Entreprenuer

More Helpful Tips For Brand New Freelance Writers

More Tips for New Freelance Writers Essentials and Extras I Used to Launch My Freelance Writing Biz

In my last post we covered how I chose my domain name, WordPress theme and selected a website host. This time around, in More Tips for New Freelance Writers we’ll talk about some of the “extras” and resource materials that I purchased for launching writing business.

New Freelance Writers Need a Bio!

So what is a biography for anyway? What should a freelance writer’s bio include?  If you are an experienced writer with published works that you can point to, that’s fine and dandy. If you are a newcomer to the freelance writing world, you can fill the bill by writing a kick-ass bio that showcases your knowledge and experience.

Writing your writer’s bio is probably one of the very first tasks that you will do as a freelancer that’ll have you staring at a blank page with high anxiety. At least that’s how it was for me! I felt like my biography was going to be a deal breaker. After all, my bio was my introduction to the online world!

If you’re stuck in panic mode when it comes to your bio, take a deep breath. Remember, the beauty of being an entrepreneur, especially an entrepreneur who is a new freelance writer, is that you are the boss! The boss gets to change things!  So get on with it. You won’t be stuck with your bio.  The worst that can happen is … crickets.

Trust me, no bio police will come knocking on your door.

Identify Your Freelance Writing Clients

A great place to start is visualizing your perfect client.  Who are you selling your services to? How old is your target client? What stage of life or business are they in?

Most importantly, what problem do they have that you will solve? Keep that in mind while you are drafting your bio. Describe affirmatively what you have to offer prospective clients.

Don’t try to be all things to all people, or you’ll end up with a very generic bio that will not catch anyone’s attention.

Your Headshot – A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Have you quest posted yet? Bet they asked for a headshot to go with your bio!

Choosing a photograph to grace the home page of your website and use as a headshot is a big deal. Think about it. How many times have you made a choice between service providers based on a picture? Some business coaches, like Melinda Emerson, recommend updating your business photos each year!

Before you snap a quick selfie to send as your headshot, consider your target client. What characteristics do you think will attract your client? For example, if my ideal clients are 20-something fitness freaks, a studio photo in a suit and pearls just doesn’t jive.

My freelance writing niche is in the legal field and business management, where a more formal photograph works.

I admit, this is where I invested a chunk of money. It was money well spent. If you are in the DC metro area, you be sure to check out amazing photographer Virgina Rose Hodges.

I invested in having a professional photo shoot, including professional hair and makeup for my business headshot. Lucky for me, I happen to know an amazing celebrity photographer, Virginia Rose Hodges, a passionate artist and businesswoman.

Presentation does matter! But, it doesn’t have to break your budget. Don’t go into debt to have professional photos! Use the best camera you have (or can borrow) and just be mindful of your setting.

Your picture is an important part of your brand, so do the best you can with what you have, and plan for the professional shots later.

Useful Resources for Writers

Writers love books, and I’m no exception. I’ve have a particular penchant for resource materials that I recommend to new freelance writers.

In addition to a couple journalism textbooks from college, back when print newspapers still flourished, here’s a short list of my bookshelf favorites for freelance writers:

Yahoo Style Guide –  The last version published was 2010, but this book is still recommended for information on writing for the Internet!

Strunk & White’s Elements of Style – I consider this a must read for any aspiring writer. This short and sweet little book discusses the importance of cutting out the fluff from your writing.

AP Style Guide – I will always keep the most recent edition of this guide on my shelf. In my very brief stint as an author for a content mill, this book was indispensable. It is the often the used as gold standard for accurate, technically correct writing.

Planning and Calendaring Your Content

So, you picked your name for your business, develop your brand, and customized your WordPress theme. Time to get busy writing and posting your blog articles.

Conventional wisdom says it’s optimal to publish new blog content 3 to 5 times a week. That’s terrific, if you can do it consistently.  The trick is to consistently produce quality content on a regular schedule, whether it is every day or once a week. Because I have a full-time schedule already, I was careful not to bite off more than I could chew in my editorial schedule.

Plan ahead for your editorial calendar! If you have an idea, or a series of ideas for your blog, using your calendar will maximize the effectiveness of your content.

Your calendar will keep you accountable, whether it is an electronic version or a paper planner. Get in the habit of writing your blog articles in advance. You can make sure that you always have great content available for publication. No scrambling when the holidays roll around, the baby is sick, or you will be on vacation!

What are your essential resources for freelance writers? How often do you publish new blog posts? Would you like to see more tips for new freelance writers? Please leave your questions and comments below!


Business Basics for Entrepreneurs: Productivity Management

Business Basics: Productivity Management for EntreprenuersThe same productivity management tools and strategies used by Fortune 500 companies can be used by entrepreneurs like you!  No matter the product type or services of your small business, offered online or from a brick-and-mortar location, productivity management is an essential part of your business administration.

Are we there yet?

Look at the business goals you set for this year. Defining your productivity measures will help you figure out where you are now, how much and what kind of work you need to do to get where you want to be, and  identify areas of your process that need improvement.

Productivity is formally defined as a measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs.

Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.

Does that sound way over the top for your little business? Even if you are just starting out as a virtual service provider, you need productivity management – and are probably already doing it on some level!

How To Measure Productivity

Measuring productivity can be done for any business, but the way you figure it out depends on what your business is producing. What is it that your customers buy from you? That is your “output”.

Tangible Goods

Do you create and sell tangible products – items that can be touched like jewelry or clothes or decorative items?  What counts as a “unit” on your sales page? It might be one item like a necklace, or one unit may be a collection of pens, paper and stickers for a three month planner box subscription.

How much have you spent for the materials to produce each unit? You probably already have the information to calculate this part, if you have kept track of your business expenses.

Don’t include the cost of shipping, especially if you bill your customer for shipping and handling, but if you use special packaging or always tuck extra little goodies in the package, include those costs.

Next, you need to know how much time it takes you to produce each unit. Don’t guess and don’t assume! This is where the management rubber meets the road … you will need to track your time, or your employee’s time (even if your helper is your family member) to create that unit.

Track your time spent every time you create or assemble your product. Include time spent packaging the item. Keep a log of the dates, items and time spent. After a few rounds of making your product, you will be able to calculate and average of time spent for each unit.

Selling Services

Do you provide services like tax preparation, coaching, writing or virtual assistant services?  Your productivity measurements will be a bit different because you won’t have the cost of raw materials.

It is very important to track your time actually spent, just as you would if you were creating a tangible product like clothing or jewelry.

Your unit may be sold by the hour, or by a flat rate.

If you charge by the hour for your services, you can start from that, but add on any time you spend for preparation or research that is not billed directly to your client as part of their “hour”.

The same goes for flat rates.  Track all the time you actually spent writing that article or designing that customer’s website. Eventually, you will be able to use that information for future planning.

Virtual Evergreen Products

Virtual evergreen products are things like online courses, workbooks, planner inserts, knitting patterns … anything you create once that any number of customers can purchase and download on their own.

You will want to track the time spent actually creating the product, and if virtual products are the main focus of your business it makes sense to also capture the time you spend creating promotions for your product including podcasts, webinars, and YouTube videos.

Value Added

How much is your time worth?   How much do you want it to be worth? By including the worth of your time in addition to the cost of materials to create your product or service, and comparing that to your unit sales price to the customer, you end up with a measurement often used in business called Value Added.

In other words, Value Added is a measurement of everything you put in to your product to create wealth for your company.  Value added is more accurate than if you simply deducted the cost of your materials from the sale price of your product. This is the measurement that helps you quantify if your goals are realistic and if your business is sustainable.

Using Value Added for Business Planning

For example, let’s say you are a brand new freelance writer, and your goal is to earn $500 per week. If you get an assignment to write five 1,000 word blog posts in a week at $100 per post, you’re good to go, right? That’s $.10 per word… not bad for a newbie freelancer!

But wait… each article is on a subject you have no experience with and takes a lot of research. By tracking your time all week, you discover that by the time you sit down to write, do the research, draft the article, make the final edits and hit send to your client, you are averaging eight hours per article, or roughly 125 words per hour. That makes your time worth $12.50 an hour, and it will take you 40 hours a week to reach your $500 goal if you keep doing the same type of work at the same rate of pay.

If your goal is to make $500 per week working part time while your kids are little, or to eventually get to $2,000 a week, something has to change. Don’t be discouraged!  Your Value Added calculations will help you figure out what you need to do to make your business objectives a reality.

Tracking your actual time is critical.  Tracking showed you that you average 125 words an hour for technical topics outside your niche. If you continue tracking your time every time you write an article, it may show that when you are working on articles the same 1,000 word length, but in your area of expertise, you can bang those out in three hours!

Now you have the information to make informed decisions for your business. You know what areas to pitch, how to set your rates, and what your workload will be for the assignments you accept.

The same general method of number crunching can be used to arrive at the Added Value for tangible and virtual products to help you evaluate pricing and which products make sense for you to produce.

Are you already measuring productivity for your business?  How do you determine the value of your time as an entrepreneur?  Please leave your questions and comments below!
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Consider The Dark Side of Being A New Business Owner

Image of fountaijn pen and to do list illustating the dark side of being a new business ownerIs the Force With You in Your New Venture?

Do you see yourself as a business Jedi, ready to unleash your entrepreneurial force on the world? Are you prepared to encounter the dark side of being a new business owner?

As Yoda counsels, “Do… or do not. There is no try”. In other words, it will all be on you to successfully launch your new business and guide it through the virtual galaxy.

Search your feelings, Jedi. Have you been so excited you haven’t looked at all aspects of running your own business?

That’s no moon. It’s a Space Station!

There are plenty of online business coaches and communities that will exhort you to follow your dream, shoot for the moon, have faith in yourself and to go ahead and jump into your new business. They tell you not to get stuck on trying to make everything perfect and figure it out as you go. Sound familiar?

Usually these sites have testimonials about how they launched a successful business in weeks, and immediately began to multiply their income.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

You are particularly vulnerable to the shiny lure of instant gratification business coaching if you are already restless or unhappy with your day job.

According to the Small Business Administration, the dark fact is, on average less than half of new business ventures survive to five years.

You ready to captain this ship? Start here! Take charge now and figure out your finances and business obligations before you jettison your day job so you will be one of the long-term winners!

Ready To Run A New Business Are You?

You need provisions for this trip, my Jedi friend. And there is no room for excess baggage.

Get out of debt

It you have consumer debts, car payments or other obligations outside your basic living expenses, try to get them paid off before you quit your 9-5 job. And for star’s sake, don’t add anymore! You will need the flexibility to handle unexpected business expenses or income dips.

Build an Emergency Fund

Have at least six months’ worth of your household living expenses in savings. A year’s worth is better. That’s household – not just your contribution if you have a spouse or partner that works. Stuff happens, and need to be able to cover your bills. Don’t plan to rely on credit cards.

Track Your New Business Income

Start your new business as a side hustle. Yes, you will basically be working two jobs until you get established. “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind!” Keep track of your net income. Set realistic goals and prove to yourself that your business income is sustainable. For example, set the goal that you can quit your day job (or cut back to part-time) after your net income stays above $xxxxx for six months. Make sure your target income will cover all your expenses.

Tell Jabba I’ve Got His Money

Are you disciplined and organized enough to keep up with the administrative side of running your own being a new business owner? Have you educated yourself and have a system in place? Or do you have some vague notion that you’ll hire someone to take care of the numbers stuff but have no idea who, or how much it will cost you?

This information is primarily for new business owners based in the United States, but the administrative categories apply to businesses anywhere.

As an entrepreneur in the United States, you are considered self-employed by the Internal Revenue Service. You will be responsible for paying your income taxes quarterly and will also be responsible for paying a Self-Employment tax that covers Social Security and Medicare. You must keep careful records and report your income accurately.

If your day job provided your health insurance coverage, when you are flying solo you will be responsible for acquiring a replacement policy and paying the monthly premiums without fail. In the U.S. you may be subject to penalties if you fail to arrange for qualified healthcare coverage.

A Tremor in the Force

Do you have a workflow in place for running your new business?

Hopefully you are serious enough about being a new business owner that your idea of being self-employed is not limited to wearing pajama pants and only working when inspiration hits you, but that doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in to a standard 40 hour work week.

You will need a planned workflow and the discipline to execute it consistently.

To be a successful business that survives beyond the first year or two, plan specific blocks of time for marketing, administrative tasks, responding to client inquiries, creating and delivering your goods or services, and future product development.

Be prepared for social isolation. You may be looking forward to being able to work in peace and quiet without distractions. You may also be surprised how much you miss having real people to talk to, to complain to, and to share a laugh with. Don’t burn your bridges. Take steps to maintain your work network. Plan to meet folks for lunch occasionally.

Keep in mind that when you are self-employed if your computer crashes or your supply order doesn’t get delivered on time, you are the one who will have to identify the problem, get it fixed, and manage any repercussions. Are you mentally equipped for crisis management?

Your Shield Is Up

Now that you are aware of the dark side of being an entrepreneur, you won’t be fooled into blasting off before your ship is loaded and fully functional! You will be a successful business owner… and a positive force in the business community!

Are you launching a new business? What have you done to defeat the dark side? Are you a current business owner with suggestions for new entrepreneurs? Please share your thoughts in the comments section!

If you like this article, please share on social media!

 

New Business Overwhelm? You Need To Know This!

Image of fountain pen and to-do list pad, sympbolizing a way to overcome New Business Overwhelm Experienced By Entreprenuers
Your new business will prosper with manageable goals!

 

Nothing beats being an entrepreneur! Fueled with enthusiasm and amazing ideas for your new business, those first weeks and months when you decide to go for it are like a honeymoon in a luxury resort. Every day is a new treasure of exploration, and the mundane world seems very far away. We all start out with some dream of an overnight success story, because our products and services are completely awesome!

Until the overwhelm sets in.

In our rush to get our business launched we spent hours late into the night setting up the framework, domain names, web sites, and producing products for prospective clients. We are launching a new business with a single mindedness that makes it practically noble to ignore housework, yardwork, shopping, laundry, and a slew of other daily life-tasks.

Look At This Mess!!

Just as in a new relationship, reality eventually hits us hard – probably sooner for solopreneurs still working a full-time day job.

You can ignore the stats after you first go “live” convinced the public just needs to find you before your offering will be on fire! Then after Tweeting your heart out, adding more blog posts, or whatever you do for marketing ……. crickets.

It is awful to discover that you really did build a better mousetrap, but the world has not beaten a path to your door… or your website! Worse, you lift your red-rimmed eyes from the cruel statistical reports and look around your home at all the chores that have piled up in the meantime.

A Shakespearian Moment

You are discouraged and disillusioned, with a hefty dose of overwhelm thrown in. I know, I have been there (and go back to visit that place occasionally.)

“To be or not to be, that is the question”. Or, “What would Shrek and Fiona do?” if your frame of reference is a little more contemporary. It is a dramatic time of reckoning… with yourself.

Your first inclination may be to chuck the whole entrepreneur thing. It would be easier to hide in your swamp or tower and obsess about everything that went wrong.

Don’t give up. You are the star of this show! Your business success, like “true love”, is closer than you think. Just like any hero, you have to go through a few adventures before you can learn what your true love actually looks like.

And like any hero, you will need to make some sacrifices.

Changing Focus

What about your dreams, your vision of your new business? Your dream are great, that’s what got you started as an entrepreneur. But to keep going, you have to let go of a static image of your successful business. Be prepared to refine and re-define what success looks like to you.

This does not mean flying by the seat of your pants without a business plan that includes measurable goals, and a written calendar of progressive steps to get you there. It means giving up the notion that anyone is really an overnight success.

Make your business goals reasonable and your steps manageable. Track your progress, and celebrate the positive trends. Do you have fifty new followers? Is that twice what you had last month? You want a daydream? There’s one for you! If you double your stats each month, where will you be in a year?

What are you learning as you go? You may find that your first business vision was too small! Plan big for the future but keep your present planning steps small enough to be executed well.

Gathering the Clan

Every hero has helpers along the way and every hero stops along the way to lend a helping hand. By the climax of the story, everyone has played a part in the hero’s big success.

You will need to sacrifice the idea that you can do this all alone.

Joining a community of like-minded people will give you tools, tips, and encouragement. You will have a place to bounce ideas, get feedback and learn how others have dealt with problems you are having.

Tip: Identify your weaknesses and find experts in those areas for coaching.

Did your first launch flop? Do you need help with launching, branding, marketing or video production? There are established experts that offer free webinars, cheat sheets and paid courses in these and other key areas critical to online entrepreneurs. The added bonus is that the best experts have community forums that you can join!

Be the Boss of Your New Business!

Back to the annoying reality that there are only so many hours in a day, we are still faced with cooking, cleaning, laundry and other domestic details. Remember that sleep and exercise can be skimped on for only so long before your overall performance suffers.

You must allow adequate time for sleep and exercise. I have calendared an audible alert on my phone to remind me to Go To Bed!! My husband even recognizes the sound now, and it marks a shift in our evening activities. I start to get sleepy when I hear it. Pavlovian, but it works.

The more negotiable tasks can be delegated or skipped all together. You are the boss, so you get to decide: delegate or don’t do it!

You can hire a maid service to clean every other week. You can hire a teenager to mow the lawn and pull weeds. Do you really need to cover your house and yard with holiday decorations this year? Can you skip making 47 dozen cookies for the exchange?

Alternately, you may find it helpful to hire a Virtual Assistant to help with some business related tasks to free you up for content creation and personal care.

The bottom line is, every hero gets smacked down at least once before they triumph. They keep going, build community and adjust their strategy until finally, they find what they were looking for. Success!!

You are the hero of your business story! Has your vision changed? Are you building community? How’s that delegating thing going for you? Please share in the comments below!

What Freelancers Need to Know About Debt Collection

Image of pens, paper and reading glasses symbolizing What you need to know about debt collections.Have you done work for clients who haven’t paid? Here are important things you need to know about debt collection that will keep you from making costly mistakes.

The Legal Stuff

This article is not legal advice. Opinions offered by your family, friends or Facebook group are not legal advice. To obtain a reliable legal opinion you must consult an attorney in good standing admitted to practice in the state where you live and base your business. You can find information about law firms and attorneys in your area on the Martindale-Hubbell website.

You can save yourself a lot of money in the long run by getting good advice up front. A couple hours of consultation to help you avoid mistakes is a lot less expensive than defending yourself in a lawsuit and paying statutory penalties.

This article underscores why you may want to consult an attorney by providing general information about debt collection mistakes that can get you in trouble.

Federal and State Laws

There are consumer protection laws and guidelines on a Federal level and for each state. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission is the nation’s consumer protection agency that enforces the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act  which is the Federal law that protects consumers from being abused by debt collectors. This law is often referred to as the “FDCPA”.

States have their own consumer protection laws. A state law is allowed to be more restrictive than the FDCPA, but it cannot be less strict in protecting consumers from debt collectors.

In other words, you run the risk of breaking both Federal and state laws by collecting debts before you know the rules!

Debt Collectors

You, as the freelance service provider, are not a debt collector, but you still should play by the rules.

The FDCPA defines a debt collector as anyone whose main business is collecting debts, or who regularly collects or attempts to collect, directly or indirectly, debts owed or claimed to be owed to someone else.

The rules are specific and the penalties are high when it comes to debt collectors. Before you hire a person or agency to collect debts owed to you, protect yourself by asking an attorney what your liability will be if any collection rules are broken.

Freelancers are a rapidly growing part the business world, including freelancers that provide services to other freelancers! One area of “services for freelancers” that I find very troubling are individuals who offer to collect your debts, at the same time emphasizing they are not debt collectors.

Paying someone a fee or commission to be your virtual “accounts receivable” employee for the specific purpose of contacting and collecting money from clients who have not paid you is not going to fool anyone, least of all a jury. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, the jury will call it a duck!

Debt Collection Mistakes

Collecting your own debt does not make you a debt collector under the FDCPA definition, but you will still want to play by the rules, including the rules for your state. These are some of the general areas that can get a bill collector in trouble.

Bankruptcy

If your client has filed bankruptcy, you cannot keep contacting them about the debt. You may file a “proof of claim” with the bankruptcy court but if the debt owed to you is unsecured (meaning no collateral) the chance that you will recover anything is slim.

Privacy

Legally, you can’t talk to anyone other than your client or their attorney about the debt. In some instances under federal law you can talk to a spouse, but you better make sure the state laws allow it.

You can also talk to a parent if the person who owes the debt is under eighteen.

You can’t publish the name of anyone who owes you money, leave messages or even send postcards. Basically you have to avoid shaming or embarrassing the person who owes you money.

Harassment

You will need to be careful when, where, and how often you call someone about the money they owe you. There are many rules that protect debtors from abuse or harassment by bill collectors. A few examples of things to keep in mind are:

  • A bill collector cannot call a debtor over and over, even if they are not answering the phone.
  • A collector cannot call the person at work the person is not allowed to get calls there.
  • The debtor cannot be called before 8:00 in the morning or after 9:00 at night without permission.
  • The collector cannot call the person names or use obscene language.
  • No legal action may be threatened unless the collector has the right to the legal action and actually intends to go through with it.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to debt collection and does not consider various state laws.

Summary

The best way to protect your personal and business interests is to invest in reliable legal advice from an attorney with experience in consumer issues or small business law.

Consider making a proactive investment in your business and consult an attorney before you have delinquent client accounts. Do you know if your service agreements or business contracts will help or hinder you if the client doesn’t pay as agreed?

Take advantage of good legal counsel to establish statutorily compliant business practices and collection procedures to keep your business profitable!

What is your experience with clients who don’t pay? Are you interested in more legal topics for freelancers and small business owners? Please contact me or leave your comments below.


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Smart Travel Tips for Entrepreneurs

These Won’t Bust Your Budget!

This is a guest post by freelance writer and aspiring businessman Michael Baker.

photo of coffee cup and glasses with scene of lovely beach symbolizing Smart Travel Tips for Entrepreneurs These Won't Bust Your Budget!Are you a new biz boss? An entrepreneur on a shoestring budget? Looking for the best travel options and locations within a strict budget can be overwhelming. But here are the latest smart travel tips to get the most out of your next vacation – without wrecking your budget!

Do you remember the line: “Ya gotta squeeze every penny” from the Simpsons? Even if you don’t, it still holds value in its straight forward message of being frugal where ever you can in order to save money.

Everyday there are numerous opportunities for us to save money in our busy lives, but what about when you travel?

Have you ever wondered, “What if I booked at this time,  or through this website? How much could I have saved?” Are the savings worth it compared to the amount of time you spend searching for the best deals?

Yes!

Timing is Everything

The timing of your trip can determine how much over or under budget you will be. Going somewhere during peak periods means you will pay the most for your accommodation, food, transport and any activities you want to enjoy while you are there. So if you can, travel in the off season. There will be a lot less crowding in tourist hot spots, too.

A great example of this is Myrtle Beach, one of the best coastal beach locations to visit on a tight budget. Myrtle Beach is particularly good in off season periods where there is still plenty to do in the area but without the summer crowds.

Also, if you can be flexible with travel dates and allow yourself plenty of time to book, you will be able to hunt down the best deal.

Getting There Is Part of the Fun!

All across America, and the world, there are always hidden gems between major cities and holiday locations. If you have the time and can plan accordingly, a cheaper way to travel is by car. Of course, taking your own car can turn out to be expensive, so why not someone else’s?

Auto Driveaway is a great money saving option when it comes to travelling. They are a car relocation company which allows people to transport cars all across the country. They’ll give you a car, your first tank of gas and a certain amount of time and miles to get from Point A to Point B, usually between two major cities. But, there are some requirements. To use Auto Driveway,  you must be at least 23 years old, hold a current driver’s license and a current motor vehicle driver’s record.

Road tripping is a great way to see parts of the country you haven’t experienced before. One of the best road trip experiences you could have is the trip along the Pacific Coast Highway. This is a trip everyone should embark on at least once during their lifetime.

Riding the Rails

Travelling by train is another great way to save a few dollars. Some rail packages include sleeping accommodations and meals. Group packages are usually available which can help keep costs down on a family vacation or group trip.  Check out the railway options for getting to your next vacation spot!

Smart Travel Tips for Flying

If you want to fly, look for flights that land at regional airports. You’ll be surprised how much money you can save on ticket prices and sales taxes if your destination is near a regional airport.

Which Budget is a search engine that can help you find budget airlines and flights to regional airports. If you are planning to fly internationally, The Flight Deal, has great prices when travelling from the USA. It’s worth checking them out before you book your next trip

Get the Best Deals on Lodging

Where you choose to stay on your business trip or vacation can take a big chunk out of your travel budget. But you can easily offset this cost to being almost nothing. Here are a few ways how you can save on where you stay.

Feeling Adventurous?

Airbnb is a great way to save a lot of money on your accommodation. You have options for single rooms or shared spaces from about $30 – $40 per night. With this service, even a large group can stay together in one house. This is one of the best ways to save a bundle on group accommodation.

Couchsurfing is another great option for not just cheap, but free accommodations. Nope, I’m not suggesting crashing with your friends or family for a few nights. Couchsurfing is an online service similar to AirBnB that helps you connect with local folks willing to share their home at your destination. The added benefit is your new friends can offer great advice on finding those hidden gems mentioned earlier, like local night spots.

Tried and True

If you like sticking to what you know then last-minute deals on Priceline or Hotwire can get you rooms over 60% off the normal price. You are able to bid for rooms, but if you decide to do this, use the website Better Bidding to see how much others have paid for similar hotels and rooms.

Eating on The Cheap

Eating the local cuisine is a great way to experience the different cultures the world has to offer. But your food budget can easily blow out too much more than you would expect.  Paying for three meals a day adds up fast!  So, let’s take a look at how you can keep your food expenses down.

The easiest way to keep your food budget under control is to avoid eating out for every meal. The locals don’t so why should you? Don’t be afraid to visit the local supermarket and see what the area has to offer. Eating “in” for at least one or two meals each day will keep costs down.

When You Eat Out – Avoid the Madding Crowd

This may seem obvious enough when it comes to not spending too much, but it is something people often forget. Don’t stand in line at the top tourist eateries. Instead, try walking for a few blocks in any direction to try find where the locals eat. There is a good chance the food will be twice as good for a fraction of the price.

Follow your nose! In many places around the world, like Asian regions, you will come across side streets filled will food stalls. Usually, the cooking is done right in front of you and fills the surrounding area with some of the best aromas you will ever experience. You might need to be a little adventurous to try this, but low prices make it even more enticing.

More Smart Travel Tips

One of the best ways to save on business travel is to ask for corporate discounts. It doesn’t matter the size of your company, or your travel group. Most major airlines, hotels and car rental agencies have corporate discount programs. Some offer discounts as high as 25%.

A traditional travel agent can help you get corporate discounts, and may have their own incentive programs to save you even more.  If you are a frequent traveller, there are many opportunities to save a few dollars here and there through a good travel agent on each trip.

Another cost-saving method is to join frequent flyer miles programs and rewards clubs. Credit card companies usually have offers where you get points for every dollar you spend with one of their rewards partners. You will find many hotel and car rental companies participate in rewards programs.

To ensure you are able to save yourself the most money on your next trip – be flexible, allow plenty of time when booking your travel dates, and don’t be afraid to do a little homework yourself.

Have you used any of these smart travel tips? Do you have your own money-saving travel tips? Please share in the comments below!

Image Credit: Alexas_Fotos via Pixabay cc


Avoid Obstacles To Your Freelance Success

Remove Obstacles to Freelance Success Are you ready to for freelance success right now? Are you tired of schlepping to a day job? Are you underpaid, overworked, or burned out? Remove those obstacles to your freelance success!

The thing is, most new business owners or entrepreneurs fail. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows us that only about half of new establishments that make it through the first year are still in business by year five.

The statistics do not take into account all the failed freelancers out there. The ones who never registered as a business or lost steam after the first few months and gave up.  How sad, to not even be a blip on the business radar screen.

It is fun and easy to dream of big freelance success, but unless you take action, you will never get past the daydream stage.

It is fun and easy to dream of big freelance success, but unless you take action, you will never get past the daydream stage.

There is something for everyone out there in the realm of business opportunities and freelance options, but you have to do the work, and you, only you, have to be able to overcome common obstacles to freelance success.

Lack of Vision for Your Freelance Success

Sure, you have imagined for years how it will feel to be your own boss. You see yourself working anywhere and anytime you feel like it. No more time clock for you!

That is not a vision, it’s a daydream.

Define your mission statement, your vision and your values. Why are you stepping out as a freelancer? What is the service or product you will provide? How will you deliver your product? What are your core values? What is your commitment to your customers?

To be a freelance success, you gotta get real. You have to set realistic, measurable goals.  You have to work your tail off, consistently. There are no shortcuts to freelance success.

You can take advantage of courses and coaches that give you knowledge and a framework to launch from, but it will be up to you to create a great service or product and market it effectively. Create and market. Then do it again.

Know Your Customer

You have heard by now that you have to find a niche.  That means you have to be specific about the type of customer who will buy your product. Can you define what they need? Now you have to be able to describe how you can meet that need.

It is too broad to say that your market is fitness freaks, and you will teach them a workout program for peak performance.  Failing to narrow your target customer is an obstacle to freelance success.

A successful freelance niche is much more specific. For example, your ideal customer may be millennial female runners in executive positions who have difficulty finding a regimen that works with frequent business travel.  You have just the answer they need!

Perfection Hinders Progress Towards Freelance Success

A huge obstacle for many is just getting started. Have you kept buying self-improvement books and joining Facebook groups in your chosen field but haven’t even really gotten your business off the ground? The first hurdle is planning and decision making.

The saying is true, even in business that progress is better than perfection. You still need to have a decent business plan, but stop thinking you need to wait until you have everything perfect before you actually start selling you product or services.

Perfection is a process, not a milestone. You will always be looking for new ways to improve your business, your product, your marketing strategy and yourself. If you don’t, your business will fizzle.

Make a plan, set deadlines. Designate specific times to be working on your business tasks. Not just setting up a web page, or tinkering with your WordPress theme, but also designate time for creating a business plan and measurable goals.

Don’t just set deadlines to accomplish certain tasks, but make deadlines for decision making. Are you paralyzed with indecision about choosing a web host? WordPress theme? Picking a domain name? Gather some options and then set a hard deadline for making that choice! Then go with it. Don’t waffle. You need forward progress here and if you can’t trust your own gut, you are lost.

Be realistic about your abilities. Nothing is a faster business killer than constant frustration and hitting roadblocks. You have to be prepared to change course if your initial plan is hitting a brick wall.

Doing It All

If you are trying to save money by creating your own web site and customizing a free theme, that’s fine if you have the skills for it. Nothing is more frustrating than spending hours on a task that turns into days and you feel you are worse off then when you started.

I actually have skill and experience with databases and customizing online applications, but trying to set up and customize a free WordPress theme was making me totally crazy. After several late nights, I realized that setting up my own web page was taking way too long to be productive. I finally purchased a responsive theme package and had my website up and customized in a few hours – easy peezy!!

I can’t believe I wasted so much time and energy before spending a few measly dollars to get something workable and attractive. So don’t make yourself crazy! Remember, your time is worth money, too.

Still Need More Support to Reach Freelance Success? 

Business programs that I can personally recommend to help you get your business off the ground are Empire Building with Alexis Giostra for starting your own business, and Fearless Launching with Anne Samoilov to show you exactly how to effectively get that new service or product out to your customers.

As for that interactive theme I bought – it came from BluChic!

Are you dreaming of freelance success? Do you have a side hustle? Please share your questions and comments!


Mid-Year Business Strategies for Entrepreneurs

Rock the March Madness vibe to update your business plan! The weather has changed and we are nearing the halfway point in the year. Before the end of Q2 is a great time to update your business strategies!

Revisit Your Business Plan

By now you have already analyzed your prior results. Did you grow your list, sales or product offerings? Did you meet or exceed your expectations? What flopped?

You will have prepared a business plan for this year with general goals for the year and interim goals by month or quarter. Your plan will have included a calendared To-Do list of product or service launches at certain times throughout the year and cost projections of expenses for your business.

So many entrepreneurs admit to developing a beautiful and inspiring business plan for the year and then never looking at it again. But not you! Now is the time for a thorough review and revision session with your business plan for this year.

Compare expenses already paid to your projections. Are you up to date on your expenses tracking?

Double check your assumptions of cost for the year. After reviewing the expenses you have already paid this year, have you found expenditures that are costing more than you had originally planned? Are you aware of any price hikes coming up for postage, supplies or raw materials needed to make your products? Make the necessary revisions to your cost projections.

Review scheduled launch dates. Did you miss a planned launch that needs to be re-scheduled? Are there secondary launch or event dates to be moved because the starter launch was delayed?

Incorporate new events. Are there business or life events on the horizon that you were not aware of when you drafted your annual business plan? Business conferences, training seminars, new baby on the way? Be realistic about the amount of time these events will take for preparation and execution, and adjust your plan accordingly.

Look hard at planned launches that follow the new event. Do you need to scale back or postpone a product or service launch? Is it still doable if you arrange for additional resources? If you anticipate hiring a person or team to support your launch, whether a virtual assistant or a cleaning service, update your task schedule and budget to allow for finding, hiring and training your staff in advance of your key dates.

Bookkeeping

Even the most creative entrepreneur has to deal with the reality of business finances.

There are special rules and responsibilities that apply to Small Business Owners and Self-Employed entrepreneurs in the United States.

If you are not comfortable dealing with taxes and bookkeeping, hire someone. Keep in mind that this is the busiest part of tax season for accounting firms and tax professionals. If you plan to delegate your tax preparation to a pro, make the appointment now.

Heads up: If you are self-employed and required to pay estimated taxes, the payments are due quarterly!  Be ready!

Carefully look over the documentation, receipts, invoices, etc., for all your income and expenses year to date. Make sure you have all the paperwork set aside you will need for tax purposes.

Business Strategies Include Action

The days are getting longer, the weather is warmer and this is a time of year when folks traditionally would fling open all the doors and windows and clean house from top to bottom.

Utilize that same energy to freshen and re-energize your business!

Start with actual cleaning. Clear off your desk. Sort through any papers and file or shred. Clean the surface of your work space and surrounding area. Do you have a dusty tangle of cords under your desk? Are there crumbs in your keyboard?

Clean the window in your office. If you don’t have a window, wipe off the light bulb in your desk lamp (when it is off and cooled) and dust the lampshade.

Set a timer for 15 minutes and speed clean your desk drawer. Toss out pens that skip and curled pads of note paper. Anything in your drawer that you have to push aside to get to regularly used items needs to go.

If your business involves creation of physical products, be sure to do the same with your materials inventory and production work space.

Accumulated dust and clutter sends a subliminal message of stagnation. A quickie clean of your work space is refreshing. Getting rid of excess or unhelpful items clears the space for positive energies to flow into your business!

Include Personal Care In Your Business Strategy

Entrepreneurs have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends. Burn, as in high level of burn-out. As a savvy business owner, you need to take care of your most valuable asset – you!

While you are in planning and revamping mode, schedule your maintenance appointments like annual physical, dental cleanings and eye exam.

Plan you work and work your plan, but plan to include adequate time for sleep, exercise and relaxation. It is your focus, drive and creativity that drive the success of your business. Keep your tools sharp!

Is this a crazy time of year for you and your business? How are you managing so far? Please share your comments below!

 


Archetypes for Entrepreneurs: Are You Batman or Superman?

archetypes for entrepreneursComic book heroes are a great place to start when looking for archetypes that align with entrepreneurs! Archetypes are ideal examples of a type of person, an original model for others to follow, a symbol derived from the collective experience of society. Archetypes serve as icons or role models that can be inspirational – or cautionary!

Action Archetypes for Business Owners

No question about it, starting or building any kind of business takes some entrepreneurial hustle!

Batman is a guy who spent years developing incredible tools and technology for detecting and fighting crime before he launched his brand. Batman’s utility belt is loaded with the ultimate in personal and portable devices! When he is called, he has the systems in place to respond with amazing services.

Modern entrepreneurs embrace technology and build responsive business systems. Landing pages, mail lists, virtual market baskets and customer analytics are all examples of super technology used by successful business owners. What’s in your utility belt?

Are you in the early years of creating your business? Newer entrepreneurs need to be faster that a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive to launch a new business. Superman may be your archetype if you are balancing a family life, a full time day job and creating your super side-hustle all at the same time!

Fortitude Archetypes for Entrepreneurs

It takes guts to create your own business and build it up to a profitable enterprise. Success doesn’t happen overnight. It is easy to get discouraged but the winning entrepreneur is the one that won’t quit.

In the Wizard of Oz book and film, young Dorothy starts out musing that she just might be able to make her dream come true. Once she lands in Oz, her goals are refined.  Her main goal is to get back to Kansas. The first step in her implementation plan is more immediate- get to the wizard! Along the way she runs into one obstacle after another, but she keeps going. Each challenge makes her pause to reevaluate. She not only perseveres, she develops alliances that stick with her in good times and bad.

Frodo Baggins in the Lord of The Rings was determined to reach his goal, and eventually saved Middle Earth despite serious setbacks. Frodo kept going even when he was scared and unsure if he could survive the struggle, sometimes helped by a diverse network of supporters who believed in his cause and respected his diligence.

Moral Value Archetypes for Management

The public’s perception of the moral character of a business owner has a direct impact on the bottom line. A potential customer of your product or services not only needs to know you are providing something they need or want, they have to trust you to deliver. Not only that, your customers want to relate to your core values.

A Higher Calling

The character of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is an enduring archetype of honesty and compassion. A sole practitioner attorney in a small town, Atticus defends his innocent client because it is the right thing to do, even when he and his family are threatened and harassed.

King Arthur is a legendary leader who symbolizes honor, chivalry and loyalty. Folklore tells us that Arthur protected his county from invading armies, then went on to lead his country into a magical era, complete with Knights, wizards and the beautiful island of Avalon.

Bad Guys

Shady characters are just as iconic, and the bad guys aren’t always guys – like Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With The Wind who takes over a growing business from her wimpy husband and makes it a huge success by using unsavory business practices like prisoner labor.

Then there is narcissistic Voldemort from the Harry Potter series who spreads death and destruction everywhere as he seeks to rule the wizarding world by means of force and intimidation.

Common Elements of Archetypes

These are just a few examples of archetypes that illustrate qualities found in entrepreneurs.

Not all archetypes have super powers or live in magical lands, but they do have other traits in common. Characters that become iconic are usually remembered for actions that illustrate courage, determination, and strong personal values. They are often dreamers or visionaries that overcome resistance to their ideas.  Archetypal heroes remember where they came from as they forge ahead, making alliances or building community as they progress.

What traits do you relate to as a business owner? What icons do you suggest for entrepreneurs? Please share your favorite archetypes in the comments below!

Business Ethics for Super Entrepreneurs – Top Reasons to Define Your Values

Business Ethics for Super Entrepreneurs Are you ready to be a super entrepreneur? The kind of business owner everyone respects and trusts? Here are four reasons why defining your values will improve your business!

Super Entrepreneurs Have a Plan

A good starting place for a business plan is figuring out why you want to be in business for yourself and what you hope to accomplish. To work from home? Be your own boss? Make money? All of these may apply and probably more.

All businesses provide some kind of product or service that will solve a problem or enhance the lives of their customers. Core values will help make your brand distinctive.

The successful entrepreneur identifies a marketing niche by getting clear on what makes their product different from any other, and builds a plan to reach their target customers. There are loads of courses and applications to help new business owners build their list and automate ads and emails.

Building and marketing a better mousetrap can make you a successful entrepreneur, but a super entrepreneur’s plan will also build a business culture, and that is where values come in.

There are companies, and then there are super companies. It is no accident that super companies are as known and respected for how they treat their customers and employees as they are for their products and services.

Super companies come in all sizes, from mega corporations to solo super entrepreneur businesses.

I have been fortunate to spend the more than a decade with a company whose owners have been consistently recognized as “super” by peers, employees and customers for their integrity, excellent work product and community service. They have clearly stated values that guide their business practices.

Defining core values and incorporating those values in your business plan will give you a firm foundation for succeeding in your business as an entrepreneur.

Established Values Help Decision Making

Once you have established your core values, it will make it easier to draft your business procedures and make decisions. Sooner or later, you will run into a difficult situation that falls on you, as the boss, to resolve. Always look to your core values.

When problem solving, eliminating those options that run counter to your core values will help you drill down to making the best decisions for your business.

Your business values should be reflected in your processes and procedures that are given to employees, including virtual assistants.

Keep your values in mind in your selection of vendors, suppliers, sponsors and affiliates.

We all love to see and participate in collaborations with other entrepreneurs, and of course you will want to make sure your collaborations are with business owners whose values are in sync with yours.

Values Promote Customer Trust

Articulate your values as part of your brand. Let your customers know what to expect from you, your products and your customer service.

Who can forget how Superman used to say he fought for “truth, justice and the American way”?

Customers appreciate hearing about your commitment to them, so make the effort to communicate more than just an intent to be honest. Do you promise orders to be shipped with a certain number of business days? Do you welcome emails from your customers? Respect for your customers time and attention is a value, too!

Values Build Loyalty

Customers will try out your product and services if they trust you, and consistently providing value-based products and services create loyalty.

In retail, the rule of thumb is that loyal customers make up about 20% of a customer base, but are responsible for 50% of sales. Not only that, but loyal customers are more likely to recommend you to new customers!

Customers are more loyal and secure when dealing with people and businesses they perceive as having compatible values. Are you a “green” business when it comes to your raw materials and waste? Do you donate a percentage of profits to charity? Share those values with your customers.

Whether you have a brick-and-mortar business, a full time online business or are just starting out with a side hustle, you can be a super entrepreneur by establishing core values that are unique to you and your brand.

What values define your business? Are you more likely to give repeat business to a value-based company? Please share your comments below!

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