Last week we talked about the benefits of starting a micro enterprise and the ways of launching it on-line.
Your business most likely has a real world application as well. You can do very well with a Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) business that incorporates on-line and off-line work.
Start up and overhead costs are usually lowest with service businesses, but if you have a product you create, there are way to reach your customers that don’t involve signing expensive leases and purchasing huge amounts of inventory. Artists and crafters can rent a booth at local fairs or events. These are usually low cost and you can make valuable connections. There are also consignment shops that will display your products and pay you a percentage of your sales. This is usually a better solution than opening your own shop firstly because you don’t have the overhead of running it, but also because consignment shops can offer more variety, they usually have more traffic than specialty shops.
Freelancing or Independent Contracting
Whatever you can do, there is probably someone out there who will pay you to do it for them on an as-needed basis. Many companies are downsizing and keeping someone on payroll is very expensive.
Do you have great computer skills? Consider a career as a Virtual Assistant. VA’s now number in the thousands and the demand is growing every day. As a VA, you do whatever a business owner would ask a secretary to do; creating spreadsheets, letters, maintaining a database of contacts or customers, even forwarding the incoming calls to you when the office is closed. VA’s provide administrative support of all kinds. If you have specific skills in one area and are weak in another, you can specialize (for instance if you are a whiz at Quickbooks or Excel you can choose to only serve clients who need those skills). To learn more about becoming a Virtual Assistant, visit www.vanetworking.com. They even offer a free start up guide to get your business off the ground.
For literary types, there is a whole world of freelance writing open to you. Research and create content for newsletters, web sites, manuals, sales materials and more.
Are you a People Person? Think about direct sales. Make sure it’s something you’re enthusiastic about and like talking to people about. It’s a rare business owner that won’t jump at the chance of having someone out selling his products for him or generating leads for him to follow-up.
On call freelancing- businesses with employees usually need someone to step up in a pinch. You are still an independent contractor and set your own hours of availability so you’re working your own business, but providing a very needed service. The best way to work yourself into this type of freelancing is to offer to be on-call for a company you’ve worked for in the past, and then ask the owner to refer you to his colleagues.
Your Big Advantage
Because you’re keeping your overhead low, you are in the enviable position of being able to meet your clients’ needs with high quality, low cost products or services. In today’s hostile business climate, a micro enterprise can have a huge advantage. There's a lot to be said for being small enough to adapt quickly to changes in the market.
Next week’s article: Marketing for Micro Enterprises. Don’t miss out, click here to be notified when it’s posted
A micro enterprise is a very small business, usually all the functions are performed by the owner(s). The advantages of a micro enterprise are:
Do you have a micro enterprise in you?
Think about what you like to do. The key to micro enterprise is to take something you already do and enjoy then find a way to monetize it. An example:
Crazy about a game? Write a how-to guide for other gamers and sell it on Clickbank. With electronic delivery, your guide is downloaded as soon as it’s purchased so you have no fulfillment costs. With Pay Pal, you get your money right away so you have no accounts receivable or credit card accounts to set up.
Does it have the above advantages? Yes!
How do you like to spend your time?
What do you know a lot about?
How could you monetize this?
The Nuts and Bolts
A micro enterprise is a business and has to be run like one. You still have to stay on the right side of the IRS and other government agencies and keep track of what you spend and earn. You may need certain permits or insurance as well as a fictitious name filing. These are things you can find out with a few calls and some internet research. That doesn’t mean you can’t get started with building your groundwork while you take care of meeting the requirements and regulations for your type of business.
The World at Your Fingertips
A lot of micro enterprises are especially suited for the online world. With easy to build websites, digital product delivery and secure ways to get paid not to mention potential to reach an almost unlimited number of people, the internet should be at least one way you market your business. According to the CIA World Fact Book, 223 million Americans (that’s about 74% of us) now have web access. If you add the rest of the world, that number shoots to 805 million. By next year, they estimate 2 billion people world- wide will be on-line (shopping at YOUR site?).
With that many people on-line and a good percentage all trying to sell something to someone, the web is also very crowded and getting worse every day. Getting traffic to your site can be a real challenge, so learning all you can about traffic generation and search engine optimization should be a priority. You can build a website for free (including domain name and hosting) at www.weebly.com. An upgrade option allows you to remove their banner from the bottom of the page. If you already own a domain name, you can point it to your Weebly site.
The Bottom Line
To sum up, micro enterprise can be a way of making a good deal of money with a very easy start up and low overhead. You can launch your business in an evening. There’s no long training required and you don’t have to spend months trying to get funding. Best of all, it’s something you like and would do anyway. Why not get paid to do what you love and build yourself a micro enterprise?
Watch this site for next week’s topic: Micro Enterprise in the Off-line World.
Don’t miss out, click here to be notified when it’s posted
Panda-strikes fear into the hearts of marketers!!
I've never met grownups who quake at the words "panda" and "penguin" until recently.
Unless you've been hanging out with, well, pandas and penguins lately, you probably already know that Google has struck for the third time this year with an algorithm update.
Things had been pretty quiet on the SEO front since the Farmer update wiped out the major content farms. I guess Google figured it was a little too quiet because in February they released the first panda update, came around for a double-whammy and gave us panda 3.4 then went for the kill with penguin in April. It rocked the world for a lot of content marketers.
The two panda updates targeted the high page rank blog networks that were thinly-veiled link farms. Marketers who were members of the networks and used them to create back links suffered when the networks vanished over night.
Penguin was a little more selective and targeted individual websites that had crossed the line as far as optimization was concerned.
Now the shaking has stopped and the damage has been assessed. For a thorough run-down on what the new SEO landscape looks like for content marketers today, check out how to be first in Google
Traditional marketing is dead. That may raise a few eyebrows, but its true. Traditional marketing could be called "interruption marketing" and our prospects are tired of it. They are sick of being bombarded with marketing messages that interrupt their already busy lives. They don't want you to call them, they don't want to see you in their inboxes or home mailboxes, they don't want to be chased, and now they have plenty of options to stop the madness. Think of things like Caller ID. Do you answer your home phone now if the number that comes up is unfamiliar? How about the Do Not Call list? I'm on it and I'll bet you are too because you don't want to be interrupted ten times during the little time you get to spend with your family or friends. Who else uses a DVR or TIVO to zap commercials into oblivion?
The truth is if we are going to reach our prospects, we have to learn new ways to do it. Even people with thousands of friends on Facebook, limit their inner circle of influencers to a select few. They key is to become one of those few and the way to do it is to become a friend.
Mom Was Right
The best way to make a friend is to be a friend. That means providing something of value without any thought of gain. The one thing people want more than anything is to be able to trust. We want to know that our government leaders are making decisions based on our best interests (not theirs), we want to know that the people we call friends and tell our innermost secrets are worthy of that trust and won't broadcast our troubles to the world. We want to do business with people we know, like and can trust to give us the best value for our money.
As business people, we need to be that person for our prospects and customers. When we lead with value rather than hype, we set ourselves apart from the noisy crowd. Now instead of competing, we are in class by ourselves.
To lead with value, think about your business for a minute. What could you offer people who most need what you do? How about information? Whatever business you're in, you are more of an expert than most of your prospects. Why not create a free guide or report based on that knowledge? A downloadable information product won't cost you anything to create or distribute and could go a long way toward helping your prospects see that you not only have the knowledge and ability they are looking for, but you also care enough about them to give them this valuable information before they've ever spent a penny with you.
If you find yourself stumped about what you could create, drop me a line and we'll brainstorm it together.
Selling online usually begins with a prospect’s search for information. Your prospect has an unmet desire or need and is searching for a remedy. Providing that remedy is what selling is all about. The person who does the best job of educating prospects about the solution to their problem will be the one who gets the sale.
Getting it Right: a Short Course in Biology Educating your prospects is a science, a neuro-science to be exact. Like all sciences, there is research data you can use to make sure you craft your materials in a way that reaches your target and delivers the information he or she is seeking. Doing this right will connect powerfully with your prospect and leave him with a good understanding of what he just learned. This understanding will include the reason why your solution is the best one for him and will help build your credibility and establish you as an expert in your field. That is what prospects want, to get the best solution possible from the most knowledgeable source.
Neuro- scientists tell us that adults learn a little differently than children. The neo-cortex of the brain, the area that makes associations between new information and stored information, is fully developed only after young adulthood. This means when you give your adult prospect information he did not know before, his brain will compare it to information he already has and draw associations about how the information is relevant to him and his need. The closer the match between the new information and what he already knows, the more meaningful it will be to him.
What That Means to Marketers From a marketing standpoint, you will make it easier for your prospect to reach the conclusion that your offer will best suit his needs when you start with what he already knows and build on to it with something he doesn’t. For instance, if you sell organic cotton clothing, educating your prospects will probably begin with an explanation of why cotton is better than synthetic fabrics. This will probably closely match something your prospect believes or is willing to believe. The next step is to build on that by explaining why organic cotton is even better. Giving your prospect sound, verifiable information about your product benefits you in several ways:
Subtle Selling One of the best ways to use education in sales is to create a tip sheet that tells a prospect what to look for in a quality product or service. This can be the final piece in cementing your relationship with the customer. It is not enough to sell your prospects on organic cotton clothing; you want to close the deal by selling them on your organic cotton clothing. Failing to do this can send prospects to your competitor. When you create a tip sheet, it should be closely aligned to the features and benefits of your product or service. Your tip sheet, What to Look for in Organic Cotton Clothing is your opportunity to showcase your products by setting the standards then showing how your products meet or exceed those standards. The key to this is to be subtle. The tip sheet should be impartial or it will read like a thinly veiled sales letter.
But Wait! That’s not All! Educational materials are also a great way to drive traffic to your website and build your prospect list. Because they provide information and valuable content, other sites are happy to have you post them for their visitors. There are several ways of doing this:
· Create a promo how-to video to post on video sharing sites that sends prospects to your site to watch the full-length version
· Create a podcast of an interview with an expert in your field
· Comment on blogs with a trackback to your blog
· If you have enough material, create an E-course delivered over a space of days or weeks
· Submit informative articles to article sites and e-zines
· Record an informative webinar
Regularly adding to the educational material available on your site can earn you love from search engines as well. Your content will be fresh and relevant; two things search engines adore.
Well Worth the Effort Taking the time to create materials that educate your prospects will more than pay off in the form of building long-term relationships, an increase in customer referrals, additional ways to generate more traffic to your site and a healthy boost in organic search ranking.
All of us are given the same 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week. Old and young, rich and poor, we all have the same amount of hours. Outsourcing lets you increase those hours by using the basic building block of network marketing; leveraging time. If you can hire someone to do a job that will take you 10 hours to complete, you can spend that same 10 hours doing something that will build your business. Those 10 hours produced 20 hours of work. The more you can outsource, the faster your business grows so more money flows in.
Can You Afford to Outsource? To answer this, let’s look at the math. Divide the amount of money you want your business to make every week by the number of hours you work. If you want your business to bring in $1000 a week and you spend 25 hours a week working toward that goal, an hour of your time is worth $40. If you spend 5 hours a week posting to your social networks, that’s $200 worth of your time gone. You can outsource your entire social media marketing plan for about half that amount. With most sites, you can post your project, set your budget and take bids for a certain amount of time. At the end of the time, you simply choose a provider from the bids you received. Most sites have provider profiles and work samples so you can choose the person you feel with do the best job for you.
A Word about Cost The cheapest bid you receive may not necessarily give you the kind of work you want and will result in wasted money and time. Choose your provider based on skills and experience, not just cost.
What Can Be Outsourced? There are sites where you can find just about any kind of expert you might need. Take a look at www.elance.com or www.guru.com to get an idea of the kinds of project you can outsource. You’ll find web developers, graphic artists, freelance writers, social media experts, customer service people and virtual assistants. The list goes on and on. These sites give you the same business building ability as a huge corporation with dozens of specialty departments (without the huge overhead costs).
How to Work with a Freelance Provider The key to working with a freelance provider is communication. Make sure you know exactly what you want when you post your project. Once you select a provider to work with, give very clear directions about what your expectations are and when you need the work delivered. Remember, your provider is an expert in the field, so explaining what your goals are and being open to suggestions will go a long way toward making sure the final product is going to do what you want.
Outsourcing can be your most valuable tool. Big businesses use it and you should also.
You’ve worked hard to get your website built, you have great domain name and you slave daily over your blog posts, but you’re still hearing crickets? Don’t despair. Generating traffic is a process that requires dedication and patience. You can help the process along and increase online traffic with these three steps.
Mingle Don’t be a wallflower. In addition to posting on your blog, read and post on other blogs. Find the blogs or forums in your niche that your prospects are reading and become part of the community. If allowed, include a signature line in your posts with a link to your blog or website, but don’t be spammy. Make sure your comments are relevant and useful. Ask an open-ended question whenever you can to see if you can stimulate some conversation.
Contribute As massive as the internet is, it still becomes a small world at the niche level. Contribute articles to articlebases or Ezines. The more often your prospects see your name in various places, the more it builds your credibility. Don’t forget to list your website or blog in the credit box at the end of your article so people who like what you have to say know where to go for more. Guru’s drive massive traffic online, it’s worth the effort to become one.
Paying for Traffic In the early days of PPC, you could drive massive traffic for a few dollars a day. It’s not as easy anymore, especially with click fraud that will generate massive PPC charges but no traffic. One of the best ways to increase your online traffic now is with Ezine advertising. Small sponsor ads are still very reasonably priced and have the added benefit of longevity because they are usually archived with the ezine issue. The important thing with ezine advertising is to find those with a good circulation; 20k subscribers is a good rule of thumb.
Here is a super-ninja ezine skill to try: if you can develop a good relationship with the ezine publisher, you may be able to get a heads up on what articles are going to be published in upcoming issues. Create a sponsor ad that is highly relevant to a particular article and have it placed directly underneath so it looks like a recommendation rather than an ad.
Driving Massive Traffic Online is the promise shouted from the rooftops of every traffic generation product out there. The real money though, isn’t in the traffic. A million visitors a day that bounce 30 seconds after landing on your is just as bad as no traffic at all. The key to success is generating qualified prospects that have a real interest or need in what you offer. Following the above steps will help you find those prospects, direct them to your site and turn them into happy customers that can’t wait to purchase from you again.
There’s Gold in Blogging!
…or words to that effect, started the blogging rush that consumes internet marketers today. Would-be bloggers by the thousands headed to places like WordPress and Movable Type to cash in on the internet riches just waiting to be discovered in blogs. Unfortunately, what most found was only the cavernous echo of his or her own voice reverberating from the blogosphere, “Is anybody out there? Hello?” (chirp chirp chirp). The few pennies that trickled in from AdSense were about equal to what they could make working in sweatshop in a third-world country so the next great cry went out: Blogs are a Bust!
Boom or Bust?- For internet marketers, blogging is like flossing; something we do everyday for a down-the-road benefit. Making blogging part of your marketing routine today won’t send your Paypal account soaring tomorrow; bloggers make money indirectly through the relationships they form with their readers. Those relationships can pay off in huge ways; and in that sense, you can make money blogging.
How I Built my Blog When I first began my blog, I started by reading other blogs in my niche of internet marketing. As my knowledge grew, I started commenting on these blogs and using a signature line in my comment that listed my blog. People who read my comments often visited my blog and I started building a subscriber base. I dedicated a certain amount of time each week to the care and feeding of my blog and its readers.
5 Tips for Blogging Success