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Set up Your Own Business When the Kids Go Back to School!

Posted on : 20-09-2013 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Picture: Autumn’s Leaves by Carsten Tolkmit. Licensed under Creative Commons.

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Well they looked smart on their first day at least! The house is quiet and their pyjamas have been left where they dropped them when they got dressed. The kids have just gone back to school.

What about you? What have you got planned for the week? Perhaps your little one has gone off to school for the first time, perhaps you already have a job, but you want something more flexible that will work around the children?

Many people decide to start off a new business because they feel it will be easier to fit around the children and childcare. Perhaps you bake brilliant cupcakes, you have wonderful craft and sewing skills or you are able to create websites and you wonder if your skill might transfer into a business that will enable you to be around for the children.

Build Your Own Business

It could be a great idea, but it is important to look into it properly and decide whether it truly is for you. Businesses, even small ones can mean a great deal of work and this will be in addition to all you do for your family. You will need your partner onside as he may have to help out more than usual, and money may be tight for a while as you put money back into the business.

If you are daunted by the thought of starting your own business, then I can understand that. It is scary. Things will go wrong and you will find some things harder than you think. However there are also some great rewards and there is nothing like the thrill of successfully landing a client who enjoys what you do.

Here are five tips to help you on your way to starting your own business:

1. Have a great idea

 Everyone has a dream job: something that they really feel that they could put their heart and soul into and make a success of. Often it can be linked to our hobbies or a skill that we feel we really excel at. Use the internet to find examples of people who are already using the skills that you have to make a business. Check out their websites, how they do things. Keep a notebook or folder on the computer and make a note of really attractive websites that would tempt you to look into hiring this person. Find things you like and things you don’t like, looking at the websites critically.

2. Check out the Competition

 If there are websites out there which already display your idea then there will be a market for it. The trick will be to decide who you need to market to and aim your marketing towards them. If for instance you bake great cupcakes, then start off talking to mums at school and offering to make birthday cakes. Take pictures of your creations and keep a folder of them which will serve as a portfolio later down the line. Marketing to people you know can be hard at first, but then so is running a business. Pluck up your courage and talk to your friends. They may be more encouraging than you thought. Talk to your partner about your ideas – he could also spread the word at work and help you find clients.

3. What Legal Information do You Need?

When you have your idea and you have some support and some evidence that your idea may work as a business, then you need to check out the legal side. What insurance might you need? Most home insurance policies require you to declare working from home, although some do now ask the question. Do you need any training? Making cakes in your own kitchen requires scrupulous cleanliness and the freshest ingredients. There are internet courses that you can pay for and take so that you have a certificate that will show you know how to use ingredients safely.

Find out about the tax laws in your country. Here in the UK, HMRC runs frequent courses for new businesses starting up so that they understand their obligations when it comes to self assessment. Keep good financial records, receipts and bills and if you need an accountant then find one. It is best to take a recommendation and there is always the possibility that you might find one at the school gate.

4. Set up a Website.

 If this is something that you are unsure of doing yourself then ask around – someone somewhere will know a budding web designer. Decide on a name for yourself and buy a domain name. There are companies that offer domain name searches and you can easily check what is available. You will need the name and somewhere to host it. The cost can be as little as £30 a year. Putting your website together may take a little time, but go back to the websites that impressed you at the beginning of your research and take the best bits of them. Choose a colour for your theme and take your web designer’s advice on what works.

5. Have some business cards made and start to give them out. Ask your friends to spread the word. Find new ways to advertise. You can set up a Facebook page for your friends to like and join Twitter. Link up to like-minded people but be yourself. Deciding to take the first step is always difficult and no matter how much work you put in there will be more to come!

How did you decide which business to start up? Let me know in the comments below.

 

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter who would love to help you make your dream a reality. For great web content contact sarahthecreativewriter[at]gmail.com.

Connect with Sarah on Twitter @SassieC43

 

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How to Keep Your Business from Failing

Posted on : 25-07-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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It’s a scary thought – you came into business, excited at a new idea, buzzing with the possibilities that lay ahead and laughing in the face of failure.

Six, twelve or eighteen months on, the realities have hit: you have experienced the ups and downs of running a business: you have got to grips with accounts, day to day expenses, marketing, invoicing and perhaps stock flow. You have discovered the bad bits of running a business.

Of course it’s not all bad: sometimes your invoices will flow, your customers will pay you on time and you can enjoy being a small business owner and think that all’s right with the world. It seems to be the case, however that business can be feast or famine: either everyone wants your services or no one wants your services. There seems to be no steady flow of work.

First of all, you need to keep a steady head. Take an honest look at your business. What are the good and bad points? Where are problems arising and how are you dealing with them? Check the invoices, check the cash flow and check the customers that you are talking to. Are you doing all you can to keep your customers happy?

Once you have taken stock of your business, then think through what you need to do to improve the bad points. Do you need to increase your marketing? Do you need to set time aside regularly to chase up invoices? Do you need someone else on board to take on the little tasks that are filling your day when you have more important needs to take care of?

Decide on up to three points of action, write them down, pin them to the noticeboard and put them on the calendar then act on them. Do what needs to be done to keep your business afloat. Take the action you need to take and get your business back on track.

It’s your business. Whether it succeeds or fails depends on you alone. You can choose to take the steps to improve it and move it to the next level, or you can choose to let it fail. Sometimes events happen that are beyond our control and in that situation things change and there may be little you can do. Where you have it in your power to instill a change for the better, then do it.

Your business may thank you for it.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader who can use her skills to improve your website and give it that professional touch. You can get in touch with her by using the form on this website.

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How to Ensure that Your Message is Understood

Posted on : 18-05-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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girl, writing

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This week I have an extra teenager in the house: a French exchange student. She has been here for one night and is obviously finding the whole situation very strange as she does not speak a lot of English. There is a lot of laughter, a lot of pointing and many mispronounced words and she has gone off to school this morning, no doubt looking forward to sharing her experiences with her friends in her own tongue, but it got me thinking. How often do we make sure that our message is coming across clearly and succinctly? Or is our message misunderstood?

Naomi Dunsford of Itty Biz wrote a blog post last autumn. She suggested that small business owners needed to ensure that their customers knew what they were selling and that it was important that they check that they get their message across. This led to a post on this very website where I made sure that I explicitly explained what my message is and what services I offer.

Check the Message of Your Website

It can be a bit difficult to examine your own website and promotional literature subjectively, so you might wish to enlist the help of trusted friends. Ask them to look over your work and check it through while considering the following questions:

What is the message of this writing?

Is it clear from the writing what is being sold?

Can you easily find which company is selling the product on the information and can you find their contact details?

Do you have any questions about the product or service that have not yet been answered?

The answers may surprise you. Use their responses to inform your work when you next redesign the leaflet or website. Add information, make sure that the contact details are clear and ensure that your message is coming across loud and clear.

Writing Emails

Just as important as your website and promotional literature is how you come across when writing professional communications. I had a message from a potential client recently. He had been contacted by several copywriters after he posted about a job on a forum. He had chosen to answer me because some of the communications he had received from other people had contained spelling and grammatical errors. If you are a copywriter, then your work must always be proof-read and checked thoroughly. Even I let errors go occasionally, but I do my best to ensure that the work is as perfect as possible.

Emails can seem impersonal, brusque or even rude! If you have a tendency to write short emails, then it is best to have someone to check over them that you have got the tone right. There are probably more misunderstandings over emails than anything else. Don’t forget to use a spellchecker, but always read through yourself as well – spellcheckers do not pick up words that are spelled correctly but in the wrong place.

Pick your words with care, check that what you have written is as grammatically correct as you can make it and proof-read before sending out email will all help to ensure that your communications are professionally produced.

Make sure that your company is sending the right message to your customers to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about what you can offer them.

 

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Should You Start Your Own Home-Based Business?

Posted on : 11-05-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Image Copyright David Hawgood

Many people have job uncertainty at the moment and the option of working from home begins to look more attractive. You can’t fire yourself and the prospect of giving yourself a disciplinary warning seems unlikely!

 

Joking aside, however, the decision to start your own business cannot be taken lightly. You would be well advised to look into the idea thoroughly before taking any steps to become self-employed. If you need the wage you earn to cover the costs of day to day living, then you will need to consider carefully what you need to live on and what you will need the business to make a month. You need to consider a pension, National Insurance and tax. The tax office in the UK requires you to register within three months of setting up in business. You will be responsible for finding your own customers and clients and you will need to keep your cashflow going.

If you are still reading this, undaunted, then you truly have got the bug and there may be no hope for you. Here are some of the things you will need to consider when setting up your own business:

Competition

Check out your competition. Is there a need for your kind of business and what are you going to do to compete with them?

Make That Sale

The hardest part of any business is getting the customers through the door or on the website. You will need to be your own sales person, so get used to talking on the phone, designing leaflets and buying business cards.

Get a Website and Your Own Domain Name

Having your own website is essential. It is best if the domain name describes what you do in some way although the more obvious names will be taken. Try to find a name that your customers will search for when they are looking for a business like yours. Bear in mind that a website is a long-term investment and that unless you employ an expert, you are likely to be blogging to yourself for a while.

Sell, Sell, Sell

After getting customers through the door, the hardest part is getting that sale. Make sure that your shop or website is bright and appealing. Don’t forget promotional offers can tempt customers to buy and make sure that it is as easy as possible for a customer to buy from you. A website should include big 360 degree pictures of products and accurate descriptions. Logical departments for products and a search facility can also help.

Get Feedback

Offer great customer service to keep your customers coming back for more. Ask for feedback and post reviews. Keep in touch with customers via a newsletter so that you can offer more promotions.

Keep Up-to-Date

Keep your website fresh and up to date. Don’t let yourself get in a rut. When you can afford it and the business is bringing a little money, hire a graphic designer and have some custom designs made so that you can build your brand.

Starting up a new business is an exciting decision. When the excitement dies down, make sure that you have thought everything through and planned thoroughly to ensure that you will be a successful business owner.

I have written some articles on this subject on Suite101:

Five Reasons to be a Home-Based Worker

How to Find a Home-Based Job

Five Qualities of a Successful Home-Based Worker

 

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Do You Need a Mobile Website?

Posted on : 25-03-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog

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Samsung i900 OMNIA Smartphone on Creative Commons by Serv

The definition of a mobile website is one that can be viewed successfully by a mobile phone. Information or retail websites can increase their success by optimising for both Apple and Android mobile phones.

The use of mobile phones to surf the internet and look for information continues to increase and business websites need to update their websites in order to ensure that they do not lose customers to websites that are ahead of the curve and have already ensured that they look good on a smaller screen.

If you have a WordPress blog, then you can find a variety of plug-ins that will do the job for you. Some are as simple as installing the plug-in and it will automatically detect what kind of browser is viewing your website and adjust the image accordingly. If you are looking for something a little more customised, then some of the plug-ins come with the ability to choose your colours so that they will link to your usual website look.

It is even more important for e-commerce websites to ensure that they can be viewed by a mobile phone. The main use of a phone is to compare prices of products and your cheaper price may ensure that you get that sale. If, however, your product pictures are too small or your website too intricate to navigate then the customer is going to go elsewhere.

The features of a good mobile website include:

  • Clear easy to read font which will be big enough to read without squinting at a smaller screen
  • Large product pictures and easy to find pricing
  • Search facility
  • Back or Home button
  • Simple structure which enables the customer to navigate the website easily
  • As few clicks as possible to actually buy the product

If your website is designed by a web designer, then ask them to design you a mobile version of the website. Some programmes will automatically recognise that the browser is a mobile phone while others require that the visitor select the right version of the website. Make sure that your website is optimised for both Android phones and the iPhone. You might also want to consider how your website will look on a tablet computer as these are becoming more popular and create different ways of viewing websites.

Putting some thought into how users view your website can help to increase your traffic and convert visitors that are already finding your website. Catering for a wide range of browser traffic can only bring good results for your business.

Photo Link: Photo on Creative Commons by Serv

 

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Form Alliances with Fellow Small Businesses

Posted on : 24-03-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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An Apple MacBook in an aluminium casing.

Image via Wikipedia

For small businesses, it can be difficult to have the skills to do all that your client may want you to. Your client may be looking for a web designer who also has graphic design skills, or they may look for someone who can design mobile apps as well as designing an e-commerce website.

You might not have the skills necessary to complete all the work, but do you know someone who does?

Teaming up with other small businesses can be a way to compete with bigger companies who can afford to have people specialising in different aspects of website work in-house. You both gain from the business and the client can have everything that they need for their website to work. You can have people who you go to for web design, mobile app design, graphic design, copywriting, in fact anything that you think may be required by future clients. The small companies that you form alliances with may also be able to reciprocate and send business your way too.

How do you find companies that you will be able to work with?

Business forums can be a good way to find business partners. Joining forums can be a good idea to raise the profile of your company and enable local people to find you, but it can be a place where all kinds of business people gather to answer questions posted and chat about business issues. You can normally get a good idea of what kind of person someone is by their replies. Many business forums allow private messages or pm so you can open a conversation with someone and find out their rates. It is best if their rates fit in with yours so that there is not too big a discrepancy.

You may also meet people when you contact companies to advertise your services. As you get to know people and work with them, you can get a good idea of whether or not you would work well together and whether you would recommend this company. This should encourage you to always produce your best work, as you never know who might recommend your company.

Business networking meetings can help you to meet people that you might be able to work with. It is preferable to know the person that you are recommending and that means spending time with them and getting to know how they work.

If you are a business owner, and particularly if you offer a service, then you cannot just wait for the opportunities to come to you. Mingle and meet people; you may never know when your next job is going to come along, but you will be in the best possible position to meet all of your clients’ needs if you can form some friendly networks with business people that you trust and that you know you can whole-heartedly recommend.

 

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The Bitsy Website for Small Businesses

Posted on : 25-02-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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I have long been a fan of Enterprise Nation, the UK website devoted to helping small businesses. Recently Enterprise Nation added another website to its stable: Bitsy.

Enterprise Nation was always good for regular Twitter chat and had really helpful forums. Bitsy has take that community one step further and created a way of listing your business as well as joining a lively community and chatting about all kinds of issues whether business-related or not.

It is free to join the Bitsy community and as it is such a great resource, I highly recommend that you do so. The access to experts across the full business spectrum is amazing considering how long the website has been going. If you want to be listed as a seller, it currently costs £5 + VAT or you can choose to become a premium seller for £8 + VAT and list numerous ventures.

The website is growing all the time. It will be holding monthly web chats for members and there is Twitter chat daily on Monday to Friday. For the solo business person working from home alone, it offers a great sense of community.

If you want to link up with me through Bitsy, please feel free to do so. Let me know that you came from my website.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter and editor available for writing gigs large and small. She is listed on Bitsy, but if you want to contact her through this website, then do use the Contact Me form.

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Organising Your Writing

Posted on : 23-02-2011 | By : admin | In : Blog, Writing Help for Businesses

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Sometimes you have a large amount of information which you need to get in a document. It can feel overwhelming and be difficult to know where to begin. Spend a little while organising your thoughts which can help you sort it all out.

Organising your writing

stack by hobvias sudoneighm on Flickr CC

Sketch Out an Overview of Your Report

Start with a piece of paper and a pen or a blank document on the computer and begin to write down the aims of your work. What do you want to get out of it? Who is your document aimed at? Why are you writing it? Is it for a blog or an article? Is it a white paper or report? Then think about what kind of information you will want to include.

Make a rough list of the information that you consider essential to include in your work in the form of rough headings. If you have a lot of information, then you may wish to divide it up into parts and schedule regular releases of your work as a series of blog posts or reports. If it is to be one long document then divide it up into chapters and start each chapter on a fresh page.

Write Out Your Information under the Sub-Headings

Now you have a choice. If you are happy with your headings and ready to write, then write up your information under each heading. If you are going to insert photos, then you can show this with an asterisk for the time being. If you are still organising your thoughts and your information is scattered throughout your notes, then you can continue to write rough notes before writing up the information properly.

This may take two or three days depending on how much information you have to write up and how easy you find it to write. Some people are able to write easily and it flows, others find it much more difficult to think in writing. Take your time, be methodical and check that you have the information that you require.

Check Spelling and Grammar in Your Document

If any work is due for publication either on the web or in a document, then you will want it looking as professional as possible. Use your spellchecker and read your document out loud which will help you identify awkward sentences. You can also ask a colleague to look it over to check for glaring errors.

Once you are satisfied with your work, then it is time to publish. If you are using your work for blog posts, then schedule the posts, remembering to add tags, media such as photos or video and links. Apart from checking that the schedule goes ahead, your work here is done – apart from promoting the posts on blogs and forums with useful comments.

You might publish your work as a PDF or print it out as a report. If you are printing it out, make sure that you are certain as you can be that every error has been corrected. There is nothing worse than checking out your newly printed document and spotting an error on the first page!

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter and expert in organising other people’s thoughts. If you would like to find out how she can help you with your blog project, then contact her through the form on the Contact Me page.

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