Small Business Diva

November 28, 2008

Knowing When To Use Free ‘Stuff’ In Your Business

Filed under: Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 9:47 pm
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When you’re starting a business there can be a lot of costs involved, using up much of your precious capital before you even make that first sale. It’s no wonder then that so many new business owners attempt to cut back on costs wherever possible.

There are many business expenses where you can save yourself a few dollars, or sometimes lots of dollars, by choosing a free or low-cost option. Some of these cheap alternatives can be great, and the money saved can then be put to work elsewhere. However there are some areas where it really doesn’t pay for you to take the cheap version. For those who are new to the business-world, it’s often difficult to know exactly when you can and can’t go with the free options. 

That’s why we’re here to guide you. Of course, whether or not the low-cost version is suitable can be influenced by the industry you’re in and the market you are targeting, but here are some suggestions to guide you.

When it’s NOT okay to use free stuff…

Legal/financial advice: When it comes to legal and financial advice, please don’t scrimp. Although it may cost a bit to seek advice from a solicitor and/or accountant, it may save you so much more in the long run. It’s best to ensure that your structure and legal obligations are set up correctly from the start, especially if you will be entering into agreements and contracts or borrowing funds.

Email address: There are several ways to obtain a free email address, through hotmail or yahoo for example. However these don’t look professional and many people will not take any notice of such addresses, often linked with spammers. It’s worthwhile investing the small amount of money to register a domain name for your business and having an email address linked to that. You can still use the email address even if you don’t have a website at the moment. That way you will have a professional email address that will be taken seriously, such as xxx@YourDomainName.com.au.

Business cards: These will no doubt be a central part of your marketing efforts and people do judge you by your business card. If you don’t have the funds to get cards professionally made, or don’t want to spend too much in case you change details in the first few months, as you often do, you can buy discount cards online from www.VistaPrint.com.au or www.ClickBusinessCards.com.au. You can choose one of their templates and add your contact details, or upload your own design. They are usually fairly good quality, especially for their price.

Registering a business name: This is another area where you really must invest in registering your business name and it is a legal requirement in Australia. Check with the relevant agency in your state or country as each state has their own rules. You can always look at trademarking your business name later but initially, make sure the business name registration is in order.

November 26, 2008

Winning Ways With Competitions

Filed under: Marketing Tips,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 9:15 pm
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While reading the Poss Bloss blog just now I came across the Winners Are Grinners post where the winners of three competitions are announced.

Competitions can be a great way of attracting new customers or subscribers, as well as a way for potential customers to sample some of your products or services. Plus they can be a fantastic way to promote your business.

If you choose to run a competition, spread the word far and wide. You can promote the competition on other web sites and blogs, in newsletters, in flyers… there are even numerous web sites that are solely for the promotion of competitions. If you have valuable prizes or some unique aspect to your competition it’s also worthwhile sending a media release to relevant media outlets.

Just a final note… if you are running a competition of any type, please check the regulations specific to your state as permits or approvals may be required.

November 18, 2008

How To Earn A Full-Time Income Plus On eBay

Have you ever bought or sold anything on eBay?

I was fortunate enough to spend last Friday – Sunday at an eBay Magic Seminar on the Gold Coast, run by the eBay Magicians, Matt and Amanda Clarkson.

I can honestly say that this was a highly worthwhile weekend, with loads of valuable information being shared. Matt and Amanda are such lovely, genuine people with a high level of integrity… and a great sense of humour. In addition to all the useful information and brilliant ideas, I spent three days with a room full of positive, motivated people, some of whom I’m sure I’ll be keeping in touch with.

Matt and Amanda speak all around the world so if ever you get a chance to hear them, it will be worth the effort to go.

You can read more about Matt and Amanda in the latest edition of the Business Mums Magazine (they’re the gorgeous couple on the cover) or visit their Bidding Buzz web site where you can download a free audio with more information on how to earn a living from selling on eBay.

November 12, 2008

The Importance Of Having Effective Business Systems In Place

When growing a business, it’s important to define, implement, and establish systems early on. A business system is a working combination of people and automated applications organised to meet a certain set of business objectives.

Every aspect of your business should have a system in place to gauge productivity, effectiveness, and growth.

Systems are put into place to leverage resources: time, capital, and assets. With established systems, you’re ensuring that every part of your business is being used to its full potential and is available, on call, when you need it.

Some basic systems every business should have include sales and marketing, inventory tracking, client lists, customer service, payroll, and production. For example:

  • If a new product is to launch, your Marketing system needs to be in place to plan a proper campaign that coincides with the product’s debut, street date, and promotional tie-ins.
  • If your company sees a shift in its overall business model, with sales growing in size, then it’s important that the support team also grows proportionately to handle the increased business. With a system in place that accounts for manpower, you should be able to make such adjustments with ease, without the worry of deadlines missed, revenue delayed, or new clients lost.

Documented systems ensure that your business will still continue to run smoothly and effectively if you’re not there to look after it. Furthermore, it will greatly increase the value if you ever want to sell your business or franchise it. To use an age-old metaphor, think of the business as a wheel with every established system being a spoke. If one is broken or for whatever reason, not functioning at full capacity, the wheel’s structure will weaken. To avoid a total collapse, the problem spoke will need to be fixed immediately. The same can be said of your business. By establishing individual systems and having your business be the sum of all parts, you’ll be able to identify such weak spots more quickly, address them, and get back to the primary objective at hand: success.

November 4, 2008

How Much Do You Charge For Your Goods And Services?

Filed under: Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 3:54 pm
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What should you charge?

It’s one of the most basic, yet most elusive questions asked in all types of businesses. Of course you want to make money, but you also want to set prices at a reasonable rate so that you will not lose business. So how do you strike that balance? How do you calculate pricing for products and services offered through your business? How do you determine a rate that is right for all involved?

Business First

The first thing to remember when setting prices for goods and services is that you are in business to turn a profit—not just to be a nice guy or girl, but to make money. If you do not set your prices at a rate that allows for profitability after expenses, you do not have a profitable, sustainable, business, and success in small business will always be unachievable. If you’ve set the bar too low, you’ll be out of business within months.

Clients and Customers Second

Naturally you cannot completely ignore your clientele and customer base when setting your prices. Whomever your target audience is, your prices must reflect a cost that can be supported by that market segment. However, if you do your research and give value for the money, you should have arrived at a cost sustainable by your group.

Tips for Setting the Pricing Bar

Let’s take a look at the actual process of setting prices for products and services. Use these tips and market factors to help you arrive at a competitive pricing structure.

  • First, research the competition. Get a clear view on the prices they are charging, and where your offerings can fit in along the spectrum. Use averages as a basis, and adjust up and down according to additional or lesser value (based on factors such as those following).
  • Decide how to charge. Are you looking for an hourly rate or a project-based rate? Is it a unit or wholesale price you are offering? Evaluate your product, experience or skills. In service-based industries, generally speaking an increase in experience equates to a higher fee for service.
  • Account for all variables. If there is something your product offers that another doesn’t, increase to reflect the value. If there are additional costs involved for shipping, marketing and so on, add those in too. For service-based businesses, consider all the small variables that might impact pricing. If you offer additional services, compensate for them; if clients expect add-ons, build a fee structure that allows you to recoup revenue.
  • Allow for overheads. Determine how much of your business’ overheads must be supported by individual sales. Build that fractional amount into your pricing.
  • Build in profit. After carefully evaluating the competition and all expenses, set a base price and then build a profit-margin into it. Determine how much profit you will be satisfied with and set your price accordingly.

Justification through Value

The one factor to always keep at the forefront of pricing is value. To be clear here, this is not about justifying your price. Your price will be justified if you have set prices fairly, based on the true value of your goods or services. Focus on the value you deliver, set a reasonable, sustainable fee, and be confident that you have served the greater good of all involved.

October 29, 2008

Tilda Virtual Services Are Looking For A New Team Member

I just noticed that Tilda Virtual Services are looking for a new team member – someone who is proficient in video and audio editing.

If you think you have what it takes or would like to find out more, please fill out the form on Kylie’s blog.

October 20, 2008

It’s Time To Spread The Word

Business Mums Magazine

Business Mums Magazine

Throughout October and November the Business Mums Magazine is running a competition. Everyone who helps to Spread The Word about the magazine can enter the competition to win some cool prizes.

The first entry is a video created by Mary-Lou at Groovy Kids Parties that features the magazine – you can see it here on the Magazine’s blog.

Melissa from Business Mums Network has also put together a Top 10 Tips guide that you can download for free. This guide is a summary of all the Top 10 Tips sections that have been in the magazine over the last two years.

If you want to enter the competition, put your thinking cap on and start spreading the word.

October 6, 2008

What Is Market Research And Why Is It Important?

Filed under: Marketing Tips,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 12:34 pm
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What is market research?  Why is it so important to success in small business? 

These are important questions to answer for any small- and medium-sized business (and indeed large companies as well). Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for small business market research to be ignored or not completed fully. This often spells the downfall of small businesses, as they are out of touch with the wants and needs of motivated buyers.

The Danger of Assumptions

Many small business owners assume that they understand what their customers want and what motivates them to buy. But without accurately testing the market you can never be sure. There is a danger involved in assuming that you know what your client-base wants and what motivates them to choose one supplier or provider over another. The danger is in missing your target audience and not connecting with them. That loss of connection means a loss of business or sales, and for many, ultimately business failure.

Rather than assume you know what your core target group wants, be sure! The only way to be sure is to test your market through thorough market research, and find out precisely how to incite them to action, and excite them about your business.

What is Market Research?

One of the greatest reasons small businesses fail to effectively complete market research is that they are unsure about what it is.

In simplest terms, market research is finding out what people want and will buy (whether that be services or goods), and how much they will pay for it. Thorough market research consists of testing and evaluating the market through different means to determine the demand, usefulness and likelihood of acceptance of a product across different demographics. It answers very specifically who will purchase a product or service based on characteristics such as:

  • age
  • gender
  • location
  • income
  • other variable characteristics

Armed with this data, business owners can very narrowly target their audience and clientele, and thus can commit resources, product development and advertising to connecting with this audience and very specifically serve their needs. Market research helps small businesses plan for every aspect of promotion and sales, including:

  • price
  • advertising and marketing
  • product features and development
  • improvements and modifications

A common mistake made by many small business owners is that they may become too personally ‘attached’ to their ideas. It is essential to maintain objectivity in marketing matters and use the research to support the most effective strategy.

Understanding market research and its importance is the first step towards taking full advantage of it. The next step is to learn how to perform it effectively and accurately so that you can capitalise on this very important business tool. Know where market research falls into your business strategy, and learn how to make the connections with your core group that will translate into business success.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

October 1, 2008

Make Sure You Protect Family Time

While reading Elena’s EP Designs blog I came across her post about protecting family time.

Elena shares with her readers the following article:

Protecting Family Time by Melissa Khalinsky

For many home based businesses, the line between business time and family time can be blurred. It is easy for clients for demand attention at all hours. As parents, it is more important than ever to protect your family time, drawing a line between work and leisure.

Here a few ways you can protect your family time.

  1. Set office hours – even if your set hours are erratic, fitting around your children, set office hours when you will be working. Outside these hours, be un-contactable, by phone and email. Answer emails and phone messages during office hours.
  2. Schedule family time – you put all your business meetings in your diary, to ensure you keep your appointments. Do the same with your family time – and ensure you keep your appointments!
  3. Use voicemail – during family time, turn your mobile phone off and unplug your phone or screen your calls. If it is an important matter, your clients will leave a message or call back later. You may even want to change your voicemail message to let callers know when you will be back in the office.
  4. Have a separate work area – if possible, keep your work area separate from your living area. If a separate room is unavailable, set yourself up in a corner that is designated as your office. Set yourself up so that your work can be put away during family time, so you are not tempted to start working while you are with your family.

Remember, if you were working for someone else, and working nine to five, your clients wouldn’t expect you to be available after hours, on weekends or when you are on holiday. Your family time is precious – protect it.

Melissa Khalinsky is a work at home mother of 2 boys. She runs Business Mums Network, a support and information network for parents.

Article Source: The RepOZitory – FREE reprint articles from Australia for WAHMs and Business Mums.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 26, 2008

Business Mums Magazine… Interesting Statistics

The Business Mums Magazine blog lists some interesting statistics about the content and contributors for the magazine over the last two years.

Business Mums Magazine ~ For mums who mean business

Business Mums Magazine ~ For mums who mean business

“Over the last 12 issues:

72 different people have had articles published in the magazine

  • We have published 232 different articles, not including News Snippets, network updates and advertorials
  • Donna-Marie Coggins of Jacaranda Business Support Services has had the highest number of articles published, currently sitting on 18 articles
  • 38 authors have had a single article published
  • There have been 20 articles published in the Marketing & Promotions category
  • We have featured 22 different Business Mums in Inspiring Women and Member Profiles”

(courtesy of the Business Mums Magazine Blog)

I find statistics really interesting (yes, I know… I enjoy doing my bookkeeping and preparing my tax returns too). If you are pretty good with writing and are interested in writing content-filled business articles as a way to share information with others and boost your own branding, why not consider submitting an article or two to the Business Mums Magazine?

If writing isn’t your thing but you would like to get your hands on a copy of the magazine (edited by Yours Truly), visit this site for more information. Tell Melissa I sent you  🙂

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 25, 2008

Do You Know Where Your Words May End Up?

When you write something on the internet – on your blog, blog comments, your website, articles that you publish – do you ever stop and wonder where your words may end up?

Personally, it never ceases to amaze me where my articles end up. I often see articles I’ve submitted to article directories on other people’s blog and websites, and I’ve even seen a couple in business newsletters that I subscribe to (all used appropriately and acknowledging the author, of course).

This week, I discovered that a post by Paul B. Brown on the New York Times Business Blog has quoted the Small Business Diva. Who would ever have thought? (NB: This is a great blog by the way – definitely worth visiting).

Now, would you like to know how I discovered this? No, I don’t have time to spend all day reading through millions of websites/blogs. I subscribe to Google Alerts. All you do is go to Google Alerts and enter the search terms you want to be alerted to, such as your name, your business name or even just an industry or topic that you’re interested in. Enter how often you want to receive email alerts, whether you want websites, blogs or everything, and your email address. That’s it. Simple.

When someone publishes something that includes your nominated search terms, you’ll be sent an email with the details.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 13, 2008

Handy Computer Shortcuts – Part 2

Recently I wrote about some handy computer shortcuts that will save you time on the keyboard. As promised in that post, Handy Computer Shortcuts, here are a few more for you to play with:

  • Take you to the start of that line – Home
  • Take you to the start of the document – Ctrl (control) + Home
  • Take you to the end of that line – End
  • Take you to the start of the document – Ctrl + End
  • Create a new document – Ctrl + N
  • Insert a page break – Ctrl + Enter
  • Decrease font size – Ctrl + Shift + <
  • Increase font size – Ctrl + Shift + >
  • To change lowercase text to ALL CAPS – Ctrl + Shift + A
  • To insert a date field – Alt + Shift + D
  • Delete the word before the cursor – Ctrl + Backspace
  • Delete the word after the cursor – Ctrl + Del
  • Double-click to highlight the word the cursor is in
  • Triple-click to highlight the paragraph the cursor is in

Have fun playing with those!

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 10, 2008

Hectic Helpers’ Essential Weekly Tips

One newsletter that I subscribe to that I look forward to receiving each week is the Hectic Helpers Tip of the Week.

Kay from Hectic Helpers – your to-do list specialist – sends weekly ideas that will help get anyone organised. For an over-organised neat-freak like me, I can’t get enough extra handy hints!

If you would like to learn a few quick, easy ideas for getting (and staying) organised, subscribe to the Hectic Helpers Tip of the Week now.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 8, 2008

What Printer Is Best For You?

Filed under: Office Organisation,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 3:15 pm
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Jenni Markham wrote a post on her blog last month about her experiences shopping for a new printer and it reminded me of some of my printer shopping experiences.  When you go looking for a new printer there are so many different designs, each boasting an assortment of features and with a huge variance in price.

Before shopping for a new printer it’s a good idea to decide what features you really need; what features would be nice but are not essential; and what your budget is. Everyone’s needs are different, so the printer that is best for me may be totally different to the printer that is best for you.

Things to consider and questions to ask about prospective printers include:

  • Do you require a colour printer or is black and white sufficient?
  • Do you require a high quality of printing or is it mostly draft quality you’ll be printing?
  • How many pages (roughly) do you print each day/week?
  • Do you require borderless printing (where you can print to all edges of the page – not all printers have this capability)?
  • What will it cost you to replace the ink or toner cartridges?
  • Approximately how many pages will you be able to print with each ink or toner cartridge?
  • Will you require fast printing?
  • What sort of media will you be printing on (e.g. paper, envelopes, cardboard, transfers)?
  • Do you require a printer with wireless capability (e.g. so you can print from your computer/laptop without cables connecting the devices)?
  • What is the manufacturer’s support like? Do they have a representative in your country/region?
  • What warranty is included?
  • Will you need to access photo memory cards direct on your printer?
  • Ensure that your computer can meet the printer’s specific software/hardware requirements.
  • If possible, ask around friends and associates for brands that they recommend or have had past problems with.
  • Once you have decided on the specific model you want it pays to shop around for the best price.

By spending a bit of time getting to know your exact requirements and asking a few questions while shopping around you may save yourself a lot of hassles and cost in the long run.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

September 2, 2008

My.Organiser Refill Pages Have Arrived… Nearly!

If you’re a regular reader of A Good Sort’s blog then you would no doubt have read that the 2009 refill pages for their My.Organiser and mini organiser are due to arrive this Friday.

If you’re not familiar with A Good Sort and their attractive, practical organisers, check them out now.

August 28, 2008

New Business Mums Blog

Melissa from Business Mums Network has got a new blog – Business Mums Blog – that’s already full of great tips and ideas, perfect for busy Business Mums.

If you’re not a mum but you do run a business, it’s still worth checking out. Many dads and non-parents will still find plenty of ideas to help their business.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

August 22, 2008

Handy Computer Shortcuts

Filed under: Time Management,Tips & Tricks,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 11:00 am
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There are lots and lots of keyboard shortcuts that you can use to save time when using the computer. I know some regular readers already use these shortcuts, but I also know there are others who aren’t aware of them.

Here’s a list of the most common shortcuts. These can be used in MS Word but you will find that they will usually work just the same in most other MicroSoft programs and in fact, in many other applications too.

For these shortcuts, first highlight the text concerned, then:

  • Copy – hold down CTRL and the ‘C’ key
  • Paste – CTRL + V
  • Cut – CTRL + X
  • Undo – CTRL + Z
  • Repeat – CTRL + Y
  • Underline – CTRL + U
  • Bold – CTRL + B
  • Italics – CTRL + I
  • Open a Document – CTRL + O
  • Save a Document CTRL + S
  • Print a Document – CTRL + P
  • Close a Document – CTRL + W
  • Select Everything – CTRL + A
  • Help – F1

There are lots more but I’ll share those with you another time. For now, if you’re not used to using the shortcut keys, just pick one or two of these functions that you use often and practise using them. Once you’re familiar with those and remember them by heart, choose another couple and start using those. Before you know it, you’ll be a whizz with all these shortcuts.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

July 31, 2008

Solid Foundations For The Ideal Business

Yesterday I had the sheer pleasure of attending a presentation by James McNamara of the Impact Factory, at the Brisbane Business Growth Session.

I have to say, James’ presentation on How to Have a Life and a Successful Business was awesome! He shared so much valuable information, including several simple strategies to ensure that your business is built on strong foundations.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear James speak I urge you to take it. In the meantime, visit the Impact Factory website to read James’ 7 Proven Principles of Business Success.

Here’s to your success in business,

Donna-Marie

July 29, 2008

What Difference Does A Font Make?

Filed under: Communication,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 4:27 pm
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Three people this week have asked my opinion on what font is best for a particular project so I thought I would share some of the basics of fonts with you – which type to use when.

Very generally, for documents that will be read from a printed medium – flyer, magazine, newspaper – a serif font such as Times New Roman, Courier or Georgia is best. Serif fonts are the ones where each letter has little ‘feet’.

For documents that are more likely to be read on a computer – websites, ebooks, blogs, emails – sans serif (without feet) fonts such as Arial, Verdana and Tahoma are the best. Serif fonts on a computer screen can tend to look a little blurry and people with less than perfect eyesight may have trouble reading them.

Of course, sometimes you will want a specific font that matches your style, brand and image. Generally, cursive fonts such as Monotype Corsiva will be considered elegant; handwriting fonts such as Kristen or Lucida Handwriting give a fun, child-like feel; fonts that lean to the right imply something that is fast or energetic; Comic Sans is something more relaxed or fun; strong bold fonts such as Impact or Broadway imply… well, bold or impacting.

There are no hard and fast rules but these are more general guidelines that seem to be universally accepted.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

July 21, 2008

Another Favourite Business Book

Filed under: Book Reviews,Juggling Work and Family,Small Business,Work from Home — smallbusinessdiva @ 12:19 pm
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Over the weekend I decided to re-read one of my favourite business books – an oldie but a goodie, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About it by Michael Gerber.

I must admit, this is one of those books that I don’t think I will ever tire of reading. It contains so many good ideas that I make a point of going over it every year or so.

In The E-Myth Revisited Michael explains that there are fundamentally three different ‘hats’ that a business owner will wear – the Entrepreneur, the Manager and the Technician. In other words, the business owner – the person who has all the ideas and sees the big picture; the business manager – the one who implements the ideas and sees that everything is running smoothly; and the mechanic who makes the products or provides the services.

As new business owners we often try to fill all three roles ourselves, but in reality we’re not doing ourselves or our business dreams any justice in doing this. We need to determine which of the three roles we are best suited to and then source partners, staff, contractors… others who can help fill the other two roles. Often it is necessary for a start-up micro-business to fill all of these roles initially however it’s a good idea to do so with a plan in place to fill the other roles as you are able to.

This book also talks about the importance of having systems in place so your business runs like a well-oiled machine and he outlines ways to help develop your venture into a turn-key business.

There are other topics mentioned in this book such as the various stages of business growth, however the two points mentioned above would have to be the main points that I have taken from The E-Myth Revisited.

In case you hadn’t already figured, The E-Myth Revisited is a book that I highly recommend every business owner or prospective business owner read at least once.

Not everyone will want their business to operate like Michael Gerber’s suggested model but it’s certainly worthwhile knowing this information.

Here’s to your success in business…

Donna-Marie

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