Door to Door? Be Safe and Courteous!

So, you’re going door to door, are you? Well, whether it’s distributing fliers, selling items, handing out notices, getting sign-ups, and, whether it’s volunteer work, selling for a school or organization, a full or part-time job getting the word out, letting people know of an event or lost pet, or any other legitimate reason, etc., there are some things to know.

Go When You Can Be Seen

Firstly, do go when you can be seen, that is, during the day. Morning and early evening is ok, too, so long as there is sufficient light for someone to see what you look like. If it’s too dark to see what other people look like, then it’s too dark to be going door to door. For one, you might not see the potential assailant. And, for those whose homes you are going to, you’ll appear as just a dark menacing shape to them and, they may be extra suspicious of you, and for good reason. In some cases, their reaction may be extreme. Some years back, I heard of a guy getting shot as he and his group were knocking on doors, selling items to people. They had gone out late at night and one person, thinking it was a home invasion robbery about to start, shot one of the door to door salespeople.  Most people won’t react to that extreme, but they may not open the door, and probably won’t want to listen to what you have to say, and you won’t have a chance to get them the information or make the sale. During the daytime, those same people, seeing what you look like instead of some dark, menacing shape, will be much more likely to welcome you, as they are much less likely to feel threatened.

 

Go to the Front Door

Obviously, if your going door to door requires actual contact with the resident, you be going to the front door. But, even if you’re just distributing literature with no need to contact the resident directly, it’s still always a good idea to go to the front door. Even if there’s no adequate place to put the flier. If there really isn’t a place or way to put the flier in the front door area, then skip that house. If neighbors see you going to the garage, or especially, the back yard, they could rightly become suspicious and call the police on you. Always only go to the front door area!

Also, if you come up to a house and the front door is ajar or fully open and no one is there, skip that house. It’s most likely the owner just forgot to close the door and is probably inside, but, my feeling is that, if something in the house goes missing, you might be held liable and suspected of theft, even if you had nothing to do with it. It’s just a measure of self-protection that I believe in.

Finally, don’t place items you’re distributing in the resident’s mailbox or mail slot. I know in the United States, it is illegal to place non-postal or non-postage-paid items in any postal receptacle or slot, and this may be the case in other countries, too.

Respect “No Soliciting” Signs

I still distribute fliers and I do respect “No Soliciting” signs. While it’s most likely true that most people who put up those signs don’t want their doorbell rung or the knock on the door and wouldn’t mind the simple placing of a flier at their doorstep, it’s still a good idea to pay heed to those signs, regardless. When people see that you respect their wishes, they tend to respect you more. And, only if you are not selling something, if you see someone outside of a home with a “No Soliciting” sign, it’s ok to ask them if they want the flier. I’ve found that the resident will accept the flier much more often than not in these cases.

Sometimes, you will come across variations of the “No Soliciting” sign, such as “No Peddlers or Agents”, or simply a “No Trespassing” sign. Other wording, too, can tell you that they mean, “No Soliciting”, so do read and pay attention. In the case of the “No Trespassing” sign, if it is on a gate leading to the back yard and not in the front door area, then I’ll still go to that house, since they most likely mean, “Stay out of my back yard!”. But, if it’s on the front door or window, then I skip that house.

Sometimes you may by chance be at a house, then somehow spot a “No Soliciting” sign so small and obscure that an eagle would almost need glasses to read it! In these cases, unless you’ve made contact with the resident, it’s best to just skip that house. But, a word of advice to those of you who have put up a “No Soliciting” sign, please, don’t make it so small that it requires a magnifying glass close up to read, and don’t put it in an obscure place where someone is not likely to look. It keeps more of them from disturbing you and also allows them to skip your house and waste less of their time. Just a two-way courtesy where both sides win.

So, just pay attention to this advice and your door to door selling or distributing has a much better chance of going  without incident.

Happy distributing, selling and good luck!

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Converting Your Home To Business Premises: 5 Crucial Considerations

When you’re in pursuit of turning your business dream into reality, you have to think big.

Successful entrepreneurs are all united by the driving force of their ambition. Faced with situations that others might dismiss as unworkable, true entrepreneurs are prepared to throw themselves full-throttle into trying to overcome the obstacles in their path– even if that means sacrifice.

Sacrifices Start At Home

One such sacrifice that many business owners find themselves contemplating is a need for business premises… and not having the funds to rent and outfit entirely new premises. It’s at this point that many entrepreneurs may decide to rein in their business plans, or do something different, but a good entrepreneur knows that there are always options to pursue. If their business absolutely needs premises, then they’re going to obtain business premises– whatever it takes.

Unfortunately, what “it” sometimes takes is the home of the entrepreneur. After all, their home is something they are already in possession of. It’s a physical space, with a backyard they can use for storage, and there’s an established gas, electricity, and water supply to the property. When evaluated from a business perspective, there’s plenty of benefits there to consider. It really might work.

The downside, of course, is that their home becomes their office, their workspace. They lose that thing so crucial to a good work-life balance; having their own space.

If you’re a budding entrepreneur who is struggling to afford premises, then you may find yourself considering converting an area of your home into office space. You may have wondered just how much storage you can fit in the backyard; and idly considered how you might need to adapt your property to suit business requirements. Would it be worth it? Is this a step you should take, or a terrible idea from the outset? Let’s dive deeper into the things you need to know when considering converting your home into your business premises…

Know The Difference: Working From Home vs. Premises Conversion

Many people assume that there is little difference between “working from home” and “converting your home for use as premises”. However, this is an oversight, as the differences are actually rather stark. Many people work from home; this requires no adaptation for the most part, just a working internet connection and a laptop.

Conversely, converting your home into business premises is far more detailed and laborious.

So you have to figure out which you really need. Here are a few circumstances in which converting to premises is suitable:

    • You need a space to host customers or clients. Most people who work from home don’t need this; if they do, on occasion, have to meet a client, they will arrange it at a local coffee shop/business venue.
    • Your business requires you to hold large amounts of stock. While it’s possible to run some small ecommerce-type businesses without converting your home, anything more advanced will require larger storage capabilities than the average home can hold.

 

  • You want to offer a retail space. Some people choose to convert an area of their home into a retail space. This happens for various reasons; not being able to afford conventional retail outlets, wanting to take advantage of a good location (for example, if their house is close to an area that receives a high volume of foot traffic) or just out of preference– it’s a pretty short commute if you live above the store, after all.

 

If you don’t need any of the above, then you don’t need to consider a full-scale conversion.

If, however, you do need premises for one (or more) of the above reasons, then read on.

The Legal Hoops: A Guide To Jumping Through Them

The process of converting your home for use as business premises is an extensive, time-consuming one, and the biggest time suck of all will be the bureaucracy you have to deal with.

There are so many different legal areas you need to consider prior to a conversion. Here’s a primer on the areas you will need to investigate, the companies you will need to contact, and the notification you will need to give to ensure your conversion is allowed:

 

  • Call your home insurance provider. If you’re going to change the nature of your dwelling, then your home insurance company needs to know. In all likelihood, you will require an entirely new home insurance policy; one that covers you for business as well as domestic use.
  • Call your local authority. This is particularly necessary if you’re opening up a retail space; you must have permission to trade from the local government. Obtaining this permission can be a long, slow process; you neighbors will have a right to register their displeasure at your plans, and you will need to prove you are insured for business usage and public liability.

 

  • Learn your codes. You’re going to need permission for a material usage change for your home from three coding sections: Zoning, Business Ordinances, and Business Licensing. Hopefully, your initial call to your local authority will have directed your queries in the direction of these offices, but you are responsible for checking this has happened.

If all of the above sounds worrying, well, that’s because it should be. This road isn’t an easy one, and it will take time to ensure you are fully compliant with local requirements. However, there are plenty of steps you would need to take to register for any business premises, so don’t be unduly deterred by the list above– just focus on the paperwork and make sure everything is in order.

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The Conversion Process: What Do You Need To Do?

When you’ve obtained all of the appropriate permissions, you now have to move into the conversion process itself. There are numerous areas you’re going to need to consider.

 

  • What rooms are you going to dedicate to the business? A common choice is to convert the ground level of your home and “live” on the second floor. This works well, but what about the kitchen? You may want to adapt your home, which will require consulting with an architect and building firm.
  • What about entrances and exits? Firstly, you will be required to provide adequate fire escapes as part of the process you undertake with your local authority. You need to make changes to ensure that all of your business visitors — be it suppliers making deliveries, customers arriving for appointments, or eager shoppers — are able to access your property comfortably. For supplier deliveries, you may need to consider extra wide safety gates to ensure trucks can enter your property boundary correctly to load and unload. For customers, you’re going to need to think about where they will park their vehicles; your neighbors will swiftly turn to anger if the street is blocked up by customer cars.
  • Which security changes do you need to make? Home security is always important, but this necessity moves up another gear when your home is also your business. You may want to consider installing extra CCTV systems, and if you have gates, you’re going to want some kind of intercom system installed.
  • What do you need to redecorate? If you’re converting a space in your home for business use, that space needs to stop looking like a home. You’re going to need to redecorate, install new furniture, and ensure you have adequate lighting. If you’re opening a retail space, you are pretty much going to be outfitting the entire selling area from scratch– so you need to have room for this in your budget.
  • What happens if you want to sell the house in the future? Unless you are lucky and find a buyer who wants a home/business premises combination, you might find that you struggle to set your home for the amount it would be worth if it was still just a home. This is an aspect you’re going to have to calculate into your future financial planning, so be aware of it.

 

One thing that’s important to remember is that the conversion process will not be rapid. You will need to manage the project efficiently, juggling multiple different issues at the same time, and ensure that you keep an eye on your costs, too. It’s hard work, which begs the question… is it worth it?

So Should You Convert Your Home For Business Usage?

The above sounds like an exhausting list of potential problems, issues you are going to face, and more red tape than you have ever dealt with before in your life. Is it worth going through all of that stress?

The answer is probably “yes”. If there’s a reason you don’t want to invest in commercial premises, then the home conversion is the next best thing. Not only are you able to control everything about the process — there’s no landlord whose preferences you have to take into account, for example — but you will also save a fortune on leasing fees in the long term.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. If you don’t mind the short-term hassle, then you may just find that converting your home into business premises is the right solution for your business.

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Safety Measures You Can’t Neglect In Your Business

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One of the things that far too many business owners forget is that it is their responsibility to make sure that the business is a safe environment for every single person in it. It’s all too common for people to ignore things like health and safety because it can feel as though the need for them is so rare. However, anyone could tell you that it’s far better to have the correct safety measures in place and to never really need them than to need them and suddenly realize that you never bothered to think about them properly. With that in mind, here are a few simple safety measures that every single business needs, and how you can fit them into your organization.

Emergency Equipment

It’s no exaggeration to say that the correct emergency equipment can potentially mean the difference between life and death for some of your employees. If you don’t have things like defibrillators and fire extinguishers set up in your business, then a dangerous situation could easily turn into a genuinely life-threatening one. Check out these Foremost Equipment medical devices to see the kinds of things that your business needs to have installed. It can feel as though you’re spending a lot on these kinds of things, but the reality is that it’s always better to spend money on taking care of your employees than to put them at any kind of risk.

Correct Procedures

If you don’t have the correct health and safety procedures in place, then you’re essentially tempting fate every single day. It can sometimes feel as though health and safety procedures are just there to get in the way and make life more inconvenient for you and your employees, but the reality is that those measures are in place to protect people. Simple things like keeping desks and walkways clear, or turning off computers at the end of each day might not seem as though they would make that much difference but every little thing adds up to a safer working environment for everyone.

Frequent Training

Of course, all of the procedures in the world around going to mean a thing if your employees don’t know how to follow them. Make sure that you’re providing training for every single person in the business, including yourself so that everyone is up to speed on exactly how to conduct themselves safely in the workplace. And don’t just do this once either, make sure that you’re offering frequent refresher courses so that all of the relevant safety measures that you have in place are fresh in their minds all the time.

It’s important to remember that this stuff isn’t just purely academic. If you don’t have the right safety measures in place, then you’re genuinely putting your staff at risk in a way that is pretty much inexcusable. Remember that if something happens to one of your employees that could have been avoided with measures that you failed to put in place, you’re the one who’s going to be liable for that.

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Are You Liable If Your Small Business Gets Hacked?

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At this point in time, it very much looks like one of the most-used words of the 21st century is going to be “hacked”. There seems to be no limit on the number of businesses that have been hacked; some of the most well-known companies in the world have found themselves having to apologize for falling victim to hacking. Most recently, the Equifax leak was thought to have impacted half the US population— it’s clear that the scope for hacking knows no limits.

When you’re a small business owner, seeing these huge companies falling victim to hacks can be extremely disturbing. After all, if the big fish can experience this, then surely your smaller business can too? And if the worst does happen, are you liable for what then happens to that data?

The Good News

Let’s start with the positive news; there’s a reason big companies are hacked. These companies are targeted specifically because they are the big fish; hackers anticipate the largest payoff if they focus their resources on huge, multinational companies.

For small businesses, the potential for return on investment for hackers just isn’t as good, so there’s every chance that your company simply isn’t big enough to be worth hacking. This is one of the few areas where it’s better for your business to be niche and small, rather than huge and dominating the world!

The Bad News

Hacking is a relatively new problem, so it’s fair to say that the legal system hasn’t quite caught up to the liability of companies when they are hacked. There’s no cut-and-dried legal precedent. In some ways, that’s good news– you’re not definitely liable… but you’re also not definitely not liable.

In the current climate, the best thing you can do is be sure that your business is 100 percent compliant with all the rules and regulations surrounding data storage. This is especially true if you hold customer financial data; for example, an ecommerce store that stores credit card information. If you’re not immediately sure about where you stand in regards to security legislation, then make it a priority to contact a SOC auditor to assess your compliance. If you can prove you have taken the necessary steps to comply with legislation, you have a much stronger chance of defending your case in the event of a lawsuit.

The Ugly News

If you are hacked and customer data is leaked, then you might think that avoiding being found financially liable is the only thing you have to worry about. That’s not the case. In the aftermath of a hack, you’re also going to need to take huge steps to restore customer confidence in your business. This is easier said than done; it can take years to get your reputation back to a level field.

For modern businesses, hacking is an ever-present threat that can cause problems for a number of reasons. The best solution is to protect yourself as best as you can, and keep customers informed if you do suffer a data breach. If you can commit to these two things, then your business is in good shape.

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“Pimp My Ride”: The Reality (And What You Should Do Instead)

Rusted Pickup Truck Abandoned Old Car Oldtimer

The starting point for “Pimp My Ride”

Pimp My Ride was a wildly successful TV show hosted by rapper Xzibit. It spawned the phrase “pimp my ride” to largely mean “improve my car in some way”– which is ironic, given what the TV show actually did to people’s cars. The premise of the show was simple; take a rusted, battered car and turn it into something showstopping.

While the show may be gone from the airwaves, it’s not been forgotten, especially by those who handed over their vehicles to the show. You may have watched a few episodes yourself and wondered how it was possible; perhaps even inspiring you to play with modifying your car. The next time you eye a modification and wonder if you should pimp your ride, it’s worth remembering what the phrase actually means– and why it was the beginning of a highway to hell for the owners featured on the show.

Pimp My Ride Rendered Cars Undriveable

Imagine what it’s like for the car owners of Pimp My Ride. They get the call to confirm they have been accepted for the show. They’re going to be on TV! Their not-so-great car is going to be given a dream makeover! What could possibly be more exciting?

Well, let’s go with “having a car that’s driveable”. That’s not particularly exciting for the most part; the majority of us automatically expect that our cars will be driveable, right? That’s their primary function, so why would someone who’d been featured on Pimp My Ride be excited about their car being driveable?

Because most of the “modified” cars that went through the show were rendered completely useless. Those that did get through their “pimping” and were still able to be driven were the lucky ones. It turns out if you add a huge stereo system to an old and rusted car, it doesn’t drive very well– who knew?

(Answer: everyone knew.)

Most Pimp My Ride Cars Were Illegal

If you’re driving and a car traveling in the opposite direction breaks the line and hits you, then that’s an annoyance. You have to deal with any potential injuries, learn more about the legalities of the situation, and deal with repairs to your vehicle. It’s an inconvenience, but you’re a reasonable person– accidents happen.

Now let’s say you’re driving and a car traveling in the opposite direction has an arcade machine, a TV, or any of the other “upgrades” offered by the show on board. Unsurprisingly, these mods have been distracting the driver. Are you still feeling reasonable about the crash? Or are you furious with the driver, the show, and law enforcement for allowing cars like this on the road? We’re betting the latter– and here’s the fun part: most of the modifications were completely  illegal. They were for the TV show only.

Former winners have explained how many of the modifications were removed pretty much as soon as filming finished.

Modifications Can Be Fun; But Not “Pimp My Ride” Fun

Adding modifications and upgrades to your car can be enjoyable and result in a better ride experience. However, Pimp My Ride is best looked back on as a work of fiction that was presented as reality. Fun, but not something any sensible driver would ever want to emulate!

It doesn’t seem everyone got the memo, though…

So, where does that leave the eager driving who wants to improve their car? By now, you know that the Pimp My Ride method of modification is definitely something that you’re going to want to avoid, so how can you modify your car without making the same mistakes?

Here are a few ideas that will give your car a touch of personality, without breaking the bank– or the law.

#1 – Go Crazy With Paint

The color of your car is one of the most expressive things about the vehicle. There’s a thousand and one pearl grey or metallic blue cars, so choosing anything remotely unusual will ensure your car is able to stand out from the crowd. You could go for an unusual single color, or paint entire intricate patterns if you have an artist’s touch.

There’s a fun upside to making your car’s paint more individual; it means your vehicle is less likely to be stolen. The reason behind this is simple; the more a car stands out, the more likely it is to be tracked by the police or owners. The common paint colors are far more likely to be stolen than more unusual colors, such as pink. So not only can you give your car an individual flair, but also help reduce the likelihood of theft, too.

#2 – Be Careful With The Sound System

Who needs a trunk when you can have volume?

One of the most common modifications that people do to their vehicles is to the sound system. Rather than the often-low-powered system that comes as a manufacturer’s default, people like to boost the sound with extra speakers and sound boosts.

That’s all well and good, but there’s a real risk to playing with the sound system of a car. First and foremost, you could invalidate your insurance. Changing the stereo of a car involves playing with the electronics, which can have a number of knock-on effects that make the car harder to drive. Insurers don’t like to insure cars that are harder to drive. If you do want to modify the sound system, it’s not a DIY job; ask a licensed professional to do the work, and inform your insurance as soon as it’s complete.

It’s also worth remembering that your car needs to fall within parameters of noise control and pollution. If you want to pump the volume in an isolated area, that’s fine, but in residential neighborhoods, you need to keep the volume turned way down.

#3 – Change The Upholstery

The upholstery is superficial, and you should be able to do whatever you want with it without causing an issue with your insurance. You could swap the fabric, install entirely new material, or use dyes to create a truly unique look. It won’t modify the way your car drives, but changing the upholstery does give a personal touch that can look incredible– definitely one of the easiest mods to DIY.

Have you ever been tempted to modify your car?

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The Challenges For A Small Business In The Catering And Hospitality Sector

Getting started in a new business is never easy, but it can certainly be exciting. It brings a lot of freedom when it comes to making all the decisions. And you know your success depends only on you. Best of all, you’re in the top position from day one! But there are many challenges and obstacles that all businesses need to face. If you’re hoping to get started in catering and hospitality, you may have even more to worry about:

Licensing

The first challenge you have to overcome is the red tape for licensing and permissions. The premises from which you operate must be fit for purpose and approved for the work you’re doing. You may also need to be personally licensed to sell food and beverages. It’s important you keep in contact with your local authority representative to ensure you have everything in place before you start trading. And yes, there will be costs involved here.

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Equipment

Setting up a commercial kitchen or bar is another challenge new business owners face. Big brands like Beverage Air manufacture most of what you might need to get started. Find an equipment supplier that knows how to help you figure out what your kitchen needs. You might want beverage fridges on the shop floor for customers too. In some places, your equipment will need to be checked for safety every few years. Find out what you need to know before placing your order.

Health, Safety & Hygiene

Health, safety and hygiene are the most important things you need to consider. In fact, you should be thinking about them every hour of the day! Not only does the health and well-being of your customers become your responsibility but so does the safety of your staff. They must be trained and sometimes certified to use certain pieces of equipment. You’ll need to provide all the facilities customers need to be comfortable while on your premises.

Can’t Cook and Serve!

Whether you’re opening a small sandwich kiosk, or you’re about to launch a hotel, you can’t be in two places at once! You either handle the food, or you handle the money. This means you need at least one other member of staff with you at all times during opening hours. You might hire someone casually, but you might get more loyalty, commitment and performance out of a payroll employee. Consider the training required as well as the ongoing appraisals. Don’t forget – they will need vacations too!

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The Personal Touch

Hospitality thrives with a personality in charge. Get to know your customers and make sure they have opportunities to get to know you. People like to feel special when they’re eating and drinking in your establishment. After all, repeat business or loyal customers are easier to acquire than new ones every single day. Offer rewards schemes, and don’t forget the personal touch!

No business is guaranteed success. It takes hard work, astute marketing skills, and a friendly personality to make in the hospitality sector. So what are you waiting for?

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Tax Return Terrors: How Freelancers Can Cut Their Costs

Going freelance is one of the most popular career choices of this generation. Now, more than ever before, people are choosing to set up a home office and spend their days there. Of course, technology has made this lifechoice more workable than ever before. When you think about it, it’s no wonder that people are making the most of the opportunity. After all, who wouldn’t want to work from the comfort of their home?

But, it would be naive to assume that the freelance route is a solely happy one. While there are obvious benefits to being your own boss, there are major downfalls too. And, never do they make themselves more plain than when tax time comes around. Rather than leaving things to your employer, you have to turn your hand to the ever-nightmarish self-assessment. Worse, you feel every single penny that you lose when you’re doing it.

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The good news is, there are a few different ways for freelancers to keep taxes to a minimum. In fact, for the most part, work like this is encouraged. The trouble is, we don’t all know the tricks of the trade and end up paying above the odds. Which is why we’re going to look at a few ways you can keep your taxes down.

Set up as a company

When you first go freelance, the company vs. sole trader situation can get a little confusing. But, to break it down for you, operating as a sole trader means that you’re liable for your enterprise. If you get sued, for example, it all falls on you. And, when it comes to taxes, you’ll be paying from both your salary and your profit.

 

But, if you set up as a limited company, as outlined on sites like howtostartanllc.org, you stand to gain company tax benefits. Hence, you’ll only need to pay tax on your income. Done right, this could halve the amount you pay out.

 

Educate yourself about deductions

 

Any freelancer knows that they have to deduct expenses on their assessment form. But, what less of us realize is just how many deduction opportunities there are. For a full list, head to sites like https://www.upwork.com. Your findings will astound you. Often, you can deduct for using a home office, and even get money off your internet bill. Doing your research is the only way to ensure you’re deducting everything possible.

Keep accurate accounts

Of course, you’ll find it difficult to deduct anything if you don’t keep accurate accounts. Far too often, we end up losing receipts and paying for business supplies from our pockets. With one or two items, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. But, when you consider the cost of those items, plus the tax you could’ve saved, the mistake soon adds up.

Filing Cabinet Regulation Hanging Files

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Getting your accounting system under control is all it takes. Invest in filing equipment, and make sure to put relevant receipts and bills there as soon as you get them. That way, they’ll be ready and waiting when you come to fill your form.

 

 

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