Category Archives: Small Business

Thinking About Freelancing? You Should Read This …

More companies are seeking to cut costs by outsourcing certain jobs to people with specialist skills without hiring them as permanent staff. Many people desire to increase their income, start and grow their own businesses by freelancing.

Before you decide to go into freelancing, you must be sure of what your reasons are for wanting to freelance. Think about it and carefully decide what your aims are. Do you want to specialize in a particular area in which you have expertise? Are you in it to earning more money?

Once you know why you want to freelance, you then must understand and decide if you possess the attributes of a good freelancer. These attributes include marketable skills, good organizational skills, flexibility and ability to meet deadlines, entrepreneurial skills, experience, good communication skills and the ability to keep calm under pressure. Compare these attributes with those you possess and identify areas where you may be lacking, so you can try to improve on them, or reconsider freelancing altogether.

You will also need to do some form of a budget, where you set out how much money you will be spending on freelancing and other related costs, and how much you are prepared to personally get by on. Do a monthly budget and stick to it.

One important thing you must quickly decide on is, whether or not you will be working from home. Depending on the type of freelance work you will be doing, your location will be affected. If you are a freelance writer and you get jobs through a freelance website you will find it easier to work from home. If your freelance work requires you to manufacture products, then a different location would be appropriate.

When you have decided on your location, you then decide on the equipment you will need to do your work. Do you need a desk and chair, fax machine, computer with Internet access and a printer? Make sure you carefully consider your equipment needs, you do not want to start freelancing and then find out you are unable to do a project because you lack an important piece of equipment.

Consider also, whether or not you are going to work for a set number of hours. Freelancing allows you to set your working hours, and when doing so remember that you have a family you will need to spend time with. Once you set your hours, it is important to stick to it. There is nothing worse for a potential client than trying to reach you when you say you will be working and being unable to.

You now have to decide how you are going to find work. You can begin by contacting companies that need your kind of expertise. There are also agencies that can source work opportunities for you. A good place to search is the Internet; there you will find many freelance job sites.

When you are negotiating for work, charge your client according to the work that needs to be done. Be sure your price covers your costs and makes you a profit.

Source: Freelance University

Building Virtual Bench Strength

Many small businesses are doing what they can to keep things going in the face of one of the worst economic downturns in our lifetimes, but with so many elements of uncertainty many are loathe to make full time hires or resume their pre-recession growth trajectories. And yet, there is still work to be done. While we wait to see what will happen with health care reformlabor lawstax changes and other variables, it is important to keep moving, stay focused, and explore other ways to get things done.

One way to keep projects moving and stay on track is through the use of virtual teams and the thousands of freelancers around the world who are eager to ply their craft, but have been sidelined as a result of the economy and job market.

I see a tremendous opportunity through virtual outsourcing, for small- to mid-sized businesses as well as freelancers and solopreneurs.

Since I started my business in March 2010, I’ve tested a number of these online resources, such as oDeskGuru,99designs and several others. In many cases, you will find very capable US-based freelancers registered on these sites as contractors and service providers. And in many cases, using these services is not the cheapest option. I have had some projects go very smoothly, and others that (four months later) are still not complete. And in that timeframe, I have learned some things that I am going to share with you.

  1. Have a plan. This would seem pretty obvious, but in the US workplace we’re so used to ambiguity and lack of specificity in job assignments that it’s tempting to apply the same approach with virtual team support. Don’t! If you cannot create a “paint by the numbers” plan for the project that spells out the goals, elements and deliverables then you are kidding yourself if you think the person on the other end is just going to figure it out for themselves. It is up to you to spell it out, and be as specific as possible in defining the scope of work and what the finished product should look like.
  2. Use specific questions to narrow the field. Many times, freelancers and virtual teams will simply bid on every project that is posted, and they will decide later (once they’ve made the cut for interviews) whether they can actually do the project. Eliminate these pikers right up front by putting questions in the original job posting that they need to answer in their response. No answers, no need to pursue further. If they won’t pay attention to details when they are eager to win your business, how attentive will they be once you’ve paid them?
  3. Set a price for the project, don’t go hourly. It is very tempting when you see the hourly rates that are posted on services like oDesk to just create an open-ended project … after all, for $3.50 an hour or sometimes as high as $11.00 an hour you can get lulled into the sense that you are getting “cheap labor.” And that’s true to a point. However, what you will find is that there’s a pretty significant delta between our expectations in US business (including research, writing, marketing, etc.) that doesn’t necessarily resonate in other parts of the world. What that means is that you will end up paying someone for 20 hours to learn what it is that they need to be doing, when you could have hired a US-based “VA” (virtual assistant) or an intern to perform that same task in a couple of hours. So, bottom line: set a price that you are willing to pay and make it a project price not an hourly rate. You will weed out the people who don’t have the ability to get it done, AND you will create an incentive for fast delivery because the project is only fully paid upon completion.

More tips later. Like”Keep an open line for communication.” and “Check the work in progress and be specific about changes.” What questions would you like to ask? What tips would you share based on your experience?

Ideas for Freelancing Business

See if there are any ideas below that fit you well. If you find an idea, seek out a guide on how to get started in that area.

Antique refurbishment This is a perfect side business for people who love antiquing. Take worn-out antiques home with you, invest the time and care needed to transform those old items into something amazing, then resell them at a profit.

Auto detailing Have a meticulous eye for detail and love to get things gleaming clean? Auto detailing is probably a perfect side business for you. In essence, your job is to make carssparkle inside and out – and many people are quite happy to pay well for this service.

Babysitting Got lots of evenings free? Like kids? Babysitting may be a great side business for you. Keep an eye on multiple children on Friday and Saturday nights and you can earn some solid income.

Bed and breakfast Have some extra space in your home? Turn that extra bedroom into a “bed and breakfast” room. This works particularly well if you have a somewhat older home or live near an area that attracts regular travelers and tourists.

Blogging If you enjoy writing, find a topic you’re passionate about and start a blog on the topic. All you need is a computer, some time, and some energy to consistently write.

Cake decorating Enjoy baking and have a bit of an artistic touch? Learn how to decorate cakes and make them for special events. One of my mother’s old friends does this and makes quite a bit of money on the side.

Candle making Candle making is a great little craft to learn. You can often easily sell the candles at local shops and also through websites like Etsy.com.

Candy making Homemade candies are easier to make than you think and quite popular. Package them in nice little boxes and sell them through a local gift shop.

Card making This is another artistic “crafty” angle you can follow. Make greeting/birthday cards from scratch using your own photographs, some blank cards, and a healthy dose of artistic flair. Again, you san sell items like these through a local gift shop or at sites likeetsy.com.

Catering If you love to cook, take the “Blondie” route and start a home catering business. Catering is a business that’s perfectly designed to reward those who plan well and can often fit perfectly into weekends, lining up wonderfully opposite a normal workweek.

Childcare service Many states allow people to start up in-home daycares with minimal licensing and paperwork. If you love children and have plenty of time and space at home, this is a perfect business to get into.

Cleaning services for businesses Many businesses and civic institutions have a need for individuals who will provide cleaning services at a low cost outside of business hours. This is a great side business for those who can put in a few hours late at night or on weekends.

Collectible trading If there’s a particular type of collectible that you know a great deal about, you can often make good money as a collectible trader, utilizing tools like eBay and opportunities to find those collectibles in the community. I had some success with this myself with both trading cards and video games in the past.

Computer troubleshooting I had some success with this in the past, though I’ve largely moved away from it now. If you have a knack for fixing computers, this is a good place to start.

Consignment buyer Consignment shops and consignment auctions are often loaded with good deals if you know how to identify them – quite often, you can turn these good deals around and make a nice profit elsewhere. Get started by visiting some consignment shops and critically evaluating the prices on the items there.

Cookie making Much like candy making, homemade cookies can be a great seller. Bake the cookies, package them well, and resell them through a local gift shop. Often, you can find people in your social network who will buy batches from you for special occasions.

Dinner preparer I recently met a woman who earned quite a bit of money as a very part-time chef. Once a week, she would go to someone’s house and prepare a homemade meal for their family, then do all the dishes and cleanup work. This gives the family plenty of together time, while earning the lady some cash in the pocket. If you love to cook, this can be a great opportunity, but you may have to put a lot of work into searching for clients.

Event coordinator Events like family reunions and large parties are often full of busywork that many people simply don’t want to tackle. That can be the perfect place for you to step in and take charge of the planning and coordination.

Event DJing Are you an audiophile? If you have a great sound system and a large selection of music, you’ve already got what you need to hire yourself out as a DJ for various events and receptions. This is a great way to fill an afternoon and evening while also earning some cash in the process.

Exercise teacher Many gymnasiums will trade membership and often a bit more for a person willing and able to teach an exercise class. If you’re in good shape, this is a great opportunity to earn some extra money, plus it can often lead to additional income with one-on-one teaching opportunities.

Furniture making If you’re adept at woodworking and have just a bit of basic equipment, it’s easy to get into business making deck furniture. It only requires a few items – a saw, a drill, a sander – and some creativity and passion for working with wood.

Garage sale management One person I know holds a garage sale at their house almost every weekend during the summer. As a result, that person has a lot of regular customers who stop by almost every weekend to see what’s on sale. That person then goes to neighbors and friends and offers to sell their stuff at that yard sale for them, splitting the proceeds. People are usually happy to do this, since they don’t have to go to all of the work of running a yard sale, but still get rid of unwanted items and earn a bit of money, too.

Gardening services I’ve actually had requests from others for people willing to do this, so the demand is out there. To put it simply, some people are willing to pay others to get a vegetable or flower garden started for them in their yard so they can have access to ultra-fresh produce without all the legwork.

Handy man services Skilled at basic home repair? Let people know that they can call you for little repair jobs, like basic plumbing and other things. You’d be amazed at the simple things people are willing to pay others to help them with.

Housecleaning Many people simply don’t enjoy cleaning their homes and are willing to pay a reasonable price to have someone do the work for them. This is a great way to earn extra money in a flexible way, particularly if you have time off during the workweek.

Interior decorating Fascinated by interior design? Have a huge collection of interior design materials around? Many people are quite happy to hire individuals to help them decorate their home – I know, for one, that I have no eye for this type of thing.

Jewelry making If you have a good eye for detail work and a lot of patience, homemade jewelry can be quite profitable. As with other items on this list, there are many opportunities to sell such items through local gift shops or at sites like etsy.

Knitting / crocheting / quilting Skilled at creating blankets and sweaters? There’s a hugemarket for these types of items – even better, you can usually make them in your spare time whenever you have it. As always, local shops and places like etsy are great places to go to sell such items.

Landscaping services Willing to mow lawns and trim bushes and trees? Many people are quite happy to pay for such services. Not only is this a great side business for a fit adult, it’s also a great way for a teenager to get a small business started.

Meal-to-go preparations Remember my earlier post about breakfast burritos? Making meals in advance is a great way to save money for yourself – but you can often prepare these for others as well and sell them for a markup. Prepare eight casseroles, for example, then sell six of them to cover your costs, and you’ve got two free dinners for your family (and maybe a bit more). You can grow this by taking orders from others and finding out what they like.

Online media consultant Like participating on messageboards, Facebook, Twitter, and so on? Become an online media consultant and help people promote things. Start small – help local businesses get a presence on Facebook and set them up with Twitter. From there, you can grow to whatever works for you.

Personal shopping Many very busy people and elderly people are willing to pay a fee for people to do their shopping for them. Simply retrieve a shopping list from them, return with the receipt, and accept payment for the purchased items (plus a little fee). You can often do this in conjunction with your own shopping trip if you’re well-organized (take two carts!).

Pet grooming Many people loathe bathing their pets and trimming their hair – I know I do. Pet groomers perform these tasks for a small fee – a perfect job for a person who loves dogs and cats.

Pet sitting When people go on trips, they’re often concerned as to what will happen with their pets. That’s where you step in – offer yourself as a safe place to leave their pets, or be willing to go to their home to take care of their pets.

Pet walking Many busy people leave their pets home all day, but realize that those pets really could use a vigorous walk (and an opportunity to relieve themselves) during the day. Pet walking is a great opportunity for exercise, fresh air, and some pocket money if you have free time during each day.

Pet yard waste cleanup For many people in suburban areas, cleaning up pet yard waste is a real hassle – it’s disgusting, for one. Instead of cleaning it up themselves, they might hire someone to do it regularly, two to three times a week. There are several such services in our area, actually.

Produce selling Like to grow vegetables? Focus in on one vegetable and sell the excess to grocery stores and at farmers’ markets. My father does this with tomatoes and earns some solid extra money during the summer months. You can do really well, though, if you can grow things inside during the winter – February fresh tomatoes can sell quite well.

Proofreading Have strong English skills and exceptional grammar? You may have opportunities to work as a proofreader from home. Advertising for this can be difficult – seek out those who might actually be able to use your services and advertise directly to them.

Public speaking If you’re the type of person who can get the attention of a room easily, public speaking might be for you. Take advantage of every public speaking opportunity you can and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities that make themselves available for you.

Scrapbook making Many people dream of having beautiful scrapbooks. They collect all the materials they want in the scrapbooks but never follow through on the actual creation. You can step in here – take their ideas and materials and assemble a scrapbook for them.

Senior citizen assistance Many elderly people need assistance with a wide variety of simple household tasks – cleaning, laundry, and so forth. Many children of elderly people are quite willing to hire someone to help out their parents.

Sewing and alterations My wife is quite handy with a sewing machine and often hems and modifies our children’s clothes. She could easily take this a step further and offer her services to others, doing basic garment repair and modification for a small price on lazy evenings.

Soap making Making amazing homemade soaps isn’t as hard as you might think – it just takes time and patience. Again, items like these can easily be sold via local gift shops and through websites like etsy.

Teaching music If you know how to play an instrument (particularly the piano or the guitar) and have patience, you’ve got what you need to teach others how to play. Offer lessons in that instrument to others – this can also be an excellent thing to barter with, too.

Toy making From simple things like sock monkeys to more elaborate things like handcrafted chess sets, many people are willing to pay good money for handcrafted toys that you can easily make at home in your spare time. Again, gift shops are the place to go with items like these.

Tutoring Did you major in a particular topic in college? Do you have patience with children? You likely have what you need to tutor kids in particular subjects. Seek out parents and let them know that you tutor in a particular subject and provide materials for them to share and phone calls will often trickle in.

Video preparation services Many people like to have videos made for special events, such as weddings, or for gifts. This may mean actually taking the video yourself at a special event, or it may mean simply assembling materials and creating a video from those items. Either way, with a well-equipped PC, some taste, and some patience, you can make quite sophisticated video productions at home.

Virtual assistant Many ultra-busy professionals appreciate having someone who can check and answer their email, organize task lists for them, update their calendars, and so on, with minimal interaction. The best part is that you can provide this service from home with a good internet connection.

Web site design Many small businesses in your community could use a very basic web presence to tell others about their business. Quite often, these businesses don’t have a large budget for such things. That’s where you come in – get a bunch of clients from the local community by beating the pavement, create sites for them, and maintain them for a small fee. Get enough businesses and you have a nice side business of your own that doesn’t require a ton of maintenance time.

Wedding planner If you’re one of those people who can’t help but flip through bridal magazines and think about various wedding arrangements in your daydreams, wedding planning might be the perfect thing for you. A great way to get started is to develop a website on the topic, get to know people online, and offer your services throughout the community.

Source: The Simple Dollar

The Next Four Weeks

Here is a preview of what we’ll be covering over the next four weeks of training …

This is the approach we will follow in launching “Talent Hub” over the next several months in the Workforce Connection service region:

  1. Familiarization. Before launching a formal training program, it will be necessary to gauge the interest and to appropriately set expectations for this opportunity. A series of familiarization sessions could be held throughout the region to explain this concept in terms of the emerging technology-based job market, what it takes to be competitive in this space, and an overview of the resources and potential work.
  2. Assessment and Interests Inventory. Once there is sufficient interest in the program to form training classes, a local education partner will host the training session in a technology-enabled learning lab, and candidates will complete an interest inventory assessment to determine the best fit for working in this environment. It will also include an evaluation of their previous work experience and academic credentials.
  3. Contracting and Crowdsourcing 101. Using real examples of projects that are available, this session will focus on how to bid for the work, how to evaluate projects and how to price on an hourly or project basis to compete for the projects and/or tasks.  Participants will complete online profiles and registrations on one or more sites as appropriate to improve their visibility and competitiveness for these projects.
  4. Skills Development, KSAs Needed to Compete. Based on the outcomes of the assessment stage, participants will be directed to various training resources, some classroom based and some online, to improve their skill set and to learn in “real time” how to perform certain aspects of the project.
  5. Project Management 101. A real-world project will be used in a learning lab setting to give multiple participants the ability to work on a part of the project that is within their area of expertise, and this collaborative lab will include direct input from the contract manager and/or employer to give the participants the feedback they will need to work on these types of projects in the future, independently or in a co-working, collaborative setting.

Heeeeey, It Must Be the Money!

Today’s post is inspired by an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about the importance of keeping track of financials when you are running a small business. The article, “Starting Up and Conquering the Numbers,” is an excerpt from a WSJ publication called: The Complete Small Business Guidebook.

The article accurately points out that many people start a business to support themselves doing what they love. And too often they neglect to focus on the numbers side of the business.

If you want to be successful, you’ll need to ramp up your accounting knowledge. While you can certainly rely on an accountant, bookkeeper, or trusted employee to provide advice on your company’s finances, it’s critical that you gain a comfortable understanding of the numbers. As the owner, you’ll need to make important decisions concerning the purchase of inventory or equipment, expansion into new markets or the hiring of more employees. To do so, you’ll need to have a handle on your company’s finances.

The article tells the story of Wendy Goldstein, who opened up Costume Specialists in 1981, selling custom-made costumes to corporations, schools and theater companies.

After some major setbacks, Ms. Goldstein rolled her sleeves up and got to work.

First priority? Getting to know her company’s finances—something she’d made the mistake of never doing before. At the time, she had an eighteen-year-old college student working part-time on the books. She called him into her office and said, “Okay, I need to know every Friday these three things: how much money we have in the bank, how much people owe me and how much I owe people.” She remembers him laughing and saying, “You mean you want cash flow, accounts receivable and accounts payable.” Her response was: “I don’t care what you call it. I just need to know it!”

It is that simple, and it is that important … when you are running a small business it is amazing how quickly those fees and charges and expenses add up. Good record keeping is absolutely essential, as is always having a clear picture of how fiscally healthy the business is.

For more advice on good financial practices for small business, check out this article on the About.com Entrepreneur’s section.

Free Agent Nation, Here I Come!

These days, when you hang out your shingle and go into business for yourself, increasingly you are doing so in a virtual way. If you haven’t noticed, there is an accelerating trend of “free agency;” the notion that we are plying our trade in an entirely new context and moving from project to project like digital bedouins.

When you’re working a full time job for an employer, a concept like “free agency” can both inspire you and scare the bejeezers out of you – often at the same time. After reading Daniel Pink’s “Free Agent Nation” I realized that there are so many compelling reasons to test the waters, and to do it sooner than later to see if I have what it takes.

The big challenge right out of the gate is answering this question: “What do I have to offer?” Or more specifically, “What do I have to offer that people are willing to pay me for?” And then of course, you also have to ask the question, “Can I earn enough to live on?”

The answer to the first question was tougher than I thought. There are things that I do well: business writing, strategic planning, project management, team leadership, marketing strategy, and many other things. In fact, that starts to look like a “Jack of all trades” as I type it out. Much of that work only “works” when you are part of an organization, from the inside looking in as it were. So in order to make a living with these skills, it is essential that you can also offer context for practical application of these skills.

Here’s my top five list, in no particular order, of the value that I believe I can offer to an organization that needs help in these areas:

1. Developing marketing and awareness communication strategies for special projects and initiatives.

2. Assessing an organization’s readiness for change, and providing guidance for change management projects.

3. Specialized writing in support of corporate programs, public policy and employee/associate engagement.

4. Training on teamwork, time management, supervisory skills, project management, goal setting and staff development.

5. Solving business challenges through the targeted use of technology, including productivity software, social media/Web 2.0 resources and project management tools.

 

11 Hours a Day

11 Hours A Day Starts With an 18 Minute Plan for Managing Your Day
An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day (by Peter Bregman)

STEP 1 (5 Minutes) Set Plan for Day. Before turning on your computer, sit down with a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your goals and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling like you’ve been productive and successful? Write those things down.

Now, most importantly, take your calendar and schedule those things into time slots, placing the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day. And by the beginning of the day I mean, if possible, before even checking your email. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list. There is tremendous power in deciding when and where you are going to do something.

If you want to get something done, decide when and where you’re going to do it. Otherwise, take it off your list.

STEP 2 (1 minute every hour) Refocus. Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour. When it rings, take a deep breath, look at your list and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

STEP 3 (5 minutes) Review. Shut off your computer and review your day. What worked? Where did you focus? Where did you get distracted? What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

The power of rituals is their predictability. You do the same thing in the same way over and over again. And so the outcome of a ritual is predictable too. If you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and consistently remind yourself of that focus, you will stay focused. It’s simple.

If you have a great way to plan your day, let me know … every second counts these days!

Don’t let friends “go it alone” …

We’re starting a “Mastermind Group” in the Ocala area, to bring together small business owners, “solopreneurs” and others who are either currently freelancing or setting out on their own path. The group is not your typical networking group, but rather a “board of advisors” that serves as a sounding board, resource or voice of reason in helping to make smarter business decisions, network more effectively, focus on the value proposition and market services in a challenging market.

The basic premise is this: We all face way too many tasks and feel pressured by all of the responsibilities that are involved in owning and running our own business. And with a team of similarly situated business owners, we are not alone.

Here are the things we’ll be covering over the next several weeks:

– Marketing action plan
– Mastering rapport skills
– Building powerful connections and first impressions
– Setting you apart from your competition
– What to say to influence potential customers
– Discover your client’s buying strategies and motivations
– Designing your office space for success and productivity
– Streamlining your day
– Learning to serve not sell
– Creating power questions to impact your target market
– Creating powerful presentation and speeches
– Optimizing your website success
– Article marketing
– Utilizing webinars and teleconferences for profit and exposure
– Creating enticing intro’s that speak directly to your ideal client
– Develop your personal brand
– Building a sales cycle process and program
– Using social media so that it work for you

If you’re interested in learning more, send an email to talenthub@clmworkforce.com or visit our Facebook page.

Look Before You Leap

Here are several things that will help you as you get started with your freelancing or consulting business.

  1. Test your idea. Are you going to be a consultant or entrepreneur? A consultant gets paid to work. Entrepreneurs makes money while they sleep. Is your product or service remarkable, and significantly better than the giants who offer the same thing? Don’t compete with the giants; set yourself apart. Pick a niche where you excel.
  2. Test your passion. Do you really love what you’re about to do? Or, are you doing it because you might make money? Can you do both? Passion is a natural and powerful motivator. Get together with others who are doing the same thing, and learn from them.
  3. Develop a business plan. Do you have the assets, tools and technology you need to get started? Can you cover the cash flow needed in the beginning? What are your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)? How does your SWOT compare to competitors – do you stand out? Keep your business plan simple and short.
  4. Choose your structure. Are you going to be a sole proprietor, or limit your liability through an LLC or corporation? You tax preparer can probably give you good advice.
  5. Pick a business name. Start with a domain name so that there’s a direct connection between your business and your domain. Get a dot com and avoid all the other extensions.
  6. Get a business bank account. Keep your finances separate from your personal account.
  7. Get health insurance. For many, this is the hardest and most-expensive part. If you are leaving a full-time job, COBRA can provide a soft landing for insurance for 18 months. To check out the possibilities in your state, click here.
  8. Establish your value proposition and price. Compare your value proposition and price to your competitors. Can you offer more for the same price? If so, you’ve got a powerful selling point.
  9. Use your down-time effectively. Starting up a new business typically requires lots of hard work in the beginning that does not bring in income. Whenever you have down time, work on your website, value proposition, breakthroughs, etc. Keep ahead of everyone else.
  10. Getting paid. Are you going to chase your accounts receivable? Or, will you get paid up front? Be ready to explain to your customer how your services work in detail.
  11. Manage your finances and taxes. There are plenty of software programs available to help you do both of these. Or, get an accountant to do them for you.

Source: Mark Hovind, JobBait