Having a small business is a dream for many, but along with the flexibility and autonomy comes the potential to overwork yourself since you alone likely control your success. Freelance writer Brandi-Ann Uyemura offers her four tips on how to keep you (and consequently your business) from fizzling out.
It’s not hard to go from busy to burnout when it comes to running your own business. Being your own boss is a blessing and a curse. You have the freedom to create your own hours, work on handpicked projects and essentially run your business the way you want it. But as it is with owning a house, you can’t rely on the maintenance man to come fix your plumbing anymore. Your paycheck’s now 100% dependent on the work you produce and you’re the only person responsible for it.
Over time that pressure can build to insurmountable heights. Without anyone telling you it’s time to go home and with the knowledge that no work equals no pay, it’s all too easy to burn the candle at both ends. And that doesn’t bode well for you, your health, your relationships or your business.
How do you maintain your business and your sanity? Use the following tips as a guide to keep burnout at bay and help you balance your business and your life.
Hire A Team
It may be tempting to do it all yourself especially for you "Type A" personalities out there. No one can do it better than you right? Consider this. The busier you get, the harder it’s going to be to keep all those balls in the air. And the truth is there are people who can do a better job than you. Do an inventory of your skills and competencies. When you find an aspect of your job that you’re just not good at (finances, writing, administrative work) or dislike, highlight it. Then look for professionals that can help you in that area of work.
On Elance you can hire an accountant, a virtual assistant or an online copywriter, for example. You may think that DIY (do it yourself) saves you money. But when it comes to managing your business, doing everything yourself is costing you time and time equals money.
Small businesses are launching at roughly the same rate in 2011 as they did in 2001. What’s different today? Startups are significantly leaner than their counterparts were 10 years ago.
By the end of 2010, new small businesses in the United States – firms launched with 500 or fewer employees during the preceding twelve months – employed an average of 4.9 workers. That’s significantly fewer than the 7.5 workers they employed a decade earlier, a detailed report from the U.S. Small Business Administration indicates.
Conversely, The Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity shows that entrepreneurial activity actually reached a 14-year high in 2009 for new business creation, shortly after global economic turbulence began. But that same year new independent businesses created 700,000 fewer jobs than recent annual averages, reiterating the employee-streamlined model for new small businesses.
So while job growth in the U.S. continues to be driven primarily by the small business community, small business owners are now being driven by the obvious benefits of using contemporary and cost-effective tools, technologies, and, most importantly, online workers wherever possible.
Elance can be a great resource for anyone that has a project for which they need help. However, finding the “right” contractor is crucial to a project’s success and can be tricky to come across if you are not a proactive client. Luckily, there are tricks to getting the most out of the system so you can find the right contractor the first time you post a job.
The first time I posted a job on Elance I decided that I would go through the top contractors in a particular category and only invite those contractors that listed the skills I needed. I only invited about 15 contractors and received 3 bids total in response—not a large pool to choose from. Finally after I got a chance to ask each contractor some questions, none of them ended up being what I was looking for either. So, there went a week of my time. My major mistake was that although I was interested in hiring these contractors, they weren’t necessarily interested in taking my job and I had closed myself off to other contractors that would have done a fantastic job but weren’t at the top of the search results.
I decided to post my job again. This time I decided I would not invite any contractors at all and I would just open the bidding as a free-for-all. I got a ton of bids but, again, none of these contractors were really what I was looking for. This time I realized my mistake was that I was not very clear in my job description and when I finally spoke to contractors I was interested in, they were no longer interested in my job.
So, at this point I had spent two weeks of my time trying to find a pool of contractors for my project. If I just really paid attention to my posting and used the tools Elance provides to make the hiring process easy, I would have already been two weeks into my project. The hiring process is pretty straightforward. You post your job and then wait for bids to come in right? Not quite. Here are some tips on how to get the most qualified and motivated contractor for your job:
Using Drupal to build your business' e-commerce store has several advantages, including search engine visibility, a tested security framework, and a highly scalable CMS system to work with. Monica S. Flores, Elancer and principal Drupal web developer at 10K Webdesign, walks through the process of getting your e-commerce store up and running so you can acquire customers immediately.
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Step One: Specify the Desired Features
Planning, planning, planning:When working with your e-commerce clients, it's easy to say "we do e-commerce and shopping cart," but part of the web development process is going through the nitty-gritty of specifying the overall process.
When you uncover more information about how the proposed e-commerce website will work, you can better ascertain which modules will best "fit" the desired tasks.
Some questions to help guide your process include: a) Who is allowed to sell on this website?
Will it be one main brand that is selling multiple products? Or will there be representatives from multiple stores that are selling in a "marketplace" fashion?
b) What level of detail will be on a product listing?
Typically, a product listing has, at a minimum: 3-5 product photos, the "category" of the item (e.g. "women's" or down to more detail like "women's dresses"), the title and description, SKU and price. Additional features may include "attributes" like sizing (small, medium, large), color, texture, materials. Or you may need to display keywords or additional categorization levels. Work with your client to understand their needs.
In order to keep up with a constantly changing global marketplace, businesses often find the need to utilize new technologies and leverage their experts. Darrell Freeman of specialty men's apparel online retailer Big Dude Clothing discusses the challenges they were facing with their old e-commerce system and how they came to use Elance to rebuild their core business capabilities using the red-hot Magento platform.
Big Dude Clothing is a specialist online big men’s clothing company based in the UK. Having started in late 2009, our original ecommerce website was built by a local UK agency. There were various problems with the original e-commerce site, from being a disaster in the search engines, poor knowledge of the shopping cart by the agency, to high ongoing monthly maintenance charges.
In early 2010, we decided to find new partners to work with on the website. We required a highly experienced Magento specialist, with competitive fees and the flexibility to work on set projects rather than monthly maintenance. We contacted several UK agencies, small development companies and freelancers; however there was no proposal that clearly fit our criteria.
Whether you're submitting proposals or posting new jobs, leaving feedback for a project well done, or maintaining a personal blog or website, you should make sure your words represent you well. Freelance copywriter Bob Younce goes over some ground rules in ensuring your writing has both character and purpose.
You might not recognize it, but every time you sit down at work and put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as the case may be) you’re engaging in compelling writing. Every piece of writing your business produces – from office memos to sales letters – is designed to elicit a response. Sometimes, that response is making a purchase, such as with a sales letter. Other times, that response is increased confidence in your business as an authority in your field; this is the case with a blog post or informative article.
So, how do you make sure your writing gets the response you want and need? How do you empower your compelling writing? Simply follow these principles:
Start by identifying the desired response. Figure out what you want the reader to do. Do you want a potential Elance client to select you for a website development project that you would love to work on? ? Do you want to attract new site visitors to your graphic design blog? Do you want to promote your search engine optimization skills to new businesses? Before you string two words together, know what you’re hoping to achieve. Keep that response in mind throughout the entire writing process.
What impact has online work had on your ability to earn income from wherever you are? Nicole Washington, owner of Micro Biz Coach, offers her thoughts on how technology is revolutionizing the way people from all reaches of the globe have economic opportunities that didn't exist even a few years ago.
Some decades ago, many citizens of the United States of America enjoyed a robust economic time when, with some basic training but no formal education, one could have a job that paid enough of a wage to live what many called “The American Dream.” Today, that privilege can be enjoyed by many more citizens of the world as a direct result of internet technology.
Just as the Industrial Age gave way to the creation of the factories that afforded the working class new opportunities to provide for themselves and their families, we are in the midst of the Information Age, which if properly harnessed, can provide the same opportunity.
Let’s take a look back through the sands of time. Though it seems like it’s been around forever, the internet was only a commercial innovation of the 1990s, although the internet of today is quite different! Yet counting its number of registered users, Facebook took less than 7 years to become the size of the 3rd largest country in the world!
How do you connect with your customers? Social media has been all the rage, but alternative methods like podcasting can give you a presence that you may have not thought of before. Experienced podcaster Paul Clifford offers his insights to help get you started from strategy and creating value to content.
With all the emphasis on social media, we often forget that there are other methods of connecting to clients, customers, and business associates. How do you reach the road warrior whose most-used chair is behind a steering wheel? How do you connect with people who can listen at work, but who have been blocked from Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In by their IT departments? How do you share without coming across as an infomercial, intent on selling and selling only?
The answer might just be podcasting. Podcasting is to radio or television as blogging is to the newspaper. It provides an audio or video platform on which you can deliver you message. Gone are the days when you needed to rent time on a radio or television station to reach a geographically limited audience. Now, for very little money, you can reach the ends of the globe and people who've never heard of you or your business.
Jane Applegate is one of America’s most respected small business management experts. A popular keynote speaker and commentator, she is the author of four books on small business success, including 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Businessand The Entrepreneur’s Desk Reference. To celebrate the success of the latest revision of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, Jane shares excerpts from three great tips in her book, just for the Elance community! Great Idea #6: Say Goodbye to Corporate Life People leave their corporate jobs to start small businesses for all sorts of reasons, financial and emotional.
Dairl Johnson, was at the peak of his career and managing a product line with $1.5 billion in sales at IBM, when he “suddenly realized I was taking just as big a risk staying in my corporate job as I would if I left.”
In the early 1990s, IBM was cutting staff. “The whole idea of the company being there forever was no longer true,” said Johnson. “It rocks your whole perspective, and you suddenly say, ‘there’s no such thing as job security. I would rather trust my own skills and abilities.’”
How do you drive traffic to your website? Of course one way is to turn to a search engine optimization specialist on Elance, but did you know that there are simple steps that you can take right now on your own? Mike Mindel, Founder of Wordtracker.com, discusses his easy-to-follow "pyramid approach" to building more web traffic to your site.
By properly organizing the content on your website, you can increase traffic from Google and other search engines. If, in the past, you’ve struggled to attract the traffic you want, a well-planned site structure will really help.
Google loves sites with lots of content. So, to maximize your chances of attracting traffic, your site needs lots of content. Organizing that content will make you look like an authority site, so Google (and other search engines) are more likely to send you traffic. Think about creating at least 25 web pages. If you’re setting up a new site you should build a home page, five category pages, and 4-5 content pages in each category.
You should try to organize your content in a pyramid shape:
Home page keywords Category page keywords Content pages for each category
This helps readers find what they are looking for, and helps search engines see the related themes in your content.