30 Cool New Products from Amazon Launchpad

Check out these 30 new hot crowdfunded products getting a lot more visibility on the Amazon startups marketplace, Launchpad

If you happen to be browsing on Amazon’s site and you’ve wondered how many items are available from the online mega retailer, click right here. As of this posting, there were 366,874,689 items being offered for sale, which is quite daunting if you’re looking to introduce a new product and compete with the hundreds of millions out there. Granted there are many departments, but even a simple search for watches turns up more than two million items.

In order to give startups a leg up when breaking into this vast online marketplace, Amazon introduced Launchpad last year.

Crowdfunding sites like such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo and accelerators like Y Combinator have partnered with Amazon to identify products with the greatest potential and placed them into the Launchpad product listing.

Unlike other listings, Launchpad products get in-house advertising, a widget on Amazon’s storefront landing page, and a more user friendly format for potential buyers. The creators of the products also get videos and a larger space to describe their items in detail allowing them the potential for a greater personal connection with customers.

To give a better idea of the kinds of products the platform accepts, here are 30 items available on Launchpad with a bit about each.

Amazon Startups Products You Can Buy on Launchpad

Withings Aura Smart Sleep System

The Aura sleep-tracking system monitors and improves your sleep quality by waking you up at the best time in your sleep cycle with dedicated light and music programs. The device works with Spotify and over 10,000 web radio stations. After you set it up under the mattress, you can track your sleep on your smartphone (though only on iOS devices so far).

Amazon Startups Product - Withings Aura Smart Sleep System

The product follows a trend in sleep and other personal fitness and health tracking products. The system is available for $299.95.

ICE Portable Wireless Floating Bluetooth Speaker

Like something out of science fiction, this floating Bluetooth speaker orb spins above a magnetic base in the air with 10mm of ground clearance. And its creators say it is capable of reproducing music at very high volumes without distortion.

Amazon Startups Product - ICE Portable Wireless Floating Bluetooth Speaker

The novelty factor alone is a great selling point, but this product also highlights the connectivity theme in so many tech products with its use of near field communication (NFC) and a cost of just $149.99.

Bluesmart One – Smart Luggage

Unlike the Modobag, which you can ride, the Bluesmart One must still be pulled. But the carry-on connects wirelessly to your smartphone so you can keep track of your luggage, and check to be sure it’s locked and underweight all from your mobile devie. And it has a charging dock, with two USB ports that has up to six charging cycles for your phone.

Amazon Startups Product - Bluesmart One - Smart Luggage

The compact design, the connectivity, charging option and 3G + GPS tracking makes this suitcase an attractive item for the business and weekend travelers at $439.99.

Nucleus Anywhere Intercom

Nucleus uses the functionality of Alexa and a wide-angle HD camera to allow video chats throughout your home. It lets users see the entire room and everyone in it so the whole family can participate.

Amazon Startups Product - Nucleus Anywhere Intercom

By adding Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, this product no doubt improved its chances for being accepted. Additionally, it is portable, very functional and goes beyond chatting because of the Alexa integration. And again the product is available for just $242.

GOLF TAGS Real-Time Golf Tracking and Game Analysis System

This product brings the trending technology of metrics to the game of golf. Golf Tags tracks club distances, shot dispersion, greens in regulation, course strategy putting and performs scoring analysis. You can check the stats on Android Wear, Pebble, Samsung Gear and Magellan Echo as well as other phones and other smartwatches.

Amazon Startups Product - GOLF TAGS Real-Time Golf Tracking and Game Analysis System

Golf is not for everyone, but the people that play it are extremely passionate and they are known for spending on tools to improve their game. This product requires no batteries to replace or recharging and provides the engagement needed to improve a player’s game all for a cost of just $99.99.

Remocam RMCU-1508 Smart Home Security Camera

Using what the company calls patent-pending infrared Smart Home technology, the product monitors with HD live streaming, records with a motion sensor and uses a Smart Home feature to control your electronic devices.

Amazon Startups Product - Remocam RMCU-1508 Smart Home Security Camera

Security is in huge demand, whether in the physical or digital world. And the Remocam uses its Smart Home technology to monitor your home day or night at a cost of just $199.

Modular Robotics MOSS Zombonitron 1600 Kit

The product represents modular robotics at its best. Each MOSS block is a different part of a robot, and what you get depends on the combination of blocks you put together. The kit is powered by a rechargeable LiPo battery and an extended battery block, along with motors, light and proximity sensors.

The product could potentially appeal to parents, kids, tinkerers, technology buffs and others. So adding it to Launchpad was probably a no brainer because of its broad potential customer base. The price of $199.95 also likely made it a logical inclusion.

Boosted Dual+ 2000W Electric Skateboard

Until very recently, the skateboard has pretty much been powered by the rider. But Boosted has 2,000 watts of power to help skateboarders coast effortlessly along. And that’s not all. According to the company, the new skateboard has the world’s only dual-drive system, meaning riders can accelerate up any hill and brake to a complete stop on the way back down. It has a maximum speed of 22 mph with a range of 7 Miles.

Amazon Startups Product - Boosted Dual+ 2000W Electric Skateboard

Skateboarders have always been passionate about their sport, and many are eager to try new innovations. This product was obviously a good choice for Launchpad. Even at $1,499, it has already sold out on Amazon and the company site. (Don’t you wish this had been your product?)

 gLink Garage Door Remote

Garage door openers are meant to add convenience, but too often they are just one more piece of tech to fret over. gLink turns your iOS and Android phone into a remote without having to worry about battery, power cord  or other maintenance. Each unit supports up to 10 permanent users with AES128, bidirectional authentication and dynamic password.

Amazon Startups Product - gLink Garage Door Remote

The price, convenience — at $44.99– and functionality gLink provides makes it an ideal product for Launchpad. Again, the potential customer base is huge.

CreoPop Cordless 3D Printing Pen

Finally 3D printing is in the mainstream. CreoPop is extending the popularity of this technology to a cordless, handheld device that lets your draw with filaments to create 3D objects.

Amazon Startups Product - CreoPop Cordless 3D Printing Pen

 

The selling point of CreoPop is proprietary photopolymers that cure under LED lights instead of PLA melted plastic. This means it is cool to the touch when finished. And, at $84, it represents an affordable way to get into 3D printing.

TORCH APPAREL T2 Bike Helmet

The Torch helmet has two very large surfaces of light that wrap around to the sides for greater visibility. It can run for up to 6 hours on steady beam setting or 36 hours on flash. The lens has an explosion proof 9h hardness tempered glass and oleo phobic coating to prevent oil stains and fingerprints from smudging it.

Amazon Startups Product - TORCH APPAREL T2 Bike Helmet

With more people riding bikes, the helmet appeals to both fitness and safety. And at $149.99 it will be hard to resist.

Brushee PocketSized Toothbrush 1 Pack

What about a throwaway toothbrush, pre-pasted, with floss and pick, and already FDA-Approved to boot. A cheap and convenient product, customers will likely be unable to resist these for their car, gym bag, travel bag and elsewhere at a cost of just $3.49 per pack.

Amazon Startups Product - Brushee PocketSized Toothbrush 1 Pack

Oral hygiene is never a hard sell, so Brushee has that going for it. The reviews for this product are not bad, with most people liking it, and a lot of suggestions that should make the next generation even better. 

Kinsa Smart Thermometer

This smart thermometer is FDA-cleared, doesn’t need batteries and works with iOS and Android devices. All you have to do is plug Kinsa into your smartphone and you get accurate readings in seconds. It creates profiles for everyone in the family, time stamps the temperature, tracks health history and offers real-time guidance on what steps to take.

Amazon Startups Product - Kinsa Smart Thermometer

An invaluable tool for parents, or anyone else for that matter, the device is reasonably priced at $19.99, and the fact that it doesn’t need batteries makes it highly practical.

QardioArm Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor

This is a clinically validated monitor that meets both US and European Standards. It measures systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels and heart rate with irregular heartbeat detection. The device works wirelessly with the free Qardio App allowing you to upload, store and share data on iOS, Android and Kindle devices.

Amazon Startups Product - QardioArm Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor

There’s a trend toward being more proactive with healthcare, and the QardiArm provides the hardware and software to make that possible. The technology is easy, accurate and useful at a cost of just $84.35.

EcoWasher Pro Detergent Free Laundry System

The EcoWasher Pro cleans your dirty laundry without detergents. An oxidation process turns cold water into a powerful cleaning agent that even gets rid of bacteria and germs detergents and hot water miss. Not to mention, you will no longer have to use chemicals that have caused a wide range of reactions on toddlers and others to wash your clothes.

Amazon Startups Product - EcoWasher Pro Detergent Free Laundry System

An environmentally friendly product for something we all do, the laundry, the $230.76 price tag might give customers pause. But when you take into account how much detergents cost, the onetime price definitely seems worth many of the benefits it provides.

Ride Scoozy Electric Bike

The Scoozy is a 350 watt direct drive electric bike that gives you 20-40 miles per charge with a cruising speed of 20 mph.

Amazon Startups Product - Ride Scoozy Electric Bik

For people who work and shop close to home and want to contribute to improving the environment, this is a great product — even at $1,399. Not having to deal with traffic, parking and gas are also great selling points.

Soylent Ready to Drink Food, 12 Pack of 14 oz. Bottles

Sometimes you are so busy you forget to eat. That is where Soylent comes in with a 100 percent vegan replacement meal you can drink. You can use it as a base for a smoothie. The carbs come from beets, protein from soy, and healthy fats from renewable algae sources.

 

Amazon Startups Product - Soylent Ready to Drink Food, 12 Pack of 14 oz. Bottles

The market is full of protein bars and shakes with questionable ingredients. Soylent is a better alternative when you want a quick and healthy replacement meal, for vegans and carnivores alike — and the $32.30 cost for a 12 pack makes it seem cost effective too.

Rocketbook Notebook

Here’s the world’s first smart, microwave-to-erase-and-reuse notebook. That alone should be enough to get most people’s attention. The Pilot FriXion pens are essential for the best outcome when it comes to erasing what you write with your microwave. If you want to share your notes, you can use the app with your iOS or Android device to send your notes to Google Drive, Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, OneNote and more.

Amazon Startups Product - Rocketbook Notebook

Rocketbook has a novelty factor along with being practical. However, with tablets and phablets essentially doing the same thing without the need for a “nuking” and a $27 price tag, it remains to be seen how the product will do with customers.

Automatic: Connected Car Adapter

Automatic, a connected car adapter, decodes the check engine light, gets a live insurance agent in case of an accident, promotes good driving habits, monitors speed, coaches teen drivers and is compatible with Amazon Echo.

Amazon Startups Product - Automatic: Connected Car Adapter

Going to the mechanic to find out what that check engine light means can be costly. And the adapter, at $79.99, is likely to also get the attention of a lot of DIY’ers and weekend mechanics.

Osmo Coding Set

Osmo Coding introduces your child to code early so he or she can learn a very practical language in our technological world at an early age. But the product also improves problem solving and logic skills, which have applications beyond computers.

Amazon Startups Product - Osmo Coding Set

Being multi-lingual is more important than ever, and coding is becoming a very useful language to learn. At $49.95, this is a timely educational tool likely to appeal to many.

Canary All-in-One Home Security Device

Canary provides real-time video stream of your home with 1080p HD camera, automatic night vision, 90+ dB siren, motion-activated recording, auto-arm/disarm, and instant access to local authorities, all for $174.43. It also monitors the air quality, temperature and humidity all connected to the internet and available on your iOS or Android device.

With connectivity a prevailing theme with many Launchpad products, the Canary adds even more functionality for monitoring your environment.

RIF6 Cube 2-inch Mobile Projector

The Cube is a 2-inch portable mobile projector with 20,000 Hour LED light and 120-inch display. It works with phones, laptops, tablets and gaming consoles and costs $245.49.

With remote work and collaboration now part of almost all organizations, the Cube has potential beyond entertainment.

Dacuda PocketScan

Tagged as the world’s smallest wireless scanner for your smart phone, tablet, PC or MAC, PocketScan was conceived of after one too many trips to the library by the creator.

Amazon Startups Product - Dacuda PocketScan

Just like the Cube, this device has great potential in today’s workforce and is reasonably priced at just $149.

Petnet SmartFeeder iPhone

If you leave a big bowl of food out for your pet, your furry friend will more than likely eat all of it. The Petnet SmartFeeder and app provide remote and scheduled feedings, manage portions, notifications and food delivery for the feeder.

Amazon Startups Product - Petnet SmartFeeder iPhone

Obesity is as much of a crisis for pets as it is for people, and the SmartFeeder can help combat this problem though at $314.98 certainly not without cost The fact that you can control it remotely ensures your pet gets the right amount of food all the time.

Revolights Eclipse Bicycle Lighting System ($199)

The popularity of biking has inspired many innovations. The Revolights system puts lights on the biggest thing on the bike (beside the rider), the wheel. The light is visible from 360 Degrees, and a smart rear brake light blinks when you are slowing down.

Men’s Journal Magazine voted it, “The Best Bike Lighting System in the World,” and if you see the video, it makes a great case for the product. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association there were 17.4 million bikes sold in 2015, so there is a big market for Revolights which seems priced right at just $199.

GlocalMe G2 Global Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

GlocalMe is the world’s first 4G global mobile WiFi hotspot with support in more than 108 countries. It has 4G/3G speeds with cloud SIM technology that doesn’t require a local SIM card.

 

Amazon Startups Product - GlocalMe G2 Global Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspot

The tool might not be for everyone, but at just $159 for power users it is a great backup when you can’t find the right connection. The built-in 6000 mAh power bank also charges your smartphone.

ActiveDesk Electric Adjustable Height Standing Desk

ActiveDesk is a DIY frame for an adjustable standing desk with automatic smart memory keypad. The DIY kit, priced at $499, only includes the frame without a top, memory pad and height motors.

The full version of this desk is used by people at Google, Uber, Quora, HubSpot and AppSumo. The company has a strong customer base, but the DIY version might be a great way to add to it.

Aquaovo Alter Ego Personal Water Filter

Alter Ego has a proven technology that has been used for more than 10 years. The bottle filters up to 750 liters or 198 gallons of water by getting rid of urban contaminants such as chlorine and arsenic, as well as 99.9 percent of Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

Amazon Startups Product - Aquaovo Alter Ego Personal Water Filter

Since it is aimed at a somewhat niche market, the $194.97 price may be too much for some. 

CUFF Lisa Smart Necklace

The CUFF Lisa necklace is a beacon that lets you create a community of people you want to alert in case of an emergency.

Amazon Startups Product - CUFF Lisa Smart Necklace

This is a great safety product anyone can use, but especially seniors and individuals that may have dementia or related disorders such as Alzheimer’s. The $46.98 price tag should be reasonable given its important use.

Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone

Unlike cheap drones you find listed elsewhere, the Autel X-Star is a premium drone priced at $899 with a 4K Ultra HD video camera capable of live view up to 1.2 miles away and a flight time of up to 25 minutes.

Amazon Startups Product - Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone

The drone market is saturated, and it will take exceptional features to get the attention of consumers. The X-Star has noteworthy specs, but it will face great competition from the likes of DJI Phantom.

URB-E Black Label Electric Folding Scooter

With a 20 mile range and a top speed of 15mph, the URB-E scooter also charges your smartphone. At $1,699, it is 100 percent built in America with quality materials, including carbon fiber and American aircraft-grade 6061 aluminum.

Amazon Startups Product - URB-E Black Label Electric Folding Scooter

The company says it is the world’s most compact, foldable electric vehicle. The sooter created by an award winning industrial designer and a former lead engineer at Porsche. For people that want quality and are willing to pay for it, this might be the scooter for them.

If you have the next great item and you want to sell it on Launchpad, you have to register as an Amazon vendor and provide details about the product. The company then determines if there is demand for it based on an initial order shipped to Amazon’s fulfilment centers. If you are approved, you will pay a five percent incremental referral fee in addition to the regular referral fee Amazon charges for sold items.

Images: Amazon.com

This article, “30 Cool New Products from Amazon Launchpad” was first published on Small Business Trends

30 Cool New Products from Amazon Launchpad

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Hiring Freelancers: Does Your Business Comply?

Hiring Freelancers: Does Your Business Comply with Employee Classification?

The rise of the gig economy offers attractive benefits for workers and businesses alike. Freelancers get to enjoy the flexibility that comes with the lifestyle while companies get to hire talented people without incurring the costs associated with a full-time employee.

Hiring freelance workers also presents a dilemma: Businesses are often confused about how to classify whether a worker is a 1099 independent contractor or a W-2 employee.

An estimated 3.4 million employees are classified as independent contractors when companies should report them as employees, according to JustWorks, an HR management software provider.

Misclassification Affects All Parties

Misclassification of workers is a problem that affects three parties: the worker, the business and governmental agencies.

If improperly classified, workers could miss out on benefits such as insurance, 401K and paid vacation. Business  owners might incur stiff fines and penalties, lawsuits and even jail time.

According to a report from SIA, a global staffing and workforce solutions advisor, more than one-third of midsize businesses have been fined or penalized for not complying with laws about how they manage their workforces.

Not only that, but federal and state governments miss out on money that would otherwise fill their coffers. The federal government alone loses between $2.7 to $4.3 billion in tax revenue annually, studies estimate.

The loss of income is not something the Obama administration is taking lightly.

According to a webinar hosted by Work Market, a freelance workforce management software provider, independent contractor misclassification is the Department of Labor’s (DOL) single most important enforcement priority in 2016.

The department has assigned 300 new investigators to track down offenders, and added $31.7 million to its budget for that reason.

Employee Classification is Difficult

It may seem surprising that confusion exists over worker classification. After all, an independent contractor is someone who works for himself while an employee works for another party.

Unfortunately, things aren’t that simple. Lots of uncertainty exists in the regulatory environment.

“Where worker classification is concerned, no hard-and-fast criteria exists, despite the fact that the Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, IRS and a host of state labor-related agencies have their various interpretations,” said Jeff Wald, Work Market founder and CEO, in a telephone interview with Small Business Trends.

According to Wald, businesses need to be prepared in the event one of these agencies comes calling. And it’s not a matter of “if” the government will come calling, but “when,” he added.

“The IRS, DOL, worker’s comp or unemployment insurance boards, or even your insurance company could knock on your door wanting to understand how you engage the freelance workforce,” he said. “Should that happen, the burden lies on the back of the business owner to interpret the complex sets of rules and regulations and make the determination as to how his business will address it.”

Any way you look at it, misclassification of employees is a problem, and the burden of compliance falls to the business owner.

Consequences of Misclassifying Workers

The consequences of non-compliance can be tough and include fines, penalties, lawsuits and even jail time.

“Fines levied by the U.S. Department of Labor, IRS and state agencies for worker misclassification can exceed millions depending on the severity of the infractions,” Wald said in a post on TLNT, an HR industry blog. “The threat of class action lawsuits should also serve as a further deterrent for companies straddling the boundaries of improper classification.”

He added that trouble could come in many forms: Wage law violations, trouble with the IRS, I-9 violations, unemployment insurance shortfalls, worker’s comp violations, improper exclusion from benefits, anti-discrimination violations, FMLA violations, and much more.

Misclassification Fines and Penalties

Even if the misclassification is unintentional, the employer could still face the following penalties:

  • $50 for each Form W-2 that the employer failed to file because of classifying workers as an independent contractor;
  • 5 percent of the wages for failure to withhold income taxes;
  • 40 percent of FICA taxes that not withheld from the employee;
  • 100 percent of matching FICA taxes the employer should have paid.

Interest can also accrue on these penalties daily from the date they should have been deposited. The IRS can also impose additional fines and penalties if it suspects fraud or intentional misconduct.

The bottom line: Businesses can’t afford to misclassify.

Worker Classification Compliance Tests

The government has several tests for compliance (e.g., Economic Reality, IRS 20-Factor, Common Law, “ABC”) but there is little standardization among them. In fact, one test may qualify the worker as an employee while another will classify the same person as an independent contractor.

The IRS 20-Factor (PDF) test, for example, uses the degree of behavioral and financial control the employer exercises, as well as the type of relationship that exists between the two parties (written contracts or employee-type benefits), to determine whether or not a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

The Economic Reality test, on the other hand, places emphasis on the economic dependence of a person on the employer as its litmus.

The New York Times reports that under federal tax and labor law, contractors must have greater independence than employees, which limits their use. “Simply put, if you tell someone when, where and how to work, you do not have a contractor relationship,” the Times said.

Steps Small Businesses Can Take to Ensure Compliance

Wald and Work Market recommend that small businesses take the following steps to ensure compliance:

Have a Plan in Place

“Have a documented plan of action that you can back up with facts,” Wald said. “If a representative from your state’s unemployment office were to pay a visit, would you be able to defend why you classified a person as a contractor rather than as an employee?”

He added that, due to the lack of uniformity, the business owner has to determine what the rules are and document them.

“Get what your interpretation is for your business and document that as your point of view,” Wald said. “Have audit trails, so you can show someone your interpretation based on what you’ve read, backed up by facts. If you have established rules and documentation, trained your people and set up processes and audit trails, it will bode better for you than for those who haven’t.”

Exert Limited Control

Exert limited control over independent contractors.

According to Wald, it’s okay to have generalized rules of governance but don’t give them an employee handbook. “That makes them look like employees,” he said.

Also, don’t give freelancers full-time work. Short-term projects that are encompassing from time to time is fine, however.

Compliance ‘Dos’ and ‘Don’ts’

Though not exhaustive, here are some general guidelines, in the form of “dos” and “don’ts.”

Do:

  • Conduct a systematic review of compliance policies in light of new DOL standard (whether the person is “economically dependent on the employer or truly in business for him or herself”);
  • Establish a formal and centralized approval, governance and monitoring process for all contractors;
  • Require contractors to submit invoices for payment, rather than paying them on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis;
  • Follow the terms of the agreement, including termination provisions.

Don’t:

  • Supervise the independent contractor or his assistants. He should perform his duties without direction;
  • Allow the contractor to work on-premise unless necessary;
  • Establish particular working hours;
  • Provide ongoing training or instruction;
  • Invite the contractor to company meetings or functions;
  • Give the contractor a title or provide equipment unless necessary;
  • Pay travel or other expenses directly;
  • Give the contractor new work after the original project is completing without requiring a new agreement.

Conclusion

Classifying workers as employees or independent contractors is more complicated than it may first appear. And it doesn’t help that the government has no single standard that companies can use to make that determination.

However, due to the adverse fines and penalties a company could accrue as the result of a misclassification, the savvy business owner will take the steps necessary to ensure compliance.

For more information about freelance worker compliance, visit the Work Market website. It contains a list of helpful resources to educate and inform business owners.

Freelancer Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Hiring Freelancers: Does Your Business Comply?” was first published on Small Business Trends

Hiring Freelancers: Does Your Business Comply?

iPhone, iPad Users: Ulysses Allows You to Work in WordPress, Dropbox – from Anywhere

iPhone, iPad Users: Ulysses App Allows You to Write in WordPress, Dropbox – from Anywhere

Working mobile is becoming hugely important for small businesses. And thanks to a recent update to the Ulysses writing app, small business owners who want to work in WordPress from their iPhone or iPad and also have access to Dropbox where they may be storing images, video or other content from a mobile device, can now do just that conveniently on iOS.

Ulysses App for Mac and iOS

Ulysses — a fully-fledged, plain text enhanced writing tool — debuted back in 2013 on the Mac App Store as a gorgeously elegant app for Mac. It has since introduced Ulysses for iOS.

The app for Mac, iPhone and iPad manages to stay completely out of your way when writing, providing a clean and intuitive workspace that can rival any distraction-free writing app.

“’Many options’ can easily become too many options, and ‘complex’ can get complicated,” The company says on its official website. “Ulysses confines to what is essential for writing, and keeps its advanced features out of the way until you actually need them.”

The latest Ulysses 2.6 updates, which are available for both the iOS and macOS, add some impressive and quite handy features to the app.

What’s New in the Ulysses 2.6 Update?

1. WordPress Publishing

Ulysses 2.6 adds the ability to publish text straight to a WordPress site, complete with category, tags, excerpt, featured image and preview support. No more copy and paste, and switching between browsers. You can even schedule a post for later and setup multiple WordPress accounts in the app. Additionally, you can choose which blog you’d like to publish to for each new sheet. The app supports publishing not only to a WordPress.com blog, but also all self-hosted WordPress.org installations.

2. Dropbox Support on iOS

As with Mac, iPad and iPhone users can now also sync their content over Dropbox instead of via iCloud only. “You can now link your Dropbox account(s) and have any folder show up in Ulysses on iPad and iPhone, and use it just like you would Ulysses’ native iCloud/local storage,” wrote Marcus Fehn, Ulysses Co-founder and interface designer, in a blog post announcing the updates. “You get filters, manual sorting, all the markup, and, best of all, full search across all your linked folders.”

3. Quick Open on iOS

A popular feature of the Mac app has been ‘Quick Open,’ which is now available on the iOS app. As the name suggests, Quick Open lets you search your whole library, all your folders, whether on Dropbox or iCloud, and quickly open any document in Ulysses with just a single tap, says Marcus. For those with newer iPhones, this feature is also available via a 3D Touch action on the app icon on your home screen.

4. Typewriter Mode

If you are a fan of focused writing, Ulysses 2.6 introduces a new Typewriter Mode. While this feature has been a part of Ulysses for Mac since version 1.1, version 2.6 Typewriter Mode for iOS and Mac has been completely revamped. It includes a “highlighting” feature known as Focus Mode. Activating Focus Mode will dim everything but the current line, sentence or paragraph. You can even adjust scrolling behavior.

“Many writers praise the way Ulysses encourages immersion with the text, and testify how using it has considerably increased their productivity,” company adds on its website. The company recently emerged as one of the winners of the prestigious Apple Design Awards 2016.

Cost and Availability

If you write a lot of reports, documents, blog posts or even books and would like to use Ulysses for iOS and Mac for the first time, the app is readily available for download. Ulysses for Mac can be found on the Mac App Store and costs $44.99, although a free trial version is also available. Ulysses for iOS is available as a universal app on the App Store priced at $24.99.

The cost of Ulysses for iOS and Mac, as you might have noticed, is not exactly cheap considering that apps like Evernote are free. But, Ulysses is a powerful, intuitive app with a fresh and clean feel.

“Yes, it sounds awesome, easy, and believe me: It is,” insists Fehn in his announcement. You be the judge.

Image: Ulyssesapp.com

This article, “iPhone, iPad Users: Ulysses Allows You to Work in WordPress, Dropbox – from Anywhere” was first published on Small Business Trends

iPhone, iPad Users: Ulysses Allows You to Work in WordPress, Dropbox – from Anywhere

8 Reasons You Should be Creating More Long Form Content

8 Reasons You Should be Creating More Long Form Content

The web is hungry for instant gratification — at least that’s what research has led us to believe.

Statistics like GrowthHackers’ “10-second rule” for webpages feed the idea that we must develop content that’s short, quick and to the point, or we risk losing consumer interest and becoming irrelevant. However, new research suggests the exact opposite. In fact, Google rewards brands that post comprehensive, authoritative, and in-depth long-form content.

The Benefits of Long Form Content

Higher Google Search Rankings

Recently, Backlinko analyzed one million Google search results to learn more about the best SEO practices today. To many marketers’ surprise, long form content consistently ranks higher in Google’s search results — significantly!

The average word count of a Google result on the first page is 1,890. This is a far cry from the smaller chunks of content we’ve been trying to pack with keywords for optimization. Longer content performed better on Google every time. This is likely due to the fact that it generates more social shares than short form content and boosts your brand’s relevancy. Google ranks websites based on their levels of authority; long form content helps establish your sphere of influence.

More Brand Authority

Writing a comprehensive piece of content that tackles a topic in detail marks your brand as a thought leader in the industry. It produces more site traffic and attracts people looking to learn more about a topic, and it will remain an important source of information far into the future. Evergreen content, as this type of material is called, showcases your grasp on a subject and presents your brand in its best light. Instead of appearing shallow and overly interested in turning a profit, evergreen content enables you to give real, long-lasting value to consumers. In turn, your customers will reward your efforts with enduring brand loyalty.

Greater Credibility

Contrary to what many content marketers believe, long form content is a powerful tool brands can use to boost credibility, earn consumers’ respect, and get more from content marketing campaigns. In a content-saturated online market, website managers rack their brains for ways to stand out from the crowd. The best way to make a positive impact on your consumers is to prove that your brand is a trustworthy source of relevant information. Credible brands earn consumers’ confidence.

More Social Media Success

Quartz editor Kevin Delaney proposes that brands should publish either short, snappy articles that are no more than 500 words or long analysis pieces that are at least 1,200 words for the greatest social media performance. He states that everyone publishes articles within the 500-800 range, and articles that standout avoid this cliché. In-depth feature articles generate more social media shares, more hits, and more traffic than shorter articles — a recipe for creating the “viral” effect.

Lower Costs for Inbound Marketing

Long-form content may feel like a big time and money investment, but the returns are well worth it. Optimizing your inbound marketing efforts with long-form content saves your brand money in the long run. According to a HubSpot report, companies save an average $20,000 per year by investing in inbound marketing. Long-form evergreen content separates your brand from the competition and generates business leads for a longer period of time — maximizing the potential returns on the investment.

More Backlinks and Organic Traffic

Backlinking is one of the best ways to increase your Google search ranking and generate organic site traffic. When a high-authority website backlinks to a piece of your content, you immediately reap the benefits of reaching new consumers within your industry. As Google’s algorithms continue to undergo major updates, brands are facing penalties for including low-authority backlinks on their sites. Companies are hard-pressed to find authoritative sources of information to include in their content for better SEO. You can be this authoritative source for brands in your industry by producing killer long form copy.

More Sustainable Content

You may argue that long-form content is a more costly investment than short term content, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, long form content achieves a sustainability that its shorter companion can’t. For example, consider Search Engine Land’s piece, “What Is SEO/Search Engine Optimization?” When you type “What is SEO?” into Google, this is the first result that pops up — not because it’s the most recent source, but because it has the most authority on the subject.

Greater Value

The main takeaway here is to provide value to consumers with long form content. Don’t simply put more words onto a page to reach a higher count and expect to see returns. Long form content works because it gives value to your audience again and again. Your major content goal should always be to provide value, no matter how long or short your pieces are.

Short form content will always have a place in brand development. However, businesses that rule out long form content are losing the myriad returns of publishing longer pieces. From greater SEO rankings to better business, long form content is too great a resource to ignore in today’s competitive marketing industry.

Letterpress 8 Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “8 Reasons You Should be Creating More Long Form Content” was first published on Small Business Trends

8 Reasons You Should be Creating More Long Form Content

How to Build a Website with WIX: Step by Step Guide

How to Build a Website with Wix: A Step by Step Wix Tutorial

Building your own business website with WIX is free and relatively straightforward. But if you’re unfamiliar with the process, you might not understand how many different options are available for you to use on the platform. Here’s a quick tutorial on how you can use WIX to build your very own business website.

WIX Tutorial:

Sign Up for an Account

Just like signing up for basically any other online service, getting started with WIX requires you to sign up for an account. To do this, you just enter your email address and a password or you can sign in with a Google or Facebook social account.

Choose a Type of Website

Then you’ll need to choose the kind of website you want to start. Begin by clicking “I Need a Site For …” and then browse your options.  Some of the selections most useful to small businesses might include a business website, online store or blog. But depending on the type of business you operate, you might also select “Photography,” “Restaurants,” “Accommodation” (for hotels or other similar businesses) or “Beauty & Wellness.”

WIX Tutorial - Choose a Type of Website

Just remember, the type of site you select will impact the kinds of options and templates you get to choose from later, so choose the option that best represents your business and the kind of website you are trying to build.

Building A Website: A WIX Tutorial

Select a Template

Once you’ve picked what type of website you want to create, you’ll be directed to a selection of different templates to choose from. You can browse from the popular templates or search for something specific. You can also search within specific categories like websites made specifically for consultants, service providers or marketers. Or you can choose from a selection of mostly blank themes and then build up from there.

Change Your Details

When you’ve selected a template you like, WIX will take you to a preview of the design that you can edit by clicking, dragging and dropping the different elements on the page. But one of the first things you should do is update your business name, tagline and any other text elements on the page that aren’t specific to your business. To do this, just click on the text that you want to change and then you’ll see a text editor that lets you type in new text and change the size, font and other elements.

Update Media

You’ll also have the ability to change some of the more visual elements of the site. If there are any photos included on the template, you can click on them to change them to a photo that’s more specific to your business. And you also have the ability to change the background of your page. Just click on the background option on the sidebar, and then you can choose a color or upload a photo or video to serve as the background of your website.

Add Different Elements

Your template is really just a starting point for your new website. You can also add other elements to the page to really make the site look complete. On the sidebar, click the “add” button to bring up a list of potential page elements you can add to your site. You might choose to add things like text boxes, images, slideshows, buttons, menus, videos or shapes. When you click on one of those elements from the menu, you can see a few different options for the type of style you want to add to your site. Then you can add and move around different elements to make everything look exactly the way you want it.

Repeat for Each Page

And once you add whatever elements you want to your homepage, don’t forget to do the same for the other pages on your site. You don’t have to add the exact same elements. You can customize each page to look exactly the way you want using the same method. Just click on the page you want to edit in the navigation bar and then add whatever elements you want on that page. Save your work and move on to edit the next page.

Add a Blog

You can also choose which pages you want included on your website. One page that you might want to consider adding, if you didn’t choose it as your main web page, is a blog. You can add a blog to your website by adding that page element using the tools on your sidebar. Then you can manage your posts and add new content from the sidebar as well.

Include Your Products

Also included on the sidebar is a store manager. If you have an eCommerce site or want to include any products for sale on your site, you can use this section to add the products you have to offer, along with supplementary elements like photos and prices. You can also edit things like payments, shipping and store settings from this section.

Publish Your Site

When you’re happy with every part of your website, it’s time to publish. You can preview your site by clicking the button in the top right corner, just to make sure everything looks and works like it’s supposed to. Then just click “publish” in the top right corner and your site will go live. You can see your domain in the popup that appears. Or you can choose to connect your WIX site to your own branded domain. When you’re done, the result should be a website that effectively represents your business and that you’ll be proud to promote through social media and other channels.

* * *These are the basics of creating a free website for your business using the WIX platform. Of course, the platform includes other options you may wish to consider including a premium subscription and the highly touted “app market” that allows you to add special features ranging from newsletter signup forms to live chat and more. The company also recently unveiled WIX ADI, an AI design platform it plans to roll out to users over the next few months.

Images: WIX.com

This article, “How to Build a Website with WIX: Step by Step Guide” was first published on Small Business Trends

How to Build a Website with WIX: Step by Step Guide

The Self-Employment Exit Rate is Rising

The Rate at Which People are Leaving Self-Employment is Rising - We Look at the Numbers

More people are quitting self-employment these days than were giving up two decades ago, analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data reveals.

The figure below shows the annual self-employment exit rates calculated from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data. It indicates the number of people exiting unincorporated self-employment every year as a percentage of the number of people engaged in that activity that year. As you can see from the solid line in the figure, the exit rate fluctuates a lot from year to year, but as the dotted line indicates, the linear trend is upward.

The Rate at Which People are Leaving Self-Employment is Rising - We Look at the Numbers

These estimates come from a combination of sources.

The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a Kansas City-based Foundation focused on entrepreneurship, produces an annual index of entrepreneurial activity in the United States. One of its measures is non-self-employed proportion of the U.S. adult-age population that transitions into unincorporated self-employment every month, which it generates from the Current Population Survey, a joint effort of the Census Bureau and the BLS.

Because the BLS also publishes monthly data on the number of unincorporated self-employed in the United States, we can calculate the annual rates of entry into and exit from self-employment every year since 1997.

The total number of unincorporated self-employed Americans has declined substantially over the past two decades. In June 1996, 10,660,000 Americans worked for themselves in unincorporated businesses. In June 2016, 9,794,000 did. That 866,000 person decline represents an 8.1 percent fall in the stock of unincorporated self-employed people over the past two decades.

The Kauffman Foundation estimates that in 2016, the 283,908 more people transitioned into unincorporated self-employment status than did so in 1997.

A little basic math tells us that if the rate of transition into unincorporated self-employment has grown, but the number of unincorporated self-employed people has fallen, then the rate of exit from unincorporated self-employment must have gone down. In 2016, 226,908 more self-employed people quit working for themselves than did so in 1997.

To understand what has happened, let me add two more facts to the mix. First, the rate of entry into and exit from self-employment correlated 0.87, which indicates that when one tends to go up, the other does as well.

Second, the number of people entering and exiting self-employment every year is high relative to the stock of people in self-employment at a moment in time. In 2016, the estimate from the Kauffman Foundation and BLS data are that about 6.6 million people will enter unincorporated self-employment and about 6.6 million people will exit unincorporated self-employment of a base of about 9.8 million self-employed people at any moment in time.

What Conclusion Can We Draw from the Rising Rate of People Leaving Self-Employment?

The big takeaway from these data are that the focus on entry rates alone are deceptive. Yes, the rate of entry into unincorporated self-employment is higher today than it was two decades ago. But so is the exit rate. That’s why the number of unincorporated self-employed has declined 8.1 percent over the past two decades. Given the 18.8 percent increase in the civilian labor force over the same period, that’s a heavy slide indeed.

Leaving Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “The Self-Employment Exit Rate is Rising” was first published on Small Business Trends

The Self-Employment Exit Rate is Rising

These Core Soft Skills Are Hallmarks of Successful Entrepreneurs

Each Ability on this Core Soft Skills List Are Hallmarks of Successful Entrepreneurs

What do all the most successful people tend to have in common? It’s a question that is seen as holding the answer to getting ahead in your professional life. If it works for them, it’ll work for me!

Of course experience counts, and in certain, increasingly complex industries, relevant hard skills often hold the key.

But one thing that truly sets apart the best people is the transferable skills they have that benefit them across everything they do. In a dynamic, constantly changing world, your core skills that allow you to adapt may be more important than ever.

Soft Skills List for Successful Entrepreneurs

Self-Awareness

Understanding and reading others is something that everyone knows is integral to being a successful manager and leader.

However, not everyone fully realizes the importance of understanding yourself.

One of the key factors in productivity and clarity of thought is understanding and working with your emotions. Appreciating when you’re not at your best, or understanding when one outward emotion is actually hiding another, is the first step towards understanding the cause and finding a solution.

The most effective leaders know that it starts with them, and high personal emotional intelligence is valuable to all employers. When you’re going for a new role, try to remain calm during the process and focus on discussing areas of self-improvement. This way they’ll know you’re capable of identifying weaknesses or gaps in your ability before taking active steps to make them better.

Responsiveness

As a rule, we now work in much more collaborative workplaces. People are better understood as rounded employees who may offer something unexpected and beneficial.

As a result, it is now hugely important to react speedily to a change of direction or a new requirement while continuing to offer new ideas and consulting on all areas of the business.

In a more fast-paced and, at times, volatile world, your ability to react and then capitalize on changes is absolutely essential. Address how good you are at viewing things objectively, as this holds the key to responding to something new, and dropping old ideas quickly without holding on to them for sentimental reasons.

Think about times in your life when you’ve had to deal with rapid change. How did you deal with it? Could you have taken a more objective view point?

Being Personable

That same collaborative environment also makes it more and more important to fit into a culture of work and develop strong relationships with those around you.

Especially within smaller teams, the disruption of having one employee that nobody connects with can be huge. With the days of top-down, authoritarian management dwindling, your ability to communicate with people at all different levels is essential.

On top of this, social awareness will become increasingly important as automation and artificial intelligence play a bigger role in our lives. One thing that is likely to be very difficult to replicate is the human ability to persuade, communicate and ultimately connect with other people.

Learn to be patient with those you don’t quite click with, and endeavor to find common ground with everyone. You’ll be surprised at how significant an impact this has on the effectiveness of your team.

Listening

One of the keys to thriving in this collaborative environment is not your ability to talk. It’s your ability to communicate, and the most important skill in communication is actually listening.

Whether you’re talking to the CEO or an intern, listening is key to building trust. By switching on and actively showing that you are engaging with what the person is saying, you’re showing that you care about what they have to say.

Generally people will know when they’re not being listened to. Forget about what you’re going to say and ask them questions about what they’re talking about. Try not to interrupt. If you need to address something else and move the conversation forward, have the patience to wait until they’ve finished talking until you change the topic.

The effect of listening goes beyond simply alleviating tensions. Of course, everyone likes to be listened to, and knowing that you’re not can cause a strain on any working relationship. But more importantly, if you’re not listening to people you’re not understanding them, and so you won’t be working with them as effectively as you can.

Problem Solving

As you make your way through your career, you tend to move from learning and implementing systems of work to having a guiding hand in the nature of those systems.

As a result, the business problems become yours to solve. You could have been beaten to a client by a competitor, resolve a flaw in your product or service, or look at finding a new way to reach potential customers. Either way, your ability to objectively view a problem, collate advice and suggestions before finding the best solution is critical in this situation.

Whether or not certain problems are within your remit, allow yourself to consider how you would solve them as a way to practice. If you stumble onto something good, don’t be afraid to propose your solution. In the right company, you’re far more likely to be identified as proactive and aware than disruptive.

Consider having a go at problem solving briefs in your spare time, whether industry specific or general. Like anything else, these skills are improved by practice and noticing patterns that may prove useful in the future.

Soft Skills Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “These Core Soft Skills Are Hallmarks of Successful Entrepreneurs” was first published on Small Business Trends

These Core Soft Skills Are Hallmarks of Successful Entrepreneurs