All posts by Steve C

How to Obtain Your DBA (Doing Business As) or FIC (Fictitious Business Name)

DBA,or doing business as, is a legal term that is used when your business is operating under a fictitious business name instead of the owner’s name. For example, “The Gap” is a fictitious business name because the name of the business does not include the names of the store owners. Because it is impossible to know who is actually responsible for the business from a fictitious business name, the government requires you to file a DBA statement in the interests of consumer protection. It’s different in every state, but in the state of California, not only do you have...

Customer Stories – Cheap Anniversary Gift Return

With every store, you’ll inevitably attract a certain class of customers that will only shop in your bargain bin. These people will skip all of your nicer merchandise and go straight for the cheapest stuff that you carry in your store. Often times, these people will also ask for a further discount as well on top of the already heavily reduced price. We had one of these customers purchase the cheapest item in our store for $6.50 the other week. Quite frankly, the set of handkerchiefs he chose were kind of ugly. They were not...

5 Things to Look For When Sizing Up Competitors

Unless you are selling products that you invented yourself, chances are that you’ll have direct competitors in your space. If you don’t think you have any, then chances are your market is so small that you’re probably not seeing much demand for your products anyways. It’s important to keep track of your competition on a regular basis to see how your store sizes up. It’s also important to check the web periodically to see if new competitors have popped up. With our store, we perform thorough web searches on our key product lines at least once...

Customer Stories – Wedding Day Disaster

This particular customer from the east coast purchased some wedding handkerchiefs from our online store about 10 days in advance and had them delivered directly to her wedding venue. The one mistake she made however was that she addressed the package to her maid of honor instead of either herself or the wedding planner. As a result, the people at the wedding venue had no idea who the handkerchiefs belonged to and the package got lost at the wedding venue itself. So the day of the wedding, we received a bunch of calls. Since, we are on the...

Customer Stories – Exploiting Chinese Labor

Every now and then, we get a customer that drives us totally insane. While it isn’t fun to deal with these customers, working with these difficult people make for great stories to tell our friends. This particular customer that I’m writing about was a very headstrong lady that gave us a really hard time about our products. Customer: “Yes, I’m interested in your linen towels. Where are they from?” Me: “Many of our products are from Asia. These particular towels are made in China.” Customer: “Hmm, China huh? Do you happen to know whether these towels were created...

How to Deduct Your Home Office on Your Taxes

In order to deduct your home office, your business must follow the following rules. Your home must be your principal place of business. This means is that you conduct all of your business related activities in your home and you have no other set locations where you do business You must have a special area sectioned off for your business. This might be a separate room or the garage. Anywhere that you store inventory or products counts as well. You must actually conduct business at home and use the dedicated space solely for business. This one sounds like a no...

How to Deduct Equipment and Supplies on Your Taxes

The biggest advantage for small businesses is a little Internal Revenue Code known as Section 179. Section 179 allows small businesses to deduct up to 108k (Note: This number changes every year.) of assets completely every year. What this means is that you can deduct up to this amount in business equipment, computers, furniture etc… without having to worry about depreciation or other tax calculations. Of course, section 179 comes with a few requirements that must be met. Purchases must be used mostly for business The official rule is that the asset that you are deducting must be used...

How to Deduct Entertainment and Meals on Your Taxes

Deducting entertainment and meals is often a gray area that people take advantage of. My general rule of thumb is that as long as you don’t abuse the tax code, you should be fine. I use what I call the “bullshit” code. If I can tell my wife with a straight face that a particular expense was used for business purposes, and my wife doesn’t think its BS, its usually good enough for me. Officially though, anything you expense must obey the following rules. The entertainment expense must be reasonable and accepted in your field of business – For...

How to Deduct Travel Expenses on Your Taxes

Ever heard your spouse complain that you never go on enough vacations? Using your business as a tax shelter is a great way to fund your next vacation without breaking the bank. With proper planning, you can get your business to pay for and write off most of your trip! For starters, the trip’s primary purpose must be for business. As long as your destination is not completely random, chances are you can find a way to do business there. Below are some general guidelines on what and how you can deduct during your travels. ...

Business Expenses: What You Can Deduct on Your Taxes

One of the key reasons for starting your own business is that it can provide an effective tax shelter. Many of the expenses that you incur during day to day operations can be deducted directly from your taxable income. Since there are many misconceptions regarding what can and can not be deducted, I thought that I would go over some of the common items that small businesses can write off. The Tax Code The tax code is a little bit vague which is why many people get themselves into trouble. A deductible business expense is defined as any expense...

How to Deduct Your Vehicle on Your Taxes

Deducting your vehicle as a business expense is a bit tricky but well worth it, especially if you’re putting a lot of miles on your car. The number one rule of thumb when expensing your vehicle is to keep detailed records. Make sure you use a trip or mileage log and write down each and every mile that you are using the car for business. This sounds like a major pain, but its not too bad if you keep a log book and pen in your car at all times. Whenever you drive somewhere, just write...

4 Tips on How To Deal With Irate Customers

Even if you sell quality products and deliver your products in a timely manner, you’re still bound to have to deal with irate customers at some point in time. Sometimes they are mad because you are completely in the wrong but most of the time, they are mad due to something beyond your control. Here’s 4 tips to remember the next time you’re in a bad situation with a customer Keep Your Cool, Listen and Empathize Your customer might cuss you out over the phone or they might make ridiculous demands. No matter what, you should never lose...

How To Select a Credit Card Merchant and Gateway

Selecting a credit card merchant and gateway is not inherently a difficult thing to do. But if this is your first online store, the evaluation process can be a bit daunting due to the sheer multitude of options to choose from. To make things easier, you should always select a credit card merchant that is supported by your shopping cart out of the box. For example, below is a list of merchants that are supported by OSCommerce out of the box Authorize.net iPayment 2Checkout PsiGate SecPay Authorize.net is probably the most popular credit card processing option which is supported by a number of popular...

3 Reasons You Should Stock Your Own Items Instead of Drop Shipping

Many people who open an online store naturally assume that drop shipping their items is the best way to go. After all, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of carrying inventory and the product companies themselves are responsible for getting your orders to their end destination. While drop shipping, when employed successfully, can result in a low effort, low risk business model, many online businesses fail to consider the following disadvantages. Customer Support Because the delivery of your product is out of your hands, you may run into customer support issues when your customer does not receive their...

SEO: 10 Ways to Optimize Your Online Store for the Search Engines

The eventual success of your online store will depend on several factors. Probably the single most important factor will be where and how you are indexed in the various search engines. I’ve compiled below a comprehensive list of items that your online store should focus on to obtain the best rankings possible. In my experience, most online stores do not follow all of the rules shown below. Implementing these 10 little SEO techniques on your own online store should give you an advantage over the competition. Make Sure All of Your Internal Links Point to the Same...

5 Tips for Establishing an Efficient Picture Flow For Your Store

If your store is anything like ours, we have to go through hundreds and hundreds of product photos in selecting the best ones to use for our website. If you don’t have a good photo flow from your digital camera to your website, you could easily waste many hours fiddling with the product photos alone. I’ve put together some tips below that will hopefully make your picture flow more efficient. Use a Good Photo Software Manager While there are many good software packages available on the market, I have found Google’s Picasa to be an excellent solution for your photo...

4 Things to Avoid with the Product Pictures on Your Online Store

Taking good product photos is essential to operating a successful online store. Even more important than taking good photos though is how they are displayed on your website. Any online store can have beautiful pictures, but many stores make critical mistakes in the organization and efficiency of their product displays. Below is a list of 4 things to avoid when displaying pictures on your online store. Don’t Use High Resolution Photos I’ve seen many online stores fall into this trap. They use an extremely high resolution photo for all of the product pictures on the site. ...

Choosing the Right Shopping Cart Software Package

So you’ve decided to host your own website and open up your online store. Where do you go from here? There are a multitude of shopping cart packages out there and it’s extremely difficult to compare them all. Hopefully, I can save you some time and tell you what to look for. At the very basic level, there are 2 types of shopping cart packages, paid software packages and open source shopping carts, both of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Paid Software Shopping Cart Packages With paid software packages such as XCart, Miva Merchant etc…, you usually have...

Why You Should Never Start an Ebay Store

If you are going to take your online store seriously, you need to register your own domain and implement your own website. Many people who don’t consider themselves tech saavy often question their own abilities and end up relying on 3rd party sites such as Ebay, Yahoo etc… to implement their website store for them. Let me tell you why that’s a bad idea. Ebay Doesn’t Have Your Interests In Mind Ebay, like most publicly traded companies are primarily concerned with their own growth and stock price. They don’t care whether you are successful, nor do they care whether...

3 Ways to Motivate Yourself to Start Your Own Business

While everyone has different ways to motivate themselves, here are 3 unique ways to give yourself that little extra kick to jumpstart your business. Look at Your Tax Return Go ahead and dig up your last years tax return and paste it up on the wall directly in front of your desk. Make sure you highlight your adjusted gross income, your taxable income and your total amount of taxes paid. Now take a calculator and take the amount of taxes paid and divide that by your adjusted gross income. Let’s call this number the “Getting Screwed” percentage or GSP for short....