Category Archives: General Small Business Info

Have you heard of Paypal Micropayments?

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Most online sellers are aware of the business, premier and personal types of Paypal accounts but not so many know about the micro payment account where lower per-transaction fees are charged with a higher percentage fee. (I know this type of account is available to US sellers, but I don’t know about other countries.)

Micro payment accounts are useful for low dollar amount transactions because of the lower transaction fee (and less useful for larger transactions because of the higher percentage fees), but if most of your transaction totals are under $12.14 it might be a savings for you to use a micro account.

Types of Paypal accounts for selling items
(amounts are in USD)

$0.30 per transaction plus 2.9%
one user–an individual

$0.30 per transaction plus 2.9%
same as the Premier account but you can accept money under your business name and have multiple log-ins (not just one user)

$0.05 per transaction plus 5%
same as regular business account

How many Paypal accounts can I have?

Paypal tells you here that you are allowed “one Personal account and one Premier or Business account”, but they specify on the following Paypal page that you should have a micro payment account in addition to your regular business account if you want to receive both macro and micro payments.

See here for more on Paypal’s Micro Account & how to get one:

I hope this info saves some sellers a few bucks!

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Item Listing Basics

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

I often see folks asking for help in the critiques section of the Etsy forums wondering how to improve their shops because they aren’t getting many hits.

The most common response is to improve your photos, and while good photos are very important, even excellent photos will mean little if your items are not showing up in search results for folks to see those photos and click through to your item. Web-based searches don’t return photos with their listings, so you really need to improve in other ways to get outside traffic in to your shop.

Promoting your business is great and usually necessary for success, as is getting the internet search engines to work for you…

The key:

Search engines can only find you based on the text in your listings.

Repeated text in titles, descriptions and tags is a good thing–it gives more weight to those keywords when search engines are returning results. Improve your listings with better titles, descriptions and tags by including words and information that folks would use when looking for items like yours–basically think like a buyer…

If a buyer saw your item once, then wanted to find it again,
what words would they search to find it?

Some important ways to describe your items in the text:

    Content–tell us what your item is in detail.
    A print? original? watercolor? photograph? hat? earrings? purse?
    Does it have two orange cats in a field of flowers? a field of yellow and white daisies? of light pink tulips?
    Red hand-knit hat with a multicolor tassel? or pompon? (or pom-pom, since that’s a common alternate spelling)
    Yellow and light blue handmade clay pendant on a bright pink ribbon necklace?

    Mood/Theme–Use common descriptors for your style so folks shopping for a “feel” can find you.
    Examples: Retro, goth, rustic, folk art, steampunk, kawaii, mod, surreal, formal, casual, country…

    Colors–describe all main colors in your item.
    Don’t describe the color of the background of your photo of a product (or the props you used) since that’s not what a shopper will be looking for/able to buy from your listing. (Obviously if a photo is the product, all main colors in it should be included.)

    Size–in inches and centimeters.
    The web is international, don’t make your buyers guess what something would be in their units of measurement.
    Print sizes in the title is very helpful in addition to it being in the body of a listing.
    Personally, I like to break the size out of the descriptive text to make it easy to see, like here: Suncatcher–Roswell

Working all those in to a flowing description & adding the appropriate bits to the title and tags can be a challenge.

It helps to have some writing skills, a friend who can help or to post in the forum critique section to get ideas on how to refine your listings. Here’s an example of an item description I helped someone with in the forums:

That’s not the only way to work keywords in, sometimes folks tell a story in their description and/or use humor and that’s a great talent. I’m sure if you browse Etsy and see a few good description styles you’ll find one that suits you and your items, but be sure not to copy anyone’s listings.

Just a list of keywords isn’t good, search engines will see that keyword spamming and it may actually hurt your search engine results.

These should also help you get a feel for what tags and text will help:

Guidelines & Tips: Tagging on Etsy

Etsy: Meta Tags

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) info straight from Google

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Download Your Paypal History

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Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Looking for your Paypal fees history or sales tax you collected through Paypal? It’s all in the history download from Paypal!

To download your history:

1. Log in to your Paypal account & hover over the History link, click the Download History link from the pop up menu.

2. On the right there’s a box with links, click Customize Download Fields.

That allows you to control the information you get & how you get it. Be sure to select shipping amount, insurance amount, sales tax and any other information you need. Click save at the bottom of that page.

I like to download it all and save it for my business records.

3. Select Custom Date Range and put in the dates you need records from.

If you have hundreds of transactions during the time frame you select you may have to change the dates and download a few months at a time so the download won’t time out.

4. From the drop down File Types for Download menu select Tab Delimited.

I like the all activity version.

5. At the bottom click the “Download History” button.

6. When download box pops up click to save the file to your computer.

We have a folder where we keep all our business transactions, I save it there, some folks save items to “My Documents”, wherever you’ll be able to find it is fine. I give it a name that reflects the contents and the date range, for example my March 2010 file name will be: PP history 03 10.txt

7. Once you’ve saved the file, go to the folder on your computer where you saved it and change the file extension from .txt to .xls so that Excel can open it and will automatically put all the data in separate columns for you.

To change the extension right click on the file name and select rename, edit it then hit enter (on a Mac, use ctrl + click for the right click):

From: PP history 03 10.txt
To: PP history 03 10.xls

8. Double-click the file name to open it. All your transaction data should be there now, separated into individual columns.

To add up a column, for example, your sales tax:

9. Click once on the first sales tax collected entry–that selects that box (I’m not sure what the column header is as we can’t use Paypal to accurately collect NY sales tax so our file doesn’t have that column).

10. Hold down the shift key and then hold down the down-arrow key to highlight the cells until you reach the end of the numbers you want to add, then click the down arrow one more time, highlighting one empty box at the end of the column. It should look like this:

11. At the top of the page click the big funny looking E in the menu bar–that will “auto-sum” the column. It will put the total in the empty box you highlighted at the bottom of the column. It should look like this:

12. All added up! In this example the total was $3.75.

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Visit our Etsy shop: GoTo
Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010

Help for Filing your Federal Income Taxesfor Your Small Business

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Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010-2012
This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

This time of year many folks seem to have questions about where different business expenses go in your annual income taxes.

Generally, you should get your answers from people in the know–that means directly from the IRS or from an accountant or tax preparer that has experience with small business taxes.

Non-official websites and forums are not a good place to get answers. You’ll never know if the person supplying the info actually has a good understanding of the laws or if they just talk a good game if you don’t go to the source.

In that vein, I offer a few official IRS website links that I have found very helpful. (Links open in a new window or tab depending on your browser settings.)

Do I Need to File a Tax Return? The IRS has tools to help you with that–and if you have to file, you need to report all income, no matter how small or if your business shows a loss/hobby only broke even: Do I Need to File?

Recordkeeping Info from the IRS,,id=98575,00.html

For sole proprietorships (info), we report our income and expenses on the Schedule C and submit it with our 1040 to the IRS (and to the state where required).

Form 1040, Schedule C, PDF file

This is the IRS’s instructions for the Schedule C:

Instructions for the 1040 Schedule C
(PDF version)

and the following one answers some of the questions for the Schedule C that the instructions for the Schedule C seem to ignore–it has saved me from many a headache:

Tax Guide for Small Business, Publication 334
(For Individuals Who Use Schedule C or C-EZ)
(PDF version:

Now don’t get overwhelmed by all this, these additional links will come in handy if you get stuck….

Some more tough topics in detail:

Business Expenses, Publication 535

Inventories—see Publication 538

Travel, Entertainment, Gift & Car Expenses, Pub 463

How To Depreciate Property, Publication 946

Business Use of Your Home, Publication 587

This post is copyrighted–you do not have permission to repost this content elsewhere but you are welcome to link to it if you’d like to share the information.

Visit our Etsy shop: GoTo
Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2010-2012

Search Engine Optimization

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2009

Visit our Etsy shop: GoTo

I’ve gotten a few requests for help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) lately, and really the best advice I can give is for you to read up on it so you’ll know how to apply it to your shop yourself both now and in the future. A good place to start is Google’s SEO Starter Guide:

This isn’t the only SEO resource out there–if you search the web for info on SEO I am sure you’ll find tons of material. As with anything on the internet, some of the info will be accurate and some will just be someone’s opinion, so always consider the source of what you are reading.

Visit our Etsy shop: GoToSupplies

Sending a Paypal Invoice

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2008

To send a Paypal Invoice:

1. Log in to Paypal.
2. Click the Request Money tab.
3. Click the Create an Invoice link.
4. Follow the directions to send an invoice to your buyer by email.

The buyer will receive an email invoice and be able to click a link in the email to pay you.

If they prefer not to click that link, they can sign in to Paypal directly and the invoice will be waiting there for them to pay it.

Sales Tax Questions

During the course of business many sales tax issues can come up. Below I’ve compiled a list of questions that will get you the general information you need to know about your state’s sales tax laws.

Look for answers to the questions below on your state’s website, the paperwork they sent you when you registered or give them a call and ask one of your state’s employees. That’s how to best get facts about your state’s laws, not someone else’s interpretation or opinion.

There are links to official state websites in this post that should help you find the answers to the questions below:

US Sales Tax & Business Registration:
Links to Official Government Websites

Sales tax laws are different from state to state and the answers to the questions below vary widely.

There is only one law that applies to all states when it comes to collecting sales tax:

You don’t charge sales tax to buyers outside your business nexus. That is:
1. outside of the state you sell from,
2. outside of states you are registered in (if you are registered in more than just your home state) or
3. from states you don’t have a business representative in.
What does that mean?
1. Most sellers need to collect sales tax from buyers in their own state. Most states require you to register before you can collect sales tax, then collect only from in-state buyers unless 2 or 3 below applies to you.
2. If you are registered in a state other than the one you live in, you need to collect sales tax for that state too (like for doing an out of state craft show).
3. If you have a business nexus (see below) in another state you may need to register and/or collect sales tax there too, depending on that state’s sales tax laws.

What’s a nexus? The description varies a bit, but generally if you don’t have a physical presence in a state (be it a place you ship from, a public storefront of your own, a representative who presents your items for sale in a state, do a craft show in a state), you generally don’t have a business nexus there.

The questions…:

&#149 Must I register to collect sales tax in my state?

You may think your business is too small or that you are just a hobby seller therefore you don’t need to register to collect sales tax for your state. From what I’ve seen, that’s probably not true. Many states require you register before you start selling, regardless as to whether or not you ever make a sale to someone in your state, make a sale at all or turn a profit, or whether or not you are a business or just an individual.

&#149 Is there an amount of sales I can make before I am required to register?

Most states with sales tax require you to register straight away–rarely there’s a “You can sell $XXX worth of goods before registering to collect sales tax” rule so you need to find out what your state’s rules are for when registration is required.

Usually it’s “Intend to make a sale? Register before you start selling whether you are a business or just an individual planning on selling to the public”.

&#149 Can I just include sales tax in my price?

Some states allow it, some don’t, and some allow it so long as you mention tax is included. There may be other stipulations, but none I have heard of off-hand.

&#149 Can I just pay the sales tax for my customers?

Some states allow it, some don’t. Some allow it so long as you don’t advertise it.

&#149 Can I advertise that I pay sales tax for my customers?

Some states have specific laws about publicizing that you will pay sales tax for your customers.

&#149 What rate do I charge?

There’s two main types of sales tax for those of us in the mail-order/internet-sales business, you need to find out which of these applies in your state:

1. Origin-based sales tax: You charge the rate of where you sell from *to buyers your state*, just like when you purchase something in-person. When the package is shipped outside areas where you are obligated to collect sales tax (usually just your home state), you don’t charge sales tax.
2. Destination-based sales tax: You charge the rate of tax at the address to which you mail the package. That’s a bit of a hassle, but if that’s what the state requires that’s what you need to do. Here in NY, I must find out what county a buyer is in before I know what rate to apply.

There’s also a hybrid–some states have both state & local taxes and they require sellers to only collect the local taxes when items are being shipped within their home region (which makes it a bit like destination based sales tax–but only for those in their own area). So if the buyer is in the seller’s city or county, they collect state+city or state+county tax from that buyer, and only state sales tax from buyers in all other parts of their state.

&#149 Are there different rates depending on the items or services I provide?

Some states have different rates for food, clothing, shoes, services… be sure to understand how they apply to your business.

&#149 Do I collect sales tax on shipping?

In some states all shipping is taxed, in some only shipping of taxable goods (and the shipping might be partially taxable if only part of the order is taxable), in states the cost shipping isn’t taxable but any amount over the actual cost of shipping is taxable (so if you have a handling fee it would be taxed, or if you just round up the amount that would be taxable (for example from $1.72 actual shipping rounded up to $2.00, 28 cents would be taxable).

&#149 Must my receipts to customers specify the amount of sales tax the customer paid and/or state that sales tax is included in the purchase price?

Some states require that you show how much tax the customer has paid/you paid for the customer. If the customer doesn’t know how much tax they paid, they won’t know if “use tax” is due on their purchase. (Use tax is due on purchases that should have had tax collected by the seller but didn’t. Many (most/all?) states with sales tax also have use tax which applies to internet and mail order purchases where the seller didn’t collect sales tax, though many people think that purchases from the internet are sales tax-free.)

Need help getting your business registered & finding answers to these questions for sellers in your state? Start here:

US: Sales Tax & Business Registration
–links to official state websites–


Accepting Credit Cards

Many artists and crafters want to accept credit cards at craft shows but don’t know how to start, so I’m sharing what I learned when setting up our account.

I’m sure this isn’t the be-all end-all of important questions for merchant service providers, so if you think I’ve left out anything important I’d love to hear from you!

A merchant account is used by businesses to process credit card transactions. As I called individual providers I found out more and more about what the important questions to ask were, which got me off the phone in minutes with companies whose services didn’t meet our needs. To find merchant service companies you can search the web or check with other small businesses/crafters/artists to find out who they use.

Most merchant accounts will charge you a transaction fee plus percentage fee for each transaction your customer charges, all the other fees below change with each company.

By the time I had gotten through a half dozen or so calls, I created this list of important topics to ask about upfront:

  1. Sign Up/Start Up Fees–Fees to start up your account with their service.
  2. Annual/Monthly Fees–Fees for maintaining your account on an annual or monthly basis regardless of whether you process any transactions or not.
  3. Contract–Is there one? How long is it?
  4. Cancellation Fee–Fees to close your account, or for canceling a contract early.
  5. Monthly Statement Fees–Fees for receiving paper or electronic monthly statements of your transactions.
  6. Monthly Minimums–If you don’t have enough transactions to generate a certain amount in fees, they charge you that amount. (For example: some places will charge you $25 a month regardless of having no transactions that month, or if your fees to them from transactions with your customers only reach $10.00 or any other amount below their monthly minimum.)
  7. Credit Cards that You Will be Able To Accept–Discover, Master Card, Visa, Am Ex, debit cards with credit card logos, etc.
  8. Fees to Accept Other Cards–Often they quote MC/Visa rates, Am Ex, Discover or other cards are extra–like $50 to start accepting each other type of card.
  9. Per transaction Fee–Every transaction starts with a basic fee, like 35 cents per transaction.
  10. Percentage Fee–In addition to the transaction fee, they also charge you a percentage of the total the customer is charging to their credit card.
  11. Receiving Your Money Fee–Is there a fee?
  12. How You Get Your Money–Is it automatically sent to your bank account? If so, after how long? Do you need to ask to have your money sent to your bank account? Is there a limit as to how often you can request your funds be transferred?
  13. Chargeback/Disputed Charges Fee–If a customer disputes a charge, there are usually fees involved on the seller’s end.
  14. Charge to Call in Credit Cards for Approval–If you are at a show and call in the card for approval, will there be a charge?
  15. Credit Card Terminal Leases/Fees–Often the fees are more than $50.00 a month and there are fees for canceling the terminal lease in addition to canceling your merchant account.

I hope these topics will help you get on the right track to finding a merchant account provider that suits your business. Good luck!

Accepting Credit Cards Online: A Paypal Alternative

Go To Great Panes, Kathryn Maloney ©2008

We’ve been accepting credit card payments for sales through Paypal for years, but last year we decided to try Google Checkout:

Google Checkout
(affiliate link)

We’ve been very happy with their service, and really like how our money is automatically transferred to our bank account.

We don’t have to log in and tell them to send us our money, and instead of taking three to four days for it to show up in our account, it takes only two days.

The fees are lower than Paypal: 2% + $0.20 per transaction.
Update as of May 2009–the fees are now the same as Paypal:
2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.

Currently it’s only available to sellers in the US and UK, they are working on expanding, but it’s available to buyers in over 140 countries.

As of January 2008, these countries are able to pay using Google Checkout:

Antigua & Barbuda
Bosnia & Herzegovina
British Indian Ocean Territory
Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Costa Rica
Côte d’Ivoire
Czech Republic
Dominican Republic
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Faroe Islands
Hong Kong
Netherlands Antilles
New Zealand
Puerto RicoQatar
San Marino
Saudi Arabia
Serbia and Montenegro
South Africa
Sri Lanka
Trinidad & Tobago
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States
Vatican City
Virgin Islands, British

Need to send an email invoice
through Google Checkout?

See this post: Send a Google Checkout invoice