3 Pros and 3 Cons You Need to Weigh About Specialization in Today’s Job Market

Unpacking the Pros and Cons of Job Specialization in Today’s Business World

Everyone reaches a point in their career where they get really good at a particular skill and they face a crossroads. Do I further hone this skill or do I continue to add new skills? Unfortunately, there isn’t a correct answer. It depends on a variety of other factors.

Understanding Specialization

If you want to understand the progression of the business world – and professional service industries, in particular – you have to get familiar with specialization.

By definition, work specialization is the act of splitting up processes of work into individual responsibilities that are each handled by the most qualified individuals available. Specialization often occurs within businesses and organizations, but individuals also benefit from concentrating on specific skills.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an increased emphasis on specialization within the entrepreneurial/freelance community and the reverberations of this shift are clearly seen on multiple levels.

“Ongoing specialization has been a decisive factor for the current state of our society,” explains Consultants 500, a platform designed to connect businesses with specialized services. “The effects of specialization is such a broad concept that it touches upon almost everything in our daily life. And our natural urge for specialization is also one of the main reasons why professional services exist. Society and businesses cannot know everything and therefore need specialists with practical experience to help and guide us.”

While specialization clearly plays a valuable role in the business world, the dilemma of whether or not to pursue it as the focus of your own career can be intense. It sounds great on the surface, but what are the costs and benefits when you analyze career specialization at the roots?

The Pros of Job Specialization

While it’s not for everyone, there’s a lot of value that can be extracted from focusing on a specific skill or role. Let’s begin this analysis by taking a look at some of the benefits specialization affords so that you can get a better idea of the “why” behind such a career move.

1. Defined Skillset

There’s something about having specific responsibilities that allow you to get really focused on a defined skillset. This is perhaps the biggest benefit of specialization. When you’re able to stop wasting your time on low-returning tasks and instead drill down to what really matters, suddenly you become a more valuable commodity.

Consider a fictional scenario for a moment. Let’s say your house is getting old and needs some substantial work done. Namely, you need some of the siding repaired and a new roof installed. The first thing you do is call a local handyman who you know is pretty good with installing siding. And when he arrives at your house and you mention that you’re also replacing your roof, he suddenly perks up and tells you that he can do the siding repair and the roof replacement for one convenient price.

The handyman leaves and the specialized roof installation company that you had previously called out for an estimate arrives. They want to charge you substantially more for the job. Despite this, most people would be more comfortable paying the premium for the specialized service. Why? Because specialized companies/professionals are deemed to be more skilled at what they do. In other words, a defined skillset is a bonus.

2. Increased Trust

Specialization comes with a greater sense of trust in the eyes of employers. If you’re looking for a job and are able to say that you specialize in X, Y, or Z, that’s better than saying you have some basic experience doing X, Y, and Z. An employer is going to have more trust that you know what you’re doing if you’ve exhibited a history of focusing your efforts on a singular skill or objective.

3. Better Job Satisfaction

From your perspective, you’ll find that specialization generally leads to higher job satisfaction. The reason for this is rooted in any number of factors. For a lot of people, it’s a result of doing something that you love. That’s because professionals generally focus on a skill that they enjoy. Other people are happier because they get immense satisfaction and pleasure from doing something that they’re good at. It makes them feel like they have something of value to offer their employer/customers/etc.

The Cons of Job Specialization

Job specialization isn’t for everyone, though. Some people aren’t cut out for it and perform much better when they’re able to utilize a variety of skills and take on a diverse set of responsibilities. Keeping that in mind, let’s review some of the major cons of specialization in today’s job market.

1. Potential for Boredom

The majority of American workers aren’t finding fulfillment in their jobs. In fact, a Gallup poll shows that 50.8 percent of people are “not engaged” at work, while another 17.2 percent are “actively disengaged.” Less than one-third of people report being fully engaged. There are plenty of reasons for this, but boredom plays a big role.

Unfortunately, specialization is often a major cause for boredom. If you end up becoming too focused on one thing, you don’t get enough diversity in your life and burn out fairly quickly. This doesn’t always happen, but it’s always a risk – especially for those who like change.

2. Risk of Obsolescence

The world changes and certain skills and occupations come and go in terms of utility and value. When you’re a generalist, this doesn’t really matter. You slowly evolve along with the marketplace. But when you’re a specialist, you can get left behind. Obsolescence is a very real threat.

Consider, for example, someone who specializes in Google AdWords strategy and optimization. What would happen if suddenly Google went under or decided to eliminate AdWords and focus on an entirely different form of advertising? Suddenly that person would be out of a job. That’s the risk of tying yourself to one specific skill.

3. Limited Skillset

You also have to consider the fact that not every customer/client/employer is looking for specialization. When cost is a factor, it’s usually makes more sense for them to hire someone who can offer a variety of services. So while you may view it as a focused skillset, others could see it as a limited skillset. Keep this in mind as you decide where you want your career to go.

The Future of Job Specialization

There will always be an opportunity for skilled professionals to specialize their services. The key to specialization is to make sure you’re balancing your approach. You can specialize yourself right out of a job if you aren’t careful.

But done the right way, specialization can lead to a bright career in today’s job market.

Man at Computer Photo via Shutterstock

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Kangol Tries to Find Niche Reversing Offshoring Trend

The Intangible Benefits of Doing Good
Since 1990, U.S. businesses have sent 85 percent of their manufacturing and other operations overseas as a way of cutting costs. But Kangol is doing just the opposite.

The popular hat brand actually recently brought its manufacturing operations back to the U.S. from China. This move hasn’t come without challenges — namely, the cost of labor. But it may also have some unexpected benefits for the brand as well.

At a time when the trend is sending jobs to other countries, the fact Kangol is doing the opposite could really set the brand apart. Consumers appreciate when businesses are willing to go the extra mile to create jobs and help the economy. And they might even be willing to pay a bit more to support those companies.

The Intangible Benefits of Doing Good

For small businesses, the lesson is that sometimes taking the more difficult route and working through challenges for a good cause can bring about intangible benefits in the long run. Maybe your business is considering switching to alternative energy or using sustainable resources in products. It might not be easy to get started. But if your customers support all the time and resources you dedicated to those initiatives — and show it by spending on products and services — it just might be worth it.

Image: AP/YouTube

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Pinterest Upgrades Promoted Video With Autoplay

Pinterest Adds New Pinterest Promoted Video Autoplay Feature

After introducing Promoted Video ad units last August, Pinterest is adding autoplay on those ads .

This new format of video plays as soon as you scroll across your feeds. They also autoplay in the platform’s search results.

New Pinterest Promoted Video Autoplay Feature

“So when someone knows exactly what they’re looking for on Pinterest, your video can be right there to show it to them. Your videos will also show up when they tap open a Pin and scroll down to the ‘More like this’ selection of related Pins”, writes Jenny Chiu, a member of the Partnerships at Pinterest team on the official Pinterest Business Blog.

The popular pinning and sharing platform announced last November that it was going to test auto-play promoted videos and now it is doing so with brands like Toyota, Universal Pictures, Adidas, L’Oreal and Visa. Pinterest plans to open the feature “in the coming months” to advertisers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. Advertisers will be able to buy the service through Pinterest’s self-serve ad-buying tool or advertising API or directly from the company’s sales team.

Since the video ads play automatically and are therefore more likely to get views, they will likely also cost less for advertisers. The social network will also charge advertisers based on the number of impressions their ads receive. So if a user quickly swipes past an ad within a second of it playing, the advertiser still has to pay.

Pinterest is obviously following in the footsteps of rivals like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and if all goes as planned, the company might soon be a major challenger in the market.

Finally, Pinterest announced Moat, a service providing real-time attention analytics, will provide data on viewability, or how much of the videos were in view while Nielsen Mobile Digital Ad Ratings will measure audience reach of campaigns using Promoted Video with auto-play.

“See how much people saw — thanks to our partnership with Moat, you’ll soon be able to find out how long people played your video, and how much of it was on screen (like “10 seconds, 100 percent in view”), Chiu added.

Image: Pinterest

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6 Killer Ways to Use Automated Marketing for Your Small Business

6 Killer Ways to Use Automated Marketing for Your Small Business

If you believe that automated marketing and email marketing automation are the same thing, you’re not alone. However, as you can see from the chart below, the use of marketing automation extends beyond email. Pulled from the pages of the Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report, this chart reveals the top six ways marketing automation is being used today:

6 Killer Ways to Use Automated Marketing for Your Small Business

Source: Email Marketing & Marketing Automation Excellence 2017 Report

Automated Marketing Techniques to Consider

Let’s take a closer look at each of these automated marketing techniques and how you might use them to promote your small business.

Email Automation

While automated marketing does extend beyond electronic mail, email marketing is by far the most popular use of marketing automation and the top digital marketing tactic used today. Much of this is due to the benefits of email marketing including more leads, higher conversions, and lower marketing costs.

Click here to discover eight things you can do with automated email marketing.

Basic Profile Based Targeting

Profiles, for both your leads and customers, are the basis of the next four automated marketing techniques.

Targeting is the practice of focusing your marketing efforts on a specific group of people called a target market. Thanks to automated marketing tools, targeting, down to the individual level, is easier than ever, even across multiple channels such as email.

The power under the hood here is the profile. In recent years, marketing automation tools have gained the ability to learn a lot about your leads and customers from their behavior on channels including:

  • Your website: the products they browse, put in their carts, and buy, the content they read, and where they come from (e.g. a specific social media platform); and
  • Your emails: the emails they open and the links within those emails they click.

Based on these data points, you can hone your marketing efforts to a fine point by sending offers for the products and services in which they’ve implicitly expressed interest. In addition, you can use these profiles to target your customers using one of the four techniques below.

Personalization Using Dynamic Content

Whether on your website or via email, personalizing the experience is an effective way to market your products and services.

The best example of website personalization is Amazon’s recommendations. For each customer, they select the both genre and book recommendations based on your past purchase and browsing behavior. In the case of the image below, the customer buys a lot of science fiction and fantasy book and therefore, that’s what’s recommended to them for their next purchase:

6 Killer Ways to Use Automated Marketing for Your Small Business

When it comes to email marketing, the numbers show that segmenting your email list, sending different emails to different recipients based on their profile, is very effective.

Broadcast Timing Based on Location, Sign-Up Time, or Other Criteria

Timing is everything and then same is true for both email marketing and social media. If you don’t time your marketing messages correctly, there’s a good chance your email or social update will end up lost down in an inbox or social media stream respectively.

How do you know when to market? By using a customer’s profile which should contain all the clues you need including the time(s) they:

  • Signed-up for your email marketing list;
  • Most often visit your site and make purchases;
  • Open your emails and click on the links inside.

In addition, make sure to account for a customer’s time zone when configuring your automated marketing. For example, if you want to hit folks with an email first thing in the morning, use time zone targeting to stagger the email broadcast.

Advanced Segmentation

Segmenting your marketing efforts, especially your email marketing lists, is an important step to take when growing your small business. While there are a number of common segments to consider, you can break up and target your efforts in many different ways including:

  • Age;
  • Seniority;
  • Industry;
  • Content topic or format; and
  • Call-to-action clicks.

Every point of data you gather in a customer’s profile can be used to create an email segment. And use them you should – the more specific the segment, the more effective it will be.

Lead Scoring

Scoring your leads is an advanced form of segmentation, both for email marketing and beyond, that enables you to target the leads who are most likely to buy your products and services.

Many automated marketing systems include this feature which creates a lead score based on certain behaviors such as:

  • Emails opened;
  • Email links clicked;
  • Site visited;
  • Content viewed; and
  • Products viewed, added to cart, and purchased.

Each time a behavior occurs, it demonstrates the engagement of the lead and, the lead’s score goes up.

6 Killer Ways to Use Automated Marketing for Your Small Business

From on-site targeting to personalization, and lead scoring, you can use automation to more effectively market your products and services to both leads and existing customers. This automation extends well beyond email marketing and is worth considering as your build your marketing arsenal.

Marketing Automation Photo via Shutterstock

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WordPress Releases “Candidate” for Version 4.8, Welcomes Last Minute Input

WordPress 4.8 Release Candidate Ready for Last Minute Input

The WordPress.org development team has announced plans to release WordPress version 4.8 early next month. Version 4.8 is a candidate, meaning the development team thinks it is good but they are looking for people to go through it one last time and look for bugs.

WordPress 4.8 Release Candidate

The release candidate for WordPress 4.8 brings in three major enhancements:

  • An improved visual editor experience, with a new TinyMCE that allows you to navigate more intuitively in and out of inline elements like links,
  • A revamp of the dashboard news widget to bring in nearby and upcoming events including meetups and WordCamps,
  • Several new media widgets covering images, audio, and video, and an enhancement to the text widget to support visual editing.

“Our goals are to make editing posts with links more intuitive, make widgets easier for new users and more convenient for existing ones, and get many more people aware of and attending our community events,” wrote Matt Mullenweg, developer and co-founder of WordPress, in a post announcing the release on the WordPress.org blog.

Test WordPress 4.8 Release Candidate

If you’d like to test WordPress 4.8, Mullenweg says you should try the WordPress Beta Tester plugin (you’ll want “bleeding edge nightlies”). Or you can download the beta here (zip). To report a bug you suspect you’ve found, post to the Alpha/Beta area in the support forums.

WordPress is the most popular site builder for small businesses, powering 28.1 percent of all websites as per the latest Web Technology Surveys data. This represents a content management system market share of 59.1 percent. It is updates to its core such as this that enhance WordPress and offer small businesses a flexible, open source platform that can grow as their needs do.

Release date for WordPress 4.8 candidate is planned for June 1, and the final 4.8 release on June 8. That gives small business WordPress site owners and developers a small window to test for compatibility issues.

It should be noted, however, that release candidates and beta releases are under active development and may contain bugs. It is therefore unwise to upgrade your production site before the final release.

WordPress Photo via Shutterstock

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How to Use TrueView for Shopping to Put Video Ads on YouTube

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube

TrueView is a Google AdWords feature designed to make video advertising simple and effective.

Specifically, the too, helps you place video ads on YouTube, the second largest search engine after Google, whose parent company owns both platforms. The three way marketing connection between YouTube and your business comes together with TrueView for Shopping.

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube

With these five steps you will be able create your TrueView video ads and the necessary accounts to start advertising.

Step 1: Establish a Google AdWords Account

If your business is already advertising on Google via your AdWords account, you are one step ahead. If not, your first step will be to create an account with AdWords.

Step 2: Sign in to your AdWords Account

Once you are on your AdWords homepage, you click on the “Campaigns” tab on the top row. Then click the “ + Campaign” button, on its drop down menu and click “Video.”

 

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Sign in to your AdWords account

When you click “Video” it will take you to your “Create campaign” page to add in your video campaign details.

Step 3: Enter Video Campaign Details

 How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Enter Video Campaign Details

This is the page where you will add all the details associated with your ad. Options include:

  • Campaign name
  • Campaign Type
  • Daily Budget
  • Networks to target
  • Locations to target
  • Languages

 After you enter the details, click “Save and continue” so you can create your Ad Group.

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Enter Video Campaign Details

Step 4: Create an Ad Group

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create an Ad Group

You should now be on the “Create an ad group and ad” section.

On this page, you will fill in the ad group name and video ad details.

The video ad details consist of two options:

  • Video ad type
  • Video ad format

You can choose one of the two video ad types:

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create an Ad Group

For video ad formats you have two options:

 

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create an Ad Group

 

  • In-Stream — ad plays before, during or after viewers chosen video.
  • In-Display — ad appears on the right side of YouTube pages along with recommendations and search results.

Once you choose your option, a new section of details will appear to create your ad.

Step 5: Create Your Ad

In this section, you will fill out the information that creates your ad. You will also see a preview of your ad to show you the final version before moving forward.

In order to show your video as a TrueView advertisement, it must be hosted on YouTube. That means you will need to create a YouTube channel.

Once you create your video and upload it onto your channel, you will have a video URL. It’s that URL that you will add in the video details.

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create Your Ad

The greatest benefit of TrueView videos is that you are only charged when your audience interacts with your ad.

The “Bidding” section is where you dictate how much you are willing to pay for that interaction. Interactions are defined as:

  • Viewing 30 seconds of your ad,
  • Viewing your entire ad if it is less than 30 seconds,
  • Clicking on any of your Calls to Action (CTA’s) or associated banners.

Once you have finalized the bidding details, you can click “Save ad group.”

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create your Ad

The final screen will allow you to link your YouTube channel to this particular AdWords account if you haven’t already.

Click “Finish” and you are done.

How to Use TrueView Video Ads on YouTube - Create your Ad

TrueView is now at work targeting your audience with your video.

Images: Google

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The Career-Expanding Discovery Many Profitable Writers Have Made

"This skill enables your professional life as a well-paid writer." – Stefanie Flaxman

The struggle when I started my freelance writing service business looked like this:

  • I was fascinated with crafting words that accurately conveyed a message.
  • I hadn’t extensively studied journalism or entertainment writing because those weren’t career paths I wanted to pursue.
  • I knew that offering basic content writing services for businesses — filling up pages with words — would not pay high rates.

And I completely understood why filling up pages with words was not valued. Nothing is worse than paying for a service that doesn’t produce results.

When writers charge low fees for content writing that doesn’t persuade prospects to take action, two dangerous things happen:

  1. It’s difficult to support yourself through your writing services.
  2. Your clients don’t make new sales.

If a client thinks that the money they paid you was a waste because they didn’t make it back in sales, they’ll view you as interchangeable with any other writer — and there’s probably someone else who charges even less than you for a comparable lack of results.

This situation perpetuates the cycle of writers thinking that making a living off of their craft is unrealistic and businesses devaluing writers because they aren’t familiar with the power of the right words.

When clients see what the right words can do, though, everything changes.

Smart businesses value copywriting

To end the disappointing cycle, you need to offer the proper balance of content marketing and copywriting.

As Jerod wrote yesterday:

“Copy’s for closers.”

Once I learned about copywriting, my writing business benefitted in two main ways:

  1. I was able to write copy that persuaded people to hire me.
  2. I had a skill set that justified competitive rates and delivered a return on investment for clients.

If the work you do for a client makes them a profit that exceeds the cost of paying you, everyone wins. You get paid what you’re worth and they are happy to pay high rates for your services.

Copyblogger’s Certification program teaches you how to be the kind of writer that businesses value.

If you’re interested in joining our list of Certified Content Marketers who we recommend to businesses, make sure to add your email address at the end of this post. You’ll be the first to know when the program reopens to new students.

3 resources to help you take control of your writing career

If you’re anything like I was, you’re looking for enjoyable, artistic writing work, but you’re also disciplined and practical.

So, you’re asking yourself questions like:

  • What types of new clients would I like to retain in the next year?
  • Am I open to learning new skills to attract those types of clients?
  • How can I prioritize the different steps I need to take?

You may even be thinking about possibilities down the road like becoming a different type of entrepreneur or joining a larger organization. (I joined the Copyblogger team after running my freelance business for six years.)

Here are three resources that will help you bridge the gap between the writing career you have now and the one you want in the near future.

7 Real-World Ways to Think Like an Artist for Better Content Marketing

"We make good sentences by starting with awful sentences." – Sonia Simone

Somewhere along the line, we got the idea that marketing was another word for lies. Don’t buy it.

Smart marketers don’t accept the excuse of “It’s just marketing” to hide the truth or produce crummy work that benefits no one.

Wise marketers embrace art as integral to what they do, as much as strategy and execution are.

5 Writing Techniques that Stir Your Audience to Action

"You’ve got to stir something in them before they’ll do something." – Brian Clark

Emotion moves us to act.

In fact, the Latin root for the word emotion means “to move,” because emotions motivate what we do. We don’t necessarily want to make them seethe with anger or burst into tears, though.

The goal is not necessarily to get someone to feel, but rather to want — and to act on that want.

How to Run a Sustainable Writing Business (Where the Backbone of Success Is Simply … You)

"Knowing the business of writing and content marketing gives you an advantage over other (directionless) writers." – Stefanie Flaxman

The success of a writing business depends on so much more than your ability to write.

It’s often difficult to balance writing for your existing clients and attracting new clients. Consequently, your writing income may vary at different times throughout the year and the work you love to do never quite feels sustainable.

Whether you’re just starting your writing business, or you’ve been building it for a while and are hoping to make it more financially secure, these 15 tips support a healthy, productive solopreneur venture.

Writers: Looking for even more proven ways to position yourself for greater success?

Our Certified Content Marketer training is a powerful tool that helps you learn new writing strategies and position your business for greater success.

We’ll be reopening the program to new students very shortly — add your email address below to get all the details. Registration will be open for a limited time, so procrastination is not advised. :)


Find out when our Certified Content Marketer training program reopens:



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Spotlight: AliDropship Makes Life Easier for eCommerce Businesses

Spotlight: AliExpress Dropshipping Service AliDropship Makes Life Easier for Ecommerce Businesses

Starting an eCommerce business can be a lot easier with the help of a drop shipping company like AliDropship.

You can read more about this small business and the services it provides to eCommerce businesses in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.

What the Business Does

Offers services for drop shipping businesses.

Yaroslav Nevsky, CEO of AliDropship told Small Business Trends, “We offer all-in-one solution for AliExpress drop shipping business, including a handy WordPress plugin with automation tools, custom store development service and free lifelong personal support. With this solution anyone can easily create a professional web store and start running a drop shipping business right away.

If you are not familiar with drop shipping, it’s an eCommerce model where store owners don’t need to buy products in advance. You can just add a necessary product to your site and when someone purchases it, you buy it from your supplier who ships this item directly to your customer.”

Business Niche

Understanding the needs of clients.

Nevsky says, “We don’t only create tools, we are successful drop shippers ourselves and have a bunch of our own web stores. We always share skills and experience we’ve gained and help entrepreneurs worldwide to start and grow their drop shipping businesses.”

How the Business Got Started

Because of their own drop shipping needs.

Nevsky explains, “When I launched my drop shipping business, I could not find the right technical solution. I needed something special for my own needs. And there was nothing! That is why my team and I made this decision. We began developing our own drop shipping plugin for building web stores on WordPress. One day I decided to share my successful experience on popular eCommerce forums and saw a great interest and demand in such a solution. As a result, our AliDropship plugin was presented and became available for everyone.”

Biggest Win

Clients’ success stories.

Nevsky says, “Each story told by a happy client who had succeeded with our solution I consider as a big “win” of my business. For instance, one customer reported that he was able to pay his rent with the profit from drop shipping, another one said that he decided to quit his hated regular job, because he started making much more money with drop shipping business. And there are many other examples that give me and my team a great motivation to continue our work and help novice entrepreneurs.”

Lesson Learned

Focus on UX first.

Nevsky explains, “While working on the plugin development, I was running threads on popular eCommerce forums sharing my experience and collecting ideas from people in order to create a powerful but simple tool. However, I was occupied by many tasks at once trying to add all recommended features to the product as quickly as possible. As a result, the plugin turned out to be a bit complicated at first and later I had to spend much time on improving its interface. So if i could do something over again, I would focus more on UX at the initial step to save more time and efforts in the future.”

How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000

Expanding the team of developers.

Nevsky says, “In spite of the fact that our solution is already used by thousands of people worldwide, we are still on a developing stage and have tons of ideas we want to implement in the nearest future. Investing in my development team is what I would do with an additional $100,000, because the code itself is our main treasure. Our senior developer usually says: ‘Coding everyday keeps bugs away!’”

Spotlight: AliExpress Dropshipping Service AliDropship Makes Life Easier for Ecommerce Businesses

Team Tradition

Mascots in every office.

Nevsky says, “They are big fluffy toys: a Shark, a Batman sign, and a whole squad of Rabbids and Angry Birds — all that traditional nerd stuff, you know.”

Favorite Quote

“Take actions, always improve and enjoy the ride, otherwise, what’s the point?”

Nevsky says, “This quote was born from my own experience.”

* * * * *

Find out more about the Small Biz Spotlight program

Images: AliDropship; Top Image: Yaroslav Nevsky – CEO, Co-Founder, Ilya Dolgikh – COO, Co-Founder, Julia Fisunova – Production Manager, Rasul Ayapergenov – Project Manager, Tanya Krupina – Customer Support Manager, Elena Baranova – Project Manager, Olga Levitskaya – Project Manager

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House Won’t Undo Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform, Retailers Rejoice

House Won’t Undo Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform, Retailers Rejoice

Republican leaders in the House of Representatives have abandoned a plan to repeal debit card swipe fee reform passed during the Obama administration. Retailers say the swipe fee reform has saved them and their customers more than $40 billion, and brought badly needed competition to the payments market.

U.S. Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform

The debit card swipe fee reform came into effect in October 2011 after Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sponsored an amendment of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Financial Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The debit reform imposed caps on the swipe fees set by the major card networks for debit card transactions, and also required retailers be given at least two choices of networks for debit transaction routing.

Repeal of the swipe fee reform would have eliminated the cap on debit card swipe fees, handing a major victory to bank lobbyists who spent months trying to kill the reform. Banks claim that the debit card swipe fee reform does not allow them to recoup their own card transaction-related costs.

“This is a major victory for the consumers who have saved billions of dollars under swipe fee reform and for the communities where retailers have used swipe savings to improve customer service, create jobs and boost the local economy,” said Mallory Duncan, National Restaurant Association’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel, in a press release expressing joy with the move to preserve the reform.

“Repeal of reform would have allowed banks to return to the uncompetitive market that allowed them to set these fees as high as they liked. The progress that was made toward competition would have been lost, and consumers would have seen nothing but higher prices,” Duncan noted.

End of Fight over Debit Card Fees

The decision in the House not to repeal debit card swipe fee reform seems to point to the end of the long fight with banks over debit fees. According to a report by Politico, Senate Republican leaders have shown no appetite for taking up the issue again as they craft their own bank deregulation bills.

Small retail businesses such as restaurants, boutiques and grocers can now rest a bit more easily knowing that the previous practice of price-fixing debit card swipe fees, where virtually all banks charged retailers the same to process transactions, isn’t coming back.

“This is truly a victory for Main Street merchants over Wall Street banks and should send a strong message that debit reforms are here to stay,” the National Grocers Association said in a statement.

Debit Card Swipe Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “House Won’t Undo Debit Card Swipe Fee Reform, Retailers Rejoice” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Apply These 5 Secret Techniques to Catch Up on Retirement Savings

5 Ways to Catch Up on Retirement Savings

Small business owners bear the burden of saving for their retirement and shouldn’t count on the sale of their companies to provide the financial security they seek. Many owners often plow extra cash back in the business rather than socking it away in a tax-advantaged plan. The good news: growing older entitles you to make “catch-up contributions” designed to increase savings as retirement approaches.

How to Catch Up on Retirement Savings

1. Catch-up Contributions to 401(k) Plans

The maximum salary reduction contribution to a 401(k) plan in 2017 is $18,000. However, starting in the year in which you attain age 50, you can increase the contribution by $6,000, for a total contribution of $24,000. The $6,000 catch up contribution is intended to boost retirement savings for those nearing retirement. However, the additional contributions can be made without regard to prior contributions, so the term is really a misnomer. Both the basic and catch-up contribution amounts may be adjusted annually for inflation. Find more information in IRS Publication 560.

 2. Catch-up Contributions to SIMPLE IRAs

If your company has a SIMPLE IRA, the basic contribution amount for 2017 is $12,500. However, starting in the year in which you attain age 50, you can increase the contribution by $3,000, for a total contribution of $15,500. As in the case of 401(k) plans, both the basic and catch-up contribution amounts for SIMPLE IRAs may be adjusted annually for inflation. Find more information in IRS Publication 560.

3. Catch-up Contributions to IRAs

Whether or not you have a qualified retirement plan, you can increase retirement savings through IRAs and Roth IRAs. If you are eligible to make contributions — there are income limits for Roth IRAs and income limits for traditional IRAs for those who are participants in qualified retirement plans — you can increase your annual contributions. The basic contribution to a traditional or Roth IRA for 2017 is $5,500. However, starting in the year in which you attain age 50, you can increase the contribution by $1,000, for a total contribution of $6,500. The basic contribution limit may be increased annually; the catch-up contribution amount is fixed by law. Find more in IRS Publication 590-A.

4. Catch-up Contributions to HSAs

If you have a high deductible health plan (HDHP), you can contribute to a health savings account (HSA) on a tax-deductible basis. The annual contribution limit depends on whether you have self-only coverage or family coverage. For 2017, the contribution limit is $3,400 for self-only coverage and $6,750 for family coverage. However, starting in the year in which you attain age 55, you can increase your contribution by $1,000 (each spouse must have his/her own HSA to make a catch up contribution).

Why is this healthcare-related savings program included in a retirement savings blog? The reason: Funds in HSAs are not subject to any required withdrawals and aren’t forfeited if not used for medical care (there’s no use-it-or-lose-it feature for HSAs). And, in fact, there’s an important retirement savings aspect. Funds withdrawn to pay for qualified medical expenses are tax free but funds can be withdrawn for other purposes. When funds are used for other purposes, they’re taxable and subject to a 20 percent penalty. The penalty, however, does not apply for distributions after age 65. In other words, if you contribute to an HSA and don’t use the money for healthcare, you can use it penalty free to supplement retirement income. Find more information in IRS Publication 969.

Note: The American Health Care Act that is currently under consideration in Congress would:

  • Increase the basic contribution limit to the amount of the out-of-pocket costs for a high-deductible health plan (e.g., $6,650 for self-only coverage and $13,300 for family coverage in 2018)
  • Cut the penalty to 10 percent
  • Allow catch up contributions for each spouse to one HSA
  • Treat over-the-counter medications as qualified expenses (no doctor’s prescription needed).

5. Delay Social Security Benefits

You can begin to collect Social Security benefits at age 62, but the benefits will be reduced for life. You can collect benefits without reduction at full retirement age, which is age 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. However, you can increase your monthly benefits by delaying benefits beyond full retirement age. More specifically, benefits are increased by 8 percent per year. Thus, a person with a full retirement age of 66 who delays benefits until age 70 would see benefits increased by 132 percent. There is no additional increase for delaying benefits past age 70. Use a calculator from the Social Security Administration to determine the effect of delayed retirement on your benefits.

Conclusion

If you’ve reached middle age and aren’t confident about the extent of your retirement savings, look into catch-up opportunities. Additional savings for the years nearing retirement can translate into greater financial security in retirement years.

Retirement Photo via Shutterstock

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