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Best Form Plugin for WordPress

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What do you want people to do when they visit your site? Contact you? Sign up for your newsletter? Fill out a survey?

Make it easy for them with an eye-catching, intuitive form. To do that, you need a WordPress form plugin that lets you build one.

A great form plugin for WordPress will help you create any form you need. These plugins will help you attract more customers and make things convenient for everyone. 

#1 Gravity Forms—The Best for Advanced Users

Gravity Forms goes beyond your typical contact form. It has tons of integrations and add-ons for a smart, multipurpose form.

It doesn’t have a free version, but the add-ons you get make for such a comprehensive and customizable form plugin that it’s worth it. If you’re a developer who wants to make your form unique, Gravity Forms can help. The plugin is scalable for your business, and it offers excellent security for your site.

You can choose from three packages:

  • Basic—$59 per year
  • Pro—$159 per year
  • Elite—$259 per year

Basic gives you unlimited forms and entries for one site. With multipage forms, conditional logic, and file uploads, visitors have more options than your typical single-page form. Automatic updates and standard support give you the resources you need to keep your forms running.

The real star of Gravity Forms is its add-on options. Even with the Basic package, you get plenty, including Mailchimp, ActiveCampaign, AWeber, HubSpot, and many more.

Pro upgrades you to three sites and gives you all the features of Basic. When you go Pro, you’re basically paying for the add-ons. But with several payment, CRM, and other management add-ons, you might find they make your life easier. 

The top tier, Elite, gives you unlimited sites and all Pro features. With Elite, you can make other types of forms, like surveys, polls, and quizzes. You can also make filling out your forms more convenient with signatures, user registration, and partial entries. Plus, with priority support, you get issues resolved fast. Learn more at Gravity Forms.

#2 Jetpack Forms—The Best for Form Security

Jetpack is more of a suite than a form-specific plugin, but it still has plenty of form features. You might not find all the same ones as you would in, say, Formidable Forms, but it has enough if you don’t need anything fancy.

What Jetpack lacks in frills, it makes up for in protection. It blocks spam, offers extra security, and even comes with marketing tools.

To use forms, you must enable Jetpack Contact Form in the suite settings. There, you’ll have access to features like contact, newsletter, registration, feedback, RSVP, and sign-up forms. You can also build your own form from scratch.

You can specify who receives messages from the forms. With customization features and fields, you can create a unique form with a date picker, checkboxes, radio, and select fields. The block editor also lets you drag and drop or add non-form blocks within the form block.

Jetpack has limited integrations, but you can get newsletters and CRM. There’s a free version of the plugin, along with three paid packages:

  • Backup Daily—$7.95 per month
  • Security Daily—$19.95 per month
  • Complete—$79.95 per month

The form plugin comes with all packages, but if you want more security, consider upgrading. Backup Daily offers automated daily backups, one-click restores, and unlimited site storage so that you won’t lose anything.

Security Daily includes automated daily scans, anti-spam, and unlimited video hosting on your site. The Complete package comes with real-time automated scans and off-site backup. To make things easier to maintain, you also get a CRM, site search, and more marketing and design tools.

#3 WPForms—The Best for Flexibility and Power

WPForms is one of the best WordPress form plugins you can get. Its intuitive interface makes it ideal for both beginners and more experienced users. You don’t have to worry about code or complexities.

It’s one of the most powerful form builders thanks to its functionality, multi-page forms, customizability, and the sheer number of forms you can create. Its comprehensive features include everything from file upload capability to conditional logic.

You can make form submission simple with signatures, form abandonment, and user registration. With survey and poll add-ons, you can create tons of different forms beyond your basic contact form. Plus, Conversational Forms help you connect with visitors.

When it comes to communication, Constant Contact integration and instant notifications mean you and your team never miss a beat. Not to mention, the anti-spam honeypots make sure you only get responses from real people who are interested in what you have to offer.

You can choose from five packages:

  • Lite—Free
  • Basic—$39.50 per year
  • Plus—$99.50 per year
  • Pro—$199.50 per year
  • Elite—$299.50 per year

WPForms Lite has three templates and 10 form fields. Beyond that, the drag-and-drop design, button customization, and Gutenberg compatibility give you all the design tools you need.

The Basic package gives you unlimited forms and entries, plus advanced fields, form templates, and multi-page forms. It comes with one year of support, downloads, and updates for one site.

Plus upgrades the Basic features with more marketing features. You get newsletter forms, Mailchimp, AWeber, GetResponse, Campaign Monitor, Sendinblue, and Drip for three sites. With this package, you’ll have no problem keeping track of your forms.

With Pro, you get everything Plus has to offer, along with even more marketing integrations. With form abandonment, conversational forms, offline forms, and a form locker, visitors won’t have to worry about losing their place. That means more customers for you.

Pro also allows PayPal and Stripe integrations for easy payments. You get priority support and use of these features across five sites.

Elite includes all Pro features but with even more marketing capability. With ActiveCampaign, Salesforce, Authorize.net, and Webhooks across unlimited sites, you have the tools you need to manage your forms. Elite also gives you client management features and premium support in case anything goes wrong.

#4 Formidable Forms—The Best for Complex Form Creation

Formidable Forms lets you create forms as complex or as simple as you want. It has more advanced features than any other WordPress form plugin on this list.

Formidable Forms works best if you’re an advanced developer. You’ll get more out of it if you know how to use all of its features, and it’s not as beginner-friendly as other form plugins.

With tons of integrations, including WooCommerce, you’ll find plenty of use for it, whether you need an easy contact form or a complex survey.

You can get Formidable Forms in four packages:

  • Basic—$74 per year
  • Plus—$149 per year
  • Business—$299 per year
  • Elite—$599 per year

Basic comes with unlimited forms and entries, along with advanced and multipage forms. File upload and review before submit features give visitors what they need for efficient form completion. Automatic updates keep your forms current for you, and you get a year of support for one site.

Plus upgrades you to three sites with add-ons like Mailchimp, AWeber, MailPoet newsletters, and Bootstrap form styling and modals. Formidable Views, reviews, and comments also make it easy for you to see what people think of your site and who uses your forms. You can even create surveys and polls beyond your basic forms.

The Business package adds calculators, user registration, and signatures. You get payment add-ons, Formidable Forms API, date picker options, and quiz maker. With marketing add-ons like Campaign Monitor and GetResponse, you have even more ways to improve how you use form responses. You can also use Polylang to make your site accessible in multiple languages across up to 15 sites.

Elite is where the WooCommerce integration comes in. You can also take advantage of marketing tools like ActiveCampaign, Salesforce, and Hubspot.

With Elite’s access to all form templates, unlimited sites, and all Business package features, you’ll have no shortage of ways to customize your forms and how they work for you. And priority support means you can keep things up and running without the wait.

#5 Ninja Forms—The Best for Quick Solutions

Ninja Forms has your solution for quality forms with minimal effort. Its drag and drop setup means you don’t have to be tech-savvy to upgrade your forms.

The plugin’s beginner-friendly interface includes pre-built templates, dedicated fields, customization options, and spam management. These features make it easy for you to add a form fast when you need one.

You have three paid package options:

  • Personal—$99.50 per year
  • Professional—$199.50 per year
  • Agency—$249.50 per year

Personal allows you one site with priority support. You can use form building features like layout and styles, conditional logic, file uploads, and multipage forms. Marketing add-ons like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, and ConvertKit help you keep track of your marketing campaign and its success rate. You also get 20% off all future add-ons you buy.

When you upgrade to Professional, you can use the plugin on 20 sites. You get more payment integrations, like PayPal Express and Stripe to make customer purchases convenient. When it comes to forms, it makes for low effort completion with user management login, as well as registration, update profile, and post creation forms. Users can even save their form progress. The add-on discount also doubles to 40% for any you buy after purchasing this package.

Agency comes with unlimited sites and all form add-ons, including those they release in the future. You have access to all CRM integrations, including Salesforce, Zoho, Insightly, HubSpot, and more, plus SMS and Slack notifications. Connect your forms to workflow management software like Trello and Help Scout, and use advanced analytics and email marketing tools.

If you only want some of these features, Ninja Forms offers an a la carte option. You can choose the features you need, and the cost is from $29 to $129 a year for up to 20 sites.

#6 Caldera Forms—The Best for Free Features

Like most form plugins for WordPress, Caldera Forms has plenty of paid options. The difference here is that it gives you access to more free features than most others.

You get templates and compatibility with almost every WordPress theme available. It has a drag-and-drop builder, as well as a freeform builder for better customization.

You can get free and premium add-ons for payments, sales, and email marketing. It also has spam prevention and notifications, so you always know what’s going on with your forms.

Unfortunately, even the paid version doesn’t have many advanced features. If you’re a developer, you might want something you can play with more.

If Caldera’s simplicity appeals to you, you can choose from three packages:

  • Toolbelt—$49.50 per year
  • Toolbox—$99.50 per year
  • Toolchest—$249.50 per year

Toolbelt comes with plenty of marketing and payment integrations, including PayPal, ConvertKit, ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp, and AWeber. You also have options like entry limiter, geolocation, conditional fail, and Slack to help you get all the information you need from your forms. Best of all, Toolbelt gives you unlimited sites, a rare feature for the cheapest payment options.

Toolbox enhances your forms with easy queries, YouTube signup forms, custom fields, and email verification. You can also learn more about your forms’ success with Google Analytics, and send responses where they need to go with Connected Forms.

Toolchest allows you to add members and use premium EDD integration. With Divi Styler, you can take form design to the next level. Braintree, Dwolla, and Nexmo integrations help you collect payments easily, interact with data, and connect your forms where you need them.

#7 HappyForms—The Best for Lightweight Forms

HappyForms is a no-frills form plugin built into the WordPress Customizer. Its lightweight code keeps up performance on your site, and everything about it is made to be user-friendly.

With a drag and drop form builder, it’s easy to include in your site design. It also comes with a Google reCaptcha spam prevention feature. As a Gutenberg-ready plugin, you don’t have to modify anything to start building your forms.

HappyForms doesn’t have many advanced features. Still, if you know anything about tech, you know that you need a high-quality foundation. That’s what HappyForms offers.

You can choose from three packages:

  • Starter—$49 per year
  • Business—$99 per year
  • Professional—$249 per year

Starter lets you customize your forms on one site with conditional logic, multipage forms, time and date scheduling, and live polls. You can even tailor submission details with a preview before submission, redirect after submission, and a submission block list. With import and export tools along with file upload, you have everything you need for a solid starter form. Plus, this tier gives you 20% off future renewals.

Business gives you a year of updates for five sites and all Starter features. The main difference between the two levels is that Business gives you a ton of integrations. You get Google Analytics, Mailchimp, SendFox, PayPal, Constant Contact, Zapier, ActiveCampaign, and more.

With Professional, you get a year of updates for unlimited sites but no extra features beyond what Business offers. Essentially, you’re just paying to use those features on more sites.

What I Looked at to Find the Best WordPress Form Plugin

Before you buy, you want to know that your WordPress form plugin will serve your business well. Some plugins offer advanced features but focus instead on what your company actually needs. Look for these features and criteria in your plugins to help you decide which one is right for you. 

Customizability

Whether you need multiple tools or branding customizability, it helps to know how much you can change your forms. Fully customizable forms give you more options and better ways to make them your own. 

Look for options like how many fields you can add, dropdowns, and design features. The level of customizability determines how the form works for your site.

Visual Builder

A visual drag-and-drop builder works well for beginners. It also makes adding a form to your site more efficient.

That said, if you have experience with creating websites and incorporating different elements, a freeform builder gives you more freedom.

Spam Protection

You want spam protection for you and your visitors. It makes people feel safe and keeps both their and your information secure. Spam protection also shows that the plugin you get offers more than the bare minimum.

Responsiveness

Your form should work on all types of devices. If it doesn’t work on mobile, that will deter people. According to Sweor, 57% of people won’t recommend a website that doesn’t work on mobile devices. Test your form and make sure visitors can fill it out just as easily on their phones as on desktop. 

Conditional Logic

Conditional logic gives your form an “if this, then that” logic system. These systems streamline the submission process and help sort responses where they need to go within your company.

Conditional logic allows customers to skip parts of the form that don’t apply to them. The form recognizes their answers to certain questions and then hides or shows applicable questions.

Communication System

A communication system within your plugin keeps your system organized. It tells the right people in your company when they receive a new submission. With a streamlined system, it becomes easier for the appropriate people to handle specific tasks.

Conclusion

Your WordPress form plugin should make it easy for customers to fill out forms and for you to get the responses you need. Choose something that has all the right features from the start.

A good form plugin for WordPress should offer more than a simple contact form. Look for spam protection, a high-quality builder, customizability, and make sure it works on all devices. When you have a form that reaches more visitors, you have a higher chance of turning them into buyers.

To recap, here are the top WordPress form plugins:

The post Best Form Plugin for WordPress appeared first on Neil Patel.

5 Blogging Trends to Capitalize on This Year

It’s no secret that blogs can be very profitable in the world of content marketing.

According to Demand Metric, businesses that utilize a blogging strategy get 97 percent more links to their website and are 13x more likely to see positive returns. What’s more, blogging results in a 434 percent increase in indexed pages and a 93 percent increase in indexed links.

This means more inbound traffic and more repeat customers for your brand.

That said, there are over 31 million active bloggers in the U.S. posting once per month, and that talent pool is only growing. To keep up and stay competitive, you need to be on top of the latest blogging trends and go after the best blog talent.

Here are some of the biggest blogging trends to look out for this year, along with quick and easy ways to implement them into your blogging strategy.

Blogging Trend #1: Highly Visual Content

No blogging trends list would be complete without reminding you of the importance of visual content.

There’s no doubt about it; visual content is on the rise. Studies have shown that readers can recall 65 percent of the visual content they’ve seen, even three days later.

That’s a big boost for your brand’s visibility and retention. As blogs become longer and more detailed, design and interactivity grow in importance. Visual content can offer readers a way to scan content without reading it all the way through.

HubSpot found that only 16 percent of online readers take in content word-by-word. The rest are scanning, looking for quick and efficient information.

If you want readers to stay on your page, be engaged, and promote your content on other platforms, make your information easy to scan by using visuals.

How to Incorporate Visual Content in Your Blog

Adding images and videos to your content breaks up heavy chunks of text and offers a new, responsive way for your audience to engage with your content.

It’s always preferable to use original content in your blogs, but stock imagery can still be useful when designing an engaging blog. For example, an infographic offers readers a way to easily consume your information without wading through the entirety of your post.

Here is a great infographic example from Oberlo.

infographic of average blog length from oberlo

Likewise, video content is another one of this year’s hottest blogging trends that offers readers a more engaging way of interacting with your posts.

Surveys from Wyzowl have found that people watch an average of 2.5 hours of video content per day, so integrating video content into your blog is a great way to improve time spent on your pages.

Blogging Trend #2: More Affiliate Marketing

Another important factor in today’s blogging trends is the implementation of affiliate marketing links in your blog content.

Affiliate marketing allows you to create an ongoing sales funnel outside your website.

For example, if you’re running a B2C business, you might hire a blogger to write a review post about your product. From there, you could offer their followers a discount if they buy it from that post.

Not only does this improve your sales reach, but it also introduces you to new audiences.

Blogs make up more than 40 percent of all affiliate commissions in the U.S. Of this same group, 35 percent make up to 20k in revenue from their affiliate links.

It’s no wonder affiliate marketing is one of the hottest blogging trends of the year. Now, how can you take advantage of this technique?

How to Incorporate Affiliate Marketing in Your Blog

When creating a blog, think about affiliate marketing techniques you could employ.

If you’re mentioning a product or service, reach out to that company and see if they have any affiliate programs you could join. You can do this with a simple Google search for: product + “affiliate program.”

It’s always best to choose a product you know and love, as your results depend on how well you sell it.

That said, no one wants to read a sales pitch. A successful affiliate blog should be educational and informative and should employ other blogging techniques such as SEO and visual content.

It’s also important to note that the FTC requires you to disclose any affiliate programs, which you can do with a simple byline in your post.

Blogging Trend #3: More Critical Readers

One of the more relevant blogging trends today is the inclusion of critical readers in your audience pool.

Public perception of online content is changing.

With terms like “fake news” and increased competition for content, readers are less willing to trust content that isn’t reputable.

Today’s reader needs reassurance that your content is accurate and fair. They expect citations, sources, and statistics to back up your claims. Likewise, you need to keep in mind the scope of content that’s readily available online.

Every year, more people and more brands enter the blogging scene.

To stay competitive and harness your SEO, you need to write content that is verified and well-sourced.

How to Write for Critical Readers

It’s important to write logical, truthful, and high-quality content that uses authoritative sources and consistent citations.

Making baseless, unverified claims is a good way to lose your readers. Not only that, but bad sources can actually negatively affect your SEO and overall page authority.

Here are a few easy tips to follow when writing for critical readers:

  1. Write honest content that is backed by reputable sources.
  2. Use backlinks to cite sources or include them as footnotes.
  3. Do not make any claims you cannot prove.
  4. Do not promise anything you can’t deliver.

The biggest takeaway here is to avoid writing anything that isn’t true or that can’t be verified with accurate sources.

Losing credibility can be a big hit to your business. Stay informed and improve your brand integrity.

Blogging Trend #4: Mobile-First Format

Blogging trends often come and go, but mobile-first formatting is here to stay. These days, everyone uses their phone to read online.

From news articles in your Facebook feed to swipe-up blogs on Instagram, your consumers are constantly surfing the web from their phones.

It’s crucial that your website, blog, and any other digital content you create is optimized for mobile. No one wants to click on an article only to have it pixelated or cut off on their screen.

If you don’t have mobile optimization set up, you risk readers logging off before they have a chance to read your content. Studies from Google show that 40 percent of mobile consumers turned to a competitor’s website after a negative mobile web experience.

How to Write in a Mobile-First Format

When creating mobile-friendly content, it’s important to consider how your content will look on a mobile screen.

One sentence on a desktop screen can look like a paragraph on mobile.

Therefore, breaking up your paragraphs, using short sentences, and ensuring your website is optimized for mobile are very important.

Here are a few other points to consider:

  • Make navigation as easy as possible.
  • Make your content easy to scan.
  • Ensure the on-page loading time is fast.
  • Use a mobile responsive web theme.
  • Don’t use text wrapping for images.

As always, writing content that is simple, accurate, and concise can improve your overall mobile accessibility.

example of content marketing blog on neilpatel.com

Blogging Trend #5: Estimated Reading Time

Another recurring theme in modern blogging trends is estimated reading times.

Estimated reading time can improve reader engagement by setting up their expectations from the start.

If you know a blog takes 15 minutes to read, but you only have 10 minutes before your next meeting, you might save that blog for another day. Likewise, if a blog takes two minutes to read, you may get excited about the convenient length of the article and open it right away.

Tempesta found that readers were 40 percent more engaged with blogs that included an estimated reading time. What’s more, search engines factor in estimated reading times when determining your rank. The longer your users dwell on your page, the better your chances are of looking authoritative to search engines.

How to Incorporate Estimated Reading Times in Your Blog

The average reading speed of most adults is 200-250 words per minute.

To estimate your blog’s reading time, divide the number of words in your article by 200 or 250.

Always round up your number when estimating reading times. For example, if your blog takes 1.7 minutes to read, estimate 2 minutes. This ensures your reader’s expectations are met and increases the likelihood that they read your entire blog.

You can also use online calculators, such as Read-O-Meter or Decimal to Time Calculator, to help you. Some web hosting services, such as WordPress, have plugins available to estimate the reading time for you.

Blogging Trend #6: TL;DR Summary

One of the latest blogging trends you shouldn’t miss is the “too long; didn’t read” summary.

Commonly referred to as TL;DR, these summaries act as an abstract of your blog, giving readers the most important information without making them skim, scan, or read through the entire piece.

This point is important in blogging trends as we continue to see global attention spans drop.

A study by Microsoft found that global attention spans have been declining since 2000, with the average person’s attention span now resting at a mere eight seconds.

By including a TL;DR summary at the start of your blog, you can appeal to the new generation of online readers.

TL;DR summaries can also have a positive impact on your SEO, as they answer questions for readers clearly and distinctly. For example, if a customer is looking for consulting services, they don’t want to read an entire post just to get to the recommendations at the bottom.

If you include your TL;DR at the top of your post, search engines can use that as the summary in search results as well (but there’s no guarantee that they will).

Answering user questions right off the bat can improve your ranking and get you more clicks.

How to Incorporate TL;DR in Your Blog

Your TL;DR should be the first thing your users see.

You can include this as a bulleted list or a paragraphed summary at the top of your blog post. Always have a catchy headline in your TL;DR to engage your reader and draw attention to your piece.

Similarly, your points should be succinct, clear, and short. Don’t write an entire essay in this space.

If you find a TL;DR formula that works for you, keep using it. Having a standardized format throughout your blogs will make your content consistent and reliable.

There are also online tools now offering TL;DR services. For example, TLDR This claims to help you summarize an article in one click. You can also use TL;DR-ify for similar services.

Conclusion

Now that you know some of the latest and greatest blogging trends, how will you implement them?

If your goal is to create a better content marketing strategy, you should be including most, if not all, of these blogging trends.

If your goal is to improve your SEO, you may want to focus on mobile-first formats or visual content.

Ultimately, tapping into each of these blogging trends can open up opportunities for new success.

What blogging trend are you most excited to use for your business?

The post 5 Blogging Trends to Capitalize on This Year appeared first on Neil Patel.

Caper (YC W16) Is Hiring a Site Reliability Engineer (Remote)

About Caper:

Caper builds smart shopping carts powered by deep learning and computer vision to enable a seamless grab-and-go retail experience. We differ from other emerging cashierless technologies like Amazon Go because we are a scalable solution. Caper’s autonomous checkout technology is plug and play, meaning it requires no in-store renovation, no operational overhaul, no heavy computations, or endless image labeling. Any retailer can buy the carts and their entire store is upgraded with cashierless capabilities. Caper costs less than 1% of Amazon Go infrastructure. We are already live in-stores and our customers love us!

Caper is the fastest-growing company in retail automation technology and is backed by Lux Capital, First Round Capital, Y Combinator along with top executives from Google, Walmart, Instacart, Plated, and Albertsons. While e-commerce accounts for 8% of total retail spending, Caper is innovating the other 92% of the untapped offline retail potential.

As a part of the Caper team, you’ll be a part of a culture that cares about its people and the future we’re shaping together. At Caper, we may all come from different backgrounds, but we all share one common vision – to fundamentally disrupt the retail industry. We are looking for engineers to join our talented technical team. As an engineer you’ll be working directly under the CTO, an opportunity offering plenty of room for rapid personal growth.

You are:
1. Excited to revolutionize the retail industry
2. Hard-working and care about self-growth
3. Passionate
4. Open-minded and eager to learn
5. Highly organized
6. Can work independently with limited supervision
7. Able to effectively communicate with peers and tailor your communication to your audience
8. Willing to dive in and assist coworkers as incidents arise

You have:
1. 3+ years of engineering experience
2. Experience programming in at least one of the following languages: C, C++, Java, Python, Go, Perl, or Ruby
3. Experience architecting, developing, and troubleshooting large scale systems
4. Experience with data structures and/or Unix/Linux systems internals (e.g., filesystems, system calls) and administration
5. Experience in Google Cloud, Azure, AWS or another major cloud platform
6. Knowledge of containers and orchestration using Docker & Kubernetes
7. Knowledge of configuration management in a large environment using Terraform, or other
8. Experience with CI tools such as Gitlab, Travis CI, Jenkins, Hudson, etc
9. Knowledge of monitoring best practices using tools like Grafana

You’re ready to:
1. Support and make sure features can easily be deployed into production
2. Use techniques like tooling and monitoring to improve the stability of the Android applications
3. Build automation tools and pipelines to automate operations
4. Support and interact with clients to solve problems
Conquer the world!

Benefits:
Above market salary and equity
Fully paid medical insurance
Unlimited snacks
Unlimited PTO

Go to see our website: www.caper.ai
Apply for the job: recruiterflow.com/caper/jobs/65


Comments URL: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=26076497

Points: 1

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How to Create a Business Plan

Why do You Want to Create a Business Plan?

According to the US Chamber of Commerce, “One of the cornerstones of launching a new business is writing a business plan.  The plan is a roadmap to a business’s goals and outlines the steps to achieve them.  The plan also serves as a sort of resume to put in front of loan officers, investors, and partners to secure funding.”

See: uschamber.com/co/start/business-ideas/writing-a-business-plan

Benefits When You Create a Business Plan

Every traditional lender wants to see one.  Potential investors also want to see one.  If you are working with a partner you will need one to show agreement on what the plan for the business actually is.  It is also a vital piece of communication with management.

If you want to sell your business, or need to do a business valuation, you need one.  Beyond all of that, you need a plan to follow for your business anyway.  There is a specific format and design that it needs to follow.  Some loan applications have a place for this, but it is best to already have one put together that you can adjust as needed.

You have a couple of options.  You can either hire a business plan writer, or you can do it yourself.  There are a lot of resources out there to help you if you choose to do it yourself or work with a mentor.

Create a Business Plan with the Help of the SBA

The Small Business Administration offers extensive guidance in this area.  Local small business development centers can help as well.  The important thing is to make sure all of the necessary information is included.  It also needs to be in the right order.

See: sba.gov/business-guide/plan-your-business/write-your-business-plan

What Information, and in What Order?

First, there is an introduction.  Then, there is a research section.  After that comes the financial information. Finally, though not required, you may have an appendix with additional information.

The introduction includes an executive summary, a description, and strategies.

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Executive Summary

The executive summary is a complete summary of the business idea.  The description goes into further detail than the summary.  It describes the business, answering questions like:

What type of business is it? What product or service will it offer?

This is where you work to get others excited about your business.  Catch their attention and make them want to keep reading.

Strategies Section

The strategies section lays out your plan for getting started.  Do you have a marketing plan? Where will you locate? How many employees will you start with? What is your ramp up plan?

Create a Business Plan: The Research Portion

After the introduction comes the research portion of the document.  This is also called the market analysis.  It has two parts: The Analysis of Audience and the Competitive Analysis.

Analysis of Audience

The analysis of audience answers the following questions:

  • What need will your business fill, and for whom?  For example, are you a childcare facility filling a need for affordable childcare for working moms?  Are you an eatery filling a need for a lunch spot for those working downtown?
  • How will your business fill the need?

https://creditsuite.wistia.com/medias/94z8msbn94?embedType=async&videoFoam=true&videoWidth=640

Competitive Analysis

The competitive analysis is just what it says, it analyzes the competition.  It answers the following questions.

  • Is there already a business working to fill this need?
  • Is there room for more?
  • How do you plan to compete with them?

Create a Business Plan with a Planning Section

After the research section will come the planning section.  This will include the plan for design and development and the plan for operation and management.
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Plan for Design and Development

The plan for design and development explains how the process will play out, from start to finish.  What steps are you going to take? Basically, it is a more detailed version of your strategies section.

Plan for Operation Management

The plan for operation management discusses who will own the business, and who will run it from day to day.  This could be as simple as stating that you are going to be the sole owner and operator.  Or, it could be as complicated as laying out a complete partnership plan or board of directors format.  Do you plan to run the business daily or hire a manager for the day-to-day operations?  Discuss that here.

A lot of new business owners get lost here.  How do you have financials if there is no business yet?  You lay out your funding plan in this section.  What money do you already have? Where did you get your current funds?  Did they come from angel investors, crowdfunding, personal savings, or something else altogether?

How much do you need? How will you use the funds? This section also has a complete set of financial projections.  It usually goes out for at least 5 years.  It’s best, if possible, to have an accountant put together your projections.

Create a Business Plan with an Appendix

An appendix is optional, but recommended by most professionals, including The Small Business Administration.  It can include such things as credit histories, resumes, product pictures, and letters of reference.

If applicable, licenses, permits, patents, legal documents, and other contracts should be included as well.

Anything you can include that makes it easier for the lender is a good move.  You have the space, so why not use it? More detail is nearly always going to be better than less detail.
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Presentation

The presentation is important as well.  Your business plan should be professional in both appearance and content.  If you are using your plan to apply for a loan, do not just fill out the questions on a loan application.  Take the time to put together a well written and well-designed strategy.

This is where a business plan writer can come in handy.  It is possible to do it yourself but use all available resources like The Small Business Administration and Small Business Development centers.

You need this document for more than just to get funding.  It can help you make decisions about growth.  It can also help you recognize and shore up weaknesses. This document also highlights your strengths for potential lenders, investors, and partners.

That can help you convince partners to join your business.  A well-researched business plan can help you recognize opportunities, as well, even some you may not have considered previously.  Maybe there is a market need you can fill that you didn’t even see until you did the market research for this document.

Takeaways

You need a business plan.  Lenders and potential investors want to see one.  It is also vital to communication with partners and management.

It should include all the necessary information, in the right order.  This includes an introduction with executive summary, description, and strategies sections.  Next, it should have a research section with both a market analysis and an analysis of audience.  Then, there should be financial information with current funds and budget, sources of those funds, projections, and the funds request.  Finally, you should have an appendix if applicable.

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