A three-step approach to launching a side business

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In an era where millions of people contemplate either quitting their jobs or switching careers at a record pace, online searches for “side hustle” and “passive income” are growing exponentially. 

If you’re one of the millions wondering if a career move is right for you and weighing the benefits and risks of starting your own online business, it can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, a large percentage of online companies fail after just one year, an even larger percentage struggle to ever return to their “day job” salary figures. 

So what’s the secret to making it work? Consistency, hard work, planning, and the right digital tools are at the core of every successful entrepreneur’s journey. One of the biggest mistakes aspiring business owners make is starting with a product they want to sell without knowing if there is a market for that particular product. 

Those who take this simple, three-step approach will find greater success in the long run.

Solve a problem first

Before launching your genius product into the world and your target market, it’s essential to take a step back and determine the problem your product solves. For example, if you’re manufacturing an analog planner for business owners, you probably have first-hand experience and knowledge that the product was helpful for you. 

However, you must find out if your analog product solves a problem for others, too. To do this research, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why did I need to start using an analog planner? 
  • What was I unhappy about when using a digital planner? 
  • What is it about my particular niche that makes this analog planner necessary?

Once you begin to dig deeper beyond the product features and uncover the why behind it, you’ll better understand who needs the product and how to craft a sales message that resonates with them. 

Validate and test

Even for those who have a deep understanding of their product’s use and benefits, some mistakenly go right to production and live sales. Unfortunately, this misstep can result in a large, unsold inventory and failed dream. 

Instead, take the time to validate your offer and test it first. Then, if possible, create a digital version of your product and offer a beta-test sale to your email list. Explain the benefits, provide a generous promotional price for the digital version, and measure your conversion rates.

For those who opt not to buy, ask meaningful follow-up questions about their decision so you can use the responses to understand the market and buying decisions better. Then, you can refine the product or message and try again. 

Start small if you can

Once you’ve done the research, validated and tested your idea with a real market, and secured some initial sales, start with a small run of products if you can. 

Finding an online platform like Podia to sell your digital products reduces your overhead expenses and gives you plenty of flexibility to create attractive and compelling sales pages. 

Once you’re established and have some social proof in hand, you can move to a bigger platform like Amazon. Explore using professional services to help you improve your listings and boost sales (find more info about Amazon Consulting and Managed Services here).

There’s never been a better time to explore new career opportunities and evaluate how you’d like to spend the rest of your working years. Then, when you find something that combines your passion with your expertise, embrace the journey and make it happen.

What Does Your Business Need To Excel During The Rest Of 2021?

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We cannot ignore the fact that the past 12 months have been an incredibly testing time for a lot of businesses around the world. However, rather than focusing on the past and what has been. We need to focus on the future, and the different steps we can take to ensure success. So, what does your business need to excel?

An effective advertising campaign

There is only one place to begin, and this is with an effective advertising campaign. Competition is fierce and businesses are hungrier than ever before to get customers. This means that you need to do everything possible to stand out from the crowd and ensure that your business is the go-to choice if your industry.

This all starts with having an effective marketing campaign. Make sure you consider both offline and online marketing methods. It can be easy to only focus on the latter, but offline marketing offers some distinct benefits as well. You can use banners with a banner tension frame system to make a big impact and get the word out about your company. 

Social media is another area that is vital when it comes to marketing your business today. Social media enables you to build loyal relationships with people. Plus, you can showcase your personality too. You just need to be mindful to avoid being too overly promotional on social media, as this can backfire.

A central system of collaboration and management

A well-designed business management dashboard can work wonders for your business. This is an exceptional information management tool that will help you to get a full understanding of how your business is performing, allowing you to make informed decisions on how to enhance your company. 

This may all sound well and good, but if you don’t fully understand what a business dashboard is and how exactly it works, don’t panic, as we are going to break it down for you. Business dashboards take their name from automobile dashboards. When you compare the two, you will see that they are actually not that different. If you lift the hood of your vehicle, you will see many processes, all of which influence vehicle performance. Your dashboard has the critical role of summarising these processes via the use of visualisation. This ensures the safe and effective operation of your vehicle. If there are any issues, you will be able to deal with them efficiently. Well, the same sort of thing can be said for the business dashboard. 

Nowadays, there is increasing emphasis placed on data in the business world. So much so, that it has got to the point where data management is proving to be a real challenge, and a lot of businesses are struggling to extract real value from their data. This is where a dashboard comes in. It allows you to simplify all of your business processes into chunks of information that are manageable. This gives you greater clarity over business performance so that you can make better decisions.

4 Things For Small Businesses To Remember in Times of Crisis

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As businesses of all shapes and sizes dust themselves down and take stock of how they’ve been affected by the pandemic, it’s fair to say that for most the struggle is not yet over. The notion of putting their entire operation on hold, or making drastic changes to the way they operate probably didn’t strike them as even possible, much less likely. Indeed, for those who were thinking about going into themselves prior to the crisis, the whole thing probably looks like a huge cautionary tale. Why would any right-minded person choose the path of entrepreneurship when it seems beset on all sides with hurdles, pitfalls and the occasional bear trap.

Still, while this will (hopefully) be the last pandemic of its kind in living memory, crises go with the territory when running a business. A crisis certainly shouldn’t put anyone off starting a business, but it should certainly remind them of the importance of preparation.

Here are 4 things that all small businesses would do well to remember in times of crisis…

It’s okay to ask for help

When starting out in business, it’s common to be very particular when it comes to doing everything your way. After all, one thing that business mentors preach consistently is the importance of having a USP and filling a gap in the market that your competitors have left open. As such, you may not consider the value in Small Business IT Support Services or outsourcing your marketing to a Digital Agency. However, these measures can not only save you money in air weather but provide help, guidance and support when things go awry within your business, your industry or the global economy at large. 

Look after your team and they’ll look after you

Navigating your way through a crisis alone can feel damn near impossible. But when you run a small business, you’re never alone. You have intelligent, talented, passionate and dedicated people all around you. Look after them, and they’ll look after you.

Make sure that their working environment is safe, clean and conducive to restfulness, mindfulness and productivity. Invest in their training and development. Invest in employee recognition platforms that make them feel valued and give them confidence and motivation. 

Never underestimate the power of customer relationships

In times of economic crisis, consumers are undoubtedly wary. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t retain their loyalty. Invest time and effort into your relationship with them, respond to them promptly and professionally on social media. Show them that you value their custom and that you’re committed to delivering excellence. They’ll stick with you through thick and thin. 

Keep an eye on your metrics, but don’t lose sight of the one metric to rule them all!

Finally, in the age of big data, it’s easy to struggle to see the woods for the trees, especially when in panic mode. While there are lots of important metrics which should be tracked through the good times and bad, don’t neglect the one metric to rule them all… your margin. If you aren’t profitable, your business simply can’t function. Use this online tool to calculate your profit margin and adapt your strategy accordingly.

How to Successfully Source Products for your E-Commerce Site

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Online sales growth is an unstoppable force. Think about how many times you’ve purchased something online in the last month, let alone a year. So, it’s no big surprise that e-commerce businesses are becoming more popular than ever. Mobile shopping is also growing. By 2021, 73% of e-commerce purchases will be made on a mobile device. If you have a product that people want, selling it online can be a smart and successful option. 

Maybe you’ve got everything you need for your business to grow. You have a great website, a strong team, and marketing knowledge. You already know what your business needs to achieve success

But, how can you safely source products for your e-commerce site?

DIYing Your Products or Services

Many e-commerce businesses, especially those that are starting small, will choose to do everything on their own. DIYing your products and shipments is a great way to get started because it puts you in total control. A few things to keep in mind as you prepare to launch include: 

  • How long it will take you to ship a product
  • Where you’ll store your products
  • How packaging and shipping costs will impact you
  • How long it will take to make your product(s) from start to finish

You’ll also need to create a plan to communicate your shipping timeline to customers. We live in a world where people want to know when they can expect their order right away. Major companies like Amazon and most retailers are able to do this, giving accurate estimates of when customers can expect their package. If your company can’t keep up with those demands, it could be time to hire a professional. 

Working With Dropshippers and Sourcing Agents

If you can’t (or don’t want to) source products on your own, you might want to consider working with a drop shipper or sourcing agent like leelinesourcing.com to make your life easier.

When you go this route, you can purchase products from a vendor and list those products on your own e-commerce site. When the products are sold, the vendor will charge you, and you’ll keep whatever extra money is leftover from the sale. You’ll likely have more competition from other e-commerce sites if you go this route because products are limited. But, if you’re just getting started with sales, it’s a great way to build up a big catalog or expand your existing product list. 

Because there are so many wholesalers out there, be sure to do your research when you decide which vendors to purchase products from. If the products are faulty or there are problems with shipping, it’s likely your company will receive blame from the customer. 

Whether you want to DIY or work with other companies, now is the perfect time to jump on board with an e-commerce site. With no signs of online shopping slowing down any time soon, it doesn’t really matter if you make your own products or source them from another company, as long as you create a catalog of things customers are looking for. If you’re able to capture that sweet spot and gain the attention of potential buyers, you can start to see a profit quickly and grow your business and brand.

Measures To Take After Dropping Your iPhone In Water

Are you one of those who have lately dropped an iPhone in water? Don’t panic! This does happen sometimes, but if you act smartly, then you can actually save your iPhone without any difficulty. Several people suffer from iPhone water damage every now and then. While the brand-new generation is water-resistant, it isn’t completely waterproof. Moreover, the feature is not accessible in the most utmost of the iOS devices.

So without molding things, below are some of the quick solutions that you can implement to save your device from water damage.

Remove the device from the water instantly

The longer your cell phone stays sunk, the more possibility it has of shorting out. So it is important to promptly remove the device from water because swift reflexes can make a lot of difference. Also, it actually decides whether your iPhone will exist or die.

Switch it off immediately

After removing your cell phone from the liquid material, you need to switch it off instantly. Due to the conductive nature of electronic appliances, interplay with liquid materials can lead to a short circuit. Apart from this, do not charge and do not connect any other devices with it, until it properly dries. This measure is crucial for saving it from lots of internal damage. 

Wipe the liquid and make it dry

In order to wipe the liquid, use a sponge cloth or paper towel to dab your phone dry. Do not rub the cloth hard, because it could inadvertently force liquid into the phone’s more delicate parts. If the phone was fully sunk, you might try vacuum-cleaning around the phone’s holes and openings to absorb more liquid out. Apart from this, do not allow your device to come in contact with the sun. Also, do not place the device in a container filled with uncooked rice. Pete Turley from Bulldog Mobile Repair says that contrary to popular belief, putting an iPhone in rice after dropping it in water doesn’t help your phone but instead makes the water set into the motherboard. People make such mistakes which in result leads their iPhone to more damage. So always, keep in mind to place it in a cool and dry place.

Leave it to dry for at least 24-48 hours

Do not get over-excited and turn your phone ‘On’ before waiting for at least 24-48 hours until it dries. Install your SIM card in a spare phone in the meantime if you can to assure that you’re still contactable.

Visit the nearest possible store

Unluckily, if you have examined all of the above methods, but still your iPhone is still not answering at all, you should visit a nearby authorized store. They may better help you with it and may further solve your problems.

We hope that trying these measures may help you get your iPhone back to life. That’s just what we have to say regarding the wet iPhones. Now it’s up to you what to do if you drop your iPhone in water.

How to Build Your Brand on Social Media

Social media has evolved from merely a tool for connecting with friends and family to a innovative channel for brand connections. With over 2.46 billion people utilizing social media globally, social media platforms can be considered the world’s largest marketplaces.. When done correctly, social media can be a major asset in building your brand, so here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Create & update accounts

There are numerous useful platforms to create a business profile on. Determining which ones are preferred by your target market may take some trial and error but will pay off in helping you achieve your branding goals. If you’re repurposing old accounts, make sure to delete any ones you’re no longer using and ensure all information is updated and accurate.  

Find your voice

Developing a voice people can associate with your brand and engage with is the first step in developing your social presence. Asking questions like; what defines your brand? What aesthetic are you aiming for? What goals do you seek to achieve? Finally, who are you aiming to impress? These questions can initiate the discovery of your brand’s voice and image. Testing out various forms of content to determine what your target market responds to best, provides the deciding factor in what type of content your brand should plan to replicate. From there, creating content that followers will deem valuable is the next step. Aim to demonstrate expertise within your industry with knowledge of the latest trends in a way that optimally engages audiences.

Post frequently

To remain relevant you need to post enough content to pop up on your followers timeline at least once a day. Keeping lines of communication open with your audience and engaging just enough without seeming desperate is achievable by finding the sweet spot for your channel and audience. To keep followers interested, it’s best to look towards what’s received the most interaction and keep those types of posts coming. If you run out of inspiration, aggregator sites, Google alerts, or a quick search of trending hashtags can keep you updated on what’s hot at the moment.

Once you’ve developed a schedule that works for you and your audience, simplifying the process with helpful apps like Buffer and Hootsuite can help keep you on track. Creating a content calendar that’s connected to all of your social media networks with pre-scheduled posts, removes the need to think on your feet everyday and log into multiple sites.

Utilize influencers

The biggest trend in social media marketing today lies in the power of influencers. Depending on your businesses focus, try seeking out leaders in the industry with a notable following. Analyzing their posting habits, content type and followers, can provide insight on what you may be able to improve on. If you can, utilize influencers to promote your brand. This can also have dramatic impacts on increasing your own followers and potentially revenue.

Building a brand takes time and effort. Luckily with the increasing popularity and ease of use, social media can help propel you to where you want to go.

Author Bio: Maddie Davis is co-founder of Enlightened Digital and a tech-obsessed female from the Big Apple. She lives by building and redesigning websites, running marathons, and reading anything and everything on the NYT Best Sellers list.

Practical Tips for How to Use Surplus Money

Guest post by Grace Frenson

Most people tend to be irresponsible when they have surplus money by buying things they don’t really need, believing that the money is never-ending. While some people are born into fortune, a lot of people are not.

Proper money management is one of the surest ways to secure one’s future and save for rainy days or anything unexpected. There are several things to do with extra cash–the list is unlimited.

Though you may feel the need to spend your money on whatever you want, it is important to have your priorities sorted out. If you consider some essential things you need in life, you can determine the best plan of action to take. Here is how you can use extra money:

Invest in a Business

Businessmen are often preoccupied with the best way to use surplus money to make more money. Investing in one or more business could be the best way to achieve this.

People who are fainthearted in taking business risks would prefer to leave the money in their savings account, but the money would seldom grow when left there.

Investments do not always ensure the safety of the money, but if it succeeds it will bring a greater return than when left in a savings account. If it is really surplus money, it may be worthwhile to take a risk on it.

Use a 10 Year Saving Strategy

You have been working to secure your future, and now you have extra money. it is time to put some mechanisms into place to keep you from overspending.

One way to keep tabs on future events is by creating a 10 year saving strategy. This allows you to save for predictable expenses for the next 10 years.

Such expenses could include predictable costs such as a house, a wedding, kids, and so forth. If you have enough surplus money, you could even set up separate accounts for each of the items.

Stash the Money in an Emergency Fund

Money is not an inexhaustible commodity–unless you are a multibillionaire, you may exhaust the “excess” money in just a few months. If you haven’t already, you need to consider stashing the money in an emergency fund to take care of emergency situations only.

The amount of money you chose to put in it is up to you. However, emergency funds may come in handy in situations such as unexpected and costly health care bills, home repairs, auto repairs, unanticipated travel, and so forth, so you want to save wisely. Besides helping you to deal with an emergency situation, emergency funds could help protect your credit record.

Job loss is one of the common reasons people end up needing an emergency fund. Say you get injured or sick and have to go on disability, you want to have those supplemental savings in place in case your career or livelihood is threatened.

Increase Your Health Insurance

This may seem obvious, you need to invest in as much insurance coverage as you can afford. If you really have a surplus cash, health insurance is paramount. Health is wealth, and wealth becomes irrelevant and meaningless if the health cannot be secured.

Opting for health insurance is one of the wisest investment decisions you can ever make. This is even much more critical with how high medical bills are today. Medical debt is the single biggest reason people end up bankrupt or in a huge amount of debt.

Putting the money toward health insurance is synonymous to saving it for rainy days.

Obviously, nobody plans on having a critical health condition, but it does happen and you don’t want to be unprepared when it does. Thankfully, you have the cash, and you could make a difference to be prepared for the unexpected.

Create a Budget

You may really be misconstruing the cash as being excess if you have not created a budget and mapped out all of your upcoming payments. A budget will help you keep tabs on your income and expenditures.

It helps you to manage the financial flows and see where your money goes or would potentially go. Creating a budget will help you to make a detailed plan on important necessities like insurance, utilities, food, and housing, as well as miscellaneous activities.

Even extremely frugal people would be tempted to spend money on unnecessary stuff when they have excess money. By making a list of preference and value would help you to know what to spend money on and what to avoid.

A list of preference and value simply shows you items that are worth spending your money on. Of course, the preference and value may differ from person to person but the bottom-line is that it details your highest level of priority and utility.

The highest scale of your value and preferences is the right place to begin spending your surplus money. However, if some items don’t really make it to your list but they are simply critical for life–you need to reconsider your budget and adjust it accordingly.

Be Careful When Spending

When having an abundance of money, it is easy to spend it all quickly. Be careful to not go down this path, and spend your money on what is prevalent in your life.

If you are in a bit of credit card debt, consider paying that off, or paying off your child’s student loans. You want to be sure you don’t spend the money and then not even know what you spent it on once it’s all gone.

Think long and hard about how you want to spend–or not spend the extra cash. You don’t want to regret the decision you make in the long run.

Losing Motivation And 3 Ways To Recharge

Everyone plateaus.

No matter how motivated of a person you are, there are days where you find yourself in a funk.

It’s easy to brush it off, take a break and do what feels good, but that can also be laziness masking itself.

Regardless if you work for someone or you’re the boss it happens.

Here are 3 ways to combat it:

1. Look for inspiration

It’s easy to work hard when you’re inspired, but what about when you’re not? Since we’re in the information age there’s no shortage of stories, videos and articles to inspire you. Make personal development a habit and ideas will come flying at you. In fact, they don’t need to be original. The most successful businesses make their money by bettering an existing idea.

2. Don’t let your feelings drive your decisions

If you’re more of a “feeling” or emotional-based person you experience highs and lows often. If you’re more logic-based and a “thinker” this may not be an issue for you. Data proves that most of our purchasing decisions are based on emotions. Think back to when you made your last purchase. Assuming it wasn’t a bill, it probably falls into the “want,” not need category. This translates over to work. The reason why people aren’t more successful in general is that they don’t do the little things daily because it’s not fun. Ask anyone who’s climbed the corporate ladder or monetized a business and they can tell you how the continual, monotonous tasks are what really moves the needle.

3. Focus on the end goal

Have you lost sight of what you’re pursuing? As much as #2 is about doing the little things, don’t forget the big picture. Simon Sinek says it best when he challenges you to identify your why. Once you lose sight of that you’re lost. Inspiration comes from knowing where you want to go. The journey may be long and difficult, but nothing worth pursuing is easy. What you’re doing and how you do it may lack excitement at times, but if the end goal is aspirational you can always go back to that for motivation.

Ultimately it’s not a matter of “if,” but “when” you lose motivation. Hopefully the above suggestions will help you get out of your funk sooner than later!

The Learning Curve Of Acquiring A New Skill

We are all creatures of habit.

No matter how adventurous or a risk taker you are, it’s natural to hover around what’s comfortable.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn and change. In fact in today’s society, you either: adapt or die.

Growth isn’t handed to you, nor should you expect it to be. Instead you are solely responsible for your personal and professional advancement. That doesn’t mean with a new skill set comes a new job or promotion, but you’re either growing forward or going backwards in life.

Throughout my adolescent years I feared public speaking. The climax of my horror was a speech class I took at a community college where we had to video ourselves speaking in front of the class 3 times during the semester then watch and critique it together. That experience still haunts me and for years it made me want to quit.

But in the past several years something changed. My goal isn’t to be Tony Robbins or my good friend Joshua Fredenburg. Yet as an entrepreneur I know it’s crucial to my success to be an effective communicator orally and in written form.

The lightbulb moment for me was to shift my mindset.

If I think I’m a terrible public speaker then it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore the self-talk in my head changed to: I want to be a better public speaker (note: I didn’t say great or best).

That was the first domino to fall…

Next, I needed to put in the practice. In fitness terms: more reps. One habit I started 10 years ago was blogging. At the time I didn’t have a desire to do it, but felt it was necessary for my business so I just started writing. Over time I really began to enjoy it and it’s had a huge influence on how I prepare, deliver and evaluate my public speaking today.

I hosted a monthly network event geared towards professionals for 2 years. I did workshops and training sessions at companies. I volunteered to speak at church every month. What happened over time is I got better. My style, structure and storytelling has improved immensely.

There are areas I can still improve upon, but like acquiring any new skill it takes time to master.

But let me emphasize the most important piece to learning any new skill is your attitude towards it.

With most skills there is a huge learning curve and there will be points where you hit a wall. It’s during those times that you have to step back and evaluate the big picture/purpose. The journey to get better is rough, but if you stick to why you’re doing it and see the value in your effort you’ll eventually get there.

New skills are great tools to accomplish your dreams, but the pre-requisite to starting is your mindset/attitude before you begin.

The Curse Of The Entrepreneur

People who dream about one day owning a business tend to latch on to the potential, nothing else.

There’s nothing wrong with chasing your dreams, but it’s a lot more glamorous than it looks.

Imagine if I told you entrepreneurship includes working longer hours and getting paid less. Sure you can control when you don’t work, but you can’t control when you get paid. Freedom has it’s price tag and for some until you experience it, it’s too much.

But for those who have dipped a toe into the entrepreneur’s pool, there’s one area that’s extremely hard to go back to: having a boss.

I can’t tell you how exhilarating having complete flexibility is. Recently someone told me working a 9 – 6 with benefits isn’t desirable anymore. To each their own, but the tradeoff between time and money is a crucial decision everyone is faced with.

Coming off a 9-month stint at a company makes me appreciate my workdays much more now. It didn’t help I had a micromanager of a boss on top, but I learned a lot about myself during the process.

Things like my optimal working hours are 9 AM – 3 PM, when deciding whether or not to pursue a business idea identifying the market matters most and running a company solo is plain stupid.

Being an entrepreneur is a blessing and a curse. It affords you more control and flexibility, yet loss of structure and a steady paycheck. All the books and articles published that highlight successful ventures represent less than 1% of reality.

There’s no formula to the madness, but valuing your lifestyle over income will push you over the edge.

The funny thing about entrepreneurship is the “what” will change frequently, but as long as your “why” and “how” stay the same you’re fine. If you’re bored at your current job you can do two things: stick it out or look elsewhere. Most choose the former because it’s comfortable, but you’ll know it’s time to move on when it lowers the quality of your life.

Call me crazy, but part of the intrigue of entrepreneurship is the chase. It’s going after something you’re not sure you’ll catch, but willing to take the risk because failure is more acceptable than regret.