SelfInformed

December 2015


How Self-Employment & Small Business Have Changed Since 2000

Friday, December 18, 2015

For 28.2 million small business owners mastering the art of change is a major requirement to growing a business.  A significant catalyst behind the winds of change is technology. For established family businesses, and especially for micro business owners, technology has changed the entrepreneurial landscape making it a more level playing field.  The bottom line is that technology saves business owners both time and money spurring enormous growth and success.

Technology Changes that Fuel the Growth of Small Business and the Self-Employed

According to a recent survey from the Pew Research Center, cell phone ownership has nearly doubled since 2000 from 53 percent to 90 percent of the US population. Along with the increase of cell phone and smart phone ownership, Internet use has doubled in the last fifteen years from 52 percent to 84 percent.  Connectivity that never sleeps means small businesses need a 24/7 relationship with their customers to remain relevant. An online presence with a business website and social media marketing strategy increases the opportunity to connect with potential customers continuously.  Faced with limitless possibilities, small businesses can move beyond brick and mortar and reach more customers cost effectively.

For those who are self-employed or freelancers, selling your ‘knowledge’ services online as a software developer, lawyer, accountant, writer or graphic designer means working anywhere at any time.  Coined the ‘on-demand’ economy, anyone with a secured wireless connection, a computer laptop and a cell phone can start a virtual business.

Of course, online platforms also exist to facilitate connections between business owners in need of workers on a per-project basis for their unique expertise.  Sites like LinkedIn, UpWork, Guru and FlexJobs are marketplaces that match potential workers with businesses looking to hire top talent.  Its influence and popularity has expanded to other rapid-growth platforms supporting blue collar workers such as Uber, Arise and TaskRabbit. In the digital age, online platforms connecting talent with work opportunities are predicted to increase the pool of independent workers to 65 million within the next decade.  According to freelancersunion.org, 53 million Americans currently freelance, giving fuel to the entrepreneurial spirit behind the growth of a single business idea into a micro-business or small business.

In the digital age, growing a business means harnessing the power of technology to reach top talent from around the globe.  Now, finding the right talent is no longer a hurdle to growing or building a business.

Small Business and the Self-Employed Embrace Mobile Technology

With the rapid adoption of mobile devices by consumers, small businesses and the self-employed are quickly catching on.  Results from a 2103 report by Constant Contact, an email marketing firm, revealed the following when respondents were asked how they were using mobile technology to increase small business growth.

  • 34 percent were using mobile- optimized websites
  • 44 percent were using social media as part of their advertising strategy
  • 73 percent were using a social media marketing strategy
  • 18 percent were using mobile-based POS systems

From another survey completed by SMB Group, a technology research firm, 46 percent of small business owners had a mobile-friendly website, while another 24 percent planned to do so within the next 12 months. From 2013 to 2014, the percentage of small businesses with a mobile-friendly website had increased to 15% percent.

In another part of the SMB survey, 55 percent of small business respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “Mobile solutions are now critical to our business.”

When small business owners were asked about mobile solutions, and its critical role in reaching specific goals, survey results revealed:

  • 62 percent found it significant to attracting new customers.
  • 67 percent found mobile technologies to be significant to growing their revenue.
  • 64 percent viewed mobile technologies as significant to maintaining and growing their profitability.

Overall, small business owners clearly see the advantages in meeting customer’s demand for mobile accessibility and convenience. But it’s not just about a mobile-friendly website.  Whether your business is a one-person operation or a family business, the benefits of mobile technology far exceeds the expectation that it’s the sleek and cool ‘thing’ to do at the moment. A mobile-optimized website with a social media strategy doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of how mobile technologies can keep a business profitable.

Mobile Technology and Running a Small Business

For small business owners and micro business owners, mobile technologies take the place of standalone software applications that cost big bucks to license and upgrade.  Most mobile apps are free or come with a small fee. So for a few dollars, instead of a few hundred, business owners can accomplish a lot more for a lot less. Expect a streamlined version of a former desktop software, easier implementation and accessibility requiring only a touch, tap or swipe of a fingertip.

When speaking of mobile technologies, don’t
assume it’s only mobile apps.  Mobile applications
are just a small part of mobile technologies.  Other mobile technologies that improve business capabilities beyond an attractive interface with heavy-hitting features include:

  • Smartphones—The fear of being disconnected for long periods of time suddenly ceased with the arrival of the Smartphone. Business people now had instant access to technical applications which were once only accessible by desktop and larger computers. Besides easy accessibility, other sophisticated features include improved search functions, navigation, voice commands, video chat, and GPS technology.Now, customers can find any business locale by doing a simple search in Google.
  • Cloud technology—When speaking of the Cloud, think of it as one centralized location on the Internet that houses your business data making it accessible at anytime anywhere. So many potential business owners have yet to unleash its full potential for growing and running a business.Many small business owners flock to it because it’s a cost-effective alternative with several benefits.
    • No longer tied to a physical footprint, micro businesses can save on the cost of rent or a lease.
    • Saving and accessing data files is easy for those people who are not technically savvy, but still want to grow a business.
    • The Cloud offers flexibility and scalability; as a business grows the Cloud can accommodate its growth and demand.
    • No need to invest in IT support because the data file storage system has automated upgrades and maintenance for convenience.

Some of the ways small businesses use the Cloud include an automated backup feature that makes data file recovery simple and worry-free.  It also provides the ability to create mobile offices on-the-go by allowing the accessing, sharing and syncing of data where ever you take your laptop or tablet.  From video to audio to large image files, the Cloud can ease the burden placed on your hard drive by freeing up space so laptops and tablets are more efficient.

  • Mobile POS /payment processing—Micro business owners or small business owners who sell services or goods at trade shows, special events or who have a retail location can benefit from a mobile point-of-sale (POS) or a mobile card reader to process payments.With just a tablet or smartphone, business owners can process payments without the expense of a full-blown, integrated system.It’s also more convenient to take on the road which is why POS/ payment processing has exploded over the last few years.Business owners should research which payment processor will work for their type of business.A few things to take into consideration include:
    • Cost—Get the interest and the cost per transaction for comparison.
    • Digital security—Verify additional security features for credit card holders that include support for VeriSign SSL certificate and CVV2 verification.
    • Customer support—Be sure that your contract specifies 24/7 support since payment processing is crucial to any business.
    • Online website—Businesses that have a physical location and want to expand by developing an ecommerce website need to consider site testing and API processing.
    • PayPal processing versus credit card processing—Find out what works best for your type of business.

Mobile technology has changed the way we do business today, and it comes with significant perks. It can simplify global collaboration, increase revenue generation and provide solid profitability.  If past history is a sign of what we can expect from technology in the future, NASE can help keep your business poised to handle the ebb and flow of its effects.  From web services to payment processing to legal document preparation, The National Association for the Self-Employed can provide the guidance and resources every business owner needs to keep pace with its customers in today’s marketplace.

 

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