The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

The 5 Best Resources for a New Entrepreneur

Are you thinking about becoming an entrepreneur or solopreneur? If so, then you are certainly not alone.

There are thousands – if not millions – of people who dream about pursuing their passions and becoming their own bosses. And indeed, thousands of people in the U.S. strike out on their own each year.

Taking those first steps towards becoming an entrepreneur and starting a new business may seem a little scary to you. This may be especially true if you’re choosing to leave a secure job with a decent paycheck and benefits.

For the most part, though, an entrepreneur who is ready to take that leap of faith is also more than ready to exchange his or her cubicle and commute for flexibility and fulfillment.

If this sounds like you, keep reading!

How to get started as an entrepreneur…even when you have no idea where to start

A person who wants to become an entrepreneur in today’s modern world has one key advantage: the internet. There are thousands of places where you can go online and find information about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a business.

I’ll get to some of those resources soon.

When you are first getting started as a new entrepreneur, though, you’re usually in a nebulous state where you have all sorts of various ideas running around in your head (or on many pieces of paper).

One of your first steps involves organizing all of those thoughts and narrowing them down. You also need encouragement and motivation to take the next step(s).

In her article for Entrepreneur, “So You Want to Be Your Own Boss…” Tamara Monosoff shares eight more excellent tips to “get you going, even if you don’t know where to start.”

Here are those eight tips:

  1. Take a stand for yourself.
  2. Identify the Right Business for You.
  3. Business Planning Improves Your Chances for Success.
  4. Know Your Target Audience Before You Spend a Penny.
  5. Understand Your Personal Finances and Choose the Right Kind of Money You Need for Your Business.
  6. Build a Support Network.
  7. Sell By Creating Value.
  8. Get the Word Out.

So you’ve gotten organized, you have a business plan in place…and you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?

Just like most other significant choices you make in your life, being an entrepreneur doesn’t end with making the decision to become one. Nor will you become an overnight success just because you have something that everyone needs.

It’s important to note that most entrepreneurs experience constant growth and learning. One reason is because it’s important that the entrepreneur keeps up with trends in his/her industry and target market.

Staying on top of the trends that matter most requires access to excellent and trustworthy resources. As I mentioned above, there are literally thousands of websites and articles that you can learn from. And each site offers value to a budding entrepreneur, at least to some extent, but there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

However, there are trustworthy sites which can provide a new entrepreneur with the basics, as well as more detailed information as he/she grows.

Here are five reliable online resources for a new (or even a not-so-new) entrepreneur:

  1. Entrepreneur

By its name alone, you know this site is going to be a good one to bookmark. This popular go-to resource for entrepreneurs provides current news and articles which are well-written and entertaining as well as informative. Entrepreneur also hosts educational live events and webinars which any business owner – whether just starting out or seasoned – may find useful to attend.

  1. Entrepreneurship.org

This is a fantastic site designed specifically for entrepreneurs. This free online resource is hosted by the Kauffman Foundation which is a private foundation which provides grants for education and entrepreneurship.

The site’s library shares abundant information about the following topics:

  • Accounting & Finance
  • Marketing & Sales
  • The Entrepreneur
  • Business Operations
  • Products & Services
  • Human Resources
  • Public Policy

 

  1. Noobpreneur.com

I wanted to include this site since it’s one of my personal favorites. Are you asking yourself, “What is a “noobpreneur”? The founder of Noobpreneur.com, Ivan Widjaya, defines it for us:

It is a term I’ve coined to describe myself as – Noobpreneur = Newbie Entrepreneur. I define a newbie entrepreneur as someone who is ALWAYS a newbie (first-timer) in his/her entrepreneurial journey. In other words, a noobpreneur is someone who is not afraid to learn new knowledge and try new things.

If you’re a noobpreneur, too, who is short on time, but who also wants to stay in-the-know, then this multi-authored blog site is perfect for you, too. The authors from this site share their knowledge through relevant and informative articles. The result is an invaluable resource for any entrepreneur, “newbie” or not.

  1. Shopify Business Encyclopedia

This site offers a wealth of free, easy-to-access information to help new entrepreneurs “learn everything there is to know about running a business.” You’ll find dozens of definitions and current articles covering various topics which include “how to start a business,” and “how to sell online.”

  1. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a United States government agency which provides support to entrepreneurs and small businesses. Since its founding on July 30, 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration has delivered millions of loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions and other forms of assistance to small businesses.

Their site offers a wealth of information related to starting and managing a business, as well as an extensive “learning center.” The SBA Learning Center covers other important topics for entrepreneurs including marketing and financing.

 

Are any – or all – of these resources on your list? Do you have others you would add? Please feel free to let me know your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.

Why Marketing & Advertising is Storytelling

Why Marketing & Advertising is Storytelling

You can primp and polish almost anything to make it gleam and glimmer, but making something beautiful doesn’t make it unique and doesn’t make it effective.

 

The same can be said with advertising and PR. You can devise the most astounding campaign that implements every creative tool in the book and then some, but if your message doesn’t resonate with people, you have lost.

 

This summer I had the privilege of attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, where I absorbed the knowledge and advice advertising and PR professionals had to give about the ever-changing field in which they work. In the seminar “Nailing Jelly to a Tree & Other Wild Goose Chases” Dr. Itiel Dror joined Nir Wegrzyn to discuss how to make your advertising messages stick with your audience and have the effect that you desire.

 

Dr. Dror, a cognitive neuroscientist, stressed three points: making your messages into memories, encode those messages in the appropriate parts of the brain, tell a relevant story and tell it well. All of these components combined make it possible for us as advertisers (or aspiring advertisers) to divulge into human insight and to connect with our audience in a transparent and effective way.

 

Every day our minds take in thousands upon thousands of images filled with information. Whether it be on television, the Internet, social media, outside, or in magazines, everywhere you go there are advertising messages. There are so many that most people find them intrusive and choose to ignore them completely. At what point do we as advertisers realize that we can’t just splatter information across a page?

 

If I were to ask you to tell me your most vivid memory, I bet you could tell me everything down to the smell of the room and the clothes you were wearing. This is what advertisers must do. We must be strategic in our messaging strategies to not only catch the eye of the audience, but keep the eye of the audience and make our messages memorable. To do so we must tell stories. Not just any stories, stories that transport audiences into a setting or situation that is not part of their everyday lives, but that holds a connection in their brain.

 

My favorite books are the Harry Potter books, yes I am 100% aware they are meant to be children’s books, but I love them nonetheless. What makes this series so wonderful is that each reader becomes engrossed in the story of this boy wizard who suffers just like you and me. He struggles with love, friendship, life and death, good and evil; it hits almost every literary theme that relates to the human experience. Stories that people can relate to are memorable and effective. Take a page out of the world’s greatest authors’ books (literally) and you will see just how effective, creative, and memorable your messages will become.

 

What are you doing to make your stories (campaigns/messages) memorable?

 

Here We Grow! Cool Tools for Small Business Growth

After finally launching their startups off the ground, the next step that most entrepreneurs and small business/startup owners dream of is watching their new businesses grow.

Whether a startup grows into a larger SMB (small and medium-sized business) or into a larger enterprise depends upon many different factors.

And although some of the factors related to small business growth are truly random, successful growth requires strategy. One smart strategy for small business growth is finding the right tool or tools from the get go.

Small business growth and taking your business to the next level typically requires unique tools

There are plenty of tools available that you can start using as a fledgling company that will not only help you grow, but will also grow as you do.

Here are three types of tools you may consider when starting out:

1) CRM (Customer Relationship Management) Solutions

One of the first tools you should consider is a robust CRM (Customer Relationship Management) solution. A good CRM helps you stay organized, keep track of your business interactions, housing all of your important client (and potential client) data, and keeping that valuable data up-to-date – all of which are important for small business growth.

Brian Sutter lists the key reasons why a CRM is essential for businesses in all stages of growth in his recent article for Entrepreneur as follows:

  • It maximizes financial opportunities by building relationships.
  • It allows businesses access to customer information.
  • It manages sales pipelines.
  • It manages sales representatives.
  • It analyzes performance and business metrics for spotting patterns and trends.

 

Here are three popular CRMs that are scalable for growing small businesses:

 

1) Insightly offers affordable CRM solutions for the smallest of businesses all the way through the enterprise level. It is a cloud-based CRM, which means employees can add and access data from anywhere, including mobile devices.

2) NetSuite CRM software is unique in that it is the only cloud solution that delivers a real-time 360-degree view of your customer. As they state on their site: “From midsize to enterprise, businesses of every size are slashing their total cost of ownership, improving their finance team’s productivity and integrating their sales and finance processes. And they can now securely access their business applications from anywhere.

3) Salesforce is also top CRM pick among businesses of all sizes, mainly because it is versatile, intuitive, and easy to use. Salesforce comes with many options for expanding beyond the CRM’s core functionalities (i.e., contact management, lead generation, forecasting and reports). As your business grows, so will the practicality of this CRM.

2) E-Commerce Solutions

E-commerce has been a popular strategy for small business growth among retailers for quite some time now.

And without a doubt, the startups and small businesses that implement e-commerce into their sales and marketing strategies often experience faster growth than their more traditional brick and mortar counterparts.

Peter Roesler touches upon some reasons why small businesses need e-commerce in his recent article for Inc. He states the following:

Investing in ecommerce is important for all businesses, because consumers use all channels at their disposal when researching, selecting and buying a product. In-store browsers can become online shoppers and vice versa.

More benefits of e-commerce include elimination of geographical boundaries and zero issues with time zones. With online stores, small business owners only spend a fraction of the costs associated with starting up and maintaining their businesses compared to similar brick and mortar stores.

 

Here are three popular e-commerce solutions for small businesses that are anticipating or already in the process of rapid growth:

 

1) Magento provides flexible tools that meet your online business’ unique needs and allows you to run your store effectively and efficiently. Magento’s enterprise solutions are scalable, support your growth, and grow as you do.

2) Shopify offers a user-friendly, clean, and modern interface for its users and is known as one of the world’s most scalable platforms. They even offer e-commerce software for all business sizes: small, medium and even enterprise solutions. A large benefit Shopify offers online businesses is a fully responsive web platform. This is a must-have for the large numbers of people who now shop via their smartphones and other mobile devices.

3) WooCommerce is currently one of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the web. This solution works when you already have a WordPress-powered website for your business; it is built to integrate seamlessly with your site. Through extensions, you can build and control the online storefront that is perfect for your business’ individual requirements.

3) Social Media Marketing Solutions

In November 2014, I wrote a post about popular social media tools that three well-known marketers use and recommend for their own businesses.

 

Here are three of the tools from this post which are useful for your startup – and they can keep up with you as you grow:

 

1) Buffer allows users to schedule and share posts to major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn – and most recently, Pinterest.

2) Google Alerts lets you monitor the web for content related to nearly any topic you choose.

3) Hootsuite lets an individual or an entire organization manage multiple social media profiles from one place. Hootsuite’s functions include scheduling social media content, reporting, and social engagement opportunities.

Over to you

Are you a small business or startup owner who is projecting large growth rates? What tools do you recommend for small business growth? I would love to hear your suggestions…please feel free to leave a comment below.

What Do I Need to Know About Freelancing?

What Do I Need to Know About Freelancing?

The Pros and Cons of Freelancing

When I first began seriously thinking about starting my own business in 2013, I had little idea what I was in for. Freelancing was a term I had heard of, but never really imagined doing it myself. Even though I come from an entrepreneurial family, I initially chose a different career path for myself in “Corporate America.” I started working at IBM within a couple of years of graduating from college and thought I was set for life.

However, life did catch up with me, in the form of marriage and two wonderful children. Somehow, climbing that corporate ladder did not seem quite so important to me anymore. Although I eased back into a couple of different corporate jobs when my boys were a little older, it never felt quite right. I guess my entrepreneurial roots kicked in when my maternal instincts did. At the time though, I had limited work-at-home options and zero stay-at-home-mom options.

Luckily, about the time I began growing weary of my last office job, I discovered my dream career – freelancing as a social media and content marketer. And, as I begin year 3 of freelancing in March, I am thrilled that things have turned out the way they have. Because I am finally where I belong and doing work that I love. Freelancing has allowed me to meet so many interesting people and work on a myriad of different and exciting projects.

Needless to say, freelancing isn’t all “roses and lollipops” though. Just like working in an office environment, some days are much more productive than others. It is also safe to say that freelancing, itself, is not for everyone – but it could be an option for you.

If you are thinking about dipping your toe in the freelancing waters, you probably have plenty of questions as you get started. My number 1 suggestion for you – no matter what your questions are – is to become best friends with Google. You’ll find a wealth of information out there about how to start freelancing, what to expect, and places where you can look for opportunities.

Here are some of the freelancing pros and cons I found and agree with

First of all, let me share a definition of “freelancer.”

Per Jörgen Sundberg for UnderCover Recruiter,

A freelancer, freelance worker, or freelance is somebody who is self-employed and is not committed to a particular employer long term.

Sounding good so far? Then let’s start with some of the positives.

“Pro’s” of Freelancing

1) Number one “pro”: Control

One of the toughest parts of working in a corporate environment for me was the loss of control. For example, I was expected at my office around the same time every day and could not leave until the designated time.

Freelancing, on the other hand, has provide me with the control I was personally seeking in my career. I have flexibility in what times I work, where I work, and who I work for.

2) Higher income potential

As a freelancer, you can work for as many (or as few) people as you wish. The same is true with projects. Depending on which industry you’re interested in, freelancing opportunities are plentiful.

As long as you are willing (and able) to put in the hours, you should have no trouble finding work. As well, you will never worry about being stuck with a capped salary or a ban on overtime pay.

3) Rut? What rut?!

Freelancing has provided me (and countless others) the luxury of “visiting” with clients from other parts of the country without ever leaving my kitchen table. Plus, I currently work on a unique and diverse set of projects, and it offers me new lessons and discoveries every day. It keeps my mind active and I never have boring days anymore.

Still sounding good? Great! However, it would be remiss of me if I only told you about the good side of freelancing. So, here we go with the other side…

“Cons” of Freelancing

1) No guarantees of steady work or clients who pay on time

I often refer to the freelance life as one of “feast or famine.” For some freelancers, there are times when they have to turn down work due to already full plates. Other times, there are no (or very few) projects, or you have clients who “forget” about paying you. That is when you may find yourself scrounging on the freelancing sites for work until your next big break. Don’t knock it though – I have obtained two permanent (and wonderful) clients from projects I applied for on Elance.com.

2) Being your own sales and marketing person

This part can be difficult for some freelancers. You’re not only working, but you must also find your own clients and projects.

3) You must have discipline and (sometimes) embrace solitude

Some people fantasize about working at home in their PJs all day, but I do not recommend it. Get up, take a shower, get dressed…it puts you in the right frame of mind, trust me.

If you are extroverted, you may find working alone a bit unnerving. Some of us visit Starbucks or the local library for a little company. You’ll find what works for you.

 

Now you know a little more about freelancing. Are you a freelancer or considering becoming one? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Please feel free to leave a comment below!

 

Related Resources:

Career Attraction The Pros and Cons of Never Having a “Real” Job

Speckyboy Design Magazine Is Working Freelance Really Worth It?

Giving credit where credit is due

Giving credit where credit is due

Last week I was very excited to find out I was on the Top 100 Social Media Power Influencers list. This was the list previously published on Forbes, but now hosted by StatSocial.

I’ll be honest, I hate these lists. I just wrote a post about it a few weeks ago. Why? It’s populated by the same people, some who deserve it, and some who don’t and some of the people who DO deserve it get left off.

So when I found out I made this list I was floored. Actually I was giddy as a schoolgirl. However at the same time I felt like a hypocrite – I had just written about why these things should be ignored and made my case only to now be on one.

Don’t get me wrong, I am honored be on this list with some of the people I have the utmost respect for. I am not discounting the hard work put into curating this list, but like all lists you have to take them with a grain of salt. No ranking system is perfect. This list was primarily focused on Twitter, which is my strongest platform. Had they taken into consideration all of the platforms and everyone’s blogs, the list would have turned out much different.

So instead of another rant against those lists or a post of reasons why I made it I thought I would time out to give credit where credit is due.

I get asked a lot about how I’ve gotten to where I am and I’ll be the first to say I didn’t do it alone. My business is almost 4 years old and I’ve been VERY fortunate to have success I honestly never thought I would have. If you had told me when I started that in 2015 I would have international clients, 4 interns and be interviewed by a company in Africa for a podcast, I would not have believed you. I’ve never actually publicly thanked the forces behind ME Marketing Services. Yes, I’m a solopreneur, but like most solopreneurs, it’s just a name. Rarely are we by ourselves. I always imagined whenever I thanked people it would be like giving an Oscar acceptance speech – gorgeous gown, diamonds, too-high heels and all.

So here we go…

Many people have had a hand in shaping my company. First and foremost, I have to give all credit to my Lord and Savior. I’m very involved in my faith and believe if you trust in the Lord and the plan He has for you, He won’t lead you astray. My favorite Bible verse is Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”” I trust and believe in every word that verse says.

Next I have to thank my husband. I couldn’t do this without his support and faith in me. Yes, there are nights I’m working until 11pm or typing away on the laptop as we try to watch one of our favorite shows, but he’s understanding and knows just when to tell me to turn it off – for my own good.

I have to thank my precious girls. It’s hard for a 6 and 10 year old to understand why mommy is always on the computer when they get home or why we can’t go to the pool just yet during those summer break days. They bear with me knowing that because of what I do, we can go and do fun stuff – like go shopping or get Chick-fil-A for lunch or take those trips to DisneyWorld for their birthdays. It will pay off one day – I hope that them seeing their mom own a business and put herself out there will inspire them to never take “no” for an answer and step outside their comfort zone to make a difference.

I have a lot of in-real-life and social media friends/peers who continually inspire me to be better and push me to fight through when I get burned out. Some even let me gripe to them over a Facebook message about the stupid stuff. I’m not going to list all the names, but you know who you are 🙂

Last but not least I have to thank my mom and dad. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.

 

Now it’s your turn – who do you want to thank and give credit where credit is due??

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