Validating Your Expertise

I came across Ezine @rticles this past week and found the concept quite interesting.

You publish an article to their database and it is then made available to their subscribers to download and use in their newsletters etc..

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Why would I take the time and trouble to write an article then let other people use my hard work and research without demanding some sort of compensation… and you’d be absolutely right.

But remember, not all payment is monetary.

Part of the rules for subscribers to be allowed to use the articles from this database is that the author must be credited. This means you still have the byline and as long as you entered your URL in your profile information, the article will link back to your website. I don’t need to tell you how important back links are to the search engines.

So the better, more relevant and well written your article, the better chance it has of being used. The more your articles are used, the more links come back to your website. The more links there are the more opportunity for potential customers to follow them.

The best part is that people are seeking out your website because they already have a positive impression of you, and your expertise, based on what you’ve written in your article.

Bonus:

This also works the other way. If you have a newsletter and have started running out of fresh ideas for each new issue, you can search the database for interesting articles to use (while properly giving credit to the author of course). It’s a win/win.

One cautionary note:

Make sure you read the rules. The formatting is very strict for the articles you upload. This is beneficial to you because it takes the guesswork out of trying to ensure your article will display properly over a broad range of browsers and screen resolutions.

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Comic on Web Design

While catching up on some of my Twitter feeds today I came across a comic strip that I thought was quite cute the Brads at http://bradcolbow.com/.

Those of us who do web design will find this strip hysterical, those who don’t will get a glimmer of insight to what happens behind the scenes. Today’s comic was on Why DRM doesn’t work. Web designer or not, I think we all can associate with this one.

The archives are a bit clunky to navigate through, but they’re well worth the effort, there are several gems.

All work and no play make us all dull boys (or girls) so take a break and have a giggle.

Cheers,
Sue

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Handling Distractions

As a small business owner perhaps the greatest challenge is handling distractions. They lurk everywhere in the most legitimate forms that you don’t realize you’ve been sucked in until it’s way too late.

They are everything from that proposal you need to write, existing projects, researching, marketing all those things that are important to the success of your business, but they insist on crowding your brain so you don’t have any energy left to actually get any work done.

You’ll notice I haven’t even begun to mention the non-work distractions like financial worry, the Olympics (they’re only for three weeks and you should be patriotic… right?) and friends and family who drop by or call because they know you’re home.

Then there are platforms like MSN, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other time-wasters that legitimately can be part of your business operations but hours seem to vanish as soon as you sign on.

You’re scattered, frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.

Welcome to my world, and the world of ever small business owner I know.

I’m currently working on four big projects, but also need to find the time to line up more contracts so when these are finished so my bills can still be paid, write a new novel and research to find out who I can negotiate with to allow at least 6 more hours in each day. Twenty-four hours just isn’t cutting it anymore.

So how do you do it?

How do you keep above the ever-rising tide of to-dos?
How do you make your friends and relatives respect that you’re still working even though you’re at home?
How do your keep the funnel full of potential projects while paying attention to the ones you’re currently working on?

My solutions so far:

I have a schedule that I stick to as much as possible.

  • By knowing what I have to do at a certain time every day it helps me avoid distractions and keep to a deadline. If I know I’m not going to have time later, then I’m less likely to procrastinate.

I’ve created my schedule according to my body-clock.

  • I know this sounds a bit weird, but I tend to be more focused and aggressive in the morning so it’s a no-brainer for me to cruise for contracts when I first wake up.
  • I’m more technically focused in the early afternoon, so web programming or editing is done then.
  • In the evening I’m more relaxed and creative, that’s when my novels get written.

I break for me.

  • I eat breakfast in the morning. While I admit I eat it at my desk, it doesn’t take away the fact that it’s a healthy meal. My latest kick has been steel cut oatmeal with lots of real apple and raisins. I make a batch on Monday and eat leftovers all week.
  • To prevent losing my edge and burning myself out I take a break at lunch. I do 45 minutes on the Wii Fit Plus (don’t laugh I’ve lost 2 inches off my waist since the New Year). When I go back to work in the afternoon I’m refreshed and ready to go
  • Watch your nutrition, not only does bad eating habit make you sluggish, they also make you gain weight and feel worst about yourself. If you’re out networking and making presentations, the last thing you want to worry about is a popped button.
  • If you feel uncharacteristically out of sorts and unable to focus try taking a vitamin B complex. I rolled my eyes when it was first suggested to me, and the second and even the third. Now I really notice a difference. I highly recommend them

These aren’t necessarily things you’ll find in a time management book.

But, I’ve found over the years that if by keeping myself as a top priority, I can stay refreshed and focused so that everything else has a better chance to fall into place.

Although if anyone has any good tips on keeping friends and family at bay without causing a riot, I’m all ears.

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The Importance of Introductions

Have you ever noticed when your decide to do something, doors open in that direction?

I’ve been spending a lot of time helping to build our e-publishing business, PaperBox Books. When I decided I’d better start concentrating on SNB Consulting Services again, suddenly, I was being introduced to people left right and center. The interesting part of these introductions is that most of them were initiated online.

It’s an interesting phenomenon and one that I highly recommend you take advantage of. Don’t leave these introductions hanging. FOLLOW UP

Like face-to-face or networking via platforms like LinkedIn, it’s not the people you know who garner you the most business. It’s the people who know them.

For example:

I was chatting with a woman while at a small meeting.

She went home and told her husband about what I was doing. When he contacted me, he was interested in SNB Consulting Services to aligned with his own venture, but he also had a friend who was working in the publishing industry, who he though might be interested in what we were doing at PaperBox Books.

Since our initial meeting, he’s introduced me (via email) to his publishing friend and given me a heads-up to a job that he found while doing his own research.

In return, I’m working on a few introductions for him from the people in my contact list who could potentially be great clients for him.

Funny how that all works eh?

My advice:

Take advantage of every introduction you receive. Don’t make the judgment call to ignore the introduction because you can’t see how they could be a beneficial alliance. You don’t know who they know, or who they’re about to meet.

Etiquette:

In your email, make a proper introduction just as you would in person. Jim this is John, John does XYZ and I thought the two of you might have a lot to talk about. John, this is Jim. He does ABC and is is beginning to seek out people who do XYZ. This helps to set the stage for their conversation when they know a bit about each other, so they already have common ground.

In your first email responding to the introduction, it’s polite to include the introducer to let them know you’ve made the contact.

If you can, reciprocate. If you have people in your network who might be interested in what others are doing, introduce them. While it may have no immediate benefit to you, it adds to your reputation and keeps you not only in people’s minds, but keeps you in a favourable light because you helped.

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Recommended Reference Reading

The internet and Web 2.0 are ever changing entities that have taken on a life of their own. While we’re not Skynet yet, every day we seem to be growing closer, in a kinder, friendlier way (at least I hope so).

Because change is so rapid, it’s more important than ever to keep yourself current with new things happening in all facets of internet marketing. It’s also important to have a good basis for understanding of your business and what is the best way to reach your audience so that you aren’t jumping at every bell and whistle just because they’re shiny and new.

I’ve compiled a list of several books in my reference collection, or ones that I’ve begged and borrowed along the way. Some are very simply written for the beginner while others are more focused and complex.

You might notice, I recommend a lot of the ‘For Dummies’ books. I think they’re great jumping off point when you want to learn a new skill. I have way more of them in my personal collection than I should probably admit to 🙂

Check out my recommendations at http://snbconsultingservices.ca/reference.html

If you have any books that you’ve read and think should be added to this list, please email me at SNB Consulting Services at sue@snbconsultingservices.ca the title and author of the book so we can upload it to this page

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What does success mean?

I was at a meeting the other day with some other entrepreneurs and the topic turned to success.

What it does success really mean?

A second question quickly followed.

Does it matter?

When you’re in business for yourself, I think it’s vitally important to have a definition of what success means to you. I look at several of my friends and realize how different our hopes and goals really are.

Some have similar goals, but their methods to reach them are completely different. One is all about ‘someday it will happen’ while the other is researching and proactively making it happen.

A few of my friends won’t feel successful until they’ve achieved the pinnacle that they’ve set before themselves. Others, take time to celebrate each new client who comes their way.

I believe we need to understand why we’ve chosen the goals we use to determine our success.

Many people in my circle are creative. We’re writers, artists and musicians. These are the careers where very few ‘make-it’.

Even though there are millions of people making a comfortable living from their craft, those around us are fearful. They find it necessary to try talk us out of pursuing our creative dreams in favour of getting a ‘real job’.

No matter what your business, striking out on your own is scary for your family and friends.

One fellow I know is frustrated by his parents not-so-subtle hints that he’s living below his potential. It doesn’t matter that he’s making a living income by doing what he loves, is stress free and happy.

They want him to do what he was trained to do. To them, that means stability and stability defines success. To him, going back to work in a big office means hands-tied, low productivity, high stress and a re-acquaintance with his ulcers. Even though his parents think this will make him a success, he views this as a failure – a need to fall back on plan ‘B’.

He’s one of the lucky ones. His wife is supportive. She says she likes him just the way he is. In fact, had he stayed in the big office tower, she’s certain they would have been divorced years ago. Sure they might not be able to afford fancy vacations every year but really what kind of vacations would they be if he was constantly checking his blackberry.

As you plan out your business, make sure you have a clear definition of what success means to you and a realistic path to get you there.

Have a 1, 3 and 5 year plan with definite milestones along the way.

It boils down to want versus need and in some cases quality of life versus quantity of stuff.

I’m not saying throw all caution to the wind.

When planning out your business, make sure you can adequately cover your needs with a cushion for emergencies.

But then, make a secondary plan, a wish list per-se, of luxuries you’ll be able to afford when your business takes off. Don’t be consumed by that secondary list and let it scare you off from starting your own business. If by striking out on your own, you can meet your obligations and be happily doing what you love to do – do it.

They say that if you do what you love, your passion will attract others to you. I’d much rather purchase a car from someone who loves cars than from a guy just trying to get a paycheck. I’ll recommend that same guy to my friends because the experience was so great. He will do well, because he’s doing what he loves and has found a way to make money at it.

And really wouldn’t you rather do business with someone who knows what they’re talking about?

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Affiliate Programs

While wearing my author/e-publisher hat, I’ve been looking into affiliate programs a lot lately.

What is an Affiliate Program?

It’s a system set up to reward people for spreading the word about a product, service or upcoming event. They’ve been in use for decades and over the past twenty years have lent themselves really well to online marketing initiatives.

I’ve known about affiliate programs for a while, but couldn’t figure out a way to take advantage of them. Then a fellow I knew told me about an seminar his company was hosting. He mentioned they’d started an affiliate program. I was curious and asked for him to send me the details.

In a nut shell, if I was an affiliate, I would be given a unique URL to use when mentioning the event on my website or blog. The URL would track how many people signed up for the event through my link and I would receive a percentage of the ticket price.

Since this was a great event and I was going to tell my associates anyway, it seemed like a no-brainer.

Over the past week I’ve been looking at Amazon’s affiliate program. Because I’ve been recommending books to read through this blog, My author website suenelsonbuckley.ca and PaperBox Books it seemed like a wise idea to join their affiliate program. We can’t earn affiliate commission through the sale of our own books of course, but most programs will pay commission for anything purchased during the session started through your link.

For example, if I say hey, check out my new novels:

The Trouble with Jake – a young adult paranormal romance, or read the original adult romance versionThe Problem with Jake, or if you are a writer or attend a book club and would love to compare the two stories, buy them for together and save 17% Double Version.

These links will take you to Smashwords, our distributor. While I can’t earn any affiliate commission on my books, I will earn it on anything else you buy through Smashwords during this session, or if you return to Smashwords over the next 48 hours.

(Yes, I’m aware at how shameless that plug for my books was)

Seriously not a bad was to earn passive income.

Now, I realize that not everyone’s business will benefit from the same affiliate programs that I will. But, with some investigating, you may be able to find one that suits.

Personally, I like affiliate marketing over programs such as Google AdSense because most iewers have trained themselves to ignore obvious advertising on websites and stick to the content.

Plus, with the big ad companies, you don’t have much control over what is displayed on your website. It could be your biggest competitor. With the affiliate programs, you can add relevant links to products or services that complement what you offer. It’s truly a win win.

To start, take a look at your suppliers and companies you already work closely with to see if they have any affiliate programs already in place. If they don’t, ask if you can set up an affiliation or partnership.

This can be beneficial to small businesses.

If you offer to recommend a partner’s company and they agree to recommend yours, even if no money is exchanged, you’re both growing your businesses… and business these days is all about building and maintaining relationships.

Please Note:

Affiliate income cannot be guaranteed, so please don’t build it into your budget as a key part of your earnings structure. There are some bloggers out there who earn thousands a year through affiliate and advertising links, but it’s become their business – they devote several hours a week to managing the advertising and affiliates on their site.

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It’s 2010 – time to reflect

I’ve spent the past few weeks adjusting my scope and coming up with a plan of action for 2010 and beyond. The irony is that I’ve been concentrating on getting everyone else up and running that I’ve let my own marketing and promotion slide.

When you’re a consultant or small business owner, it’s hard to maintain a balance between current contracts and always making sure there are more being negotiated to prevent dry periods when you not only have to concentrate on marketing, but re-establish yourself within the market place which might have forgotten you while you were busy.

Playing catch-up is a lot of extra, unnecessary work, so make sure you make the time to keep up.

Here’s part of my strategy for staying on top of everything during 2010

  • Use a central calendar/contact list – I have two computers, a blackberry and two businesses plus writing fiction. I need to be able to go to one place from anywhere to keep organized.
  • Block out time to work on marketing my own business. This includes, participate in group discussions, update my portfolio page with new clients and new versions of my current projects.
  • Set aside time for writing – even though this is my favourite hobby, it is now part of my business structure and needs to be done
  • Exercise – getting away from my desk is occasionally more important that forcing myself to finish just one last task before I take a break.

What’s your plan of action?

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The Importance of Partners, Affiliates and Cheerleaders

This week I’m reminded how important it is to align yourself to people who can help you either in services or just plain cheer-lead as you move forward.

This week, a project I’ve been heavily involved in has come to life. It’s scary and exciting all at once but it’s also made me realize how dependent we all are on each other and how effective synergy can be.

PaperBox Books put it’s first titles up for sale on December 23rd. It was perhaps the worst time of the year to begin marketing an online item for purchase. But good timing for a soft launch. Perry and Sue (that’s me) wanted to ensure there were no bugs or problems in the process before spreading the good news. Even though we’re using a third party e-commerce system, things can still go wrong.

Because of our solid foundation and huge support group of writers, artists, printers, editors and web designers we’ve already surpassed our initial goals for building a web presence through internet marketing and an offline presence through radio interviews and word of mouth. Our stats show book sales before we’ve officially begun our marketing campaign.

Building your audience can take a while but it’s worth it.

Sharing your adventure while you follow your dream can make your launch very effective. Opening day is always much more satisfying when customers are lined up at the door waiting for them to open, even if the first people in line are your Mom and her best friend (who have no clue what you’re doing), they’ll still be eager customers and their enthusiasm will help draw others in.

Congratulations to PaperBox Books on publishing their first titles. I happen to know from a reliable source there will be more titles coming in January 🙂 If you’re an author, with a great novel or short story check out their how to submit page, they’re looking for more writers.

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Have a Great Holiday Season!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a fabulous holiday season.

2009 was a year of change and progression for me and 2010 is shaping up to be a year of realizing several dreams. It’s taken a lot of hard work by not only myself but with a lot of help from folks who have supported me and given me encouragement. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.

Let’s raise a glass to 2010 and no matter what your business, work hard, work well and I wish the bestest of successes.

Cheers! Sue

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