Tag Archives: Business

Are You Using More Freelancers?

One of the websites that I consider well worth bookmarking is Freelance Switch. I’m a big fan of the cartoon ‘Freelance Freedom’ by NG Winters which comes out every Tuesday. I

ff51_photoshopmagic
ff51_photoshopmagic (Photo credit: Stefson)

try to catch it every week.

This week there was an article on there that suggested that the global recession has been good for freelancers It was entitled ‘Online Jobs are on the Rise by Melanie Brooks. It did spark a discussion on the nature of poor payment rates for freelancers, but I believe that you don’t have to accept those rates. Better paying jobs are out there. The article made the point that we as freelancers are finding it easier to find work as we no longer have to look in just our backyard. The Internet enables us to search on a global scale for work.

From my own experience, I would say definitely that things are on the up. The UK as a whole is apparently stagnant at the moment, growth is slow and seems almost to be getting slower. However there are signs that things are changing. I have had more offers of work this year already than in the whole of last year, when it felt like I was constantly trying to market myself. Good content writers are in demand and they don’t have to settle for rubbish rates.

The article suggests that freelancers are best placed to take advantage of the market conditions. We don’t carry big overheads we can negotiate quickly and often network with other freelancers so that we can offer extra skills to our customers. We are attractive in that we pay our own taxes and in the UK at least our own National Insurance too.

Let me know in the Comments: do you use freelancers? Do you find them easy to work with? What advantages can we offer to you as a business?

Share

How to Save Your Website

Have you ever done this?

Found a bright shiny website with whistles and bells, looking pretty and inviting.

So you decide to stay and look round. Then you discover that although it looks like it will be informative, the website content lacks something…you cast around for the word…what is it again? Oh yes, I know. It lacks INFORMATION!

Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC
Welcome by Claudio Matsuoka on Flickr CC

The content is lacklustre and the information is badly written, poorly punctuated and there’s a few spelling mistakes for good measure. There are some keywords, but they seem to have been sprinkled liberally rather than used sparingly and in context. Perhaps the owner of the website has written it for themselves, or perhaps they have relied on a web developer to write it for them. After all everyone can write, can’t they? We all learn to write at school. It’s just a matter of stringing a few sentences together and bunging it up on a website.

What’s the result of this cobbled-together content?

Visitors don’t stay around. If you’re selling something, then they may not bother to see what it is. They may proceed to buy, but then they were going to anyway and if they’ve seen it cheaper on another website then they won’t bother. There’s no interest to keep them here, nothing to learn and no real information that they can use.

What lessons can you take from this as a business owner?

  • Bright shiny websites are all very well, but it’s the content that keep people around
  • Everyone might have learned to write at school, but only certain people have kept in practice
  • SEO is an art which is learned. Just adding keywords here and there will not do the job of carefully crafted content which has been optimised for SEO
  • The website has ten seconds to attract a visitor’s attention. Give them something interesting to read and keep them for longer

Talking to a copywriter can help save your website. Organise your information, create interesting content on relevant subjects and your website will instantly improve. Copywriters can create landing pages to entice visitors further, sales pages to help pitch your products and informative articles which can help to sell for you.

If your bright and shiny website also has sparkly and exciting content to match, then your website visitors are going to come back again and again.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter who specialises in making web content bright and shiny too. Contact her using the form for a personalised quote to save your website. 

Share

Improve Your Website: Update the Content

If one of your resolutions in 2012 is to raise the profile of your website, then have you considered updating or increasing the content to be found on your site?

Providing useful and informative articles are a good way to keep visitors clicking around your website and encouraging them to spend money with you. It also helps your website look fresh and new. You might want to update your ‘About’ pages, your portfolio or your business information if you provide a service. You may want to improve product descriptions and make them more imaginative.

It’s not enough just to have a large amount of articles and stuffing them with keywords does not make them interesting enough to keep your visitors interested in looking around your website. These articles have got to be the real deal – interesting and full of information on the subject that is your business. Choose an eye-catching headline that reflects the body of the article. If you have a long article, then break it up using relevant sub-headings so that it is easier to digest.

Laura of About: Marketing has written a blog post on this very subject. She knows the value of good content for any website. She enjoys writing and her articles are always useful.

But all this planning and writing takes time. You might have many calls on your time at the moment and the writing gets put off and left to one side – perhaps even left altogether.

Don’t underestimate the value of freshly written content and don’t put it off any longer. Why not outsource it to a copywriter? They are used to creating content that is rich in information, context and professional. Then you can get on with the million and one other jobs that are jostling for your attention. Using your resources effectively can help your business to really take off this year.

Know your strengths and if writing has never been one of them, then outsourcing that particular job might be the best decision you ever made.

Sarah Charmley is a freelance copywriter, editor and proofreader. For a copywriting quote that has been tailored to suit your business, email sarahthecreativewriter@gmail.com

Share

How to Keep Your Business from Failing

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.

Share

Does the End of the News of the World Justify the Means?

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Here in the UK, there is a huge storm building over allegations that a Sunday newspaper, The News of the World, employed very underhand tactics to build their news stories including hacking into the phone of a teenager later found murdered and into celebrity phones illegally. Many of the public and politicians are up in arms about the stories that are daily adding to the pile of dung that is acts that have been committed in the name of news.

Some commentators have been less angry – pointing out that it was probably known that this was carried out and that the anger that has been whipped up may be misplaced – we suspected that this was going on and it is just that our suspicions have been confirmed.

This story in which journalists have lost their jobs, a business owner has lost a lucrative deal and many people have lost peace of mind is certainly unsavoury. The problem is that all of us can be guilty of taking the short cut that we are not so comfortable with or the deal that we probably shouldn’t.

As human beings in the world of business, we are subject to temptation every day. Does this mean that we should take it?

No.

As members of the human race, we need to learn to say that short, two-letter word and mean it. Compromising your ideals once makes it easier to do the next time around. Sharp or dishonest business practices usually end up hurting someone – even if it is only yourself once you are found out. Leave the unscrupulous dealings to someone else and make sure that your work is something that you can honestly say you are proud of.

What do you think? Do you think that a little shady business dealing doesn’t do any harm? Or are you honest above all else? Let me know in the comments below.

Share

What to Do with Your Business When Life Gets in the Way

Guernsey_island
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been a while since I posted.

We’ve had Easter Holidays and a Royal Wedding in the UK. Then our family had a French student for a week, a week in Guernsey then two weeks of working frantically to catch a deadline or two. It’s been a busy time and this blog has suffered as a result. I have genuinely not found time to update it. So today’s post is all about what you can do when life gets in the way.

For me, I need a way to kick start my marketing again. The summer holidays are around the corner. The advantage of summer holidays is the lack of need to get out of bed too early to take the kids to school. The disadvantage is the fact that the kids are at home!

As a UK copywriter, working from home, I do need some semblance of peace and quiet. It is easy to get distracted from your work by the children. Finding some work-life balance can be even more difficult. Thankfully, my children are old enough to amuse themselves for a short while. I normally trade with them – a morning’s work for an afternoon of fun and we make sure we get out and enjoy ourselves. Any work that I do not complete in the morning I finish in the evening when the children are in bed and this seems to work for us.

After a long time when you have been snatching hours here and there to keep up with your business, it can be difficult to organise your thoughts and decide what to do first. A copywriter’s business is mainly marketing in order to find new and existing clients that need some work doing and it can be difficult to carry this out in bits and pieces.

I enjoyed reading this post by Laura Lake at About: Marketing today. I am subscribed to her newsletter and always enjoy her posts. She suggests a 90 day marketing plan to help keep you on track. This time period suits as it will take you through the summer holidays and out to the other side. Check it out and see what you think.

Could a 90 day marketing plan help you?

Do you have any tips to share about working at a small business during the summer holidays?

 

Share

Should You Start Your Own Home-Based Business?

 

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

 

Photo Link

 

Share

Some Ideas for When Running a Small Business Gets Tough

Prince Andrew
Image via Wikipedia

I loved the Royal Wedding last Friday. The family sat down together to enjoy the day. The bride was beautiful, the dress was gorgeous, the groom was handsome in his uniform and the bridesmaids were cute. The bride and groom appeared to thoroughly enjoy their day and the beginning of their new life together. Most of the people I know sat down and enjoyed the wedding as I did.

Starting a new business can be a little like a wedding.

It’s a lot of work, but you are looking forward to the end result. There’s the excitement of the new ideas that can come tumbling out barely fully formed, there’s the joy of the fun stuff like researching new products, designing new websites and perhaps looking for new premises. There’s the not so fun stuff such as visiting the banks and informing HMRC. Overall it is a time full of promise, full of adventure and full of trepidation.

Then you have to deal with the day to day stuff of running a business. In the service industry, you have to continually find new clients. On an e-commerce website you have to keep your search engine optimisation working as well as you can to bring clients to your website. If you have opened a high street shop, then you need your customers to come through the door. You have to keep your cashflow going and your overheads paid. The shine begins to wear off.

Before you know it, you are struggling to find clients, the website is failing to meet its targets and you are not ranking for any of your keywords in the Google top ten pages. Or you’re faced with a sink full of dirty dishes while your new husband goes off for a sulk over the way you cooked tea…! (It could happen)

What Can You Do?

What you do next will show the stuff you’re made of and whether you’re really cut out to be a business owner. You need to find a way through the slump times and discover a way to bring customers thronging to your door once again.

You can share your problem on the business forums and ask advice from some of the old hands there. You may be able to find a customer or two lurking there as well.

You may wish to read up on your problem. Subscribe to one or two recommended blogs and see what the experts suggest.

Linking and networking with like-minded people can bring help so that you can get your head clear and understand the steps you need to take to remedy the situation.

You may decide to hire somebody like a copywriter or a web designer to ensure that your content and your website are as fully optimised as they can be.

Proactively seek clients, especially if you are in a service industry. Go where your clients hang out and join in discussions. Post your availability and let people know that you are able to help.

Use social networking to increase your customer awareness. Tweet, update your status on Linked-In and keep your Facebook page up to date.

Use a promotional offer to encourage people to buy. Use leaflets to target customers.

Check that your e-commerce website is working as well as it can. Ask friends to check it out and follow up on their comments.

Try a website such wecandobiz.net which encourages networking.

Many of these ideas suggest asking others for help. It can be so encouraging to talk to someone who has gone through this before and is able to share their experience. It can be lonely to be a small business owner, particularly one that is a sole trader. By seeking others out and getting involved in communities then you can find a place to share your problems and also help others.

Don’t give up. Keep going and use every bit of your resources to keep your desire to work for yourself alive. Try and remember a little of the excitement of the first days to help you find the resources to get through these dark days. Every business has its ups and downs – that’s what keeps most of us interested.

Good luck.

Oh – and never burn the dinner when cooking for your new husband!

Have you had some difficulties with your business recently? Perhaps you have just come through a difficult patch or you are feeling low at the moment because things are not going the way you would like. Comment below for a sympathetic ear.

 

Share

Ten Tips to Help You Launch a Party Plan Business

Bringing a party plan business to a new country can be daunting. There’s lots of competition out there and starting from scratch to market your business and bring it to the attention of potential new consultants takes some work. Laying some ground work can really help to ensure that your business launches successfully.

Here are some top tips to launch a party plan business:

1, Have a great product. Make your products something that you yourself really like and can get enthusiastic about. They can be useful, ornamental or treats. Make sure that the products you are promoting are items that people will want to buy.

2, Get your website set up with a domain name that relates directly to the product that you are selling. You really want an url that reflects what your potential clients will be searching for.

3, Use all the free directories that you can in order to promote your company.

4. Link up to homeworking resource websites that can offer listings.

5. Decide on your target market and use Facebook ads to reach them. Set up a Facebook page and use social media too.

6. If your target market is Mums then try Mumsnet which has a thread on working from home

7. Don’t forget your local press can also be an invaluable source of advertising which needn’t be expensive

8. Use business forums to ask advice and find web designers and graphic designers if you have no recommendations

9. Use a copywriter to ensure that your web content is crystal clear and sparkling with your sales message

10. Include reviews by satisfied customers on your website to encourage others to get involved.

Party plan businesses can be very successful for both the people running them and the consultants that get involved. Keeping the structure simple can also be beneficial. There are plenty of different models available and it is worth doing your research and reading some reviews before deciding to get involved in this kind of business.

 

  • But where will I get my customers? … TheSuccessFactory.com (azhomeshowwomengroup.wordpress.com)
  • Tips on Starting a Party Planning Business (thinkup.waldenu.edu)
  • Mistakes Every New Online Business Owner Needs To Know When Launching Your Online Business (preciseinternetmarketing.com)
Share

How to Have a Good Holiday as a Small Business Owner

Internet cafe, Istanbul 2000
Image via Wikipedia

There’s something about being a small business owner that makes it difficult to stop being a small business owner. Even when you’re at dinner, taking the kids to school or even on holiday, then you still have a million small jobs to do: marketing, improving your website or even actually working. How do you manage to switch off and relax when it is time to take a holiday?

Taking a holiday is a must every year for every working person. Time to relax and spend time with your family will help to cement your family relationships and bring you all closer together. Whether you shut down your business completely or whether you have staff on which you can rely to keep your business running, when you work for yourself, taking time out with no holiday pay can be difficult.

Here are some tips for trying to relax even when you can’t:

– Plan ahead. Make sure that all orders and accounts are taken care of before you go away. Schedule jobs for after your holiday and if there are clients who just cannot wait then offer them to other small business owners you can trust. Tell all your clients that you will be away and give them the dates that you will be back.

– Ask a good friend in the same line of business to be a contact for your customers in a time of emergency then do the same for him. Make sure that you trust each other, though.

– Leave the mobile at home. If you have a separate work mobile and personal mobile then that is so much the better. You can leave the mobile at home and deal with any issues when you get back. Don’t forget to set an ‘I’m out of the office until xxx date’ message and your clients will be waiting for you when you get back.

– If you really can’t go a full two weeks without checking email, then why not log into an internet cafe just once halfway through the week? Then you can be reassured that everything is fine and that you can continue enjoying your holiday.

– Sometimes when your brain is enjoying some downtime, then fresh ideas and problem solutions can occur to you. Don’t get stressed that you are nowhere near a computer, but take a pad and paper to jot them down to explore when you get back.

Planning and determination are the key elements of switching off when you go away for a holiday. Everyone needs to relax and your business will be the better for you having had a good time when you are away. You will come back refreshed and ready to face the small business challenges again.

 

  • Small Business News: Latest Business Plan Tips (businessinsider.com)
Share