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Home-Based Business Website and FTC Compliance

Home-Based Business Website and FTC ComplianceThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is one of the agencies ruling over advertising, including online advertising, marketing and sales. Starting from 2009, there are now clear rules on what companies can and cannot do in terms of presenting their offers to clients and attracting them with promises of benefits.

Apart from regulating fair use of advertising, the FTC also oversees online data privacy. This means that even if you have a landing page inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter, you fall under FTC regulations and must comply with its rules.

The consequences of not doing so are harsh, with fines up to $40,000 per breach of regulations and even larger amounts in legal expenses and damages if you fight it in court. There is little chance of winning a case against the FTC, especially in view of the growing concern on personal data protection and online fraud.

This means one thing: you must safeguard your home-based business website against violating FTC rules. Here are the top issues you need to review and solve as soon as possible:

1. The Privacy Disclaimer Page
Any website collecting personal data must include a Disclaimer page. In this page you will disclose to website visitors who agree to share personal data with you the following:
⦁ That you are taking the best precautions to protect the data you collect from theft;
⦁ That you do not sell their personal data to third parties;
⦁ If applicable, if you share this data with your investors/stakeholders.

The Privacy & Communication Disclaimer is a binding contract between your home-based business and your subscribers. This means that if you fail to keep any of the promises above, you are liable for action in court.

2. Testimonials
Any business needs testimonials in order to gain the confidence of future customers by bringing proof of the quality of the product. Certainly, the best proof come from people who bought and tried the products. Ideally, testimonials are given without asking for them.

However, if you offer any kind of incentive for customers to post testimonials, you need to make a material connection disclosure about this aspect. Otherwise, you might fall under the incidence of a false and misleading advertising violation.

Also, if you plan to use any person’s full identity (photo, video recording) in the testimonials published on your website, you must sign a Publicity Consent & Release Agreement with each person individually.

3. Claims Concerning Your Products
Any kind of claims you make about the way your products work, and the effects or benefits the customers should expect to see must be substantiated. Things are extremely sensitive especially in the area of weight loss, diet, natural supplements and similar products. This sensitivity extends to online fitness or healthy recipes websites.

The FTC is extremely proactive in enforcing the regulations concerning false and misleading advertising in these domains, so if you are operating or plan to open a home-based business in any of these areas you must consult with a specialized attorney.

4. Products for Children
If your ads are targeted at children under 13, you fall under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).You need to follow closely all the FTC regulations included in this act and make all the required disclosures on your website, as well as create your ads in accordance with the guidelines.

5. Affiliate Marketing
Are you an affiliate marketer for the products you are promoting on your website, through reviews and blog articles? Then you must disclose your material connection with the owner/seller of these products. Ideally, you should place this disclosure at the end of each article, specifying that you gain material or monetary advantages from promoting the respective product.

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How to Use Crowdfunding to Grow Your Home-Based Business

how-to-use-crowdfunding-to-grow-your-home-based-businessMoney, or rather the lack of it, is the number one reason why many brilliant business ideas remain just that. It takes lots of financial risks and efforts to start and run a successful business, even a small, home-based one, and some potential entrepreneurs simply cannot afford them. Between mortgage payments, bills and college funds for the children, there is simply not enough money left to make the idea happen and create the product or service they envision.

This being such a widespread problem all over the world, solutions started to appear. One of these solutions is called crowdfunding. What is crowdfunding? Basically, you present your business idea – your product idea, more precisely – and ask people to invest in your idea and receive the product (either for free or at a very significant discount) when your business is launched.

How Does Crowdfunding Work?
“Ask people I don’t know to give me money? Who in their right minds would do that?” Actually, a lot of people do it, and many start-ups were successfully launched using crowdfunding. The main reason why this system works and is trusted by people is that the crowdfunding platform owners are the ones actually handling the incoming donations and only give it to the entrepreneur when the entire requested amount is collected. Otherwise, everyone gets their donations back.

At the present, there are several reputable crowdfunding platforms available and they have proven by enforcing strict transparency policies that they can handle such a delicate service. Many of the owners of these platforms are former fundraisers and stakeholders in non-profit organizations, so they really know how to operate this system.

So, how can you grow your business with crowdfunding?

1. Search for the Adequate Platform
As we stated before, at the present there are several reputable crowdfunding platforms from which you can choose where to run your fund collection campaign. These are:
⦁ Kickstarter
⦁ GoFundMe
⦁ Indiegogo
⦁ Crowdfunder

When you select a platform, you should look for several aspects such as:
⦁ Adequacy to your crowdfunding campaign – some platforms (such as GoFundMe) are frequently used by individuals asking for donations to help with medical bills or other similar situations; there are many campaigns and yours has all the chances to go unnoticed;
⦁ Support – how much support do you get from the platform administrators? Do they offer you the tools you need to create and manage your campaign and give you technical support?
⦁ Analytics – how detailed is the analytics panel where you can monitor the progress of your campaign?
⦁ Funds handling – what is the precise policy of the platform on holding the funds and transferring them to you?

2. Prepare a Detailed Business Plan and Product Presentation
Remember that you are about to ask complete strangers to invest in your business idea and your product. They don’t know you, they don’t have any idea if you are a skilled and honest entrepreneur or are trying to pull a scam on them. This is why you should be very open about your business idea, be as explicit as you can and prepare a detailed presentation of your product.

For that matter, you should already have a prototype ready and invest in professional video making and editing for the short film in which you demonstrate your product.

3. Be Transparent and Communicative throughout the Campaign
Keep people updated during the campaign. Tell them exactly what steps you are taking to advance your business idea or product manufacturing. Take them behind the scenes to your workshop or home office and show them that you are 100% committed to succeed.

4. Promote Your Campaign
If you want to succeed in your crowdfunding efforts, it is great if you can enlist as many people who know you and can vouch for you either to contribute or spread the word. Thus, you must continually share your campaign in emails to friends and on the social media, post a quick link on your website (if you have one – and it is recommended to have it) and in any other way you can think of.

As many business owners can attest to, crowdfunding really works. It is a viable alternative when you do not have the money you need to open your home-based business and are not prepared to burden your finances with a bank loan.

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How to Start a Home-Based Travel Agency Business

Travel Agency BusinessTraveling is one of the industries which are always thriving, even during the economic crisis. People travel for leisure or business all the time; companies delegate expert employees to new business locations, professional organizations organize conferences with an international attendance. Thus, on every given day, millions of people are travelling by plane and checking into hotels.

This means that as a home-based travel agency owner you have a very good chance to be successful and run a business which is not likely to fail. Even with so many mobile apps and websites for booking flights and hotel rooms, there are still a lot of people who do not have the time to make travel arrangements on their own, or trust the professional recommendations made by a travel agent.

So, what are the basic steps for opening your own home-based travel agency? The basic prerequisites are the same for all kinds of home-based business. You have to decide on the legal form of incorporating your business, register for tax purposes, arrange your home office, and take extra business insurance for property and third party liability.

In this article we will focus on the specifics of setting up a travel business. This is what you will need to do:

1. Learn about the Business
Every business has its specifics – its terms and systems – and you need to know about them. In some cases, if you want to sign up with a host agency to act as their representative, they will give you a test to assess your knowledge in this specific industry. There are terms and conditions applying to hotel room booking and plane tickets, there are many travel and visa requirements for overseas travel, and you must know all of these terms and inform your clients of them,

Also, all kinds of bookings are done through dedicated online platforms. Joining a course for travel agents will give you the opportunity to learn how to use these platforms – something which is not possible if you are not enrolled in a special class.

2. Find Your Niche
There are many niches in the travel business, and for a small home-based business it is a good idea to focus on one, at least at the beginning. Once you master it and become more confident in your skills, you can expand to new market segments.

Business travel is a very active niche with plenty opportunities of doing business all year round. On the other hand, honeymoon or adventure travel will gain you higher commissions and the opportunity to discover exciting new places where you may take your own family for a vacation.

3. Decide How You Want to Work
As a home-based travel agency owner, you can work as a referral agent, sign up with a host agency or do business as an independent travel agent.

As a referral agent, you will seek clients and refer them to the agency you collaborate with. For every travel package or booking made by a client referred by you, you will receive a commission.

If you choose to work for a host agency, then you will do the booking yourself using the online platforms and systems of the company. This form of operating as a home-based travel agent has the advantage that you will represent a reputable company, with a solid marketing and customer care strategy. On the other hand, some agencies request an entrance fee and monthly royalty fees.

If you decide to operate as an independent agency, you will have to do all the work, building your brand name and reputation, negotiating fees with hotels and airlines, and finding your customers on your own. It is very hard work, but the overall margin will be higher compared to the commission-based operation.

4. Join Professional Associations
Being a member of professional travel agents associations, such as the American Society of Travel Agents, the National Association of Commissioned Travel Agents or the International Air Transport Association will instantly earn you extra trust and confidence when dealing with potential customers. It will also offer you access to various educational materials, conferences, the opportunity to meet people in this industry and build a network of potential collaborators, suppliers or business partners.

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