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Archives for September 2006

3 Things You Can Do TODAY to Make Your Website More Profitable

“Darn, only three orders/inquiries last week. What am I doing wrong? What can I do to increase sales?”

If you’ve ever had this internal dialogue, then you’re not alone.

Most small business owners are surprised to find that the real work of a web site is not in getting one, but promoting it. Outlined below are three surefire ways to increase sales without breaking the bank.

1. Promote, promote, promote: When was the last time you sent out a mailing via direct mail to promote your online presence? People have to know you exist in order to visit you online.

A postcard mailing is cheap and easy to do. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Visit web sites like vistaprint.com, modernpostcard.com, printingforless.com, etc. to get started. Sending out even a nominal amount (250, 500, more if you can afford it) on a monthly basis will increase sales.

Action You Can Take Now! Go to a postcard website and design a postcard mailer. Even if you can’t afford to order it today, at least you will have designed it, will know the cost and can order it when you have enough sales to cover the cost. The point is to take action NOW. FYI, it costs nothing to design a postcard on vistaprint.com.

2. Stay in Touch: Do you collect the names of visitors to your site via automated software? There are many companies that offer software for this purpose (eg, Aweber.com).

Stay in touch on a regular basis — most experts recommend at least twice a month. And, don’t make every contact a sales pitch. Remember, you are building a relationship. Would you want to talk to someone who is always trying to sell you something?

Via a newsletter, you can inform your customer base about things relevant to your industry that help them improve their lives. For example, if you write newsletters for small businesses, you might send an informative article about how newsletters increase sales, general tips on how to increase client mailing lists, etc.

The key is to keep contact timely and relevant. In this way, the next time your target needs your product/service, your company will be foremost in their minds.

Action You Can Take Now! If you don’t already have it, add a subscriber box to EVERY page of your website. If you already have subscriber boxes on your site, to get even more subscribers, offer a free gift.

MARKETING TIP: Make sure the freebie doesn’t cost you anything. People love helpful information. Great giveaways are free reports, evaluations, consultations, etc. Just make sure that it is pertinent to your industry and offers a real benefit to the recipient.

3. French for the French; English for the English: In other words, speak your client’s language. If your audience is teenagers, then your literature and online presence should reflect that. If you are targeting married, suburban couples, then reflect that. How do you develop the correct tone? Use the sitting-across-the-table exercise. What is this?

Imagine your target market is sitting right across from you. What do they look like? Where do they go to school? What are their jobs? Where do they live? What do they like to do for fun? How much money do they make? The list is endless.

When this picture is clear, imagine how would you talk/relate to them? Even if your product/service crosses a myriad of audiences, you should always speak to your “core” audience. Who are they?

Think of these as your die-hard fans. Every bit of advertising your business does should be done with your die-hard fans mind – not peripheral customers. Now, go over all of your marketing literature. Is it fragmented, or does all of it speak to your core audience?

Tip: Write like you talk, not to impress. However, observe proper grammar and spelling rules. Phoniness can be sensed, even in the written word. Be sincere, polite and earnest in all of your communication. If you do these three things on a consistent basis over a period of months, sales will increase.

Action You Can Take Now! Go to your website and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite with your core audience in mind. Pay particular attention to your home and product/service pages.

Good luck!

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coverP.S.: Get the ebook that pushed my freelance writing career to the next level – allowing me to travel and live abroad, get out of debt and really “live the freelance life.” One freelancer wrote:

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Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-Time Job for Your Freelance Business

Written by Yuwanda Black

Publisher Note: This piece was originally titled, Gut Check! 3 Signs It’s Time to Quit Your Full-time Job for Your Part-time Business

It’s 6:00 p.m. You’re dead tired, but instead of an early night, you go to your second job — your freelance business.

Between meeting an impending deadline, logging deposits into your accounting system and marketing to new clients, it will be well past midnight before you can even think of going to bed. And, this doesn’t include time out for helping the kids with homework, fixing dinner and addressing household duties. How much longer can you keep this up, you wonder?

If this sounds familiar, maybe it’s time to quit your job and focus on your business full-time.

One of the best ways to ensure success as a business owner is to start part-time, while holding a full- time job. However …

How do You Know When It’s Time to Let Go of Your FT Job to Freelance Full-Time?

The following checklist will help you decide if it’s time to make the leap from employee to full-time business owner.

1. Money: If you started your business part-time with the intention of one day quitting your full-time job, then that plan should have included setting income aside for this day.

Do you have six months to one year of expenses set aside? Is your business bringing in steady income? If you were able to devote 15-20 more hours per week to it, could you at least double what it brings in now?

Looking back over one to two years of numbers should give you enough data to do some smart (read, conservative) projections. Don’t have at least 12 months of income data to look at? Then my advice is not to quit – unless the business is exceeding all expectations and you are really raking in the profits.

Bottom line: If you have six to twelve months worth of expenses set aside and won’t have to depend on your business to pay you anything during this period, then maybe it’s time to consider quitting, or at least switching roles (ie, working your job part-time and your business full-time).

2. Time: Does your business take up more than four hours a day of your time? Do you find yourself always having more to do with the business than a full-time job allows? Do you work six to seven days a week just to stay on top of orders, inventory, accounting, advertising, etc.?

If this is true and you see sales increase as a result of your efforts, then maybe it’s time to make the move.

Note: As a small business owner, there is always something to be done. However, you must see increased sales as a result of your efforts before you even begin to think about quitting your job.

A majority of what small business owners do in the startup phase does not result in increased sales – ie, setting up ordering procedures, making samples, writing press releases, etc. Wait until your efforts start to produce actual income before quitting. That’s the joy of starting part-time, you can grow at your own pace.

3. Quality of Life: If the quality of your life is suffering because there are only 24 hours in the day and you need 56, then it’s definitely time to consider quitting.

If you’re working all the time, not spending time with family and friends, then both streams of income will start to suffer. If your small business has been on training wheels for a while, then maybe it’s time to take them off and see how she does on her own.

What exactly does this mean? It means that you get up and put in a solid 8, 9, 10 hours (at least) a day to get her to the next level. If you decide to make a go of your business full-time, then this is where the gloves come off. This is where the real work comes in.

Here are some general guidelines to observe as you make the transition.

Leave your job on good terms: That means handing in proper notice, offering to train a replacement, be on call for finishing up any special projects – whatever it takes to let your previous employer know that you are a professional and won’t leave them in the lurch.

After all, you never know if/when you will need to return, or if your company will be able to refer clients or become a client themselves.

Prioritize: Managing yourself is a lot harder than being under someone else’s tutelage. Develop the habit of writing a list of things to be accomplished. What works for me is at the end of every day, writing in my day planner what I need to accomplish the following day. It usually doesn’t work out that way, but at least I have a plan if I start to stray, or feel like, “Now what do I do?

Eat right and exercise: After all, if you don’t take care of yourself, it jeopardizes everything you are trying to accomplish.

Good luck!

 P.S.: Learn everything you need to know to make the transition from full-time to freelancing seamlessly.

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