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Learn from Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, and me...

Information, Resources, and Advice for Starting Any Small Business

This is the place to get:

Getting Health Insurance and Important Tax Info

Did You Know Health Insurance is Tax Deductible? "The U.S. tax system," observed self-employment specialist Barbara Winter, "is set up to benefit the very wealthy and the self-employed." You may not be a millionaire but if you're thinking about working for yourself you'll be happy to know you can deduct a FULL 100% of health care expenses -- including dental -- for yourself, your spouse, and dependents.

Finding Affordable Health Insurance In addition to featuring the largest selection of major medical health plans from leading companies, eHealthInsurance also offers a wide selection of quality short term, student, travel, and dental plans. You can obtain FREE instant quotes, side-by-side comparisons of the best available prices. Apply right online but if you have questions you can talk to a live customer service rep who can help you find the right plan for you.

Tax Savings Every Freelancer Should Take As an independent contractor, you're your own boss. You call your own shots. But with that freedom come responsibilities -- quarterly taxes among them. Find out where you can save... what the IRS really needs to know... how to make the most of those deductions for travel, meals, entertainment, home office, and more... Get answers to hundreds of tax questions along with practical worksheets you can use to make sure you're paying as little as possible to Uncle Sam.

Health Insurance Portability Act Under this law you cannot be denied medical coverage due to a present ailment and you cannot be made to wait for coverage by your new insurer due to that pre-existing condition.

A Health Savings Account (HAS)* is an alternative to traditional health insurance; it is a savings product that offers a different way for consumers to pay for their health care. HSAs enable you to pay for current health expenses and save for future qualified medical and retiree health expenses on a tax-free basis. You must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) to be able to take advantage of HSAs. An HDHP generally costs less than what traditional health care coverage costs, so the money that you save on insurance can therefore be put into the Health Savings Account. You own and you control the money in your HSA. Decisions on how to spend the money are made by you without relying on a third party or a health insurer. You will also decide what types of investments to make with the money in the account in order to make it grow.

You must have an HDHP if you want to open an HSA. Sometimes referred to as a "catastrophic" health insurance plan, an HDHP is an inexpensive health insurance plan that generally doesn't pay for the first several thousand dollars of health care expenses (i.e., your "deductible") but will generally cover you after that . Of course, your HSA is available to help you pay for the expenses your plan does not cover.

For 2005, in order to qualify to open an HSA, your HDHP minimum deductible must be at least $1,000 (self-only coverage) or $2,000 (family coverage). For 2006, the amounts increase to $1,050 and $2,100, respectively. The annual out-of-pocket (including deductibles and co-pays) for 2005 cannot exceed $5,100 (self-only coverage) or $10,200 (family coverage). For 2006, these amounts increase to $5,250 and $10,500, respectively. HDHPs can have first dollar coverage (no deductible) for preventive care and apply higher out-of-pocket limits (and co pays & coinsurance) for non-network services.

* This information comes from the United States Department of Treasury.

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Free Info and Home Business Start Up Advice

Getting a Website or Starting an On-line Business Find a list of steps and resources on getting your own website or starting an on-line business including getting set up to accept credit cards.

Should You Incorporate Your Small Business? While not necessary for most small home-based businesses, there are none-the-less situations where it does make sense to incorporate. This company provides information on when you need to incorporate as well as an overview of the different forms incorporation can take. They also offer customized incorporation packages starting at just $59 + state fees which if you've ever consulted an attorney you know can save you literally thousands.

Business Plan and Idea Generator A friend who needed help thinking through and planning a pet wellness center she wants to start bought this business planning software loves it. What I really like about it is that they offer over 500 sample plans on such wide ranging business ideas as a karaoke bar, a laser tag gaming center, a men's salon, newsletter or magazine publishing, horse training, global event planning, pet photography, and interior design -- just to name a few. They also have a version just for eBay sellers. Even if you're not quite ready to start your own business, browsing the various sample plans will help demystify the process of planning a business, might generate some ideas you hadn't thought of, and will definitely start building those entrepreneurial muscles!

Small Business Administration Free resources and individual counseling for small business owners.

Entrepreneur The magazine's website offers a ton of great information on how to start and grow a business. The searchable database is a lifesaver if you need specific info on say bringing a product to market or registering your website with search engines. And, if you want to be an entrepreneur you have to start "hanging out" with them. One simple way to do this is to subscribe to Entrepreneur magazine so you can meet inspired and inspiring small business owners on a monthly basis. I guarantee it will be the best $1.33 a month you've ever spent. Subscribe to Entrepreneur Magazine Today.

Home-Based Business Guides To take the mystery out of starting a business Entrepreneur has created a series of start up guides on what it takes to start a wide range of businesses like a gift basket service, home inspection service, event planning service, medical transcription service, seminar production, specialty travel and tours, wedding consultant, cleaning service, herbs and herbal products, information consultant, and personal concierge service... just to name a few! Definitely worth a look.

Home-Based Working Mom's Association Provides support, networking, information, and more to mothers and fathers who are either working at home or would like to.

A Better Way to Borrow Money from Friends and Family Financing for most small or growth-stage businesses, says the Small Business Administration, comes from friends, relatives, employees, customers or industry colleagues. Yet according to Asheesh Advani Entrepreneur magazine columnist and founder of Circle Lending, a company that manages financial transactions between private parties, the process of managing interpersonal loans is fraught with emotional hazards, administrative hassles, and financial risks. For example, the average default rate on interpersonal loans is 14% compared to a 1% loss rate for bank loans.

One of the main reasons the default rate is so high for interpersonal loans is because repayment is typically organized in a haphazard manner often involving a lump-sum payment at the end of the loan term. Borrowers are frequently unable to make lump-sum payments and need the discipline of monthly payment plans to ensure that debts are repaid.

When interpersonal loans are managed with repayment plans though, the default rate drops substantially. The mere act of making regular payments instills discipline and good credit habits. That's where Circle Lending comes in. America Online calls Circle Lending "A good source for both borrowers and lenders... which serves as an intermediary between friends or family members." If you're planning on borrowing from a non-professional lending source such as family or friends, Circle Lending may be worth a look.

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Help With Sales & Marketing

How To Get Free Publicity On The Radio A few years ago Alex Carroll wrote a book about how to beat unfair speeding tickets. With a zero advertising budget he decided to promote his book exclusively through radio interviews. He's done over 1,264 radio interviews, gotten more than $4,500,000 worth of free radio airtime and earned $1,526,000 in direct sales. Carroll now offers a Radio Publicity Manual and you can also order a database with the names, hosts, and producers from every prime time talk station in the US that have at least 100,000 listeners -- 1,206 in all.

How to Get Booked on Oprah If you are an author, coach, or workshop leader (or aspire to be!), have an interesting business or story to tell (or plan to have one!), or otherwise love the idea of reaching tens of millions of viewers as a guest on Oprah or other top talk shows, it may not be as hard as you think. "The Ultimate Guide to Getting Booked on Oprah: 10 Steps to Becoming a Guest on the World's Top Talk Show" shows you how to "pitch" a show idea to a producer in 20 seconds, how to gain a producer's interest in one paragraph, how avoid sending lengthy press kits (in fact, the shorter the better), and more. You'll find out how the pros get their calls taken and their clients booked at the most prestigious shows. For a free excerpt go to

Getting Winning Copy for Your Site, Brochure, or Sales Letter

I've seen too many great business ideas flounder because otherwise smart people rely on mediocre copywriters... or worse, attempt to write their own promotional copy. Before I really understood that there's a real science to writing effective sales copy I would have said I was a pretty good copywriter... and I spent seven years in corporate marketing.

Little did I know that the difference between an amateur (me) and a professional copywriter can be literally thousands of dollars.

As you start looking for a really good copywriter, be forewarned that like me, everybody and their sister says they're a copywriter. Don't believe me? Go to eLance, All In One, or another freelance site and you'll have no trouble finding someone who says they're a copywriter and will only charge you about 50 or 100 bucks to write your copy. And, that's probably about how much that copy will generate for you in sales. Bottom line... you get what you pay for.

On the other hand, few of us can afford the very top copywriters in the field... some of which charge their corporate clients as much as $10,000 for single page of copy! I know that's way out of my range. But I can tell you that I have paid as much as $2500 for eight pages and easily received 20 times that investment in sales.

If that's still too much of a stretch starting out, find someone who's received professional training in the direct marketing field BUT who's also just launching their copywriting career. Why? Because newly trained copywriters are often willing to charge less early on in their career because they're looking to build their portfolio.

So where do you find an affordable yet well trained copywriter? I've been so impressed with the freelance writers I've worked with -- all graduates of the AWAI and Michael Masterson's Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting Program -- that I've asked the AWAI to set up a special Copywriter Matching Program just for visitors to Changing Course. (Read my review of the AWAI's copywriting course.)

To be matched with a skilled writer, just send an email to Louis Hart detailing:

1) What exactly you're looking for. Is it, for example, copy for your website, a four-panel brochure or sales letter, promotional copy for eBook or other product or service? 2) As much information as possible about your business, your product or service, your target audience, and what you want the copy to accomplish (get prospects to contact you for more information, hit the buy button, etc.)

3) Your budget for this project.

4) Your contact information (an email address is sufficient).

The AWAI will put your request out to students enrolled in their Advanced Mentor Program (these are course graduates who signed on to work one-on-one with a highly-experienced and successful senior copywriter). Interested students will email you a sample headline and the copy lead. Then it's up to you to pick the writer who best captures your message.

Learn How to Write Your Own Winning Marketing Copy Let's face it, the secrets of how master marketers and copywriters conjure up promotions to bring in millions of dollars could hold critical answers for you in your own career. When it comes to copywriting, nothing matters more than your ability to be a seller. Each month, Monthly Copywriting Genius uncovers the secrets behind the strongest direct-response promotions in the mail, in space advertising, and on the Internet today. Now you can learn directly from the masters, as they give you a rare, first-hand look at one of their most successful controls and break it down for you element by element. But Monthly Copywriting Genius doesn't stop there. Along with theses interviews, you'll get a PDF copy of the winning promotion. Line by line, you'll get a critique of the format, headlines, subheads, product positioning... every element that goes into a package.

How to Write and Sell a Mega-Best-Selling Book You don't need to be a genius to make it big. Mark Victor Hansen. Hansen, who co-wrote the astoundingly successful Chicken Soup for the Soul series, walks you through his method, step-by-step. He and a hand-picked panel of highly successful colleagues will teach you their insider secrets to writing, publishing, and promoting your own best-seller. This CD program, based on Hansen's renowned Mega Book Marketing University Course, brings you the formula and inspiration it takes to build an information empire... simple but highly effective marketing strategies... the secret behind negotiating a six-figure advance... how to sell $50,000 a month on the Internet... what it takes to land a coveted spot on a TV talk show... how to find (and write to) markets that buy... and more.

From infomercials to one-day seminars to book-signings to coaching programs and more, Hansen reveals every nuance -- and every lesson -- he relies on to create businesses that make millions. Learn more information about the CD Program: Mega Book Marketing University.

Marketing to Women You don't have to be a woman to market to women. But you do need to know how to reach this very large audience. If you're going after a niche market, say single women or African American women, then seek out opportunities to reach these groups. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Advertise or Find an Event for Women The Women's Calendar features over 3,000 conferences, workshops, and other events in the U.S. and Canada connecting women with resources to help people grow their businesses, build awareness of social issues and fuel active involvement in local and worldwide communities. If you're a non-profit you can post your seminar or conference for free otherwise there is a nominal fee.

Women's Radio It appears that this resource is still getting off the ground but if you're marketing to women it may be worth a look to see if there are some synergies between what each of you have to offer.

Marketing to Women Conference This annual event features speakers and workshops all aimed at helping companies big and small to sell to women.

Career and Educational Conferences for Young African American and Latina Women WomenatWork1 sponsors this annual event in Los Angeles. If your products or services mesh with the goals of the event it offer a good opportunity for exposure and marketing.

For creative business ideas hop over to Cool Jobs.

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