for the self-employed in the House legislation, as well as in the other Senate reform bills, the NASE is concerned that coupled with the new benefit requirements, ...
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Posted by Maureen Petron -- The last issue of Self-Employed magazine for 2009 hits member mailboxes this week, and I’m sad to see this year’s issues come to an end. Like a mother to her children, I know I’m supposed to say that I love all issues of the magazine equally. But in 2009, we really produced some excellent magazines. (If I do say so myself. And I do.) It stared back in January when we increased the magazine to 32 pages. We included an additional “advertisement” from an NASE benefit vendor, and added three more pages of feature stories. ...
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - Business Week's Smart Answers column offers some great information about the process for becoming a certified woman-owned business.  While you can't refer to your business as a "certified woman-owned business" unless you've gone through the application process and been awarded that title, columnist Karen E. Klein cautions small firms to do your research and make sure certification is worth the investment for your business.      Still have questions about running your business?  Ask our expert consultants at ShopTalk. 
Monday, November 02, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - If the Millennials (or you might know them as Generation Y, or those born between 1979 and 1988) that you are working with as employees, interns, or mentees don't seem to see things the same way you do, Jeff Cornwall of The Entrepreneurial Mind and Don Sadler of our very own Self-Employed magazine might be able to help you make more sense of them. Feel free to share your thoughts on working with and motivating Gen Yers in the comments.  (This Millennial would love to read them!)
Monday, November 02, 2009
Q: I got laid off from a job earlier this year. Now I’ve started my own business. I need to take money out of a retirement account that I had with my previous employer. Can I put the money into a retirement plan that’s designed for self-employed people? A: Yes, you can certainly roll the distribution from your retirement account into another qualified plan, such as an individual retirement arrangement (IRA) or simplified employee pension (SEP). You must complete the rollover bythe 60th day following the date thatyou receive the distribution from your previous retirement account. The financial institution where ...
Friday, October 30, 2009
Posted by Kristin Oberlander - Happy Halloween! Here is the latest news on health reform as it relates to small businesses. Submit articles for consideration at media@NASE.org. Democrats Push For Health Benefits To Start By 2010 (Politico) - Under the Democratic wish list, senior citizens would receive discounts on brand-name drugs next year. Small businesses that provide insurance would see tax credits. And a $5 billion high-risk pool would cover people with preexisting conditions. Should The Feds Keep Subsidizing COBRA Health Insurance? (WSJ Health Blog) - A bill introduced recently in the House of Representatives would allow laid-off workers to ...
Friday, October 30, 2009
Q: I have a real estate-related business and want to offer referral fees to professionals for sending me business. I want to create a disclaimer stating that they will not receive referral fees until the final financial transactions are completed. What is the best way to do this, and should I promote it on my marketing materials? A: You don’t need a formal disclaimer. And you shouldn’t publish specific information about your referral program in your marketing collateral. Licensed real estate professionals should check their state regulations before making any type of referral payments. But if you’re not a licensed ...
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Posted by Molly Nelson - You most likely have a Web site for your business.  You may also have a blog, or even be active on Twitter.  While putting your business out there is a great first step, listening (and responding) to what your customers are saying about your business is just as important. If you're interested in hearing the chatter about your business, there are numerous tools to help you do so. Google Alerts are a good place to start.  Enter search terms like the name of your business or other keywords, specify how often you would like to ...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Q: We want to rent out our vacation property to generate additional income. How do we find a management company to handle everything for us? A: If your property is located in a destination resort community, check with your property management firm or your homeowners’ association to find out if the management firm has a rental program. If there is no on-site rental management program, and you are in a resort area, check for property management agencies in the area. Full-service agencies take care of everything, including marketing the property, collecting rental fees, cleaning and maintenance. For their services, they ...
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Posted by Maureen Petron - If you haven’t yet joined the NASE groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, you’re missing out. We’re posting up valuable information, sure. The latest news, trends and tips. But your peers are also posting up, too. The NASE community is growing, and relying on itself to answer business questions and get insight into how other micro-businesses are managing their businesses. Right now, there are two great discussions going on that you should jump in on! On Facebook, we’re debating whether text messaging to clients is seen by them as spam, or could help increase your foot traffic. ...