Archive for August, 2011
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
- 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)
- 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?)
- Where do these ideal customers hang out online and offline? What do they read or listen to?
- How much competition is out there?
- What makes you different from the competition?
- What’s your income goal for the next 12 months (be realistic, and lowball it.)
- 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.
We all like learning new things, and in this particular business environment where people are looking for small home business ideas that will generate income, one of the untapped resources is the tutorial website. From crafts to math to … just about anything you can think of, there’s someone out there interested in what you have to teach — and this goes double if you happen to have “mad skillz” in certain kinds of programs (like Photoshop, Excel, Gimp, and others.) I would, however, advise you to NOT make a tutorial involving an MLM product or “how to start in business” — there’s a lot of those out there and you’ll struggle to be seen.
So — you’ve got a glimmer of an idea and you think you might like to start into business as an entrepreneur with a tutorial site. But before you go racing off to build your tutorial website on tinsmithing (one of my interests, actually), there are several things you need to take into consideration.
Starting Up A Tutorial Website For Fun And Profit
According 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.
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.
Has the idea of home businesses change much in the past ten years?
I’ve been cruising forums recently to check for new home business ideas to write about. While there’s the occasional very novel idea, in general it seems to be the Same Old Thing rebranded and waved in front of the audience again. And novel ideas are risky — it’s not something you can just pick up and do unless everything is juuuuuuusssst right — like raising llamas for money. Yes, you can do that, but unless you’ve already got the farm and maybe a dedicated bunch of people who love llama wool and like llama meat, you’re probably gonna be in a world of hurt if you take that up as a small business.
So what about those top ten home business ideas? Scott Lindsay had a list that summarized much of what I found:
* Working online writing blog articles and data entry and website flipping – Finding these gigs can be difficult… a lot of people advertise their services on http://www.fiverr.com — and folks who need outsource work often find people there to do work for them. The downside of it is that it’s $5.00 per gig.
* Handmade and Personalized Products – CafePress used to be the big dog in this field, but Zazzle and Etsy are taking up a lot of the share after CafePress boosted its prices. I’m going to try Zazzle soon — right now I don’t have the time to send out things via Etsy, so I’ll use Zazzle and its order fulfillment service. The downside here is that you can’t just put up stuff and expect it to go like hot chocolate chip cookies on a cold day.
Green/Organic Products – This is a growing market, as people are looking for things like local produce and environmentally friendly suggestions. Here the market is probably more offline and local than it is global.
Home Staging – This is one I haven’t tried and seems to have some risk involved — basically you work with clients and get their homes (the ones for sale) ready to show to potential buyers. There’s an element of interior design here (or so I’ve read) where the “stager” may add furniture or suggest some pieces be replaced or change some pictures.
Financial Advisor – This one was on Scott’s list (and he adds that IF you have the training and experience…) but I’m not as certain that this is a really hot home business. There are a lot of companies out there with products and big budgets and a lot of salespeople. I think you’d do better instead to offer people a package to “get your financial records together for income tax season.” You CAN do taxes for folks — this is something I’ve done — and with the current software like Turbotax, it’s very easy to do.
Cosmetics Consultant – Ah yes — Avon, Mary Kay, and similar companies. These work if you have the right social circles and if you’re good at marketing or setting up fun parties.
Specialty Foods – Your kitchen will have to meet some health inspection standards but yes, it’s possible to set up a cake decorating business or a catering business. Before you go running off to the cake decorating business, have a look at http://www.cakewrecks.com and try to avoid the mistakes (and take inspiration from the good stuff!)
Card Making/Scrapbooking – This was on Scott’s list, and it’s another one I’m not convinced about. I think the angle here would be to offer to make scrapbooks and albums for special occasions — team up with a wedding planner, for instance. These things can be a “hard sell” — check your market first.
Cleaning Services – I hate cleaning, myself, and I’m one of those who would pay $15-$20 for cleaning help. This is one of those “evergreen” businesses — that and babysitting/child care.
Pet-Based Products – Pet photographers and pet artists usually find it pretty easy to find clients. If you are able to attend craft fairs and so forth, products with sayings like “I love my Burmese Cat” (I do! And my Siamese cat!) or paintings or keychains or bumper stickers (and so on and so forth) are a very viable home business. I know a couple of artists who specialize in cat-based art and do very well with it.
One that Scott didn’t cover, which I think is very viable is:
Adult Daycare – This is another home business that (sadly) has a growing market. I’ve done some volunteer hospice visitations, myself, and would recommend that if you are interested in this kind of business that you FIRST spend two months as a hospice volunteer. You’ll learn a lot about what to do and say — and you’ll get good contacts to help you grow this business. In addition, they’ll help you get the background checks (and a referral that you can use) that you’ll want to have on hand.
You can check out Scott’s take on this at the link below.
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.
That’s the promise of a lot of software on the Internet today. It sounds tempting — the idea that you can sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee while the hits roll in and you get customers and Adsense revenue. There’s some software that says you can even “autoblog” your way to riches and fortune.
Here’s the deal — I looked up a dozen or so of those sites where people were talking about how to make money blogging, and most of them had fewer hits that this blog does (and since this is a NEW blog, it doesn’t get a lot of hits.) Most of those “blogging for dollars” crew are just selling you ebooks — and the site owner may not actually be making anything in spite of their announced success.
HOWEVER — I did learn one very useful practice in reviewing a lot of their advice — how to set up a hidden RSS feed to your site that gives you interesting things to write about.
Most blogs suffer from the “okay…what do I write about now” syndrome. Writing about your kid is cute but does get old after awhile and limits your audience to people who love to read about cute things kids do and can’t wait to see the next incident. But an RSS feed delivers things you might not have read from blogs and news sources and you can clip out the ones that are just too lame to consider and review the other articles or use them as inspiration.
So if you find your blogs getting a bit stale, set up a hidden RSS feed to an email or as hidden content on a page. It’ll give you something new to write about and your readers will thank you.
I’ve seen a lot of posts both pro and con about Google Analytics — the tool from google that is aimed at marketers and shows detailed statistics of a site. Some people swear by it, some swear at it, and most don’t seem to know it exists. After reading a number of posts and blogs on this service, I decided to cruise over and take a look at it for myself.
The first thing to note is that you can’t use it to snoop on what other people are doing. You have to have your own website and you have to be able to insert code into the site (which means that you may not be able to use it on some of the free hosting sites or free blog sites. Like Livejournal.)
If you have come over to the Dark Side and already have a Google account, setup involves loggin in with your google account and telling it what site you want tracked. Google walks you through the process and then offers you the code to insert in your web page header. There are also tools for WordPress blogs that automate the features.
Like every other analysis tool, it’s entirely possible to spend too much time playing with the pretty charts and numbers and creating reports — meaning you could be spending too much time chasing things that aren’t worthwhile. But quick overviews can tell you a lot about who’s coming to your site and why. You can use it to answer “what questions are people searching for when they come to my site?” You can also use it to answer “who’s sending me traffic” and “what were they searching on?” Unlike many other tools, this one is free, which is just the right price for beginners. The pie charts are interesting and the “quick and dirty” view of the top 5 keywords and the top 5 referral sites make it very simple for even the amateur to figure out where traffic is coming from and why it’s there. It allows you to create campaigns and track them.
So how does it stack up with other website statistics packages? On a very basic level, it offers the same things I can get from my current webhost’s (Allwebco) data packages. Allwebco’s packages give me up to the minute results, but Analytics has a time delay of several hours to almost a day. There’s also reports of small discrepancies in the numbers reported by Google and the numbers reported by webhosts. Comments on Search Engine boards suggest that it’s not really an issue for small sites.
I found some areas of the menu less than intuitive — it was annoying to click on “profile” and be delivered to my public Google+ profile when what I really wanted was the account information and code snippet to place on boards.
I haven’t had a real use for the advanced features and reports, since I’m running information sites and not sales sites. But it IS a lot faster than signing onto Cpanel right now and pulling up the reports, so I’ll continue to use it.
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… 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. http://searchengineland.com/as-deal-with-twitter-expires-google-realtime-search-goes-offline-84175
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.