For many years, WordPress was the undisputed “gold standard” of content management systems (CMS). It was one of the only free CMS on the market and it offered everything you needed to create an excellent website from scratch. But is this still the case? Is WordPress worth using if you’re in the market for a new website? Or are there other alternatives to WordPress CMS worth exploring?
A brief history of WordPress
The first version of WordPress was released in 2003. It was designed to be a relatively simple way for people to create their own websites, and it worked pretty well, considering the time period.
Over the years, it went through a number of changes, with WordPress 2.0 released in 2005, complete with an admin dashboard to make it easier for webmasters to manage their sites. In 2006, Automattic (founded by WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg) filed a trademark registration for WordPress, and in 2008, the admin interface was redesigned.
Throughout the 2010s, WordPress exploded in popularity, offering new tools and add-ons, expanding its collection of themes and templates, and ultimately making the user experience easier, and more beginner-friendly.
Today, it’s estimated that there are more than 455 million WordPress websites globally, representing about 37% of all websites.
Key features of WordPress CMS
So what’s the allure of WordPress? What has turned it into such a dominant force in the market of website builders?
As you’ll see when we get to the comparison section, WordPress offers many of the same features other CMS solutions offer.
Anyone, regardless of how much technical experience they have or how skilled they are at coding, can use the tool to quickly and easily put together a website.
Users are walked through a series of steps so that in the course of a few hours, you can go from having a simple idea to having a fully hosted, functional website.
These are some of the key features that make WordPress so popular:
- Professional themes. One of the greatest advantages of WordPress is that it offers tens of thousands of professional themes and templates you can use to make your website look professional. You can search for exactly the right theme for your industry and target audience, then customize that theme to be perfectly suited to your brand.
Because your options are practically limitless, there’s probably a theme that perfectly aligns with your vision.
This simplifies the website design process, allowing you to tap into professional designs that are already created. Many of these templates are totally free, and the paid templates aren’t super expensive, allowing even small business owners with tight budgets to get exactly what they need.
- WYSIWYG editing style. WordPress also benefits from its content management system (CMS) which relies on WYSIWYG (“what you see is what you get”) editing. As the name suggests, this style of web editor allows you to rely on basic user interactions, such as dragging and dropping, to create your website from scratch. You don’t need to understand how programming works, nor are you going to be digging into the backend code of your site. Instead, you’re going to reposition and redesign elements at your own discretion, and your completed website will look exactly the way you want it to look.
- Search engine optimization. The backend coding of WordPress websites is already optimized for search engines. This means that search engines like Google can readily crawl and index your site, maximizing your chances of appearing in search results when users search for terms relevant to your website. One thing to keep in mind here is that you’ll need a full SEO strategy if you want to rank higher and earn more organic traffic. WordPress doesn’t do all the work for you; it simply lays the foundation.
- Potential store upgrades. If you’re interested in building an online store, where you can sell your products and services to people directly, you can do that with WordPress. You’ll need the help of special add-ons to modify the structure of your site, but it’s still relatively easy even for a newcomer to accomplish.
- Plenty of add-ons. Speaking of add-ons, there are plenty of add-ons available for WordPress, since developers are constantly inventing new ones and distributing them. Each module has the potential to change the way your website works, giving you access to new designs, new functions and new user experience improvements when you manage the content on your own site.
- Alerts and metrics. WordPress also grants you access to metrics related to your website’s performance, so you can track how many people are visiting your website, how they’re behaving on your site and more. You’ll also get special alerts and notifications for specific interactions on your website, such as when people comment on your blog posts.
Of course, there are a few downsides that you’ll need to keep in mind.
- Paid upgrades (including hosting). Although WordPress is commonly touted as free, it’s not an all-inclusive package. For example, hosting is not included. If you want adequate hosting for your website, you’ll need a product like GoDaddy WordPress hosting. You’ll also need to pay for certain upgrades, such as access to certain templates, improving your security or including paid add-ons.
- Customization limitations. While you can customize your WordPress design to some extent, there are some hard limitations to what you can tinker with. You will be restricted on what you can edit based on your theme and your WordPress plan.
- The plugin bloat problem. Plugins and add-ons for WordPress can be extremely valuable, boosting the performance and capabilities of your site. But as you add more and more, they begin to reveal certain drawbacks. Namely, the speed and functionality of your site can decline due to plugin bloat.
- Security issues. WordPress offers some basic security for the websites you build using the platform, but it’s not the most robust offering. It may be in your best interest to seek third-party support for further security upgrades or choose a different platform if security is a major concern.
WordPress CMS alternatives: pros and cons
These days, there are dozens of alternatives to WordPress website builders you can use to build a site for free. Many of these alternatives have almost an identical set of features to WordPress, giving you access to thousands of templates, allowing you to edit your website without any coding experience and even offering enhancements in the form of plugins.
For the purposes of our comparison, we will be looking at a couple of the most popular CMS alternatives to WordPress. Because these platforms are so similar, we won’t be exploring all the things they have in common; Instead, we’re going to focus on distinguishing characteristics.
First, there’s Drupal, an open-source alternative with more than 1 million websites to call its own.
- Slightly harder to use. With Drupal, you’ll need at least some technical knowledge. Fans of the platform speak very highly of its features and capabilities, but there’s a steep learning curve. If you don’t have much experience building websites, you’re probably going to struggle to get going.
- Greater flexibility. For the most part, Drupal is more flexible than WordPress. There are more things you can customize, and fewer limitations on what you can accomplish with the platform.
- Higher security. In part because security is lacking with WordPress, Drupal wins the security battle. You’ll find much more robust security protections with this platform.
With more than 2.8 million websites, Joomla is another contender worth considering.
- Higher difficulty. The biggest drawback of Joomla is the higher difficulty involved. It’s a less intuitive platform than WordPress, so it’s going to take more time for you to learn how to use it and get started. It also pays to have some coding knowledge if you’re going to get involved here.
- Ample plugins. Whatever you’re looking to accomplish with a Joomla website, there’s a plugin that can help you do it. Joomla has one of the most robust selections of plugins of any platform on this list.
- Store flexibility. Thanks to the help of plugins and practically unlimited modification potential, Joomla makes it easy to build a functional online storefront.
Creating a website from scratch
Solutions like WordPress or other CMS platforms aren’t your only path to creating a website; they just happen to be one of the most popular and accessible options.
You can always hire a website design agency or a team of website designers and developers to help make your website a reality.
Here’s are the distinguishing characteristics you’ll need to keep in mind if you consider this option:
- Much more expensive. Designing and developing a website with the help of an agency is much more expensive than using a website builder. This should be obvious, considering many website builders are totally free.
- Technically complicated. Coding a website from scratch is much harder than relying on an existing template. If you’re doing the work yourself, you’re going to need to do a lot of studying to make your efforts a success. If you’re working with an agency, and your project is complicated, expect a few hurdles along the way.
- Unlimited flexibility. The big advantage here is that you have truly unlimited flexibility. You’re not going to be limited by drag and drop editors or pre-existing templates; instead, if you can dream it, you can make it.
- Direct control. Some entrepreneurs like the idea of creating a website from scratch because they get more direct control over the process. Instead of choosing from a limited range of pre-made options, you can build everything from the ground up.
Sometimes, it’s obvious that a website was built using a pre-existing template. That’s because it looks like every other website. If you want to stand out with an original design that breaks away from oversaturated templates, designing from scratch is a practical requirement.
So what’s the bottom line here?
In some ways, WordPress still is the ”gold standard” for website builders. It’s by far the most popular website builder, it has everything you need to build a website (even if you have no technical knowledge), it’s free (or inexpensive), and it keeps adding new features and new plugins.
But even with that in mind, you should know that there are plenty of alternative options, each with its own collection of unique strengths and weaknesses. Before making any decisions, it’s a good idea to evaluate your own goals, including your budget, your technical skill and the functional needs of your website.
Once you understand your priorities better, it should be much easier to choose the correct platform for your website building needs.
How to Find the Right Business Coach — and Avoid the Wrong One
At its best, business coaching can connect you with a mentor and supporter who helps you generate ideas, make plans and execute on them.
But at its worst, a business coaching offer can cost you time, energy and money — without much to show for it.
Here’s what to expect from a business coach, how to find a coach that suits you and how to spot red flags.
What a business coach can do
Business coaches draw on their professional experience to help you set and achieve your own business goals.
“I’m here to help you, and I’m here to raise your level of knowledge in whatever way I can,” says Gary Robinson, who chairs the Memphis, Tennessee, chapter of SCORE. SCORE offers free business mentoring for entrepreneurs nationwide.
Some ways a business coach or mentor might do this include:
Offering feedback on your ideas and suggesting new ones.
Giving you templates and other tools that help you make plans.
Connecting you with resources in your region or your industry.
Giving you deadlines and holding you accountable to them.
Some business coaches may also offer coursework or group training sessions on particular topics, like sales.
Working with a coach should help you identify opportunities you hadn’t seen before or develop new strategies for pursuing those opportunities, says Sophia Sunwoo, who coaches women and nonbinary entrepreneurs through Ascent Strategy, her New York City-based firm.
“[Coaches] don’t necessarily have to have all the answers,” Sunwoo says. “But they are the people that know how to maneuver and create a bunch of different thinking paths for their clients.”
What a business coach can’t do
A business coach isn’t the same as a consultant, whom you would hire to perform a specific task. A coach or mentor could look over your business plan, for example, but they wouldn’t write it for you.
“If you were to hire me as a consultant, you would expect me to roll up my sleeves and pitch in and work with you to get things done, and you would pay me for that,” Robinson says. Coaches, on the other hand, “try to show you how to do things so that you can do them [yourself].”
Business coaches are also not therapists, Sunwoo says. Entrepreneurship can be emotionally and mentally taxing, but it’s important that coaches refer clients to mental health professionals when necessary.
Business coaching red flags
If a business coaching opportunity “promises guaranteed income, large returns, or a ‘proven system,’ it’s likely a scam,” the Federal Trade Commission warned in a December 2020 notice.
In 2018, the FTC took legal action against My Online Business Education and Digital Altitude, which purported to help entrepreneurs start online businesses. The FTC alleged these companies charged participants more and more money to work through their programs, with few customers earning the promised returns.
In both cases, these operations paid settlements, and the FTC issued refunds to tens of thousands of their customers in 2021 and 2022.
To avoid offers like these, the FTC recommends that you:
Be wary of anyone who tries to upsell you right away or pressures you to make a quick decision.
Search for reviews of the person or organization online.
Research your coach’s background to see if they’ve accomplished as much as they say.
Sunwoo says to also be skeptical of one-size-fits-all solutions. A coach should customize their advice to your personality and skill set, not ask you to conform to theirs.
“The moment that a business coach pushes you to do something that is really not compatible with your personality or your beliefs or values,” Sunwoo says, “that’s a huge problem.”
How to find the right coach — maybe for free
Here’s how to find a coach that will be as helpful as possible.
Determine whether you need advice or to hire someone. A coach isn’t the right fit for every business owner. If you need hands-on help organizing your business finances, for instance, you may need a bookkeeping service or accountant. And take legal questions to an attorney.
Seek out the right expertise. A good coach should be aware of what they don’t know. If they’re not a good fit for your needs — whether that’s expertise in a particular industry or a specialized skill set, like marketing — they might be able to refer you to someone who’s a better fit.
Consider free options. There may be some in your city or region:
SCORE offers free in-person and virtual mentoring in all 50 states, plus Guam, Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.
See if your city has a Small Business Development Center, Veterans Business Outreach Center or a Women’s Business Center. All are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and offer free training and advising for entrepreneurs.
Do an online search for city- or state-specific programs. Philadelphia, for example, offers a business coaching program designed for entrepreneurs who want to qualify for particular business loan programs. Business incubators often offer courses or coaching.
Make sure your coach is invested in you. They should take the time to learn about you, your business and its unique needs, then leverage their own experiences and creativity to help you.
“I’m on your team now,” Robinson says of his clients. “Let’s do this together and make this a success.”
Are There SBA Loans for the Self-Employed?
Many of the same SBA loans are available to both self-employed people and more formally structured businesses, such as limited liability companies and corporations. However, self-employed individuals, like sole proprietors and independent contractors, might face a higher barrier to entry for having limited credit history, inconsistent revenue or no collateral. If they can’t qualify for an SBA loan, other business financing options are available.
Who qualifies as self-employed?
Sole proprietors, independent contractors and partnerships all fall under the self-employed category. In these cases, there is no legal distinction between the business owner and the business itself. Sole proprietors, for example, are solely responsible for their business’s gains and losses, while LLCs and corporations are legally distinct from their owners. This distinction helps protect the owners’ personal assets if their business runs into legal or financial issues.
Are self-employed SBA loans hard to get?
While a sole proprietorship is much easier to set up than an LLC or corporation, lenders may be more hesitant to finance them for a few reasons:
Self-employed business owners are legally responsible, as individuals, for any debt and liabilities that their businesses take on. If someone sues their business, for instance, their personal assets — not just their business — could be at stake. This makes it riskier for lenders to finance them.
Sole proprietorships and independent contracting businesses may have lower revenue or less collateral to offer since they’re often a business of one. This could make it more difficult for them to prove that they can pay back the loan, plus interest. And it may require more paperwork.
Some banks set lending minimums that surpass what a self-employed business owner is looking for, either because the business owner doesn’t need that much funding or doesn’t qualify for it.
Since there is no legal distinction between the self-employed business owner and their business, they may lack business credit history. To establish business credit, you’ll want to register the business, obtain an employer identification number and open a separate business bank account and credit card to keep your business and personal finances separate.
SBA loans for the self-employed
SBA microloan: Best for small loans and more lenient requirements
Applying for an SBA microloan is a great option for self-employed business owners, especially if they’ve been turned down by traditional banks and don’t need more than $50,000 in funding. In fact, the average SBA microloan is around $13,000, according to the SBA. SBA microloans are administered by nonprofit, community-based organizations that can also help train applicants in business practices and management. And because the loans are small, the application process may be easier — applicants may have limited credit history and typically don’t need as high of a credit score as they do for an SBA 7(a) loan.
SBA 7(a) small loan: May not require collateral
Funds from the SBA’s most popular 7(a) lending program can be used for a variety of business-related purposes, such as working capital or purchasing equipment. While the maximum SBA 7(a) loan amount is $5 million, SBA 7(a) small loan amounts don’t exceed $350,000. And if the 7(a) small loan is for $25,000 or less, the SBA doesn’t require lenders to take collateral.
SBA Express loan: Best for quicker application process
SBA Express loans are a type of 7(a) loan for businesses that need quick financing and no more than $500,000. The SBA responds to these loan applications within 36 hours as opposed to the standard five to 10 days, which may speed up the process for borrowers working with non-SBA-delegated lenders. Additionally, borrowers might not have to fill out as much paperwork — the SBA only requires Form 1919. Beyond that, lenders use their own forms and procedures.
SBA loan alternatives
Self-employed business owners turned down for SBA or traditional bank loans may be able to qualify for financing with an online lender. These lenders offer options such as term loans and lines of credit, and they often process applications faster and have more lenient requirements. However, applicants should expect to pay significantly more in interest than they would with an SBA loan.
Business credit cards
Not only can business credit cards help build your business credit history and pay for everyday business purchases, but they can also help finance larger purchases (within your approved credit limit). And if you qualify for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer, you’ll have multiple months to pay off the balance interest-free. Just make sure you’re able to pay off your purchase before the intro offer ends and a variable APR sets in.
9 Best Factoring Companies for Trucking
Factoring companies for trucking, also called freight factoring companies, give trucking companies cash in exchange for outstanding invoices. They can be helpful to trucking companies that need working capital quickly or don’t have the staff to manage invoicing and collections, but be cautious about potentially unclear costs and contracts.
Here are our picks for freight factoring companies, as well as additional information to help you decide whether this kind of small-business loan is right for your business.
Best trucking factoring companies for funding speed
These factoring companies for trucking offer some of the fastest funding times.
Time to funding: Minutes via its proprietary Blynk payment service; otherwise, same-day and next-day funding.
Good to know: Company factors freight invoices on nights, weekends and holidays. Its proprietary Blynk payment service, launched in 2020, allows customers to get paid via debit, Zelle or bank transfer. Apex specializes in small and midsize trucking companies.
Headquarters: Fort Worth, Texas.
Time to funding: One hour during the week.
Good to know: Company’s mobile app allows customers to submit invoices to be paid right from a smartphone. TAFS is a recourse-only factoring company, meaning that if the customer ultimately doesn’t pay your invoice, you pay the factoring company. In other words, you bear the risk of nonpayment. TAFS does factoring in several other industries too.
Headquarters: Olathe, Kansas.
Time to funding: Within 24 hours.
Good to know: Offers discounts to veterans. Also does factoring in distribution, staffing, oilfield, textiles and manufacturing industries. The company’s RTS Pro Factoring app lets customers upload invoices, submit invoices in bundles, use the camera to scan invoices and access reports. It also helps find fuel, tire and maintenance discounts.
Headquarters: Overland Park, Kansas.
Time to funding: The same day you deliver your load.
Good to know: TBS offers a program in which you can finance 50% of your truck insurance down payment through eight weekly payments from your factored invoices. The company also offers bookkeeping services.
Headquarters: Oklahoma City.
Best for trying freight factoring for free
These factoring companies for trucking offer customers a chance to use the service before fully committing.
Time to funding: First funding takes up to 48 hours but subsequent invoices process faster.
Good to know: Customers get an automatic, preapproved line of credit of up to $2,500 per truck. Transferring money from eCapital to your bank account is $10. The company also offers a 90-day free trial. Fees start at 2%.
Headquarters: Aventura, Florida.
Time to funding: Typically within 24 hours.
Good to know: Company says a $1,000 invoice will likely cost $25 to $40 (2.5% to 4%) in factoring fees. It also waives the factoring fees for your first invoice as sort of a free trial.
Headquarters: Carlsbad, California.
Best for upfront factoring pricing
Few factoring companies for trucking disclose their prices. These companies offer at least a peek.
Time to funding: Within 24 hours.
Good to know: Company does recourse and nonrecourse factoring. OTR Capital says it funds 96% of the invoice value, implying a 4% fee.
Headquarters: Roswell, Georgia.
Porter Freight Funding
Time to funding: Within 24 hours and sometimes sooner.
Good to know: Discounts available if you sign a six-month or one-year contract. Recourse factoring fees start at 3%.
Headquarters: Birmingham, Alabama.
Time to funding: Same day.
Good to know: Fees start at 2%. Works with startups and trucking companies with one to 100 trucks. No mobile app available.
Headquarters: Weatherford, Texas.
What is freight factoring?
Freight factoring is a process in which a factoring company buys your invoices at a discount and collects payment from the customers on those invoices. The arrangement creates a source of fast cash for the trucking company.
There are two types of factoring companies for trucking:
Recourse factors. If the customer ultimately doesn’t pay the invoice, the trucking company pays the factoring company. The trucking company bears the risk of nonpayment.
Nonrecourse factors. If the customer ultimately doesn’t pay the invoice, the trucking company doesn’t have to pay the invoice. The factoring company bears the risk of nonpayment, which is why nonrecourse factoring typically costs more than recourse factoring.
Do I need a factoring company for trucking?
A factoring company for trucking can be a source of quick cash, which could come in handy if a trucking company is having trouble making payroll or paying other bills, or if it doesn’t want to take out a loan or other financing. In addition, companies that don’t have the time or staff to deal with collecting money from customers might find factoring attractive.
Flexible — factor only what you need when you need it.
Credit score doesn’t matter.
May cost more than bank financing.
Company may come after trucking company if customers don’t pay.
How much do factoring companies charge?
Trucking factoring companies buy accounts receivable at a discount, meaning that trucking companies selling invoices won’t receive the full value of those invoices. The size of that discount is one of the key factors to consider when choosing a factoring company for trucking.
However, it’s rare to get an upfront price from factoring companies because they typically base their discount rates on a variety of factors:
Whether you want recourse or nonrecourse factoring.
Who your customers are.
The volume of the invoices.
Whether you want to pay a flat factoring fee (the same percentage fee for every invoice) or a tiered factoring rate (a lower fee on invoices that pay quickly and a higher fee on invoices that pay more slowly).
Whether the company also charges invoice submission fees or invoice processing fees.
For these reasons, it’s important to review the contract terms of any factoring agreement and make sure you understand the costs before you sign up.
Alternatives to freight factoring
Freight factoring is just one way to borrow money quickly. These other options might be viable alternatives for your trucking business.
Business credit cards
Borrowing money using a credit card gives you the opportunity to keep 100% of what your customers pay you. Credit cards can carry various rewards, such as travel miles or cash back, and a business gas credit card may make sense for a trucking company. But be sure you can pay your credit card balances off in full, because the interest charges may be higher than what you’d pay in factoring fees.
Business line of credit
If you need access to ongoing working capital, drawing from a business line of credit might be cheaper than factoring to cover short-term costs. You’ll likely have a higher spending limit with a line of credit than with a business credit card, but there may also be higher qualification hurdles to jump in terms of credit score and financial performance.
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