Business Owner – How to Improve your Website

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Have you been thinking that it’s time to improve your website?

It’s been years since you did anything with your business website. The About information is out of date and the last blog post is dated 2018. Perhaps you have some products that you should add, but you never seem to have any time. The website needs a good makeover, or at least to take part in a TV show where you will get several areas made over in 60 minutes by Laurence Llewelyn Bowen.

Your website is an important tool that will help your business if you keep it updated. The first thing that you should do, is to put aside some time to work on it. There are several areas to look at which should help it improve:

Theme

Images

Feature Image

SEO

Navigation of the website

Information about your business

Blog Content

Links to social media – making content easy to share

Improve Your Website Theme

The theme is the first big decision. You may have had your theme for a very long time and it is starting to date. Keeping your theme up-to-date is important for security, If you use a WordPress blog, then changing your theme is easy. You can browse the themes and just pick one. Each theme has an option to preview. This means that you can see how your website would look before making the move.

You can also buy a custom theme from a developer for WordPress, although you may need some support to make the website work as you want. Most of the themes are able to use custom colours and you can add your own banners. Make sure that you have saved your website to back up before changing the theme.

Which Theme?

When looking for a new theme, I take into account the ratio of content to images, the blocks available to add badges or other things linked to my work. I also look for navigation of the website and how easy it is to locate the important pages and the ability to add social media. The theme should look clean and work well with any plugins. It should also support mobile devices.

The current trend is for image-heavy themes, but I prefer more space for content as I am a writer. My current theme is 2015 for WordPress. I have used it for over a year and I like how it looks and it is easy to set up to my specifications. I do keep an eye on new themes and I will change if I find I like a theme better, or if my theme stops being supported. So choose a theme that works for you and your business and helps to improve your brand.

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Images

Using the right images help to improve your website. How you find your images depends on your budget. There are a number of free websites out there that will enable you to find topical images to suit your subject. If you are writing about a generic topic, then you will usually manage to find an image using a free website. Examples include Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels. Many will allow you to donate the price of a cup of coffee in order to help support the website. You are also sometimes asked to attribute the image. Make sure you read the terms of use and follow them.

Some businesses take out a monthly subscription to one of the big image websites such as iStockPhoto. This can give you access to a huge amount of images, including graphics, on any subject you can imagine. I have previously used this method and it is important to choose your image carefully. Look for ones that seem natural rather than posed and make sure that the detail that you want is positioned correctly in the image. Some websites use small photos and you need to ensure that the image can be seen.

Feature Image

Do use the ‘Feature Image’ if available. This will put a thumbnail blog post image to represent the blog post. This is a feature of WordPress, which can be found on the right hand side page of the post in edit mode. The button tells you to “Set Feature Image” and gives you instructions to do so. I would always use the image that I have chosen to illustrate the blog post.

SEO

There are some great plug-ins to help you improve the search engine optimisation (SEO) of your website. I use Yoast. There is both a free and a premium version. Yoast combines the ability to adjust your SEO to help your website, with links to great information that explains why you are asked to take these steps. It gives you pointers on readability, passive voice and length of sentences. It also enables you to edit the snippet that can be seen if your blog post comes up in a search. It enables you to think about SEO while you are editing the post and this can help your website move higher in the search results. I can disagree with Yoast, but at least I know that if I am ignoring its advice, that I may be limiting my search engine ranking. The advice it gives is sound.

Yoast can cause a problem if you are running Google XML sitemaps. I found this blog by Winning WP which explains the problem clearly and what to do about it.

Easy Navigation to Improve Your Website

How the users navigate your website is key.

Can they find your ‘About’ page?

Can they find out how to contact you?

Do you need a landing page to sell a new product?

Or are you selling a service and you need to highlight the skills you offer?

Answer these questions and set up your website to highlight these services and your website will really be improved.

Readability on a Mobile Device

Can users navigate your website on a mobile device? It is good practice to check out how your website looks on a mobile device and how easy it is to navigate. You may change the navigation of your website according to offers you are promoting, or if you have a new product coming out that you wish to promote.

Think through where visitors land when they visit your website. Is it clear where they go for offers? For your blog, news or events? To learn more about your company? If it is not obvious where to go for this information, then change your website so that it is more user-friendly. Your theme should enable you to make this kind of change without too much technical knowledge.

Tip: Ask a friend to go on your website and see what they think about the navigation of it. A fresh pair of eyes can help you find where improvements to your website are needed.

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Information about your Business

Is your website getting your message across? Can visitors to your website understand what your business does? Does your website enable visitors to do what they want to do?

Customers want to know about the company they are dealing with. The information about your business should be up-to-date. It should be clear to website visitors what the business does. Include a short statement that explicitly explains what you do and what actions potential customers can take to contact you. Make it easy for them to contact you – include phone number and email if needed.

Blog Content

Writing a blog for your business is one of the best ways to improve your website. Regularly adding content can help your position in the search engines. Blog posts can be short and pithy or they can be long useful content. You can write a mix of evergreen content or content which does not date. You can also write news-type content where it is only relevant for a short space of time. Your blog should reflect your business and written for your audience. It is important that it contains subjects of interest and useful information. Blog posts can also contain a call to action that encourages the reader to respond in some way.

Thinking up subjects for blog posts can be hard at first, but the more you do it, the better you get. You can include interviews, news, events, how to posts and more. It is best to post a regular blog, but how regularly is up to you. You can also ask people to post guest blogs if they are of particular interest.

Check out this retro post from 2016 on 30 Ways to Find Blog Post Ideas

Links to Social Media

If you use social media to promote your business, then do include it on your website. Only include social media where your company is active. There’s nothing worse than a potential customer clicking on a link and the last post was 2017. If your company is active then retweeting blog post links can help bring potential customers to your website, increasing traffic.

Be careful and do have someone monitor your social media regularly. Often customers can use it as a place to get your attention and complain. If you get a complaint on social media, it is not necessarily a blot on your company. However you will want to pick up on it quickly and resolve it.

Have you improved your website recently? Which elements did you take note of? How important is it that your website gets your message across?

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Maintaining Mental Health as a Freelancer

My mental health is very volatile at the moment. One moment I am calm and enjoying the peace, the next, I am feeling sad, then angry in a never-ending circle. Mental health is a very important issue right now because of the unusual times we are currently living in. Pandemics happen approximately once every 100 years and the living conditions that they impose on those who are living through them are not easy.

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Here are some thoughts about how you can help to maintain your mental health in lockdown times.

Attitude of Gratitude

Try to find the positive thought. Although for many people, normal life has been put on pause, this has meant that people have suddenly found the time to catch up on many things in life. People are putting this extra time, that they have never had before, to good use. People are spending time with their families, they are cooking more healthy food and they are taking more exercise than they did before, because to do so, means that they can get away from the four walls for a while. Be thankful for what you have. Do you have your family around you? Be thankful. Have you been able to cook more regularly? Be thankful. Have you saved some money because you no longer have to travel to work? That’s a good thing. We have been blessed with this time, so enjoy it.

Acknowledge the hurt

There are some families that have lost a lot during lockdown and it is important to acknowledge that and if it is within your power to help someone then you should do it. Whether it is sending a card to keep in touch, a gift to remember a birthday or for some other reason, it can help you to feel better about yourself and it can help someone else to feel better too.

Everyone is having off-days at the moment. The most important thing to do is to own the feelings and allow yourself to feel sad for a while. The second most important thing you can do is not to wallow in them. There will come a point when you feel better and take pleasure in something again. Finding ways to comfort other people will help your own feelings too.

As a freelancer, you may have lost some clients as the lockdown took hold. Believe that you will be able to replace them with better clients. Keep reaching out, sensitively to potential clients, keep networking and following up potential leads.

Enjoy the time off!

Craft your way to mental health

Our family have enjoyed finding time to try new crafts. Our daughter, who has had to deal with the abrupt end of her second uni year, has crafted a paper sloth, done some colouring and doodling and this week we have tie-dyed some T-shirts. We have enjoyed finding new things to try and found it peaceful to create some craft.

Home-schooling to suit your children

Children who have had to find new ways to do their school work, will not have been the poorer for it. It will help their independence as learners to work out which way to revise suits them best, to have to ask their teachers questions about the work required and to manage deadlines. Although the UK Government is hoping that children go back to school soon, the fact is that many will not go back straight away, because of the reduced numbers involved and the importance of keeping them safe. I have enjoyed working with my son and encouraging him to get his work done. It’s hard to hide at the back of the class when it’s one-to-one.

Find new ways to connect

One of the best things to come out of this time, is the way that we have found new ways to meet up with others. People who are very unconfident with technology have found themselves able to meet up in Zoom rooms, virtual pubs and virtual pub quizzes have become a thing and churches and other religious organisations have had to find new ways to connect. My parents have successfully navigated the world of online supermarket shopping, but they have not tried FaceTime yet – one thing at a time!

Which new ways have you found to connect with others? My book group have met more regularly during the lockdown. We just talk about the books we are reading at the time. The church I attend has prayer telephone conference calls and services for download on YouTube via the website. We can also hold deacons’ meetings on Zoom. I notice that both Facebook and Google have started offering meeting options – more help for us to stay in touch.

Get in touch with Mother Nature

One of the most amazing things about this lockdown has been the weather in the UK – it has been gorgeous most of the time. You have to ask whether it would have been quite so nice, had things been normal!

The lovely weather has meant that it has been quite pleasant to get out for a walk every day. I am lucky enough to have a garden and have enjoyed having some time to go in it and do some work there. But what if you don’t have a garden and cannot enjoy going for a walk because you live in a city?

There is some research to suggest that even houseplants can enhance your living space, so do some research and find a plant or two that you can live with.

Now that we can go further away to exercise (in England), find a green space to head to and enjoy. Look for the unusual places, look on maps for small paths and ways to exercise away from the crowd, find some new favourite spots to go to. Think outside the box and find canal paths, disused railways, ride a bike, go for a run.

Find a way out

Some people are finding it hard to be in lockdown because their home is not a safe place to be. If this is you, then find a way to reach out. People are aware that this could be the case. Find a way to talk to someone about your worries and try to find a way out.

Some UK numbers for you:

The National Domestic Abuse Network can be called any time, day or night, by all women or concerned family and friends:

0808 2000 247

You can leave a voicemail and a good time to call you back. There is also support information available on the website.

If it is an emergency, call 999.

Plan your next move

As a freelancer, you should always be planning what to do to keep the jobs rolling in, but it can be too easy to lose sight of this when you are just trying to get the work done. Many people have had some jobs cancelled or slowed, but this time is not going to last forever, so look out for courses to enhance your skills, overhaul your website and improve the SEO and make sure that you continue to network online.

Now could be a good time to change tack, change what you want to do in your business or plan to take it up a notch. Planning for your business can only enhance what you offer and help you to reach your business goals.

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Five tips to get a clear message across

How clear is your message on your website? Can people tell what you do? Can they work out what you are selling or offering? Or does your website leave them confused? Here are 5 tips to help you make sure that you get your message across.

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Know the message you want your clients/customers to get

So, what’s the message in this post? I definitely wanted readers to understand that they need to ensure that the right message is being put across. Are your blog posts the kind of message that your customers expect to see or do they not really relate to what you are trying to do? The worst thing you can do is to confuse the message with extra padding. Decide on a message and how you are going to get it out into the wide world. If you are trying to ensure that your message is heard, then keep it consistent throughout the next few posts. Try to avoid language that will obscure the message or detract from it.

For example:

“It is vitally important that during these days of the Coronavirus pandemic that you do not stop communicating with your customers. It is more important than ever that your customers hear from you.”

or

“Talking to your customers could be a good thing, what if they needed your services during this time of pandemic? If you keep in contact with them then they will know that they can count on you.”

I feel that the second  message is more woolly: it uses words like ‘could’ and ‘what if’ rather than the stronger language of the first one. It could be argued that both get the message across, but which is more likely to make you take action?

Know which customers you want to get the message

Do you know who your customers are? What kind of people they are, what they do and what factors make them buy from you? If you know this information, then crafting a message for them is so much simpler, because you can appeal to them directly. If you are looking to design websites for people, then you need to post case studies that show how you have helped people to achieve the website of their dreams. A photography website needs to be full of gorgeous images to showcase your talent and a writer website needs to show a variety of writing that reflects the kind of work that you are looking for.

Know the actions you want customers to take

And make sure you tell them. Don’t leave people guessing as to what you want them to do – tell them. Explain what you are offering, explain the T&Cs and make sure that they have all the information that they need to make a decision. You could set up a landing page just for those clients that you are targeting to make sure that they have access to the information in one place. Make it easy for them to find the information so they can act on it.

Keep it simple

Keep the message clear and simple.

Here is the offer.

It is worth this much.

It is currently priced at this much for a short time only

Buy before (date) to get this offer

Here is what you get

Here are the bonuses for buying by this date.

Finish with a clear call to action

Make sure that your customers are in no doubt as to the action that you want them to take next. The rest is up to them.

Are you looking to get a clear message across? What are the best ways to engage with your customers? Comment below to share with others.

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Writing a CV, online networking, avoiding scams and losing a freelance writing job – the best of the last 9 days of the 30 day blogging challenge

I had great fun taking part in the 30 day blogging challenge this year, writing about a number of different subjects and adding 30 posts to my blog. My new challenge is to carry on taking it forward and keeping it up to date. So in the spirit of this (after a few days off to rest and recover) here is a round-up of the best posts in the last 9 days.

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Freelance CV help

Writing a freelance CV is an essential part of being a freelancer. Job opportunities often require you to send one off. You should never just drag up an old CV however, you need to tailor it to the requirements of the person description. My CVs have got me a lot of interest over the years, so here’s one way to write a good one.

Write what you know

That old adage should you write what you know, brought a lot of interest from the other bloggers in the blogging challenge group. It was a different way of looking at an old subject.

How to avoid scams

Avoiding scams should be on everyone’s radar, particularly in these days, when it can be difficult to know who is contacting you and whether their intentions are good or not. Always question everything.

Things to do during lockdown

Some great ideas to get involved in while you stay safe at home, were the subjects of two blog posts during these 9 days. I have already started taking a look at my old photos and enjoying the memories.

Lost a freelance job?

Lost a freelance writing job? Here is a personal post with my take on it. There are many people losing their jobs at the moment and it is important to take time for yourself, to grieve and to come up with a new plan. Since this post was written, I have been let go completely, thanks to the lockdown. I choose to look at this positively. There will be someone else who will appreciate my skills – I just have to find them.

Other bloggers who managed to finish

Shout outs go to Cindy Fox from Hearth at Home, Jacqueline Redmond, Your Story Works and Regina Byrne from Leadership & Management Coaching who also managed to finish their challenges.

Finally, I looked at my transformation through the 30 days of blog posts process. I have gained confidence and enjoyed interacting with other bloggers. I would definitely do it again and I would recommend that you do, too.

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How to put together an editorial calendar for bloggers

Since my first 30 day blogging challenge in 2016, I have used an editorial calendar. Different people may have different ideas of what constitutes an editorial calendar.

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I use a spreadsheet to store ideas for blog posts or other content so that I have a constant stream of ideas to use when I am trying to think of something to write. PR people use editorial calendars so that they can put useful content out when they are trying to run promotions, or publishers might use one to keep track of their publications. Depending on what you are trying to achieve, you might find this tool useful.

How can an editorial calendar help you in your business?

It’s a great place to store ideas. Ideas are all around us, but sometimes it can be hard to remember them. When I find a great story or possible blog post, I make notes about it.

You can use your editorial calendar to note the angle that you are going to take on the subject. This might not matter if it is a personal blog, but if you are working for someone else or even several other people, it might be worth making a note to ensure that you remember your original thoughts.

I find it best to keep an editorial calendar for each different blog, especially for clients. For the blog posts that I write at the moment, some can link to awareness weeks or months and it can be handy to have those planned out in advance, so that I already have some ideas for topics. Bloggers could also use the tool for planning guest posts to keep track.

Using pictures can be a good way to jog your memory. You can add a link or an actual picture to the spreadsheet if you wish.

Dates: I always date when I had the initial idea and I will usually add a date at the end of the row when I have used the idea. Sometimes I will have brainstorming sessions for a number of blog posts and it is useful to know when they came in handy.

Keeping track of sources in an editorial calendar

As well as adding the website for the source, there may be other sources linking to the idea. I will add these too, so that I can keep track of them all. I also keep notes on the possible blog posts, which may include headline ideas and possible keywords.

If you have a number of blogs, then you might like to indicate which blog the idea is for. This enables you to keep all your ideas in one place. It also means that you can repurpose ideas for different blogs, by finding a different angle.

The best thing about the editorial calendar is the ability to plan content. If there are particular dates you want to publish around, or events, then it can help you to plan this in detail. If you want to do a blog post series, then you can use your calendar to plan this. If you have some guest posts planned, then you can include these too.

You can add social media planning, include video links and plan the launch of your next ebook. You can make your editorial calendar as simple or as extensive as you wish.

Here is an example of an editorial calendar:

Date

Idea

Source

Source

Notes

Date used

Social Media Notes

5/3/2020

Using editorial calendars

https://buffer.com/library/all-about-content-calendar

Bloggers – kw

The headings can be changed to suit your own particular blog.

Do you use an editorial calendar? Do you find it helps to plan content? Comment below.

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How can freelancers and small business owners avoid scams?

It is one of the saddest things about human beings that where there is a crisis, there is someone who has a scam to exploit that crisis. Barely had the coronavirus hit in the UK, when there were people working out ways to take other people’s hard-earned money using the disease as an excuse. From knocking on people’s doors and demanding money for illness testing to people being stopped with shopping bags and asked to pay a fine by people wearing no uniform (true story) there seems to be no depths to which scammers will not stoop.

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As business owners, we put our details out on the internet so that potential clients can contact us, but what if people do not want to hire us but to scam us instead? We should be prepared to get the police involved if there has been a successful scam on our business and we should share the stories so that others do not fall for the same thing.

Here are some scams and some ways that we can protect ourselves. 

ID Fraud

Many scams involve the stealing of ID in order to defraud banks or other organisations. Particularly be careful of potential phishing emails.

Keep your details and those of your customers safe and also keep safe and password-protected those electronic devices where they are stored.

Email Fraud

Email frauds can come in a number of different ways. Be careful of emails from HMRC that do not actually come from the right email address and ask you to click on links. Or be wary of emails from your bank, asking you to verify details by clicking on an email link. There can be emails pretending to be from Amazon or your broadband provider or mobile phone operator, all asking you to click on a link and enter bank details, either to confirm them or to “avoid fraud”.

You should always be wary of unsolicited emails. Scammers are able to copy logos, imitate the way they think an official body should communicate and make sure that the email initially looks legitimate. However, the email link is not usually an official one and will look quite different to the correct email address. If in doubt, then ring the institution in question and check it out.

Scam Phone calls

Scam phone calls can happen in a number of ways. This can involve people pretending to be from your bank, from HMRC or from a computer company which says it needs to check your computer remotely. They may be looking to get your bank details or access to your computer. They can also make it look like the phone call is a genuine number.

Do not give any details out over the phone and end the call. If you decide to call your provider, then be aware that some fraudsters can delay hanging up the phone and pretend to be the person you are calling. Wait for at least 20 minutes before trying to call a number after receiving a suspicious phone call. You can also reject cold calls and put strange phone numbers through a search engine which could tell you which company they belong to. You can block numbers that try to call regularly. Don’t respond to unrecognised missed calls or texts and you can also check a company’s phone number by calling from a different phone. Don’t take a caller’s word for it that they are who they say they are.

Invoice Fraud

A business needs to check every detail these days, as scammers can send fake invoices that seem legitimate. The invoice may appear to come from a genuine supplier, but the details send the payment straight to the scammers. It’s known as APP or authorised push payments which persuade companies to pay a seemingly normal invoice but which has not been sent by the right person. There have been situations where the bank has queried the transaction, but the person paying has been so sure that it was right, that they insisted on paying. Then they found it was a scam.

The answer to this one is well-trained staff who know to check with the supplier before paying. The fraudsters hope that the invoice will be paid with no questions asked, but if your staff are able to check out the validity of invoices, then only the right invoices are paid.

Royal Mail Scam

This can consist of an email suggesting that a parcel is being held for you and that you need to rearrange delivery. Filling in details means that the scammers may install ransomware where your work computers will shut down and you will need to pay money to get them released. There can also be a card through the door where you ring a number which is charged at an extremely expensive rate. There have been some high-profile instances of ransomware where the company paid to get their computers back. Once a computer is locked out it can be very difficult to get back.

For the first scam, you need to back up your computers regularly to make sure that you can access an up-to-date storage if needed. You may need to bring in the Police to get this checked out.

For the second, if you are not expecting a parcel, then check it is real. You can normally pick up a parcel from your local Post Office sorting centre with ID and the card that was posted through your door.

Do you have any good advice on how to avoid scams? Please share below.

Metropolitan Police advice on business fraud

National Crime Agency on fraud

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Online networking for stay-at-home workers

Missing the watercooler or the canteen already? It’s been over a week since workers of all kinds have been told to work from home if possible in the UK.

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One of the best things about working in an office is the people that you meet and work alongside. One of the downsides of enforced working from home is that you are unable to get out and about and meet people. We are social animals and we need contact.

Here are some tips for online networking (from home):

WhatsApp chat groups

My book group is on WhatsApp and since the lockdown, it has lit up the airwaves! We have sent quizzes, videos and all kinds of things across it. We are also planning to meet up virtually in our pjs and those who like a tipple will be able to drink and not worry about getting home! If you have WhatsApp group chats, then using them to keep in touch can be quite useful.

Facebook groups

Facebook groups can be good for keeping the larger community together. For example, the local church groups have been busy updating their feeds to keep their congregations informed on how they are going to run their services. They have created events which has enabled them to promote them to their followers. Of course there have been national events happening as well and these have also been promoted.

If you search for Facebook groups related to your line of work, you will probably find one. These are great for meeting new people and getting information and advice. You may have to be approved to join and sometimes you have to answer questions. If you belong to a group which is struggling to keep in touch, why not set a Facebook group up? You can set a group to private or public depending on their type of activity and it’s a great way to keep in touch.

Twitter hashtags

Communities often meet up on Twitter at set hours through hashtags. Try searching the website for hashtags relevant to your work and see what you can find.

If you are a writer or freelancer, there are some amazing Twitter groups who meet up using hashtags. They usually meet up at a particular time each week. Twitter is also a great place to meet authors.

Try:

#freelanceheroes

#freelancechat

#ContentClubUK

The format is usually asking questions and people tag themselves using the hashtag to answer them. It is a great way to learn more about working as a freelancer.

You could also check out:

#amwriting

#WritingCommunity

You can also keep contact through the Linked-In community, either through posting and commenting on posts or through the different groups that run on there. In a lockdown situation, this can only be helpful to your business.

How are you keeping in contact with work colleagues and friends at the moment? Please share in the comments below.

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Is there ever a time when a freelancer should work for free?

I came across a job website tonight and read their information on becoming a freelancer. I was shocked to see that they advocated taking a first job and doing the work for free. I am a firm believer that at no point should a freelancer ever work for free. Nor do I believe that they should sell their skills cheaply.

When you are just starting out, it is tempting to take any offer of work that is going, so that you can add to your portfolio and have something to show other prospective clients, but I still think that you should expect to charge for your work.

There is a process of thought that suggests that early-stage freelancers should take work in order to prove themselves. They should take low-paying or free work until they can work themselves up to a more reasonable level of compensation. There are several reasons why this is unacceptable:

Freelancers have to pay bills like everyone else

Taking low-paying work can make you feel as though it is all you are good for

You have to have a certain level of competency to even consider going freelance. Why should you sell it cheaply?

I’m a start-up, will you work for free?

Then there are the people who advertise jobs who usually suggest that as they are a start-up, they cannot currently afford to pay someone to do the work. They usually dangle the offer of more, paid work down the line. But there are some problems with that:

If they can’t afford to pay someone, then why are they starting up a business? Surely if they have no money for it, it will be doomed to fail.

The promised paid-for work rarely materialises or when it does, the pay is not worth the effort

Consider this:

The time that you spend working on something for free, is time that you can never get back.

Does that make it more valuable?

Or

The time that you have offered for free, could be used to market yourself to find a paying customer

Or

Will the product that you have created for free be used to bring this client money?

Then you deserve some compensation for it.

When you start up as a freelancer, it is advisable to work out how many billable hours you can find for your job. That is, the amount of time that you have available to work for clients. Once you have that number, you can use it to do a number of things.

You will need to set aside some time to market your business. This includes writing for your own website, creating products for your own website and running your own social media (without getting sidetracked on Facebook).

You will need some time to do the administration of your business – invoicing and chasing payments.

You will need time for clients.

If you give up some of your time for free, then you are taking some time away from your business. Even if you are a brand new freelancer, you have chosen this path because you believe that you are good at what you do and that you can bring some skills to the table. Your skills deserve a decent reward.

Don’t sell yourself short.

Have you ever worked for free? If so, then do comment below. Did more work materialise? Do you agree with me that freelancers should not work for free? Please comment below.

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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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