New Business Expectations vs Reality

What can a new business owner expect?

How did you expect things to be when you started your new business? Did you expect it to be effortless, fun, empowering? Was failure part of the plan? What about clients who don’t want to pay? Every person who starts a new business, has an idea in their head about their future work life and how it is going to be. Unfortunately, the expectation does not often meet the reality.

Here are some of the expectations that a new business may have and the reality behind them:

Expectation 1 – Clients will beat a path to your door

Stop the world – my new business has arrived! I offer such an amazing service that clients will be falling over themselves to hire my services! The phone will be ringing, the email will be filling up and my bank account will be growing fat.

Reality: Most new businesses rely on friends and family to begin with. Unless you are excellent with Facebook marketing, you will find likes, shares and follows difficult to come by and there will be long periods of boredom, followed by (hopefully) frantic rushes where everyone arrives at once!

What to do: Market yourself constantly. Build a profile on Linked-In, set up a Facebook page, build Twitter and Instagram accounts. Reach out to past colleagues, contacts, anyone who might have an interest in what you do. Decide on a strategy that you will actually feel confident carrying out and get on it. Paid advertising can work, but it can also be a black hole for your money, so should be approached with care and preferably with sound advice.

Expectation 2 – Clients will always pay on time

You always pay your bills on time – so why doesn’t everyone else!

Reality: Sadly it is not uncommon for large companies to postpone bill-paying for up to 3 months! How can you keep your cashflow going?

What to do: The answer to this is in your initial communications with a client. When it comes to buying a product, most people expect to pay before the product is shipped. Buying services is a little different, and it can seem as though you don’t want to raise the delicate subject of money. However, the client expects to pay you and you expect to get paid. In order to ensure that you are paid in a timely fashion, the best thing to do is to expect clients to sign a contract with you before starting work. This way, you can state how quickly after delivery of the product that you expect to get paid and the client understands it too. I f the client pushes back and says that this is not possible, then you can either negotiate or walk away.

Expectation 3 – Your website will fly to the top of Google in no time

Such a well put-together website will surely be recognised by the search engine for the artistic masterpiece it is!

Reality: Search engines work off a series of algorithms in order to rank non-paying websites in response to a search request. This means that you need to ensure that your website follows all the principles of good SEO.

What to do: Keep adding fresh content and optimise that content for SEO or search engine optimisation This means making sure that your blog posts are written with good SEO principles in mind. If your website is on WordPress, there are some good SEO plugins out there which will help you manage the SEO. Length of time helps too.

Expectation 4 – Clients will always love the work you do

Reality: Unfortunately not all clients are able to explain or even know what it is they really want. Some business owners are left to give it their best guess.

What to do: Find ways to pin down what it is your client wants before starting work. You can use a questionnaire, a telephone conversation, ask for examples of other websites that they admire – all these things can help them to explain to you what they want. This is not a guarantee that you will get it right first time, but it can help. Also always emphasise that the first piece of work you turn ij, can be raft which can be changed.

Expectation 5 You will always have polite customers

Reality: Unfortunately not!

What to do: Keep your cool. Working for someone in your own business does not give them the right to abuse you or get angry with you. Stay calm but don’t take any rubbish from them. If they regularly get rude or abusive then it is best to end the relationship. As a business owner, you do not have to experience that kind of thing.

Business owners, how did you negotiate your expectations over the reality of your experiences? Comment below.

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Should you use Free Business Search Engines for your Small Business

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 4

There are lots of free business search engines around. Many have been going for years. They often offer a basic free listing, which can offer improved visibility if you decide to pay for their service. How do you know if their paid-for service is any good and how can you make your free listing worth taking the time to do?

 

 

 

 

 

Adding yourself to free business search listings seems a no-brainer on the surface. You can usually put in contact details and a few details about what you do, for the the princely sum of time. The websites will usually try and upsell you to a paid listing, but it is up to you to decide whether it is worth it. Check out the paid listings – do they get enough for their money? Fill in as many details as you can and make sure that you include things such as a photo, your website and social media details.

Many of these websites bring new entries to the fore after paid-for accounts. It can therefore pay to go back every couple of weeks and amend the free listing, to see if it brings you back to the top of the list.

Here are a few that I have used: (Disclaimer – there are no affiliates in this post – just my opinions!)

FreeIndex

Pros:

Able to search for keywords in an A-Z list.

You can set up an email alert when the website receives quote requests for something that is similar to your business

The website has a fresh, clean design with colour pictures and is easy to navigate.

You can search, using a number of terms

The website gives you an author image, key services for search terms and the chance to write a description of your business.

Customers can also leave reviews and the latest reviews are shown on the landing page

Premium or paid listing enables you to be listed above non-premium members with a super-highlighted listing, an extended search radius and more keyword tags. You also get alerts before non-premium members and the ability to upload more photos and videos and they also stop advertising nearby businesses which offer the same services on the same page.

Cons:

The free listing does advertise nearby businesses that offer the same service lower down the page

You really need reviews to keep the momentum going, but it does say when the page was last updated, so keep updating it.

My opinion:

I have had 1 client through this page – but he never left me a review, so my reviews are 0. I don’t get many leads from it either. At the moment I maintain the profile, but is it worth it?

Might be worth trying for a new business, or if you’re offering a popular business that people are looking for like leaflet drops.

Google My Business

Pros:

Works well with a Gmail account

Able to post blogs

You get statistics from the posting each month, which say how many visitors you had and the bounce rate

Google is a pretty big search engine

Cons:

Can’t think of any really, except I have not had clients through it yet.

UK Business Forums

More of a forum than a listing, but it is still very active. You are welcome to browse for free and even ask questions, but there are areas that are members-only for a fee.

Pros:

All kinds of businesses are covered here and whatever your question is, you are bound to find it answered.

Newbies can ask questions and have them answered

They have regional forums for different areas of the UK

They include social enterprise in the forums

It’s current and still well-used

Cons:

The Marketplace where jobs are posted is for paid members only

Have you found any free business listing websites that have been good for your business? Please share below.

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#Hours on Twitter – a great way to get known for Business Owners?

30 Day Blogging Challenge – Day 2

#Hours on Twitter can be a great way to meet with other business owners in your local area and other business owners who are not necessarily in your line of business but who might be local to you.

 

 

 

 

 

The process works through adding a hashtag to your tweet that enables the #hour to pick it up and retweet it to its followers.

Sounds complicated? Not once you get the hang of it.

Continue reading #Hours on Twitter – a great way to get known for Business Owners?

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How to Invoice as a Beginning Business Owner

30 Day Blogging Challenge

Day 1

As a beginning business owner, one of the most important things to get over is your delicacy around money. If your business is to survive, it is important that you get paid.Some businesses start out with accounting software, and invoicing can be a part of that – set up a template, push a button and the invoice is automatically sent. However, when you do not have fancy software, but just your own laptop and a spreadsheet, what then?

 

 

 

 

 

I need to say at the outset, that I am not an accountant and that I am not able to offer tax advice. All I can do is walk you through what I have done as a sole trader and freelance business owner. Continue reading How to Invoice as a Beginning Business Owner

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What systems does a beginning freelance business owner need?

Setting up as a freelance business owner can be quite exhilarating – that rush of being your own boss and working as much or as little as you like, however there are some things that you will need to get organised. There is no one else to do it, it’s just you. What kind of systems will you need to get your freelance business up and running?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

Billable hours

Work out how many hours a week you wish to work. Fit them in-between the school run, walking the dog, unloading the dishwasher – stop! By all means get jobs done as well, but the most important thing is making sure that you have some hours that you can use to get work done. You can organise yourself as you wish. If you work best waking up very early in the morning and stopping work at midday, then do that. If you prefer to sleep late and work into the evening, that is fine too. Your work schedule is your responsibility and as long as you can get your work done, then nobody is going to worry about the hours you keep.

Marketing hours

You will need to set aside some time for sending out queries, pitch for work, sending out your CV and all the other things that need to be done. You may wish to network at an expo or go to a business festival, but know where you can start to find clients.

Time off

Nobody can work for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Do set aside some time that is untouchable, the equivalent of a weekend. When the time is, depends on the work you are doing. Working with overseas clients may mean unsociable hours for the country where you live. Just make sure that you plan some time so that you can recharge your batteries.

Invoices

Know in advance what you need to charge in order to pay your bills. It is up to you to negotiate a wage that you can live with. I will cover this in more detail in another blog post, but for now, you need to set up an invoicing system so that you can get paid.

Decide how you can accept payment. This may mean by Paypal, direct bank transfer or some other means. Invoices are legally required to have certain information on them and it is worth checking out what is needed for your country. At the very least, you should have your contact information, the client’s contact information, the work done and the price. You should also explain how you are to be paid and how long the client has to pay.

Some word processors offer an invoice template which you can customise for yourself and fill in. I would suggest saving a template for each client, so that you can quickly send the next invoice. I set up a code for each client, for example Joe Bloggs would be JB01 – the first invoice for Joe Bloggs, the second one would be JB02 and so on.

There are some great accounting packages out there and some freelance business owners might just prefer to set up some software to help them. It’s a great option, if you can afford it, but for people starting out, you can begin with a spreadsheet.

Contacts

Freelance business owners need contacts. Keep a spreadsheet of all contacts made and the date made. Part of freelancing is meeting people and keeping contact with them. If you can keep a list of people and when contact was last made, it can help you make sure that no one gets lost. You can keep different lists of contacts for different subjects.

Marketing contacts

You might like to keep a separate list of marketing contacts – people who may be interested in your services or business but have not bought from you yet. Again, keep dates and a note of when you were last in contact.

Email list

Starting an email list is one of the most important things you can do as a small business owner. It enables you to keep in contact with people who have already bought from you and might again. Don’t just use it to sell, but offer interesting news items, networking events and industry news. Keep it simple but interesting and always include an opt-out. Also make sure that you understand and conform to GDPR guidelines.

Tax

Register your business for tax purposes and understand how many times a year you will need to put in your accounts. Finance software may produce your tax return for you, but if you are using a spreadsheet, you will need to put in your own return. When things start to take off, it may be wise to engage the services of an accountant to help make sure that your tax affairs are in order.

Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar helps you put together a list of subjects for your blog or for other companies. It’s good to keep a list of ideas for blog posts. You can keep website urls for reference and date when the blog post was published. It means that you should always have a steady stream of ideas for what to write next. It is also worth keeping a list of content that you publish and the urls so that you can promote them easily.

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How to start using Twitter as a Freelance Writer

One of the main things about becoming a freelance writer is the need to network and connect with other writers and clients. How successful you are in connecting with people is partly dependant on getting to grips with social media and learning to use it to your advantage. Here are some tips on getting the most out of your social interactions.

Do you use Twitter?

Do you use Twitter personally? What is your attitude to meeting people through social media. It is easy to be wary and restrict interactions with friends when it comes to our own personal accounts, but the whole reason for using social media for our business means that we need to reach out to others that we will not necessarily know. You may need to change your mindset in order to use social media effectively.

Where do your clients hang out?

I can remember attending an interview for a builders’ merchants who were looking for a social media person to build up their Twitter accounts. I didn’t get this job, but I still wonder whether builders actually have time to hang out on Twitter and pick up their offers. Most businesses these days offer email, many send out newsletters and have a website, usually developed by a third party, but Twitter and Facebook are very personal choices that not everyone wants to use. Check whether potential clients that you want to contact are choosing to use the method of social media that you are planning to use.

Where do you begin?

Choose a username that reflects your business. All the social media make it very easy to set up an account and the hardest thing can sometimes be finding the right name that has not already been taken.

Set a profile picture and a cover picture too. Most social media accounts also give you the option to reach out to people from your contacts list, so that you have a ready-made list to start connecting with. It is best to set up your profile as fully as you can.

Write your first post and publish.

Check in with your account regularly and monitor the activity. There are tools available to help schedule posts to help save time, depending on the form of social media.

What to post?

Social media is great for promoting your blog posts, website, offers and promotions, or just for sharing an article that you found useful or news. Decide how often you want to post. Posts should never just be self-serving promotions but full of useful information for others. Keep in mind the people that you want to reach and what they might be interested in reading about, or the knowledge that they might like to acquire. When you post, include a link and an image if possible.

You can also share videos, podcasts and infographics. You can curate news to post, writing the headlines in your own words and including a link. This can be a useful way of posting more often. Keep it relevant to your business and make it useful to your clients.

Social interaction

The most important part of social media is the social bit! Each form of social media has its own way of interacting. Twitter allows likes, replies and retweets. Retweeting other people’s tweets is a good way to begin your interactions. Follow people and their tweets will show on your feed. Look for people and companies that align with the people you are trying to reach. Thank people for following you and use hashtags.

Hashtags enable your posts to be found by interested parties. The most popular hashtags will appear when you start to type a word after a hashtag. Choosing one of the more popular ones will help people find you. Post regularly and follow up when people try to contact you. Some companies set up automatic replies to people who follow them, to let them know that it is appreciated. This can be a good idea, but make it a thank you and possibly a freebie that you offer rather than a hard sell.

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Five Ways to Refresh a Stale Home Business

English: Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serra...
English: Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serrata 日本語: 枯葉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes you just have to start again. Every autumn feels like a new beginning as the summer comes to an end, the leaves begin to turn multi-coloured and the kids go back to school. If you are a home business owner, your time is your own again and you can breathe and think.

  1. Check the State of Your Business

Are you where you want to be? Are you managing clients, marketing for work and extending your network or does your business feel stale, stagnant and underachieving? It is time to take a good look at your business and see what is working and where processes can be improved. Decide if there are any training courses you could take, online reading that you would like to do or further services that you could offer. There is still time to significantly improve your bottom line during this financial year.

  1. Take a Look at Your Website

It may have been a while since you updated your blog or added some new content. Check out your pages – are they current or do they need some updating? Take some time to think through the purpose of your website and whether it is achieving that purpose. What kind of traffic are you hoping to attract through your website? Check the stats to see whether that is what your website is achieving. Take some advice, read some articles or employ an SEO expert if your website needs some work. Your website is the first contact that many clients may have with you, so make sure that the experience is a positive one.

  1. Reach out to Old Clients

Target your old clients with new offers. Put together a package specifically for each client. If you are offering further services, then let them know. Ask if they know anyone who is hiring in your line of work at the moment. Referrals can be a great way of getting more work. Reaching out to old clients can be a great way of generating more work.

  1. Research some new clients

Search for some potential clients to approach if you have a service business. List the benefits that you could bring to their business if they choose to hire you. Create some new marketing materials, reprint your business card and update your look to reflect a modern, up-to-date business.

  1. Go to a Network Event

Take some of your new marketing materials and meet people. It gets you out of the office and into the community and may inspire you to try new markets. You may get some sales, but you will definitely get some new contacts and this is a great start to rejuvenating your business. Networking is a great way to pick up new tips for your business and it can be encouraging to meet fellow business owners and exchange experiences. This business review can be done at any time of the year and should be done regularly. It can be easy to let the business just carry itself along without any real purpose or direction. By analysing where you are and where you would like to be, you can halt the lack of direction and begin to build a healthier business. _

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Book Review: Engagement from Scratch by Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing

Engagement from Scratch

Imagine sitting in a room with lots of successful bloggers. Your tiny little blog is small and insignificant to theirs – why would they want to take notice of you? And yet – something wonderful happens! Those successful bloggers begin talking about what they would do if they were to start up a blog again with the knowledge that they now have. They share their successes and failures, their best blog posts and how to engage a blog audience from scratch.

Buying this book is like sitting in that room. The book is divided up into sections: General Principles, Know and Love Your Audience, Why and How to Do Content, Why and How to Do Social Media, Be Your Passionate Self, Stories and Lessons Learned and finally Step by Step which asks successful bloggers to offer steps to building a successful blog.

There are not just one or two successful bloggers here, there are many and all of them have something interesting to say to the would-be blogger. I think the book’s strength is that it talks to so many people and includes many different ways to build a successful blog. The over-riding theme however is that it is important to care for your readers. Offer them valuable information and engage and respond with readers. Essentially a blog is nothing if it is not read by anyone.

Danny Iny from Firepole Marketing has put together the book. Some digital copies have been given away for free and if you are lucky enough to get one of these then you have something very valuable there. This book is worth paying for because you will refer to it again and again. It’s a great read.

I am not affiliated with Firepole Marketing in any way. I am reviewing this book as a helpful resource for bloggers.

The book can currently be downloaded for free from Firepole Marketing

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Five Things to Keep in Mind when Composing a Guest Blog Title

With visitors taking even less time than usual to stop by a new website and look around, it is really important to offer a great title when writing a guest blog. You can have written the most informative article in the world but if the title does not instantly grab a reader, then there will not be many people willing to read on. The title has to be worth their while.

Here is The Creative Writer’s guide to writing a great guest blog title:

1. Make sure the title reflects the article content accurately. Try and be too clever and you might leave a reader puzzled as to how the title fitted in with the rest of the article. An article on the ‘Five best Toddler Drink Cups’ is expected to have something on drink cups in there somewhere.

2. Make sure the language is suitable for the audience that you want to attract. A title aimed at a teenage audience is very different from one aimed at the small business owner market. You want your blog post to be authoritative and to offer information that your readers need. You should therefore choose your language carefully.

3. Puns are out! Well, ok probably not out completely, but a bad pun can put people off reading an article. Puns are plays on words that make you groan rather than laugh. People who are groaning may not read on.

4. Don’t be too clever if you play on words. It is easy to get carried away by your own brilliance and leave your audience puzzled. Some plays on words work, others should be cut in the edit.

5. You won’t always get the perfect title straight away. Sometimes you need to work on it a little. Using numbers can help – ‘Five Ways to-‘ or ‘Ten Perfect Blog Titles’ but it’s not always essential. It is more important that your title reflects your article and that it will encourage visitors to your site to read on.

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based freelance writer who offers guest blogs as part of her services. To discuss your blog requirements either use the contact form or email sarahthecreativewriter(at) gmail.com.

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Why Have a Guest Blog?

website ideas
website ideas (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Guest blog posts are becoming more popular as the demand for website content grows. Introducing a blog to your website can help increase your traffic and bring more customers to your business, but maintaining a blog can be hard work. It can be difficult to constantly think of fresh ideas and easy to put off writing your blog until the last minute. One solution to this problem is to have a guest post.

There are two types of guest posting: one where people get in touch with you and offer to post. This is usually the case with a very popular website such as Copyblogger which is big in its own right. My comments on posts on Copyblogger rank higher in the search engines than my own website. If you are getting offers of guest posts, then my guess is that you have a highly ranked website in a popular topic.

More usually you might offer to swap blog posts with a friend in a similar field. You exchange like for like in return for links that might bring more traffic to your website. If you don’t have anyone that you think would offer suitable links, then there is a Blogger Link Up newsletter where you can post your guest blog requirements and see if there are any you could offer.

Then there is paid blogging where you hire someone to blog for you, usually if you really aren’t finding the time to write and keep your blog up to date.

Paying a blogger to write guest posts for your websites will give you a ready supply of blog posts to keep your website updated. A professional writer does this for a living: they are able to write new and engaging content that your readers can identify with. A good guest blogger will be able to write using a style similar to your own so that your readers feel that they are still getting the information from you, and of course, the final say over the content is yours. You need to feel that the post could have been written by you and that you can relate to the writing that you are posting.

A paid blogger is often writing in your name. Yours’ is the byline – they just happen to have written the words. It is happening more and more and if writing isn’t your strength, then it might just be the solution you need.

Guest blogs offer a painless way of bringing fresh content to your website and keeping it updated. Whether you accept guest blogs in return for links or money, they can offer a fresh perspective, a new voice and further opportunities to link up with other small business owners and increase your social network.

Sarah Charmley is a UK-based blogger who offers interesting blog posts for your website. If you would like to discuss your guest posting requirements with her, then please use the contact form or email sarahthecreativewriter(at) gmail.com.

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