From the January 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

How much should you pay a new marketing assistant? What's the going rate for a computer consultant? Quite often, small businesses take wild guesses when it comes to setting salaries for employees and fees for consultants. Now there's no longer an excuse for not knowing the current market rates for most jobs: The Web is packed with need-to-know data. Where can you find it? JobSmart (http://jobsmart.org/tools/salary) is a terrific starting point. From this site, there are links to more than 200 salary surveys on everything from jobs in the hospitality industry through retail, transportation and administrative support. Pinpointed, localized information is provided for some California markets (Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Diego), but there is also plenty of data on national pay scales. Before hiring another employee, check here to see whether your offer is miserly . . . or too generous.

Legal Ease

A quick call to a business lawyer can cost you more than $30 these days. Before picking up the phone, surf over to Legal Encyclopedia: Small Business, operated by Nolo Press (http://www.nolo.com), publisher of a wildly successful line of do-it-yourself legal guides. The site isn't comprehensive--many questions you might have won't be answered, but lots of basic topics are handled thoroughly and in the down-to-earth language Nolo Press is known for. Issues the site covers include: negotiating a business lease; legal issues that arise when you sell products or services to the public; borrowing money; and a look at the various types of business organizations, from limited liability companies to partnerships or sole proprietorships. This is the legal stuff you've got to know, and Nolo Press makes it easy to read all about it.

Say Uncle

Like it or not, if you're in business, you're involved with the U.S. government. The U.S. Business Advisor Web site (http://www.business.gov) provides one-stop shopping for entrepreneurs looking to minimize problems with the feds while optimizing potential gains for their businesses. From tips on how to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to a ZIP code finding tool and an employer's reference on requirements imposed by the Social Security Administration, The U.S. Business Advisor is loaded with well-selected links to the federal matters that interest small-business owners. A bonus is a link to Do Business with GSA, with tips on grabbing a slice of the billions of dollars in contracts handed out annually by the Government Services Administration. And the Angel Network offers a way for entrepreneurs with bright ideas to reach out to monied private investors and venture capitalists. This site puts you closer to most of the federal agencies that make a difference in your business life.

Back To Basics

If you're looking for an ingenious marketing idea that will take your business from the red to the black overnight, the Small Business Marketing Letter isn't for you--but probably nothing short of prayer is. Successful marketing is usually the result of consistently applying simple but powerful ideas, and this site (http://www.smallbizhelp.net/marketing.htm) serves up ample helpings of advice in that category. Recent newsletters have covered the how-tos of press releases and Web site promotion. One issue was devoted to maximizing customer awareness through the use of postcards, a tool that can bring in lots of customers. Get the details here--the reading is free.

Contact Sources

To contact Robert McGarvey, visit his Web site at http://members.aol.com/rjmcgarvey