Work at Home

To Grow Your Business, Stay in the Discomfort Zone

Guest Post by Amber Singleton Riviere

Many people want to build successful businesses, yet few are willing to put themselves out there in order to do so.  To grow a business by finding new customers and clients, a business can’t be a state secret.  Unfortunately, many business owners’ actions seem to suggest just that, and it generally stems from not wanting to be in the limelight and do those things that are foreign and uncomfortable.

Think of the most uncomfortable example of putting oneself out there – public speaking.  Public speaking offers some of the best opportunities for growing a business, like providing interviews to media outlets, speaking at conferences and seminars, and going to in-person networking events.  To take just one of those examples, providing interviews to media outlets is one of the best ways to put oneself or one’s company in front of the greatest number of people in the shortest amount of time and at no cost to the individual or company, other than a small investment of time, yet few business owners use this to their advantage.  Why?  Most are just too nervous about talking in front of an audience or appearing in the media.

By seeking out opportunities that generally frighten others and by becoming “comfortable with being uncomfortable,” you can position yourself as the go-to expert in your particular niche.  As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?, “Discomfort brings engagement and change.  Discomfort means you’re doing something that others [are] unlikely to do, because they’re busy hiding out in the comfortable zone.”

In order to grow your business and become known in your industry, you have to position yourself as an expert and you get comfortable with the idea of taking chances and putting yourself in front of others.  Those first few steps, however, can be the most intimidating ones to make, so how do you get started?

That’s actually the easy part!  Start small and think local, and local can mean participating in opportunities in your particular geographic area or opportunities within your reach, like blogs where you already know the site owner.  Approach a fellow blogger or podcaster, for instance, and pitch an idea for an article or podcast that you’d like to do on the person’s site.  Most site owners are constantly on the lookout for content and jump at opportunities to fill the gap.

Once you participate in a few smaller and local opportunities, you can start venturing out into unknown territory, like pitching your story and expertise to reporters on the free website Help a Reporter Out (HARO).  If you provide great content, media outlets might invite you back again and again or might even start approaching you for your expertise.

The most important thing to remember is that you have to venture outside of your comfort zone and be willing to put yourself out there so that customers and clients can find you.  Get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and a variety of doors and opportunities will present themselves to you!

Amber Singleton Riviere is the founder of Upstart Smart, a resource for small business owners, as well as the Rock Your Genius radio show, which focuses on small business and entrepreneurship.  She also runs the Give Back Project, a web design and marketing firm, and writes for websites like Web Worker Daily on topics relevant to small business owners.  You can find out about all of Amber’s work by visiting

Business Lessons From a Jamaican Beach Vendor

Jamaica Beach Braids

If you read my blog, you probably know that I spent last week in Jamaica. My daughter wanted for the longest time to get corn row braids, and we decided to go for it together. In the process, I learned some business lessons that everyone can use, and I want to share those lessons with you today.

Be Where Your Customers Are

There were lots of  vendors on the beach, where people spent a good part of the day. But the vendor who got our business was the closest to our hotel: they probably paid more than the others, but had first access to anyone interested in visiting/buying from any of those vendors.

Connect With Your Potential Customer

Get in your potential customer’s face every chance you get, and make them comfortable with you and what you have to offer. As we were walking on the beach, trying to decide which vendor we would go with, this lady started talking to us even before we arrived at her booth. She asked us what we were looking for, mentioning hair braiding specifically (I am sure she knew how to spot her potential customers by their behavior/appearance), called us to her booth, introduced herself, and assuring us that she would work with us, whatever our need was.

Make Yourself Useful to Your Target Market

She constantly kept an eye on the traffic going by her booth, and started conversations with potential customers. Even if they were not looking for something right now, she asked questions, introduced herself, and offered information for free. I remember a mother & daughter walking by, and she asked them to come and see what she was doing (our braids). They said they just got there, and weren’t interested in braids right now, but she said: “just come and take a look!” Her words were happy, upbeat, encouraging, and when the two left, she said: if anyone else offers you hair braiding, tell them you are all set: I am going to give you a special price.

What Not to Do!

Now, while our “vendor” was very good at getting customers, she wasn’t as good at servicing her current clients. She spoke on the phone a few times during our appointment,  serviced other customers who stopped by to buy some of her trinkets, which I might add, were only a fraction of the cost of our service, and even stopped to feed her son (the father was also there, and could have easily taken care of the child). If I needed her services again, I probably would not go back, nor would I recommend her services to my friends.

Remember to give your current customers your full attention. While getting new customers is important to any business, don’t do it at the expense of your current customers. In the long run, your happy customers will bring new ones your way. I hope you can use these lessons in your own business.

P.S. Would You Do Business With You?

How to Write a Marketing Plan

Starting your own business is an exciting but also very stressful endeavor. In order to ensure the success of your business, you are going to want to conduct a lot of research and do a lot of preparation. An important aspect of your research and preparatory work includes creating an effective marketing plan because behind every successful product or service you will find a well-crafted marketing plan. If you have recently created your own business or are thinking of doing so in the near future, you’ll find useful information concerning the process of writing a marketing plan.

A marketing plan is a written manuscript that specifies what the necessary actions are in order to realize one or more marketing goals. Marketing plans can be crafted for a product, a service, a brand, or a product line and the objectives that they cover typically span between one and five years. In order to have an effective marketing plan, however, you also need to have a well thought out business plan and marketing strategy, which both serve as the foundation for the marketing plan. The business plan details your business’s financial and operational goals and policies and the marketing strategy is the overall direction a business plans to take in the hopes of focusing its finite resources on the best available opportunities so as to boost sales and gain a competitive advantage.

One of the key components of a marketing plan is the mission statement. In it, you are going to want to write a few sentences stating who your chief market is, what it is that you are selling (contribution), and what your unique selling proposition is (distinction).

There are several topics that a marketing plan should address. These topics include:

– market analysis details, sales advertising

– public relations campaigns

– as well both traditional and new media programs and strategies.

In order to conduct a thorough market analysis, you are going to want to collect and organize as much data as you can about the current market that will be purchasing and using your products or services. When doing this, some important aspects to consider include paying attention to market dynamics and patterns like seasonality, assessing the offerings of your competition, and keeping in mind who your targeted market is and what their demographics are.

A marketing plan should also offer descriptions of both your products and services and your competition. You want to detail how your products and services relate to the needs of the market and how they rise above what the marketing is currently offering. As far as your competition goes, you are going to want to detail what makes your product or service distinct and stand apart from your competitors.

Additional components to include in a marketing plan are product pricing details, where your product is going to be positioned in the market, and what your monthly budget is going to be.

After detailing all of the aforementioned information, you should be able to create quantifiable marketing goals for your business whose effectiveness should be closely monitored and revised as needed.

There are so many facets to evaluate and take into consideration when starting your own business, but if you take the time to first create a well thought out marketing plan, then you will be providing yourself with a great guide to keep you on the path towards success.

Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing : Turning Strangers Into Friends And Friends Into Customers is a great resource for those in the planning stages of their business.

Winning Web Design Tips for Newbie Webmasters

Good web design is an art form.  A web page that is easily accessible, easily navigated and creative will attract more customers than one that is complicated and cumbersome.  Most people assume that to create decent web pages, they must use the most advanced graphics, flash techniques and other sometimes “expensive” tools.

In reality, good web design relies more on simplicity.  Best web design practices actually are simple to master.  First and foremost, a web designer should look at color.  Color is one of the simplest tools that a designer can use to attract surfers to their website.  Good web design uses just two or three complementary colors that are bold enough to send a message, but not so bold as to send the image “cheesy” to customers.

Good web design also requires appropriate utilization of text.  One of the biggest errors failed web sites have in common is inappropriate use of text.  Text for example, should be uniform.  Try using the same font if at all possible throughout a web page.  Additionally, ensure that text is big enough for a surfer to read, but not so big that it detracts from the message of the main web page.

The best web designs also take into consideration the ease of navigability. A web page that is difficult to navigate will cause surfers to flee before they have had enough time to decipher the message you are trying to sell.  Far too often, novice web designers attempt to design complicated and flashy websites.  While visually appealing, these websites can sometimes be difficult to navigate.

Make certain that when designing web pages you select navigation buttons that are easily understood and readily available.  Navigation should also be uniform throughout the website: that way a surfer once they ascertain the navigation method used does not have to guess how to go from one page to the next.

Large web sites should ALWAYS provide surfers with a search engine or site map, so that visitors can easily navigate through the many pages.  Also helpful to surfers would be buttons that would provide customers with information related to where they currently are.

Perhaps the most critical web design practice is ease of download.  Pages that are large and cumbersome or those that download too slowly will cause surfers to turn away before they ever have the opportunity to see what you have to offer. You want to ensure that all surfers have easy access to the information you are providing.

How does your website design stand up to these guidelines? If you have trouble designing your own site, why not outsource it to someone who does this every day?

What Are The Advantages And Risks of Outsourcing?

get an extra 8 hours

When you first start out in any business, especially online it’s easy to do everything yourself. But there will come a point when you have to outsource if you want to grow the business. And just like everything else in life there are advantages and risks of outsourcing. The main advantages of outsourcing are freeing up your time and masking any weaknesses you may have. But there is one major risk which is sloppy work. As this can cause you any number of problems.

There are only 24 hours in a day and you spend 8 of them sleeping which leaves 16 hours for working, leisure and spending time with friends and family. So by outsourcing your most time consuming tasks you free yourself to focus on more high paying work. Or just give yourself more time to spend with your family.

We can’t all be great at everything and being a jack of all trades master of none isn’t that helpful. Instead of wasting time and energy learning a new skill which you hate doing it’s much easier to just get someone else to do it for you. Not only does this prevent the frustration that can come with learning something new but it also allows you to focus on what you do best.

When deciding who to outsource a job to you need to be careful. As a sloppy job can not only mean you waste time but at the worst can cost you thousands of dollars, if, for example, the guy/gal you got to do your graphics used a copyrighted image. So before you hire somebody to do work for you take a look at what other people say about them. Maybe even do a Google search on them.

No matter what the advantages and risks of outsourcing you will have to do it at some point in time. As no one can do everything and if you try you’ll just run yourself into the ground. The advantages of saving time so you can focus on the more high paying work and avoid any weakness you may have are great reasons why you should outsource. But to avoid the major risk of sloppy work you’ll want to pay close attention to feedback and not just hire someone because they are cheap. To be certain of getting a good job done you’ll probably want to get recommendations from people you trust.

Recommended Outsourcing companies:

Outsource Weekly – A 52 week course by Jimmy D. Brown & Nicole Dean, which will teach you everything you wanted to know about outsourcing.

outsource unpleasant tasks

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