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It’s That Time of Year Again: Open Enrollment Begins

Yes, October brings with it plans of Halloween parties and raking the leaves. Fans of the autumn season look forward to cooler temperatures, bright colors, and the opportunity to break out those warm sweaters. But October also means getting ready for health insurance open enrollment. For most people, open enrollment starts November 1.

This is an especially stressful time of year for small business owners and payroll departments who now have to worry about Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance. As the open enrollment period approaches, small businesses have to make sure that the healthcare coverage they are offering employees meets federal standards. If not, there could be fines to pay next year.

Some small businesses will take the previously unprecedented step of canceling employee health insurance, paying the associated fines, and directing their workers to purchase insurance on a state or federal exchange. Companies choosing to go this route will do so because paying federal fines is cheaper than absorbing rate increases.

Open Enrollment for the Exchanges

Workers shopping for insurance on a state or federal exchange will be able to start doing so on November 1. Open enrollment for the exchanges runs through the end of January. Having said that, most states require enrollment be completed by December 15 in order to have coverage at the first of the year. Failing to enroll by that date would likely mean insurance coverage that would not be active until March 1.

As for health insurance premiums, workers participating in the exchanges should continue getting sizable subsidies to maintain affordability. But as some of the largest insurance companies start pulling out of the exchanges, rates are expected to go up. How high they go is anyone’s guess.

A Good Time to Outsource Payroll

Complying with the ACA is now part of running a small business. So with open enrollment fast approaching, now might be time for small businesses still doing their own payroll to consider outsourcing the work. Both full-service and online payroll providers can be invaluable resources for ensuring that small business remains compliant with the ACA.

For the record, ACA compliance requires an incredible amount of detailed record-keeping. Small businesses have to prove that every qualifying employee has been provided health insurance coverage under a qualifying plan. They must document what they pay for health insurance, how much their employees pay, and from whom they purchase benefits.

Earlier this year (2016), the IRS announced that it would not aggressively seek to enforce ACA compliance for the 2015/2016 tax year as long as companies found out of compliance made an honest effort to correct things. It would be foolish to expect the same kind of treatment for 2016/2017. It’s in the best interests of small businesses to assume the IRS will go back to business as usual at the end of this tax year.

Make the Best of Things

As open enrollment quickly approaches, it is clear that healthcare benefits are a source of many challenges for small businesses. But rather than get upset about something that cannot be changed, the small business owner should make every effort to make the best of things. Mandatory health insurance is here to stay unless there are systemic changes in Washington.

Be that as it may, business owners need to constantly remind themselves that ACA compliance is not voluntary. Any small business having trouble keeping up with the law should seriously consider outsourcing both their payroll and health insurance administration to a qualified payroll service provider. ACA compliance is far too important to leave to chance.

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Mistakes to avoid when buying used Toughbooks

It might happen sometimes that your Toughbook to need to be replaced with another brand new one. However, it is commonly known that prices for these Toughbooks can get quite high and some people simply cannot afford buying a new one, in which case the best solution is to do some detailed online research and to look for stores that provide used Toughbooks, because this way you can save a great deal of money. Keep in mind that there are some important aspects to pay attention to when buying refurbished toughbooks, so here is a list of mistakes to avoid in such situations.

Going for the provider that offers the lowest price

One of the most common mistakes people usually make when it comes to buying used laptops or toughbooks is that they tend to resort to the first provider they find or to the one that offers products at the lowest price on the market. It is highly important to do detailed research before choosing a specific provider, especially if you are about to buy a refurbished device, because you have to ensure that device is still working properly and that there is no reason why that provider offers such a low price.

Purchasing a Toughbook that has a bios password

Another common mistake many people are prone to make when buying a used Toughbook is that they do not check its bios to see whether it has a password or not. It is not recommended to buy one that has a password set, because you might find out that some programs might not work properly, and sending the Toughbook to the manufacturer to have the password removed will cost you a fortune.

Spending too much money on unnecessary upgrades

Most beginner buyers believe that the refurbished Toughbook they are about to buy needs a bunch of upgrades in order to make it work faster and more efficiently, which is why most of them waste a great deal of money on various items such as rubber keyboards. Truth is you should think twice before buying any upgrades and you should consider the location where you are going to use the Toughbook. In case you want to use it on a boat for instance, a rubber keyboard might be the perfect upgrade, since this item is resistant to liquid ingress and can actually protect your device, but in case you are going to use the Toughbook inside a vehicle for instance, that upgrade is totally useless.

Choosing the wrong provider

As it was previously mentioned, many people tend to go to the first Toughbook provider they found on the internet because they want to buy the device as fast as possible and to continue their work without any more interruptions. However, it is better if you do some detailed research before selecting a specific provider if you really want to benefit from the best results. Make sure the provider is a professional and trust-worthy one and it has vast experience in the domain.

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How can hypnosis actually help you?

For those who are not quite familiar with the term, hypnosis is a modified condition of consciousness during which the activities the brain performs are lowered, which provides the individual a state of relaxation. Experts claim that the moment one is subjected to hypnosis, that person becomes more open to different suggestions, which is why this is mostly used in order to maximize the effect. Marshall Sylver is only one of the most popular hypnotists in the world and if you are interested in learning how hypnosis can actually help you, read the rest of the article below.

It can help you quit addictions

Believe it or not, one of the most powerful and beneficial ways in which people who resort to the services of a hypnotist can take advantage of is to help them quit different addictions, such as alcohol, smoking, gambling and so on. There are certain hypnosis programs that are specifically created for such addiction cases and that people who resort to these programs need to follow the hypnotist’s instructions accordingly in order to benefit from the best results.

It can help you overcome phobia-related problems

Another great benefit of hypnosis that not so many people know about is the fact that it is one of the best solutions for people who suffer from panic, anxiety or other phobia-related problems that are usually caused by thoughts that cannot be controlled. Through such sessions, one’s mental state is improved. There are researches that show that it is a lot easier for a person to overcome certain phobias he or she has when the mind is more relaxed.

It can help you deal better with stress

It is generally agreed that good sleep is one of the best remedies for giving the body a refresh and finding rejuvenation, but what is to be done when not even this method works anymore? One great solution to this matter is to undergo hypnosis sessions, since there are many people that claim they have managed to cope up with stress after being subjected to this type of therapy. These sessions help you deal with mental stress by lowering its activities.

It can help you improve your overall performance

It is worth mentioning that hypnosis can help you get rid of phobias and stress, but it can also help you have better performance not only at your job, but also in your everyday life. It is commonly known that the body and the mind are interconnected and many scientists say the body can perform certain actions as long as the mind believes that they are possible. There are certain types of hypnosis sessions that help people set their goals and make them believe they are entirely capable to achieve those goals.

It can help you through your weight loss program

Many people who undergo weight loss programs eventually renounce after a short period since they are not organized enough and they are not used to being disciplined and no matter how harsh or mild the weight loss program is, they are not successful. Hypnosis can actually offer those persons the needed help through helping them find the best management strategy and be more disciplined.

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Top Social Media Trends of 2016

Social media has risen from humble beginnings to one of the world’s most profitable industries. In 2015, Facebook reached 1 billion active mobile users. Instagram had 300 million. An average of 500 million tweets were sent every single day. That’s 182,500,000 in a single year (Brandwatch). It’s safe to say that social media is now one of the largest weapons a business can add to its marketing arsenal. These top social media trends of 2016 paved the way for what’s to come in 2016, so let’s review and see how you can start steering your own business into the future.

Customer Engagement

As the Internet evolves and the business industry becomes increasingly competitive, one way to stand out is by engaging with your audience on a personal level. Instead of being sold to, viewers prefer to be engaged and identified with. People are responding much more strongly to campaigns, videos, images and real messages than they are to generic, jargon-filled ads.

Niche Networks

There’s something online for everybody, and that knowledge, as well as the inspiration drawn from major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, has led to the creation of smaller social media platforms oriented around a particular niche. Foodie is a site for culinary enthusiasts to swap recipes. Ravelry is for people who love to knit and crochet. Whatever industry a business is in, chances are there’s a social media platform designated for it. The paid advertising market in niche-based networks are a potential cash cow thanks to the fact they enable businesses to reach out to people who are looking for exactly what they’re offering.

Video Advertising

Mark Zuckerberg predicted that Facebook’s News Feed will be comprised of mostly video in five years, but according to an infographic by Social Media Today, his prediction may come true much sooner. They reported that 50 percent of Facebook’s daily active users watched at least one video per day, and that 53 percent of video views came from shares. This points to the growing inclusion of video in the digital marketing industry. If you’re able to come up with good content that has strong shareability, you can double or even triple your traffic.

One-Click Functionality

Facebook and Pintrest began implementing paid advertisements that offer one-click purchases. If a viewer sees something they’re interested in, they’re able to buy it without ever having to leave the app. The speed of this conversion funnel leads to greater revenue and brand recognition, and Forbes magazine believes it to be one of the trends that will dominate social media marketing strategies in 2016.

User Privacy at an All-Time High

As our connection to the digital world becomes increasingly more profound, people are looking for ways to protect their identities and information. Apps like Snapchat have found such great success due to the fact that they offer fast and engaging communication in a secure environment. Facebook and Twitter are improving their own privacy settings, but business owners can get in on the trend too by removing invasive forms from their sites and opting for friendlier, sincere interaction that will ultimately provide them with the information they’re looking for.

Recap

Social media trends in 201 5were more foundational stepping stones than fads like we’ve seen in the past. People are less worried about the here and now and more focused on the overall enjoyment of their long-term user experience. The challenge posed to businesses is to create a social media experience that provides the immediate level of gratification web users are accustomed to, but to do so in a manner that yields long-term results for both parties.  We’ve also continued to see an explosion of social media scraping tools that are helping marketing be more efficient.

As 2016 moves forward, social media marketing is all about the customer rather than profit. Focusing on user satisfaction undoubtedly leads to greater conversion rates, which in turn boost revenue and brand image. Instead of focusing so much on what you’re selling, the best way to succeed in social media in 2016 will be to focus on who you’re selling to.

 

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Video advertising is the new hot trend

It is commonly known that the internet has brought some major changes to all industries and has taken the marketing domain to a totally different level. Nowadays, nearly all companies build their marketing campaign based mostly on the internet, because they focus a lot on websites and social networks. There are many advertising companies that offer high quality services and http://www.xi-digital.com is only one very good example. You should know that video advertising has become more and more popular recently, so here are the main benefits of including this in your marketing campaign.

Videos catch people’s attention faster

It is generally agreed that videos tend to catch people’s attention a lot faster compared to static images. Videos make people stop from whatever they were doing that moment and take a look at what runs on the screen, which means that there are high chances they become interested in whatever your company promotes. The video combines two of the human’s most important senses, the sight and the hearing, thus making easier for people to follow the information presented.

Videos can help your company increase sales

As it was previously mentioned, people’s interest for the products or services your company promotes the moment they see a video, which also means that it is possible for your sales to increase. Researchers claim that chances for someone to buy a product or service increase by up to 30% if that person sees a video presenting the product or the service first.

They are considered the new “long story short”

The main purpose of videos is to provide high volume of information about specific products or services in shorter amount of time without boring the audience. They can be called the “long story short” advertising tool, since you can use them to present more than 500 words of information in a video that lasts for no more than one minute. This is not only a great advantage for potential customers, since they do not have to waste too much time to learn about your products, but also for your company, since you can attract more customers by presenting information more effectively.

Videos can double as great educational and informative content

Video ads are perfect for offering people the necessary information they might be interested in when it comes to products and services your company provides, because they comprise elements that appeal to multiple senses. What is more, these videos can double as very good educational content, especially in the case of those how-to guides.

People talk about videos more

Video advertising is rapidly increasing in popularity and the reason is quite simple – it is both entertaining and informative. The moment people see a video that presents a certain product in a totally different way than what they expected, they are more prone to talk about it to their friends and relatives. This means that the marketing campaign is actually working that more and more people learn about your products.

As you can see, these are the main advantages of including video production in your marketing campaign.

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Why you should consider using bitcoins?

 

It is the era of rush and things are changing quite fast. Nowadays, there is a new form of currency that is becoming more and more popular and for this reason, the number of websites that provide bitcoins increases by the day. If you are interested in getting bitcoins online, you should opt for a trust-worthy and professional provider and one very good example is http://vvcbitcoin.com/. Here is a list of the main reasons why you should consider getting involved in this type of virtual currency.

It is a lot faster

It is commonly known that when paying a cheque from a specific bank into yours, the latter usually holds that money for a few days in order to make sure the funds are available. The same amount of time is necessary in the case of international wire transfers as well, since they can also make you wait for too long until the transaction is successful. However, this does not count for bitcoin transactions, because they are instantaneous, especially if they are “zero-confirmation” type of transactions. This means that the merchant accepts the transaction before the bitcoin blockchain confirms it.

It is cheaper

It is true that credit card transactions are instantaneous as well, but people actually pay for that privilege, since some merchants can charge fees for debit card transfers in order to fulfil them. On the other hand, bitcoin transfer fees are either extremely cheap or free.

Your payment information cannot be stolen

This is a very good reason why you should consider resorting to bitcoins. When they first appeared, credit cards were not supposed to be used on the internet and since you introduce secret information such as expiry date, credit card number of the CSV number on various websites on the internet, chances for someone to hack your card are quite high. Bitcoin transactions however, do not require you to provide any such secret information. They operate on two keys, one public, which can be seen by everyone and the other one private, which remains secret. When making a bitcoin transaction, you “sign” it by combining the two keys you have, the public and private ones, which proves that the money came from you. If you do not publish your secret key anywhere online, you can rest assured you are safe.

You can make it as private as you want

Some people might not want others to know what they spent money on, in which case bitcoins are the right choice for them, since this type of currency is quite private. It is worth mentioning that bitcoin is actually transparent in the sense that people can see how much a specific bitcoin address possess in transactions, where these transfers actually came from or where were they sent to. Nevertheless, no one actually knows who the possessor of that specific bitcoin address is, compared to traditional bank accounts.

As you can see, these are only a few reasons why you should consider start using bitcoin transactions right away.

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Things you should know about supply chain management in e-commerce

 

When creating an on-line business, there are many elements you should take into account. From the concept to the final product and additional services to the supply flow, all are elements of what your business plan should take into account. Specialized consultancy companies provide solutions for all matters might occur, including ecommerce supply chain solutions. Therefore, whether you have a retail type of on-line brand or you are a manufacturer, the matter of the supply chain management should certainly concern you.

The supply chain for e-tailers

On-line retail stores are certainly a successful business. In that case, the supply chain is a short one: you get the products form specialized suppliers, store them in a warehouse, then you trade them to the final consumer. In order to meet customer’s expectations, you should consider subcontracting the trading services to a specialized company. They often provide warehouse and order management services, return services, customer support and next day delivery services. If you are an international retailer, you should provide cross-border trading services at convenient prices, not to mention the order tracking services. In addition, a smart and user-friendly interface will assure you that clients always are aware of the products available, their quantities, colors and sizes. In order for you to provide such information, you should have a good management strategy for your supply chain. Furthermore, if you also have a physical store, a good solution would be the click and collect (C&C) strategy. According to it, customers can easily collect their on-line order from a physical store. Many big brands have such services and they are a success.

The supply chain for manufacturers

If you are a manufacturer, your supply chain is going to be a little more complex. Your raw materials are going to come from a larger number of suppliers and third-party suppliers. The final product is going to be a part of a bigger cycle. From your warehouse is going to be distributed to wholesalers, whom are going to sell them to the end customers. A good idea of business is to sell directly your own products to the final customers, in order to meet their needs of smaller prices and to create a more personal experience for them. By creating an on-line shop, you can create a stronger brand name and image, not to mention increasing the profit. Wholesalers always require smaller prices in order to have the possibility to add late charges. They also require you to deliver the products. Those two aspects are going to increase your expenses and diminish your profit. To save money, create an on-line store and find a good trading company, in order deliver your products to the final customers. Never forget about customer support services as well as order tracking services if you deliver cross-border.

Here are a few guidelines to follow when creating a supply chain management system. If you are not sure you are going to be able to create, develop and implement such a system by yourself, our advice is to hire specialists.

 

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Cloud backup for businesses: a solution that works

Storage and backup are two important aspects for entrepreneurs. Irrespective of the actual size of the company, storage is needed. To clarify matters a bit, when saying storage, you are not actually referring to a warehouse or other similar facilities. Storage, in the world of business, is a business term referring to documents. It is true that a physical archive is a simple method of depositing all types of documents. However, as it has been already proven, this is one solution that is quickly losing popularity. Technology is quickly gaining ground, as it offers entrepreneurs more advantages. Cloud backup and storage are such solutions that tend to be more and more appreciated by company representatives. To better understand the phenomenon, here are three benefits any company will gain as a result of implementing such solutions, giving up on the physical archive.

Discovering how spacious the office is

As your company grows, so does the number of documents. These have to be deposited somewhere. The more you develop as a business, the more you realize that you need a proper, more spacious office to deposit the paperwork, among other things. By saying yes to a cloud back-up, you won’t need that much space. Instead of searching the market for a larger office, you could be putting your energy into finding a document storage facility.

Secure your work

This must be the number one advantage defining cloud storage. When stocking your business on cloud, you are also securing much of work. When your documents are lying around, in total chaos, it is very simple for your competition to quickly get their hands on your development strategies, for instance. When you decide to use cloud, access to documents will be limited. This way, one those that have been given approval will be able to consult your company’s paperwork.

Always have a backup plan

The idea of having a backup plan is spread and everyone knows that this is actually the key to success. Unfortunately, no matter the quantity of knowledge gained throughout a lifetime, you can never predict the future, especially not in the world of business. This is why you need a back-up plan, especially now when changes in economy are not your only concern. In case of a flood, earthquake or fire, all your company’s information will be safely guarded in cloud. The company’s building may collapse, but its essence, its documents will not vanish into thin air. You will be able to retake your activity whenever you feel prepared.

 

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How to choose your SEO partner

 

The online market has been expanding considerably in the last few years, becoming more and more visible. There are so many reasons for which you, the client, should take the time to search the market attentively, whether you are interested in gathering information or buying products. For entrepreneurs, spreading the word about their work online might prove to be more challenging than they thought. However, help can be easily located, if you know where and how to look. Surely you have heard of SEO before. This is one domain that keeps online platforms high in terms of traffic. With an increasing level of popularity, SEO companies do come in a large number. To find that trustworthy SEO agency Leicester based, you could take into account the following suggestions.

Checking out reputation

The popularity of a brand is usually built from its reputation. As long as this is strong and positive clients will regard you with a greater trust. When you are searching for an online show store, you might be tempted to read a few things about its reputation. Why shouldn’t you do the same when it comes to searching for a SEO company? Try to find details regarding the agency’s reputation. Figure out whether or not the agency in question is indeed trustworthy. Keep in mind that this is one detail that is built in time, through hard work and dedication.

Focusing on services

A SEO agency is as professional as its services. This is one detail that needs to be taken under consideration. The more diverse a list of services is, the better it will be for you. In order to stay on top, you have to be creative. This is the number one rule of Google. Take a look through offers and see which company is ready to bring a rich variety of services. At the same time, figure out if these are of a high quality as well. The portfolio can help in this regard. Otherwise, it would be rather difficult to check quality.

Experience and passion

Everything about the online market is new and exciting. So, what you need to do is find that company that is passionate about its work, that can offer you the services and perspective you can actually benefit from. Passion is essential in any field, but in the online world especially. Only a passionate staff will always keep track of the changes that appear online. At the same time, try not to disregard experience. In order to accumulate more knowledge, you need a fundament and that comes in time after acquiring experience.

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AngularJS Makes Upwork’s Top 20 Fastest Growing Skills

Freelancing giant Upwork just released its very first Upwork Skills Index, a quarterly report that will highlight the fastest growing skill sets in the freelancer market. This initial report contains a few surprises, including the placement of AngularJS in the top 20. Freelancers who possess this skill are making themselves available on Upwork and other freelancing platforms where they are finding plenty of available work.

Upwork’s Skills Index ranks various in-demand skills by measuring the billing that runs through its system. Compared quarterly over the last year, the top 10 skill sets on the list have enjoyed year-on-year growth in excess of 125% in the 12 months ending with the second quarter 2016.

 

As previously mentioned, AngularJS cracked the top 20 of Upwork’s initial index. It came in at number 12, behind more popular skill sets including ASP development, Shopify development, SEO writing, video editing, and WordPress development. Nonetheless, ranking as high as AngularJS does demonstrates the reality that the market will bear a fair number of AngularJS developers offering their services as freelancers.

 

Freelance or Steady Employment

 

It is always fascinating to read reports of this nature in light of the ongoing question of whether to work as a freelancer or seek out steady employment. For the AngularJS developer with a proven track record, the decision may not be so easy. There is no shortage of advantages and disadvantages for both choices.

 

The freelancer’s biggest advantage is that he alone controls his own destiny. He takes the projects he is interested in, he sets his own schedule, and he works out his own compensation with each client. The downside is that there is never any guarantee that work will always be available. The freelancer sometimes has to spend as much time finding work as he does actually doing the work. There are tax and accounting concerns as well.

 

An AngularJS developer who chooses traditional employment has an advantage in that he does not have to worry about getting up and going to work every day. Whether that individual works for an outsourcing firm or as part of an in-house development team, the office is there and open for business even while he stands in line for his morning cup of coffee. The disadvantage of working as an employee is one of having little or no control over one’s future. The employee is at the mercy of whoever he works for.

 

The Current Market Is Strong

 

The fact that AngularJS development is so high on the list of fastest-growing skills suggests that the current market for developers is quite strong. And why wouldn’t it be? AngularJS is a Google product that will continue to be in high demand as long as Google wants it to be. It would be foolish for any software development firm to ignore the framework for future development given the fact that Google will never settle for allowing AngularJS to fade away into the coding sunset.

 

Another thing to consider is that AngularJS is just one of many different JavaScript frameworks available to developers. The developer with adequate skills in each of the major platforms is a prime candidate for outsourced work, whether as a freelancer or a salaried employee. The more frameworks the developer can comfortably work with, the better.

 

In the end, the AngularJS developer capable of getting the job done has a lot of options. Developers have the upper hand for both employment and freelancing opportunities because their skills are so desperately needed. Now is a good time to be an AngularJS developer, that’s for sure.

 

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