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  • A Closer Look at Financial Numbers, Lifestyle Businesses, and Networking
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    This week on #Smallbizchat LIVE, our show featured three guests: The Few Numbers that Make ALL the Difference with Ellen Rohrm @ellenrohr, Building a Business Around Your Lifestyle with Donna Maria Coles Johnson, @donnamaria, and Gaining Leads and Contacts at Networking Events with David Weiss, @EdibleSelfie. I pulled three of the best questions from each of them to share with you. Every third Wednesday of the month, Smallbizchat LIVE is broadcast on my SmallBizLady Facebook Page, YouTube channel and on Twitter @SmallBizLady. Ellen Rohr is an owner of ZOOM DRAIN and Sewer Franchising, a Ziglar Certified Legacy trainer and the author un-fussy business books, including Where Did the Money Go? and The Weekend Biz Plan. You can learn more at https://ellenrohr.com/. SmallBizLady: Financial reports?  Who has time?  What is the bare minimum I need to do to be a responsible business owner? Ellen Rohr: Run a simple Balance Sheet and P&L.  Weekly is best.  You may get by with monthly.  Work with your accountant, or your bookkeeper, or another savvy business owner and go line by line down your financial reports.  Put a next to the numbers that are accurate, and a ? Or a next to the numbers that look wrong.  Then audit to verify your own numbers.  This is time-consuming at first, like cleaning a messy house, but you will never have to clean it up again if you keep it tidy.  The Kondo Method of financial cleanup! SmallBizLady: The P&L makes sense, but the Balance Sheet is confusing.  How do I make sense of it? Ellen Rohr: The words are weird, so here are some definitions.  The Balance Sheet is structured like this:  Assets = Liabilities + Equity.  Assets are what you have, your stuff.  Liabilities are what you owe.   Equity is what you own.  What you have = who lays claim to what you have.  Another way to look at it is… what you have – what you owe = what you own.  This is good to know!  In the game of business, you want more stuff!  And you don’t want to owe more than you have.  Once you keep score, you can make the score better. SmallBizLady: What are the numbers I really need to pay attention to? Ellen Rohr: On the Balance Sheet, start with your Cash Ration. Donna Maria is an author, blogger, and the host of the popular Indie Business Podcast. Donna… Read more »
  • Why It’s Important to Use Professional Invoices as a Freelancer
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    When you first started freelance, you were likely asking all sorts of questions such as how do I find clients or what is an invoice? Luckily, over time you’ve learned the tricks of the trade and know the ins and outs of being a successful freelancer. But, there’s always room to grow and learn. One of the most important skills to master as a freelancer is invoicing. Proper invoicing is crucial so that you’re paid the money that you’re owed for the work you’ve completed. But, invoicing is much more than just sending your client a list of assignments and their cost. Keep reading to learn about the importance of professional invoices and how you can make the process a lot less cumbersome and time-consuming. Invoices Reflect Your Professionalism It pays to be a well-rounded freelancer. From your communications to the work you provide, clients like knowing that they can depend on you for prompt responses and top notch work. To make yourself a better-rounded freelancer, it’s important to send clients professional invoices that don’t look as if they were thrown together at the last minute. While invoices don’t need to be over-the-top intricate, they do need to include certain pieces of information so that clients (and you!) can keep track of the numbers over months and years. Before sending an invoice, you’ll want to ensure you include this basic information: Your name Contact information Client’s name Invoice number Issue date Due date Most importantly, you want to provide line item descriptions and the total amount due. The line item descriptions provide a breakdown of the goods and services that you provided during the invoice period. While it may be easier to bulk goods and services together, it’s best to break them down so that clients can have detailed tracking information. Each line item should have a description, quantity, rate, and subtotal. For example, if you’re a freelance writer, you may have created several blog posts and social media posts for the client. For each line item, you’ll want to provide the title of the blog post along with the set per-word rate. For social media posts, you can lump them into a bulk assignment and just change the quantity. Once you’ve completed all of the line item descriptions, the last step to creating an invoice is to provide information as to how and where a client should pay you.… Read more »
  • 10 Small Business Lessons from 20 Years of Business
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    I can’t believe this year marks 20 years I’ve been in business! 20 years ago I started Quintessence Group, my marketing consulting firm that works with Fortune 500 firm to reach small business, in the basement of my house. We work with brands such as VISA, Google, FedEx, Sam’s Club, ADP, The Hartford, and Pitney Bowes. I launched the business in March 1999, after a five-year career as a TV news producer. This is also a double milestone year as I’m also celebrating my 10th year as SmallBizLady, a nickname I picked up from Twitter since Melinda Emerson was not available back then. I could not have imagined how amazing this journey in business and becoming a top small business influencer would be. There are so many people who have helped me, given me opportunities, mentored me, and prayed for me, and I love you all. Special thanks to Team SmallBizLady. They are an extraordinary group of women and one man who keep things running smoothly. As I reflect on this incredible milestone, I contemplate the biggest small business lessons I’ve learned along the way. 10 Small Business Lessons from 20 Years of Business Here are the top small business lessons I’ve learned after 20 years of business. 1. Pay Attention to Marketing Trends Things are changing with SEO, social media, mobile/web & text marketing, voice search, online ads and so on. You could easily be left behind. Make sure your website is updated every 24-36 months and that it can be found by any device. Take note of new keywords, hashtags, content ideas, and online marketing tactics. For example, at this time, video is converting better than anything on all platforms. 2. Look at Your Leadership Style My leadership style has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years. I must say that I am a kinder, gentler version of myself in my business these days. People disappoint me, but my reaction to it is quite different. What Kind of Boss Are You? A Good Boss? A Bad Boss? Are you the kind of boss who everyone knows what kind of day you are having by how you treat them? Your leadership sets the tone for your company culture, so consider making an adjustment if you see high churn among your employees or customers. You might just be the problem 3. Use Your Accountant as a Business Advisor… Read more »
  • Protecting Your Small Business from Fraud
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    Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Tiffany Couch, @TheTiffanyCouch. Tiffany is CEO and founder of Acuity Forensics, a nationally recognized forensic accounting firm. Her book, “The Thief in Your Company,” explores the financial and emotional impact of fraud. Learn more at www.acuityforensics.com. SmallBizLady: Why is small business susceptible to fraud? Tiffany Couch: Often with limited resources, small business owners are relieved to find seemingly trustworthy and competent accountants or bookkeepers to handle the money and pay bills. Because of their trustworthy nature and the fact that business owners are so busy with other aspects, that accountant/bookkeeper often has little to no oversight over their work. Allowing for fraud to go on, unnoticed. SmallBizLady: What are the biggest red flags of fraud? Tiffany Couch: Four of the biggest red flags of fraud are: Employee lives beyond their means; their lifestyle doesn’t make sense. They work when others are not present (first to work, last to leave). They act “offended” when you ask questions. They won’t provide basic financial information. SmallBizLady: Who are the typical perpetrators? Tiffany Couch:  The typical perpetrators are people with access to your money (incoming deposits, credit cards, payroll, banking, etc.) or inventory. They are typically the most well-liked and trusted individuals in the organization! SmallBizLady: Why do people commit internal fraud? Tiffany Couch: The short answer for why do people commit internal fraud is because they can. They may initially have a pressure, like an unpaid bill, a sick parent, etc. They may also feel underappreciated/underpaid. SmallBizLady: What are the most common schemes? Tiffany Couch: Four of the most common fraud schemes are: Diversion of incoming deposits (cash, checks, electronic payments, etc.) Unauthorized use of your checking account or debit cards Unauthorized use of credit cards Overpayment of payroll SmallBizLady: What kind of losses do most small businesses suffer? It can’t be that much, can it? Tiffany Couch: Small businesses are most at risk for fraud, and their average losses are in excess of $200,000 in a small business with 100 employees or less! SmallBizLady: What are the ways I can protect my company from fraud? Tiffany Couch: Strategies for protecting your small business from fraud include: Segregate Duties: The person billing customers or clients should not also… Read more »
  • Who’s on #Smallbizchat March 2019
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    #Smallbizchat is a weekly conversation where small business owners can get answers to their questions. The focus of #Smallbizchat is to end small business failure by helping participants succeed as your own boss.  Please join us live on Twitter every Wednesday from 8-9 pm ET. Here’s how: follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter and follow the hashtag #Smallbizchat and click here for directions to join the weekly conversation.  In March, we will be covering a lot of topics, including How to Identify Which Social Media Networks are Right for Your Business, How to Protect Your Small Business from Fraud, and How to Lead with Work/Life Balance. March 20th is our special #Smallbizchat LIVE, which is streamed live on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and we’ll discuss The Few Numbers That Make All the Difference in Business, Building a Business Around Your Lifestyle, and How to Sell a Unique Product to a New Market. Here is a list of who is on #Smallbizchat in March: March 6th – How to Identify Which Social Media Networks are Right for Your Business with Adrienne Brown, @adriennejmedia Adrienne Brown is the Chief Digital Strategist of Adrienne J Media, a Digital Marketing agency located in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 13+ years of marketing and advertising experience and has worked with brands like African Ancestry, National Black Arts Festival and the Keisha Lance Bottoms for Mayor Campaign. Adrienne has a passion for all things digital and for helping fellow small businesses succeed. You can learn more at http://adriennejmedia.com/. March 13th – Protecting Your Small Business from Fraud with Tiffany Couch, @TheTiffanyCouch Tiffany Couch is CEO and founder of Acuity Forensics, a nationally recognized forensic accounting firm. Her book, “The Thief in Your Company,” explores the financial and emotional impact of fraud. You can learn more at https://acuityforensics.com/.   March 20th – #Smallbizchat LIVE on Facebook with Ellen Rohr, Donna Maria Coles Johnson, and David Weiss The Few Numbers that Make All the Difference in Business with Ellen Rohr, @ellenrohr Ellen Rohr is an owner of ZOOM DRAIN and Sewer Franchising, a Ziglar Certified Legacy trainer and the author un-fussy business books, including Where Did the Money Go? and The Weekend Biz Plan. Learn more at https://ellenrohr.com/tag/zoom-drain/ Building a Business Around Your Lifestyle, Donna Maria Coles Johnson @donnamaria Donna Maria is an author, blogger, and the host of the popular Indie Business Podcast. Donna Maria started her professional career in a traditional job as an attorney at a Fortune 500 company in… Read more »
  • How On-the-Go Solopreneurs Can Out-Earn Software Engineers
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    Everybody knows tech talent can earn a lot of money — well into the six-figure range. And while it seems like on-the-go solopreneurs like dog walkers or fitness trainers can’t compete on earnings — the fact is that they can, and do! At the most basic level, all of these professions are about delivering a service and require the right tools for success. While software engineers need a powerful desktop computer and various applications to code and perform other tasks, on-the-go solopreneurs need to handle business tasks efficiently and effectively while being out and about. Here are three critical tools that on-the-go solopreneurs should have in their back pocket. 3 Technology Musts for On-the-Go Solopreneurs SMS While everyone uses texting for all kinds of communication needs, it’s a true lifeline for the modern solopreneur. Time is money, and efficient communication means you can schedule appointments, make changes at a moment’s notice and follow up. When you don’t have a receptionist or a customer service line, texting is the way people know they can reach you, and it has the benefit of being the most preferred method of communication among people under 50 according to this recent Gallup poll. Where your stock texting app may fall short, however, is in keeping your personal life separate from work. Your work/life balance benefits when you can silo your business texts using a different number. A professional productivity tool that includes SMS texting ability can help you take your business to the next level by grouping clients into the right categories and sending receipts, appointment confirmations, collecting payments, and other quick transactions. CRM One problem with relying only on standard ad-based marketing is the lack of repeat business. You might get a sale out of it, but you don’t gain enough insight about your customer to be able to follow up with targeted messaging. Worse, they may have paid in cash, and you might not even know their name when all is said and done. There’s no way to get them back for more. Solopreneurs likely don’t have access to a huge enterprise CRM and its corresponding complex, expensive reporting, and analysis. You just need to know a few details like what the customer purchased and their basic contact information. Every piece of data you collect can help you get the client to stay and to continue using your services. Planning and executing simple but… Read more »
  • How to Start a Business After 50
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    If you are at or beyond the age of 50 and are ready to think about what’s next, the question is should you retire or could you pivot and start a small business. If you took care of your money and have an expertise that is highly valuable, you might be a great consultant. Or, if you have a business idea that you are ready to get serious about, this could be the perfect time to start a business over 50. According to the Kaufmann Foundation, the highest rate of successful entrepreneurship is among those 55-64 – twice the success rate of those age 20-34. Even though many older people nearing retirement are continuing to work, starting a business could be something that would allow you to pursue an interest that you’ve always had, give you a chance to work with your ideal clients, and get paid your real worth. AARP, in fact, has a 40-million investment fund for businesses in the health, elder care, and wellness space. The organization wants to stimulate the development of products and services for older adults while increasing awareness of concepts such as ageless design. You can use the money from your new business to supplement your income, build legacy wealth to pass on to your grandchildren, (let’s face it your children are not really important, anymore) or pay for leisure activities such as travelling or a winter home. Working as a boomer business owner can sound romantic. But it’s not always dreamy as you might think.  The first step is getting clear about your life plan at this point in your life. Ask yourself a few questions: What do you want now and why? How much energy do you have to start something new? How much money can you afford to risk? Are you flexible and coachable? Do you have any competing priorities? (Aging parents, an ill spouse, small grandchildren whom you help raise) Once you take the time to answer those questions, there are a few key things you’ll want to consider. 5 Keys Areas to Consider When Starting a Business Over 50 Start-up Costs The first consideration is how you will fund your venture. Will the money to start your business comes from your personal savings or retirement funds. It takes 24-36 months for a business to breakeven let alone replace your corporate salary. Are you prepared to go without a paycheck for… Read more »
  • How to Identify Which Social Media Networks Are Right for Your Business
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    Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET.  This is excerpted from my recent interview with Adrienne Brown, @adriennejmedia. Adrienne is the Chief Digital Strategist of Adrienne J Media, a Digital Marketing agency located in Atlanta, Georgia. She has 13+ years of marketing and advertising experience and has worked with brands like African Ancestry, National Black Arts Festival and the Keisha Lance Bottoms for Mayor Campaign. Adrienne has a passion for all things digital and for helping fellow small businesses succeed. Learn more at www.adriennejmedia.com  SmallBizLady: Why is it important for my business to use social media? Adrienne Brown: Social media networks, with 3.2 billion daily users globally, has proven to be an important online destination for consumers. Your current and future customers currently use social networks as a resource and entertainment within their daily lives. If you want to reach your customer in an environment where they are active and engaged, having a presence on the right social network is key. SmallBizLady: Should I have a profile on every social network? Adrienne Brown: The large number of consumers using social networks is a great opportunity for small businesses. It provides extraordinary access to potential customers. However, to maximize your efforts, it’s important to identify specific networks that will be the most effective at communicating your message to your audience. SmallBizLady: As a small business owner, my plate is already full. Is this really necessary? Adrienne Brown: When you take into account your current business operations, determining which network(s) fit into your mix, and which do not, saves you time, which can positively affect your bottom line. At the end of the day, it’s in your business’s best interest to be strategic about where you allocate resources and where you do not. SmallBizLady: Where should small businesses start when selecting a social network? Adrienne Brown: Start by identifying your ideal customer. Pinpoint their age, sex, online behaviors, and interests. These details will allow you to select network(s) based on the known demographics its most active users. If you are unaware of the type of people that typically use each social network, a quick Google search will lead you to a wealth of information. SmallBizLady: I’ve identified several networks that reach my ideal customer. How do I narrow down my decision? Adrienne… Read more »
  • 5 Tips for Amazon Sellers to Increase Sales
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    Sales on Amazon come down to two main factors: bringing more traffic to your site and converting that traffic into sales. There are several tactics Amazon sellers can implement to improve both of these factors and increase sales volume. Apply them effectively, and you will see your sales go through the roof. Here are our top 5 top tips for Amazon sellers who want to increase sales. 1. Use Keywords to Rank Your Product Ranking your listing highly in Amazon search results is the best thing to do in order to bring more traffic to your product page. Rankings are closely tied to sales rates and conversions, which we will cover in the following sections. Keywords play a big role in product rankings: in order to improve your organic rankings in searches, you need to focus on including relevant and popular keywords. You can use tools like MerchantWords and Keyworx to conduct keyword research and discover the keywords users are searching for in your niche. Then, include multiple primary keywords in your product title and listing copy, but don’t stuff—make sure the text is still optimized to sell! 2. Have a Listing That Converts As well as boosting the traffic coming to your listing, you need to make sure that traffic is converted into sales. Optimize conversion rates by using persuasive text that is engaging and clearly explains the features and benefits of the product in as much detail as possible. It is critical that Amazon sellers capture a visitor’s attention in the first few seconds. In today’s fast-paced world, consumers have extremely short attention spans; you need to engage them immediately to encourage them to stick around and look in more detail, which will make it more likely that you will close the deal. Images are equally, if not more, important in conversions. In fact, people are most likely to make their mind up based on a listing’s images (as well as the price and product title) without even reading the whole listing. Be sure to use product imagery on a white background, and use images that are large enough to zoom: ideally 2560 on the longest side, but at least 1260. You can further improve conversions by using images to demonstrating the benefits of the product, for example, taglines on the images or custom graphics explaining product features. 3. Build Positive Reviews Amazon sellers benefit from having a… Read more »
  • Sell More in Your Small Business by Highlighting Benefits in Your Sales Pitch
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    Have you ever been the victim of an uneducated salesperson or business owner who pushes how awesome their company or product is, but not the benefits of their product or service? Yes, I have too. Here’s the deal. If you want to sell more in your small business, you need to figure out how to highlight the benefits of your product or service in the sales pitch. Everyone listens to the same radio station WIIFM – “What’s in it for me”? People typically make buying decisions based on three things; is it cheaper, better or faster. To make your sale urgent to them, focus on a solution. Savvy business owners know how to leverage benefits and value to make a sale. Here are some quick tips to highlight your benefits in your sales efforts. Features vs. Benefits Features describe how amazing a company thinks its products are. It talks about what the product does, how many different ways, if its bigger, faster, and cleaner than the competitor product. Often, customers really don’t care. Benefits focus on solving a problem for the customer. When you put the customer at the center of the equation that’s when you win. They don’t care how much better you think your product is than the competition; they want to know how it will help them save time, money or effort. In other words, it focuses on solving their problem. Know Your Customers Pain Understanding your target customers pain is key to hitting the mark with your educational content, videos, and direct sales appeal. Stories sell. Can you authentically connect with your target customer because you were once just like them? Figuring out how to talk to prospects in your marketing communications, landing pages, and email copy makes them know you understand their plight and that you care. If you don’t know the problem that your customers have, that is a problem. You are not selling a product or service; you are selling a solution. If you sell brooms, your product doesn’t sweep by itself; it works best on hardwood floors. It helps customers keep their home clean. You need to get your customer to see themselves using your product to solve the problem. Focus On Key Benefits When you are excited about your business, you can go on-and-on about all of the benefits it provides customers. That’s good, but you better stick to your most… Read more »
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