Category Archives: Business

Top 10 Important Business Tips

When running a small business, it can be easy to overlook some things. Little things like social media profiles, customer insights and even your own happiness can make a big difference, even though they might not always be your main focus. Gain some valuable tips and insights by following the advice below from members of our small business community.

Avoid These Overused Buzzwords on Your Social Media Profiles
When creating your social media profiles, it’s important that you accurately describe yourself and your business. But there are some overused buzzwords that can make your profile fade into the background, like the ones listed in this Prepare 1 post by Blair Evan Ball.

Boost Conversions With the Right Customer Insights
Having insights about your customers can be incredibly helpful when it comes to increasing your sales and conversions. But you need the right insights in order to make those positive changes. This Kissmetrics post by Shayla Price includes some insights about finding the right customer data.

Access the Ultimate Productivity Hack — Happiness
You can’t hope to get much done in your business if you’re constantly stressed and unhappy. That’s why this Fundera Ledger post by Eric Goldschein suggests that the ultimate productivity hack may just be happiness. BizSugar members also discuss the post here.

Repurpose Your Content Like a Champion
Once you create content, you don’t have to let it just disappear into the archives after a week or so. You can actually repurpose it later to get even more of a benefit. This Search Engine Journal post by Danny Goodwin outlines how you can repurpose your old content.

Create Effective Calls to Action
Creating great content and marketing materials is a great start for gaining customers. But if you don’t have effective calls to action, your marketing isn’t likely to be as effective as possible. In this MyBlogU post, Ann Smarty discusses some methods you can use for creating effective calls to action.

Show Yourself Some Love as a Business Owner
You can’t hope to grow a successful business if you don’t take care of yourself. To show yourself some love and help your business in the process, check out the tips in this CorpNet post by Nellie Akalp.

Write Blog Posts Your Audience Will Love
When blogging for your business, it’s important to always keep your audience in mind. If your audience doesn’t love your posts, then blogging isn’t likely to do your business much good. So this Blogging Wizard post by Elna Cain includes tips for writing posts your audience will love. And you can also see commentary about the post over on BizSugar.

Use These Smart Investment Strategies for Entrepreneurs
If you’re going to invest in your business, you need to make sure that you have a smart strategy for doing so. This GetEntrepreneurial.com post by Ethan Theo outlines some smart investment strategies that entrepreneurs can use to better their businesses.

Create an Invoice That Will Get Paid
The last thing you want as an entrepreneur is to provide a service or fill an order and then just not get paid. For that reason, you need to make sure your invoices are optimized to ensure payment. In this Noobpreneur post, Tara Miller shares some tips for creating invoices that will actually get paid.

Don’t Deter Customers With Incomplete Content
Great content can give your business a boost. But bad or incomplete content can actually have the opposite effect. This Target Marketing post by Heather Fletcher details how incomplete content can turn shoppers away, and what your business can do about it.

Know More About Porting and What Does It Mean

As a small business, continuity is a challenge when you move to a new location. While the physical move will displace some of your customers until they get used to the new location, your phone number can come along with you, meaning you don’t have to get a new one.
Number porting lets you keep your existing landline, wireless or VoIP when you change to a new service provider, whether it is because of a relocation or a better service from another company.

So What is Porting?
Number porting, or porting, is the ability to keep your existing number if and when you decide to move your phone service to another provider.
According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), if you want to switch to another service provider and you are staying in the same area, you can keep your existing phone number. And the process can be carried out between wireline, IP and wireless providers.

How Do You Get Started?
As a business you may have more than one number, and you can choose to port any or all of the numbers. But before you do, make sure you go over your current contract to determine your liabilities.
Look at your contract to see if there are any early termination fees as well as balances you have to pay before you end your services. And whatever you do, don’t terminate the old service before you start the service with the new company.

Contact the New Company
Once you meet your obligations of your previous contract, contact the new company to start the process of porting your number. This requires providing your 10-digit phone number and any other information the company may require. This will vary from provider to provider.

Generally, a Letter of Authorization (LOA) must be filled out and signed by the authorized user for your current provider to begin the porting process, along with the most recent and correct Billing Telephone Number (BTN).

How Much Will It Cost?
According to the FCC, companies can charge to port your number, and the fees can vary from provider to provider. The agency’s website says you can ask for a waiver or negotiate the fees. However, most of the major operators don’t charge any fees.
The FCC also says a company cannot deny to port your number because you have not paid for porting. When you request the service of a new company, the FCC says the old company cannot refuse to port your number. This is even if you have any outstanding balance or termination fee.

How Long Does it Take to Port a Number?
This will depend on how many phone numbers you have, the operator, and the type of service, such as landline, wireless and IP. It can take anywhere from hours for wireless services all the way up to 10 days for IP and landline.
Again, this will depend on the type of service you have with your old provider and the type of porting, so make sure to take this into consideration before changing to a new company.

The Transition Period
The FCC warns there will be a transition period in which you will have two numbers when you port from wireline to a wireless number. The agency recommends users to ask if you will continue to use your current wireline number during the transfer process, however long it takes.
This is important because wireless 911 location and call back services can be affected during the transition. The FCC wants you to ask your new company if your 911 service will be affected during the process.

Another service that will be impacted during the transition period is long distance service. Your landline or wireline long distance company is not going to move with you, so make sure your new company has a plan you can live with.

You Can’t Always Port Your Number
The FCC says it is not always possible to port your number to a new geographic area when you change providers. This is the case in some rural areas, which will require you to contact your state public utilities commission for further information.

Small Business Identity
Your business phone number is one of the identifying features of your company. Just like your address, logo and other identifying features, your number, especially if it is a vanity number, is a great way for your customers to identify with you and build a relationship.

Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business

What do you need to do to start a business? There are dozens of sites on the web including ours that have checklists that remind you of the many tasks you should perform to start a business. While such checklists will help you remember a lot of important steps you might otherwise overlook, they are rather impersonal To Do lists. They won’t make or break your success.

What will make or break your business? Here are 13 important guidelines for turning your business idea into a successful business.

1. Know yourself, your true motivational level, the amount of money you can risk, and what you’re willing to do to be successful. Sure, we all want to make millions of dollars. But what are you willing to give up to reach that goal? How many hours a week will you work on an ongoing basis? How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to stretch? How far will your family stretch with you? To be successful, keep your business plans in line with your personal and family goals and resources.

2. Choose the right business for you. The old formula – find a need and fill it – still works. It will always work. The key to success is finding needs that you can fill, that you want to fill, and that will produce enough income to build a profitable business.

3. Be sure there really is a market for what you want to sell. One of the biggest mistakes startups make is to assume a lot of people will want to buy a particular product or service, because the business owner likes the ideas or knows one or two people who want the product or service. To minimize your risk for loss, never assume there is a market. Research the idea. Talk to real potential prospects (who aren’t family and friends) to find out if what you want to sell is something they’d be interested in buying, and if so, what they’d pay for the product or service.

4. Plan to succeed. If you’re not seeking investors or putting a huge sum of money into your business, you may not need an elaborate business plan, but you still do need a plan – one that specifies your goal – your destination – and then lays out at least a skeletal roadmap for how you’ll get to where you want to go. The plan will change as you progress and learn more about your customers and competition, but it will still help you stay focused and headed in the right directions. Use our business planning worksheet to help develop that basic plan.

5. Don’t procrastinate. I’ve heard some people advise would-be business owners to not move ahead with their business until they have investigated every last detail of the business they want to start, and are absolutely sure it’s all going to work and be profitable. The problem with that approach is that it leads to procrastination. No one ever really has all the pieces in place – even after they’ve started their business. Yes, you need to research the market, have a rudimentary plan in place and do things like get a tax id if needed, register with local officials, if required, etc. But if you try to make everything perfect before you launch, you may never get around to starting the business at all.

6. Start on a small scale before going all out. Some people believe that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. But for the most part, successful entrepreneurs don’t like walking blindfolded on a limb. Instead, they take controlled risks. They test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, tweak what shows promise and discard the disasters.

7. Don’t fixate on mistakes or get demoralized by them. The difference between successful people and everyone else is that the successful people learn from their mistakes and move on. They don’t dwell on failure, blame the economy, curse their bad luck, or blame other people for their fate. If the path to their goal is blocked, they look for an alternate path, or sometimes choose a different, more attainable goal.

8. Learn from others. Find mentors, join groups with like-minded people, learn everything you can about your industry and what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Attend industry conferences. Take training courses when they are available. Buy courses offered by experts. You’ll save a tremendous amount of trial and error by learning from people who have been there before.

9. Think of what you do AS a business. Keep track of income and expenses, keep business money separate from personal funds, find out what regulations your business needs to abide by.

10. Understand the difference between working for yourself and building an ongoing business. If you want to build a business, you need to develop systems and methods that allow you to hire other people to DO the work of the business while you plan it. You limit the potential for growth if you don’t bring in other people to work for you.

11. If the business you are starting will need investors to grow, do what you can to find out what investors are looking for and where to find those who might invest in your kind of business. Local angel and venture capital groups are a good place to start – attend meeting they hold or meetings that investors are speaking at.

12. Put yourself out there. Ask for what you want (in a polite way.) I started my online business by participating online on GE’s GEnie online service. When I was ready to send them a proposal to run a small business area, I could not only talk about my credentials in general, but point to places I was already contributing to their service. I became one of the early content providers to America Online because I picked up the phone and made a cold call. I wound up with a new consulting client after I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me on an airplane. Remember, people like to do business with people they know. Get the ball rolling, and keep it rolling by continually reaching out and introducing yourself to new people.

13. Never stop learning and trying new things. What’s profitable now, won’t necessary be profitable next year or 10 years from now. So, don’t let yourself fall into the “this is the way I’ve always done things” rut. Keep your eyes and ears open for new things. Are there newer or better ways to market your products and services? Are customers asking for something you’re not offering? Is there a different type of customer you should be targeting? Get answers by reading everything you can about your industry and listening to your customers.

Tips To Increase Your Etsy Profits

The Internet has brought craftsmanship back to the forefront when it comes to home décor and personal style statements. For a long time, local flea markets were the small businessperson’s best bet when selling unique items, but more crafty entrepreneurs are flocking to online selling platforms such as Etsy to reach national and even global markets. Just like having an appealing display in a flea market can help net you more customers, your online store needs a personal yet professional touch of its own to move sales.

Start with the following five tips to help make your home business a roaring success online.

1. Learn Search Engine Optimization

In order for buyers to find your store and the items you list, you need search engine-optimized content to ensure that your store shows up in a Web search or Etsy site search. Simple yet accurate product titles are key, such as “brown leather moccasin boots” instead of just “leather boots.” Including keywords specific to your product in the title can help boost your search results.

You can also improve your hits by including a succinct description for your store and products using keywords found with one of the many free keyword research tools online. Be sure to incorporate keywords (called “tags” on the Etsy site) that are specific to your item.

Once you have the right content in place, ask your friends to share links to your inventory on their websites and social media to give your page views a boost.

2. Use Professional Photos

Having a high-quality camera to take photos of your items is a good place to start, but you should also consider factors such as lighting and staging to make your products stand out. When selling homemade candles, for example, a photo that suggests a use for the items, such as dinner table decorations, will be far superior to a standard shot against a white background.

If you are uninspired or lack experience with photography, you can always hire a friend to take the pictures. To save money in the long run, you could enroll in a photography course at the local community college or simply study online.

3. Conduct Market Research

Even if your merchandise is well represented visually and descriptively, you still may not make the sale if another store has a similar product listed for a much lower price. Always check your prices and products against the competition before listing, or even before producing the items, to make sure you can make sufficient income within a reasonable time frame.

If there are many similar products on the market already, you will need to make your merchandise stand out all the more. The easiest way to stand out is to sell for less, but lower prices lead to smaller profit margins. Regardless of the sentiment your product has to you, the market will ultimately determine its value.

4. Find and Refine Your Voice

According to the Pew Research Center, social media usage has risen nearly tenfold in the past 10 years with 65 percent of adults in the United States actively registered with one or more of these sites as of 2015. In order to make more income from your online store, consider creating a brand profile with a consistent voice to appeal to social media users.

Look at what is trending; once anything related to your brand goes viral on social media, you can expect your profits to increase because people will often browse through all your posts after they have read one that they really liked. Just keep your message consistent and positive so that your fans will stay interested.

5. Be Prompt and Polite

Remember that you are only one of many choices for your customers, so you need to make them a priority in your life. Always answer customers’ questions within 24 hours; the sooner you can answer them, the less likely they are to look elsewhere.

Be prepared to ship any items that sell immediately. Before you list anything, stock up on an assortment of shipping and postage supplies so that everything is ready to go when life’s demands might otherwise interfere. A satisfied buyer is more likely to order from you again.

Finally, accept any criticism from your customers as graciously as you can, particularly if you use social media to promote your brand. You may come across difficult people who will question your product or business practices. Have a boilerplate message prepared to respond to negative social media posts and emails to prevent employing any rash words in the moment. Be sure to express your gratitude for the feedback and acknowledge the importance of the customer’s concerns as well as his or her continued business. This may prompt more positive reviews in the future, which is a good sign for customers who need some encouragement to purchase from you.

Get Started Selling on Etsy

The online marketplace Etsy reported $1.9 billion in sales from 22 million buyers in 2014. The site offers sellers the ability to set up their own stores, name their own prices, use the free tools provided to manage their stores, and receive support when needed. Creating your store is fast and easy, but these tips can help you decide whether it is a good fit for your particular business as well as help you understand the different aspects of the site.

Deciding Whether Your Items Are a Good Fit

Unlike many other online marketplaces, your products must fall into one of three categories: handmade items, craft supplies, or vintage items.

Handmade items are designed or made by the seller. If the items are produced with the assistance of another individual, you must describe this person on your “About” page. If you have the item manufactured from your design, you must submit an application for outside manufacturing and choose a manufacturer that complies with the site’s ethical manufacturing policy.

Craft supplies can be either handmade or commercially produced items. This category includes tools, materials and ingredients that are used to create handmade items.

Vintage items must be a minimum of 20 years old. Commercially produced and handmade items can be sold in this category as long as they meet the minimum age requirement.

Although the site’s policies are liberal, there are some things that you cannot offer for sale:

You cannot sell handmade items unless you were directly involved in making or designing them. In other words, you cannot purchase handmade items from another individual or company and then resell them.
You cannot sell items that promote violence, illegal activity or hatred.
You cannot sell items with mature or pornographic content.
You cannot sell hazardous materials or recalled items.
You cannot sell weapons, including firearms.
You cannot sell drugs or paraphernalia, tobacco, alcohol or items that make medical claims.
You cannot sell animals, items incorporating parts of animals defined as endangered, ivory from any source, items made from dogs or cats, or items incorporating human remains with the exception of teeth.
You cannot sell a service that does not provide a new, physical item.
You cannot sell an item that violates another’s intellectual property rights.
Creating Your Store

To set up your store, you must first register and set up an account. You can register by completing a form or using your Facebook or Google profile. When registering, you will be asked to choose your username; this will become your shop name, so you should pay special attention to this decision.

Simple Ways to Cut Ties with the Big Boss to Become Your Own Boss

Every single day you work hard. You work hard to make money for someone else. Sure, you receive a paycheck for the work you do, but it probably isn’t comparable to the amount of work you do each day.

Imagine how great it would be to work just as hard, but instead of making money for someone else, you make it for yourself. Seems like a dream, doesn’t it? The good news is this dream can be a reality. All you have to do is cut ties with the big boss and become the big boss.

Here’s how to do it easily and quickly, so you can successfully start making money for yourself.

#1: Start a Side Business

Do not quit your job just yet. That’s the worst thing you can do at this point. But do check any papers you signed when you started working for your current boss to be sure there was nothing prohibiting you from starting a sideline business, or that gives your present employer rights to any work you produce on your own outside the company.

What you need to do is prepare to leave your big boss. You do that by starting a part time business on the side.

Can’t decide what type of business you want to start? Think of your passions, and then see if you can make any money from them. Come up with a few different ideas and research them to see if there is a market for them. These are some great part-time business ideas you may want to consider.

Take your time with this step because your side business can turn into your main business. Talk to people, look up information online, and come up with a plan. The plan is what will help you get your business off the ground.

When you feel comfortable, get started. You don’t have to tell anyone. You can simply do everything in your spare time. It may be hectic for a while, but the more you work now, the less you’ll have to do later when you say good-bye to your boss.

#2: Grow the Side Business

You need to make a good income from your side business to quit your job. This means you need to grow your side business as fast as possible.

Many people will use money they are making at their current job to fuel their side business. This is a good idea, if it’s possible for you. Since it takes money to make money, using your big boss is a great option.

Business loans are available for those of you who don’t have extra money coming in from your current job. Research different loan options, so you can choose the one that will give you the most amount of money with the lowest interest rates.

There may be a time in which you will need to hire someone or bring on independent contractors to take care of your side business while you are working. Only do this when you have the money to afford to pay them. Be sure you are bringing enough money in to still make some profit after having people help you.

#3: Network with People

Running a successful business has a lot to do with networking. The more people you reach out to in the industry you’re in, the more information you’ll receive that can help you. Attend networking functions in your local community or look for groups online.

As you meet people, do not only discuss what you’re doing. Find out what others are doing and see if you can help them. By lending a hand, you can learn a lot from the experiences, which could end up propelling you into amazing opportunities for your business.

#4: Reveal the Side Business to Your Boss

This step is an important one, so don’t do it until you read this completely. DO NOT tell the big boss about your business until you are making enough money to be able to live on it. Some bosses feel insulted when they hear their employees have been making money on the side. While they shouldn’t feel that way, many of them do. It’s like a betrayal to them.

This is why you should never tell your boss about your business until you can walk away and live off your business’ profits.

This doesn’t mean you are quitting just yet. You are simply letting the big boss know you are working on something that could lead you to leaving soon. It’s the nice thing to do.

#5: Say GOOD-BYE to the Big Boss and Say HELLO to Being the Big Boss

You have succeeded at this point. You have started a business, you’ve developed it, and now you are making enough money to comfortably step away from your current job. All you have to do is let your boss know you will no longer work hard to make him money. Instead, you’re going to work hard to make yourself money – and a lot of it.

It’s freeing. It’s exciting. It’s a little scary too.

It could end up being the best thing you ever did for you and family.

Right Time to Start a Second Business

You have a business. It’s doing quite well. You have everything so much under control, you have spare time. You also have spare money. Is it time to start a new business? It depends.

The following are some of the ways to know if it’s time to start a second business.

Opportunities Abound

People start a second business when they are presented with an opportunity that seems too good to pass up. A good opportunity will be one that comes with moderate risk and high return on investment.

Don’t make the mistake of falling into a scheme, though. Many people approach successful business owners with promises of more success. It’s best to decide on if an opportunity is a good one on your own, instead of relying on what others are telling you.

You’re Bored with Your Current Business

Your current business has been with you for years. You grew it from a baby to a full-fledge business that operates seamlessly. Now, you’re bored with the day-to-day monotony of it.

Entrepreneurs are always look for something new and challenging. This is why you are feeling bored with your current business. It doesn’t mean you don’t have love for it – it just means you’re ready to spread your wings and fly somewhere else to create your next big success.

You Want to Do More with Your First Business

Many people don’t start a completely different business – they diversify. They take a part of their current business and make it bigger and better to create its own income stream. If you see an opportunity to do this in your business, you might as well see how it goes because it’s just an easier way to start a second one.

An example of this is offering classes to people who are using your products. You may be selling exercise equipment, and to expand on that business, you offer exercise classes using the equipment. People can bring the products they purchased from you, rent some from you, or you can offer them as part of the classes. The money you make from the classes, rentals, or even selling more products to students can be quite good.

Be creative with your business to see how you can make more money from it.

You’re Ready to Take a Risk

There’s a decent amount of risk when starting a business. You know this from starting your first one. The same goes for the second one.

Since risk is always involved, many people have to conjure the strength and courage to do it. When you feel ready for the risk, you are likely on your way to a new exciting and challenging adventure.

You Have Support from Your Family

Starting a second business can be a huge strain on your family. You will be involved with getting the new business off the ground for a long time, and that means you’re not going to be as accessible.

Your family will have to cope with this loss. They will need to understand and support you. You will know it’s time to start a second business when your family is behind you 100%.

You Have a Vision

The only way a business owner can be successful is if he or she has a vision. This vision is what the business will become IF it is managed properly. When you have no vision, you have no direction, which makes managing hard.

Sit down for a moment and come up with your vision. Don’t have one? You are not ready for a second business just yet.

Have one and it’s detailed enough you could easily create a business plan from it? Good job. You are probably ready to move forward with it.

You Have a Team

You know the value of a team. It can help you grow your business when you aren’t able to do it. While you may not have had a team when you started your first one, you need one much more for the second one. Why?

When you started your first entrepreneurial project, you probably did it on your own. You didn’t have the money or the know-how to have a team grow it for you. Now, you have this advantage. You have extra money (or at least you should) and you know that you don’t have to do it all on your own. You may even have people who can help you as soon as you give them the go ahead. This is how you know you’re ready to get started with your new business.

Disposable Income and Time

As mentioned, it’s not all about money and time. However, it does have a lot to do with it. If you have many of the other factors explained here along with the income and time, you are in a great position to get started on a new venture.

Successful Entrepreneurs Think and Act

Successful entrepreneur think and then act. So, think about what you’ve read, and decide if it’s time to move forward with something new. It’s likely if you’re not ready now, you will be in the near future. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t already interested in moving on to something new, exciting, and challenging!

Get Success At Self Employment

Owning your own business comes with a number of perks. For starters, you get to be your own boss and set your own schedule. Now, who wouldn’t love that? Additionally, you get the final say when it comes to decision-making, the freedom to work with people of your own choosing, and, in success, you get to reap more of the financial rewards. Unfortunately, being self-employed also presents a number of challenges, and properly maintaining a successful business takes a great deal of time, care and hard work. If you’re thinking about going into business for yourself or you’re looking for ways to improve your already existing company, these six tips will help put you on the road to success.

Be Passionate About Your Business

Perhaps the most important key to success is passion. Getting out of bed every day and going to work is a grind, and without a supervisor to be beholden to, many self-employed individuals eventually lose motivation, affecting the health of their business. In order to combat this problem, make sure that you truly believe in the work that you do. Find an endeavor that fulfills you and gives you a sense of purpose. If you love your business, it will be exponentially easier to give it the care and attention it needs to thrive.

Know What You Want

Passion is great, but it needs to be channeled into achievable goals. In order to succeed in business, you need to know what you want, understand what it will take to get there and then execute a plan in order to arrive at your objectives. At the outset of creating your business, sit down and make a list of what you hope to achieve. What profit margin do you need to maintain? Do you want to have a certain number of clients? Do you hope to work with a certain company or individual? Once you know what benchmarks you want to achieve with your business, brainstorm the necessary steps in order to get there and create a business plan accordingly.

Network

They say that succeeding in business isn’t a matter of what you know, but rather who you know. While that old adage may not be entirely true, knowing the right people can certainly make a big difference. By attending networking events and industry trade shows in your field, you can build up a roster of connections that will make it easier to succeed. Additionally, it’s a good idea to get to know experienced people in your field, as they can serve as mentors and provide invaluable advice.

Cultivate a Support Team

Creating a support team is akin to networking, but it serves a slightly different function. Your support team can consist of friends, family members or your favorite customers/clients, all of whom have a vested personal interest in your continued success. Think of these people as your emotional support system, there to provide encouragement, pick you up after a trying experience or offer advice about the direction of your business. Just as it’s important to surround yourself with positive influences, it’s equally important to block out negative ones. If people in your life are either intentionally or unintentionally trying to derail your career aspirations, then you may need to limit your exposure to them.

Maintain Your Brand

Maintaining your company’s brand is one of the most important keys to success. Effective branding is all about creating an identity for your company in the minds of customers, clients and anyone else with whom you may do business. If you have a physical store or office, make sure that the space is professional and that the signage is attractive to potential customers. Perhaps even more important than your physical space is maintaining your business’s brand online. In order to be taken seriously nowadays, you will likely need to create a professional website as well a profile for your company across various social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. However you choose to advertise your business, make sure that your messaging is consistent and positive.

Be Flexible

No matter how solid your business plan is or how much support you get from the people around you, your company may not be successful right out of the gate, or it may fall on hard times in the future. In order to succeed, business owners often need to be flexible. If your current approach isn’t working for whatever reason, it may be necessary to change up your game plan and try something new. Do an honest diagnosis of your business, assess its biggest strengths and weaknesses and make adjustments as needed. By being flexible and nimble, you can adapt to a wide range of obstacles and setbacks.

Tips To Starting a Business After You’ve Been Laid Off

Being let go from your job can be tough. After all, most of us put an immense amount of pride and effort into our work, and being laid off for any reason is painful and embarrassing. In the aftermath of getting fired, many people flounder as they decide what move to make next. Searching for a new job is often a full-time job in and of itself, and it can be a very long, frustrating process, with jobseekers routinely spending over a year looking for a new career. Given these challenges, many people decide to make immediate use of their skill sets and start their own businesses in the wake of being laid off.

What Type of Business Should You Start?

If you’re going to go into business for yourself, you must first decide what type of company you want to create. In general, most people decide to leverage their existing skills and experience to create a consulting or freelancing business that is closely tied to their old career. For example, if your previous job was in marketing or IT, you can build a business around providing those services on an individualized basis. Typically, this approach is the easiest way to go about starting a company.

Alternatively, you may want to use your recent unemployment as an opportunity to start a business in an entirely unrelated field. On the one hand, this path presents more challenges. On the other hand, motivation is a necessary ingredient in starting any new business, and losing your job can incite unprecedented levels of motivation and productivity. If you feel like being laid off was the wake-up call you needed to start following your dreams, then use that motivation to start a totally new endeavor.

Regardless of what type of company you create, just remember that passion will only get you so far. Ultimately, if your new enterprise is going to be successful, it needs to provide a good or service that is valuable. Don’t just follow your heart. Be strategic and carefully consider all of your options when starting a company.

How Do You Get Your Business Off the Ground?

Once you’ve decided on a plan for your business, the next step is to get it up and running. Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Association provides a number of tools for emerging entrepreneurs, including tips for starting and managing your company as well as information about applying for loans and grants to serve as seed money.

Also, early on you’ll need to make a list of the practical elements your business requires, such as an office space, a computer, supplies and maybe a dedicated phone line. Also, you’ll have to decide whether or not your company needs a website. While many businesses have their own web pages, it’s sometimes more of a luxury than a necessity. In fact, a lot of entrepreneurs get by using a combination of existing social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, all of which can add legitimacy to your business.

Most of the other major questions you’ll need to answer involve finances. From a practical perspective, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough money to start a company. In addition to the initial startup costs, it takes a little bit of time for many small businesses to become profitable. By going into business for yourself, you and your family will need to accept the fact that there might be some lean days in the immediate future.

Before getting too far down the road on your new business, you’ll definitely want to talk to an accountant. Not only will a CPA help you to better understand the financial ins and outs of the business you’re about to start, but he or she can also provide invaluable advice about the taxes that will eventually arise from your new endeavor. Additionally, it’s wise to invest in small business accounting software, such as QuickBooks or, if you’re watching your budget, Wave, which offers many basic functions for free.

What if Your Business Fails?

If you’re going to start a business, you need to go in with your eyes wide open. The fact of the matter is that most small businesses fail, but even if your new company never turns a profit, it can help your career in the long run. After going into business for themselves, many workers re-enter the traditional corporate world with a new set of skill that are highly desired by employers. By running your own company, you’re gaining invaluable experience in marketing, sales, finance, and management, all of which can translate into necessary skills in virtually any business setting.

In fact, many entrepreneurs create their companies with the knowledge that they will only be temporary. If you know that your job search is going to take six months or a year, what better way to cover that employment gap than by starting your own business? While some hiring managers may look down on the six months or so you spent freelancing, others will respect the hard work and ingenuity it took to run your own company. Also, explaining your freelancing or consulting business is much easier than explaining a glaring gap in your work history.

Starting a new business under any circumstances isn’t easy, and the aftermath of being laid off can be a particularly trying time. However, if you have the motivation and the financial stability, creating your own business, even on a temporary basis, can be beneficial. Plus, in the event that your new enterprise is wildly successful, you can work for yourself indefinitely and never have to worry about getting laid off again.

How To Launching a New Business or Product

It’s not enough to create a great business or product. If you want to be successful, you need to take steps to plan and execute a well-timed, memorable launch that will bring your product to the attention of more people in more locations.

In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to begin their promotional efforts before they actually start selling their wares. Additionally, companies need to find ways to stand out from the noise while making the right first impression on early adopters.

Here are 5 steps for launching a new product in a way that’s smart, strategic, and most of all effective:

1. Conduct Testing

Just because you’ve created an ingenious product that (you believe) fills an existing dearth in the marketplace doesn’t mean you’re ready to start selling. Savvy business owners take time to test their new items and perform necessary adjustments. Before listing a product for sale on your website, or stocking it in your retail store, send out complimentary versions for trusted clients to test and evaluate. The goal is to collect feedback from surveys and focus groups so you can make any needed improvements before releasing the product wide.

One of the reasons that testing is so crucial is that it ensures a product’s first impression with buyers will be a positive one. After all, if you release a flawed or buggy item, customers will remember that fact and be loath to try future versions. The internet means shoppers have virtually endless options, and they are unlikely to give a second chance to a disappointing company or product.

2. Contact Influencers

Blogs and social media sites are great for marketing new businesses and products online. However, if you only post about your brilliant invention on your own website, you’re unlikely to generate the sales results you desire. Instead, startups should target key influencers, or trusted brand advocates, in their chosen industries.

Start by creating a list of popular bloggers, social media mavens, and even high-profile customers who have shopped with you before. You can then email or message these individuals and ask them to review a free sample of your product. If they like the item, the chances are good that they will blog about it or share details with their social followers. The goal is to generate buzz and excitement about a product before you launch and identify any outstanding issues that could affect your item’s ability to generate a profit.

3. Get Your Team Excited

It doesn’t matter how strong your product is if your marketing and customers service teams aren’t behind you. Before launching your new item, it’s important to educate your employees and get them excited about the item. (Ideally, you will also involve product managers and sales staff throughout the item’s development, so they can weigh in on aspects.)

To prepare your team members for launch, sit down with them to discuss the product ahead of time and ensure they have the resources needed to support customers and answer their questions. If your staff is going to be selling products over the phone, consider creating new talk tracks to aid in the process. For best results, create a number of small but attainable goals so employee morale stays high throughout the launch.

4. Create a Schedule—and Stick to It

It’s easy to lose sight of your goals while trying to launch a new product. Smart business owners create detailed production schedules to ensure tasks are completed on time and team members are held accountable for their roles. Additionally, you should review your timetable to ensure it covers all the necessary tasks, from performing market research on your target audience to contacting your favorite blogger or YouTube star, and set clear objectives. If you want to sell 1,000 products in the first month, put that goal in writing and commit to achieving it.

While it’s important to ensure your schedule is realistic, entrepreneurs also need to consider the best times of year to release their new products. For example, depending on the item you’re selling, you might want to consider seasonal factors or the timing of trade shows or pop culture events. And of course, you will want to ensure you are properly staffed for the launch. The last thing you want is to find yourself struggling to release a new product because several of your employees are out for summer vacation.

5. Identify Your Marketing Channels

Gone are the days when businesses could market their wares on one or two sales channels only. Today, savvy startups maximize potential sales by targeting as many potential channels as possible. Along with traditional outlets like TV, radio, and mailers, modern businesses promote their goods on websites, social media pages, and online retail sites. They create email marketing campaigns, utilize PPC advertising, and even contact customers via text. The more channels you target with your marketing materials, the more opportunities you will have to find new and profitable audiences.