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Monthly Archives: November 2016

7 Great Small Business Ideas

Online retailer

You don’t have to be a big-box retailer to start an online store. Whether you sell directly to consumers or use a drop-shipping service, all you need is a website and the right e-commerce software to get started. You can sell your own products or items from niche suppliers.

Event planner

Do you love throwing parties and organizing meetings? Start an event-planning business and turn your passion into a profitable venture. As an event planner, you can help individuals and corporations plan their need to be resourceful and have a keen eye for detail. You will also need the patience to deal with clients’ demands and the ability to stay calm during stressful situations and unforeseen disasters.

Yard work

Got rake, will travel? Most landscapers will cut grass, but they don’t necessarily do the stuff that most homeowners don’t have time to do themselves, such as weeding, planting, leaf raking, snow shoveling, hanging or removing holiday decorations. With little more than some work gloves and a ladder, you could be in business in no time.

omputer maintenance

Got a tech background? With the proliferation of tablets, smartphones and laptops for every member of the family, there are lots of opportunities to provide private computer services such as anti-virus software installation, desktop cleanups, software downloads and printer hookups.

Virtual assistant

If you’ve got a background in administrative work but want to work for yourself, this might be a perfect opportunity for you. Virtual assistants work remotely and do all the things a business owner or manager doesn’t have time to do, such as open and answer emails, follow up with customers, invoice customers or pay bills. All of these tasks and more can all be done from your own home computer via the cloud.

Bookkeeper

Very few businesses can live without a bookkeeper. But that doesn’t mean they have to have one on staff. If you’ve got a background in finance, you can offer affordable bookkeeping services as an independent contractor. You may have to log a few in-office hours during tax season, but in most cases, the work can be done remotely.

Translator

As America becomes increasingly multilingual, everyone from doctors to insurance companies find themselves in need of foreign language speakers to help interact with their customers and translate their website copy and promotional materials. If you can speak a foreign language, are organized, and can come up with a good marketing plan, you may find you have more work than you can handle.

7 Great Online Business Ideas

 When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 7 great ideas you can run with.

Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory.

Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

Tips to Launch Your Own Clothing Line

 Have you ever dreamed of being a fashion designer? Maybe you could never find clothes you liked so you made your own, or maybe you fell in love with your home-ec class in middle school. However this path started for you, it has the potential to end in a successful fashion brand.

You might not be showing your line at New York Fashion Week, but you can still create and launch your own line. The founders of independent clothing lines shared their secrets to success.

Matthew Johnson, owner and designer at Seventhfury Studios andSeventh.Ink Shirts and Apparel, founded Seventh.Ink in 2007 as a way to showcase his artwork on clothing. Before he began producing and selling his shirts, hoodies and accessories, which includes patches, pins, and art, he took the time to learn everything he could about the fashion industry.

“It really does pay to do your research,” Johnson told Business News Daily. “Read articles and interviews from your favorite brands, talk to those brands and check out websites like How to Start a Clothing Company (HTSACC) to get as much insight as you can.”

In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Toby Nwazor said that knowing where to produce the clothing line is an extremely important decision because the clothing line’s initial quality will be what the business’ reputation is based on, for better or for worse.

The fashion market has always been a crowded one, so to stand out, you need something truly unique. Albam Clothing, a U.K.-based menswear brand started in 2006, started with co-founder Alastair Rae and his business partner designing with eight original styles, which would become Albam’s line of high-quality men’s fashion.

“The idea was borne out of a joint frustration that we had over the price and quality of men’s clothing available at the time,” Rae said.

Albam’s success stems from its founders’ dedication to producing something different than what was out there on the market. Similarly, Johnson stressed the importance of bringing something fresh to the table.

“If you squeeze out the same thing that everyone else is making, people are going to go with the existing brand instead of you,” he said.

To build up your initial inventory, you’ll need the money to produce it. HTSACC defines an “indie” clothing line as one that wants to produce high-quality products and plans to expand in the future once the brand grows. The site estimates that indie brands need a minimum of $500 to get going. If you want in-house production, it could take as much as $10,000 in startup costs. Five hundred dollars to $2500 is usually where most indie brands land.

“I ended up doing preorder designs once I got the hang of the business,” Johnson said.  “I was able to get an idea of what was selling and have the funds up front to pay for production.”

Nwazor wrote that to ensure a profit, the entrepreneur must establish wholesale and retail rates higher than the expenses. A target for these rates would be to earn a profit margin 30 to 50 percent higher than associated expenses, he said.

Making your own clothes by hand is fine when you only have a few customers, but as your brand grows, you may need to outsource in order to scale your operation. Johnson enlisted the help of a screen-printing friend to produce the clothing for his Florida-based company. Rae, on the other hand, was developing new fabrics for Albam clothes and wanted to find local manufacturers right off the bat.

“A big challenge for us was convincing factories that we were serious about manufacturing in the U.K.,” Rae said. “They were not used to new businesses approaching them.”

To prepare for manufacturing, Nwazor suggested securing capital through investments from others, typically loans, or from the entrepreneur’s personal money. The initial investment will range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending upon inventory and quality.

Knowing how to market is critical for success. Having a good website for you brand makes it easier for customers to shop for your products, but advertising is what drives them to the site. Johnson quickly learned that paid advertising just wasn’t worth it.

“I realized that word of mouth was the best way to spread the news about my brand without dropping a lot of money,” he said.

Nwazor agrees that a great online presence is important.

“You have a lot to lose if you don’t move your business online, because the online commerce market is more important than brick-and-mortar location,” he wrote.

“Listen to your customers’ feedback,” Rae advised. “Don’t be afraid to remake old styles that customers are asking for, or kill a best-seller if it feels like the right thing to do.”

Johnson also recommended getting customer input before making major changes, and if you do modify your brand, do it slowly.

“A sudden switch is not only going to make customers question [your brand], but it’ll likely cause sales to plummet because people have a tough time with major changes when they have a good thing going,” Johnson said.

Like any startup, clothing lines take a lot of hard work and dedication. You will meet some challenges along the way, but if you believe in yourself and your brand, you’ll succeed.

“Owning a clothing line isn’t an easy or glamorous endeavor,” Johnson said. “It’s tough work that pays off successfully if you give it your all and enjoy what you do.”

4 Tips to Start a Virtual Assistant Business

 Businesses of all sizes need administrative help, but having a full-time employee on site can be cost-prohibitive. Enter virtual assistants (VAs), administrative professionals who offer a wide variety of services remotely, operating as their own small businesses.

Through technology like cloud collaboration software, videoconferences, project management apps and instant messaging, entrepreneurs who want to start a virtual assistant firm have all the tools they need to successfully work with business clients.

“The reasons for utilizing a VA firm have become more needs-driven, customized and service-oriented,” said Michelle Anastasio-Festi, CEO and founder of CT Virtual Assistance. “It’s gone beyond reducing expenses or needing more time, (and businesses are now) focusing on the bigger picture of how hiring a VA can help them achieve their business goals faster, or promote their brand or service.”

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If you’re interested in taking advantage of this lucrative business opportunity and becoming a VA, here’s some expert advice for how to make it work.

Operating as a VA on your own can feel like you are all by yourself, but in fact, there are professional groups, online forums and books to support you in your business dream. By reading and researching what services a VA can perform, you can narrow down your own offerings. And by networking with other VAs, you can benefit from subcontracting work or advice from more established VAs.

“Most VAs are more than happy to help out someone who is new to the field. And even if they don’t have any subcontracting work, they may be able to refer you to someone who does,” said Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, MBTI Certified, with All Things Admin.

There’s a lot more to being a VA than helping with the tasks your client needs you to do. Having office experience will help you in your day-to-day duties, but as an independent business, you need to learn the ropes of how to run it.

“Working virtually means you must exercise great discipline,” said Tim Petree, senior vice president of BST Concierge. “You’re your own boss, (but) those corporate rules that once seemed to be a drag can save you from financial ruin when you’re the CEO or sole proprietor. If anything, you must now be conversant in all areas of business administration — sales, marketing, IT, customer service, project management, receivables, payables and compliance.”

As with any type of virtual work, not being in the office for face-to-face interactions with your clients can present some difficulties if your or their communications are unclear. VAs perform many of the important day-to-day tasks that keep a business running, so knowing what’s required of you as a service provider is key to customer satisfaction.

As a VA and as a business owner, you’ll need to be able to deliver exactly what each client needs. It’s a good idea to determine the best structure for your service packages and pricing based on what your clients are looking for.

“A VA provides business owners with the opportunity to get exactly what they need, when they need it, like ordering from a menu,” Anastasio-Festi said. “Because most VAs offer a wide range of services to various industries, it becomes confusing as to who needs what most. [Our firm] is moving away from hourly retainers and more towards customizing individual monthly packages that are tailored to each client’s needs.”