SMB's Are Changing the Way They Do Business

At a time where technology is more affordable and practical than ever before, small business owners have jumped at the opportunity to mix up the way they do business. As the small business landscape continues to shift, owners have looked to these four areas in order to stay ahead of the curve:

1. Independent Contractors

As small businesses continue to grow at a faster pace than ever before, their hiring practices have begun to shift. Rather than hiring full-time employees, small businesses have begun to increasingly rely on independent contractors and part-time workers to take on the burdens of their workloads.

According to Rocket Lawyer's Semi-Annual Small Business Index, 46.8% of small businesses reported that they plan on hiring additional employees within the next six months. Moreover, 54.2% of those small businesses plan on hiring independent contractors - a 5.7% rise from the previous year.

The recent shift in hiring practices spans across generations. Millennials are hiring more part-time employees than any other generation (54.7%), while 56.6% of Generation X'ers are primarily hiring independent contractors.

Small businesses have started to recognize the benefits of using independent contractors. First, small business' labor costs tend to shrink with the use of independent contractors as companies can avoid the costs of employee benefits, insurance and employment taxes. Furthermore, businesses have greater flexibility in hiring and firing independent contractors.

Care must be taken, however, to ensure that the legal requirements for an independent contractor relationship are fully met or your business could face serious negative legal and financial repercussions. When in doubt, seek legal advice.

2. Going Mobile

New mobile payment systems, such as Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Square, have attempted to revolutionize the way small business owners do business by making it easier to complete transactions. Instead of accepting cash or credit cards, a small business can simply use their smartphone by utilizing apps for a simpler payment experience.

Although some believe that adopting mobile payment systems doesn't make sense for their business, 60% of small business owners say that they are ready to embrace the new technology. Of those willing to take on mobile payments, 68% believe it will simplify customer/business payment experience. Millennials are the most willing to adopt mobile payments (71%), although business owners of all ages agree that the technology will offer customers a simpler payment experience.

3. Increasing Online Presence

Small businesses cannot underestimate the value a strong online presence brings to their company, as it is now a cornerstone to building a successful business. Rocket Lawyer's Semi Annual Index found that 29% of small business owners indicate growing their online presence is their biggest concern.

Businesses have begun to hire employees who can develop breakthrough online marketing and branding campaigns to stand out from the crowd. Small businesses are hiring for marketing (27%) and sales (37%) positions more than any other field.

No matter what industry you're in, by advertising your business on the Internet, you have the opportunity to attract many new potential customers worldwide. Luckily, increasing your online presence isn't difficult to do.

First, create a website for your business with a domain name that makes it easy for customers to find your business by doing a quick internet search. Next, utilize relevant social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to promote your services. Hundreds of millions of people use these social media accounts every day, so channeling some of your advertising and communication efforts into these online platforms will likely help you build a following and retain customers.

4. Protecting IP: Trademarks and Patents

Protecting your intellectual property rights could be paramount to the success of your business. It's especially important if you're in an industry such as technology, where success means inventing and producing high-quality products before your competitor.

One of the biggest legal concerns small businesses had last year was their ability to protect their intellectual property by securing trademarks or patents.

A patent is a property right relating to an invention that is granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for a detailed public disclosure of that invention. A trademark is a word, phrase or symbol that distinguishes products or services of one party from those of others. If you're not sure what you need or how to get it, ask a lawyer for advice on what's best for your small business.

Lisa Honey is the Director of Product Marketing for Rocket Lawyer's Legal Documents business line. She left the traditional practice of law after seven years in commercial and civil litigation to join Rocket Lawyer. She's licensed in California, Texas and Arkansas.