Tag Archives: Small business

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 2: Q & A

Question 1 by Virtual EyeSee

Five years ago, I created a post which asked, so – what exactly do you do?

It came about through a challenge posted by Naomi Dunford of Itty Biz who had been asked by a reader of her blog, “So, what do you actually do?” It made her stop and think about what she actually did, and more importantly whether her website actually reflected what she actually did.

Did her website truly reflect her business or did she need to spell it out more clearly? These are the questions she asked herself and I am going to ask myself the same questions here:

What is your game? What do you do?

I am first and foremost a writer. I love playing with words, using words and discovering words. During my time as a writer, I have written newsletters, articles on diverse topics such as Northern Lights tours and marble and granite, not to mention 50 articles on car mats! I love researching a new topic and learning about something different. I enjoy a challenge and I love it when I have a new assignment.

I also enjoy writing short stories, I have been known to write (very secret) poetry and I have written a terrible novel which was written during NaNoWriMo one year. There is just one published copy which will never see the light of day again! (Evil cackling)

I have also done some proofreading and edited a book.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?

Writing is not easy work. That’s the first thing I would say, however I find it enjoyable. I have known some people who just can’t bear writing. I must confess to having a creepy knack with spelling – I can usually tell if a word is spelt correctly. I also can remember all those names for parts of a sentence which everyone else seems to have forgotten since they left school – nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs etc. Handy for school homework!

Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?

I have met people who hate writing so I am an obvious match for someone like that. I have worked with small business owners, a London marketing agency and a local charity as well as a growing business. There are a lot of people looking for content these days because they have been told that it is essential for their business. It is, but not the cheap, churned out stuff that you can buy for peanuts. The kind of content that works is tailored to the individual business and offers valuable and interesting information rather than just the same stuff that everyone else is churning out.

What’s your marketing USP (Unique Selling Point)? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?

Everyone thinks they can write, but do people want to read it? I look for the story behind the article and use it to create unique articles and blog posts that will encourage people to read on. Why should you buy from me? You don’t have to if you don’t think we are a good fit.

What’s next for you? What’s the big plan?

I am currently researching a period of history and plotting out a history novel. As for the creative writing – I am always looking forward to the next challenge.

If you are a business blog and these questions appeal to you, why not try answering something similar yourself. Make sure that people understand what you do and why you do it.

Comment below if you decide to follow this through.

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

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

Flickr_-_Laenulfean_-_autumn's_leaves

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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Circle Events Network Big Expo September 2012

One of my goals this year was to try a network event. I have decided to go to the Circle Events Big Expo at Worcester on 12th September. Maybe I’ll see you there.

It’s not too far away, it’s a morning event and I can fit it into my schedule. I’m hoping to meet with lots of business owners, introduce myself and talk to prospective clients. It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, but I’m hoping that it will enable me to increase my client base. It will also be interesting to see what is going on in the business world.

Let me know if you are going, or what kind of business networking events you have attended. What kind of advice would you give to someone going to one of these events for the first time?

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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.

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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?

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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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)
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Crazy Business Ideas

A golf ball directly before the hole
Image via Wikipedia

The thread at UKBusiness Forums started me thinking – how many crazy business ideas have been started and were they successful? The answers on the forum varied from:
‘Give me a million and I’ll tell you’

to

‘Sell an E-book on ‘How to Make a Million’ for £5 to 200,000 people’

but it sent me searching for the most crazy ideas I could find. Here they are:

Twitter…

Honestly! Imagine limiting yourself to 140 characters! Who would have thought…

Dry cleaning ATM – post it in and get it out clean

They patented it but it never took off. I wonder why? Could be a winner at airports and hotels…!

Beer flavoured ice cream

Self-explanatory. Launched last year by a Yorkshire company. I think it was probably a hit!

Glow in the dark golf balls

The inventor of these is now a millionaire!

Dog Wash (as opposed to car wash)

I thought I had seen everything, but apparently not! Poor dog!

Jelly fish art

This sounds oddly calming and soothing – it could work, but is it cruel to jellyfish?

Apparently there are many crazy business ideas out there and who is to say that they won’t work? The fact is that when you have a business idea, write it down, think about it for while and plan it out. The craziest ideas just might make you the most money.

 

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Helpful Blogs 3

Here are five blog posts that I have found helpful this month:

1. Ask the Expert How to Start up an Online Store

This blog post answers all the questions that you might ask when setting up an e-commerce website. This is a really useful post and Karen answers the questions very succinctly. You might want to check out her website for information on setting up a Facebook page too, because she is very good at what she does.

2. Five Ways to Avoid Being a Notworker

This is a great post on how not to network and therefore, some of the best ways to network. There is some great advice here.

3. What Budget 2011 Means for Freelancers and Small Businesses

Staying with Bitsy, here is a great post on the UK budget announcements and how they will affect small businesses. Very useful.

4. Facebook vs Twitter

A new website I have recently come across had this interesting post on Facebook vs Twitter.  The website is very useful with lots of interesting information on running a small business.

5. A Marketer’s Take on Google +1

Finally, Laura Lake at About.com talks about the latest Google feature: +1. It will be interesting to see how the search engine makes use of it in the future when evaluating search results and page rankings.

 

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