Meet Lynsey Jones From Party Plan Divas

Lynsey Jones, Party Plan DivasI’m excited to be introducing a new series called Meet Successful Women here on the blog and I’m happy to start off the series with this interview with my friend Lynsey Jones from Party Plan Divas. Lynsey took her experience with party plan businesses to a whole new level when she developed courses and tools based on the processes she’d developed to make her own business successful, and made those tools available to others looking to succeed in their party plan businesses. I’m inspired by how she’s created a prosperous business out of helping others to reach their dreams and I’m proud to introduce you to her:

How long have you had your business or blog?

Since 2006 – blogging since 2008

Describe your business or blog – what do you do or blog about?

I run the largest online training community for women in Direct Sales. I have developed a time management system for how to run your business – not let your business run you! I have also developed a similar system for Bloggers and I’m working with another Top Mom Blogger to launch a training site for bloggers much like Party Plan Divas.

How did you get started with your business or blog?

After 13 years in the Party Plan Industry I kept hearing the same struggles over and over again. SO – I created a solution and began teaching it – never imagining it would become what it is today!

Do you work from home or do you have a studio, shop or office somewhere?

I have a home office.

What’s the best part of being self-employed? And the worst?

I am not a good employee, and can not STAND the idea of someone telling me what to do with my time. The best part is being able to control my own schedule. However it is also the worst part – as it takes a ton of discipline some days to work at ALL lol

What goals do you have for your business?

Many of them I have already achieved, but I would like to be a keynote speaker at a large direct sales company convention – that is my ultimate goal.

Party Plan Divas

State of the Deal Blogging Economy

State of the Deal Blogging Economy

According to Nielsen Wire there are over 181 million blogs online, up more than 400% since 2006. There is no way to break it down by topic so we can’t know what percentage of these are deal and frugal bloggers, but those numbers have increased dramatically with the combination of a tough economy and the popularity of the Extreme Couponing television show that airs on TLC.

Many of the top deal bloggers post 20 or more times a day and have thousands of loyal followers who flock to their posts so they don’t miss any of the bargains. There are also hundreds (if not thousands) of smaller blogs that post deals and coupon matchups, like my Shopper Strategy blog, who have benefited from the tremendous increase in traffic from couponers and deal hunters.

Heather from Inexpensively predicted in a Babble post that

“this year will see some changes in store policy, as both consumers and retailers cut back on coupons. I also believe we will see some of the daily deal sites folding — the market won’t be able to handle quite so many as consumer needs change.”

Now many retailers and grocery chains have begun tightening their coupon policies and there are fewer high value coupons available. Daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are struggling with the effects of deal fatigue on their customers who are being bombarded with email offers. Traffic at my blog has dropped to about a third of normal and conversations in some of my frugal blogger groups have turned from sharing popular deals to complaining about affiliate programs that are no longer performing.

Unfortunately, once a market becomes saturated it hits the decline stage of its life cycle. At this stage those bloggers that have earned their readers loyalty may not suffer in overall profits but they will experience a decline in new readers. Other sites that may have been performing only marginally well will begin to go by the wayside as traffic becomes concentrated on a smaller number of blogs.

So what do you do when faced with a shakeup in your blogging niche? There are a number of options for those looking to stay ahead of the changes in the market. We’ve already seen several coupon bloggers merge or buy each other out and consolidating is a great way to increase profitability by reducing duplication of efforts from running more than one blog. Other bloggers have accomplished this by adding another website that focuses on a different store. Alternatively you may choose to take a different route with your blog and begin to focus on a new niche like cooking and food, crafts or product reviews.

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time then you’ve worked hard to build up a reader base, or platform for your voice. There is value in what you’ve built and you should think about ways to build or expand upon that platform. No matter what your blog topic, if you earn any sort of an income from your blog then it is a business, and every business needs to have an exit strategy. Your exit strategy may simply be to evolve, stay ahead of these decreasing traffic trends by branching out now into other areas of interest. Mindi at MomsNeedToKnow.com gives this excellent advice,

“Find your own niche and research it before you put your heart and soul in to it. Want to do “general couponing”? Guess what – there are 3000 other blogs competing with you! Want to focus on gluten-free coupon deals? There are probably only a few blogs with which you need to compete.”

For example, I took a long hard look at my blog to determine which posts are currently pulling the most traffic, which have the best returns, and which posts take most of my time. I found out that my shopping trip posts are very popular, my ‘saving strategy’ posts are evergreen, and earnings from my matchup posts have decreased along with traffic but the time to do them certainly hasn’t. I’ve responded by changing my editorial calendar from an average of 3 to 5 posts per day to a new goal of 1 to 2 posts per day. All matchups and most deal posts have been cut because I find they’re taking more time than they’re worth and there are other blogs that do a much better job with them so I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I’m implementing these changes gradually so I don’t startle my readers and so far the traffic and rank numbers have all held steady. I’m focusing more on sponsored post opportunities instead of affiliate posts that rely on high traffic for a decent return and the blog is already more profitable and is taking less time to manage.

These small changes are working out well for me, what plans or changes do you have in mind for your blog? Remember that the blogosphere, just like any industry, is constantly changing and evolving and it’s up to you to determine what is best for your blog and for your readers’ changing needs.

Photo Credit: iClipart

How to Earn Extra Income as a Freelancer

How to Earn Extra Income as a FreelancerAre you trying to get a new business or blog off the ground? Are you trying to make the transition from having a job to owning a business? What can you do to get through a dry period while you’re waiting for your new gig to make money? Performing freelance jobs for others is a perfect way to fill in when you need extra income as you’re building your business or blog. Many people do freelance work full-time as their business, but you can take small jobs on an as needed basis to get through any tough times while growing your business.

There are several great websites like Elance, Odesk, and Witmart where you can sign up and bid on jobs that match your skills such as web programming, creative writing, data entry, sales and marketing, graphic design, tax services, customer service, research, transcription and many other types of jobs.

When you promote your services through these websites you can bid on as few or as many jobs as you would like and you may quote whatever you wish. You don’t have to work full-time or even consistently in order to be a member of these sites, and you don’t have to take any jobs you don’t want. In fact, you may just want to bid on jobs occasionally when you’re experiencing slow periods or downtime with your blog or business.

Look for jobs that will fit with your schedule and that will pay frequently or within a short timeframe to keep your cash flow going smoothly. Some projects may take a month or two and if bidding on those you’ll want to request frequent small payments, or you could look for shorter jobs that can be completed within a week or so where you’ll receive full payment when you’re done.

I recommend setting up a free account with one or two freelance websites so you can slowly build up good feedback and relationships with clients over time. The beauty of performing services through a freelance website is that you can find paying customers rather quickly for an infusion of cash whenever needed so you can focus on building your blog or business without worrying about how to pay the bills.

Photo Credit: iClipart

How To Monetize Your Blog and Earn Passive Income Using E-Commerce

Having been a work at home graphic designer for 6 years now I’ve learned a thing or two about how to earn passive income. While it’s true you can earn ad revenue from your blog you could also monetize your blog and earn passive income with e-commerce. With the right product and a bit of strategic marketing your blog could be earning you a steady stream of consistent income while you are off doing other things.

With the recent surge in e-commerce plugins it is now possible to set up a simple yet effective e-commerce solution right from within WordPress. I have run e-commerce stores using complicated and sometimes frustrating software solutions such as X-Cart and Zen Cart. X-Cart while a very robust system does not come out of the box with many of the features i’d need to run an e-commerce and has cost me into the thousands to modify. Zen Cart while free was just way too difficult to navigate on the back end for my needs.

Looking to start a new dot com and in the need of a quick e-commerce solution I decided to opt for WordPress. In earlier days if we wanted to sell from our blogs we could add a PayPal button to a page. While that is still an option your needs will most likely be greater than that. Now it is completely possible to set up a full e-commerce store by simply installing a plugin. Previously scarce the options for WordPress e-commerce solutions are now plentiful. Here are some of my top picks.

E-Commerce Plugins For Word Press

WooCommerce –  WooCommerce would be my first choice in plugins. Though I orignally test drove WooCommerce and found it to perfect in most every respect I ultimately did not choose it. I needed the option to assign multiple files to a single product and at the time this was not possible with WooCommerce. However I just got word yesterday that upon their next rollout they will be releasing the next upgrade with that feature. When that happens I fully intend to switch over.

JigoShop –  My next choice and current e-commerce solution, Jigoshop was actually born off of the WooCommerce platform. Many of the features are the same on the admin side but WooCommerce seems to be a bit more stylish. Jigoshop does allow the sale of downloadable goods and is even toying with the idea of allowing multiple files per product. I in fact am beta testing their version of multilple files per download and seemingly it works pretty well. They have just released their latest upgrade and surprisingly this feature was not implemented. Not sure why that is or when it will be added but here’s keeping my fingers crossed for that.

E-Junkie –  E-Junkie is a subscription based service. Monthly fees are based on how many products you have and/or how much storage space you need. E-Junkie allows the sale of digital files and gives you the option to host the files on your server or theirs.

PayPal –  PayPal has evolved and offers options for adding buttons to your blog for accepting payments. The benefit of using paypal is that they are highly recognizable and well trusted. You can accept credit cards without having to go through the hassle of setting up an account with the credit card companies. To use this feature you will need a business account with Paypal.

If you don’t happen to have any products readily available or are unsure as to what you could even sell here are some ideas. I made certain to list plugins that allow the sale of downloadable goods because that is the truest way to really make passive income.

Here are some of the top E-Goods that may be lucrative for your blog:

  • E-Books
  • Software
  • Music Files
  • Digital Art
  • Website Templates

If you don’t have any of these products to sell you may want to consider partnering with or becoming an affiliate for someone who does. Of course you could always sell any of your own products be they digital or even physical if you desire. Another option to consider is drop shipping. This allows you to offer a variety of tangible goods on your website but all of the shipping and product handling is done by a third party company.

Naturally the key to keeping this truly passive is to opt for as little effort as possible. The products I’ve mentioned require no maintenance or upkeep and there is no shipping involved. Your greatest effort will be in setting up the initial product in the store. Once that’s done you are free to sit back and let the passive income flow.

How To Monetize Your Blog and Earn Passive Income Using E-Commerce:

Here’s how to get started.

  1. Install a WordPress blog to your website.
  2. Select the right e-commerce plugin for you and install it.
  3. Choose a payment gateway, this is essential for getting paid! Sign up for a service and then enter your user information in the designated area of your plugin. Popular gateways include, PayPal, 2Checkout, Google Checkout and a wide variety of other services.
  4. Choose your product.
  5. Brand, package and upload your product to add it to your store. You will be able to do this through your WordPress plugin or you may need to use FTP depending on the file size.
  6. Add product to your store. Typically this is just like adding a post depending on the solution you choose. Be sure to assign the file for download or the customer will have nothing to download.
  7. Check and recheck! Be sure to check all product descriptions for accuracy. Doe the product image match the product description? Does the description text accurately portray what is being sold? Log in as a guest and purchase the products. Even have a friend do this as well. Did the payment process correctly? Were the files delivered properly? Ask your friend how the process went for them. Test your store on different browsers. Be sure everything is running smoothly before you open your doors to the public.

Though getting your e-commerce store set up can be simple, and maintenance will be minimal be aware there will be some maintenance.

  • Customer Support: For obvious reasons most downloadable goods come with a no return policy. But you will still need to offer customer support if you want repeat business and referrals. Be sure you or someone qualified is available to answer any customer inquiries or concerns.
  • Website Maintenance: Keep your website up to date! Pay attention to update alerts and keep all versions of your blog and e-commerce plugin up to date. Failing to do so can cause great security risks!
  • Marketing:  Plan a strategy for getting the word out. You’ll want to have some type of promotion in place to let visitors know about you and your awesome product. Take some time to promote your site and your product. Doing so will reap great rewards.

Follow these guidelines and you’ll be raking in the passive income with your blog.

Author Bio:

Veronica Spriggs is a full time graphic designer working from home creating photographer album templates. She is also an amateur photographer always looking for the perfect shot. She has a love of art, music, movies, food and all things beautiful. She enjoys educating others and offers many helpful photographer tutorials on her blog.

How to Automatically Send Blog Posts to Tumblr

Tumblr Logo

Tumblr is a popular microblogging platform that gets over 15 billion hits a month. Anyone can join and post their thoughts, links and images, just like a regular blog, and others can follow you and your posts on their dashboard page similar to Facebook or Twitter. I’ve resisted joining because I already have a never ending list of things to do, but Tumblr keeps coming up in conversations lately with blogger friends and Mashable called it an emerging second tier social network so I finally broke down and joined.

After giving some thought to how I planned to use Tumblr I decided that it would be a great place to consolidate links to all posts from my blogs as well as guest posts, latest Tweets, Facebook updates and Instagram photos. What a nice convenient way to highlight all of my links in one spot! It’s a simple matter to authorize connections between your Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts from the settings pages of the respective sites. Unfortunately, I soon found out that Tumblr no longer supports using RSS feeds for automatic blog post updates. If you’ve had a Tumblr account and were already using RSS feeds then you’ll be able to continue, but new members won’t have access to that service.

Tumblr RSS Help

It would be tough for me to manage the Tumblr page without being able to automate some of the processes so I set out to find another way to automatically submit my blog posts to Tumblr. If This Then That provides a simple and free solution to this problem through the use of what they call “recipes”. They include a huge group of 51 different “channels” that you can select from to create some recipes so that IF THIS happens, THEN THAT happens next. Trigger channels include Buffer, Craigslist, Dropbox, email, Evernote, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube just to name a few.

IFTTT Recipe for Tumblr

Recipes are very easy to create and even share with others. Here’s the recipe I created, you can use it to setup your own automatic blog feed to Tumblr using IFTTT (pronounced ‘lift’ without the L) in just a few seconds. You can create triggers for things like saving your Instagram or tagged Facebook photos automatically to Google Drive, or to save your Tweets or Twitter mentions to a spreadsheet. Head on over and check out all the available options and shared recipes in the member community, you’ll be amazed at all of the different things you can do!

5 Sources of Start-Up Money for Your Business

5 Sources of Start-Up Money for Your BusinessOne of the biggest challenges that every start-up business owner needs to address is where to get the funds to actually start the business. If you lack in start-up money to get your killer business idea moving, then here are some great sources of business start-up money:

1) Your pockets

Sure, coming up with your own start-up money may seem like a long shot at first—but it’s very possible with a little commitment and discipline. Many go-getters sell property or possessions, or even mortgage their homes in order to come up with the money they need. If you aren’t comfortable with taking such a big risk, then regularly set aside a portion of your paycheck until you have saved up enough money.

2) Friends and family

Family and friends are the second most common source of start-up money. Talk to your circle of friends and relatives and see if anyone is interesting in investing in your idea. Sometimes, your loved ones are willing to provide you with a start-up loan. Other times, they are willing to give you the money as a gift. Be careful, however, that personal relationships are not ruined or compromised in the process.

3) Credit

Although it isn’t recommended as a sole source of start-up money for a business, a credit line is fundamental for a start up phase. You can pay for certain items or get cash advances with your personal credit cards. You can also opt to open a credit line with your bank and use this to fund your business venture. Before using credit as a source of start-up money, however, it is essential that you first establish a good relationship with your bank manager and ensure that you have a good credit rating.

4) Online

While the Internet may not seem like an obvious source of business start-up money, it is definitely an option to be considered. A number of reputable small-business financing alternatives have popped up on the web. On Deck Capital, for example, is an online lender that doesn’t focus on your credit score or tax returns but on your cash flow instead. This site collects small amounts on a daily basis instead of large installments on a monthly basis.

5) Peer-to-peer loans

A peer-to-peer loan, also known as a social loan, is generally a personal loan that can be used for practically any purpose—including business purposes. Individuals with disposable income facilitate this type of loan. It is unsecured and has one of the lowest interest rates in the entire market. It is a great options for borrowers who may not qualify for bank loans and loans from other financial institutions.

Photo Credit: iClipart

Social Media Community Manager Position – Online Start-up

SurfMyAds.com,Inc., an online marketing firm that specializes in creating high-level and innovative Web-based projects like PromotionalCodes.com, CouponWinner.com, PromoCodes.com, Coupons.ca, myShoes.com, Shoes.TV and many more, is seeking a well-organized, highly-motivated and enthusiastic Social Media Community Manager to join their growing team.

The Social Media Community Manager not only understands how users discover, interact with, consume and share content socially, but also how these behaviors and platforms evolve over time. They’re looking for a person who can effectively do the day-to-day work while strategically thinking about the bigger picture of supporting the company’s respective missions, and ensuring consistency in voice and brand to their customers and prospective customers.

Click here for more info or to apply for this position.

Check the Opportunities section of our forum for more job openings.

Don’t Forget Overhead When Pricing Your Products

Overhead costs are those fixed expenses that you have to pay no matter how much you create or sell.  These fixed expenses are often overlooked when sellers determine the prices for their products or services. Unfortunately, when you forget to take your overhead costs into consideration, it can really take a bite out of your profits! Here are some of the more easily identifiable overhead costs you should include in your prices:

1) Transportation

If you use a car or van to deliver your products or even to pick up your supplies, then your gas is an overhead expense you’ll need to compute.

2) Office supplies

All the office supplies needed to run your business are also considered overhead expenses. This includes letterhead stationery, envelopes, pens, business cards, printer cartridges, computer paper and even software.

3) Packaging and shipping materials

Don’t forget the little things you use for packaging and shipping your items that also need to be added into the equation. This includes your packing tape, boxes, bags, labels, bubble wrap, tissues and stamps.

4) Rent

You may feel that your business is rent-free if you are working from home, but that really isn’t the case. You are using a specific portion of your living space so your business should pay for a specific percentage of your monthly rent or mortgage payment.

5) Utilities

Lights, heat, air conditioning, and water are some of the utilities that need to be included in your pricing. If you are involved in a craft that uses up a lot of electricity, then you need to take this into consideration when figuring out your overhead costs.

6) Equipment

The various equipment and tools you use for your business are considered an investment. Maintenance, repair and even replacement of these items should also be considered.

7) Phone bill

Do you have a separate phone line for your business? If the answer is no, then you need to estimate the number of incoming and outgoing business calls you make. If you make or take long distance calls, be sure to add this into your total.

Overhead costs are usually measured over a specific period of time, such as a year. If you’ve been selling for quite some time, you can easily estimate such costs based on your expenses from previous years. If you are just getting started, however, you will need to make an educated guess.  It may seem a tedious task to keep track of your overhead expenses, especially if you are managing a home business. However, if you truly want to be profitable, then you must make more than what you spend.

Photo Credit: iClipart

Empower Your Small Business with Amazon Marketplace

Amazon Marketplace

Did you know that you can sell your products on Amazon?  You can level the playing field against your larger competitors and reach millions of Amazon customers by offering your goods in the Amazon Marketplace.

You can easily upload your product inventory into any of the following categories:

Books
Baby
Beauty
Camera & Photo
CD and Vinyl
DVD, Video/VHS
Electronics
Grocery & Gourmet Food
Health & Personal Care
Home & Garden
Musical Instruments
Office Products
Personal Computers
Software
Sports & Outdoors
Toys & Games
Tools & Hardware
Video Games
Wireless Antennas & Boosters

If you sell less than 40 items per month you’ll pay only 99¢ per item plus selling fees, or if you sell more than 40 items per month you’ll want to open a Professional account for $39.99 per month plus selling fees.  For a limited time, you can even get your first month free!

You can choose to ship your own orders or for an additional fee Amazon will fulfill orders for you.  The best part is that Amazon deposits your earnings directly into your bank account – every 14 days for Pro sellers, and every 7 days for individual sellers.

Do You Work 6 Days a Week and Get Paid For 5?

As we become more connected through our mobile devices, we’re spending more time on the job – an average of seven hours a week according to a recent survey by Good Technology.  Our devices allow us to take our work home with us instead of staying late at the office, only now we’re spending a month and a half more a year than we used to at home answering phone calls and emails.  If you are a salaried employee this means you’re working an extra day a week without overtime.

Business owners also feel like they have no choice and can’t “switch off” at home because today’s connected customers demand quick replies.  The survey indicated that half of Americans even check their phones while they’re in bed.  I have to admit that my phone is never more than a few inches away from my hand.  How about you?  Do you make time to “switch off”?

Photo Credit: iClipart