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Finding a Business Partner? Weigh the Pros and Cons First

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• Apple Partners Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak met in an early summer job
• Microsoft Partners Bill Gates and Paul Allen met in high school
• Hewlett Packard partners Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard met in college
• Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream partners Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield met in high school

Stories like these may inspire you to find a business partner or even bring in a pal, but each year thousands of failed business partnerships end up in court with accusations of negligence, mismanagement, embezzlement and even theft. Even the best of friends break up, turning into bitter enemies. Business partnerships can be like a marriage in many ways, and we all know how 50+% of those go. Before you find a business partner,
consider what’s best for your personality, the business you envision and the market you plan to serve.

Business Partners Provide Great Help with:
• Start-up costs and continuing cash flow. If you and your business partner both work, you’ll be able to use income from two jobs rather than one. You also have access to another’s assets as start-up and continuing costs. It may be easier to get an affordable business loan with two borrowers as well.

• Benefits of collaboration. Most business coaches encourage owners to pick a partner with complementary skills. That way the initial partner doesn’t have to learn all new skill sets, a process that requires extensive time and energy. Having two opinions on business matters can either be a great help or cause for contention and stress.

• Shared risks and business loan costs. Depending on the terms of your partnership, you split all loan costs.

• Pooled network. A business partner brings with him or her a network of contacts who can provide services or ideas for the company.

• Company and support! As mentioned above, comparisons of marriage and business partnerships pop up everywhere. A common quote about marriage is that it needs to be, “more bulwark than confinement.” Similarly, the connection that emerges from the business partnership should have far more positives than negatives.

Business Partners Can Hinder a Business and It’s Owner When:
• Partners default on loan. You will be liable if your partner declares bankruptcy or disappears.
• Business profits can’t support two people. While of course how profits will be shared should be set out in the business plan, poor income can create stress between two individuals when the rent or mortgage is due.
• Shared decisions cause friction. Two different personalities and life experiences lead to very different opinions on important matters. When each one of you is certain they’re right and the success of the business depends on the right decision, the stakes are high. Think of how you operated in college. Did you appreciate working in groups and partnerships or where you a solo operator? Take a careful self-inventory before you find a business partner.
• The friendship starts breaking up. Good friends are hard to find. Do you really want to jeopardize a nurturing friendship by becoming business partners?

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A+ Rated First Financial Supports a Wide Range of Business Borrowers, Even High-Risk!
First Financial is the nation’s leading provider of business loans for all kinds of businesses and even those in the high-risk category. Big banks and processors put many reputable businesses in high-risk categories like golf club manufacturers, vendors and imply because they’re new. Fill out our business loan application in minutes and find out how much you qualify to borrow. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart cash flow, marketing and business growth tips online, too!

9 Smart Steps to Choosing Your Business Merchant Services

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Industry research confirms what we all suspect and even have experienced: consumers using credit cards spend from 20% to 250% more than those who rely on checks or cash.

The average cash payer at McDonald’s spends $4.50 while those using debit or credit cards part with $7.00. The theory goes that those handing over dollar bills want to conserve them, but those using credit cards focus more what they’re getting from their purchase.[ii] In short, this second set focuses more on that steaming burger than the money in their hand.

American consumers love convenience of credit cards. Where 66% use credit and debit cards to buy both items and services, just 27% use cash. Further, experts expect the number of cash-using consumers to drop another few points to 23% by 2017.[iii]

These statistics lead to one conclusion: even the smallest business needs to accept credit cards to maximize sales. While a large corporation can put a team on finding the best merchant services provider for their needs, small business owners must evaluate competitors in the minutes between running their marketing program, taking calls and re-stocking shelves. It’s not easy juggling so many tasks. We well understand the saying,

“It’s great having a small business.
You get to choose which 100 hours per week to work!”

If you are looking to accept credit cards while maintaining solid creditworthiness for your business, finding an ethical merchant services provider who will be your partner in success is critical. These steps will shorten and clarify your research process.

1. Understand that to be able to accept credit cards you need to create a merchant account with a third party so that the money can move from the customer’s account to the merchant or business owners.

2. Determine your monthly sales volume. This step will weed out the merchant service providers that have a monthly minimum higher than your volume.

3. Determine whether you’ll be processing transactions online or at a bricks and mortar location. Equipment and software options will vary depending on this factor. You may need to integrate your account with third party services that also charge monthly fees.

4. Determine how many times each day will you run cards. Estimating this keeps you from over-buying features you don’t need.

5. Determine whether you’d prefer to rent equipment ($20 to $50 per month) or buy it (several hundred dollars). If you’re not sure about the business viability, renting for the first few months could be your best option.

6. Create a comparison sheet with these features listed down the leftmost column.

• Transaction rates: the majority of small business costs
• Equipment and setup costs
• Customer service: critical for small business owners who are not finance or technology experts
• Contracts and service terms: make sure you have clear confirmation
• Funding and processing time
• EMV capability: for smart cards that read data from integrated chips rather than magnetic strips. Credit card companies switched to this method in fall of 2015.
• Customization
• Simplicity of setup and use
• Possible third-party disintegration
• analysis and reports: to make your costs clear
• Types of processing
• Types of payments they accept: Visa, Mastercard, giftcards, debit cards and more
• Service constraints: what your merchant service provider WON’T provide
• Any additional features and benefits

7. Call the merchants you’re interested in and fill in the details.

8. Make sure the new merchant services integrate with any other ecommerce or other accounting software you currently use. Ask your tech people about the merchant services provider you’re considering.

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A+ Rated First Financial’s Small Business Merchant Accounts
Accept Revenue-Boosting Credit Cards to Ensure Your Business Longevity

First Financial is the nation’s leading provider of merchant accounts, particularly for the high risk borrowers. Apply for a small business merchant account here. We know that lots of reputable businesses exist in high-risk categories like Information Technology, simply because they’re new. Fill out the application in minutes. Follow First Financial on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips, too!

Smart Ways to Manage Your Merchant Account for Long Term

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How to Apply

 You don’t have to tell us how tough it is to win a high-risk merchant account, we hear about it every day from our callers. Luckily, because First Financial specializes in high-risk merchant accounts, every day, we ease minds and get scores of businesses on the path to accepting credit cards. Adult related services, golf club manufacturers, travel agencies and airlines all have one thing in common: relegation to the high-risk merchant account category. Despite a few extra steps, businesses in these industries and 30 or so more niches run profitably. Here at First Financial, we urge applicants to rid the term “high-risk” of its typical, negative meaning and instead consider it just another category that requires a few more steps before credit card money payments start pouring in.

Once a business has proven its reliability and business potential to a merchant services provider, it doesn’t relish the idea of going through the whole process all over again. That’s why it’s key to skillfully manage the high-risk account you win to avoid charge backs and other issues that the processor could see as a red flag. We find that lots of these red flags simply amount to oversights typical of the hard-working, thinly stretched entrepreneur. Still, knowing exactly how to run your merchant account can save you hassle, time and money and hopefully win you a dedicated merchant service provider that stays with you for decades.

Avoid Chargebacks by Providing Helpful, Available Customer Service
We tackle the biggest issue first. A high rate of chargebacks (returns) is the number one reason so many large banks refuse to even speak to the businesses in the 30+ high-risk industries. Airlines and travel agencies get chargebacks when travelers decide last minute that Las Vegas is too just crowded and Yosemite calls to them instead. Golf club manufacturers get chargebacks when their clubs DON’T turn buyers into LGPA tour competitors (imagine that!).

While many put chargebacks in “the price of doing business” category, conscientious customer service reduces them significantly. Giving your ideal clients easy ways to contact you—rather than the merchant service provider—reduces your chargeback rate significantly. Make your business transparent and easy to contact by making the following adjustments to your website and other customer contact points.

• Clearly post email addresses and phone numbers on your website.

• Create Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube channels where customers are free to post their opinions, complaints and even praise. Recognize that every business now has customers posting criticism and praise every day. Most readers can differentiate the crackpots from the reasonable people.

• Consider setting up an email newsletter that keeps your customers in contact with you. Make it clear that the newsletter’s purpose is to support the customer’s optimal use of your products and services.

While this level of transparency can intimidate some business owners, rest assured that research consistently confirms that customer service representatives and others easily turn complaining customers into brand evangelists simply by listening to customer complaints, sympathizing and rectifying any errors.

One of the most respected ways to indicate a business’ transparency is to make sure to include complete descriptor information on the consumer’s monthly credit card statement. Make sure the consumer can read the full company name and complete customer service number. High-risk merchant accounts get cancelled when incomplete phone numbers or business names appear. Ensure your contact information is correct by running a test transaction.

Other ways to limit chargebacks include:
• Manually review transactions where the customer’s authentication request was declined. Consider calling the buyer.
• Create and disclose all return, privacy, refund, return and cancellation policies.
• Review and batch transactions on a daily basis.
• Insist on proof of identification upon delivery for high priced items.
• Cancel orders immediately upon client request.
• Consumers change credit cards frequently. Work with your merchant account provider to set up automatic credit card updates.

Demonstrate Client Service
In the era of digital marketing when businesses have to provide all kinds of value before winning a sale, businesses must go the extra mile to forge lasting relationships with each and every customer. Merchant service providers appreciate signals that a business works to benefit its clients. Express client services take the form of emails to customers to report when an order is shipped that also provides the tracking code. Emails that explain an order is on backorder also indicates to merchant service providers that the high-risk business operates for the benefit of their customer base. Finally, satisfying customers demanding refunds may feel like short-term pain, but long-term reliability and respectability. Even if a business wins a chargeback dispute, that chargeback still remains on their record. Is it worth it?

Fast Response to Merchant Services Inquiries
When the merchant services agency contacts the business to discuss a dispute, a fast response reassures the agency that the business operates in a responsible, efficient manner. Business occurs between people. A merchant services representative that gets a satisfying, friendly answer from a customer service representative or business owner will of course view that case more favorably than the business without this courtesy.

Take the Time to Monitor Accounts and Use Fraud Protection
Increasingly sophisticated Internet criminals attempt fraudulent purchases in hopes for a return that results in cash. Always manually review your monthly statements and consider calling buyers that seem suspicious. Do not ship until you’ve established the buyer’s sincerity.

Most merchant services offer fraud protection that block transactions from countries notorious for high levels of fraud. It also compares each credit card transaction against reliable standards to reduce instances of fraud.

First Financial Merchant Services Welcomes Businesses In High Risk Industries
First Financial has found the merchant service providers who are hungry to get businesses in high-risk industries accepting credit cards. With the majority of American consumers using credit cards more than other payments at a rate of three to one, any business that wants to reach optimal cash flow must accept credit cards. Apply for a high-risk merchant account here. Follow us on Facebook to get smart budgeting and saving tips!

4 Ways to Reduce Your Merchant Credit Card Processing Fees

Credit card processing fees just come with the territory. That customers spend 20 t0 50 percent more when using credit cards should reassure you that accepting them feeds your profits. Use these tips to keep even more of your profits when you reduce your merchant credit card processing fees.

Find the Processor that Wants You

GET STARTED

Just as lenders can specialize in certain types of borrowers, processors like to stock their portfolios with merchants that meet carefully selected criteria. They marshal the software and hardware that caters to different transaction amounts and volumes. They may also design their offers by a merchant’s average ticket price (ATP) or lifetime value (LTV). That’s why you should evaluate several merchant processors to see which wants to work hardest for your business.

This said, make sure that processors offering low rates also provide sufficient services and aren’t hiding fees. When you find a possible processor, check its Better Business Bureau rating. Create a spreadsheet and get answers to the following questions:

· What is the total interest rate when including all fees?

· What are the application, cancellation, statement and service fees? Can these be waived?

· Do you require contracts? What are the terms?

· How can I get a lower fee per transaction?

Those not willing to work with you do not deserve your business. Review the answers other merchant account services. Always read the fine print.

Hardware Considerations

Leasing credit card terminal means you’ll end up paying up to 20 times the machine’s cost. Typically, leases run for three to five years. While the terminals cost $200 to $400 up front, leasing can run from $40 to $70 each month. Keep in mind that you can also consider mobile credit card readers that plug into smartphones. These include Paypal Here, SparkPay, Intuit GoPayment and more.

There are also a handful of new mobile credit card readers merchants can consider. These inexpensive devices plug into a smartphone or tablet and allow credit cards to be accepted from anywhere. Examples include Square, Etsy, Intuit GoPayment, Paypal Here, Spark Pay and Amazon Local Register. Evaluate them to determine which fit your sales type and volume.

Remember to Swipe Rather than Entering Manually

When the merchant enters the cardholder’s information manually, they’ll pay more in fees per transaction than if swiping the card. Accounting software Intuit tells us that this is because processors know that manually entered transactions can be more easily hacked by thieves. A credit card’s magnetic strip or EMV chip has the most state-of-the-art security features. When a merchant enters numbers manually, those security features are not engaged. With risk of fraud high with manual entry, processors balance their risk by charging more. If you have to retrain cashiers, do it.

Use Minimum Sales Amounts to Maximize Profits

Convenience stores and restaurants have credit card use minimums for good reason. Small transactions with thin margins can make the sale a money loser. Some merchants worry that a minimum could cut sales. If customers push back on this policy, explaining the costs involved usually helps them understand.

All it takes is putting up a note that says you accept credit cards, but require a minimum sale of $10 or $20. If a customer doesn’t understand, simply explain that the cost of processing plastic can be burdensome.

Today, all businesses must accept credit and debit cards. With all of the additional payment methods requiring a processor, no business can go without a merchant account. The fees involved should not scare you away from providing your customers a wide variety of ways to pay.

Merchant Services Help You Increase Your Sales – Call 1 (800) 950-0212

How Wedding Expenses Pay for Themselves Long-Term: Recent Research

bride and groom holding hands in heart shape

Couples getting married today may wonder if the investment in a big wedding is worth it. And of course all kinds of family members have their opinions. And they have a point: the average cost of a wedding in the United States in 2017 was nearly $26,000. That money could go to the down-payment on a house, a superstar honeymoon or zucchini spiralizers for everybody!  (Millennials love their vegetable pastas.)

How to Save For Your Wedding Without Going Broke

Don’t jump to thrifty Aunt Gargamel’s notion that a wedding is a waste of money, however.

Psychologist Charles Kiesler studied the correlation of weddings and long-term marital success. He found all kinds of advantages to spending for that once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

After decades of research Kiesler concluded, “commitment is strengthened when it is publicly declared because individuals strive to maintain consistency between what they say and what they do.” In other words, a big wedding with many witnesses typically leads to a drive–even a need–to follow through on the commitment. The couple says their vows in front of their community, making a pact, not only with each other, but with all the onlookers as well.

Kinda makes sense, right?

The other advantage of a having a meaningful wedding is the effect it has on the two families involved. During the run up to the event, family members and even friends of the two partners get to know each other. They work together on different projects and share their experiences with the couple. Any time more connections are made throughout our society, the better. New friends are made at weddings. New couples even form when members of the wedding party peek around the bride and groom to bat eyes at each other. We are a social species after all, and extensive research has proven that the stronger and more numerous our connections, the happier and healthier we are as individuals. Having the wedding creates a strong network for the couple to rely on as they tackle big challenges like children, work stressors and deaths in the family. This safety net is priceless.

We know: the wedding is still $26,000! And with the economic downturn of 2008 – 2012, many parents of the those getting married are working madly to save for their own retirement rather than a child’s wedding.

One way to make the price a little more bearable is to take out a personal loan that you pay off monthly for several years. A $26,000 loan at a 7% rate for a 5-year term will run a couple $515 per month. Cost-cutting couples who marry in a park and follow it up with dinner at a reasonable venue can get away with a $10,000 wedding. Amortized at 7% for 5 years, the monthly payment comes down to $198 per month. Both of these figures assume borrowers have “good” credit in the 700 to 720 range.

The personal loan at 7% is a far better option than running up credit card debt where rates run from 15% to 29%. With the money coming up front, however, couples must learn how to budget carefully and with discipline. Having a big lump sum tends to tempt even the cautious to be more loose with cash, getting those extra centerpieces or consenting to let extra people come to the wedding.

With this in mind, take these steps to stretch every penny of the personal loan you qualify for.

  • Get quotes for all venues and services up front
  • Create a spreadsheet that makes comparing venues clear
  • Use cash for the down-payments to reserve venues and vendors
  • Enter all down-payments and payoffs into a budget spreadsheet, including dates

This way, when the loan arrives in your bank account, you can quickly send it to the appropriate vendors before you’re tempted to spend it. Luckily, you have an accountability partner: your betrothed!

But this could be where it gets tough. You don’t want this exciting time to be marred by bickering and disagreement. Be ready to compromise and give up some of your own wishes. Set expectations from the beginning and try to keep it fun rather than stressful. Of course, no two people approach finances similarly. Consider even working with a pre-marital counselor to figure out how you will negotiate different decisions and the budget. That $150 (per session) will come back to you many times over.

Get a Personal Loan for a Wedding: What the Bank Wants

That you’re even reading this post indicates your sincerity about doing everything you can to plan your wedding the right way. Because you won’t need to put up any “security” (car and home loans are “secured” loans), it’s considered an “unsecured loan.” Prepare to apply online for a personal loan for your wedding when you get these documents together.

Proof of income:

  • Bank statements
  • Any and all debts you may have including student loans
  • Basic income and identity documentation such as W2’s, drivers license
  • Social Security card
bride and groom after wedding

A+ Rated First Financial Has the Low-Cost, Online Personal Loans for Your Wedding

First Financial has connected thousands of brides and grooms with low-cost personal loans for weddings. Financing your wedding with an online personal loan is smart money-management. Online lenders can offer lower cost-loans because they don’t have the bricks-and-mortar branches, labor and marketing costs traditional banks do. More, online lenders offer MORE loans to MORE applicants because, with lower costs, they can take risks on more applicants. In fact, online lenders are renowned for acceptance rates far higher than those of traditional banks.

5 Ways to Be Debt Free by Christmas

Family Celebrating being Debt Free

 

Most people have some debt, but if your situation has gotten out of hand, now is the time to figure out how you can pay it off before it gets even worse. By figuring out how much you owe, picking a strategy to pay it off, and making a couple sacrifices along the way, you could be debt free by Christmas.

Here’s how to get started:

Know how much money you owe

The first step to paying off the debt you owe is to figure out exactly how much debt you’re in. You may have avoided doing this because you’re scared of the number, but it essential as it will help you keep perspective and figure out a plan to pay it off. Gather all debts you owe, from credit cards to student loans to medical expenses, and calculate how much it all adds up to.

Develop a strategy

The next step is to develop a strategy to pay off the debt. This is important. Picking and being able to stick to a strategy will help you pay down the debt faster, while also knowing that the sacrifices you’re making to do so have a set end date, giving you some peace of mind. There are two main strategies to pay off debt: Debt avalanche and debt snowball. The first one is the fastest, and has you pay off the debts with the highest interest rates first. This can save you a lot of money over the long term, but you won’t feel much progress is being made at first.

If you feel as if you need to see yourself making progress to stick to a strategy, debt snowball is likely for you. This strategy takes the opposite approach. Arrange your debts from smallest to biggest (ignore the interest rate) and begin paying off the smallest ones first. This will help you see that you are making progress, but will likely cost you money over the long term due to interest.

 Commit a set amount of money to the debt

 Another excellent way to help you pay down your debt steadily is to set aside a set amount of money every month and put it towards the debt. Start out by calculating how much you need to spend per month on necessities (include building up an emergency fund) and then subtract that from your total monthly income to get an idea about how much you can put towards the debt every month. The higher the debt, the more of that money you will want to dedicate towards it.

Get a side job

Even with these strategies, paying off these debts is no easy task. It takes persistence and sacrifice for possibly years. One way to help you but a bigger dent in the amount you owe is to get a side job. Even if it’s just on the weekends doing something simple, you could easily find yourself with a couple extra hundred dollars at the end of every month to put towards the debt. It may not sound like a lot, but it could save you hundreds if not thousands over the long run, and you’ll have that debt paid down much quicker.

Happy debt-free people

Renting a room

When calculating your total monthly expenses, chances are the rent towards your apartment is what is eating up most of your budget. You could downsize to a smaller apartment, but this would involve lots of paperwork and being stuck there for a few years. An alternative solution is to rent out a room in someone’s house or apartment. There is little to no hassle, and with the money saved, you could put even more towards the debt or perhaps avoid getting that side job. Either way, if you owe a lot of money, this is certainly an option to look into.

 

Where to Get On-Shore & Off-Shore Tech Support Reps

TECH support reps with headsets

 Software and software-as-a-service products have been booming for the past 20 years. Anymore, it’s not just computers and cars that need software. It’s high-end coffee-makers, showers (really!), and the refrigerator. The Internet of Things (IoT) makes it so.

When these ubiquitous household devices need setting up and troubleshooting, chances are, the average American becomes incredibly FRUSTRATED. That’s when they get online with tech support.

IBISworld.com, the leading premiere business industry research website, has found that the tech support industry will grow “faster than the average for all occupation.” over the next ten years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) concurs in its findings that computer/tech support specialist will increase 17% from through the year 2022. The U.S. Department of Labor also mentioned that the computer systems services industry is one of the economy’s “largest and fastest sources of employment growth.”[1]

If the proliferation of the Internet of Things doesn’t convince you, consider the software-as-a-service companies like DropBox, Sales Force, and Google Apps. Even Microsoft Office 365 now lives in the cloud. Downloading a $600 program will be replaced by a $20 monthly subscription that the provider hopes lasts three years or more. Where once, Photoshop and the graphic designers who used it cornered the market, today, consumers have turned to SaaS products like Canva and PicMonkey, much of which can be used for free. And yet . . . they can be confusing to a large portion of the population. U.S. based technical support services have no place to go but up.

The tech support company’s potential is most often hampered by capacity. After all, one forward-thinking entrepreneur can’t answer all the calls 24/7. Every tech support company needs a reliable workforce. Where then, can an American entrepreneur find the professionals who can help him or her competently guide consumers past their set-up instructions and general confusion? More, where can a technical support entrepreneur find people at a labor cost that will keep him or her in business.

Off-shore v. On-shore Technical Professionals

 To pay one-third or less for technical support staff, entrepreneurs must go overseas. Those who aren’t off-shore human resources specialists must depend on third parties who’ve become experts in these fields. A few include:

  • Info link– Provides resources and services for outsourcing technical product and IT support. 915-577-9466
  • Invensis Technologies– Provides outsourced contact center, help desk, IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing services globally. 302- 261-9036
  • J-Curve Technologies – Provides technical and operational callcenter outsourcing solutions. 602-792-6100
  • Nirix – Provides remote IT support, offsite data backup, on-site computer services, managed email hosting. 780-414-1556

Once these services provide you with candidates, you can vet them with you own list of questions. We suggest choosing from the following:

  • What makes you a superior technical support specialist?
  • How do you approach customer service?
  • How do you calm upset, frustrated customers?
  • What positive or negative feedback from a customer has made you a better tech support specialist?
  • What has been your best strategy when you don’t know the answer to a question?
  • How would you go about becoming a subject matter expert for your employer?
  • Scenario: “My software isn’t _________________. How would you help me fix it.”

A+ Rated First Financial Helps Tech Support Companies Stay in Business

Anymore, every business owner must be able to process credit and debit cards via the internet, particularly tech support.

If you’ve learned that banks consider your tech support business to be high-risk, you may have to consider alternative merchant services providers to make monthly payments possible. With lower marketing costs and overhead, reliable internet merchant services providers provide all the traditional bank safety at reasonable rates.

Aware that categorization as high-risk can be arbitrary, First Financial specializes in these cutting-edge, often new, industries. The computer hardware industry was once considered high-risk because banks considered PCs and Macs unproven. Now every family has one or more for each member! Apply for our tech support merchant services today here!

[1] Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Computer Support Specialists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm

Student Loan Consolidation Services Industry Outlook for 2016

Students learning about loan consolidation business

 If you are in the business of providing student loan consolidation services, you may be concerned about the negative news coverage. Recent findings tell us concern over reliability is nonsense. In 2015, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau declared the student lending crisis overblown.

The truth remains that banks consider student loan consolidations less risky than school-issued loans. Original loans go to students in the midst of their studies. Some haven’t even declared a major yet. Consolidation loans, on the other hand, require that the student has graduated, is employed, and has a track record of repayments on outstanding consumer debts. These three criteria reflect an individual in a far less risky situation.

Another benefit of student loan consolidations over government loans is that the enrollment application process is easier to navigate and less complex than enrolling for a Federal student loan.

Industry growth

The whole student loan consolidation service industry has grown. In the United States, the outstanding student loan debt currently stands at more than $1 trillion dollars. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s did an analysis that indicated 1.58 million student borrowers were enrolled in a repayment plan that was income-driven.

Changing Trends

The student loan consolidation industry is starting to change. The latest trend indicates that rather than focusing solely on a student’s FICO score, loan consolidators are looking more towards a student’s earning potential based on the college diploma earned. Even with a low FICO score, a student can still be considered creditworthy with a degree in a high-salary subject (engineering, e.g.).
Another trend bodes well for the industry. Graduates are still able to refinance a federal student loan through a private consolidation service without losing the protections from a federal student loan.

Federal Student Loans Are Not Necessarily Secure

Once you convince your clients that private student debt consolidation works as well for recent graduates as public version, success in the student debt consolidation industry follows.

Explain to clients that the government itself in in currently debt by more than 19 trillion dollars. If a student gets a federal loan, it is basically backed by that national debt. Federal funding for a student’s education runs the risk of becoming null and void. A private firm student loan, however, is backed by private lenders, and potentially more reliable.

silhouetted students against city backdrop

The Merchant Account Connects the New Grad and the Loan Provider

You may have already learned that your student loan consolidation business falls into the high risk category. Don’t panic about obtaining a merchant account. First Financial specializes in high risk industries and will make sure you can process the payments coming in. Read about our student loan services merchant accounts here!

Tech Support Industry Outlook for 2016 and Beyond

tech support is open because of merchant accounts

 

 Those in the tech space have been watching the “Internet of Things” approaching for a while now. This development alone ensures that plenty of consumers will be needing tech support in the coming decades.

Evolving technology drives the products software and hardware companies continually release. For any business to remain competitive, maintaining up-to-date computer technology is a must.

New in the 1960s, computers flew off the shelves at the rate of 264 million in 2015 alone! This figure doesn’t even factor in laptops, cell phones, ipads, or any of the other myriad of gadgets that make our world run smoothly today. In fact, the huge proliferation of cell phone/tablet/ipads, etc., means that users are demanding efficient WiFi connections to perform work functions effectively wherever they are. This means the tech support industry will always be in demand.

In God We Trust . . . All Others Must Bring Data

Need some good research to give you confidence?

According to IBISworld.com, THE premiere business industry research website, the tech support industry will continue growing steadily over the next ten years. The report further explains that computer and IT occupations will grow “faster than the average for all occupations.”

In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that computer/tech support specialist jobs are expected to increase 17% from through the year 2022. This should come as no surprise, considering the constantly changing technical landscape, requiring a constant source of mobile phone assistance, cloud computing expertise, and large data storage.
The U.S. Department of Labor also mentioned that the computer systems services industry is one of the economy’s “largest and fastest sources of employment growth.” The same source added that companies have accepted that the complexity of computer interfacing and connectivity demands means that the business owners “choose to hire an outside IT company rather than hire specialists in-house.”

Endless Possibilities for the Tech Support Industry

This is all excellent news for those in the tech support industry! The services offered in this arena are seemingly endless: network support, IT assistance, custom software design, repair and maintenance, computer programming, hardware and software management, designing integrated systems and even customizing software.

The business world will always need tech support experts, because the average business owner doesn’t have the time or the know-how to keep up with today’s complicated phone/computer updates and troubleshooting. These areas have just become too complex. They must depend on the reliable tech support workers to keep a company afloat.

Another fact that supports the tech support business is how prevalent obtaining low-cost labor can be. An estimated 43% of companies in the US use an overseas outsourcing for a portion of their IT needs. This workforce is fluid and inexpensive, ensuring you can quote by the job.

tech support employee discussing merchant account

The Merchant Account Joins Tech Support and the User

Today’s economy has separated the tech support professional from the user, often by thousands of miles. Sending checks is not longer feasible. Anyone starting a technical support service must be able to process credit and debit cards via the Internet. You may have already learned that your tech support business falls into the high risk category, making it tougher to get a merchant account. First Financial specializes in high risk industries and will make sure you can process the payments coming in. Read about our tech support services merchant accounts here.

Considering Freelance? Website Design Industry Outlook for 2016 & Beyond

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 Web designers are a lucky lot. Creative colleagues, new projects and ever-changing technology make for constant stimulation and growth.

Those who have been working at agencies or in a corporate setting for a while sometimes feel they need to stretch their wings as entrepreneurs. The freedom and prestige to own your own business can prove irresistible despite concerns over steady income, staying on task and finding affordable health insurance.

Pros and cons fill any career choice. Perhaps the best way to make your decision is to gauge your personality type. Entrepreneurs tend to be tenacious risk-takers, plagued by creativity and a desire to break rules and make something new. For this lot, self-employment satisfies like nothing else. Life as a corporate employee could feel stifling. Each reader has to determine whether they have the capital (typically twice as much as planned), time (typically twice as much as planned), family understanding, tenacity and willingness to work. If so, this post should allay any concerns about the future of the web design industry.


Experts Agree: Web Design, Development and SEO Has a Robust Future

If you’re a web designer, developer and/or search specialist with entrepreneurial spirit, you’ve got some trends on your side.

First, according to research from Graphic Design Degree Hub, the average freelancer makes 45% more than the individual working for an agency or corporation. The average web entrepreneur makes $68,000 where her nine-to-five colleague gets $46,800. Seventy-five percent of all freelancers make over $65,000 per year.

Secondly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ outlook for web designers is glowing. Where demand for the average American job will increase by 7% until the year 2024 (less than one percent per year), the American economy will call for 27% more web developers (nearly 3% increase per year).

Backing up this need for web design, IBIS world finds that the industry will grow 5% yearly. Currently a 24-billion-dollar market, web design will keep adding another one billion per year of closed business over the next decade. By 2024, web design will be a 35 billion dollar industry.

Google’s preference for mobile-friendly design poured significant revenue into the pockets of web designers who needed to upgrade websites to render on smartphones. Who knows what the next big shift will be? Entranced by technology upgrades, website owners will always need upgrades as platforms and software continue to evolve. These trends only mean more revenues for web designers and developers.

The Entrepreneur’s Two Biggest Concerns: Recession & Responsibility

Many talented employees feel intimidated about going out on their own because the future can seem so uncertain. In 2014, just one in seven web developers was self-employed. Recessions do emerge about every seven years, and they can cut back on business. An economic downturn affects both employees and the self-employed, however. Surprisingly, about half of freelancers report they aren’t impacted by recessions. Further, recessions cause employee layoffs, and in those cases, all income is cut overnight. Finally, since the downturn of 2008, the government has put controls into place to make sure instability never gets to those levels again.

Recessions tend to be beyond the entrepreneur’s control. What about the aspects of entrepreneurship that are within one’s control. These can be just as intimidating.

Budding entrepreneurs handle not only all the creative aspects of the new job, but they are
• the accounting department (handling all estimates, invoices and collections),
• the marketing department (getting new clients),
• the IT department (paying for all computer repair, paper, ink, etc.)
• and administration (handling all calls.)

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Each solopreneur must set up an accounting system, IT solutions, supplies and merchant accounts to accept client’s credit cards. As mentioned above, if wearing 17 different hats feels fun rather than overwhelming, you’re cut from entrepreneurial cloth. Whichever career path the web designer chooses, he or she will have well-paying work for life!

Get Customers’ Contact Info During Busy Holiday Season and Win All Year

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 ‘Tis the season when throngs of holiday shoppers inevitably create increased traffic to your retail or internet-based business. Did you realize that 40% of U.S. consumers plan to spend more even more on their holiday shopping in 2015 than they did last year? It would be a waste NOT to grab those customers’ contact information, so that in the future those same customers can continually be reminded of your products or service. How can you acquire your customers’ coveted contact information without seeming pushy? It’s easy, if you follow these five simple
suggestions.

1. Have a raffle contest
Is there a particularly popular item that your customers are craving? Offer it up as a raffle prize! You can also offer up gift cards or perhaps “50% off!” offers as potential prizes. Have entry forms available for customers to fill out, and then ask for their email and/or home address. You can also hand the entry forms to your customers after they make a purchase. (Be sure to include some text on the form indicating that the customer, by filling it out, is giving your store permission to contact him or her in the future.)

2. Provide email-only coupon deals
Consider placing sign-up sheets in various spots within your retail shop for customers to fill out in order to receive online-only emailed coupons. You can even consider providing a monthly e-newsletter if time permits, in which your customers will be guaranteed exclusive savings if they sign up. This is also a great opportunity for you to tout those new products, and build up momentum for future sales.

3. Have a holiday-themed coloring contest for children
Parents are overjoyed to include their offspring into the joy of the season. This is why you should have a holiday-themed coloring contest where children can color in a picture of, perhaps, a snowman holding your product, or even a Santa figure touting your service. In the event that a particular child should win the coloring contest, parents will be required to fill out their contact information on the lower corner of the coloring sheet, including their email address and phone number. Voila! You now have your customers’ contact information.

4. Encourage your customers to post their holiday photos with your product.
Did you know it is predicted that by 2016, 25% of all retail ecommerce sales in the U.S. will take place through a mobile devices? Take advantage of those cell phone-savvy customers by encouraging them to post their selfies with your product onto your social media locations (i.e., Facebook/Instagram/company website). You can even provide a fun holiday-themed store backdrop for these customers pose in front of. If it’s an online business, ask your customers to post a photo of them holding your product while wearing an “ugly Christmas sweater,” for example. You can then get their coveted cell phone numbers or email addresses, and send them special deals in the future.

5. Just ASK for your customer’s contact information when completing a sale.
Be vocal and ask your customers for their contact information when you’re completing their sale, so that they can receive special discounts or freebies. You don’t want to be too pushy, though, if they refuse. Also, once you get their contact information, don’t go overboard with the email offers. The a monthly or quarterly email deal should suffice. If you overdo those emails, your customers will simply delete all future emails from your business. So exercise good judgment when it comes to making follow-up calls and/or emails.

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First Financial Will Help Your Business Attract New Customers this Holiday Season

Take advantage of the holiday crowds, and parlay those customers into future shoppers that will continue to be excited about your products or services. As long as you get their contact information, your business can continue to remind these customers about the wonderful merchandise you carry. First Financial can help your business grow. We are the nation’s leading provider of merchant accounts, particularly for the high-risk borrowers. Apply for a small business merchant advance here. It only takes a few minutes. You can also follow First Financial on Facebook for even more tips on how to successfully

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