Posts Tagged ‘reviews’

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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Top 10 Home Business Ideas for 2011 — no change?


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 — 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 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.

Article source:

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.


Building Time Blocks

The trouble with us is that we’re being trained to be easily fascinated.  You know, the “oooh!  shiny!” reaction where you’re walking along thinking about one thing and suddenly something bright and interesting (or new) catches your attention.  Suddenly, all your well-intentioned plans go out the window as you go over to look at (and play with) your new toy.


This is a REAL problem in doing business on the web.  I admit I get frequent cases of “oooh!  shinies!” all the time — and the place I get it worst is hanging out on business forums.  Someone will have a great idea for an ad or a great suggestion and I get energized and excited and want to run off and maybe explore that niche market, too.  I know it’s a really bad idea but the shinies are so compelling I can’t help myself!


For instance, I’ve been toying with the idea of (simultaneously) serializing a steampunk novel I”m writing.  But I need to keep this blog updated and keep on working on the Friends In Business site (which needs sprucing up and new articles and all like that… it’s just starting to see results now) AND I need to get some art done… and… and…


It’s all about focus and setting up a schedule.  Here’s the strategy, though — if you’re having a really focused day when you’re totally on track and fired up for the task, spend at least 20 minutes on each task — scheduled in chunks of no more than 5 minutes.   If you’re having one of those “the kids are yelling every 15 minutes and I have to watch for the refrigerator repair guy and the cat sounds like it’s doing something suspicious on the carpet” then make each five minute block a single task.


If things are really nasty or distracting, move it to 2 minute blocks.


If you start out with a huge list and at the end of the day it’s even bigger, you’ll go to bed unhappy.  It’s better to take a short sprint and then attend to other things than sitting there for twenty minutes and spinning your wheels.


So chop each task up into 2-5 minute chunks.  If, for instance, I’m going to write and it’s a horribly distractful day, I’ll put down “write FIB blog 2 minutes” and schedule “put away breakfast dishes 2 minutes”… and so on and so forth.  You may not accomplish mountainous miracles but you can sure get stuff done.


This is where I use my favorite time management software.   In addition to my laptop, I own an HP Ipaq (in this case, I’m synching my laptop, my HP pocket calculator and my Android tablet) and use them to kind of help keep me honest.   I use Google Calendar for the main scheduling, but for the tiny stuff I use Essential PIM — I liked the free version so well that I bought the full version.  Having had Palmpilots for many years (they do so many things that a phone doesn’t — more detailed calendar, lots of notes, and you can actually compose a long text there as well as keep a secure address book) I was very glad to find a software that worked on the laptop, coordinated with the HP, and could connect with Google Calendar (which synchs with my Android.)  Nowadays it just doesn’t get much better.


I find I have to rework it frequently, because an inflexible schedule means I actually don’t get anything done.  And yes (sigh) I do leave time for sleep, housework (well… SOME housework) and other stuff as well as writing and art.

Click here to leave questions and comments at our discussion board!

In The Reviews: a few useful websites

Do you have advertising burn out?


I do!


In 2006, CBS news estimate that we’re bombarded with 5,000 ads per day and these days it seems like that number must have doubled!  If you’re looking for advice on how to fix up your website or perhaps increase some traffic to your blog, it may feel like you’re getting 5,000 ads per hour — most of them long sales letters by people you never heard of, giving a lot of promises.

And asking for money.  In one case (which turned out to be an old site and the product may no longer be available), I read that if I didn’t take advantage of the offer and purchase something RIGHT NOW, that the price would go up to $1,000.  I looked at the price tag, the long list of promises, and didn’t see anything that compelled me to whip out the credit card and plunk down my cash.


I’m a “can I try the thing before I decide to buy it” kind of person.  I like samples of books (if I’m in a bookstore, I’ll flip through the first few pages of a book to see if the writing appeals to me), I like to use shareware (try for free, pay for it if you use it.)


So with that in mind, I thought I’d start reviewing tools and sites that I’ve found useful.  Yes, these folks are trying to sell you something but at the same time they’re giving you things you can use to let you decide if you want to pursue a closer relationship.


I signed up for one of Yaro Starak’s email newsletters quite some time ago and occasionally click on the emails to see what he’s saying.  I dump a lot of these newsletters, but Starak’s website ( actually has very worthwhile content and he makes sure that the people in his blogsphere are producing useful articles.


He recently promoted his “blog profits blueprint” with a “how to” video site (How To Blog – Why You Should Use WordPress | Become A Blogger) that’s really very good (and worth having a look at even if you hate video stuff (that would be me, by the way — hate having to sit through video)) and offers some interesting things that even experienced bloggers could make use of (never thought of using RSS feeds for the fiction that I write.)


While struggling with the site design, I came across this nifty tutorial for putting adsense into your WordPress blog without totally going ballistic all over your computer.  I tried it and it works beautifully — Ms Chang is NOT responsible for my inept tweaking of her suggested code, though.


One new find that I’m still checking out is  While I don’t agree that all their finds are gems, I’ve found some good stuff in the links they recommend.  I’ll comment on some of those in the next installment.

Click here to leave questions and comments at our discussion board!

I swear on my pet’s grave…

A Note to the Gentle Reader — Sysadmins weren’t born yesterday.

A Blog Commenter wrote:

Hey, I couldn’t find a contact form so I hope you don’t mind me posting here. Wow, I had a great idea for your interesting little blog :) . I’m an internet marketer and I spend a lot of time making and reading blogs like The FriendsInBusiness Blog: Recommended Reading all day. I used to just waste my energy making a few bucks here and there from google adsense but i found something SO much more powerful and better. I SWEAR ON MY PET’S GRAVE I MADE $351.76 $$CASH$$ yesterday just 3 days after modifying my blogs. Can you imagine how floored I am? Here is where I learned all my tricks: http:(GOSH, IT’S A LINK TO AN AFFILIATE PROGRAM ON ‘RECOMMENDED TRICKS’ FOR MAKING A LOT OF MONEY FROM THEIR BLOGS!) Just giving your site a look I can tell you’ll probably pull in a few hundred bucks a month extra if you modify just a little code. I hope that it serves you well and you have all my blessings. Cheers!

So here’s my “Bulk Reply” comment to ALL FIVE of those folks.

Thank you for your copy-and-pasted comments which are showing up on blogs all over the blogsphere.

Yes, dears, I’m totally surprised you made any money yesterday since you’re all running around and typing the same thing in the comments section to this blog — and probably every other blog you found. And by the way, other affiliates of your program have sent the exact same message to the webmaster’s email. You guys were probably the only people to fall for this.

Here’s a hint for you — any blog where the owner is paying attention will nuke any message with an affiliate link. They know that these comments a) don’t attract traffic, b) only serve the poster’s purpose, and c) detract from the blog’s quality in the eyes of the reader.

Syskitty Mel.

So — one of the tactics that people have been trying (for years) is getting traffic to their sites by responding to other blogs. This isn’t evil and can be a good practice IF you follow some rules that the “gurus” seem to have forgotten to tell you (either because they don’t know or because they DO know and they’ve forgotten or they DO know and they want you to come scrambling back when you don’t make any money or get more followers.)

  • Pick an APPROPRIATE, RECENT BLOG ENTRY to comment on.  If the thing is over a week old (on a site where the blog is updated several times a week), don’t bother.  Don’t blather on a blog post that has nothing to do with your site (don’t go “oh gosh, that just reminds me of my scuba diving gear at THIS site” when the blog post is about Ham Radio Equipment.
  • Contribute to the discussion.  Your site is there because (presumably) it’s one of your interests.  Add something to what’s being said (a “loved this, passing it along to my readers” is okay as long as the link you show in your website has something to do with the topic of the blog.
  • Be charming.  The copy-pasta blog quote up there is amusing… that’s one thing going for it.  But it’s also a blatant sales pitch and it’s not linked to YOUR blog.  How do we even know you HAVE a blog?
  • Make it original.  If I get suspicious, I’ll check a sentence or two from your reply.  If I see it posted on 500 other blogs, YOUR post will go into the trash.
  • And make sure that the guru/affiliate program you’re getting your advice from actually has some sort of track record.  For all you know, it’s some 15 year old from Muleshoe (a real place, by the way), rewriting stuff he’s picked up from sales copy and occasional forums and has never actually tested his own advice.

And no more swearing on pets’ graves, eh?  That’s just totally in bad taste.