Author Archive

To Pinterest or Not to Pinterest

There’s no doubt about it — interest in Pinterest is on the rise. You’ll see it mentioned all over Facebook and you’re likely to stumble across “pins” from people on message boards. But does it make sense for YOU to take up your pins and start a Pinterest page for your small business?

Maybe. Pinterest already has over five million members, so it’s attractive to people who are working from home or who are starting a small business. But — if you “pin” it, will they come? The answer is “maybe.”

Pinterest is a very visual site — if you’re a writer, you may be out of luck unless you like to hunt down and pin pictures of funny sayings and cute animals or awesome landscape. Photos of interesting (or vintage) clothing seem popular, so people who also use Craigslist to sell vintage garments can use Pinterest to their advantage. Artists and crafters also post pictures of items that they have ready to sell (in, say, their Etsy store) tend to get a lot of visitors. But be aware that a single picture isn’t going to get hordes clicking madly at the link to buy the product — it helps to include a detailed description, along with the price.

Already have a Pinterest account? Want a few more eyeballs roaming past your page? Two working strategies are to repin other posts and to make sure you consistently pin up news about your interests. If you have time and the technology, think about creating a video tutorial that tells people about your home business or comments about something interesting relating to your page. Video is not that common on Pinterest, so you can set yourself apart from others by adding things for them to watch.

Happy pinning!


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Avoiding the Dreaded Business Slump

SyskittyGuest editorial by Patricia Snodgrass

My father, stone mason by trade, didn’t turn his construction business into a fortune 500 company, and chances are you probably won’t either. However, like him, you can still grow a very successful business, if you avoid these five problems that plague nearly every company at some point.

Pitfall #1. Poor time management

If you wish to be successful, whether it being in the business of writing or the business of constructing high rises, then you must plan your business accordingly.   Create a sane, workable plan and stick with it. Generate a list of reasonable reachable goals, then implement them.  A daily goal sheet is helpful in breaking down larger tasks into smaller manageable chunks.

Pitfall #2. Inadequate marketing

One of the basic principles of capitalism states that successful companies are growing companies.  Therefore, good advertising is essential in order to let people know who you are, what your product is and how to find you. Traditional promotions such as television and radio and are good, but you can also reach a greater audience online by advertising on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as creating online shops that will give your business a chance to grow in a number of areas. And best of all, social media is free, and it’s everywhere.

Pitfall #3. Hiring before you’re ready

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of opening your first business and then hiring before you are ready. Training, bonding (if handling large sums of money) preparing taxes, scheduling, unemployment benefits and insurance must all be considered before hiring someone. Make a plan early on to handle all of these considerations before hanging out that help wanted sign.

Pitfall #4.  Babying your business

We often treat our burgeoning companies like adoring parents. The problem with this is that child prodigies are only brilliant to their doting parents.  In reality, they’re just another kid on the block.

 

The best way to avoid this pitfall is to get an annual business valuation report from a professional agency.  A valuation report wipes away any glimmer of false hope about your child star and forces you to see things as they are, warts and all.  A valuation will show you exactly where the flaws lie in your business, and from there you will be able to correct them.

Pitfall#5. So much overhead, so little profit.

You can reduce your overhead by following a few simple rules.  You can buy used and recycled office supplies, or recycle what you already have. Develop a co-op with neighboring businesses in order to share advertising and marketing strategies. And most of all, utilize those tax deductions to your advantage.  Your local IRS agent will be more than happy to show you how.

 

Resources:

Mark Bowser has a nice little article on discipline (which works well for the home entrepreneur) here: http://www.ziglar.com/groups/sales/?p=643

About.com has a good article on surviving business slumps and hard times

Over at Amazon.com, this book had a lot of good reviews from people over 50 — Best home Businesses for People Over 50

 
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Do Your Business Blog Posts Have Long Enough Tails?

guest post by my friend, author Patricia Snodgrass

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What Do Long Tail Keywords Mean?

What is a long tail keyword?  Do you pick one up at the rescue shelter? Does it require a cat box, food, water, regular grooming? Does your new long tail keyword require spaying or neutering?

 

The answer is of course, none of the above.  Simply stated, a long tail keyword is a string of specific key words designed to bring better quality hits to your webpage.  Long tail keywords are designed to help searchers find your site quicker and easier.

 

The average keyword could get lots of hits to your website, but that isn’t going to do you any good if those hits are unproductive. When someone uses a long tail keyword, they are able to find your site because you have what the searcher is looking for. You may not get as many hits with long term keywords, as you would with the average garden variety keyword, but what you will get is people who will be more interested in what you have to say, or in what you are trying to sell.

 

Lets say you’re looking for a book on how to use keywords more efficiently, but you are as clueless as I am when it comes to talking about adwords, rankings and SERPS. So, you go to amazon.com to find a book that’s easy to understand, but once you type in keyword  in their books menu, you get far too many hits. You have neither time nor energy to pick through all the books to find the one you want. How do you find the book you’re looking for?

 

If you were to type in, easy to understand book keywords ad words, you will find the book you’re searching for quickly.  For example, I typed in easy to understand keywords and the Book For Dummies was the top hit. Ultimate Guide to Google AdWords: How to Access 100 Million People in 10 Minutes

 

In order for your article to receive a high ranking on SERPS, you need to create long tail keywords to sprinkle into your article, so the search engine can “see” you. For example, you are writing an article about bearded irises, but you wish to write about specific irises, like purple bearded irises.  You would sprinkle the long tail keywords ‘purple bearded irises’ into your article along with any other long tail keywords you would like to use.  However, you don’t want to overdo it, otherwise your article will sound weird.  The author must never dilute the quality of their work by adding too many keywords, be they long or small.

 

Drawing a blank? Try the free keyword tool, Ubersuggest

 


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Stale Tweets — And How to Avoid Them

I remember when the Internet was simple!

(c) Mel. White 2011

So you’ve been reading all about the magical things that Twitter can do for your business and you keep running across articles on “how to increase your twitter followers.” Of course, increasing followers and KEEPING followers are actually two different things — and most sites that are trying to sell you a “how to” don’t mention the second part of this. So, you just added 20 new followers — the question now is “can you keep them”? If you think they’ll still stay after the 8th tween you’ve sent advertising your product, you’re in for an unpleasant surprise. The only ones hanging around your feed after that are the ones who are going to be blasting ads at you.

 

That’s not a relationship. That’s two people ignoring each other.

 

Twitter is all about interacting with others. One of the things that people respond to are posts containing interesting things to read. As a marketer, you can take advantage of many of the article sites around the Internet as a source for tweets on those days when you have absolutly nothing to say. They should be used sparingly on your own websites because Google will “ding” your ratings if all you’re doing is posting reprints on your blog or website. But there’s still a lot of useful advice in some of these old articles — advice that YOUR friends may not have seen and which can be helpful.

 

Two things that can be used but should be used sparingly are Stumble and quotes. Using Stumble Upon to locate interesting content is sort of a “no brainer”, but that’s something that everyone else is doing as well. Tweeting the Quote Of The Day can also be old hat because folks will after awhile ignore something that’s on autopilot. Instead, look for content that’s unusual or provokes discussion (a comment on a current political situation will always get responses, but you might not like what you get back!) New Scientist is often a source for “wow, that’s weird!” articles as is (of all things) the National Geographic site. TED talks are another good source (if you have followers that love videos or you love videos).

 

…and there’s always the old standby, “News of the Weird.”   That’s one of MY favorites.

 

When marketing online (whether it’s fiction books or jewelry or coins or games or anything else), interesting content makes your tweet feed something to pay attention to rather than something to ignore. So, once you’re done tweeting about showing up at Starbucks, find something strange and interesting to comment on. Your “tweeps” will be glad you did!

 

By the way, here’s a nice little advice article on Twitter in general from the folks at About.com: http://onlinebusiness.about.com/od/gettingtrafficmarketing/a/how-to-twitter.htm

 

And this is a very highly recommended book for anyone doing social marketing via Twitter!

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Should you consider podcasting?


Videocasts and podcasts have always been popular on the Internet, and businesses of all types are turning to these channels for boosting business and spreading awareness of their websites. But what about someone who has a tiny home business? Is it worthwhile trying to create a podcast about your products or services?

In some cases, the answer is “absolutely YES!” If your business involves handmade articles — sewing, crafts, food — then even a quick little demonstration video on YouTube or a podcast can bring a lot of attention to your website.

Recordings such as teleconference calls, audio newsletters, and instructional talks are only a few of the opportunities other internet marketers are already using to build relationships and find new customers. Podcasts are convenient to listen to at any time and in a variety of formats, whether via MP3 player, streamed on their computer or burned to a CD. The right podcast will send people to your home business site for many years to come.

An interesting article about podcasting can be found here:
http://www.homebiztools.com/podcasting.htm

And here’s a useful article on how things to consider in doing a podcast:
http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/podcast-free/

And if you’d like a good book — everything you’d like to know about podcasting — the “Dummies” book is a very good place to start:

 

 
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Tis the season for Tax Fraud Spam

This scam is the sort that’s going to really heap up trouble on top of misery.  It starts out with an email titled “Government Offers Tax Reduction of 88%, See If You Qualify!” or “remove IRS penalties” or “Pay Only 1% Of Your Tax Bills!” and the sender is often a name like “Tax shield” —  because if they used their REAL name, “Tax Scam”, nobody would ever fall for it.

 

These spam mails and schemes are targeted towards struggling middle income bracket people with emails that usually read something like this:

It’s taxes time. Make sure you receive the amount you were expecting. If you have any debt, or any problems with your Taxes or IRS. We can help you to void that Debt. With the new Obama’s law for Tax Debt, some of you may qualify for a complete void of their debt. Check at no cost now.

 

As you have probably guessed, the truth is pretty far from the claim there.  In the case of that email, you do not get redirected to a tax advice site when you click it.  Instead, you go  through clicks (which give the sender money) and show you to some sort of clickbank product.  Some of the spammer links there capture your account information.   There’s a variant on this email (which also shows up as a tv ad) which will also get you into trouble: http://www.justanswer.com/tax/2owo0-obama-s-irs-tax-relief-10-000-debt-explain.html

 

Other emails promote anti-tax schemes that the government is VERY familiar with; cases that the government has won constantly.:

http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=106500,00.html

 

In fact, if you fall for some of these, you’ll not only get hit for back taxes and penalties, you may ALSO get entangled with the “frivolous lawsuit”.  Some of them offer a “home business” setup that the IRS is very aware of and in fact, will “flag” your tax return if you use any of the deductions the spammer tells you to use: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=133870,00.html

 

Another scheme advises you to submit a “substitute W-2 form” or a faked “1099 form” to the IRS that shows almost no wages or 1099 income, along with a letter saying that this is a corrected form (for various reasons.)  Again, the IRS knows all about this one and in the end, you’ll STILL be out the amount of taxes you use plus penalties plus other penalties.

 

The bottom line is that if you want to reduce your taxes, talk to an accountant or a tax professional or a certified financial planner (make sure they’re certified.)  Both my husband and I have used certified financial planners and I can say that they really do a remarkable job helping you manage money and lower your taxes legally.

Hootsuite — Ye Olde Sanity Saver

Syskitty simple internet

(c) Mel. White

When you’re a microbusiness — a one person business — getting everything done and scheduling all your advertising runs will turn out to be the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” You’re nobody without a web presence, but by the time you’ve finished doing whatever you’re doing (in my case, drawing and sculpting and writing) you’re entirely too tired to remember what to post where.  So I started to look for personal solutions that could get my ducks in a row without actually getting out a rowboat and rowing the ducks myself.

 

Enter Hootsuite. It won’t fix ALL your problems but it WILL let you automate certain things with Facebook, Twitter, and your favorite blog for free (or a lot of twitter accounts and blogs and all your friends along with Facebook and so forth if you pay them money.)  It DOES qualify as “nagware” — it’s free to use but it does nag you about how much more you could do if you’d just upgrade for $6.00/month.  That’s a really reasonable price, truth to tell, but most of us won’t jump on it unless we’ve got a need for it.

 

Here’s how I’m using it.

 

I’m starting up a web serial (a novel, told in short blog-length entries) and I want to promote it. I’ve hooked Hootsuite up to my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and every time I post a chapter, Hoot obligingly sends out the message that a new chapter is up. I don’t have to run out and do it myself. I *do* have to reply to things said to me, but I’d be doing that anyway. In addition, if I’m going to be at a convention, I can set up Hoot to tweet just before each panel where I’ll be appearing, making it easier for folks to find me.

 

Scheduling tweets and Facebook posts should be used with caution, though. There’s nothing worse than tweeting (or posting) about a crisis, only to have your scheduled advertising post from a few weeks ago show up right before or right after you announce your problem.

 

I haven’t fully explored its capabilities yet because I’m busy with settling into a new office and getting ready for a major show. However, I can see that it’s going to be very useful in the future and even worth using the paid version once I get everything else sorted out.

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Social media — have someone else do it for you?

Syskitty simple internet

(c) Mel. White

With the advent of sites like Fiverr.com (where people post about jobs they’ll be willing to do for a paltry sum — often $5.00), many people have taken the plunge and hired others to do some simple stuff — like making Tweets and so forth.

 

It sounds like a great idea for the overworked microentrepreneur — who’s sometimes working more than one regular job AND trying to get a small home business off the ground — doesn’t it?  The answer is, “probably not.”

 

And that’s a darn shame, too, because a lot of time folks need some sort of virtual assistant for their business (stay at home moms often need a bit of extra help with their businesses, what with juggling kids and households and everything else and THEN trying to produce a bit of income on top of it.)  While there are virtual assistants out there, the sad fact is that anyone competent is beyond the reach (price-wise) of people with start-up home businesses.

 

But it can also be a mistake for others as well.  I’ve seen several reports about a  certain marketing Guru who recently sent his subscribers his newsletter where he talks about how careful you have to be if you outsource your social media to someone else.   One of the blogs was a commentary on an exchange between blogger and Guru which consisted of the blogger sending along some material and getting an answer — not from the Guru, but from the Guru’s “director of marketing” who explained that the Guru was “traveling” and therefore the Marketing director (who turned out to know nothing about how Guru handled business) was answering the emails.

 

Another person who had a similar exchange said they also felt miffed that their message (which had always had a personal response from Guru in the past) suddenly was shuffled to the “let the hireling handle it.”

 

Should this stop you from compensating your best buddy to help promote something with a few tweets or some comments?  No.  Should it stop you from hiring a part-time virtual assistant if you can afford one?  No.  But when you do, you need to announce to the world that this is a part of your new team and carefully consider what role they’ll have, because they do represent your credibility and your image to the rest of the world.
 

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Article source: http://www.seo-writer.com/blog/2011/10/31/delegate-social-media-tasks-ouch/

Data Entry/Home Base Processing Position Processes Your Wallet!

SyskittyKarver Connections is hiring workers … doesn’t that sound nice?

 

For people searching for a way to make money from their home, the whole setup certainly looks okay on first glance.  Their listing is on the SimplyHired site, which might raise an eyebrow or two — BUT — Bloomberg Businessweek has their ad, and that’s a reputable site.  So’s Washington Post and a lot of other reputable sites.  It’s also posted on city specific and location specific sites.

 

Karver Connections has gone to a lot of trouble to make it look like a legitimate job offer.

This scam is using “hook words” and ad spamming (currently, Google shows 29,300 results for his company name) to cover complaints.  There are 1,320 results showing up when you type “Karver connections scam” into the search engine… a bit of digging shows that Karver Connections was also posting as “Genesis data solutions”.

 

He certainly knows how to sweeten the bait.  Here’s one of his ads:

You will be processing orders via your home computer. The preferred applicants should be at least 18 yrs. old with internet access.
No experience is needed; however, the following skills are desired:
Basic computer and typing skills
Ability to spell and print neatly
Ability to follow directions

Requirements:
Computer with internet access
Valid email address
Good typing skills
Basic internet knowledge

If you fit the above description and meet the requirements, please apply at alphonsowalk@yahoo.com

 

…and the hook

At Karver Connections we believe that family comes first. This company is based on family values, and we want to help everyone who would like to spend more time with their family by working with us in your home.  The average salary is $300-$500 per week, depending if you are working part time or full time. We are seeking only honest, self-motivated people with a desire to work in the home typing and data entry field.

 

…which changes with the ad’s location.  Here we have one that targets stay-at-home moms with an “administrative admin/clerk” posting.

 DATA ENTRY SPECIALIST At home Data Entry and Customer Service position. Karver Connections has great opportunities for stay at home moms, or anyone else who would like to work in the comfort of your own home.

 

I’ve also seen evidence of it targeting the teenage market as well.

 

Should you reply to one of these ads, you’ll get a response (often from Anna Kim at Genesis Data Solutions) telling you that “You must also be able to conduct yourself in a professional manner. This includes having excellent grammar and spelling when communicating with clients via E-mail.”   You are told that you will be working with databases.   You will be told that you will be filling out forms and that you get $20 for each application processed and that this can be done at your own convenience.  You will also be told to send in $29.95 as a “one-time non-refundable fee for the training package.” (Alphonso didn’t bold that.  I did.  He hid it in a wall of text.)

 

Some names recently associated with this scam are Alphonso Walker and Anna Kim and David Rawlings.  A little research shows that this ad has been reported to a number of sites where it’s found… and the thing is still lurking there like a zombie piranha, waiting to grab anyone looking for hope and money.

 

The “training manual” (which I obtained from a VERY disgruntled person who responded to the ads) is a mish-mash of several scams.  I’ll dissect this lovely thing in the next post because it’s a real work of… obfuscation.




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I Need A Plan? For A Home Business?

SyskittyIn a word, yes.

 

When most people start a small business or any sort of work from home, they generally leap right into things and after about three weeks start to wonder, “why isn’t this working?”  If they’re running a “business in a box” or some sort of website or program that they’ve purchased (guaranteed to make you a thousand bucks a week, working from home, on your very own computer, while you sleep or go shopping) they often abandon it as a failed dream and run around looking for something else that’s going to “make it happen” any second now.

Some of these home business ideas are salvageable

What’s needed is a little planning.  There are a number of business templates around for businesses (I’ll link some at the bottom) that you can use as a checklist to make sure you’ve got the bases covered.  But there are several questions you need to ask yourself right now.  If you can’t answer them, you’re probably not headed in the right direction

  1.  What’s this business all about, anyway?  (it should be one thing, not ten.  If it’s ten things (I’m guilty of this) divide the lot into ten micro businesses and start answering for one.  Then go to the next one)
  2.  Who’s your ideal customer? (are they male?  female?  both?  kids?  adults?  English speaking?  Working poor?  Middle class?  Wealthy?  How do you think they find your products?)
  3. Where do these ideal customers hang out online and offline?  What do they read or listen to?
  4.  How much competition is out there?
  5. What makes you different from the competition?
  6. What’s your income goal for the next 12 months (be realistic, and lowball it.)
  7. How many dollars per day will you need to make to meet that goal?

 

Some recommended business plan templates

  • SBA has a GREAT site (including thoughts about your market) here
  • SCORE has some business plan templates that are pretty long but ideal if you’re determined to turn a business around.
  • Microsoft has something similar for download into Word.

But what if you don’t know where to start?

Check out some of the business plan templates at Bplans.

About.com also has business plans for many of their sections, like this guide to starting an arts and crafts business.