12
Mar

25 Great Jobs for People Who Love to Travel

25 Great Jobs for People Who Love to Travel

Saige Driver

Saige Driver

Updated Mar 10, 2022

Do you want to get paid to see the world? Here are 25 career options for travel lovers.

  • Several careers allow you the freedom to travel; we provide 25 paths to explore.
  • Travel jobs include diverse offerings in industries such as entertainment, sports and construction.
  • Traveling for work is perfect for people who thrive on visiting new locations, enjoy networking and (in some cases) are seeking remote positions.
  • This article is for professionals who are looking for travel-friendly career options.

Best jobs for travel lovers

Working eight hours every day behind a computer screen isn’t for everyone. Some people love to travel and want to use that passion to make a living.

If you’re constantly planning your next vacation, consider finding a career that fits your lifestyle. Instead of spending all your PTO and hard-earned money traveling once or twice a year, you could get paid while seeing the world. Here are 25 potential career paths to consider.

Disclaimer: The following items provide ideas and inspiration for potential career paths. These are not open job listings, and Business News Daily is not hiring or recruiting for these positions. We advise conducting your own research before pursuing any of these occupations.

1. Athletic recruiter

Colleges and professional sports organizations employ athletic recruiters to travel to schools and sporting events across the country to scout new talent. Of course, you’ll need to know the game inside and out, and the specific skills an athlete would require for certain team positions. If you’re an avid sports fan, though, this part of the job could be easy for you.

2. Au pair

Do you work well with children and know a second language? If so, becoming an au pair might be a good option for you. Au pairs live with a host family in a foreign country and provide child care services, such as babysitting and schoolwork assistance. 

You’ll receive a small salary on top of your room and board, but you also get to immerse yourself in another culture as an extended member of the family. To learn more about becoming an au pair, visit InterExchange.

3. Construction manager

Construction managers not only make good money, but they also get to travel. Sometimes, they relocate to different areas and stay for several months to oversee a project. 

Even if you don’t have the qualifications to be a project manager, construction companies are worth checking out – many hire support staff to relocate too.

4. Consultant

Companies hire consultants from a variety of fields to fix problems. Because their knowledge is so specialized, a consultant’s client base is often spread over the country – or even around the world. 

Additionally, maintaining a positive relationship with clients requires regular on-site visits, making it a perfect job for people who love travel.

5. Cruise line worker

Working on a cruise ship is a travel lover’s dream gig. You make a living seeing the world while receiving free food and accommodations. 

Whether you’re a restaurant server, a shop clerk or a performer in the cruise’s entertainment lineup, there are opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds to work on one of these floating resorts. Websites like Job-Applications.com list employment openings with some top-rated companies when searching “cruise ship jobs.”

6. Engineer

For many industries, jobs are going remote and engineering is following suit. Consequently, you can work from virtually anywhere with a computer science or engineering degree.

Travel the world developing software or flexing your technical graphic design skills. There are currently over 12,000 remote engineering jobs available through LinkedIn alone.

7. ESL teacher

English as a second language (ESL) teachers are in high demand both at home and abroad. When you take a job as an ESL teacher in a foreign country, you’ll get to help students understand your native language while immersing yourself in that country’s culture. 

You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree, ESL training and a special license to get hired. ESLteacherEDU.org offers a step-by-step guide to becoming an ESL teacher.

8. Event coordinator

Event coordinators might work on local events such as parties and weddings, but orchestrating large-scale events like festivals and trade shows could be the golden ticket for travel lovers. 

In this position you would meet with potential vendors from across the country, then travel to the event location to oversee everything from setup to breakdown. A search for “trade show coordinator” on LinkedIn returns more than 20,000 jobs in various cities.

9. Flight attendant

It may be the most obvious travel-related job, but it’s also one of the most accessible. You don’t need a specialized degree to become a flight attendant, and most major airlines only require prior customer service experience and certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). 

The hours are frequently erratic and the work isn’t always easy, but you’ll get a glimpse of hundreds of cities across the globe during this career. A bonus perk? Free or discounted flights for you and your family.

10. Foreign Service worker

If you want to combine your love of travel with your love of your country, a career as a Foreign Service officer or specialist could be the right gig for you. The best-known Foreign Service job is a U.S. diplomat, but there are plenty of other career tracks that allow you to meet and interact with foreign governments. 

The U.S. Department of State has details about these jobs listed on its website. With more than 250 embassies around the world, there are plenty of travel opportunities.

11. International aid worker

If you want to travel for a living while making a real difference in people’s lives, consider working for an international aid organization like USAID. 

While working for USAID, you can visit struggling countries and help residents recover from dire situations, such as natural disasters and famine. You’ll need a background in a related field – such as health, agriculture or education – and a strong interest in social work.

12. International tour guide

Imagine spending your days guiding fellow travel lovers through a bustling European metropolis, or perhaps a small village is more your style. Wherever you want to go, popular travel destinations always need friendly, knowledgeable guides to lead tourists through city sights and cultural excursions. 

This International Living article offers tips and inside knowledge for aspiring international tour guides.

13. Massage therapist

If you want to visit popular tourist destinations, you should consider gaining skills in massage therapy. You can work for hotel chains, spas, cruise lines or become self-employed.

Licensed massage therapists are always welcomed to soothe and de-stress travelers and locals alike. Although you may start at rookie rates, you can consistently raise them as your clientele and skills grow. Plus, massage therapists generally have a flexible schedule to work full or part time.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) can help you find training programs, business tools and even discounts on supplies.

14. Peace Corps volunteer

As the title “volunteer” might indicate, you won’t exactly be making six figures working with the Peace Corps. But if you don’t mind living on a budget, you can become part of a worthwhile organization that lets you travel the world and make a difference in others’ lives at the same time. 

Assignments typically last two years and involve advancing education, healthcare, and economic and agricultural development in a community abroad. The Peace Corps also provides housing and health benefits, not to mention an excellent resume talking point.

15. Photographer

If you’re skilled with a camera, consider becoming a travel photographer. While news organizations such as the Associated Press need staff photographers, you can also make a living by freelancing. 

Travel photographers are needed at a variety of locations, including tourist attractions, local events and high-end resorts. Begin your journey by following the steps at Worldpackers or taking a Skillshare course.

16. Retail buyer

For the fashionista with wanderlust, a career in retail purchasing might be the ultimate dream job. In addition to monitoring in-store inventory, retail buyers attend vendor meetings, trade shows and conferences across the country – or even the globe, depending on where the company sources its products. The employee in this position identifies industry and consumer trends, and decides what products the company should sell.

Of course, it’s not just clothing stores that hire purchasing agents; most large retail companies employ buyers to help them select and negotiate merchandise deals across various categories.

17. Scuba diving instructor

There is a whole other world beneath the ocean’s surface, and you can live it by traveling and teaching the essentials of diving. 

Scuba instructors have the opportunity to see parts of the globe that are often hidden. A great way to get started is with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI), which offers training courses and diving guides.

18. Ski instructor 

If you love snow sports and traveling, consider combining your passions to become a ski instructor. There are openings at ski resorts worldwide, including in the United States, France, Switzerland and Canada. 

You can look for other seasonal work when the ski season ends; many places stay open throughout the warmer weather for outdoor activities and still need staff. Begin your search for ski instructor jobs at the Season Workers website.

19. Stagehand/roadie

Theater productions and musicians go on tour all the time – and they take busloads of roadies and stagehands with them. While theaters and venues may have their own stagehands, some still travel with each act. 

You can begin your search for stagehand jobs on the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) website by finding your local union.

20. Translator

Are you fluent in multiple languages? If so, you could become a translator and travel the world, helping people communicate. Translators must speak at least two languages. 

According to Day Translations, other useful expertise includes computer and business skills. While becoming a translator requires education, the job can offer the chance to visit many countries. 

The countries with the most language service providers (LSPs) include the United States, Great Britain, France, China, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Sweden and the Czech Republic.

Key TakeawayFYI: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the need for translators is expected to increase by 24% between 2020 and 2030.

21. Travel agent

Some people may think that the professional travel agent is a dead career in the age of Google searches and travel price comparison websites. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a slow growth rate in this occupation over the next decade, it’s still a rewarding job for anyone who loves to travel. 

Travel agents often visit popular destinations to get firsthand experience of the resorts and restaurants they recommend to offer honest, helpful advice to clientele. Whether your clients are business or leisure travelers, they’ll thank you for your insider insight into local sights and activities.

Plus, travel agents can increase their income by starting a YouTube channel, writing a blog, and building relationships with travel products and related brands.

TipTip: The five highest-paying travel agent jobs are tour consultant, travel sales consultant, vacation sales advisor, corporate travel agent and reservation clerk, according to ZipRecruiter.

22. Traveling nurse

Traveling nurses move around the country from hospital to hospital, bouncing from one temporary position to the next. You’ll be sent to areas where nurses are needed most, and your housing, travel expenses and benefits are often covered. 

As with any nursing position, you’ll need credentials from a nursing program to become a registered nurse. Visit TravelNursing.org for more information.

23. Travel writer

It might not be the easiest way to make a living, but if you’ve got a knack for writing you can share your knowledge about popular travel destinations. Though full-time travel writing positions exist, most of the work you would get is freelance, as publications typically want individuals who can submit firsthand accounts of the location they’re writing about. You can search for and bid on freelance travel writing assignments on sites like Freelancer.com and Upwork.

You can also supplement your income by starting a YouTube channel or social media account like Instagram. Providing your travel-hungry fans with visuals can help you connect with your audience, and even build an email list to promote travel services or other products.

24. Truck driver

Long-haul trucking is an ideal job for those who prefer the open road to an office cubicle. Because of the extended time you’ll spend driving solo, it’s also a great career option for introverts. 

You’ll need to obtain a commercial driver’s license to start working in this field, but once you have it, you’ll be able to see the country as you deliver shipments from one destination to the next.

25. Virtual assistant

As many companies move their business online and employ remote workers, virtual assistants are in high demand. 

Becoming a virtual assistant is enticing because the job can offer a flexible schedule in various niche markets. Workers might even have multiple clients, which will increase spontaneity – and income – in their lives.

Did you know? Hiring a virtual assistant can decrease a company’s costs by 78%, because the position only requires the company to provide an hourly rate, not office space, equipment, or benefits. Plus, if you have work experience, you may not need a college degree to snag a VA career.

Virtual assistants can do an assortment of activities, including proofreading articles, providing content or social media strategy, and offering customer support. Some virtual assistants keep their clients organized by making appointments or travel arrangements, and even doing personal shopping.

Julie Thompson contributed to the writing and research in this article.

12
Mar

Blue Ocean Strategy: Creating Your Own Market

Blue Ocean Strategy: Creating Your Own Market

Max Freedman

Max Freedman

Updated Mar 11, 2022

Instead of viciously competing with other companies, find a way to work in a marketplace free of competitors.

  • The blue ocean strategy encourages tweaking your products to push them into their own market with low prices and no competition.
  • Many household-name businesses have reached their current stature through blue ocean strategies, but the approach can be risky.
  • To implement a blue ocean strategy, grow your current team and identify pain points that only your business addresses. 
  • This article is for business owners interested in creating their own market rather than competing.

Let’s say the products and services you offer aren’t enabling you to meet your revenue goals. What if you could figure out how to tweak your products and services to make them an industry of their own? 

This is precisely what the blue ocean strategy suggests, though household-name brands used this approach long before a 2004 book gave it a name. We’ll explore how creating your own market has helped many businesses grow and share how your business can also benefit. 

What is the blue ocean strategy?

The blue ocean strategy is about helping your company gain uncontested market space separate from other, similar businesses. These new spaces are described as “blue oceans” – a term meant to contrast with the struggle for survival in bloody “red oceans” swarming with vicious competition. 

The blue ocean strategy represents the simultaneous pursuit of high product differentiation and low cost, making the competition irrelevant. 

The name “blue ocean strategy” comes from the book Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant. Professor W. Chan Kim, who co-authored the book with Renee Mauborgne, explained the concept in a Forbes article: “Our study shows that blue ocean strategy is particularly needed when supply exceeds demand in a market. This situation is applying to more and more industries today and will be even more prevalent in the future.”

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: The blue ocean strategy encourages you to innovate and develop new, affordable products that make competition irrelevant.

Pros and cons of the blue ocean strategy

The blue ocean strategy might be a boon for your business, or it might unintentionally hamper your operations. Look over the blue ocean pros and cons to decide if the strategy is right for you.

Pros of the blue ocean strategy

These are some of the benefits of the blue ocean strategy:

  • You avoid saturated markets. Your small business must compete with mega-corporations and other major players in your field. But if you adopt the blue ocean strategy, your product won’t be quite like anything else while still addressing customer needs at affordable prices. You’ll end up with no competition from the powerful big names in your field.
  • It introduces growth potential. Going the blue ocean route means balancing product or service innovation with cost and utility, creating new value for your customers. As more customers buy what you sell, word-of-mouth advertising can increase demand.
  • You’ll meet customers on their level. Value and affordability are equally important in blue ocean thinking. You’ll always introduce your innovations at price points your target customer can accommodate. This approach lowers your audience’s barriers to buying what you sell.

Cons of the blue ocean strategy

These are some downsides of the blue ocean strategy: 

  • It may be too ambitious. The logic behind the blue ocean strategy implies that any business can come up with an affordable, competition-free product or service. In reality, it’s not always easy to be this innovative. Even if you do have a great idea, real-world constraints could get in the way of making it a reality.
  • It may be too risky. Perhaps you have found a way to make a completely unique product without setting an absurd price. Maybe you’ve come to this crossroads because people in your small business niche would buy from your business. But what if these people are the only ones interested in your offerings? If that’s the case, the blue ocean approach could needlessly constrain you.
  • It may be impermanent. Innovations yield imitators, which means a blue ocean could easily become a red ocean with time. Even if a blue ocean strategy feels ideal for your business right now, it could cease to be possible in the long term.

How to implement a blue ocean strategy

Kim and Mauborgne’s book suggests taking the following steps to implement a blue ocean strategy:

  1. Figure out a starting point for introducing your new offerings, and hire employees who will help you build the strongest team and brand identity.
  2. Assess your current team’s strengths and weaknesses, and determine how to improve them.
  3. Identify pain points that your current and new customers might have. 
  4. Develop products and services that address these pain points in ways unlike any other business.
  5. Write a formal plan for your shift and test your new products and services (and the processes you’ll take to get there).

TipTip: Conduct a SWOT analysis to help your team members grow their strengths and ​​boost their personal development, becoming the best versions of themselves.

Examples of blue ocean strategy

The blue ocean strategy might sound new, but businesses have been successfully using it for quite some time – even before Kim and Mauborgne named the approach. Here are three examples.

Ford

When household-name automotive company Ford launched its now-legendary Model T series, most manufacturers were customizing cars to each buyer’s needs. This approach led to high prices and inconsistent quality. 

By contrast, the Model T came in just one color and model for every customer. The lack of customization led to lower prices and more consistent quality. Ford’s approach became the basis of the modern auto industry.

Nintendo

When Nintendo introduced the Wii in 2006, the company avoided competing with the Xbox and Playstation on graphics. Instead, Nintendo prioritized wireless motion-control gameplay that was unavailable on other systems. That’s how Nintendo was able to introduce more interactive, physical games like the Wii Sports series. The games’ popularity – as well as that of the console – grew rapidly.

Netflix

Netflix has successfully employed the blue ocean model twice. Reed Hastings and Marc Randolph founded the company as the first-ever mail-order DVD rental business in 1997. Of course, Netflix eventually introduced the streaming TV model that permeates virtually every aspect of modern life. In both cases, the strategy paid off and made Netflix a household name on the level of Walmart or Amazon.

Did you know?Did you know? Other companies that have used blue ocean strategies include Apple, Yellow Tail, Amazon and Home Depot.

Finding blue oceans

While they avoided mentioning Harvard Business School’s Michael E. Porter by name, Kim and Mauborgne attacked his famous five forces market analysis head-on. Porter’s model looks at specific factors that help determine whether a business can be profitable based on other businesses in the industry.

Advocates of Kim and Mauborgne’s strategy would say this tactic promotes merciless competition, remaining in the red ocean.

The key to exceptional business success, Kim and Mauborgne say, is to redefine the terms of competition and move into the blue ocean, where you have the water to yourself. The goal of these strategies is not to beat the competition, but to make the competition irrelevant.

To discover an elusive blue ocean, Kim and Mauborgne recommend considering what they call the “four actions framework” to reconstruct buyer value elements in crafting a new value curve. The framework poses four key questions.

  1. Raise: What factors should be raised well above the industry’s standard? 
  2. Reduce: What factors resulted from competing against other industries and can be reduced?
  3. Eliminate: Which factors that the industry has long competed on should be eliminated?
  4. Create: Which factors should be created that the industry has never offered? 

This exercise forces companies to examine every factor of competition, guiding leaders to discover the assumptions they unconsciously make while competing. They can then search for blue oceans within their industries and make the shift.

TipTip: When conducting a competitive analysis to improve your business and better serve your customers, be honest about your competitors’ strengths and success.

Blue ocean strategy in practice 

Kim pointed out how Amazon has shifted from an online retailer to a digital platform that sells practically anything.

“Just think of its initial blue ocean shift in book retailing that separated it from the pack with its offering of the largest selection of books in the world, good prices, automatic confirmation of buyers’ orders, its useful selection on ‘people who bought this book also bought,’ and firsthand reviews on what readers found useful or not in a book,” he said.

Amazon isn’t always successful in creating blue oceans, however. According to Mauborgne, it failed in a few instances – against Zappos, eBay and Apple. 

“In each of these cases, the companies Amazon went up against had all created blue oceans of their own, and whenever Amazon tried to imitate them, they failed,” Mauborgne said. “The lesson here is that the best defense is offense, and the best offense … is to make a blue ocean shift and create your own blue ocean. Imitation is not the path to success, especially in the overcrowded industries most companies today confront.”

Another company that created a blue ocean shift is Home Depot, which made an original value-cost frontier that led to the multibillion-dollar DIY market, according to Kim.

“When they saw Amazon encroaching upon their space, instead of competing head-on … they doubled down on offering what Amazon could not – knowledge and advice to complete complex do-it-yourself projects such as renovating your bathroom on your own,” he said.

Making the shift to a blue ocean strategy

When there is limited room to grow, businesses should try to look for verticals to find new sectors where they can enjoy uncontested market share. The aim is to capture new demand with a superior product that makes competition irrelevant. Unfortunately, this isn’t always successful.

As stores continue to expand and American shopping habits change, retailers are struggling financially. Stores such as Nine West, Claire’s and the Bon-Ton stores are a few among the multitude of companies that have filed for bankruptcy in the last several years.

For struggling businesses, Mauborgne recommended the strategy canvas, which is featured in her newer book with Kim, Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing. A strategy canvas is a one-page analytic that helps businesses focus on an industry and its key competing factors.

“It drives you to take a hard look at yourself as the market sees you,” Mauborgne said. “If retailers applied it, they’d quickly discover that they all compete in the same space they have for 30 years, and all are near mirror images of one another. That creates a real wake-up call, gets everyone aligned, and creates a strong impetus for change.”

Her ultimate advice for businesses is to stop competing and start creating.

Carlyann Edwards and Kayla Harrison contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

12
Mar

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

How to Become a Real Estate Agent

Max Freedman

Max Freedman

Updated Mar 11, 2022

Real estate agents guide clients through the complex processes of purchasing, selling and renting properties.

  • To become a real estate agent, you’ll need to take classes, pass an exam, and renew your license every two to four years.
  • As a real estate agent, you’ll help clients compare properties, buy or sell property, and maintain a portfolio of properties for sale.
  • Early on, real estate agents often work for brokerages, with some taking jobs at national firms. However, the majority of real estate agents are self-employed.
  • This article is for anyone looking to become a real estate agent.

As of late 2020, there were 106,584 real estate brokerages in the United States, according to census data. And as of early 2022, rents and mortgage rates are surging. When you combine these facts, you’re looking at a competitive market where prospective homebuyers, landlords and renters need all the help they can get. This set of conditions might pique your interest in becoming a real estate agent. Below, you’ll learn how to do exactly that.

Becoming a real estate agent

Though the licenses for real estate agents and brokers differ, the basic requirements for each are the same. Here’s what you need to know.

Real estate agent, broker, and Realtor qualifications and exams

In the U.S., almost every state requires that agents and brokers be at least 18 years of age and possess a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a written exam, and complete a certain number of hours of real estate courses. Some states have additional requirements, and most licenses are not transferable between states.

Each state has its own body that administers real estate exams. In Pennsylvania, for example, you would schedule your real estate exam via the Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission. You can find exam details through this body so you can put yourself in the best possible position to obtain your license.

Did you know?Did you know? Although many people use the terms “real estate agent” and “Realtor” interchangeably, they’re not the same. The latter applies solely to agents with special licensure that binds them to certain ethical and legal practices.

Agents who have several years of experience selling properties and who complete additional training courses can obtain broker’s licenses. In some states, brokers may substitute a bachelor’s degree in place of industry experience.

You can also opt to become a Realtor, which officializes your membership with the National Association of Realtors (NAR). As a Realtor, you’re bound to the NAR’s Code of Ethics. This distinction may help potential clients feel more secure when choosing to use your services. Realtors can also access exclusive real estate market intelligence, business tools, educational opportunities and more.

Taking real estate classes

Because of the popularity of this career, many colleges and universities now offer courses in real estate, as well as certificate programs. Some institutions even have associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in real estate. You can also take online courses from anywhere at any time through platforms such as Real Estate Express and 360training.

Key TakeawayFYI: You can take real estate classes online from home as well as on a traditional university campus.

Maintaining your real estate license

Most states in the United States require that licenses for brokers and agents be renewed every two to four years, and many states also require real estate professionals to attend continuing education classes throughout their careers. For a comprehensive list of the requirements for sales agents and brokers by state, visit the Real Estate Library or the National Association of Realtors website.

Working with a firm

Once you’ve obtained your real estate license, you’ll likely fare best if you start your career as part of a brokerage firm. Though you could theoretically start your own real estate business, doing so might not be a career risk worth taking, at least in the beginning. Clients may hesitate to trust real estate professionals who lack a successful track record or a trustworthy supervisor. When you join a firm, you get the latter and start building the former. 

At a firm, you’ll work under a state-licensed supervising broker who keeps you abreast of legal and ethical standards. You can also forget about the stress of lead generation that comes with flying solo – successful brokerages always have plentiful leads.

In some cases, working for a firm means you can forgo certain business expenses. After all, brokerages have all the necessary infrastructure ready to go. On the other hand, in some cases, you might need to pay the firm ongoing fees for a desk, website, marketing and more. In almost all cases, you’ll earn solely commission with no salary under this arrangement. 

What real estate agents do

Those pursuing a career in real estate sales typically choose to become licensed as either a broker or a sales agent. The two jobs are similar in their responsibilities, but brokers typically have more experience in the industry than agents and are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses.

Sales agents must work with a broker, and many agents become brokers after gaining several years of experience and obtaining a broker’s license. The term Realtor identifies a real estate agent who is a member of the National Association of Realtors.

For both brokers and agents, the demands of the job are as broad as the sales process itself. People hire real estate professionals because the process of buying, selling and renting property is nuanced and time-consuming. Brokers and agents can help make sure that no part of the process is overlooked.

The job of a broker or an agent begins with the solicitation of potential clients and does not end until a property is bought or sold and all terms of the purchase contract are met. Agents and brokers are responsible for advising clients on different aspects of local markets, helping clients compare properties, and mediating negotiations between buyers and sellers. They are also responsible for keeping up-to-date and detailed portfolios of properties for sale, promoting properties with open houses and listing services, and preparing documents such as deeds and purchase agreements.

Real estate professionals must be knowledgeable about the market in which they are working, with a well-rounded understanding of quality-of-life factors such as area crime rates, nearby school systems, and access to services such as public transportation, hospitals, and grocery stores. It is also important for those in this line of work to stay abreast of trends in financing and the best mortgage options, government programs, zoning regulations and fair housing laws.

Because trends and laws in the real estate industry are continually changing, many states require that brokers and agents participate in ongoing educational programs to maintain their licenses.

Where real estate agents work

Some 58% of real estate brokers were self-employed as of 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, with others employed at real estate firms. Sales agents, who must work for brokers, typically find employment with a brokerage, leasing office or other real estate establishment. Because of the vast differences in real estate markets in various areas, workplaces in this industry can range from one-person businesses to large firms with numerous branch offices.

Some brokers have franchise agreements with national or regional real estate companies in which the broker pays a fee to be affiliated with a widely known real estate organization, such as Century 21, Coldwell Banker or Sotheby’s.

Regardless of where a broker or agent works, they typically spend much of the workday away from the office, scouting and showing properties or holding meetings with clients. Sales agents who are new to the industry may also spend a good deal of time at networking events in order to build a reputation within their communities.

Real estate professionals notoriously work long, irregular hours, as they must be available to clients on weekends as well as after business hours. Many agents and brokers work more than the typical 40-hour workweek, though some keep part-time real estate careers and work at other jobs as well.

Brokers and agents earn most of their income through commissions on sales, the rates of which depend on the type and value of property sold. Real estate incomes depend on the area in which you choose to work, the experience you have in the industry, and how motivated you are to sell. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median pay earned by real estate brokers was $60,370 annually as of 2020. Sales agents earned $49,040 on average in that same year.

Kiely Kuligowski contributed to the writing and research in this article.

12
Mar

DIY PR: 11 Public Relations Solutions for Small Businesses

DIY PR: 11 Public Relations Solutions for Small Businesses

Max Freedman

Max Freedman

Updated Mar 11, 2022

Good public relations can complement your marketing and advertising efforts. Here’s how to do PR yourself.

  • Public relations involves generating media coverage, social posts and in-person engagements for your business.
  • While marketing involves a business directly reaching out to consumers, and advertising consists of paying for exposure, PR does neither but complements both: It persuades other entities to help tell your story.
  • Tools you can use to run your own PR campaigns include press release distribution services, journalist databases and social media analytics suites.
  • This article is for small business owners looking to do their own PR.

When you were starting your business, you probably encountered lots of advice about how to market and advertise it. Chances are that such suggestions overlooked a different yet complementary way to tell your company’s story: public relations, aka PR. 

When you run a PR campaign, you earn media coverage, social media mentions and in-person engagements without paying the entities involved. The only person you might employ is a publicist, who wouldn’t pay people to cover you because that would be unethical. But you can also do PR by yourself – for free in some cases. Here’s how (and why) to do PR yourself.

What PR is (and what it isn’t)

PR, short for “public relations,” involves strategically communicating with the public to establish and build a beneficial image and reputation for your business. It typically encompasses securing press coverage, social media posts and in-person engagements. In the event of negative coverage around your company, PR can also include crisis communication.

PR typically involves someone else telling your story and, in some cases, interviewing you to do so. Conversely, marketing entails promoting your products directly to your target audience via email newsletters, online content, SEO and more. The key is that you or someone you hire creates these materials and distributes them. One of the differences between marketing and advertising is that with the latter, you pay for priority placement in spaces where people look for products and services.

PR, marketing and advertising are all approaches to gaining public exposure. PR, though, is more about building a reputation through other entities highlighting you. Marketing and advertising are more about promoting yourself directly in spaces your customers frequent.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: PR comprises efforts to earn coverage or in-person engagements without paying the entities that provide them. Advertising involves paying, and marketing encompasses you, rather than someone else, telling your story.

Benefits of PR

PR can benefit your small business in the following ways.

  • Brand awareness on a tighter budget: When the media covers your company because it’s newsworthy or because you can offer an expert opinion, it generates free publicity for your product or services. While it’s typically unethical to pay for media coverage, sponsored content – a form of advertising – offers a lower-cost opportunity to garner notice. Just make sure that you disclose the content is subsidized.
  • Better marketing and advertising: Public relations isn’t marketing or advertising, but it is a natural complement to both. Think about it: everything works together. If you saw a bunch of ads for a company you’d never heard of, wouldn’t you research that company? Then, if you found abundant positive coverage about the business, you’d be more likely to buy from them. 
  • Damage control: Certain PR tactics can help you wrestle back control of damaging narratives around your company. That’s not possible with marketing or advertising, which simply promote your products. That said, PR isn’t the same as online reputation management (ORM), which involves responding to negative customer reviews and eliminating negative content. See our WebiMax review for an example of an ORM service.
  • Permanence: Eventually, ads outlive their paid period of high presence, and all marketing campaigns eventually come to a close. The media you earn through PR, though, doesn’t go anywhere. Any internet search relevant to your brand, products or services could potentially find this media. That means lots of possible opportunities to engage consumers with your story.

There’s only one major drawback of PR: It can be extremely time-consuming. At first, you’ll likely receive more silence or passes on your pitches than responses or interest. Even if you do embark on a highly successful campaign, individually pitching people time and again can be a monotonous, lengthy process. That becomes easier with PR tools.

Key TakeawayFYI: PR is great for low-cost brand awareness, damage control, and a more permanent brand presence that bolsters your marketing and advertising. That said, without the right tools, it can be extremely time-consuming compared to marketing and advertising.

11 DIY PR tools 

These tools will help you get started on your own in-house PR campaigns:

Help A Reporter Out (HARO)

Share your expertise and get free publicity. Help A Reporter Out, commonly referred to as “HARO” by media folks, gives you direct access to reporters, bloggers and journalists from all types of publications and media properties who are looking for sources with your expertise.

Sign up as a source and HARO will send queries from journalists to your inbox in batches throughout the day. If any of the queries is a good fit for your expertise and business, pitch your response and qualifications directly to the journalist by email for a possible interview or direct quote. 

Cost: The Basic plan is free. The Standard, Advanced, and Premium plans cost $19, $49, and $149 a month and offer more features, such as keyword and text alerts.

Muck Rack

Find the right journalist and blogger to tell your story or become a source. MuckRack allows businesses to search its database of journalists and media contacts. Features include media monitoring, inbox alerts, direct email pitches to journalists, and media list creation and organization. 

You can sign up as a PR pro by requesting a demo. Start searching for journalists by name, keywords and phrases, beats, outlets, Twitter accounts, hashtags, media properties, and other categories.

Cost: Request a demo for pricing information.

PRWeb

Maximize your reach and attract new business online. PRWeb publishes press releases across the web on search engines, blogs, major news sites and websites – no tech or PR skills necessary. Write an effective and engaging press release for your business, announcement or event (PRWeb offers a library of resources to help you do this, including free tutorials and press release examples). Add video, keywords, extra distribution channels and other optional features. Plug your press release into PRWeb’s template, hit “Submit,” and it will appear on PRWeb’s network.

Cost: PRWeb starts at $99 per press release.

Hootsuite

Find leads and discover your biggest social media influencers. Hootsuite is a social media management tool that lets you manage multiple social media accounts in a single dashboard to help automate social media marketing while increasing engagement. Hootsuite can also help you monitor top content, likes and shares, traffic sources, and other metrics with reporting modules like Facebook Audience Insights and Google Analytics. Simply sign in with your social media credentials (such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Apple) or your email address, then set up streams for each social media account.

Cost: Hootsuite plans range from $49 to $739 per month, with custom enterprise pricing also available.

Google Alerts

You don’t need fancy software to track your business’s media placements and mentions – Google Alerts lets you monitor your presence online and find out where you appear on the web, what people are saying about you, and how your PR campaigns compare to that of your competitors.

You can create an alert by entering a search query – such as the name of your business, competitors, industry and other related keywords – and setting up the frequency and types of alerts you wish to receive. These Google Alerts are then sent directly to your inbox.

Cost: Google Alerts is free to use.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a great place to connect with colleagues and even find a job. It’s also an excellent resource for finding journalists, budget-friendly PR reps and other professionals who can help you get your PR campaigns off the ground. Use LinkedIn’s search function and filters to find journalists, publications and PR professionals. For better search results and to contact non-connections, purchase a Premium account. Learn more about how to use LinkedIn for business.

Cost: LinkedIn is free, with premium plans starting at $29.99 a month.

Online PR Media

Online PR Media combines the best of traditional media practices with social media and multimedia to get the most out of your search engine optimization efforts. It has a quick and easy submission process, with tips for writing effective press releases and editors that review and approve every submission before it goes live. Sign up for an account and the system walks you through writing the press release. The site has a page for guidelines that help ensure you develop and submit a quality press release with a high chance of approval.

Cost: Online PR Media is free to use for an online press release and $22 for social media press releases. There are extra fees for add-on services.

PRLog

This is one of the few sites that offers social media features outside of a paid plan. PRLog’s free features include social sharing, automatic Twitter and Facebook posting, and embedding widgets and code. They also provide analytics for free. To get started, create an account and post your first press release. The system is intuitively navigable, once you get used to the design, and there are a variety of ways to customize it. PRLog’s partnership with PR Newswire distributes your release on their online network for a fee.

Cost: PRLog is free to use.

CoverageBook

With CoverageBook, you can see the results of all your pitching and use them to inform your future DIY PR work. Paste the URLs of all online mentions you’ve earned and upload screenshots of print mentions to get started. CoverageBook will distill the results of your coverage into a dashboard that correlates your PR work to shares, views and inbound links. You can also analyze the impact of any individual piece of media coverage.

Cost: CoverageBook starts at $99 per month.

Brandwatch

Brandwatch’s social listening tools can help you understand what the online world is saying – whether you want to understand trends, get better ROI, or monitor negative press coverage of your business. The service can provide historical and real-time data insights, consumer analysis, and other social listening functions.

Cost: Contact Brandwatch for a quote.

Business Wire

Business Wire can distribute your press releases to hundreds of thousands of publications across 162 countries. You can also rotate quotes in your press releases and create release summaries for display on search engines. Twitter sharing is available, as are numerous interactive media inclusions in your press releases. Plus, the moment your press releases go out, you’ll see what’s working – and you can use those insights the next go-round.

Cost: Business Wire starts at $475 for a 400-word press release in most U.S. state, city or metro circuits.

Marci Martin and Sara Angeles contributed to the writing and research in this article.

11
Mar

local Marketing Strategies for Success

Local Marketing Strategies for Success

Adam Uzialko

Adam Uzialko

updated Nov 10, 2021

For many businesses, their marketing efforts need to reach a local audience. Here are some local marketing strategies for small businesses.

  • Local marketing refers to strategies that target regional audiences near your business.
  • Local marketing is especially effective for businesses tied to a physical location, such as restaurants, boutique retail operations and professional advisors.
  • Getting your small business’s local marketing strategy off the ground is quick, easy and free; these tips will help you improve your local marketing efforts immediately.
  • This article is for small business owners looking to implement local marketing strategies to target audiences close to their business’s location.

Local marketing is an essential element of a larger marketing strategy for small businesses, as it can get your brand in front of a broader local audience that are likely to patronize your business in the near future. But what can you do as an entrepreneur to improve your small business’s reach with a local audience? This guide includes seven quick, free tips that can immediately improve your local marketing strategy.

What is local marketing?

Local marketing targets an audience based in the same town or region as your business. It is geared toward people who are within a certain radius of your physical location – generally based on a reasonable driving distance – who might realistically purchase your product or service at any time.

For example, if you run a restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey, driving website traffic from Sacramento, California, is not going to do you much good. Instead, you need to employ local marketing tactics to ensure that the majority of your audience is indeed located near enough that they could conceivably drive to your restaurant or order delivery.

“The biggest approach people should be taking is really understanding who they’re trying to sell to … what benefit people can get from the product or service, and then relay that information upfront,” said Travis McKnight, senior content strategist at Portent Inc.

That’s true in all marketing, but especially when it comes to a local marketing strategy, he added. Part of the key information you should relay to your audience is where your business is located.

The goal behind a local marketing strategy is to spend your marketing and advertising budget more efficiently. Digital marketing is an effective tool for businesses of all sizes. However, if you are a local business and you fail to gain traction with a local audience, your marketing expense is all for naught. Not all traffic is created equal; a local marketing strategy ensures that you are targeting an audience that might patronize your business.

Key takeaway: Local marketing targets people within a certain radius of your business. It can improve conversion rates by narrowing the focus of your digital marketing efforts to potential nearby customers.

What types of businesses benefit from local marketing?

Many businesses can benefit from local marketing, but there are some types of businesses for which local marketing is absolutely required. Restaurants are a good example because they are physical locations that offer dine-in, takeout or delivery services. By nature, a restaurant is locked into its physical location.

Another good example of a business that needs local store marketing is a retail store. While even small retail operations often have e-commerce stores these days, local marketing can increase the store’s foot traffic and local brand awareness. This is especially important for small, boutique retail stores competing with large chains.

Similarly, professional services like lawyers’ and accountants’ offices should employ a local marketing strategy. While it might be more appropriate to cast a regional net for these services, it is critical for professional advisors to connect with a largely local audience. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, such as digital marketing companies, which often operate fully digitally. However, nothing beats an in-person consultation.

While there are plenty of businesses that need a local marketing strategy, other types of businesses should consider implementing local marketing as well. Just because a local strategy isn’t your priority doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of capturing a wider audience in the town or region where your business is based.

Key takeaway: All businesses can benefit from local marketing, but some – such as restaurants or retail stores that depend on foot traffic – require a local marketing strategy.

11 local marketing strategies you can start today

Local marketing starts with some easy-to-implement steps that you can get started on today. Here are a few quick and simple ideas to improve your business’s local marketing.

1. Optimize your website (and localize it).

Website optimization is key to driving traffic, but is your website optimized for local users? Not only should you follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, such as employing keyword research to inform your website content, you should also guarantee that your website offers a top-notch mobile experience, said Heather Lodge, chief marketer at Click and Mortar.

“More than half of traffic coming to websites is from mobile devices,” she said. “If you have a website that’s nice and streamlined, with large text to read on a small screen and large buttons to easily click, you’ll have an easier time attracting local business.”

In addition to these recommendations – which are key for any digital marketing strategy – your website should also be localized, Lodge said. That means determining keywords and key phrases based on local SEO – ask yourself, “What is the local market searching for on Google?” A good rule of thumb is to frequently mention your community or nearby communities. If you’re targeting a regional audience, consider adding language to your website like “serving the tri-state area,” for example.

You can improve your local SEO insights even further by leveraging free keyword research tools like Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Search Console to inform precisely what local terms you should incorporate. The more you optimize your website for local search, the more local customers are likely to land on your webpages.

2. Update title tags and meta descriptions.

Another SEO consideration to keep in mind, McKnight said, is whether your website’s title tags and metadata up to date.

“There are a few different parts of metadata, but the majority of people only have to worry about meta description and title tag,” he said.

Title tag refers to the 60 characters that search engine users see on the search engine results page (SERP). Keeping a title tag relevant to your brand and location, but shorter than 60 characters is optimal, McKnight said.

The meta description is less likely to factor into search ranking, McKnight added, but it can improve click-through rates by signaling to users precisely what type of information they might find on the webpage.

“Data shows that a quality meta description … can help click-through rate. On the flip side, for a business like a restaurant that wants people to call, having a phone number in the meta description is huge,” McKnight said. “Meta descriptions should always be 160 characters or less.”

The title tag and meta description can be edited in the administrator’s tools of the web hosting platform you use. For many small business owners, McKnight said, WordPress offers an easy to use SEO function.

3. Set up local landing pages for all your business locations.

If your business has multiple locations, you should create an individual page for each location on your website to further your localization efforts.

“There will often be companies with a lot of different locations, but they don’t include pages with information on those different locations on their website,” Lodge said. “These pages should include each location, directions on how to get there, and what store hours are.”

Lodge added that these pages should include specific content about your business. For example, a real estate agent based in Nashville, Tennessee, shouldn’t just list on their website that they are a “real estate agent.” Instead, including the key phrase “leading real estate agent in Nashville” signals to search engines where the agent is based and helps serve results to a local audience. It also considers how people are searching for real estate agents; they don’t just want anyone, they want “the best” or “leading” real estate agents.

4. Claim your Google My Business listing.

One of the easiest and most effective local marketing strategies you can employ immediately is claiming your Google My Business listing. Google My Business provides search engine users with information like your location, store hours, directions, contact information, and more directly on the SERP.

“Claim your Google My Business knowledge panel and make sure that it is updated,” said McKnight. “Especially during COVID-19, make sure it reflects current store hours and accurately explains any restrictions, such as takeout or delivery only.”

Lodge added you should also claim local listings on other third-party sites, such as Yelp. The more places users can find your business (along with location information) the better off your local marketing success will be.

5. Optimize social media pages.

Social media marketing is critically important when it comes to local online marketing. Much like your website, your social media pages should be optimized and localized. This means providing up-to-date information, such as your business’s location, contact information, and store hours. It also means maintaining an active social media account. You can preschedule social media posts using tools like Hootsuite.

“From a small business perspective, social media revolves largely around communication about deals, reopenings or promotions,” McKnight said. “A lot of it is just reputation management.”

6. Encourage positive user reviews and engage online.

Encourage your satisfied customers to leave you positive reviews online, whether on Google Reviews, Facebook, Yelp, or elsewhere. You could even incentivize them to leave positive reviews with discounts or promotions, such as a raffle or giveaway.

You should also spend time responding to the reviews your customers leave online. Always be sincere and avoid copying/pasting generic responses, McKnight said.

“For the most part, respond to people with authenticity, humility and honesty – whether it’s a negative review or positive one,” McKnight said. “Set an hour per week just to go through, respond and make sure it’s not just a generic cookie-cutter response. Users are turned off by that and feel they aren’t listened to.” 

7. Host or sponsor local community events.

Digital marketing is all well and good, but building a real-world bridge between your audience and your brand is invaluable. Consider sponsoring or hosting a local event whenever possible to increase brand visibility in your local community. This is also a great way to land local press coverage, which improves your odds of being found online by a local audience.

8. Utilize localized email marketing.

Email marketing strategies have some of the lowest costs among many of the marketing strategies available to you. The bulk of the cost is associated with obtaining valuable email addresses. Unfortunately, there is nothing in an email address that will tell you where the user is located; there are email-gathering techniques you can begin using that filter users by location. The easiest technique is to have a sign-up sheet in your store – ideally by the register – or at booths or events that you sponsor so that interested consumers see it and sign up to receive updates and promotions from you.

9. Try a direct mail campaign.

Direct mail is a much cheaper method of reaching customers than it might seem. What you pay for in stamps can be recovered by not paying for mailing lists and professional targeting. You can frequently target prime demographics by looking at neighborhoods that fit the demographics of your target audience. 

10. Partner with other local businesses.

Partnering with other businesses can be a powerful tool. These alliances can multiply both companies’ total outreach. This works best when you find businesses with similar values and goals (and that don’t directly compete with your company).

You and your partner businesses, for example, can co-sponsor events. You can work together with your SEO content to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. You can link to each other, too; and when these strategies are followed, every effort you put into outreach is multiplied by the efforts of your partner businesses.

11. Localize paid ads.

Advertising groups can filter ads by location and IP. Ads can be targeted for local users, and this feature is used by Google, Facebook, and other digital advertisers.

Outside of digital advertising, localized paid ads are still useful. Local newspapers, radio spots, coupon books, movie theaters and local sponsorships are some of the best ways to promote your brand to local consumers.

Key takeaway: Optimizing your website and social media presence with location information, and making sure your Google and Yelp listings are up to date are just a few ways you make it easier for locals to find your business.

Think globally, advertise locally

When it comes to optimizing your digital properties for a local audience, there is a lot you can do at little or no cost to your business.

Setting up an optimized and localized website, giving your social media pages the same treatment, and claiming your Google My Business listing are the best places to start. From there, spend some time engaging your local audience both online and in the real world. Respond to reviews and organize community-based events to increase your visibility and create a stronger bond between your brand and your audience.

Whether you run a business that absolutely relies on local engagement, or you simply want to improve your local marketing, these tactics are easy, affordable, and effective.

See what kind of splash your business can make in your community by implementing these local marketing strategies today.

Key takeaway: Many local marketing strategies are free to implement and can be easily accomplished. Get started by updating your website and online listings with your business’s location.

11
Mar

Accounts Receivable: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Accounts Receivable: What Small Businesses Need to Know

Marci Martin

Marci Martin

Updated Nov 10, 2021

Accounts receivable tells you how much of your cash flow is held up in unpaid client invoices. Here’s how to manage it.

  • Accounts receivable tells you how much of your cash flow is held up in unpaid client invoices.
  • While accounts receivable signifies money your clients owe you, accounts payable indicates money you owe to your service providers.
  • Communication, internal workflows, documentation, and accounting software can help you stay on top of your accounts receivable.
  • This article is for small business owners looking to master their accounts receivable and handle client invoice payments.

Accounts receivable is the lifeblood of a business’s cash flow. It helps with cash flow management by telling you which clients owe you money and how much. This lets you discern whether your cash account accurately reflects your current financial standing. In other words, accounts receivable makes the difference between worrying that you don’t have enough money and staying calm in the knowledge that money will come soon. Here’s how to track your accounts receivable.

What are accounts receivable?

Sometimes referred to as A/R, “accounts receivable” is the accounting term for the money a business should receive from its customers from the sales of goods or services. It’s the amount of money for which you’ve issued invoices but haven’t yet been paid. Once you are paid for an invoice, you’ll debit your accounts receivable for that amount and credit your cash account.

Your business’s accounts receivable is essential for calculating your profitability and providing the clearest indicator of the business’s income. It is considered an asset, as it represents money coming into the company. 

To determine profitability, add up all your assets, including accounts receivable, and subtract your total accounts payable, or liabilities, which are what you owe to suppliers and vendors. If the number is positive, the company is profitable. If the number is negative, you’ll need to make some decisions about increasing assets or reducing liabilities. 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: Accounts receivable signifies how much cash you’re awaiting from unpaid invoices. It is a key indicator of your company’s financial health.

Accounts receivable vs. accounts payable

When contrasting accounts payable vs. accounts receivable, accounts receivable is the amount of money for which you’re awaiting client payment, while accounts payable represents what you owe your service providers – the sum of all your vendor, third-party firm and supplier invoices. 

Accounts payable reminds small business owners that what’s in your cash account isn’t quite the whole picture. If you have $10,000 in cash but owe $15,000 to suppliers, you’re not profiting as your cash account suggests. Once you cover your outstanding invoices, you’ll be in the red. 

Example of accounts receivable

Most B2B billing hinges on accounts receivable, so standard invoicing practices make for great accounts receivable examples. If you bill your clients hourly, invoicing that client every hour, day or even week would quickly become tedious for both parties. Instead, you’re likely issuing monthly invoices and expecting payment within 60 days. The value of your invoice, which represents a month’s worth of work, is part of your accounts receivable.

Why track accounts receivable?

If you don’t keep track of accounts receivable, you may forget to bill certain customers, or you may not know if you’ve been paid. You could end up providing your product for free, negatively impacting your profitability. The longer you take to send an invoice, the less likely you’ll receive payment promptly. Keeping track of accounts receivable is also a great way to document proof of income at tax time.

5 tips to help you stay on top of accounts receivable

Accounts receivable is best managed on a consistent and routine basis. In retail, each transaction is paid for immediately. With other industries, customers apply for a credit line, and they place orders against the credit line. The customer is provided an invoice and payment terms with the shipped product, payable at a later date. 

Regardless of your system, ensuring payment is crucial. Here are five tips to make sure your business stays on top of its accounts receivables:

1. Communicate with your clients. 

In a Transworld Business Advisors article, Jason Stine, business development manager for collection services company CRF Solutions, advised regular and prompt communication with clients. Stay on top of transactions; more nonpayment errors develop in the first 60 days after delivery because of insufficient or incomplete customer contact, Stine said.

Did you know?Did you know? Poor communication between clients and vendors is a leading cause of invoices going unpaid within the first 60 days after delivery.

2. Create a solid internal process. 

Determine a process for performing accounts receivable, and stick to it. Select a day of the week to create, print and mail invoices. Choose another day to print an aged accounts receivable report and contact customers who are beyond their payment-term window. As your small business grows, you may need to split these tasks among different people to stay on top of all the accounts.

3. Confirm receipt of invoices. 

Many companies have success in contacting the client to confirm receipt a week after sending an invoice. Things sometimes get lost in the mail or accidentally deleted in an email inbox. A quick inquiry about the bill’s receipt also provides you the chance to ask for feedback on the product provided, demonstrating your excellent customer service skills.

4. Extend credit with moderate terms. 

With today’s technological advances, companies can receive payment before shipping an order or performing a service. With service-based companies and high-cost goods, however, that may not always be possible. In those cases, have the client apply for a credit line. You will be able to evaluate their payment ability and set a credit limit you’re comfortable with. It also provides an opportunity to be sure both parties are clear on the payment terms and what happens if the account goes delinquent.

Did you know?Did you know? When you develop a credit policy, you’ll detail the customer’s credit qualifications, keep your clients accountable, and boost your cash flow.

5. Document everything. 

Accounts receivable documentation helps your bookkeeper with weekly or monthly inputs for financial statements and assists your accountant at tax time. From first contact with a client, keep notes on the order, conversations and agreed-upon terms. In a worst-case scenario, that documentation will also be important should you need to pursue payment through a collection agency or court.

The funds collected through your accounts receivable process are the food that fuels your company’s livelihood. Inconsistent attention to the task can starve a company’s growth, while a smooth process results in a well-fueled machine capable of achieving all of its goals.

TipTip: If you need to pursue payment by hiring a collection agency, research and find a company that works with your type of business and is familiar with your industry.

6. Use accounting software.

Creating and sending invoices, not to mention confirming their receipt and following up on late invoices, can be time-consuming – as can organizing and tracking all your accounts receivable and payable. 

Many small businesses turn to accounting software, which provides a user-friendly, highly organized interface for recording transactions and tracking accounting metrics. 

Intuit QuickBooks Online is perhaps the most commonly used accounting software. (Read our QuickBooks Online review for more information.) We find it a great choice for all small businesses, but it’s not your only option. For example, FreshBooks is our top pick for invoicing, which is the bread and butter of accounts receivable. (Check out our FreshBooks review for more information.) 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: You can find several other accounting software options and their best use cases on our reviews of the best accounting software for small business.

Accounts receivable FAQs

Here’s a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about the accounts receivable process.

What is the accounts receivable process?

The accounts receivable process starts when you send a client an invoice. You’ll add the value of the invoice to your accounts receivable. Once your client pays the invoice, you’ll debit your A/R account and credit your cash account for the corresponding amount. Between these two instances, you may need to follow up with the client to receive payment.

Is accounts receivable an asset or liability?

Accounts receivable is an asset. That’s because you’re owed the money in A/R, so it has a positive cash value. Conversely, since you owe your accounts payable to your vendors and suppliers, accounts payable is a liability. 

What are the three classifications of receivables?

The three classifications of receivables are accounts, notes and other receivables. Accounts receivable is the most pertinent classification for small business purposes, as described in this article. Notes receivables pertain to debts tied to formal printed letters, and other receivables pertain to interests, employee advances and tax refunds.

11
Mar

Using a PEO to Offer Employee Health Insurance

Using a PEO to Offer Employee Health Insurance

Kaylyn McKenna

Kaylyn McKenna

Updated Mar 11, 2022

Looking for a way to provide your employees with health insurance? Learn how a PEO can help.

  • Small businesses can expand their benefits offerings and offload HR administration tasks by working with a PEO.
  • PEOs are an excellent resource for businesses that want to start offering benefits to their employees.
  • Providing health insurance to employees through a PEO helps small businesses offer higher-quality, more cost-effective health insurance options.
  • This article is for small business owners seeking to learn more about offering their employees health insurance through a PEO.

Offering health insurance to your employees can improve employee retention, help your business attract more applicants, and keep your workforce healthier and happier. However, finding and administering health insurance benefits can be costly and time-consuming for small businesses. 

A professional employer organization (PEO) is an excellent resource for businesses that want to save time and money on health insurance and other HR functions. We’ll explore what’s involved with providing health insurance to your employees and how PEOs can help.

Did you know?Did you know? Health insurance isn’t just a perk. You should be aware of business health insurance requirements when setting up your employee benefits packages.

How much does offering health insurance cost employers? 

The cost of providing health insurance can vary widely. Employers typically get better rates when they have more employees to insure. This means that Fortune 500 companies will typically have access to lower rates, more plan options, and better coverage for employees, while small businesses can end up paying hundreds of dollars per employee for limited offerings. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in its Employer Health Benefits Survey that the average cost for employer-sponsored health premiums in 2021 was $7,739 for individuals and $22,221 for families. The way this premium is split between employers and employees varies. Employers typically cover most of the premium for employees and around half of the premium for dependents. 

The cost of providing healthcare can add up, particularly if you are a smaller business unable to access the most competitive rates.

How does a PEO impact health insurance costs? 

Partnering with a PEO is an excellent option for small businesses looking to reduce costs while providing better health insurance to their employees. 

A PEO shares employer responsibilities with a business. It acts as the employer of record and provides payroll, human resources, benefits and administrative support. However, the business retains managerial responsibilities and makes all hiring, promotion and firing decisions. Using a PEO is a way to offload some of the paperwork and responsibilities while still maintaining control over your workforce.

PEOs can often offer small businesses better benefits and rates. The PEO negotiates on behalf of all of the employees and clients it serves, so it can access offerings and rates typically reserved for very large companies. 

How PEOs help deal with crucial health insurance factors

While a business can research and obtain health insurance for its employees, getting insurance on your own can be tedious. You’ll need to research your options and build a relationship with an insurance broker or provider. Working with PEO can be an easier path, providing an organization with insight, detailed knowledge and better pricing. 

Here are a few crucial factors to consider when obtaining health insurance for your business and how PEOs can help.

Regulatory requirements 

You need to consider some critical federal and state regulations when implementing health insurance for your employees.

  • Affordable Care Act: The ACA provides specific guidelines on what must be included in employer-sponsored health coverage and who is eligible. Employers must adhere to specific reporting options under the ACA.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act: COBRA is a federal law that provides employees and their families the opportunity to extend their health insurance benefits for a limited period if they lose their coverage. The most common example of this is when an employee leaves a company. Employers with 20 or more full-time employees are generally required to extend coverage continuation in specific instances. Under COBRA, employers and plans must provide employees notice if they’re eligible for coverage continuation.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act: ERISA is a federal law that governs self-funded health and retirement plans. Under ERISA, employers must provide employees with plan features and funding details. ERISA also sets standards for participation, vesting, grievance procedures and more.

You could manage these requirements and benefits administration tasks on your own, but if you use a PEO, you pass on those responsibilities to experienced professionals with detailed knowledge of regulations and state requirements.

Did you know?Did you know? In addition to handling your health insurance and other employee benefits, PEOs handle payroll processing and payroll tax payments.

Health plan options

It’s critical to understand the different types of health insurance and plan options available so you can provide employees with what they need.

Common health insurance plan options include health maintenance organizations (HMOs), preferred provider organizations (PPOs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs).

Cost, flexibility, provider and health savings account (HSA) options vary. Here’s a breakdown of how they compare:

 HMOPPOHDHP
CostSomewhat high costs; different premiums, copays and deductibles depending on plan (bronze, silver or platinum)Higher costs; different premiums, copays and deductibles depending on plan (bronze, silver or platinum)Lower monthly premiums, but high deductibles
FlexibilityRestrictiveFlexibleFlexible
Providers coveredIn-network care only, sometimes limited to particular hospital systems (possible exceptions for emergency care)Large number of in-network providers; access to out-of-network care at higher ratesLarge number of in-network providers; access to out-of-network care at higher rates
HSA eligibilityNoNoYes, those enrolled in HDHP plan also eligible to enroll in HSA where pretax dollars can be designated for health expenses

Employees’ plan preferences will depend on their needs.

  • Continued access to doctors: In some areas, HMOs like Kaiser Permanente are popular, and employees may feel strongly about having continued access to current doctors and care centers. 
  • Low premiums: Other employees may not need health services as frequently, and prefer an HDHP or bronze PPO to keep premiums low.
  • High level of care: Employees who frequently access care to manage ongoing health conditions may prefer a silver or platinum HMO or PPO. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to offer your employees the best plans for their needs. While this can be challenging for businesses acting alone, PEOs make it easier. PEOs can negotiate rates with different providers and are more likely to have the bandwidth to manage benefits across various plans and provider options. 

Key TakeawayKey takeaway: When choosing a PEO, ask about its plan offerings. Consider your employees’ preferences and select a PEO that can provide what they need.

Top benefits of partnering with a PEO for health insurance

You’ll experience two main benefits when partnering with a PEO to handle your organization’s health insurance needs. 

  • Better benefits at lower costs: A PEO’s co-employment model helps small businesses access benefits that are usually only available to large corporations. Employees can access health plans at lower negotiated rates than the business could obtain if it bought coverage directly from insurance companies. Employees enjoy better healthcare along with other PEO-negotiated benefits, including wellness programs and retirement plans, along with dental, vision and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Lower administrative burden: Small business owners often don’t have the time or inclination to take on the added tasks of managing benefits, but they still want to provide their employees with excellent health coverage. PEOs handle the administrative side of providing benefits, processing and  dealing with the paperwork. Without these administrative burdens, you can focus on growing and maintaining your business.

How to choose the right PEO for health insurance 

If you’re interested in partnering with a PEO to offer health insurance to your employees, evaluate your options carefully. Weigh the following factors before choosing a PEO. 

Accreditation

Not all PEOs are accredited, but working with an accredited PEO can minimize your risk. 

Three agencies provide accreditation or certification for PEOs: the ESAC, IRS and Certification Institute.

  • ESAC: The Employer Services Assurance Corporation (ESAC) accredits PEOs that meet its gold standard for best practices and financial responsibility. ESAC accreditation demonstrates a PEO’s financial stability, ethical business conduct, and adherence to operational standards and regulatory requirements.
  • IRS: IRS-certified PEOs, or CPEOs, can work directly with the IRS when handling small business tax information, streamlining the tax filing process.
  • Certification Institute: Risk management is the Certification Institute’s focus. To certify, PEOs must have extensive risk management practices in place along with additional qualifications and requirements, and they must pass a review process.

Working with a PEO recognized by one of these three organizations ensures you’re choosing a reliable partner and minimizing the risks associated with co-employment arrangements.

Did you know?Did you know? According to ESAC, only about 9% of PEOs have achieved its accreditation.

Costs and fees

Your PEO should fit your budget as well as your support needs. The cost of working with a PEO varies. PEOs typically use one of two pricing structures: per-employee or percentage basis.

  • Per-employee basis: Some PEOs charge a flat monthly fee based on the number of employees. These fees typically range from $40 to $160 per month per employee.
  • Percentage basis: PEOs can also charge a percentage of your total monthly payroll. These rates range from 2% to 13% of the company’s total monthly payroll.

Many PEOs only use one pricing model, but some let you choose the structure that works best for your business. Inquire about your options while shopping around.

Costs also depend on the services your business needs. Most PEOs offer bundled plans with core HR support services such as benefits, payroll and compliance. PEOs may also offer add-on services or customizable options to better suit the business’s unique needs. 

Additionally, many PEOs have employee minimums. If you only have a few full-time employees and want to find health insurance for them, check with prospective PEOs to see if they require a certain number of employees.

PEO service providers

There are many PEOs out there, each with slightly different insurance and benefits options. Read our in-depth PEO reviews to find the best fit for your needs:

  • Justworks review
  • Rippling PEO review
  • TriNet PEO review
  • ADP TotalSource review
  • Paychex PEO Service review
  • Oasis review
  • Insperity PEO Service review

11
Mar

15 Accounting Payment Terms and How to Work With Them

15 Accounting Payment Terms and How to Work With Them

Jamie Johnson

Jamie Johnson

Mar 11, 2022

Get your customers to pay their bills quickly by understanding these accounting payment terms and strategies.

  • Receiving payments on time is important for any small business owner.
  • By setting up the proper payment terms with your customers, you’ll avoid overdue bills, poor cash flow, and financial stress.
  • Your understanding of common accounting payment terms and strategies can optimize your ability to receive fees in a timely manner.
  • This article is for small business owners who want to use better accounting practices to receive payments on time.

When you’re a small business owner, getting paid on time is a top priority. If you don’t set up the right payment terms with your customers, this can lead to late payments, poor cash flow and unnecessary stress in your business. =

Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to improve your billing methods. This article will look at 15 common accounting payment terms and how to use them in your business. 

What are payment terms?

When you send your customers an invoice, the payment terms set the expectations regarding future payment. They let your customers know how you prefer to be paid, and when they need to pay you by. 

The payment terms will also sometimes include the penalties for a missed or late payment. It’s important to set up transparent payment terms, so your customers know what to expect. The more straightforward these are, the easier it will be for your customers to pay you on time. 

What do invoice payment terms include?

When you send a new invoice to a customer, it should include all the information they require to pay you accurately and on time. Here is an overview of the information you should include.

  • The invoice date: This is the date when you’re sending the invoice.
  • The due date: The due date is when you expect to receive payment on the invoice – many invoices include standard payment terms like Net 14 or Net 30. (You’ll learn more about those terms below.)
  • The invoice number: The invoice number allows your customers to keep track of all the invoices you send them.
  • How much the invoice is for: The invoice should clearly state how much the customer owes you.
  • The currency you want to be paid in: If you frequently work with international clients, you may want to specify the currency you want to be paid in.
  • The payment methods you accept: The invoice should include a list of acceptable payment methods. For instance, you might accept credit cards, online payments and ACH payments.
  • Other payment terms: Your invoice should include any other payment terms the customer needs to know. For instance, you’ll want to include early payment discounts or if you expect an upfront deposit. 

Common payment terms

Payment terms are usually included on an invoice as an abbreviation. Here are some of the most common invoice payment terms you need to know.

  • 1MD: This denotes a payment credit for a full month’s supply.
  • PIA: This stands for “payment in advance,” meaning payment must be made in full before the goods or services will be delivered. 
  • CIA: This stands for “cash in advance,” which means the full payment must be made in cash before the goods or services will be delivered.
  • Upon receipt: Payment is expected as soon as the client receives the invoice. 
  • Net 7: Payment is due in seven days.
  • Net 21: Payment is due in 21 days.
  • Net 30: Payment is due in 30 days. You’ll also sometimes see Net 60, Net 90, etc.
  • EOM: Payment is due at the end of the month in which the invoice was received. 
  • 15 MFI: Payment is due on the 15th of the month following the invoice date. 
  • 2/10 Net 30: Payment is due in 30 days, but the customer can receive a 2% discount for payment within 10 days. 
  • COD: This stands for “cash on delivery,” which means the goods or services must be paid for in cash at the time of the delivery.
  • CND: This stands for “cash next delivery,” which means the payment must be made before the next delivery. This payment term is usually reserved for recurring deliveries. 
  • CBS: This stands for “cash before shipment,” which means the balance must be paid before the product is shipped to the customer.
  • CWO: This stands for “cash with order,” which means the customer needs to pay the invoice in full before the goods will be produced and shipped. 
  • Accumulation discount: This is a discount given on a large order. 

Importance of payment terms

Your small business’s cash flow depends on how quickly your customers pay you. Having clearly defined payment terms will make it easier to forecast cash flow, take on new projects, and invest in new opportunities. 

If you are too lax on the payment terms or don’t follow up with customers who have outstanding balances, your business’s cash flow could suffer – something that causes 82% of small businesses to fail, according to a U.S. Bank study. 

How to use payment terms

You can use payment terms to control how and when your customers pay you. These terms set the expectations on payment from the start, so you avoid any confusion down the road.

Here are a few tips on how to use payment terms to your advantage:

  • Ask for upfront payment. In some cases, you may want to ask for payment upfront. This can be a good choice for service providers who want to guarantee payment before they get started on the work.
  • Request a deposit. If it isn’t realistic to require a payment upfront, consider asking for a deposit. For instance, requesting a 50% deposit is a good option for larger projects.
  • Create monthly retainers. If you have clients you work with on an ongoing basis, you can set up a monthly retainer for them. This is a set payment amount you agree to every month. 
  • Set the invoice terms. If you do work for clients on and off, you’ll need to decide on the invoice terms. For instance, you can set the invoice terms to be due upon receipt, or you could choose payment terms as long as Net 90. It all depends on what makes sense for you and your client. 

How to set up effective payment terms

If you struggle to get your clients to pay their invoices on time, you may need to set up more effective payment terms. Here are seven tips for setting up better payment terms for your clients. 

1. Use accounting software.

First, you can simplify your invoicing process and finances if you use accounting software. The right accounting software will allow you to send invoices more quickly and with fewer errors. 

Plus, you’ll be able to track your upcoming payments, send automated late payment reminders and easily reconcile your account. And accounting software will ensure that your financial records stay organized and that you’re prepared for tax season. 

TipTip: Are you interested in trying accounting software, but overwhelmed by all of the options available? Check out our 2022 best accounting software guide for small businesses or details on specific products, like our QuickBooks Online review.

2. Be upfront about your payment terms.

Before you start working with a new customer, make sure they understand and agree to your payment terms. Explain the terms verbally to your client and include a written description in the contract you send. This will help eliminate any misunderstandings about how much customers owe you and when payment is due. 

3. Be polite.

Want an easy hack for getting your clients to pay you faster? Be polite when you invoice your clients, and include the words “please” and “thank you” somewhere on the invoice. 

A study by FreshBooks found that invoices that include a “thank you” in the invoice terms get paid almost 90% faster. And 45% of those invoices get paid in seven days or less, while 12% get paid in 14 days or less. Using “please” has a similar result; these invoices get paid 88% faster. 

4. Offer a variety of payment methods.

Have you ever tried to make a purchase at a store and discovered that the business only accepts cash payments? Think about how you felt when you realized this – were you frustrated and annoyed by the inconvenience?

That’s likely how your customers feel if you offer them limited payment options. If you want them to pay on time, make it as easy for them as possible. Offer various payment methods such as credit cards, debit cards, online payments, ACH or even cryptocurrency payments. 

5. Set shorter payment terms.

One of the best ways to get your clients to pay sooner is to shorten the due date. It sounds obvious, but if you give your clients a long time to pay, they will usually take it. 

For many industries, Net 30 is considered the gold standard for payment due dates. That’s a good time frame, but if you have a client who regularly ignores your Net 30 due date, you might consider shortening it to Net 21 or Net 14. 

6. Be flexible.

Obviously, you want your clients to pay you on time, but you do want to recognize that sometimes you’re working with another business, and that company may grapple with cash flow issues of their own. Some businesses simply cannot accommodate Net 14 or even Net 30 payment terms, and will appreciate more flexible conditions.

TipTip: If you have a client who regularly pays late, talk to them to find out what the holdup is without putting any unnecessary pressure on them. Try to come up with payment terms that work for everyone.

7. Offer a discount for early payment.

Think about offering an early-payment discount to your customers. For instance, your standard terms could be Net 30, but customers receive a 2% discount if they pay the invoice within seven days. 

So, if you send your customer a $5,000 invoice, they’ll receive a $100 discount for paying the invoice early. These discounts add up over time, so many customers may take advantage of that. 

Of course, this type of discount means you’ll accept less money on the invoice. But the improved cash flow may be worth it for your business.