This Week In Business

This Week In Business: Solidification Situation

If last week was the ebbing of work, this week was the flow back. I think enough back and forth and I will finally realize (and hopefully internalize!) that these changes are normal and worrying about them won’t help. Here was my week:

I finally generated the FAQ for this site.

In an effort to save time, I have created some answers to some frequently asked questions I get mostly over email. I seperated out the questions related to the blog, and those related to the business:

I still feel there’s too much text (or maybe just not enough graphical elements?) but if you can think of any questions I forgot or have other ideas to make the FAQ more user friendly, let me know.

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This Week In Business: Horray For PR

When beginning a new business, one needs all the publicity possible. This week, I concentrated heavily on this aspect of my business. I'm needing some new clients! 

I sent out press releases like gang busters, and in the process learned way more about my printer.

I paid someone talented to write a press release about my new business for me and compile a media list. It's not that I don't think I'm a good writer but I figured someone else could see my story more freshly than I could, since I've been so close to it for so long. Both the list and press release came out great; I actually found myself getting excited reading my own story!

Last week while running errands, I had the press release photocopied at my local copy place. This week, I printed envelopes using an envelope template I got off of the Microsoft Templates website (thanks to my friend Sarah for the suggestion).

After trial and error with envelope-sized scrap pieces of paper, I got the format to come out well on my laser printer. I was thinking about not doing this but my friends were right; they look a lot more professional than handwritten. Well worth the extra time.

The press releases will physically go to eighteen different publications, news stations, and other press. I will also email the press release to about fifty people. If even one newspaper writes an article or one magazine publishes the blurb, this could translate into a lot of business for me.

In the spirit of free publicity, I have also submitted guest posts to several blogs and an article for our Chamber of Commerce newsletter.

I am trying out Google Adwords.

I've been telling clients about the possibilities of pay per click advertising but I've never played with Google Adwords myself. After watching about three hours worth of Youtube seminars about them, I realized there was a lot more to know that I would only understand by using the program.

Since my blog has changed addresses, hits have been noticeably lower. What better time to promote my blog and try out PPC advertising at the same time? There will be more to report when I have more then two days worth of data but so far so interesting:

Google Adword performance for my (randomly) chosen keywords...who knew 'Maine' would be so popular?

Google Adword performance for my (randomly) chosen keywords…who knew 'Maine' would be so popular?

I've been offered a free ad space on a friend's site, and I'm taking it!

My friend offered me an ad space on a site he maintains to help me out and, even though I don't think it's my target demographic, I'm going to take it. Publicity is publicity! As an aside, I'm still amazed at how my inferrior design skills can even show in a 468 by 60 pixel ad.

So hopefully my efforts will result in some more press and a few more clients. In the meantime, got any more publicity ideas for me?

How I Get Clients

Craig at BudgetPulse left a thoughtful comment on my blog a couple weeks ago that I've been meaning to write about:

"How do you go about reaching new clients and trying to pitch them for consulting help.  What specific activities do you do for them?"

The answer is actually kind of interesting.

Despite the fact that business is on the Internet, so far I have met every single client in person before working with them. I meet people mostly through local events or through friends. Even when I'm not trying to, I end up selling. I have convinced my massage therapist and my insurance agent to work with me so far (Facebook and Twitter, respectively). 

Clearly I'm hoping this having to meet people directly will change for the growth of my business. But also this tells me that maybe I'm effective in person, which I guess isn't so bad!

Upon first meeting someone, I mentally put them in one of several categories:

Yes clients– These people know what they want and do not flinch when I mention my rates (and usually they remark that they are 'reasonable'). They are most likely to contact me directly. This is the client I pray for: little or no chasing because they already want to work with me.

Almost Yes clients– These people kind of know what they want to get out of internet marketing but don't know exactly. They are most likely to write back to me quickly after I've followed up with them. This client requires a little chasing but aren't hard to nail down.

Maybe clients– They want something  from me but have "limited funds". They are sporadically in contact with me. They may buy eventually but I can tell not now.

Probably not clients– They don't seem to understand what I can and can't do, even if I've explained it clearly (Example: I can't promise them page one on a Google search for free.) They think the internet is for young people or gimicky. Often they tell me my prices are high.

I concentrate my efforts on the people in those first two categories.
I actually schedule in my email and/or phone nagging on my Google calendar. I nag more initially and slowly taper it off as I figure out what category a potential client should stay in. Someone who seemed excited initially may not return my emails or someone who I thought was not going to buy will email me a New York Times article about blogging and ask how they can get started.

The categories are fluid but I am getting much better at sticking potential clients in the proper categories earlier. It's all about working harder not smarter, right?

Of course, I could sit around giving free advice all day. Sadly I (and my current phone plan) can't afford to have lots of unproductive (ie not money making) conversations. Potential clients get an initial half hour after which I have to start charging. This has the added benefit of "scaring away" people who don't want to pay me.

People who use the online inquiry form seem to misunderstand my services, but I help them anyway. It's hard to explain to people that I don't do web design. I can help them through the web design process (I've done this for a couple people, write content and help them organize and gather the information). Mostly, however, I do web promotion once the site is live.

What I do for "Do you design websites?" inquiries is provide information about people I know who do it.  I hope that 1) they will remember me being helpful and maybe want me involved in their web design process and/or from the promotional side and 2) their web designer will remember me sending customers their way and do the same favor for me.

But it's important to be nice to everyone. Recommendations can come from odd places (I got a referral from the people who printed my business cards for example). Even people who don't become clients may become friends, colleagues, or even just readers of my blog, which is alright with me.

This Week In Business: Sitting Pretty

It was an exciting week at Breaking Even Communications, mainly because I’m sitting pretty and ergonomically correct now. Three things that happened to my microbusiness this week:

1) I bought a chair. Now I often don’t get jazzed about spending $150 but this week was an exception. After searching far and wide Downeast and doing an inquiry on bothTwitter and Facebook, I realized I could not buy my new office chair locally, even if I wanted to. I connected with the folks at Creative Office Pavillion.


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This Week In Business: Self (Less?) Management

Week four of Breaking Even Communications has revealed to me that I need a good manager, and that person has to be me.

And in the universe of perfect timing, my shoulder has been killing me by mid-morning most everyday for the past almost two weeks. I have determined that this is because of my desk chair, which is really a chair from my kitchen table.

I was bound to have a mediocre week at some point. So, I confess, working for myself isn't all rainbows and unicorns, and this so-so week, I have learned the following:

I need to do a little bit of my Big Project, everyday.

Historically when faced with a really big task, I am diligent at first, then overwhelmed with the enormity of it all, then eventually focused enough to buckle down and just do what I have to do.

Only unlike, say, a ten page structural geology report in college, I can't crank out a year-long internet marketing plan for a non-profit organization on two pots of coffee and two days of optimistic hard work.

No one is covering for me if this doesn't get done by deadline and I have no colleagues to share this with. It's all me, the good and the bad.

I sat down Monday and did something that is going to sound kind of stupid. I put amounts of time for common tasks I do, sort of like a schedule to follow every work day and posted it near my desk. Here are a few examples from my schedule:

1 hour- Correspondence: email clients, potential clients, collaborators
1 hour- Big Internet Marketing Plan (I'll tell you all about it once I figure out my contract with them)
1 hour- Migrate content over to new website (yay data entry!).

So as you see, there is some wiggle room but not enough for me to get away from my big overwhelming project. Every day for an hour, it has to happen. And I have a desk timer to prove it.

Added bonus to my new more rigid schedule:  By limiting the time I work on things, I can actually step away from my computer a reasonable amount of time everyday.

I need a new office chair, stat!

I know, office supplies shouldn't be so all encompassing but holy cow, do I need a new desk chair, if only to not spiral into the misery of chronic pain. I've been trying to buy this locally but my internet research, Craigslist trolling, and Twitter inquiry have yeilded the reality that this may be impossible.

This week, I am borrowing my friend/neighbor's ergonomically correct chair while she is gone and this weekend, I'm going to buy my own chair when I go down to southern Maine to a friendly reunion. In borrowing this chair the last couple days, my pain and productivity have greatly improved. Yup, this purchase should be a good return on investment, I can tell.

Time to slowly start moving subscribers and others away from Typepad… and darn, is this going to take awhile!

Mike, one of my web guys, got my feed working on my new site this week so I've been slowly asking blogs/websites that link to me, email subscribers, Facebook friends, and others to start moving it away from Typepad to the new site. (If you see pink, you are on the new site.)

Until I get the party started on the sidebar, you can subscribe to the RSS feed or via email to the new site by clicking here. And if you do link to the blog, if you could change your link to, I'd be ever grateful.

I know in this transition I'll probably lose some subscribers but hopefully not too many if I let everyone know ahead!

In each and every life, a little pain must shoot up the arm but as long as we learn something from it, we can be on to bigger things, like week 5 of self employment!

In Hard Times, Restaurants Change It Up

I love periodicals probably as much as I love blogs. When I have a doctor’s appointment, I sometimes go early so I can catch up on my reading.

But no medical appointment is necessary now; the inn has plenty of magazines for me to peruse, including some restaurant and lodging trade publications not carried by my doctor or my dentist.

One restaurant magazine, Santé had a feature article in their May issue called “Sarah’s: Succeeding In Tough Times.” Sarah and Bernard Bouissou own Bernard’s Restaurant in Ridgefield Connecticut. It’s an upscale place with great food that was doing well until the recession hit.

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