3 Ways to Refresh Your EBay Store

By Kate Hornsby | February 9, 2016

Refresh Logo Concept

When you’re running your eBay business on a day-to-day basis, it’s often difficult to take a step back to look for areas of your store that may need a little attention or updating. For most sellers, it’s simply “set it and forget it,” or rather, they open their store and after the initial setup, all of their attention is on their listings. It might not really seem important, after all, you are making sales…but taking some time to refresh certain areas of your store can not only help it to look better, but may actually help you increase your chances for bigger sales and higher success.

Refresh your About page

EBay gives you a little area on your About page where you can tell buyers a little bit about yourself and your store. It appears when someone clicks on your eBay user name and is also the page people can go to to follow you on. If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at your About page, take a little time to update the information there or reword it to reflect the type of seller you are today. You can also use it to add more information about your eBay business or provide a glimpse into what your store is really all about.

Refresh those Collections

A while back, eBay decided to do something similar to Pinterest and gave sellers an opportunity to create “Collections” (similar to Pinterest boards) of items they sell or like on eBay. While some sellers have taken full advantage of their Collections, others played with the concept when it initially started, but then never really did anything. Refresh your Collections by adding some new items to your Collections, if you already have the boards set up, or create some Collections with your current items. You can also generate a little interest for your store by following other people’s collections as many people will “Follow” back someone who has followed them.

Refresh your photo or logo

If you’ve been around eBay for a while, you know this is one of their favorite things to do. Over the years, eBay’s logo has been puffy and balloon like and then sleek and streamlined. If you’ve had the same old tired logo for a long time or your photo on your About page is several years old, updating it can breathe new life into your business and draw new attention to your store.

Have you refreshed or updated your storefront lately? Leave a comment below.

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Topics: eBay | No Comments »

Is it time for you to join the online marketplace?

By Kate Hornsby | February 6, 2016

Cash register: "Welcome to our store"
Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store or simply want to make a little extra money, selling online is definitely the way to go if you want to increase your revenue stream. Interestingly, while selling on your own website use to be the way to go, today more and more people (and businesses!) are choosing to sell online in places like eBay, Amazon and Etsy.

Although it may seem counterproductive to use another venue when you have already your own business website, there are some advantages to using a big online marketplace over trying to sell through your site.

First, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on marketing because it’s all already been done for you. As an example, Amazon not only helps you come up with keywords and ideas for listing your item’s product features, but they will help you showcase your products online. They also show you item rankings, so you know how your products are selling or how they are expected to sell.

Second, you don’t have to worry about getting your products to show up in search engines. Instead, as soon as your products are listed and appearing online, they appear in the marketplace’s built-in search engines and will even eventually get cataloged through the actual big search engines, such as Google and Yahoo.

So, what should you do if you do want to take advantage of selling on an online marketplace.

1. Take it slow. You will find there is a learning curve with each online marketplace. If you’ve never sold anywhere other than through your own store or website, it’s best to take them one at a time and learn about each separate marketplace before moving on to the next.

2. Research the fees associated with each marketplace. It can be a bit of a shock to have a super month in sales only to receive a large invoice for fees that you must pay at the end of the month. In some cases, you may find that you need to list your item for higher than what you actually sell it for in your store, or that the item is better suited for one marketplace over the other because of how much it will cost for you to list it there.

3. Remember that you are basically on your own. Although there is an abundance of training out there, you are pretty much by yourself when it comes to setting things up. Some sellers have found that it is easier to hire someone to initially set their online accounts up for them, or if you already have a full-time job, let someone else handle your day-to-day listings.

4. Start slow and see how it goes. Depending on what you sell, you may find that you are not prepared for the amount of inventory that you are moving. Make sure that you have a plan in place for replacing inventory as it sells and a strategy to help ensure that you can maintain the amount of inventory that you will need.

Are you considering joining the online marketplace? Leave a comment below.

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Topics: Online Business | 2 Comments »

Selling 101: What You Should Know About BOLOs – Part Two

By Kate Hornsby | February 5, 2016

EBRP police car 1 8-22-09

As you may recall, last week we talked about what you needed to know about BOLOs (Be On the Lookout Out for) items and what you should do if you locate one. This week, we are going to take things one step further and discuss whether or not you should share a BOLO when you find one.

 
Although the decision ultimately is up to you, there are some things you should consider.

 
First, is the item you have found actually a BOLO? In some cases, you may find that although the item you have found is listed for a high dollar amount, it may not actually be a good item to buy or share with others (if that is what you plan to do). If you’re listing on Amazon, you want to check for both the item’s rank and its ROI (return on investment) and make sure that both of these are good. If you are checking eBay, you want to look at completed and sold items, not just that there are a ton of item listings.

 
Second, you need to know if the item really is hard to find or if it is simply a popular item that has a good resell value. If it can be found at every Walgreen or Target, you may be able to buy it at a good price and resell or flip it for a good price, but it’s only a matter of time before other people discover it and start doing the same thing.

 

At that point, the market will most likely become over-saturated and no one is going to make anything. Even worse, if buyers discover they can pick one up at almost any store, you’re liable to be stuck with a bunch of the items that you may not be able to return.

 

If you discover that the item really is a BOLO and that it is hard to find, the next thing you must decide is whether or not you want to let other people know about it. As mentioned above, this is a personal decision for everyone. Some people feel that sharing is a way of giving back and believe in helping others the same way they were once helped, while other people feel that you need to protect your source and that business is business.

 

While it’s one thing to decide to share your own BOLO, before you share an item that you have found that someone else revealed in a group (particularly a private group), you need to determine how it will not only affect you, but the other person that initially provided you with the BOLO. Think about how you would feel if it was reversed.

Finally, if it is your own BOLO, decide whether it will really matter to you if the sellers you give the BOLO to refer it to others. If you share with a small group, then one of them decides to share, you will need to determine how you will handle it. If it’s going to be a big deal to you, then it may be best to just keep it to yourself.

 

Do you believe in sharing BOLOs with other sellers? Have you ever had a bad experience doing this? Leave a comment below.

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Topics: Amazon, eBay | No Comments »

The Right Way to “Private Label” Online By Cliff Ennico

By That Kat | February 1, 2016

 

cliffIn last week’s column, we talked about some of the wrong ways to engage in “private labeling” on eBay, Amazon and other e-commerce websites – buying someone else’s merchandise (legally) and reselling it online at a significantly higher price under your own trademark or “brand label”.

A lot of online retailers are taking someone else’s branded merchandise, removing all the trademarks and logos, replacing the manufacturer’s packaging with their own, and reselling the merchandise under their own name and logo.  It’s the “Wild West” of e –commerce, and if not done right, it’s illegal.

Here are some rules for engaging in “private labeling” the right way.

Get the Manufacturer’s Permission.  There are some manufacturers, mainly in Asia, that sell generic merchandise to online retailers for the specific purpose of allowing them to “private label” it.  Never assume that you are dealing with one of these folks.  Get the manufacturer’s written consent to “modify, enhance, improve, repackage, rebrand and resell” the merchandise on “all physical and electronic media, channels of distribution and means of communication, whether now existing or hereafter developed.”

While you’re at it, ask the manufacturer for the “exclusive” right to do all of the above.  “Private labeling” merchandise that’s being “private labeled” by dozens of other online retailers is a waste of your time, as that kind of merchandise probably isn’t worth much.

Add Some Value to Your Merchandise.  I really have a problem with retailers who take someone else’s merchandise, slap their name on it, and resell it online without doing anything else.  A true “private labeler” does something to change, modify or enhance the products they sell, even if it’s only bundling them with other products in a “package deal” the manufacturers don’t offer.  It always enhances your status in the marketplace if your stuff is “new, improved” or somehow better than other stuff that appears to be identical.

Make Sure the Stuff Isn’t Counterfeit.  Do not resell or “private label” merchandise you do not know or understand.  If you do not know your merchandise, you have no idea if it’s counterfeit or not.  Some Asian manufacturers of “generic” merchandise are actually selling counterfeits, and you will be caught with your pants down if the U.S. manufacturer finds out you are selling counterfeit goods here.  They won’t just sue you for trademark infringement, they will sic the Government on you.  It’s a federal crime, people – for the first offense, up to 10 years in prison and a $2 million fine for individuals ($5 million for companies).  For multiple violations, you don’t want to know.

Trademark Your Brand Identity.  Your whole purpose in “private labeling” is to develop your own brand recognition online.  That won’t happen if other people can easily use a similar name or logo and confuse people into thinking it’s you.  The only way to prevent that is to get a federally registered trademark – the “®”.

Have a professional design your name and logo, and prepare to spend $2,000 to $3,000 to have a qualified lawyer register the trademark with the federal Government.  It’s worth it.

Get Products Liability Insurance.  As a private labeler, you are responsible for anything that goes wrong with the merchandise (you can try suing the Asian manufacturer, but good luck with that).  If someone is injured or dies using your product, they will sue you for “products liability.”  You need insurance for that, at an average cost of 26 cents per $100 of your cost of goods sold.

If the law requires your merchandise to be tested prior to sale, make sure you get it done.  For example, the federal Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act requires extensive testing of toys and children’s products imported from China (see www.chinaimportal.com/blog/cpsia-importing-childrens-products-china-united-states).

Get Your Own Universal Product Codes (UPCs).  E-commerce websites require you to have a UPC code on each new item you sell online.  The law on UPC codes is a bit fuzzy right now, but if you are “private labeling” legally – either you have the manufacturer’s permission or your reselling activities are protected by the “first sale” doctrine (see www.creators.com/lifestylefeatures/business-and-finance/succeeding-in-your-business/the-kirtsaeng-case-and-the-future-of-retail-arbitrage.html), you not only can – but may legally be required to – use your own UPC code for each item.

You should not remove the manufacturer’s UPC code, as that may constitute trademark infringement if the manufacturer uses these codes to police counterfeiting, ensure product quality, facilitate product recalls, or some other legitimate commercial purpose (see http://sunsteinlaw.com/the-upc-code-a-new-frontier-for-trademark-infringement/).

Also, there should be a unique UPC code for each individual item you sell – using the same UPC code on multiple items is an old counterfeiter’s trick and could get you into legal trouble.

Hire a Really Good Lawyer.  If you are serious about “private labeling,” you will need a lawyer.  Prepare to spend at least $1,000 a year on services such as:

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2016 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

Topics: Cliff Ennico | No Comments »

Etsy Tinkers With Shopper’s Search Feature

By Kate Hornsby | January 29, 2016

Etsy Wall

It really doesn’t matter whether you sell on eBay, Amazon, or Etsy, one of the first things you often discover as a seller is that change is constant and never-ending. This go around, it’s Etsy that is playing with its algorithms, or more specifically their search feature.

According to the Etsy Announcement Board, the change comes as a way to help shoppers find what they are looking for. To do this, Etsy states that they have been running tests to tailor the search results to individual buyers based on their history on Etsy. Basically, this means that when a buyer performs a search to look for an item, Etsy will attempt to match their search to items that they feel will have the most interest to the buyer.

Unfortunately, it will be hard for sellers to gauge how this is affecting them, since some buyers are being included in the testing process while others are not. In a nutshell, the buyers who are part of this testing, will be shown items based on identifying signals that are made from their previous searches.

If this all sounds similar to what you’ve heard before, it may be because this is basically the same type of algorithm or very similar to the one that Amazon uses for its buyers. What it means for sellers is that your listing placement in search may go up or down, depending on what Etsy thinks the buyer is going to be most likely to purchase. In other words, what appears for one buyer in a search will be different from what another buyer sees in their search, all based on what they have searched for in the past.

While some sellers like this idea since it is similar to the “Amazon way,” others have expressed some concerns. For one thing, it makes it harder to know what keywords you should use since there is no way of knowing what keywords you need to come out on top in a search.

From the buyers side, it can be an issue too. Problem being – just how often do you buy the exact same thing that you purchased before? From what Etsy is saying, if they know you have been searching for red widgets in past searches, they are going to steer you toward more things that are similar to red widgets, even if you, as a buyer, have moved on to wanting something else like a blue or purple widget.

How this will affect Etsy sellers and buyers remains to be seen, but for now all we can really do is see how the new search algorithm plays out. Are you concerned about the new search features? Leave a comment below. You can learn more about the changes here.

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Selling 101: What you should know about BOLOs

By Kate Hornsby | January 28, 2016

Police Car Lights

If you’re a member of any Facebook groups or egroups for online selling, then you no doubt have seen the acronym BOLO being thrown about here and there. If you watch a lot of cop shows on television, you probably know that this means “Be On the Look Out” (for) and on a show like Law and Order SVU or Rookie Blues, it means the police are hunting a suspect or someone that’s wanted for something.

 
In the world of online selling, a BOLO sort of has the same meaning, but instead of a person, it means to keep an eye out for an item that a seller can generally pick up for a low amount and flip for a higher profit margin. You may wonder why a seller would want to share a BOLO (and whether you should share is a topic for another post), but normally it’s shared because the seller has found the item and is no longer able to locate anymore of them in their own area, so now they want to share their find with others in their.

In most cases, a BOLO is hard to find so what should you do if you run across one? Well, your first thought is probably to buy as many of them as you can, but before you do there are some things you should do.

Find out if the item is really worth buying and reselling? Just as one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, you may find that the BOLO does not meet your selling requirements. Perhaps it doesn’t have a sales rank that is high enough for you on Amazon, or you discover there are already a bazillion of them for sale on eBay – all at incredibly low prices. Do some research before you by and check to make sure that the return on your money is worth the purchase.

Get it. List it and send it in! If the BOLO was made public, then there are a lot of people hunting for the same thing. Strike while the iron is still hot and list it as soon as you get home or send it on in to Amazon FBA. This will keep you ahead of the other competition and can help get your item sold quickly before others start to appear.

Visit every store in your area. Don’t give up if you don’t find the item in the first store you visit. If the BOLO was seen in a CVS or WalGreens, visit every CVS or WalGreens in your area. This was how a seller scored big back when holiday Pringles were the big BOLO item. She didn’t find any at the first two stores she visited, but the third store was the charm and she was able to get each flavor that Pringles was offering. Since the chips were so hard to find, she was able to make a lot out of them and sell them for more than what many people were getting just trying to sell the single cans.

Are you a BOLO hunter? Leave a comment below.

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Topics: Inventory | No Comments »

Trademark Infringement and “Private Labeling” Online By Cliff Ennico

By That Kat | January 25, 2016

Ciff Ennico HeadshotTwo e-mails I received this week deal with a recent phenomenon in e-commerce – the so-called “private labeling” of merchandise on Amazon, eBay and other online venues.

Here’s how it works:  a seller buys merchandise in bulk from a manufacturer (usually in China or elsewhere in Asia).  The merchandise is not trademarked or branded in any way.  The seller then places its own trademark or brand on the merchandise and sells it online.  Sometimes the seller makes changes to the merchandise, but most often it merely puts it in its own packaging.

“Private labeling” is nothing new.  Go to your neighborhood CVS or Walgreens pharmacy and head for the mouthwash aisle.  You will see Listerine® and other popular brands, and right next to them will be CVS’ or Walgreens’ own brand, for a lot less money.  Guess what?  The “generic” brand is exactly the same as Listerine®, although it bears the “private label” of CVS or Walgreen.

“Private labeling” with the manufacturer’s consent is okay, but it seems some sellers on eBay and Amazon are taking matters way out of hand.  If merchandise is trademarked or branded by the manufacturer or somebody else, you cannot “private label” it unless you get their written permission.  Slapping your name on somebody else’s stuff without their permission is trademark infringement, and it’s illegal.

The first e-mail I received from an overseas manufacturer complaining that a number of Amazon sellers were selling his merchandise in the United States without permission.  The manufacturer had not registered its trademark in this country, and was concerned that one of the resellers might do so, thereby denying his company the right to use its own marks.  The manufacturer was also concerned that its consumer warranties do not extend to sales outside of its home country, and that U.S. customers might be misled into thinking they have the same protections as authorized buyers.

First of all, this manufacturer needs to find out how the U.S. seller is getting hold of his (presumably genuine) merchandise.  I’m assuming the seller is engaging in “retail arbitrage” – buying the merchandise in bulk overseas, shipping it here, and then selling it at a higher price – as many eBay and Amazon sellers do.

As interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, the “first sale” doctrine in trademark law says you can do anything you like with merchandise once you buy and pay for it.  If the overseas purchases were legal, the reseller (I’m sad to say) has every right to sell the merchandise in the U.S.  What this manufacturer needs to do is hire a U.S. trademark lawyer and register its trademarks here as quickly as possible to protect its brand image.  Then, contact the sellers, explain that you will not extend your warranties and other customer benefits to their U.S. customers, and require them to disclose that fact in their online listings.

If, on the other hand, the seller is counterfeiting the overseas manufacturer’s merchandise (making it here or in China and then slapping their own name on it), that’s a whole different story.  My first call here would be to the nearest Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) office.

The second e-mail deals with almost exactly the opposite situation.  The manufacturer in this case has learned that sellers on Amazon are selling their own, or somebody else’s merchandise, under the manufacturer’s trademark without permission.  The merchandise is not counterfeit, but resembles merchandise offered by the manufacturer.

Using someone else’s trademark on your own or a third party’s merchandise is trademark infringement, pure and simple.  If the merchandise is of a type not offered by the manufacturer (for example, using a software company’s trademark on cheap toilet paper), it is “trademark dilution”, also illegal.  This manufacturer needs to hire a lawyer and send some nasty “cease and desist letters” to these people.

Both of these manufacturers should contact eBay and Amazon and notify them of the trademark infringement happening on their sites, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for them to take action.  These platforms are notoriously reluctant to get involved in disputes between sellers, and the federal courts have consistently said they are not accountable for what sellers do on their sites as long as they don’t actively promote such activities.

Sadly, there is no legal recourse for manufacturers whose products are being improperly “private labeled” but to hire attorneys and spend tons of money trying to get justice.

Taking generic, unbranded merchandise and putting your own trademark or brand on it is perfectly legal as long as the manufacturer permits it.  If you are not certain about that, you should contact the manufacturer and get their written permission to “private label” their merchandise.

If the merchandise is sold under a registered trademark (look for the “R in a circle” symbol next to the product name, or look it up on www.uspto.gov), you DO NOT have permission to “private label” that merchandise under your own name, or use that trademark to sell somebody else’s merchandise.  Doing so is illegal.  End of story, world without end, amen. Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2016 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,

Topics: Cliff Ennico | 4 Comments »

Winter Weather Could Cause Shipping Delays

By Kate Hornsby | January 22, 2016

Snowstorm on the East Coast. Maryland.

If you’re on the East Coast, then no doubt that over the last few days you’ve probably been keeping a wary eye on the weather forecast. According to a variety of news sources, the winter storm known as Jonas is expected to be a bad with various reports (depending on what news source you like to listen to) indicating that the storm may drop anywhere from 12 to 20 inches of snow in the Northeast with lesser quantities of snow and/or ice in the Southeast.

Unfortunately, along with snow and ice comes shipping delays and if you’re an eBay seller in the affected storm area, now is the time to start thinking about a contingency plan for your shipping schedule. While the storm is expected to hit over what for the most part is considered the weekend (currently Friday afternoon), keep in mind that even if the storm clears out by Monday it may still impact how long your package is going to take to ship even when the new workweek rolls around.

So…what to do?

First, if you’re in the storm area go ahead and change your shipping and handling days to at least two to four (or more) days out (depending on where you are located and what the forecast is predicting). This gives buyers a heads-up that you won’t be getting the packages out right away and if they need something immediately, it’s best they look elsewhere.

Second, notify all of the buyers you are currently dealing with that there may potentially be a delay in shipping. Most buyers are okay with delays as long as they know what to expect, but it’s always good practice to offer to cancel the transaction if they don’t want to wait.
Third, some sellers like to post a “banner” or announcement in big bold red letters at the top of their listing page. This gives buyers another opportunity to know that there is an expected delay with your shipping and lets them know what is going on.

Meanwhile,  it’ always best to keep up with the changing weather online at websites such as weather.com and you can also see how it is affecting the carriers you may use, such as USPS, UPS and FedEx by checking for information on their individual websites.

Are you in the area affected by the storm? What strategy do you have in place for shipping delays? Leave a comment below.

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Topics: eBay | No Comments »

Amazon Continues Move Forward with Prime Air Service

By Kate Hornsby | January 20, 2016

drone

Although it remains uncertain when Amazon’s drones will actually take to the sky to begin delivering packages, it hasn’t stopped the online marketplace from moving forward with their plans to use them. According to Yahoo Tech’s David Pogue, while Amazon still has to wait for regulations to become established for commercial drone use, the company is making decisions in the meantime about how their fleet of drones will operate.

 
During an interview with Paul Misener, Amazon’s vice president for global public policy, Pogue was told what buyers can expect from the program once it goes live and the drones are in the air.

 
First, apparently Amazon’s drones will only be equipped to carry packages that weigh up to five pounds. Since their marketplace sells thousands of items, they are in the process of narrowing down what types of packages the drones would carry. The range for the drones to fly would also have to be over 10 miles and Amazon plans to deliver the packages right to a buyer’s doorstep, regardless of whether or not they are at home. This may bring up the question of theft of the packages, but Misener states that it really is no different than if a package is delivered to a buyer’s door by a UPS delivery truck.

 
Second, while the program initially will seem all shiny and new with (no doubt) plenty of attention, Misener feels that once the novelty wears off, delivery drones will seem just as common as delivery trucks going down the street. The company is currently looking at ways to have drones deliver packages everywhere from farmhouses to apartments in the city.

 

Although the logistics of some of the deliveries still needs to be worked out. Misener is confident the company will have everything in place by the time the drones are placed into operation. He also dismisses some concerns that people may attempt to shoot down the drones to get to the items they are carrying. He states that he doesn’t feel that the drones are in any more danger of being shot down than a truck is in danger of being shot at on the street.

 

Are you excited about Amazon’s Prime Air Service becoming a reality? Leave a comment below.

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Your New Year’s Resolutions for 2016 [Part 2 of 2] By Cliff Ennico

By That Kat | January 19, 2016

Ciff Ennico HeadshotHere are some more New Year’s Resolutions for business owners.

Find Three New Sources of Saleable Product.  If your business is selling stuff online, one of your biggest challenges is finding high quality stuff to sell at a profit.  If you’re not currently taking consignments, you’re out of your mind.  Take out an ad in your local newspaper saying “I Take Consignments!” with a toll-free telephone number.  Trust me, you will get calls.  Let the local senior citizen community know you are available to help them clean out their houses and apartments when they move into an assisted living facility.  Finally, make 2016 the year you cut out the middlepeople in your life — go to www.worldwidebrands.com and www.globalsources.com and find out where you can buy the stuff you’re currently selling directly from the manufacturers in Asia and “drop shippers” in the United States.

Get Your Taxes Right.  If you have been selling things on eBay or Amazon and haven’t been paying taxes, now is the time to get into compliance with the tax laws.  The IRS and state tax authorities are losing patience with people who don’t know they are in business when they’re selling online, and it’s only a matter of time before you will be required to pay income and sales taxes in every state where your business has a legal “nexus”.  Get a copy of my book “The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book,” and read it cover to cover – it’s the best twenty bucks you will ever spend.

Renew Your Web Address.  If your business is dependent on the Internet, make sure you check your domain name registrar at least once each year to make sure your Web address hasn’t expired.  They do send you renewal notices, but often these get picked up as “spam” by your antispam software, so you never see them, your Web address expires and gets grabbed by someone else.  Pick a date that’s easy to remember – like your birthday – and renew each of your important Web addresses on that day.

Update Your Software Twice a Year.  Just about every software program gets updated at least once or twice a year, but not every software developer sends you an e-mail announcing the latest updates.  Make it a point to visit the Website “home page” of each software company whose products you license, and look for a button that says “check for updates” or something like that.  It just may save your computer.

You should also consider investing in software that will:

Sheath Your SmartPhone.  Make 2016 the year you stop being a “SmartPhone slave”.  Make some rules about when you will use your SmartPhone or “phablet”, and when you won’t.  Stick to them.  Rule # 1:  do not use any mobile device while driving a motor vehicle.  Period.

Get Control of Your Bookkeeping.  If your bookkeeping system consists of a shoebox, you have absolutely no idea what’s going on in your business.  Sign up for your local community college’s evening class on QuickBooks Pro® and learn to do it the right way.

If you use “live” bookkeepers, meet with them at least 3 or 4 times every year, review your chart of accounts and other operating statements with them, and get their opinions on things you are doing right and things you need to improve.  Because they look at your business from “5,000 feet up”, they may see risks, problems and threats that you can’t.

Start Escrowing for Estimated Taxes.  If you pay estimated taxes to the federal and state governments four times a year, and find yourself occasionally without enough cash on hand to make the tax payments, you need to start “escrowing” for these taxes.  Take your gross sales each month, withdraw 40% of that amount from your business checking account, and deposit it in an interest-bearing savings account.  Do this every month, and learn to operate your business on the remaining 60% of revenue.  This way you will be sure to have enough cash on hand to make your tax payments when they come due.

And a final resolution:

Get Involved in the Political Process.  The Presidential election is getting all the media attention, but a new Congress is also going to be elected in November.  Will they care about the needs of small business?  To make sure they ido, make your voice heard – contact your elected representatives periodically (to find them, go to http://hq-salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/5950/getLocal.jsp and type in your ZipCode).  Offer to serve as an informal (and unpaid) advisor on proposed legislation affecting small business.  Or – if they aren’t responsive — maybe consider running for local office yourself next year.  If Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump can do it . . .

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2015 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

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