July, 2011 Archive
July 26th, 2011 by Adaire in Financial Freedom
Would you like to run your own business? I’m sure a lot of you do; after all, who wouldn’t want to be their own boss? I think that anyone who has the passion to start up their own business can do it, and with the power of the internet and online stores, it’s relatively easy to get started.
There is, however, one aspect of running a business that I believe can never be solely internet-based: having an office. I myself began my business in the comfort of my own home, mostly because it was more convenient and it cost me much less than if I rented out an office. It worked pretty well when I was starting out, but after a while, it became obvious that I needed an office away from home. Nathan Jansch’s Healthy Wealthy nWise article, “The Seven Problems with Working at Home”, actually discusses all of them in great detail, but I think I can summarize them even further for you right here.
Working at home seemed to be a dream come true at first. I liked the setup because I was able to handle my personal errands while still working on my business, and there were no nosy co-workers or superiors poking around to see what I was doing. The problem with this was that, over time, I started spending more and more time doing non-work related things while I was at home. Sometimes I’d tell myself I’d spend only a few moments checking my Facebook newsfeed, then I’d get so caught up in it that an hour would zip by without me even realizing it. I found myself engaging in lengthy online chat sessions with my relatives abroad instead of working on the e-mails I had to respond to.
In other words, the relaxed environment and the privacy of my own home made me become more prone to procrastination. Sure, it was more fun to work at my own pace and to not have a boss who was ready to kick me to the curb the moment he spots me doing something unproductive, but that wasn’t really good for my work. Without the pressure of having other people checking up on me, I became too complacent. When I realized that, I figured that working from home is actually means you have to work even harder than you would at an office because you have to exercise a lot of self-discipline to counter-act the temptation to procrastinate.
No Tech Support
System breakdowns and internet problems can easily be addressed when you’re working in an office. You don’t even have to fix things yourself; you can just send out an e-mail or a support ticket to your IT guys, and voila! They’ll have the problem fixed for you in minutes.
When working from home, you’re going to have to do your own trouble-shooting if something goes wrong with your laptop. If you’re like me and aren’t tech-savvy, attempting to fix things on your own is going to cost you precious minutes or even hours.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Hold on, Adaire. Didn’t you just say that working at home means there won’t be any people to boss you around or check on what you’re doing? Doesn’t that mean that you actually get more privacy when you work from home?”
More privacy? Not exactly. Sure, you won’t have your co-workers or boss wandering around your home office, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never have to entertain any business associates at home. Even in this modern age where the internet reigns supreme, conducting meetings and discussions in person is still the best way to go about it. Now if you’re working from home, then where do you think these personal meetings will be done? In your home office, of course.
That was exactly how it was for me. My home was the venue for everything from meetings with my clients to interviews with my potential assistants. At first this was fine with me since I lived on my own and had no children or other relatives to worry about, but at some point it felt like my privacy was being invaded.
Sometimes I had to be flexible and accommodate clients and interviewees even beyond office hours. “That’s fine,” I thought. “I’m always at home anyway. No problem there.” I didn’t realize that there would be so much work involved in setting-up a meeting at home. I found that I had to tidy my house up to avoid giving my guests a bad impression about my cleanliness and discipline. After meetings and other business discussions, I would have to clean up again. Then when I’d start heading to my bedroom for a well-deserved rest, I spot my laptop and realize that I have some other work-related tasks I have to catch up on. After weeks of this routine, I realized that my personal, private life had become a mere sideline to me.
Someone who works from home is often belittled and often dismissed as unprofessional. That may sound mean, but it’s the cold, hard truth. I’ve had clients suddenly back out of a potential deal after finding out that I worked from home, or refused to come to a meeting because it would be held at my house.
The fact of the matter is, people tend to think that entrepreneurs who work from home are just too lazy to get up and find a “proper” job, or that you’re not making enough money to rent out an appropriate office space. Regardless of how neat and tidy your home office is, the fact that it’s located in your house can give off the wrong impression to people.
While I often find that I can actually concentrate on work better when I’m alone, I still believe that working around people is something that can really be good for any entrepreneur (or any normal human being, for that matter ). Humans are social creatures, and becoming isolated by working from home can have negative effects. Like what Nathan says in his article, “working alone may lead to depression, insomnia, physical illness and more”. Even though some co-workers can be annoying and disruptive to your momentum, getting to chat with them during breaks can sometimes be a welcome relief from the tedium of work. And like what I said previously, having people around you can actually help you increase your productivity since you’ll feel more obligated to impress them with your work.
Working from home may sound like a lot of fun, there are negative consequences that you need to consider before you decide to go for it. Personally, I find that working from home is great when you’re just starting out, but as you progress in your career, you’ll really need to get out there and find an office space away from your home.
Image by: Graur Razvan Ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
July 18th, 2011 by Adaire in Financial Freedom
Clients and customers can be fickle creatures. If your products or services are too expensive, they’ll drop you and look for someone more affordable. If your prices are too low, they’ll turn their noses up at you because your stuff is “cheap” or “low-quality.” This makes pricing one of the most important and challenging aspects of running a business.
As a small business owner, I myself have experienced this challenge first-hand. While I know how much my company’s services are worth, sometimes there are clients who are just not willing to pay the right price. When this happens, I normally just let the client go and find another who understands the quality of the services my business offers. This move is nothing personal; it’s just that I’m confident about my product’s prices and I know that they’re really worth much more than my competitors’ products.
While this strategy may work for me and my business, it may not work for other entrepreneurs. Many of you may be wondering how to figure out what the appropriate prices for your products or services are, and how you can tell when to adjust your prices to suit your market when the situation calls for it. Based on my own personal experience with pricing problems, I have a few words of advice to offer.
The first thing you need to do is consider your own expenses. The selling value of your product or service is primarily based on how much it cost you to produce them. Depending on your type of business, things that should be accounted for when you calculate your costs include materials, warehousing, labor, delivery, and other dues such as rent and advertising fees. The sum of all your expenses, plus a 20-30% profit margin, should be the actual price of your product or service. If your costs are extremely low (e.g. you saved a lot by purchasing materials in bulk, or you run an online business that costs significantly less than if you were running an actual store), you may consider setting your profit margin higher than 30%.
Your internal costs aren’t the only thing you need to account for when determining price, however. There’s still the matter of external factors such as the market itself and your competitors.
In the article “Pricing your Products and Services” from Small Business CEO Magazine, online direct sales and network marketing expert Sandi Krakowski emphasizes the importance of testing your market to find out how much your customers are willing to pay for what you’re offering. One way of doing this is by looking at your competition.
Sandi mentions her experience with a client who wanted to sell e-books as an example in her article. Her client’s e-book was priced at 50% less than their competitor’s, but their sales were decreasing. The client then decided to lower the price some more, thinking that a much lower price would earn them more sales. This plan didn’t work, and it was really starting to damage their business.
After taking a look at the competition’s prices, Sandi pointed out that her client was severely underpricing their product, leading their customers to lose interest in the book because they believed that the e-book was of lower quality compared to the competitors’. Sandi then recommended that the client push the price of their e-book up to just a little less than the competitors’, and this actually increased the sales.
Sometimes your problem may be caused by prices that are set too high for your target market. Sandi says that a good way to confirm that this is the issue is through conducting a sale. Putting your products up on sale means that you place lower prices on them for a certain time (while still making sure to indicate the original price). When running a sale Sandi says that you should “be careful to not put the sale price so low that you shoot yourself in the foot,” meaning that you still need to make sure that your sale should still be making a little profit. She recommends that you try a 25-30% discount and see how your market reacts.
Since your prices are based on your expenses, your market, and your competitors, you need to be prepared to make adjustments whenever necessary. If the prices of the raw materials that you used to produce your items go up, then you’ll need to adjust your prices to compensate for that. If there is a sudden spike in the demand for your product, consider putting your items on sale to increase the quantity of items you sell, or running other promos to stand out against your competition.
For you more experienced entrepreneurs out there who already have an existing pool of loyal clients, it may prove to be difficult to change your prices when the clients who have patronized your business for a long time are used to your existing rates. In this case, the best strategy is to apply your modified rates/prices only to your new clients. Think of it as turning your long-time customers into VIPs with perks, and as a way to encourage your clients to stick around and eventually benefit from the same perks.
When starting your small business, having a great product and effective advertising can only go so far. Making sure that your prices are right for your market or niche is the key to maximizing your profit and keeping your customers coming back for more.
Image by: Keerati / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
July 12th, 2011 by Adaire in Financial Freedom
With many companies conducting part of (or all of) their businesses online, the demand for virtual assistants has been increasing steadily. This is due to two key factors: the first is the constant pursuit of increased productivity at reduced costs, and the second is the need to keep up with the important advancements in technology that most business people don’t have time to study. Both of these factors are important to any modern business, and a virtual assistant can help you with both. But how do they do that, exactly?
They Let You Focus on What’s Important
When you first started with your business, you probably had big dreams based on your life-long passions – maybe you wanted to design the most innovative houses, or create clothes that would give the top fashion designers a run for their money. While dreaming big is fine, sometimes it blinds you to the reality of what you need to do to achieve those dreams. Starting a business is never simple – it involves a gazillion tasks such as creating a client database, managing mails, following up on payments, updating your blogs and social networks, scheduling of appointments, and many other tedious tasks. Sometimes these tasks and your personal issues can really pile up and stress you out, which will ultimately be bad for business.
Diana Ennen, a virtual assistant and co-author of many books regarding virtual assistants, says that virtual assistants can help you dig your way out of that pile of tasks. In an article on Small Business CEO Magazine called “Wake up and Partner with a Virtual Assistant”, Diana defines a virtual assistant as “an independent business professional who among many things, can help overwhelmed business owners handle administrative tasks so they can remain focused on their business.” Virtual assistants can perform tasks such as managing social networks, making travel arrangements, write press releases and correspondences, and much more.
When you have a virtual assistant to take care of the brunt of your tasks, you’ll finally be able to have some room to breathe, do other more important tasks, or spend time with your loved ones. And you won’t be pulling your hair out in frustration in the morning when you remember that there are so many tasks that need to be completed for the day.
You Get Value for Your Money
Entrepreneurs who are more traditional in their thinking and practice probably think that they’re better off with their personal assistant or secretary rather than working online with a virtual assistant. After all, you get to meet them in person and keep an eye on their progress yourself. While you may think that having an assistant who is physically present at your office will get you better value for your money, you have to remember that you’re not just paying for this person to come in to work every day. Keep in mind that you’re also paying for her benefits, vacation and sick leave, plus office space and supplies. Having a virtual assistant can actually cut down those costs significantly while still providing you with quality service, as Neha Sharma, a staff writer for VAssist247, discusses in an article on Small Business CEO Magazine.
In Neha’s article “Some Crucial Benefits of Getting Virtual Assistant Service”, she explains just how cost-effective a virtual assistant can be. The first thing she mentions is that you only pay the virtual assistant based on the number of hours and output that he or she delivers. The advantage of this is that you only get what you pay for, as opposed to paying a personal assistant a regular, daily salary even on slow business days wherein he doesn’t have much to work on.
And if a virtual assistant fails to give you what you paid for, you can simply end your subscription and look for another virtual assistant to get the job done.
Virtual Assistants are Jacks of All Trades
Neha also noted that another advantage that virtual assistants have is that they’re well-equipped with skills in almost every field. Since they are expected to do a variety of tasks ranging from travel arrangements to secretarial tasks, this is a given for any virtual assistant. You don’t need to train them virtual assistant to do anything; they should be able to start working on their tasks as soon as you hire them.
As you can see, there are many good reasons for you to hire a virtual assistant. If you’ve never hired a virtual assistant before, you don’t need to be nervous or skeptical; there are many reliable virtual assistant services out there, and it wouldn’t really hurt to give them a try. You may even learn some new things from your virtual assistant, specifically when it comes to the various technological advancements that may help you with your business.
So what are you waiting for? Why don’t you go ahead and do your research on virtual assistants and hire one for your business today? You can start by trying out the virtual assistant services provided by DoneForYouSolutions.com, which was founded by none other than our very own Ric Thompson.
Image by: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
July 11th, 2011 by Ric in Sharing Success
Congrats to Andrew Mcintyre for getting his new Automated Cash Sites up and running!
July 6th, 2011 by Adaire in Lifestyle
I recently watched a rerun of Fast and Furious 4 on HBO. My favorite line in that movie was from O’Connor: “Nothing really matters unless you have a code”. This one line made me look at my life and how I am living it. Am I working towards having a code? Am I working towards something that I can proudly claim as my signature or something that I truly stand for? When people think of Adaire, do their impressions of me really align with who I really am?
In today’s marketplace, you really need to stand out if you want people to notice you. Competition is getting more intense everyday and there is absolutely no room for mediocrity. The trick to winning this competition is to build up on your personal strengths and use that to beat down your opponents. Now before you start asking “Adaire, what the heck does this have to do with having a personal code?” think about it this way: if you don’t know yourself and don’t have a personal code, how can you know what your strengths really are?
Each and every one of us is good at something, and what that something is differs from person to person. Sometimes it takes a while before you figure out what it is you’re good at, but don’t ever think that you’re not good at anything. Perhaps you’re good with calculations, or at writing convincing copy…or maybe you have an amazing singing voice. Whatever it is, even if you aren’t aware of it yet, that strength is there – all you have to do is figure out what it is.
So how do you discover what your strength is? It varies from person to person. Some people just need to just sit down and assess what they’ve achieved so far and what they think they’re capable of. Other people need to hear what their friends have observed about their skills, and have to be pushed in the right direction…like me.
I believe that my main strength lies in my ability to start and run small businesses, but I wasn’t always aware of that fact. I knew I could set up businesses and manage them well, but I never viewed it as anything special. I just thought I was doing something mediocre that everyone else could do if they felt like it. I never really took this talent seriously until a good friend of pointed out how difficult it is to do what I do, and that it’s definitely something that I can use in my career. I believe you are all familiar with this good friend of mine – she happens to be an inspiring lady named Liz Thompson.
While most of us struggle to discover what our hidden strengths are, some people seem to have been born knowing what their skills are. For those people, it’s only a matter of waiting for the right opportunities to arrive so that they can show the world what they’ve got. In a sense, it’s kind of like how Hollywood works – many brilliant actors and actresses go unnoticed until they get into a film that serves as their big break, and then boom! They skyrocket into superstardom!
To help illustrate the importance of focusing on what you’re good at instead of being pressured by society or your competition into doing the same things that they do, let’s consider the case of Lisa Peck, the author of several success guides.
In her article “Achieve Leadership Excellence No Matter Where You Go” from Healthy Wealthy nWise, Lisa tells us about her own personal experience with struggling to do something that she wasn’t meant to do. Lisa was pursuing a career as a business coach, and she was in a slump. She couldn’t seem to land any clients, and she couldn’t figure out why. And then, in a stroke of horribly bad timing, her coaching school required her to have seven paying clients within one month, or else she would be kicked out. She only had one client at the time, and she felt like giving up.
Then she received a call from an older, more experienced business coach, and it was during that call that she realized what the problem was. In her attempt to sell herself as a coach to corporate males, she was taking a more aggressive, masculine approach to coaching. This wouldn’t have caused her problems if she was naturally good at it, but the truth was that she wasn’t. Being a mother of six, Lisa’s talent lay in her skills as a gentler, more maternal coach. When she realized that and started using that skill to her advantage, her career started picking up, and she no longer had any trouble finding clients.
Being aware of your talent isn’t enough to ensure your success. It’s also important to put in 100% of your efforts into pursuing your goals. Dreams are not achieved overnight, and they certainly don’t come true by themselves. Like most things in life, they require time, patience, and perseverance.
No matter what your strengths are, the road to fulfilling your dreams will be a long and bumpy one, and you’ll need a strong will and the support of the people around you to survive. Going back to Lisa’s own journey, she tripped so many times and suffered from one failure after another, but that didn’t really stop her from getting back up. Sure, she had someone help her get out of the ditch of despair that she found herself in, but it was her own determination that enabled her to make use of that help. If Lisa had truly fallen down in defeat, then she wouldn’t have bothered listening to the advice that was given to her. She would have missed out on many opportunities to further her career, and would have probably forced herself to be content with being a housewife and a failed coach.
Determining your strength is definitely a milestone but finding out how to utilize it to give your life a deeper meaning is a higher level of self-realization that requires constant work. Maybe that’s why O’Connor from Fast and Furious 4 said “I’m working on it” when someone asked him about his code. You’re not only required to find out what your code is, but you are also required to keep working on it in order to achieve your goals.
Image by: Idea Go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net