Archive for the ‘news’ Category

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.



Mark Bowser has a nice little article on discipline (which works well for the home entrepreneur) here: has a good article on surviving business slumps and hard times

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




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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


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:

And here’s a useful article on how things to consider in doing a podcast:

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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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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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

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


…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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Bad Financial Times And Entrepreneurship

SyskittyAccording to the University of Maryland, small businesses are beginning feel that they are healthy enough to the point where they’re considering hiring more people.  Some of the more chirpy spins on this article say that it could mean up to 3.8 million new jobs this year and reduce unemployment by over 2%.  That would be lovely for the ones out job hunting who haven’t given up — though the pay scale is likely to be low.  In this economy, many people (like the history teacher who was waiting tables at the restaurant where we ate last night) are ready to work at almost any job that gives them some sort of income.  I’ve seen some self-announced Internet business experts say that this means this year is the perfect time to start a small home business — perhaps by becoming an affiliate or joining MLM.


It sounds lovely.  Makes you want to run out and start a small business, right?


The problem with this logic is that what the news reports mean by “small business” and what most of us think of as “small business” are as different as cats and cows.  To the newspaper or researcher, a small business is something like your little local restaurant.  It has a business address, a business license, pays business taxes, and has employees.  To the rest of us, a home business also is a “small business.”


And therein lies a big problem.  The way you handle a small business is different than the way you handle a home business.


Although I’d love to have six employees here helping me with my writing and art and internet things, the truth is that I can’t pay them.  Lesley (MaaMaw) got to the point where she was able to hire typists for her medical transcription business, but that took several years.  A “small business” (as opposed to a microbusiness or home business) can go to a bank and ask for a business loan.  If I toddle up there and try to apply for one, I’m going to be laughed out of the bank — but only after I get offered a “personal loan.”


The article is right in one way — there’s a lot of people doing small things on the side to try and get through the bad financial times and there will be a lot of these tiny entrepreneurial jobs created to help support families.  I’m not sure what the success rate is on these things (entrepreneurs, as we’ve all found out, often lie about how well they’re doing) but I’d be willing to bet that it’s pretty small.


Most of the time, the problem lies in “you want a business but you don’t have a plan.”  So I’m going to blog about plans and so forth — and if you haven’t gone to the Friends In Business site and read MCA Hogarth’s article about mindset and business , you really should do that.  Meanwhile, I’ll be blogging about setting up a business over the next few weeks (along with websites and other goodies) to help folks who are getting started working from home in a small business figure out where to start and how to start and what to do.

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TED Talk — raise your kids to be entrepeneurs?

I remember when the Internet was simple!

(c) Mel. White 2011

At the bottom of this page is a video that’s fairly popular — Cameron Herold’s TED talk on raising your kids to be entrepreneurs.  Entrepreneurship training has been suggested as a solution to a lot of our problems — underinvolved kids, economy floundering like a big fish in shallow water, huge problems, not enough solutions.  Herold’s idea is that entrepreneurs like himself are the foundation of the world’s economy, play a huge role in innovation, are able to motivate people and get them to do things and that therefore we should teach kids how to be entrepreneurs rather than (in his example) lawyers.  Give a kid an idea how to be wildly successful at something or how to make people pay attention to her ideas or create their own job so they can work at home under their own terms and the kid will start taking an interest in helping society move forward.


The TED talks conversations about entrepreneurship don’t fall under the “if you start this home business, you’ll make a million dollars” videos.  Nor are they the standard job opportunity training videos.  This particular TED talk sparked some interesting discussions such as “should we teach entrepreneurship in school?”  But amid all the cheerleading was a note or two that said “wait a minute — that’s awfully simplistic.”  One of the comments said, ” We need entrepreneurs as we need inventors, bankers, carpenters and any other profession which products and services we use in our daily life.”  He then went on to point out that we can all be innovators even in ordinary jobs and that we need workers as much as we need innovators.


These talks are always uplifting — they make you feel good and as though you can actually go tackle the problems in your life and the problems of the rest of the world.  If you haven’t seen the TED talks, you will find some of them very appealing to you.  But the most interesting parts to me are the conversations that are sparked after the videos.


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Stupidest. Search Engine Optimization WordPress. Spam. Ever.


I’m going to apologize to my gentle (and not so gentle) readers ahead of time.  But sometimes… ya just get irked.


This is me on “irked.”


There’s a new fad going around in the spam circles — WordPress Search Engine Optimization Plugin Blog Spam.  It rears its inept head in blog comments, obviously written by someone (originally) who has spent a little time writing online ads.


This cut-and-paste spam for the SEO plugin came as a comment on the site where my WEBCOMIC is hosted.

Hello spammers!  Your “market” first saw this two weeks ago.  It’s hit three of my blogs and the blogs of everyone else using WordPress.   However, since some of you don’t have WordPress blogs, here’s the ad that’s being sent by EveryFakeExpert (and their dog) who can’t wait to get their hands on your money.

Yes — I decided to reveal their secrets!


(ahem.  Lemme just quote and comment from the WordPress SEO plugin spam.)

Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is not that great,


You visited my page and didn’t  notice that it’s got a webcomic on it.  You know — art?  Drawings?  Pictures?

for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization.

I’m supposed to bold a webcomic???  Gosh.  Who would have thought you can bold comic book pages?  I shall run out forthwith so that  Search Engines everywhere can start desperately floundering to get my webcomic indexed!  I also have some beachfront property available.  I can tell you’ll have a lot of customers for your spam, so you can certainly come buy my beachfront property.  Bring small, unmarked bills.

On-Page SEO means more now than ever since the new Google update: Panda. No longer are backlinks and simply pinging or sending out a RSS feed the key to getting Google PageRank or Alexa Rankings, You now NEED On-Page SEO.

Translation:  Dear Hidy at gmail NEEDS me to come buy something from him.  Her.  Whomever.   And doesn’t have a blog.   And hasn’t figured out that they were emailing the owner of a webcomic, in spite of the fact that there’s a freaking’ huge picture on the page. 


Panda hasn’t affected the ranking of my art, thank you.

So what is good On-Page SEO?First your keyword must appear in the title.Then it must appear in the URL.Y

Hidy at gmail didn’t notice that my webcomic, Coyote, is on a URL that contains the word “Coyote” and that my OTHER webcomic, Duncan & Mallory is on a URL that contains “Duncan and Mallory.”

you have to optimize your keyword and make sure that it has a nice keyword density of 3-5% in your article with relevant LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing). Then you should spread all H1,H2,H3 tags in your article.Your Keyword should appear in your first paragraph and in the last sentence of the page. You should have relevant usage of Bold and italics of your keyword.

I wonder if this will show up under WordPress SEO plugin with my opinion that this is the Stupidest WordPress Search Engine Optimization spam ever.  And how in the heck do you put a “heading” in a webcomic?

There should be one internal link to a page on your blog and you should have one image with an alt tag that has your keyword….wait there’s even more Now what if i told you there was a simple WordPress plugin that does all the On-Page SEO, and automatically for you? That’s right AUTOMATICALLY, just watch this 4minute video for more information at (yaddayadda)


No, thanks.  I won’t.  But I will make fun of your inept spam.

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What Every Website Owner Should Know About Headlines

There are lots of website links and news headline links that tempt you to click because you’ve just GOT to know what the whole thing is about?  Yeah… even skeptical me still gets lured into some places by the “gosh, that strikes me as curious” lure.


And then there are those “Oh there goes that Same Old Stuff again — I think I’ll go check out the Congressional Record instead” type of headlines.   The art of making an interesting headline is part of making your website or your blog or your online store (or your artwork or your crafts for that matter) very appealing to others.


While surfing around the Internet this week, I came across a very nice ebook from the Freelance Writing (Free Ebooks section) site about the art of writing headlines.  It’s a short read and free to distribute, so I’m including a direct link to it here.


As I read it, I realized that the article could be useful to just about anyone for creating titles and captions for websites, blogs, forum posts, photos — just about any internet activity.   Heck, it might even make your diary of your Day at Facebook Farmville Farming sound so intriguing that the most jaded viewer would simply have to click on the thing just to see what it was about.   Warning: at the end it gets rather predictable but there’s still good ideas there.

So here you go — click and enjoy!  No strings attached.

What the Tweet? Google drops Twitter


So… fellow bloggers and artists and business people, Google has made a decision that might affect how you’re contacting friends and customers — Google has let their subscription to the Twitter firehose expire.  So it’s not going to continue the real-time search on Twitter.  In a way, I’m not surprised because the amount of computing processing used to find and process the huge inflow from the TweetStream may not be worth the return.  Now that they’ve started up Google+, a lot of questions are rising about what’s going to impact which websites.


Truthfully, this won’t affect most of us.  I don’t look around for recent outrages or gossip to comment on so I can talk about what everyone else is talking about.  It does mean, however, that Tweets aren’t going to do a lot to help your website ranking.  In the past, Tweets could help search ranking.  However, with Google’s latest “Content Is King” mandate, they’ve apparently decided that a zillion tweets from twitter accounts mentioning a website might mean “some marketer is promoting this — ignore this site.”


This WAS a tactic used by some people who wanted to increase their search engine ranking.  However, as with most things, the over-eager ones who are only in it for the money hopped in with lots of spam (and they convinced their buddies that this was the Greatest Thing To Do to get your website to come up in the first place every time someone searched on Google.)


And this move actually turns out to be good for the rest of us — the SEE ME SPAMMING THE QUOTE OF THE DAY WITH A LINK TO MY WEBSITE (etc) folks will go off and try something else.


Should you still use Twitter to help direct folks to your website?  You betcha.  And Facebook and Google+.  One of these will eventually come out on top as King of the Social Media, and you’ll be ahead of the game if you’ve already started using it.



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