April 22nd, 2013 at 6:52 am
The recent economic depression in the United States alerted many working professionals to just how delicate their employment situation is. Many people lost jobs and others lived with the fear of joining former co-workers in the unemployment line. Inevitably, some turned to freelancing as a way to curb their financial losses.
But for some, those freelancing efforts became not just a part-time source of income, but a full-time gig. Laid off professionals found so much success in their freelancing efforts that, in some cases, they stopped looking for new work and stuck with their new source of income.
Of course, that’s not the case for everyone who ventures into the world of freelancing. Freelancing’s value as a safe alternative to traditional employment varies. In order to decide what’s best for you, there are some key issues to consider before deciding on freelancing as a full-time pursuit.
Freelancing offers a lack of overhead management
When you freelance, you essentially become your own boss. For some people, this can be a point of security. A boss isn’t always a good thing, and some people trust themselves more than they do their employers. Of course, the lack of a boss means that accountability and quality assurance is all on your shoulders.
Freelancing diversifies your income
When you work for a single employer, you have a single income. It only takes one layoff to drop your income to zero. Freelancing, meanwhile, allows you to diversify your income streams. Even if you lose one client, you still have your other ones to rely on.
Of course, freelancing also means that your income stream is less stable, and the risk of losing at least some clients is much greater. You reduce the risk of losing all your income at once, though, which is a big draw for some workers.
You can brand yourself as a freelancer
If you commit yourself to freelancing pursuits, you can increase your visibility by establishing your brand. To do this effectively, you’ll want to get a logo designed that will tie in with your mission — in this case, your freelancing focus.
The logo will be instrumental in helping you communicate your freelancing intentions visually. Coming up with a strong logo design isn’t hard, either, especially if you’re willing to put this task in the hands of knowledgeable designers.
Freelancers have greater control over their fate
The rough economy has disturbed many people’s job security when working for a single company. They’re now more aware that business bottom lines are what keep them employed, not a sense of commitment to workers. Freelancing can ease those fears by allowing you to take your fate into your own hands — you will be solely responsible for the success or failure of your business.
Working values are changing
Professionals are now less inclined to spend 40 hours a week behind the desk in an office. Working from home, and on a flexible schedule, is one of the perks many people covet. Freelancing lets you create your own schedule and work wherever you want — at home, on the road, in a coffee shop or on an airplane.
Of course, freelancing isn’t right for everyone. There’s a considerable amount of self-discipline that goes into this career move, and you need to be resourceful and diligent enough to continue generating new business opportunities while pushing your brand. That’s why anyone should carefully weigh the pros and cons of this move before they dive into freelancing.
About The Guest Author: Dawn Altnam lives and works in the Midwest, and she enjoys following the business tech world along with occasionally blogging for Deluxe. After furthering her education, she has spent some time researching her interests and blogging of her discoveries often.
Freelance Photo via Shutterstock
April 15th, 2013 at 6:40 am
The landing page is the critical point in lead conversion; often the deciding factor on whether a visitor turns into a lead or walks away. Therefore, don’t let your entire marketing campaign fail as a result of a single landing page. While evaluating your landing pages, keep an eye out for the following warning signs:
1. Unclear Call-to-Action
Is your call-to-action clear, compelling, and enticing to the eye? A great call-to-action evokes an emotion in the view, a sense of urgency or reason to click on further. But if visitors are having a difficult time finding the CTA, your landing page is setting itself up for failure.
2. Different from your Brand
If the landing page lacks the same elements as that of your main site, your visitors may believe that they ended up in the wrong place. Keep the colors, style, and other branding elements of the landing page similar to your website’s, to avoid further confusion.
3. Too Many Links
You don’t want your users to navigate away from your landing page, completely missing why they arrived in the first place. One common tactic in landing page design is to remove the navigational menu and other distracting links, leaving a stripped page with one clear purpose.
4. There’s Too Much Content
Images, videos, bold headlines, text, and so on – too much content can distract the visitors from the purpose of the landing page, making it difficult for them to reach the CTA. Try this exercise with your own landing pages – strip whatever is unnecessary, and see whether it affects the overall message. If not, you probably didn’t need it in the first place.
5. You’re Not Using A/B Testing
You want to optimize your landing pages, don’t you? Then A/B testing is the way to go. It allows you to tweak and test your pages, determining which headline, button color or CTA can offer the maximum return. Trying out different variations will allow you to find the landing page that resonates with your visitors, convincing them to learn more.
About The Guest Author: Rachel Kim is the head of marketing at Meijun, a digital development agency that specializes in web and mobile development services.
Streaming Images Photo via Shutterstock
April 9th, 2013 at 6:07 am
Warren Buffett is regarded as the richest stock investor in the world. In fact, Forbes magazine regards Warren as a man who made his wealth from the stock market although his success actually came from selling businesses.
Warren didn’t become rich by selling stocks but became a Billionaire by buying and selling businesses. I call it, ”Berkshire Hathway”. In fact, Warren is not interested in the price of stocks but in the value of businesses. It takes determination and business intelligence to buy and sell businesses; that’s why I regard Warren as an entrepreneur as much as an investor.
In this article, I’ll be sharing with you, 4 business lessons from Warren Buffett. You can easily apply these principles in your own business.
1. Understand your business
Just like Warren Buffett would say, “Never invest in a business you can’t understand.”
As a business owner, if you understand your business, you’d hardly encounter costly investment mistakes. When the Internet business boom began, a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners jumped into starting their own web business but Warren continued in the financial industry.
Here’s my advice to you: Don’t invest in a business because you heard it’s profitable; rather, invest in a business you have a clearer perspective on.
Let me give you an example: Don’t invest in the real estate industry because you heard Mr. A and B are making a killing from it; rather, invest in a business you understand.
“If you understood a business perfectly and the future of the business, you need very little in the way of a margin of safety.” – Warren Buffett
2. Management is vital
“Somebody once said that in looking to hire people, look for three qualities; Integrity, intelligence and energy. If they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without the first, you really want them to be dumb and lazy.” – Warren Buffett
The reason why 50% of new businesses fail every year is due to the lack of proper management. It takes an entrepreneur to start a business and it takes a reliable and competent management to run and manage a business.
If there is anything you need to work on in order to grow your business, it’s good management.
Management is one of the key features Warren Buffett looks at when buying a business. If Warren Buffett takes management as a key feature when buying businesses, it means it’s an important factor you must consider before buying a business.
3. Who is your business partner?
Continue Reading »
April 2nd, 2013 at 6:11 am
You may be considering developing a mobile app for your small business. While apps have the potential to increase your profits, consider whether this tool will really benefit your business.
1. Will your customers use the app?
Don’t develop an app just for the sake of having one. If there is no value in it for your audience, it will not be used. Before you have an app developed, consider what it will do for your customers.
Will the app make it easy to order from you? Will it persuade customers to spend money on your business instead of the competition? If not, you should likely stick with a website, and simply focus on making sure it is optimized for the mobile market.
2. What is the ROI?
Just like any other tool you buy for your business, you need to make sure an app is within your budget. Add up the costs of designing, developing, and maintaining an app, and estimate how it will affect your profits.
If the mobile app is sure to increase your profitability, it makes sense to get it. But if you will end up in debt for years due to a needless app that fails to attract more business, it may not be the right time for this addition to your marketing strategy.
3. Do you have time to update the app?
Like a website, you cannot just develop an app and forget about it while you watch the business roll in. You need to make sure you either have time to update it yourself if you are tech-savvy, or remember to hire a developer to do the job as needed. Either way, apps require some maintenance.
If you find that an app would not suit your business at this time, it does not mean you cannot revisit the idea in the future. It just means it is not the right time for it. Until this changes, you should focus on building a solid website that can be accessed by both computers and smartphones.
About The Guest Author: Gretchen Cathey is the Operations Manager for Worth Ave. Group, a leading provider of insurance for iPhones and tablets.
Tablet With App Icons Photo via Shutterstock
March 28th, 2013 at 7:18 am
Have you been told that you cannot become someone in life? Do you feel sad or dejected because you don’t have a college degree? Or are you in the group that thinks education is the yardstick for success? If any of the above describes you, read on…
Education isn’t the yardstick for success, but hard work and determination is. How does it sound that some of the world’s influential men and women today never saw the four walls of a school?
In this article, I’ll be sharing briefly, some of the world’s richest billionaires who never saw the four walls of school. These men and women weren’t held back by the lack of a college degree; they faced and surmounted challenges, and passed the entrepreneurial test.
Without mincing words, here’s a brief compilation of some of the world’s drop-out billionaires.
1. Steve Jobs: billionaire founder of Apple Inc. and Pixar; dropped out of Reed College to start Apple. Born in San Francisco California on February 24, 1955 and started Apple Inc. with Steve Wozniak in 1976. He died in 2011.
“It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing” - Steve Jobs
2. Li Ka Shing: billionaire founder of Hutchinson Whampoa; one of the largest conglomerates in Hong Kong with over 250,000 employees presently. Dropped out of school at age 15 and started selling watches.
He’s the 11th man on Forbes list with an estimated wealth of $21.3 billion. He’s also a co-owner of Cheung Kong holdings, one of the world’s largest container terminals.
“The first year, I didn’t have much capital so I did everything myself. I had to keep my overhead low by learning everything about running a business, from accounting to fixing the gears of my equipment. I really started from scratch.” - Li Ka Shing
3. Aliko Dangote: billionaire founder of Dangote group; one of the largest conglomerates in Africa with over 50,000 employees. He’s currently worth $16.1 billion dollars.
” You don’t have to be big to do big things.’’ – Aliko Dangote
4. Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson: billionaire founder and CEO of Virgin group of companies. Dropped out of high school at age 16. Today he has over 200 companies with over 100,000 employees.
5. Ralph Lauren: We all know Lauren, the billionaire fashion mogul. Lauren studied for two years at Baruch College and dropped out.
6. Cornelius Vanderbilt: you’ll love this man’s story. Billionaire boat builder and operator dropped out of college at age 16 and began operating his own boat. Today, he’s one of the world’s richest men in history.
“If I had learned education, I would not have had time to learn anything else.” – Cornelius Vanderbilt
7. Howard Hughes: founder of Hughes aircraft and Co, dropped out of Rice University and California institute of technology and went on to become an aircraft billionaire.
“I intend to be, the richest man in the world.” – Howard Hughes
8. Mark Zuckerberg: the youngest billionaire in history. Dropped out of Harvard to promote his social media network; Facebook. As of 2010, Mark was worth over $4 billion.
Continue Reading »
March 21st, 2013 at 6:49 am
CEOs of innovative tech companies that are ready to bring their product to market can travel down two paths: direct sales reps or channel partners. While both alternatives provide unique advantages, channel sales have become increasingly appealing for many a Silicon Valley and venture-backed start-up.
The most overt benefit of an entrepreneurial firm opting for the channel is the instant access they gain to partners’ existing customer relationships. For a product that isn’t fully established in the market, consumers likely won’t know to look for your specific offering or brand.
Productive channel partners are in tune with their customers’ wants, so if your product fills a demand gap while also making the partner money, they’ll be willing and able to push it all day long.
Broader Market Access
Likewise, channel partners allow vendors to trump geographic boundaries that would be a costly challenge to overcome with direct sales reps. Instead of needing to open multiple offices, vendors can leverage their partners’ locations as a means of broader distribution and for a fraction of the cost.
Lower Up-Front Investment
Relying on channel partners allows capital-strapped entrepreneurs to minimize initial costs associated with a sole reliance on internal sales reps. The reason is two fold: partners come to the table with technological expertise and earn their keep based on a percentage of the revenue they bring in. That said, partners still require support from the vendor to be successful including proper training, sales support and, of course, leads.
So does this mean that every tech venture should take off running down the channel partner road? Of course not. Without the right product and the right strategy, a small business that flops it’s way into the channel is sure to fail. However, for those who understand exactly what channel sales success takes, it can be an extremely viable, lucrative option.
About The Guest Author: Stacy Desrosiers is an accomplished channel expert with nearly 20 years success in engaging, enabling and marketing with VARs for technology companies. Her work with Channeltivity, stems from the belief that having a strong foundation will enable any organization to successfully manage and support their growing partner base.
Startup Photo via Shutterstock
March 15th, 2013 at 6:42 am
If you enjoy hearing what other small business professionals have to say about their own small business experiences and learned knowledge, then boy do I have the resource for you. Martin Lindeskog, a contributor for Small Business Trends, put together an awesome list of Top 100 Small Business Podcasts.
Each year we choose 100 of the most informative small business podcasts. While there are many excellent business podcasts out there, these are ones that we think small business owners, startup entrepreneurs, managers, marketers and budding entrepreneurs will find particularly valuable.
This is the fourth annual list and it just keeps getting better and better! Big pat on the back to Martin for putting together such a great list and congrats to everyone who made the cut!
March 8th, 2013 at 6:56 am
When Hurricane Sandy hit in late October, it wasn’t only the people along the East Coast who felt her wrath. As New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania were darkened by power outages, computer users and businesses everywhere also suffered a blackout of sorts. Data centers were knocked off-line, taking popular websites down with them. The outages also meant that some remote employees didn’t have access to their company network.
Cloud computing has benefits in a number of situations, but it is especially during a natural disaster that its value really shines through. The cloud can be advantageous in protecting data loss during a disaster by allowing organizations to perform offsite data replication to a cloud storage provider, Chris Trautwein, chief information security officer with (ISC)2 pointed out. The cloud can also position organizations to continue to use that data in the disaster’s aftermath.
“Organizations may want to consider cloud providers with ‘disaster recovery as a service’ (DRaaS) offerings,” Trautwein said. “DRaas offerings provide managed disaster recovery solutions that allow organizations to replicate critical applications running at their datacenter to a cloud hosting provider. In traditional disaster recovery scenarios, organizations would typically have a large capital expenditure to acquire redundant hardware and redundant facilities that would only be used in the event of a disaster. With the cloud-based approach, organizations can eliminate this large capital expenditure (CAPEX) and instead pay a monthly service charge (OPEX) for use of a DRaaS service. This provides more cost certainty and more flexibility.”
Since we know that disasters hit data centers, too, it is a good idea to consider a cloud vendor with multiple data center locations, which can offer services to replicate data between their data centers.
“Enterprise customers should strongly consider investigating offerings by their hosting providers to determine what service offerings are available. In many cases, organizations may opt to ‘fail-over’ from a data center that is in harm’s way to an alternate data center in a more secure location,” said Trautwein.
Every organization should determine how downtime would affect them in terms of both direct and indirect costs and then compare those costs to the costs of various hosting provider options. Organizations should also try to determine the probability that a disaster would affect their hosting provider location and use that figure along with the cost of downtime and the cost of data replication or failover alternatives to determine the right amount to invest in a disaster recovery strategy.
“Think about this like purchasing an insurance policy,” said Trautwein. “How much coverage do you want to have; how likely are you to be affected by the negative event; and how much are you willing to pay?”
About The Guest Author: Sue Proemba blogs for Rackspace Hosting, a service leader in cloud computing and a founder of OpenStack, an open source cloud operating system. The San Antonio-based company provides Fanatical Support to its customers and partners, across a portfolio of IT services, including Managed Hosting and Cloud Computing.
Cloud Computing Photo via Shutterstock
February 27th, 2013 at 6:13 am
The current business environment is a difficult one. While businesses are still seeking to expand, prudent business executives and owners are also looking to economize in every way possible. These cost-cutting efforts will affect every department in a company, especially HR, as most companies spend the largest part of their revenue on salaries and wages.
Not only will salaries and wages be tightly controlled but the depth and range of benefits packages will also be reconsidered every year. Lessening benefits and thus lowering premiums may seem the most obvious way to achieve savings but there are hidden costs that should also be considered before reducing a company’s benefits package. These hidden costs involve the recruiting, hiring and training of employees and can have a significant effect on the financial health and bottom line of a company.
Lower Premiums Don’t Necessarily Mean Lessened Benefits
It seems an almost immutable law of the business world that if a company or its employees pay less in premiums that it will receive less in benefits. While this notion is typical, utilizing an outsource HR vendor or Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can change the dynamics for the better.
In many cases, an HR vendor can, because of economies of scale, reduce administrative costs and thus reduce premiums to some degree. More importantly, an outsourced HR vendor brings consolidated purchasing power to their negotiations with insurance companies. Since the HR vendor represents many companies and therefore many employees, they can achieve significant reductions in premium costs without negatively affecting the benefit packages.
Lessened Benefits DO Mean Lower Quality Candidates
For many employees, especially younger ones, the allure of benefits pales in comparison to the salary or wage associated with a job. However, there are many, more mature employees who recognize the advantages of a well-designed and affordable benefits package.
A business owner or executive should recognize that people choose a job for specific reasons, and are not always entirely focused on which employer offers them the highest salary. While a superior benefits package may not always entice a higher quality employee to apply, a meager one can unintentionally deter many highly qualified potential applicants.
Superior Benefits Packages Attract and RETAIN More Qualified Applicants
More qualified applicants mean more qualified hires. In general, these employees are secure in their positions, and are more likely to train faster, stay longer, and be more productive. Continue Reading »
February 20th, 2013 at 6:33 am
Regardless of the size of your business, you need to have a data storage solution that protects your data and acts as a backup in case your primary storage fails. Just take a minute to imagine how you would go about trying to recover if you suddenly lost all of the information stored on your business computer, and you’ll quickly realize the necessity of data storage. Consider a wide range of options, including both on-site and remote storage, and pick the one that best meets your small business’ needs.
Pros and Cons of On-Site Storage
Keeping your data on-site may seem like the smart choice, given that you feel like you have the most control over data there. In addition, making backups is easy when you can do them directly rather than having to rely on your connection speed to transfer lots of data.
However, if your computer is destroyed in a fire, flood or electrical surge, there’s a good chance the external hard drive plugged into it will be destroyed as well. Likewise, a theft or data breach on site may also affect data stored in your backups. Lastly, on-site storage means you won’t be able to access data if you’re away from the office.
Pros and Cons of Remote Storage
Many companies choose to use remote storage for their backups because of the reassurance of knowing that there is another copy of information stored outside of the office. Being able to set up shop somewhere else and retrieve all of your data from the off-site storage allows you to pick up where you left off as smoothly as possible after a disaster.
However, off-site storage also has its disadvantages. It tends to be more expensive because you’re paying someone else to manage your data. In addition, your upload speed when creating backups is only as fast as your web connection, which may be restrictive if your business is very data based.
Choosing the Right Type of Drive
Once you know where you’re storing the data, which for some businesses includes both on-site and off-site backups, you need to decide what type of drive to use. Although traditional spinning hard drives are the least expensive option, they aren’t necessarily the best choice for your data.
Many companies these days are turning to solid-state storage instead because the drives have no moving parts, which make them better in several key ways. In particular, writing and accessing the data is much faster because the drive doesn’t have to move to store and retrieve data. Solid state drives also tend to be more scalable so you can easily add more flash storage later if you need it.
Getting Started With Your Backups
Dragging your feet isn’t a wise choice when it comes to data storage. Today could be the day disaster strikes, and your business will be better positioned to recover if you have data storage in place. So, start now with the data storage solution that makes the most sense for your business trajectory and needs. Then from the IT side of things, set up automatic backups so you don’t have to add backing up your data to the list of things you or your staff have to manage on an ongoing basis.
About The Guest Author: Dawn Altnam lives and works in the Midwest, and she enjoys following the business tech world. After furthering her education, she has spent some time researching her interests and blogs about Pure Storage often.
Colorful Folders Photo via Shutterstock