Get Profit Crisis in Your Small Business

Think there’s not a profit crisis? The Small Business Administration conducted a recent study and found that of the 28 million small businesses in the US, about 83 percent are not profitable. That’s a shocking statistic. The vast majority of small businesses lose money. That means these small businesses are likely to close, ending job opportunities and reducing incomes for millions of families.

How do so many small businesses fail to turn a profit? It turns out that it’s because of the way we think about profit — our profit mindset. We talk about “year-end profit” or “the bottom line.” We consider profit to be whatever is left over after we pay all our bills.
The problem? Too often, there’s nothing left over.
We think of profit as an event — something we will eventually, at long last achieve. It’s just over the next hurdle, just around the bend.

The trouble? Profit isn’t waiting for us to arrive.
How to Make a Profit
What we need in order to solve the profit crisis is a new perspective — a completely new way of thinking about and achieving profitability for our companies. And here it is: You take your profit first.

Every single bit of revenue that comes into your company becomes a step toward profitability. When you get a check, you deposit a predetermined percentage into a separate account that’s designated as your profit account. You open this account at a new bank, and you don’t link it to a debit card. You don’t pull funds from it to pay bills. This is your profit account, and you fund it first, every single time money comes in.
Now you may be just barely getting by right now, and you may worry that you won’t be able to pay your bills if you start setting aside profit first. But here’s the secret … you’ll find a way. You’ll become more frugal. You’ll drum up more business. You’ll learn to do more with less. Think about it — if you lose a client (and future revenue) you don’t just close up shop, right? You find a way to make it work.

Now I know that putting profit first works. I’ve seen hundreds of companies all over the world transform themselves into lean, specialized, profitable businesses. But for people who are apprehensive, I suggest starting small. Try taking 1% of your revenue as it comes in and starting that profit account. 1 percent? You’ll never miss it! But as you watch it accumulate, as you realize that you can still pay your bills and sign your staff paychecks, you’ll begin to understand how it works.

We must learn to prioritize profit if we are to succeed as entrepreneurs. And to be clear, I’m not saying that money is everything in life. But if you want your business to thrive … if you want to be able to provide for your family, you owe it to yourself, your employees, and your community to run your business profitably.
The solution to the profit crisis is to shake off the old mentality — that profit is what’s left over — and to adopt a new mindset — profit comes first.

Great Idea into a Successful Business

You’ve just experienced one of those light-bulb moments when you think you’ve got a dazzlingly brilliant idea for a business. Possessing the spirit of a true entrepreneur, you’ve decided to bring your idea to fruition.

But wait. Before you invest a big chunk of savings into your new enterprise, you’d be well advised not to jump to any preconceived conclusions about the merits of your prospective business. Remember the Edsel? If seasoned corporate executives can make a spectacular failure like that, then mere everyday entrepreneurs are certainly not immune to errors in judgment.

Will it sell and will you earn enough to make a profit?

Sure, there have been brash entrepreneurs who have been successful without giving a thought to researching their potential market or determining ahead of time what the potential for profit may be. But like any other investment, it is prudent for prospective business owners to perform the necessary research prior to putting their hard-earned monies into a new enterprise.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, two of the core questions prospective business owners need to ask themselves are:

What service or product does my business provide and what needs does it fill?
Who are the potential customers for my product or service and why will they purchase it from me?
If you feel your product or service truly fills a real need in the marketplace, get feedback from individuals, business associates and industry experts. What do they think about your idea? If your idea is a new product, make a prototype if possible, and present that as well. Utilize questionnaires and hold discussion forums.

As unusual as your idea may be, you will always be competing with someone else. Find out who your competitors are and determine if your idea will make the product or service better, different or more valuable. Understanding what you competitors are doing will assist you in doing it better yourself.

And just who is your target market? Determine factors such as potential size, income levels, age and geographic location. Is your target market shrinking or growing? How much are they willing to pay?

The next thing you need to determine is whether or not your new business endeavor will generate enough revenues for you to enjoy sufficient profits. One way to do this is to calculate your business costs and to determine your breakeven point, the point where sales cover costs. Anything above your breakeven point equals profits. Business Know-How offers calculators to assess business costs and your business breakeven point.

Prices charged to customers need to cover business costs, enable desired level of profits, and be competitive and in line with what customers are willing to pay.

Another important tool to assess the likelihood of new business success is the Business Plan, a summary of your business and the objectives and activities needed for it to succeed. Components may include the following:

Executive Summary
Company Summary
Products and/or Services
Market Analysis
Strategy and Implementation
Management Summary
Financial Plan
Do You Need to Protect your Idea?

You’ve determined there’s a read need and market for your product or service, and potential profitability looks great. Now is the time for you and your attorney to decide if your unique idea will require protection under intellectual property laws — intellectual property being U.S. patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets.

If legally appropriate, filing for trademark or copyright protection is easier and less costly than filing for a patent. Patent protection typically costs in the thousands of dollars. In the real world, most start-up entrepreneurs have limited resources and the pros and cons of patent protection must be carefully considered.

Benefits of a patent include having legal protection for your business idea or product, having a head start over competitors who may want to copy your product, and being able to enforce your legal protection if someone does infringe upon your rights. On the other hand, it’s typically not very difficult for another company to legally design a very similar but different “copycat” product since patent specifications are so precise.

Be aware that whatever intellectual property protection you obtain, you may need to spend even more monies on legal fees in order to defend and rectify any infringements.

If you promote your business, will they come?

It’s not enough to have a great product at a great price that meets a true marketplace need. In order for your new business to be an unequivocal success, you need to get the word out. Here are some basic guidelines to do just that:

Business Cards
A good quality business card is a new business’s best friend. Hand them out wherever you go. Be sure to include a logo, what your business does, and contact information.

Website
Every business today needs a professional-looking and well-designed website. You want customers and others to be able to learn about your business and just what products and services you have to offer.

Postcard Marketing
Nothing beats postcard marketing for cost and readability. Use as an effective way to generate sales leads, promote special offers or coupons, drive traffic to your website or introduce new products or services.

Hold a Grand Opening
A well thought out and successfully executed grand opening can greatly assist with your ultimate goal: matching your business’s products and services to the people in your community who would most need and benefit from them … and increasing your profits along the way.

Become a part of your local business and civic community
Join your local Chamber of Commerce and a service organization like the Kiwanis or Lions Club. Attend meetings and become involved in your community. Networking of this sort helps new businesses and their owners become readily known to people in the community … prospective customers.

Press releases
You’ve got a new business with a great innovative concept. Get the word out, and your customers will come. Send out a well-written press release detailing your new business and what makes it special. The media is always looking for stories on hot new businesses and trends — Why not let it be about yours?

Judicious advertising
Budget an affordable amount for advertising. This may include advertising in the Yellow Pages, local newspapers and business directories.

Find the Perfect Business Idea

One of the biggest struggles I had in starting my business was actually coming up with the idea. I wanted something that was scalable as well as needed in our society. I combed through hundreds of ideas before settling on my current venture. Through this discovery period, I uncovered what I believe are the five most important concepts in determining what makes the perfect business idea.

So, what is a perfect idea? Each individual entrepreneur has their concept of the perfect business. While Google is a great business for the founders of that company – it may not be a great business for others that are non-tech savvy or who do not want to run such a large organization.

Therefore, each perfect business is defined by the business owners. Keeping this in mind, let’s start on my five concepts of finding the perfect business:

Number One – Understanding your customer

This might seem strange to start here as how do you know your customers before you have a business idea in place. The answer is simple – your customers make the business, therefore without customers there is no business. If you have a business idea don’t try to develop the idea around what YOU think potential customers will like or need, but find out what your customers actually desire. Too often business owners get an idea in their head and jump right in with both feet. However, they soon find out that their target market does not want what they are offering. Spending both time and money on a project just to see it languish is not the perfect business idea.

Moreover, let’s say you don’t already have an idea – getting out and understand consumers (those who will eventually become your customers) may lead you to the perfect idea. Knowing what potential consumers need and building products to meets those needs will get customers beating a path to your door – that is a perfect business idea.

Number Two – Passion

Passion here does not mean being fanatical about your product or service. But, it does mean having some interest in what you do. More times than not, you will be spending 15 to 18 hours a day working on your business in the beginning – usually for the first 12 to 18 months (more like 2 years in this economy). You have to constantly be thinking about ways to improve and grow your business as well as be out talking about it to everyone, everywhere. If you end up starting a venture that you don’t have passion for, something that does not make you jump out of bed each morning, it will be very hard to put in the hours and energy to make it successful – thus not a perfect business idea.

Number Three – Understand Your Competition

Every business has competition – either direct or indirect. Think about movie theaters. They have direct competition from video rental stores or at home television. They also have indirect competition from any other activity that consumers spend their disposable income on like bowling, paint ball, golf, etc. Anything that people do in their spare time.

Further, some competitors are ruthless. Meaning that if you promote and offer a product that is similar to theirs but at a lower price, these competitors will just lower their price to match or beat you. If they are already established businesses – they may be able to undercut your price enough to drive you out of business.

If you don’t know your competition – what they are willing to do to keep you out of their market – you may be spending more of your time in a pricing war then growing your business – not the perfect business idea.

Number Four – Cash Flow

Lots of entrepreneurs enter the business world with great ideas but very poor understanding of the capital it will take to get their venture off the ground. Most will prototype their product or service and understand what it takes to make the product or provide the service but they don’t understand the capital it takes to manage the rest of the organization – including marketing (very expensive but extremely necessary), employees (more than just salaries or wages), insurance or supplies and all the little miscellaneous expenses that add up very quickly like phone, internet, computer services, etc. Knowing your total cash flow will help ensure that all of your costs (variable and fixed) can be covered by the business – the perfect business idea. I have seen way too many businesses with great products fail because they could not cover simple expenses like rent or utilities.

Number Five – You

Know who you are. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know that you are ready, willing and able to do what it takes to make your venture a success. I have worked with many business owners in the past that think all they have to do is hang out their shingle and they have it made. Thus, when it comes down to actually running the business day-to-day – they are unwilling to invest the time, energy or money necessary for success. Thus, know how hard you are willing to work.

Moreover, know your personal financial situation and what you need the business to generate to cover your lifestyle. If you think your business will pay you a great salary from day one – it will not. And, if you need it to, it is not the perfect business idea for you. Take away outside distractions like your personal financial situation – get those in order – thus, when your business concept does materialize – you will be able to solely focus on its conception and growth. In the end providing you the financial security you are seeking – it will be the perfect business idea.

Regardless of the level of your desire for your business – a lifestyle mom and pop operation or a multi-national conglomerate – if you develop a business idea with these five concepts in mind – your idea will be the perfect business idea for you.

Information About Google Data Studio Now Free to All Small Businesses

Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) recently made its data analytics and visualization more appealing by removing a major restriction — limit on the number of reports. Until recently, you could only use Data Studio to create up to a maximum of five reports, but with the update, you can now create and share as many reports as you want.
Unlimited Free Reports from Google Data Studio
“To enable more businesses to get full value from Data Studio we are making an important change — we are removing the 5 report limit in Data Studio,” Google Data Studio product manager Nick Mihailovski said in a post on the official Google Analytics Solutions blog. “You now create and share as many reports as you need — all for free.”

Data Studio was first unveiled in March 2016 as a free component of Google Data Studio 360 — a paid-for product for data visualization and reporting.
Google Data studio gives you everything you need to turn your customers’ analytics data into easy-to-understand reports through data visualization.
Data Studio integrates a range of Google products and data sources to create interactive and attractive reports. You can create user-friendly reports by collecting and combining data from Google Sheets, AdWords, BigQuery, YouTube, Attribution 360 and Google Analytics.

However, even with the changes, Google Data Studio 360 still remains a bit superior to Data Studio. For example, with Data Studio 360 you can have up to 200 “owners” who can manage and edit the reports while the free version only allows you single account ownership. In addition, the enterprise edition offers full customer support.

Even so, for small businesses that don’t have the resources to pay for the enterprise version, Data Studio remains a viable option for data analytics and visualization.

Evaluate Business Ideas

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Everyone gets them. Some of them are good, but most of them are bad. In fact, Alfred Noble once quipped, “If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied.”

The curious nature of ideas, however, is that good ones often follow bad ones. It may take a little massaging, but that’s what ideas are for. And that’s why you should never ditch a bad idea.

How to Evaluate an Idea

One of the most important things for a business person to learn how to do is evaluate an idea. How will you know if an idea is good if you don’t analyze it, kick it around a little, and learn what it’s made of? Perhaps the bad idea you see on the surface is the outer shell of a good idea waiting to be revealed.

Before you do anything with an idea, first do a little research to see if anyone else has come up with that idea. This is how great innovators operate. Professional inventors spend a lot of time evaluating products that are already on the market because the exercise can often lead to a moment of discovery where the problems solved by the products already in existence leave a void of unsolved problems that need a solution. Where there is a problem without a known solution there is an idea waiting to happen.

Some patented products never make it to market because inventors and manufacturers realize before it’s too late that those ideas don’t really solve a problem, or the opportunity passes to solve a problem and newer innovations solve them better. A little research can reveal this before you get too vested in your idea.

If an idea has been thought of multiple times before, that may be a sign that it has merit. It just needs to be improved upon. However, if there is no record of your idea existing before, then it may be that others have discovered its weaknesses and chose not to pursue it. That’s why you should spend some time evaluating your ideas before adopting them, but don’t ditch the bad ones because they still have some usefulness.

Before getting too far with your idea, try talking to a few people to see if they have the problem you are trying to fix. This alone can save you a ton of time and money. If no one has the problem you want to fix, your idea may not be so good.

The Purpose for Ideas is to Solve Problems

Good ideas solve problems. If your idea does not solve a problem, then it’s time to look at the nuts and bolts of that idea to determine why it doesn’t address a real problem. Try this exercise:

Write down the three things you like most about your idea
On a separate sheet of paper write down three things you like least about your idea
For each of the things you like about your idea, list why you like it. Just get your thoughts on paper. Don’t worry about whether they are right or wrong, silly, or absurd. Just put them down. Do the same thing with the three things you don’t like about your idea. After that exercise, you should have a pretty good list of raw thoughts associated with your idea. These should help you delve deeper into the idea to determine why it’s bad idea.

How to Find Problems That Need Solutions

One of the best ways to find problems in need of solutions is to think of your own pain points. What ails you? What tasks take you too long to complete? If you could change any one thing about a product that you use regularly, what would it be?

Another way to find problems in need of solutions is to ask other people. Find people in similar situations as you and ask them what their biggest problems are. Do you see any similarities between yours and theirs? You should write all of this down. Keep a journal. Once you collect the information, compare this list of needs or problems to your bad idea list of things you like and don’t like. Do you see any common ground? If so, jot it down.

This process is known as free association. It’s been used in psychoanalysis since Sigmund Freud experimented with it late in the nineteenth century. The reason it works is because it frees the mind to associate ideas without blocks or mental biases.

Every now and then, go back and look at some of your bad ideas, the ones you didn’t use. There was a reason you didn’t use them. However, things change. You may have discovered new information since then that allows you to reevaluate the idea from a different perspective. Another thing that has changed is you. New experiences, new knowledge, new skills, and new acquaintances can all have an effect on how you perceive an idea, evaluate the idea, and even feel about it. Then, of course, there’s the market. It changes too.

Start a Business Without Going Broke

A 40’s something woman was talking to me the other day about her growing sense of frustration over “working for someone else” and her longing to “do my own thing, drive my own wagon”. But, she said with consternation, “I have family counting on me and a standard of living I don’t want to sacrifice.”

Everyone has to decide for themselves what level of sacrifice and risk they’re willing to undertake in order to enjoy the satisfactions of working independently. Knowing some strategies for managing the risk will allow you to make a well-informed decision.

Of the seven strategies included below, the first two suggest ways to gradually transition from salaried to solo, instead of diving off the edge. The second two are ways to stretch the dollar; and the final three are ideas for getting started without stopping.

1. Continue to draw a (reduced) salary.
Leaving your current employment in order to develop your new business may look like the only option, based on an assumption that you won’t get approval for reducing your hours. While this may prove to be the case, asking yourself why and how your company will profit from retaining your skills and experience for a transitional period can provide the basis for approaching your employer. Be sure to do your homework first, however, and be able to back up your request with a solid rationale.

Also consider the issue of timing. You want to weigh informing your employer of your wish to leave with being prepared to leave if the answer to your request is no.

2. Develop another income stream.
If you need to leave your present employment, is there a skill in your toolbag that you can resuscitate and put to work without a significant expenditure of time or energy? Is moonlighting or freelance work an option? Virtual e-lancing websites (such as eWork.com, Guru.com, and e-lance.com) may be worth looking into for short-term professional services opportunities.

Examples: A community mental health worker transitioning to private practice used his conflict resolution experience to sell a training package to public schools. A woman transitioning out of an insurance brokerage created and sold seminars on long term care financing at local retirement centers.

3. Reduce expenses.
Apart from fixed expenses – mortgage, taxes, insurance, etc. – are discretionary expenses that make up the larger part of budgets. Doing a careful analysis of these expenses and choosing what you can forego for awhile can often save thousands per year.

Carefully analyzing hidden expenses – credit card interest rates, bank charges, late fees, auto debits, phone plans – or “lost money” from low interest rates on savings may generate several thousand more per year.

4. Borrow.
It isn’t necessary to wait to borrow for start-up costs until you have a well-documented idea to submit for a business loan. Refinancing a home or taking a line of credit are relatively low-cost ways of generating capital. Depending on your credit rating, you can also get time-limited low-interest loans from credit card companies.

If you choose this option, applying for loans or refinancing packages while you’re still employed is strongly advised. Your rating as a borrower declines quickly once the regular paychecks stop.

You don’t have to wait!

Get started on your new business idea while you’re still employed. Several of the all-important first steps (below) can be started while standing in the grocery line or running on the treadmill. They involve asking yourself some questions and doing some informal research to get crystal clear about your idea. This can take weeks off your actual start-up time.

5. Identify your niche.
Think about the services you’re uniquely qualified to provide, as well as the ones you most enjoy providing. Be specific! Write them down! Then think about what group of people would get benefit from those services and have the ability to pay for them. Again, be specific: age, where they congregate, habits and values, how they define the problem your services are going to solve. If you don’t know, ask. Find someone who fits your “ideal client” profile (s/he may be on the treadmill next to yours at the gym) and get permission to ask some questions. People generally love to be helpful.

6. Create your marketing plan.
Don’t be intimidated by the term “marketing plan”. While what you need from a marketing plan will get more sophisticated as your business develops, for now it simply means answering the question, How is my business going to make money? What is the product or service you’re going to sell? How will you describe it so people quickly recognize the value? How will you package it? (fee for service? by the project? on retainer?) How will you price it? (What’s being charged for comparable services? What “feels right” to you?)

7. Manage fear!
For most people, anything involving money involves some level of fear. It’s important to acknowledge to yourself and to others that you are taking a risk, and you’ve decided it’s a risk you want to take. So consider the fear natural, and find ways to manage it.

Getting support from people who believe in you and in what you’re embarking on is #1 in fear-management tactics. Don’t assume that you’ll get it from the people closest to you, or that if you don’t have it you shouldn’t proceed. They’re probably the ones most impacted by your decision and so may be least ready to offer support. Their consent – a willingness to go along with your plan – is helpful, but support may have to come later.

It’s also helpful to set a goal (and a date for completion) that’s key to your new venture – arrange financing by a particular date, or sign a lease – and announce it to at least one person. You’ll find that making that commitment, saying it out loud, and following through will in turn generate more confidence and more forward momentum.

Virtual Assistant Business

All over the U.S. there are businesses, entrepreneurs, and start up companies in need of extra help. The kind of help they need is typically provided by another type of professional that is known as the virtual assistant.

What Does A Virtual Assistant Do?

A virtual assistant (VA) is someone who manages routine tasks, usually online or through electronic communications with the client. The tasks vary in complexity and skills needed, but what they have in common is that they are needed by businesses, but don’t have to be performed on site at the business location. Depending on the virtual assistant’s skills and interests, among the services she or he may offer are:

Bookkeeping
Managing databases
Publishing electronic newsletters
Planning events
Internet marketing and social media
Creating presentations
Marketing support services
Managing projects
Product purchasing
Research
Telephone answering
Customer support
Transcription
Website design and maintenance
Social media marketing
Blogging
Word processing
Writing, proofreading, and editing documents
How Much Will You Make?

The amount of money you can make as a virtual assistant will depend on your skills and experience, the number of billable hours a week you work, and to some extent on the geographic area you focus on. Many virtual assistants in the US start out billing $20 to $35 an hour and then raise their rates as demand for their services grows.

How Two Professional Virtual Assistants Started Their Businesses

Like a lot of things, there isn’t just one way to start a virtual assistant business. However, there are some first steps you should take no matter the ultimate path you follow. The first thing is to assess your own strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? What skills do you have? This is a good place to start because you need to know what services to provide to potential clientele before you start marketing yourself.

Kathy Goughenour has been a virtual assistant since 2001. In 2008, she started a ExpertVATraining, a virtual assistant training and coaching business. She recommends first identifying the types of businesses you want to service and the services you want to provide them. “Then do some research to determine if the target market you’ve chosen needs, wants, and has the money to pay for those services,” she adds.

The second step she recommends is to create a website. And the third step is to partner with other businesses who have the same target market as you.

Virtual assistant Candice VanWye, owner of Social Creative Studios in San Diego, offers different advice. Her suggestion is to start locally.

“Most VAs try to get clients online, but I believe it’s easier to target people who are in the same area (as you) because you seem more tangible,” she said, “especially if you don’t have much experience.”

After establishing yourself locally, VanWye recommends establishing a blog and using it to attract more clients from a distance. After working as a virtual assistant for one year at the local level, she said she grew her business enough to hire employees and expand her business reach.

Finding Customers

The key to succeeding in this, as in any business, will be your ability to find customers. Networking both in person at local events and online will be important ways to get known. There are many other low-cost ways to promote your new business, too.

Should You Use Bidding Sites Like Elance?

Bid sites are controversial among virtual assistants. Some VAs like them and some don’t. One problem with bidding sites like Elance is that many business people using these services are looking for the lowest bidder. You could be competing with VAs in India and China, in which case you’ll have to offer low prices to get some business.

The upside is you can hone your skills working for low pay and then bump up to the higher end markets when you’re ready.

You might find it less competitive, and more lucrative, to start with a service like HireMyMom.com, which is run by a professional mom who works from home. If you fall into the same category, you have a built in affinity group with such services.

A Third Path to Establishing Your Own VA Service

A longer way around to being an independent virtual assistant is to establish your skills working for someone else first. By working with an established virtual assistant company that provides the clients, you can gain some experience in the field working remotely. However your earnings are likely to be lower than if you work on your own, and the virtual assistant company you work with is likely to restrict you from soliciting business from their customers once you go out on your own. Read any document you have to sign very carefully, and avoid any non-compete clauses that might limit or attempt to limit your ability to start your own business in the future.

Online Content Writing Business

As long as there is a cyberspace there will be demand for content writing services. That’s both good news and bad news for writers.

First, the good news: There will always be work.

And the bad news is, there will always be stiff competition. Other writers have noticed the demand and are marketing their services to the businesses that need strong writers, and many of those content writing services have been doing business online for years. So you have your work cut out for you to cut through the competition and get the business. It is possible, but it’s not easy.

What Kind of Content Needs To Be Written?

Businesses of all kinds need content. That includes:

Website content
Newsletter articles
E-mail campaign content
Blog writing
Social media
Video scripts
Paid advertising pitches
White papers
E-books
Technical writing
Online magazine and trade journal articles
Mobile phone app content
Interactive content
Multimedia content
And much more
As new online technologies emerge, there will be a need for writers to step up and create content for those media. That means there will always be an increase in demand for great content writers to fill a void and meet this demand.

How to Start Your Online Content Writing Business

All kinds of businesses, and individuals, need content. Before you start looking for work, take inventory of your personal skills. What are you good at, and what do you enjoy writing about? Start there. However, you should be realistic about expectations. You likely won’t make a lot of money marketing yourself as a poet. There are also other writing niches that might offer promises of glory but that aren’t lucrative, so adjust your expectations accordingly. Veteran freelancer John Soares has a great course titled “Find Your Freelance Writing Niches: Make More Money For Less Work,” and it’s very affordable.

If you already have a writing business and you want to add online content to your inventory, you should consider building a website if you don’t already have one. Online writing clients want to see a portfolio of related writing before they hire you.

On the other hand, if you are just starting out and you have no writing samples, you’ll want to acquire some rather quickly. There are a few ways to do that credibly:

Write for content mills – You don’t want to hang out on content mills for very long. Just long enough to get some writing samples, then you should move on to higher paying markets.
Bid websites – Sites like Guru.com and Elance.com will force you to lower your prices in order to get writing samples. For that reason, you won’t make as much as you are worth because you are competing against low bidders. But if you need to kick start a portfolio, it’s a great way to do it with low-hanging fruit.
Work on spec – A better way to establish a portfolio quickly is to offer your ideal client a speculative work agreement. Write something where the client will pay for it only if they like it. Be sure they understand they can’t use it if they don’t pay for it. This allows the client to evaluate your writing without risk to ensure they are getting quality work. If they like your work, they’ll hire you long term, which is what you really want.
At some point, you’re going to want to move up to higher paying markets. You’ll have a difficult time doing that if you don’t have a website, so start thinking about your website the moment you open your online content writing business.

Another asset you want to establish quickly is a LinkedIn profile. If you want to write for businesses, you have to go where the businesses are, and LinkedIn is the social network for business professionals looking to do business with other professionals. Not only should you have a profile on LinkedIn, but you should also seek endorsements from clients and people you know and publish regularly on your LinkedIn blog as your posts will be included in LinkedIn’s daily Pulse magazine, which receives wide distribution based on the size of your network and your ability to optimize your content.

Skills You’ll Need to Succeed

It goes without saying that you’ll need strong writing skills. You should brush up on your grammar and spelling if you want to write online. You should also learn something about search engine optimization. This is an essential skill for online content writing. It basically means learning how the search engines categorize and rank online information so that you can write content that is more easily found through them.

It would also benefit you to learn how people interact on social media because online content writing clients expect their blog posts, articles, and other content to be sharable.

Finally, learn to write headlines. Headlines and article titles are the first items that readers will see. You must learn how to write them in such a way that they attract people’s attention and entice them to click a link to read the article. If readers do not click links and read content, then it doesn’t matter how well written and informative the content is. The headline must grab their attention and draw them in.

Know More About The 4 Cs of Business Idea Evaluation

Evaluating business ideas is one of the most prevalent and important tasks for any entrepreneur. Whether you are a small business owner, a business manager, or a C-level executive, you will have to evaluate a business idea at some point in your career and determine whether or not it’s worth putting a financial investment into. Here are four criteria for evaluating your ideas and ways you can judge those criteria for your company’s benefit.

1. Company – I’m talking about your company. What do you do and how well do you do it? Are you the leading company in your industry? Second place? You need to know your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Do you have the resources necessary to turn your business idea into a winning marketplace performer? If not, why not? What would it take to get your company to the point to where it could manage the business idea from fruition to success?

2. Customers – Who are your customers and what do they want? What do they value? Do you serve a particular demographic? What aspects of your business idea would they find most appealing? What about your idea might they not like? These are questions you’ll need to know about your customers before you start manufacturing or marketing your idea. If you don’t know your customers, you’ll never be able to satisfy them.

3. Competition – Who is your competition? Better yet, what companies or individuals are your stiffest competitors? Is anyone else in the marketplace doing what you want to do? If so, how successful are they? Are their clients happy? Why or why not? How will your business idea differ from what is already in the market? How can you improve upon the competition’s product or service? These are all things you need to know about your competition before you roll out that business idea.

4. Collaboration – Have you polled your business partners to see if they like your idea? You should. Your collaborators may think of things you haven’t. In fact, you may find that a member of your team has already tried what you want to try. You can learn from their experience. You should also concern yourself with how your business idea could potentially impact your collaborators and business partners. Will it affect your relationship with them in any way? Don’t allow yourself to be blindsided. Explore all possibilities before you implement your idea.
Which of the 4 Cs is Most Important?

None of the 4 Cs are more important than the others. They are all equal. You should write a business plan for your idea and section out each of these criteria within your plan. As you go about evaluating your idea, write down what you discover about each of the 4 Cs so that you have it in writing. Make it visual in order to evaluate it more effectively.

You need to know everything about your company. That includes financial information, how many employees you have, your marketing initiatives (both those in force now and future plans), real estate available for dedicating to your idea, and much more. Leave no stone unturned. The larger your company, the more time it will take to research what you have to offer the implementation of the idea and its impact on the market.

Your customers may be more difficult to evaluate. How much do you already know about them? Start with that and work your way out from there. Segment your customers into groups, if possible. How will your business idea affect each group?

Evaluating the competition has its dangers. Don’t do anything illegal. Stick with public information sources. Subscribe to newsletters, read annual reports and blogs, and get a handle on which companies are most poised to be a threat to your business overall and, more specifically, your new business ideas.

Collaborators are more difficult to know than your own company but easier than customers and competitors. In most cases, you can simply ask your business partners what they think of an idea. Be careful that you don’t reveal any trade secrets. They may be collaborators, but that doesn’t mean that word won’t get around to unfriendly corners of the market. Protect your ideas until you are ready to go public with them, but do ask your collaborators for feedback. Do it as early on as you can so you can incorporate that information into your plans.

Tips to Start a Pet Sitting Service

Pet sitting can be a rewarding a lucrative business if you like dogs and cats. While those are the most common types of pets, other pet owners may want you to sit with their more exotic friends from the animal kingdom. This may include snakes and lizards, birds, monkeys, fish, various rats, such as gerbils and hamsters, or even large cats like tigers and panthers.

A pet sitter is someone who cares for a pet while the owner is on vacation or traveling. It’s typically seen as a part time job, but if you get enough clients it can turn into a full-time gig.

Pet sitters handle all of the care and feeding an a pet owners best friend while those owners are away. This is a trusted position and not something to be taken lightly. Some people care for their pets as much as parents care for their children. Duties may include:

Feeding the pet
Ensuring the pet has enough water for daily intake
Taking the pet for a walk
Letting the pet out of the house for potty breaks
Cleaning cages or litter boxes
Play with the pet
Train the pet
Take the pet to the vet if it gets sick or injured
Take care of other daily duties as required by the pet owner
The benefit to the pet owner is that they feel secure leaving their pet in good hands, which leads to peace of mind so they can enjoy their time away.

What Qualifications Do Pet Sitters Need?

It helps to have a love for pets. If you don’t enjoy being around various types of animals, then you might reconsider this employment option. On the other hand, if you like pets, then this could be the gig for you. Some pet sitters specialize in certain types of pets. For instance, if you like horses, you might offer your services as a professional equine handler.

Not only should you enjoy being around animals, but you should have some experience with them. If you are asked to sit for a person’s dog or cat, let them know if you’ve ever cared for that kind of animal. If you’ve owned one yourself, that’s great. Otherwise, you should at least have experience with other people’s pets.

Some pet sitters have degrees. It might help you with certain types of animals, but for dogs and cats it usually isn’t necessary. The professional training, however, you receive in veterinary school could be helpful, however.

The Salary Expectations of Professional Pet Sitter

How much you can expect to earn as a pet sitter depends on a number of factors: Where you live, your level of experience, what you are expected to do, pet owner demands and the duties you’ll be expected to perform are just a few of the factors that will determine your income potential.

Your best bet is to check your local economy. Call around to a few pet sitting services and ask how much they charge for specific services such as walking a dog, cat sitting, bird feeding, vet visits, and sitting with pets on holidays.

Yes, pet sitters do sometimes actually work holidays.

Generally, entry-level pet sitters can expect to make a minimal income until they build up a loyal clientele and gain some experience. Once you’ve been in business for a few years and you’ve developed your reputation, you could earn a full-time income. Remember, though, you are responsible for your own advertising and taxes.

How to Start a Pet Sitting Business

It may be easier to start with family and friends. Write down the names and numbers of everyone you know who owns a pet. Call them and let them know you’re available for pet sitting the next time they need someone to handle the care of their pet while they are away. If you let them know you are starting your own business, they may agree to pay you a small amount, but what you really want is a reference, so ask them if you can use their name to refer future customers to for credibility.

If your state requires a business license for pet sitting, acquire your license. You may need to file business papers with your state. Find out the best legal structure for your business and file the right papers—that is, after coming up with a suitable name.

Because you’ll be caring for people’s pets and have access to their home, be sure to talk to your insurance agent and get insurance to cover your business activities.

Finally, advertise your business. Get some business cards on attend a networking event where you can meet people and let them know what you do. Design a flyer and distribute it to places in town with bulletin boards—the library, pet stores, vet clinics, dog grooming businesses, etc. You should also create a website so that people looking for pet sitters online will find you more easily.