As of 1 April 2019, Little Biz Online will be GST registered.
Thanks to Chris Mercer from MBP Advisors + Accountants for this blog post…
Any consumer or business will inevitably have to deal with GST. Whether your business is registered from day one or you wait until you cross the threshold to register, you will have many things to consider from the basics of understanding GST through to the complexities of GST and your unique business.
Below we will give you a quick run through of some of the key things you need to know when working with GST and hopefully answer some of your burning questions.
What is GST?
In its simplest form, GST is a consumption tax. This means that it is charged based on when you consume a product or service and where you are when you consume it. For many of us, we will ‘consume’ products and services from other businesses in NZ and as such, those businesses collect GST from us on the purchase and pass it on to the IRD. This applies to everything from what you buy at a supermarket for your family to the pens you buy for work.
The capture-all simplicity of the tax is what makes it one of the most regular taxes you will interact with on a daily basis and probably not even notice it.
Times Are Changing
It is becoming harder and harder to avoid GST. The laws capturing GST on goods and services are constantly evolving. In recent years we have seen the introduction of the ‘Netflix Tax’ on digital products. This coming year will see the introduction of the ‘Amazon Tax’ to capture goods from larger overseas providers into the local tax regime.
All of these changes are designed to make the tax system fairer for both local businesses and multinational corporations. The result is that locally manufactured goods are subject to the same taxes as those imported from overseas, evening the playing field.
It is an increasing rarity for purchases you make in the course of business to not attract GST. If you are taking steps to avoid dealing with GST, you may be placing your business on a difficult footing moving forward.
The GST Threshold
There is often some confusion about when a business is required to register for GST and collect it on its sales.
The $60,000 threshold is pretty well known. What is less understood is that this annual threshold applies to a rolling 12-month period. It isn’t limited or reset by calendar of financial year cycles. Many small business owners have got caught out by slowing sales or closing up over the end of the financial year to avoid cross the threshold, only to jump in full speed in April and end up crossing the threshold with out even knowing it.
Business to Business Products and Services
If your business is trading in business to business (B2B) products or services, it may be best to consider registering for GST sooner rather than later.
Many businesses simply expect other professional businesses to be registered as well. There is a clear benefit in making the processing of paperwork between the businesses easier as there is no need to double check a businesses gst status to confirm if they really aren’t registered.
There are also perceived advantages. One of these perceived advantages is that you must be more professional and successful if you are registered for GST and therefore a good choice over an unregistered business. Another is that there is a perception that since the business can claim back the gst they pay to you as a deduction against the gst they collect from their customers, they get a 15% discount. Neither of these things are really true but it is astounding the number of business owners we deal with that hold one or both of these perceptions.
Limiting your Business to Avoid GST
Many small business owners are tempted to limit their turnover on an annual basis in order to avoid having to register for GST. If you are running a small side-gig then this might be a viable option to avoid all the extra paperwork. However, if you require your business to provide for you and your family, you will need it to be able to deliver a comfortable income and not be artificially limited.
The Reality of an Average Income
The reality is that if you are after an ‘average’ life with an ‘average’ income in New Zealand, you’ll be targeting around $55,000 per year as taxable, take-home profit from your business. This has some serious implications regarding GST, especially if you want to limit yourself to stay under the threshold.
For example, if you want to earn $55,000 profit and stay under threshold, you’ll need annual revenue of no more than $59,999. If you are selling products, this means you’ll have to buy all your stock for less than $10,000 and sell them all for 6 times purchase price on average. This may be achievable with the right product. However, it leaves no room for freight, advertising office expenses and most importantly, no money for even a basic website so customers can actually find you and buy from you.
If you’re serious about your business, start treating GST as an inevitability and an opportunity rather than a threat to avoid.
Claiming GST on Business Expenses
Its not all bad news with GST. Yes, you have to collect 15% on all your sales as tax revenue for the government but you also get to deduct 15% off all of your purchases and expenses related to the business as well. This can be invaluable to help with cashflow, especially when you are starting out or importing large shipments of products.
What expenses can you claim? The short answer, almost all of them. Any expense linked to your income generation is a deductible expense. Most of these will have a claimable GST portion. The main exclusions are finance and banking services which are all exempt from GST.
If you aren’t familiar with GST or uncertain about its impact on you your family and your business, do your research, ask a professional and make some informed decisions. There is no need to rush into registering or avoid ever registering just to avoid the hassle. With the right advice and support, it’s a walk in the park.
Chris Mercer is the Managing Director of MBP Advisors + Accountants. MBP are a proactive accounting and business development firm who are dedicated to helping small businesses across New Zealand to thrive. If you have any further questions about your business and its tax needs, feel free to get in touch with the team at MBP for a free chat on 0800 86 85 86, or head to their website and book in a chat with Chris at a time that suits you.
When activated, this plugin will deduct shipping costs at checkout for any customer who selects LayBuy as their payment gateway.
It can be amended for other payment gateways – just ask 🙂
First things first…
As with any new plugin, ensure you have a full backup or your website before installing.
Best practice is to install and test in a cloned/dev website first. This plugin has been tested, but I cannot guarantee it is compatible with all other plugins on your website.
- Download the plugin
- In the Plugin section of your WordPress dashboard, go to the “Add New”
- Upload plugin
How to remove the offer
To remove the offer, simply deactivate the plugin.
What about other payment gateways?
If you would like to offer free shipping for other payment gateways, please contact me – I can adjust the coding for you.
I am going to keep things very topline here. There is soooo much information on the internet around the GDPR, what it is and what to do to ensure your business complies. The problem is, there is too much information – it can be a bit of an overload… especially when you look at everything else on your to-do list. I have been doing a lot of reading, and this is a snapshot of how you can make adjustments to your WordPress website and other GDPR tips for New Zealand businesses.
Disclaimer: this is by no means legal advice and is based entirely on my findings of this subject so far. It’s likely that many things could change regarding the law or that plugins could become updated. Please seek proper legal advice on the subject if required and remember to check for the latest WordPress updates.
What is the GDPR?
One of the hottest topics at the moment, GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), comes into effect on 25th May 2018 and will see changes to the way in which businesses and organisations handle and process our personal data. Although it is an EU law, you will be required to comply with GDPR as long as you are engaged in storing or processing personal data of EU citizens, even if you are not an EU citizen.
I am in New Zealand though – why does this impact me?
This law encompasses all citizens of the EU, regardless of where in the world they are. Even if you only offer NZ shipping, your customers may still be EU citizens – whether they live in NZ or are just visiting. Therefore, it impacts all of us.
What do I need to do for my business?
- Make a list of all of the ways that your business collects information from people. Examples include:
- Ecommerce checkout
- Membership or subscriber sign up
- Client onboarding form
- Contact forms
- Newsletter sign up forms
- Cookies on your website to assist with user journey
- Google Analytics (yep – more info on that soon)
- Make a list of all of the ways that your business collects information from people. Examples include:
- contact your lawyer
- use the privacy statement generator tool on the Privacy Commission website: https://www.privacy.org.nz/further-resources/privacy-statement-generator/
Making changes to my website
Add this helpful plugin
If your website still does not have an SSL certificate, this is now essential, especially if you collect any personal information (including contact forms!). Please contact your host for more information on how to action this.
Within the e-commerce checkout process, we are obviously collecting a lot of customer information. Woocommerce are working to have compliance tools included (latest update is to be released 23rd May). More info here: https://woocommerce.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/how-were-tackling-gdpr-in-woocommerce-core/
This will include ways for customers to request a copy of their information, and to have it deleted permanently.
If you have customers currently being automatically added to mailing lists or databases based on their purchases, you will need to amend this to gain their permission within the process.
Similarly, if you have a checkbox to join your mailing list – this can no longer be pre-ticked. Customers need to tick this box themselves.
Guest checkout vs Accounts
Customers who checkout without creating an account will leave a data trail that they cannot log back in to access, delete or update. Your should have the option for customers to create an account active within your Woocommerce checkout. This way, consumers have the choice to be able to manage this information in the future, without discouraging those customers who do not wish to set up an account.
You could have a form at the top of the checkout page with a tick box asking for their consent to abandoned cart data collection… but I wonder if this would this act as a deterrent to transaction completion as a whole?
On contact forms, you are obviously collecting information from people. You therefore need to add a checkbox for people to agree to you using this information.
Contact Form 7 is a plugin that I use on a lot of client websites. This shows how to add this checkbox to a contact form: https://contactform7.com/acceptance-checkbox/. Other contact form plugins will also have something similar.
Mailing list sign up forms
When collecting details for mailing lists, you need to ensure that you are detailing what their data will specifically be used for, how they can unsubscribe, and how their data will be stored.
Joining our mailing list is optional, although recommended. If you have signed up to our mailing list and would like to unsubscribe, simply email us at email address with “Unsubscribe” in the subject area, and you will be removed immediately. Alternatively, all emails sent via Mailchimp also have an unsubscribe link in the footer.
Hopefully you are making regular backups of your site, and storing them away from your website and host. These backups contain the personal information of your customers too, and now they are stored away from your website…
You can add additional protection to this data by ensuring that your backups are encrypted.
UpdraftPlus Premium is one plugin which offers this functionality:
One thing you need to ensure is that your backups of your customer’s private data are protected. To help with this, UpdraftPlus Premium can encrypt the data in your backups. It has an industry-standard AES encryptor keeps all of the sensitive WordPress installation data (e.g. passwords, lists of users, secret keys, etc.) stored in your database completely secure.
While Google Analytics does not collect personal information that can identify website visitors individually, it is still tracking their activity, and as such, comes under these new rules.
Our website uses Google Analytics, a service which transmits website traffic data to Google servers in the United States. Google Analytics does not identify individual users or associate your IP address with any other data held by Google. We use reports provided by Google Analytics to help us understand website traffic and webpage usage.
I hope this has been helpful – and I would appreciate feedback on any additional constructive actionable points that I may have missed.
My goal is to create a resource to assist business owners in their compliance when there is so much information overload.
*This post does include affiliate links to some recommended plugins. This does not incur any additional costs to you, but I may earn a small commission
Why would you use a temporary domain name?
When your domain name is in use with a live website, and you are wanting to develop a new website you will be using a temporary domain name.
This will allow you to host a new installation of WordPress and work on your website, without interrupting your live website.
How to move from a temporary domain to your live domain
These instructions have been designed for people who have been given a temporary domain by their hosting provider, created a new website “behind-the-scenes” and are now ready to go live and replace the existing website.
If you have created a website with a temporary domain name, you need to replace all links within your website with the actual live domain when you want to make the switch over, otherwise you will have broken links, images may not show, and menus may not work.
I have tried to make these instructions as simple to follow as possible – without all the jargon.
Step 1 – DNS (Domain Name Settings)
Ensure that your domain name DNS settings have the A and www records pointing to the correct IP address.
If your domain and hosting have been set up together with the same provider, this should not be an issue.
Where do I get the IP address from?
Ask your hosting provider what the A and www records for your website need to be set to.
Where do I check/change the A and www records?
Ask your domain name provider/registrar to change your settings to reflect the requirements from your host.
Step 2 – install Velvet Blues plugin
This plugin is gold. It does a search and replace throughout your website.
- Go to Plugins > Add New > search for Velvet Blues Update URLs
- Install and activate the plugin
(If you would like to add the plugin manually, you can download it here)
Step 3 – update URLs
- Go to Tools > Update URLs
- Enter your complete temporary URL in the “Old URL” field (remove any trailing /)
- Enter your complete new/live domain URL in the “New URL” field (remove any trailing /)
- Tick all boxes except for “Update ALL GUIDs”
- Click “Update URLs NOW” button
Step 4 – update widgets
Velvet Blues Update URLs does not change any links you have in widget areas.
You will need to go to Appearance > Widgets and check each for any URLs that need to be updated.
Step 5 – update theme options
If you have logos, headers or other page layouts set up via your Theme dashboard, you may need to update URLs here.
Check through your settings.
If you do happen to miss any, you can come back and do these later.
Step 6 – change your domain
- Go to Settings > General
- Change your “WordPress Address (URL)” to your new domain (ensure to remove any / at the end)
- Change your “Site Address (URL)” to your new domain (ensure to remove any / at the end)
- Click “Save Settings”
Give yourself the best chance to actually have a holiday!
With the Christmas holidays rapidly approaching, we are all well and truly ready for some R&R – but it can be tough when you are a small business owner in the 24/7 digital world.
While we can’t just get our annual leave signed off and walk out the door like the “other half” – by setting expectations of your website visitors, you can hopefully get some down time.
My top tips for how to communicate holiday hours on your website:
- Display clearly on your homepage (above the fold)
Whether you do this in a banner, replace your usual slider image, or add something to your header, make it very obvious right up top, so they do not have to scroll down to see it (aka “above the fold”).
For service businesses, let people know when you are closed, or what your reduced hours are.
For e-commerce, clearly establish when your final shipping date is for Christmas. If you are going to have a period where you will not be shipping at all, state this too.
- Add details to your Contact page
If people are wanting to get in touch with you, this is where they will look.
Set their expectations before they even have a chance to phone or send you an email about when you will be able to reply.
- Use the Woocommerce site-wide notice feature
If you have an e-commerce site and use Woocommerce, go to Woocommerce > Settings > tick and fill out the Store Notice section.
This will put a small banner across the top of every page of your website, so nobody can miss it.
The colours/fonts etc can be changed with CSS (let me know if you need help with the CSS styling).
- Amend your opening hours
If your website displays your opening hours usually, make note of your holiday hours here, and inform them when regular hours will resume.
Other ways to communicate your holiday hours
Tell your mailing list
Make sure your loyal customers know in advance – include this in your next newsletter.
Add it to your email signature
In the lead up to the holidays, ensure that all clients are aware of your upcoming unavailability. This may prompt them to get a hustle on and complete what they are working on with you.
Pin a post on your Facebook page
Making this very obvious to all visitors to your page that your replies may be slower over this period, and when you will get back to them.
Amend your opening hours on Facebook, Google+, etc
If you have a physical premises, making these as accurate as possible is ideal – people trust Mr Google too much sometimes…
Clients or suppliers that you speak to regularly by phone shouldn’t have to find out by going to voicemail 😉
Change your voicemail
…and make a note to remind yourself to change it back when you return to work!
Out of office on your email
Set your email up with an automated out of office reply.
This will ensure that people know that their message has been received, and when you will reply to them – setting expectations realistically will help you leave the phone alone for a while!
Happy holidays everyone!
With nobody expecting you to reply – hopefully you won’t need to.
Disclaimer: Emergencies typically do happen when least convenient, so ensure that you advise people how to get in contact with you if they absolutely must. A holiday is great, but going AWOL in someone’s hour of need can have negative consequences.
Having good Ts & Cs for your business is super important and can save business owners a lot of money in the long run. You need to cover your butt so people you do business with understand what’s expected of them and can’t go back on their word.
Kiwis love DIY so here are 5 simple steps breaking down how to write terms and conditions for your business:
Step 1: Write a list of everything your biz does
Jot down a list of everything your business does including all the goods and services you sell. Also write down any standard terms you currently offer your customers. Consider these terms you’re offering – are they working for your business? Think about what other terms you’d like to have in order for your business to operate like a well-oiled machine. Now’s a good time to change things up that aren’t working in your business. Not getting paid on time? Consider asking for a deposit, or even upfront payment. Are you customers cancelling jobs or appointments a few hours before you’re supposed to meet? Well now’s the time to consider charging a cancellation fee.
Step 2: Think about what could go wrong
It’s a bit freaky to think about, but next to the list of things your business does write down all the potential things that could go wrong. Are there any potential dangers for your customers that could happen from using your goods or services? Write these down as it will be important to remember these things when you’re writing your disclaimer. It’s also important to think about difficult customers as part of this step. What problems have you come across with difficult customers before? Write these down too as it will be important to address these problems when writing your Ts & Cs.
Step 3: Write your Ts & Cs
It’s now time to get cracking on those Ts & Cs. Here are some things to include:
- Define the good and services you sell so people know what’s included and what’s not
- Define any other words your customers might read and think “what the….”
- Payment terms, including payment dates and what will happen if your customers pay you late, like charging interest
- Debt collection information, including that the customer will be responsible for paying any debt collection costs if they don’t pay their bill, including legal fees on a solicitor client basis and filing fees
- What you are responsible for
- What you aren’t responsible for
- What your client is responsible for
- Any refund policy
- Any guarantees you offer
- Delivery timelines
- Any other important timeframes your customers need to be aware of
- Limitation of liability clause (best to get some legal help with this one)
- How you deal with complaints and what happens if a proper dispute rears its ugly head (for example, you could make it clear that negotiation or mediation is your first port of call so you aren’t taken to court straight off the bat).
- A disclaimer about the accuracy of information on your website
- Make is crystal clear that by accessing and using your website your customers agree to your Ts & Cs
- You can change your Ts & Cs at any time
- How long the contract lasts and any minimum term
- How you and your customers can cancel the contract and how much notice is required
- Who owns the intellectual property in the things you create for your customers
- The law that governs the contract (like NZ law)
Step 4: Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and review
Pretend you’re a customer and read over your Ts & Cs. Make sure they’re written in plain English and are free from complicated and boring legal words. If something isn’t explained clearly take some time and set it out in an easy to understand way.
Step 5: Get a lawyer to do a final once over
It’s always a good idea to get your lawyer to give your Ts & Cs a final once over. Your lawyer has seen many things go wrong with their clients in business and will know the areas where you could find yourself in hot water. Lawyers are particularly good at writing disclaimers and limitation of liability clauses. This could potentially save you a bucket load of money down the track.
And then you’re done!
Now slap those Ts & Cs on your website and have a link to them at the bottom of every page of your site. While it can be a pain, it’s best to wait until you’ve had a customer agree to your Ts & Cs in writing before you start doing business with them. This can be done by your customer ticking a box on your website to say they’ve read and agree to your terms and conditions, or by having them sign your Ts & Cs.
Don’t forget to review your Ts & Cs every now and then – it is amazing how quickly they become out of date as your business grows.
Written by Claudia King. Claudia is a business lawyer at the rather non-traditional law firm Legal Beagle and she works with entrepreneurs and innovative businesses to help them do cool stuff and make their businesses more valuable: https://www.legalbeagle.co.nz/about/meet-the-team/highlight/Claudia
If you have a WordPress site with a Woocommerce online store, then you will have come across this Woocommerce Shipping Zones notification when updating to version 2.6 (or you will very soon if you haven’t updated for a while!):
Woocommerce Shipping Zones is a huge upgrade to the Shipping options offered as part of the core plugin, which is awesome!
What do the updates mean?
We were previously limited to the following shipping options (unless we added shipping plugins):
- Flat rate
- Local Pick Up
- International rate
Now, we are able to add a range of shipping rates based on self-defined zones, giving FAR more flexibility.
- Give Australia (or other countries) a different shipping rate to the “rest of the world”
- Set a shipping rate for your local region (e.g. Auckland), one for the rest of the North Island, and one for the South Island
- Set multiple flat rates for each zone: e.g. Rural and Urban, Post or Courier, etc
And within each zone, we can also set different shipping methods for customers to choose from (Flat rate, Free Shipping, Local Pick up).
This type of flexibility will allow customers to choose their preferred method at checkout!
What do I need to do?
- Please make sure you have an up-to-date backup before running the updates.
- If you are using the Table Rate Shipping plugin (or other Woocommerce shipping extensions) PLEASE make sure that you update these plugins first, BEFORE you update Woocommerce. Otherwise your site will crash. I have already helped restore a couple of websites who fell victim to this.
- The existing/legacy Shipping Rates will be phased out in coming updates, so please migrate your shipping methods over now so that you are not impacted when they are removed.
How do I set up the new Woocommerce Shipping Zones?
There are some very detailed instructions with screenshots available on the WooThemes website. If you are stuck on anything specific to your situation though, please drop me an email: [slash_mailto address=””].
Where can I find more information?
Check out the official information here
If you are on the fence (or even slightly confused) about why you should be writing a business blog, I hope that the below will convince you to take the plunge and make a start.
Writing a business blog help drive traffic to your website
Every time you add a new blog post to your website, you benefit from the following:
- Fresh content on your website
Search engines loves websites that are updated and cared for. When you add fresh content regularly assists in lifting your ranking.
- More content and keywords for search engines to search and index
Each blog post gives you an opportunity to go more in-depth into subjects in the realm of your business. This gives you more opportunity to use keywords and phrases that potential customers are using when searching online. If they are Googling a specific topic, and you have written a blog post on just that – bingo!
For example, if you are a florist and you write about “wedding bouquets for winter weddings”, you will be able to connect with potential clients searching this topic.
Unlike media advertising or other time-specific marketing, blog posts remain indefinitely. Posts continue to be searchable for the long term. Therefore, effort put into writing a business blog post now will continue to drive traffic to your website long into the future.
Writing on your specialist topics help you to be seen as an expert
When people search online, they generally look for a solution. If you offer sound advice, they are likely to see you as an expert in your field.
Ensure that your blog posts look to solve a problem, share knowledge, or answer a question. If you can help someone, your blog will help enhance their view of you. Ensure that the level of your advice is aimed at your target audience, not too basic, not to technical.
Blog posts help give your business personality
Use your blog posts to make a more personal connection with the visitors to your website. Inject some humanity, some humour or some personal anecdotes to bring your content (and your business) to life.
Blogs are great as shareable content
Each blog post page has it’s own URL – meaning that this can be shared as a standalone piece of content. This can therefore be used in a variety of ways to drive traffic to your website:
- Share on your Facebook page (although reach is significantly reduced lately for this kind of post – boosting will likely be required).
- Share on LinkedIn to help reinforce your expertise in your area. Think about the business vs. customer audience first though.
- Link to content in e-newsletters. Giving your mailing list some great info, and sending them to your website at the same time (bonus!).
- If your blog answers a specific question that a client has asked, you could email them a link to your blog, rather than having to spell it out again (time-saving, and encourages them to look at your other posts while they are there).
- Link to one post from other blog posts within your website to help give more information about a point raised. Linking to other pages helps your search engine ranking.
- When other blogs or websites link to your blog, this means that they send traffic to your website, and you are exposed to their website visitors too. ALso note that linking to other sources within your blog post also helps with credibility and Google rankings.
Great blogs can help build your email database
“Want great tips like this every week? Sign up to our mailing list here”
“Sign up now and get our new recipes straight to your inbox”
“Don’t miss the next new release, sign up to get new product alerts”
…you get the picture!
Use blogs to start the conversation
Asking for feedback, questions or other top tips at the end of your blog can open up some great conversations with current or potential clients. Give yourself the opportunity to gain insight into your target audience, or clarify your point further if required.
So… now you know why you should be writing a business blog (if you didn’t already), what is your biggest barrier to starting a blog? Comment below and let’s see if we can overcome it!
Outsourcing your blogs to a copywriter gives you back your time – time which you could use to bring in income for your business. Jackie Procter is an affordable and experienced NZ copywriter, specialising in working for small and medium sized businesses. www.jackieprocter.co.nz
I work with a lot of clients who love the flexibility and portability of Gmail email – but obviously don’t love having the unprofessional looking address on their business communications. In this situation, Google Apps for Work is a great solution, giving you business email with Gmail.
Now this is not a new news blog post – Google Apps for Work has been around for ages (and has lots of other great features too), but there are some steps that you need to ensure that you take in order for your wonderful business email with Gmail to work seamlessly with your website or the likes of Mailchimp (otherwise they will get relegated to junk folders, or not get delivered at all…).
How do I get a business email with Gmail?
Firstly, you will need to register the domain name you would like to use (if you don’t have it already), and need to have access to edit the DNS records.
Then go to https://apps.google.co.nz/intx/en_nz/products/gmail/ to sign up for your free trial.
Costs are based on the number of users you will have (i.e. staff members) with email addresses. If it is just yourself, then this is approx. US$5/month.
You can also get team email addresses (ones that groups of people can access) e.g. info@ or admin@ for free.
What about my existing email address?
Want to have all of your email coming in to your new email inbox? In most cases (certainly if you have an existing Gmail account), auto-forward settings can be actioned up so that these emails are automatically sent to your new inbox.
They also offer migration tools to bring your old emails accross from other services.
But I’ve heard that using Gmail accounts with Mailchimp will mean my emails end up in the junk folder…
If you use a free email provider (e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc), web hosts and bulk email providers (e.g. Mailchimp) cannot guarantee delivery of e-newsletters or communications from your website (such as order confirmations or contact form submissions).
The reason being that most spam email is sent from these free email providers, And this is true for a Google Apps for Work business email address too, UNLESS you authenticate your Google Apps Domain with SPF.
How to avoid this
You need to set SPF records (short for Sender Policy Framework) within your domain name DNS settings.
This basically allows your email recipients to verify that the server sending your email is authorised to send email on behalf of the domain that is found in your email address.
Instructions can be found here to help you configure SPF records to work with Google Apps.
And as always, I am happy to help if you get stuck (or would just like it to all be set up for you)!
For many small businesses, especially start-ups, if you are relatively technically savvy, the DIY route is often the most logical step to creating your website – as time is generally more abundant than funds.
For those of you taking this route, I would like to share 5 top tips to get you off on the right foot with a DIY WordPress website:
1. Use a premium/paid theme
I know, paying for things when there is a free alternative can be painful – but the free ones rely on community forum support if you get stuck, which can mean hours of trawling through Google searches.
Premium themes *generally* offer support as part of the price, and this can be priceless if you need help getting things to look the way you want them to. It makes the US$30-$150 look like a bargain.
Premium themes also are *generally* much easier to customise with more user-friendly interfaces to work with, and often come bundled with a few premium plugins as a bonus to add great functionality. Many themes are built with specific business categories in mind (e.g. salons, restaurants, coaches, etc), and they can make adding the functionality you will want simpler as a result.
2. Create a child theme
What the heck is a child theme?
A child theme is a copy of your theme, and it is this child theme that you make your customisations to. There are several plugins that make this an easy process, including One Click Child Theme (free).
When a new version of your theme is released from the developer, you can update in confidence that your customisations will not be over-written (but please ensure you have a recent back-up first regardless).
3. Back-up your website!
Ensure that your website is backed up regularly – and that you have a couple of historical back-ups on hand. If something goes wrong during an update (WordPress core, theme or plugin), or you are the victim of hackers – you want to make sure you can restore your website with a recent back-up copy that has not been impacted.
Many hosts offer automated back-ups as part of their service. This may be an additional paid add-on to activate the service, but will be worth it. Just check what they will charge you to access the automated back-up when weighing up the best option for you and your budget.
A great alternative is to use BackupBuddy which can be set up to automate back-ups that are stored either in their cloud server, or delivered to your preferred storage facility (including DropBox).
Unfortunately, there are people out there with nothing better to do, and spamming and hacking are real threats to any website, so it is best to put some security measures in place to help protect yourself. There are a plethora of things you can do – but here are a few to start:
Hide your login page:
All WordPress website login pages are by default http://www.yourdomain.com/wp-admin
This makes it pretty easy for hackers to get to your login screen and start trying to get in. Using a plugin like WPS Hide Login (free) allows you to change the wp-admin to anything you like.
If they find your login page anyway, limiting the amount of times that they can enter an incorrect password. Again, there are lots of options, but Limit Login Attempts is a free plugin that is often included in the install process by some hosting companies.
Protect yourself from spam:
Having functions like blog comment fields or product reviews on your website can be great for creating engagement and collecting feedback from your audience, but they also open a gateway for spammers… Lots of things can be done, but a great start is to install and activate Akismet (again, lots of WordPress installs include this by default, but you need to activate it by getting an API key here)
5. Outsource the tricky stuff
If you get stuck – don’t over-invest your time when you could be actually running and growing your business. Something that you may spend hours (or days!) trying to figure out how to change – or the trickier functionality, such as membership or online store set-up, will take a web designer a fraction of the time and save a lot of grief.
How I can help you
If you would like help with the initial set-up, something you are stuck on, or perhaps a project quote for adding extra functionality to your website – please feel free to contact me. Let’s get something crossed off your to-do list!
As a reasonable newbie to WordPress and challenged when it comes to the intricacies of html, coding and the like, Leah came to my rescue last month. She patiently answered my newbie questions and made the whole process simple for me. My website had a couple of hideous features, and I was struggling to work out how to load social media icons, and adjust a couple of other small things. In the blink of an eye she had it done and dusted and looking awesome. We are already booked in for some more refinements next week. Fiona Dieleman
I recently revamped my website and I am just loving it, thanks to Leah from Little Biz Online! The project has gone so well because I got Leah to do all the hard stuff. I simply guided her about how I wanted the site to look, added some of the content myself and a few pictures, but she did the rest. In the past I’ve given away far too much of my precious time trying to do it all on my own, but I’ve learned that I actually save myself money by getting Leah to do it for me. Thanks Leah, awesome service as always! Gina Brown
Sharing to help others…
From your DIY experience, what would be your top tip for others embarking on the journey? Please add your comment below…
Do you want a new look for your business website?
If the answer is yes, you are probably worried that all the money you have invested in creating it, getting the Google ranking good, and loading all the products into your online store would go down the drain.
If your website is built in WordPress, then we can change the theme, without losing any of your content.
Customising the new theme to meet your needs will be a fraction of the cost of re-building the website all over again. YAY!
I have taken several clients through this process lately – many of whom created their own website in the early stages of their business, and now that they are taking their business to the next level, we are re-theming their website to reflect this evolution.
What is a theme?
If you think of your website as a house:
- Your Content Management System (CMS) e.g. WordPress is the foundations and outer shell of your house.
- The theme is like the floor layout and interior design.
- Your content is like your personal belongings.
We can do some minor re-decorating (colours, fonts, etc) without needing to change your theme, but if you would like to do some major renovations to the layout of your pages or making a website mobile friendly, then a new theme may be the best way to do this.
For WordPress, many developers create themes, and these are available either freely or to purchase. The premium (a.k.a paid) themes come with a lot more options and support, in my mind, most are worth the investment.
Once a theme is loaded, there are many ways to customise specifically for your business’s website.
What happens to my existing website?
To keep your website up and running while this is all being worked on, a copy of your website is used as a testing or development site. All changes are done here, and then when you love how they look, the new theme and customisations are uploaded to your live website. Done!
If this sounds appealing, please feel free to contact me for more information. I am happy to discuss the best path to achieve your goals.
Are testimonials a helpful reassurance for potential clients, or are they self-serving bragging?
I get asked this a lot when helping clients with websites. Well, it depends on what they say – and how you use them.
I hope that this article will help you to make the most of great testimonials.
Everyone knows that a business is only going to publish a good testimonial on their website. Therefore, it becomes very much about gaining the right testimonials from your clients, and using them in the right way.
Make the most of great testimonials
My top DO’s:
- Focus on testimonials that highlight what makes your business unique – your amazing service, specific talents or strengths, etc. Great testimonials don’t just focus on the end result, they focus on the journey. Testimonials that show how you solved a problem, or met the specific needs of the customer provide far more insight and reassurance than a generic “The service was awesome!”
- Ask clients for feedback/testimonials. Either make it a standard part of your sales process, or contact key clients and request a testimonial for your updated marketing materials. Be specific if possible to get the type of testimonial that will work for your target audience – “It would be great if we could get your feedback on the way we handled x” or “Let us know how you felt when you opened you courier package”.
- Keep quotes short and snappy – and if possible include the client’s name, business and email address or web address.
- Use photos where possible – it adds another layer of humanity to the words. It also adds social proof. People like to follow the lead of others like themselves, so seeing faces helps to
- Use logos of well-known brands or people you have done work for. The recognition of these by your target audience can give additional social proof to give you a boost over the competition.
- Use testimonials within the context of specific services or products. If you have a rave review for a specific service you offer – put that testimonial on the sales page on your website.
- Leverage the great ones across different channels. If you get a great testimonial on LinkedIn, Facebook, etc – make sure to copy these for your records and leverage the best ones across your website and other materials (with permission of course!)
My top DON’T’s:
- Don’t create fake testimonials – just don’t!
- Don’t use testimonials that sound generic and cliched – if they could be about any other business then it doesn’t present any helpful information for your potential clients.
- Don’t over-edit! Keep the testimonial as original as possible. Take snippets from long testimonials and correct any typos for sure, but don’t try to change the actual wording or tone.
- Don’t automatically delete the bad ones If testimonials come in the form of product reviews – and you get a negative one, use this as an opportunity to reply and demonstrate to customers how you handle things if they are not happy. Doing this well can be as good as a good testimonial for your business.
- Don’t focus too strongly on out-of-date testimonials. If something amazing happened in 2006, great – but don’t make it the centrepiece of your testimonial presentation. What have you been doing since?
Takeaway shops that have “Best Fish and Chips 2007” signs in the window make me wonder if their standards have dropped since…?
If you know a business display or use their testimonials in a fantastic way, it would be great if you could comment below and share the link – let’s build a library of examples for people to see!
People like to do business with people. For a small business getting your About page right can help you build a level of trust and assurance with your visitors (potential customers) – and portray to them exactly whom they will be dealing with.
If you are feeling a bit shy, or unsure how much you want to put yourself out there – here are some of my top tips:
1. Write your About page like you are talking to a potential client
Your About page is not your CV or your memoirs – it is a place where you can talk to the reader and let them know what you can do to help them, the problems you can solve, or the information you can share with them.
2. Have professional photos taken
A photographer who is talented will know exactly how to capture your inner and outer beauty, and portray your personality to your audience. They can also touch them up to make them still look like you – but the best possible version of you. It makes SUCH a difference when you can present yourself professionally, and it demonstrates to potential clients that you value yourself and your brand.
I know that when you are starting out, it is another expense that you really don’t feel you can afford. I was the same – I had a picture of me cropped out of a group photo at a function for the first couple of years. Once I got professional head shots done, it gave me an instant confidence boost, knowing that not only my website, but my social media and other online networking profiles looked more professional.
…and once you get photos done – please make sure you keep them reasonably current. I know we all like the ones where we look younger, but if your customers will not recognise you when you turn up for a meeting, it might be time to get some new ones.
3. Let people know your name
You don’t need to start out “Hi, I’m Leah…”, but for the sake of credibility, you do need to let people know who you are. Hiding behind a business name makes things look a little bit dodgy.
4. Introduce the team!
If you do not work alone – introduce the team! Have a team photo on your About page, or perhaps give each team member the opportunity to have a photo and short profile – especially those who interact with your customers and suppliers.
Doing this shows that you have scale. It also gives an opportunity to highlight the extra expertise and experience that these individuals bring to the table.
By all means, give a bit more background about yourself as the founder or owner of the business – but if potential customers know who else is in the team, they will be more comfortable talking to them, and therefore makes delegation on your part easier.
5. Share your contact details
Chances are that if someone is visiting your website and reading your About page, they may want to get in touch with you. If your contact details (email address, phone number, social media links) are not easily seen across your website in your header or footer – it is a good idea to have them on your About page (as well as your Contact page). This means one less click for potential clients or other fabulous contacts.
Always put a phone number on your website. Even if most clients contact you by email, knowing that they can call you and speak to someone if there is ever an issue is a huge reassurance and helps add to the credibility of your business.
6. Let them know why you love your job
Knowing that you are dealing with someone who is enthusiastic about what they do makes it so much more appealing to do business with them. Share the aspects of your job that get you out of bed in the morning – you may start getting more of the work that you love coming in as a result!
7. What else do you love?
Finding a potential business contact who has something in common with you makes things very appealing. Aside from being a great conversation starter, it also gives an insight into your personality – and you will be more likely to attract customers that you will love to deal with.
This section should be brief, but don’t be afraid to be yourself!
Last year I did a website for a client who had seen that I was a Playcentre Mum – so was she. Instant shared ground and understanding that we would probably have similar values and priorities.
8. Experience and Qualifications
From qualifications to life experience – let them know why they should invest their money in you, your products or your services. What has been your journey? What do you bring to the deal?
Even if you are new in business or making a career change, there will be a back-story you can share about how you got to this point, and experience or knowledge to promote.
9. Keep it brief
I know! Trying to incorporate all of the above, and keep it short will take a few drafts, but people are time-poor and they don’t need to read your life story. Make it the highlights, and keep point 1. in mind – keep it about how you help that reader.
10. Make sure you keep it up to date
It isn’t often a page of a website that you read yourself after your website is published, but it is good to check in occasionally to make sure that it is still how you want to present yourself. Businesses and people evolve – so please check at least every 6 months and have a read.
I hope this inspires you to have a good look at your About page – and if you have any About page tips of your own to add to the list, please comment below!
When clients have photos of their unique work on their websites, I highly recommend that these images are (subtly) watermarked. The reason for this is two-fold:
- Marketing – ensure anyone who sees this image elsewhere knows who the artist is.
- Protection – help prevent others using your images without your permission.
This article shows you how to watermark images using PicMonkey, which is both freely available, and easy to use.
Part One – create the watermark
If you already have the image/logo you would like to use as a png file with a transparent background, you can skip to Part Two.
- Download this transparent background image and save to your computer > ** Transparent background**
- Go to www.picmonkey.com
- Click on the EDIT option, and select the saved Transparent Background image from step 1 from your computer files
- Click the CROP button, and crop the transparent background to the size/shape you would like
- Click on the overlay (butterfly) icon, and then click on YOUR OWN to upload your image/logo from your computer.
- Use the FADE slider to fade your image/logo to the desired level
- Click SAVE
Part Two – watermark your image
- Go to www.picmonkey.com
- Click on the EDIT option, and select the image you would like to watermark from your computer files
- Click on the overlay (butterfly) icon, and then click on YOUR OWN to upload your saved watermark from Part One from your computer.
- Move/resize your watermark as needed
- Click SAVE
Why use Dropbox?
Dropbox is a great resource to store and share files. I love using it when working on websites with clients to gain access to images and graphics, as they do not get compressed as they do sometimes with email.
This tutorial shows you how to set up a Dropbox account and share files (with screenshots).
Dropbox folders or files can be shared with individuals or groups to form a shared folder too, which can be great when working on a project together – or even sharing photos with family without needing to upload to social media!
Set up you Dropbox account
Firstly, you need to go to www.dropbox.com and set up an account.
How to upload and share your first files
Once signed in, follow the below instructions to upload and share your first files:
- Click “add folder”
- Give the folder a name, and add the email address of those you wish to share with in the textbox . Click “Create Folder”
- Once the folder is created, click on it to open it.
- Now drag and drop files from your computer.
- To go back to the main folder list, click on the blue Dropbox link at the top of the screen.
- Repeat as needed for additional folders or individual files
How to share folders or individual files
Files or whole folders can be shared individually by clicking the “Share” button that displays when you hover over a folder or file in your Dropbox.
How to delete Dropbox files or folders
Files or folders can be deleted by clicking on the folder or file. An extra row of icons will then display at the top of the screen. Click the “Delete” icon:
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me 🙂
Happy file sharing!
I am often asked to assist with the set-up of my client’s Facebook pages. In order to do this, they need to add a new admin to your Facebook page. So here are some easy to follow instructions for you…
There are 5 different access levels for your business Facebook page. Only the Administrator/s can change the level of someone’s access.
The access that these roles have are outlined below:
If you wish to add another person to the help in the running of your business Facebook page, then please follow the below instructions.
- Login to your business page
- Click on the Settings tab
- Click on Page Roles
- Add the email address and select the access level required for this person. This email address must be one linked with their Facebook account.
- Click SAVE
The person you have added should receive a notification that they have been added. They need to accept this invitation.
At any time, you may remove this person by clicking on the X to the right-hand side of their user profile – or change the level of their access using the dropdown box.
NB: if you add someone else as an Admin, they will have the same access rights as you – and could change YOUR settings.
It is no longer a nice-to-have: if you are in business, you need a website. Whether it is simply a place to showcase your business, or a fully-fledged e-commerce site, there are many things to consider when creating or revamping one (and lots of checklists available online to tell you what these are).
Here are three tips that are often overlooked though, to help you avoid some expensive traps…
1. Make sure you think about your future plans for your business
Make sure that the website you create from the start is able to grow and adapt with your business. Be open with your website developer/designer. You don’t want to get a year down the track and have to pay to have it rebuilt from scratch because your needs have changed.
2. Look at the real ongoing costs
A cheap website might be appealing when starting out, especially with limited start-up funds, but in addition to future growth potential (see point #1), will you be able afford to make changes as you need to – such as updating price lists, or running monthly competitions, etc (or even bigger things such as adding an online store at a later date). Ensure you discuss the costs of making ongoing changes with your web developer/designer, as this is often where the money from a “free” website is made.
Ask if you will be able to access the website to make changes yourself.
Will you be charged a monthly maintenance fee? Make sure you know what this does and doesn’t cover.
Also check the ongoing costs of hosting (“rent” to be on the internet) and domain registration (annual “lease” of your web address). These can sometimes be excessively marked-up from what they need to be.
3. Ensure you own your online assets
Your domain name (also known as your web address or URL) is a key asset to your business. It should NOT be the property of your web developer/designer! Make sure this is set up in the name of your business, ideally charged to your business credit card.
Make sure that you have the relevant links, usernames and passwords to access the backend of your website (even if you aren’t going to use them). If anything should happen to your web developer/designer – you don’t want to lose your investment and brand equity.
Ask around and find a developer/designer that you can talk too and feel comfortable with, and who is genuinely interested in the success of your business. You need to work with someone who can explain things to you, rather than confuse you – especially if you are not a technical person. The last thing you want is to be reluctant to contact them – they should be a key part of your business team.
This article was originally posted on the Go To Girl website