Selling Social: How Companies Are Connecting with Social Media

Selling Social: How Companies Are Connecting with Social Media
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5 Great iOS Apps for Freelancers

5 Great iOS Apps for Freelancers

Most freelancers are frequently on the go, and many of them can function in any space where there is an Internet connection. Wouldn’t it be great to make great use of your iOS device to better manage your freelance business?

Here are a few great iOS apps that freelancers may find especially useful:

MyPrice – Costs: $1.99

MyPrice is a valuable iOS app for independent contractors who aren’t sure how much they should charge for their services, whether on a project basis or at an hourly rate. This app gives you a general idea of how much you should charge a client based on various personal and external factors such as your background and daily expenses. MyPrice caters to an extensive range of freelance jobs, from web design and programming to writing and copy editing.

Expensify – Costs: Nothing

You may not need to submit an expense report to your boss (what boss?), but you do need to be responsible when it comes to recording your business-related expenses. Expensify is a nifty app that allows you to track your purchases as they occur by syncing them with your bank accounts and credit cards. This iOS app also allows you to use your camera phone as a receipt scanner for purchases that are made with cash.

SignEasy – Costs: Nothing

Have you ever finalized a sales contract, NDA, or consent form with a client, but had no immediate access to a printer, scanner, or fax machine? SignEasy is a secure and convenient way to use your iPhone or iPad to sign documents, whether at home, at the office, or at a remote location. This app allows you to easily import a document, edit PDFs, sign with a stylus or your finger, and email the final document or save it on Dropbox or other similar applications.

2Do: Tasks Done in Style – Costs: $9.99

There are hundreds of productivity apps out there, but if an app’s overall interface matters to you, then 2Do is one thing that’s worth spending on. This attractive and intuitive task manager has tons of useful features, such as picture attachments, audio notes, tabbed lists, instant previews, multiple alerts per task, as well as dragging and dropping tasks to and from lists.

Invoice2go Plus – Costs: Nothing
Invoice2go – Costs: $9.99

One of the hardest parts about freelancing isn’t actually making money, but collecting it. Invoice2go is one app that will make it a lot easier for you to create invoices, credit memos, estimates, and purchase orders. You’ll be able to effortlessly calculate taxes based on the state you’re in, and can also keep track of the clients who still owe you. Invoice2go comes with several invoice template styles to choose from, and also allows you to place a PayPal button on your invoice to make the entire process even more convenient.

5 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Creating A Business Plan

5 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Creating A Business Plan

When it comes to getting your small business off the ground, one of the biggest steps you’ll need to do first is create a business plan. Of course, while it is important to include necessary elements in your business plan, it is equally important that you do not commit any of the following mistakes:

1) Procrastinating

Unfortunately, most business owners tend to put off creating their business plan until it’s absolutely necessary, only creating one when an investor or bank asks for a copy. Don’t wait until the last minute. Take the time to plan for both the present and the future, and you’ll find that your efforts will go a long way toward your business success.

2) Being too vague

Avoid talking nonsense and being too vague with your business objectives and goals. Identify specific dates, milestones, budgets, and management responsibilities. If you’re trying to avoid revealing confidential material, then you may want to show interested parties your executive summary first, and then possibly ask them to sign a non-disclosure or non-compete agreement if they want to see more.

3) Being too detailed

Keep it clear and concise. When creating a business plan, remember not to get weighed down by too many details. Focus on the key elements of your business, and keep the technical information to a bare minimum. If you really must discuss the particulars, do so in a later section like an appendix.

4) Conducting inadequate research

It’s essential that your business plan be backed up by research. Ensure that numbers, statistics, and charts substantiate all your projections and assumptions. Also, double-check that your research isn’t dated, or you may just discredit the work you’ve done so far.

5) Claiming your business has no competition

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when creating a business plan is failing to acknowledge the fact that you have any competition. From the very beginning, list the other players in the industry, and identify how you can best compete with them. All businesses have competitors, whether in a direct or indirect form.

Four Things to Consider When Choosing a Blogging Platform

Four Things to Consider When Choosing a Blogging Platform

A blog is an essential business tool that will not just attract potential clients to your website, but that will also help you connect with your current clients. If you’ve been thinking about starting a blog for your small online business, you will first need to decide on which blogging platform to use. After all, the blogging platform that works for one particular company may not necessarily work for your company.

Here are some of the things you need to consider:

1) Your Budget

If you’re just starting your business, it may be difficult to estimate how much incoming cash flow to expect. Many blogging platforms are available at absolutely no cost, although you are often only given access to very limited features, and may not be able to customize it as much as you would want to. Other platforms charge a monthly fee, but come with many more features. Also, if you’d rather host your own blog on your own domain, then you’ll need to purchase the domain and pay for the hosting.

2) Your Skills

Do you have experience with coding in PHP or CSS? If the answer is yes, then you may have an easier time finding a blogging platform that you can work with. If you’re new to blogging, then it may be best to find something user-friendly and easy to understand. If you seem to find a particular platform confusing to use and workaround, then perhaps that platform is beyond your specific technical skills.

3) Theme Options

While blogging platforms generally offer several theme options for you to choose from, not all platforms offer themes that are appropriate for your needs or line of business. Some allow you to customize your own theme, although you might have to pay extra for such feature. If you aren’t familiar with coding or can’t afford to hire a website designer, it may be best to find a platform that comes with an available selection of themes.

4) Available Features

One thing you seriously have to consider are the features you’d like to add to your blog, both now and later on. This includes the ability to use Google Ads, compatibility with Google AdWords, and extra functionality like forums. Some blogging platforms do not allow users to host advertisements, and so it is essential that you identify your blogging goals and how exactly you plan to achieve them. It would be a shame to spend so much time fixing up your blog, only to find out that you’ll need to export it to another blogging platform later on.

7 Creative Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

Thank You Notes

Great marketing goes beyond designing a great logo. Promoting a business can be a challenging task, particularly if you’re after a fresh, creative approach. Of course, marketing a small business can be even more difficult, as budgets are a lot smaller and networks are much more limited. Here are some creative yet cost-effective ways to market your small business:

1) Repurpose existing content.

Have you written lots of content on a particular subject? There’s no need to let your expertise go to waste. Turn your old blog posts into an e-book, a magazine article, a booklet, or even a marketing video.

2) Host workshops and seminars.

Share your talent and expertise with others by teaching at workshops and speaking at seminars. You’ll get publicity both from marketing the event and the event itself.

3) Get personal.

Send handwritten thank you, birthday, or holiday cards to past and present clients and partners. Although this may seem like a taxing task, many entrepreneurs and small businesses can attest to its effectiveness.

4) Sponsor a local team.

Sponsor a local basketball team or youth camp and you’ll not only get publicity by way of feature articles and press releases, but you’ll also get your company logo on team uniforms and signs. You’ll be able to build brand awareness and become a valuable community member at the same time.

5) Raise funds for a cause.

One of the best ways to market your small business is by getting the entire local community involved. Join up with other non-competing businesses in the area and organize a fundraiser for a particular cause or charitable organization. You’ll not only do your share of good, but you’ll automatically be included in all the marketing efforts of your partners.

6) Host an event.

While networking may be a great way to market your business, hosting an event is an even better way to do so. If possible, offer freebies or free food in order to get more people to attend. An event will allow you to reach a much wider audience at once, and if you’re able to hold the event at your actual location, then people will know where you are and where they can find you in the future.

7) Go where your competition is not.

Take a closer look at your competitors, and see what marketing methods they are and aren’t doing. If they’re not on YouTube, Pinterest, or even in the community newsletter, then maybe it’s time you explore these avenues.

Photo Credit: iClipart

6 Ways to Stay Productive While Working From Home

6 Ways to Stay Productive While Working From Home

According to a study by Stanford University, more than 10 percent of employees in the United States work at home. Of course, while some people report being more productive while working from their home, there are also those who cannot say the same.

If you’re new to working from home, you may find yourself lying on the couch, watching afternoon soap operas, and still in your pajamas by the time dinnertime comes along. If this is the case, then you can use some tips on how to stay productive.

Here are some great ways to make your workday at home a more effective one:

1) Set your space.

Choose one room or area in your house to be your designated workspace. It doesn’t have to be a big space; it simply needs to be enough for your needs. With a set workspace, you’ll be aware that when you’re there, it’s time for you to get serious and get cracking.

2) Define your hours.

Set a schedule for yourself, and stick to it as best as you can. Of course, the beauty of working from home is being able to be more liberal with your hours. If you opt to take three-hour breaks in the middle of the day and end your workday a little later, then that’s completely up to you. What’s important is that you establish a routine and stick to it.

3) Let your family and friends know.

Your family and friends probably believe that you keep flexible hours, and that you are always available for impromptu coffee dates or are free to do their errands. Inform your family and friends of your set working hours and ask that they be respectful of your time.

4) Dress and act the part.

As tempting as it may be to stay unshaven and work in bed, one of the best ways to keep productive is to dress the part. Take a shower, have breakfast, and get dressed for the day ahead. Afterwards, sit at your desk, create a list of your tasks for the day, and get straight to work.

5) Take breaks.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks throughout the day, just like you would if you were in a corporate setting. Take a few minutes every few hours to stand up and stretch, do some household chores, or even leave the house for a quick errand.

6) Learn to disconnect.

As difficult as it may be to go offline in this day and age, do your best to switch off your work mode as soon as your working hours are over. While you don’t have the option of leaving everything at the office, you can turn email notifications off and shut down the computer. Allow your mind and body some time to relax, and you’ll find yourself a lot more productive tomorrow.

Photo Credit: iClipart

7 Video Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

7 Video Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you probably already know that creating a truly effective video marketing strategy can be rather costly. What you need to know is that you don’t have to work with a professional studio or a celebrity spokesperson to achieve video marketing success.

Here are some practical video marketing tips that every small business owner should know:

1) Keep it real.

Some marketing videos are overly complex, but the great news is that these videos don’t necessarily have to be elaborate in order to be effective. Communicate openly and directly to your viewers, and keep things genuine. It is completely possible to make an impact simply by speaking passionately about your products or sharing expertise on a certain subject.

2)  Keep things simple.

Keep your marketing video short and simple. Some of the most effective marketing videos out there involve a white background, one person, and a great script. Of course, remember to get to the point. After all, not everyone will want to watch a 15-minute video.

3) Record customer testimonials.

Are you in need of content for your videos? One thing you can do is record your customer’s testimonials and place them on your site. Show your website visitors that your customers are real people, and allow them to see and hear about your products firsthand.

4) Create a video blog.

If your business has a blog as part of your website, consider creating the occasional video blog instead of always publishing written content. This combination allows you to cater to both types of visitors—those who prefer to read your content and those who prefer to watch it.

5) Make a call to action.

Be sure to end every single video with a call to action. Inviting viewers to visit your website, make a phone call, or send you an email will likely generate more leads than if no contact information were placed in the first place.

6) Switch up your video hosting.

You can opt to host your video in multiple ways, such as on YouTube, Facebook, or even the company website. While posting your videos on YouTube allows you to save on bandwidth and reach a wide user base, placing videos on your website will provide your visitors with a richer content selection. It would be most advantageous to create a dynamic online presence by switching it up, and even posting your videos on a variety of mediums.

7) Maximize the power of social media.

Reach out to potential clients and customers by maximizing social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. A small business owner can especially benefit from doing so, as viewers can easily share your videos with their family members, friends, and colleagues. Of course, be careful not to overdo this, because you don’t want your viewers to become annoyed at your incessant posts.

Common Website Mistakes You Should Avoid Making

Common Website Mistakes You Should Avoid MakingThese days websites are very easy to put together. Of course, putting a simple, bare website online will not automatically translate into more customers or clients. If you want to truly make your website an effective business tool, then you have to put some serious thought into what it looks like and what it contains. When it comes to creating a website for your small business, here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

1) Not updating your content.

Remember that the reason people visit your website is because they’re searching for content. A website is used as a primary source of information for both new and old customers, and it is a must that you keep it updated if you want to drive more traffic. Find a way to engage your customers and keep them coming back for more. A simple way to do this is by adding a blog to your regular retail site and use it to post topics of interest to your audience.

2) Being careless with typos and grammatical errors.

The tiniest of spelling or grammatical errors may seem insignificant, but these mistakes can make you look unprofessional. If you can’t tell the difference between “their” and “there,” keep in mind that you may just be damaging your credibility. Have someone else proofread your website before publishing it on the World Wide Web, or use a spelling and grammar checker to look for errors.

3) Forgetting a call to action.

People are visiting your website—but now what? Don’t let them close that browser without taking some sort of action. Tell your customers what to do next! Ask them to contact you, buy something, or sign up for your mailing list. Every page should have some sort of call to action that leads your readers in the direction you’d like them to go. It might help to offer then an incentive for signing up with you like a free report or ebook.

4) Not making it user-friendly.

Your website might look nice, but is it easy for visitors to navigate? Don’t go live if your website isn’t user-friendly. Make the navigation within your website seamless! If your website visitors have a hard time finding the information they’re looking for, then they’ll likely take their business somewhere else. Keep your web design smart and simple.

5) Being unreachable.

Make it extremely easy for people to get in touch with you. List your contact numbers and email address in a location that is simple to find. Have a contact form or page so customers can easily leave you a message that goes directly into your inbox. Don’t forget to write them back!

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Tips to Building an Online Presence for Your Small Business

5 Tips to Building an Online PresenceStudies show that approximately 80% of consumers use the World Wide Web to locate products and businesses online. These numbers give small and mid-sized businesses a reason to seriously think about getting on the Internet. Building an online presence for your small business can seem like an overwhelming and daunting task. Where do you even start? Well here are some simple tips to get started on building an online presence:

1) Make a plan.

Building an online presence becomes a lot easier if, from the start, you are able to identify what you want to achieve. Incorporate online goals in your business plan. Who is your target market online and how do you reach them? What do you want to get out of your going online? Set traffic projections and social media goals.

2) Determine your media outlets.

There are dozens of social media sites out there—but don’t feel pressured to create an account for every single media outlet online. Do some research and stick to one or two accounts. Facebook allows you to easily connect with your customers, while Twitter makes it easy to chat with customers, colleagues, and other individuals in the industry. Hold contests or giveaways on your page and customers will definitely keep their eye on you.

3) Always choose quality over quantity.

Yes, you want to establish brand recall, but that doesn’t mean you need to post a dozen messages a day. If you don’t have anything compelling or interesting to share with your followers, then don’t share it.

4) Blog.

Establish confidence and trust in your customers by incorporating a blog into your website and posting regularly. Share your expertise by writing about what you know. Increase your online business credibility by offering your readers free, useful information and tips. Take the opportunity to show your customers that you and your company are approachable, knowledgeable, and active!

5) Keep it consistent.

It may be difficult to set aside time each day to work on building your online presence, so do your best to make it a habit. Schedule a particular time each day to go online, chat with your customers and reply to their queries.

Of course, there are many more things you can do to help out. Building an online presence takes a lot of time, effort and consistency. Work hard and your determination and discipline will pay off!

Photo Credit: iClipart

5 Steps to Easily Create Your Own Kindle Books

5 Steps to Easily Create Your Own Kindle BooksAs a self employed person I find myself wearing many different hats during the course of a business day and I’m acutely aware that I’ll be entirely responsible for my own retirement when the time comes. For this reason I attempt to always spend a minimum of 20% of my time on product creation, because my ebooks, templates, apps and other products continue to make sales and earn an income even while I’m sleeping, playing with the kids or off doing all the other busy work on my list.

Kindle books are the perfect product to add to your arsenal because if you’ve been blogging for any amount of time you likely already have lots of content and you’re building a fan base, plus Kindle books are fast, easy and cheap to put together. Here are five simple steps to creating your own Kindle book:

1) Gather the Content

Write up a report on a topic you’re interested in, put together a short instructional guide, or gather some of your best blog posts to develop a short book. If you blog about recipes, sewing, crafts, family or business, pick some of your favorite recipes, posts or tutorials and combine them to create a short book on your niche.

2) Get a Free Kindle Account

To self-publish your books on the Amazon Kindle Store you’ll need a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. It’s free to join and any books you publish through KDP can participate in the 70% royalty program.

3) Format Your Book

You can get lots of help and tips on formatting your Kindle book through the KDP quick guide or you can automatically convert your documents using the Kinstant Formatter for a small investment. If your book is very complex or contains lots of graphics and images then you might want to consider using an editing service.

4) Upload Your Book

Next you’ll upload the formatted book through your KDP account. You’ll also need to enter the title, the price, a short description, and the names of any contributors. To help readers find your book you’ll be asked to choose a category and to enter 5 to 7 descriptive keywords.

5) Create a Cover

Technically it’s optional to include a cover, but buyers are very visual and you’ll make more sales with an eye catching cover so you really need to have one. It doesn’t have to be fancy and you can create a simple cover yourself, or if you need help in that department you can hire a graphic designer to make your cover.

Once your Kindle book is uploaded and all ready to go, be sure to market the book to your readers and others by placing sidebar ads on your blog and sharing through all of your social media accounts. If you’d like a little more direction on how to get your book to the top of the list for your keywords at Kindle, I’d highly recommend that you check out the Page One Profits guide – you’ll learn how to quickly get your books to rank high in searches, which will result in more sales for you! The Page One Profits guide is just $27, but you can take $17 off with promo code DENISE and pay only $10 through October 17th.