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business Archives - Page 2 of 5 - The SamplerThe Sampler
Why Being An “Employee” Is As Crucial As An Entrepreneur

7 Rules to Follow to Acknowledge That ‘Your Business Is Your Boss.’

 

You’re an entrepreneur. But who’s the boss in your business?

It’s not you. It’s your business.

 

One of the most profound and game-changing moments for me as an entrepreneur was when I finally realized who was in charge. As an entrepreneur and cofounder, I had thought I was calling the shots and making the decisions. And, from the perspective of the organizational chart, I certainly was. But, from a smart business perspective, I owed my allegiance to a more authoritarian boss — the business itself.

This shift in mindset changed the way I approached and worked on the business. Instead of interacting with it as an authority figure, I deferred to the interests of the business.

I believe that this change has made me a better businessman and a better manager, and has contributed to the success of my ventures. Here are seven requirements that I suggest every entrepreneur keep in mind, recognizing that your business is your boss.

1. Make one-on-one time with the boss.

Successful managers know that they should spend substantial quality time with their senior managers. In addition to mentorship, you have the necessary tasks of planning, strategizing and growing the business.

As an entrepreneur, you need to spend quality time with your boss, the business. Here’s why: Many entrepreneurs fritter away their days working in their business, but not on their business. It’s conventional business advice to work on, not in, but practically, the distinction is difficult to achieve.

For this reason, I suggest taking intentional time to work on the business. This is not meeting time or email time. This is “”you-and-the-business” time. Prioritizing this time will allow you to make major strides that will advance the business to the next level.

2. Put in the hours.

Whether salaried or hourly, most employees are expected to put in their time. Entrepreneurs have long passed their clock-punching days but are still obligated to put in the hours to complete necessary tasks.

Be intentional about your schedule, recognizing that you owe your boss a certain number of hours each week and each day.

3. Watch where the money goes.

If you had a boss who was breathing down your neck about the budget, would it change the way you did business? Well, you do, and it should. Take careful stock of every penny you spend, every investment you make and every purchase you authorize.

That money belongs to someone — your boss, the business. As such, you are accountable for achieving that ROI.

 

4. Get to know the customers.

Sadly, your boss is an impersonal chap. He (or she) is a bit elusive, hard to get to know and monosyllabic when it comes to talking. That’s where you come in. You’re the face of the company in the absence of your demurring boss.

Knowing your customers on a personal and face-to-face basis is a powerful way to understand the reputation and status your business has, and deal with any accompanying concerns. In short, the time you spend with your customers is seldom time wasted.

5. Create and defend the goals you’ve set.

A successful quarter, month, week or day begins with goals. Envision yourself talking to your boss, explaining what your goals are, why you’ve set them and how you intend to reach them. The simple act of creating goals allows us to more effectively reach them. Of course, we may not always reach them, which is okay.

It is always wise, however, to put the goals in place. In that way, we will at least possess a powerful process for moving forward.

6. Show progress toward those goals.

Speaking of moving forward, you should show some accountability as you work on your goals. Goals are intended to move the needle on the business. Are your goals taking the business in the right direction? Are you actually making progress? Have you shown substantial forward momentum as you pursue these actions?

Show your boss that you’re achieving what you’ve set your mind to do. Like any competent boss, he (or she) is counting on you.

7. Do whatever is necessary and appropriate to earn revenue.

The purpose of a for-profit business is to make money. The purpose of a boss is to make sure that happens. Your boss is expecting your actions to earn revenue. So, do what it takes.

Too many startups are satisfied with coasting. They don’t coast in the lazy way that a corporate behemoth might coast, but rather in a way that depends on the influx of funding, and a way that’s dependent on an overblown valuation.

Tech startups are already in serious trouble, and other industries are following suit. With the availability of VC cash and business loans these days, it can be easy to forget that a business is meant to turn a profit, not just to “get funding.”

If your business has a hyped-up valuation, that fact means nothing if you’re not making any money. So, work toward that goal, and your boss will give you a smile of approval.

Conclusion

Treat your business like the boss. Pay attention to it. Respect it. Work for it. Sure, your boss can be as ogre-like as they come. But he or she is still your boss. And the better you treat your boss, the better you’ll be treated in return: Massive profits. Insane rewards. An enduring legacy.

That’s what you have to look forward to when you work hard for your business-as-boss.

 

Author: Niel Patel, Entrepreneur and Online Marketing Expert

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.

 

3 Techniques to Get Your Online Content Noticed

3 Classic Journalism Techniques That Will Improve Your Content Marketing

Is your content marketing falling flat? The reason may be, well, your content itself. To be effective, content marketing depends on more than just a snappy “click-bait” headline. It depends on your story.

 

And the stakes here are getting bigger: As more businesses have turned to content marketing, the field has gotten crowded. For next year, 2016, 77 percent of B2C marketers and 76 percent of B2B marketers expect to produce more content than they have in 2015, according to Content Marketing Institute’s 2016 Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report.

At the same time, digital media consumption has increased by 49 percent since 2013, reports Contently.

So, if your content marketing is not delivering the ROI you expect, it’s time to look outside the marketing silo and take a closer looking at how journalists create their content. Journalism and marketing are not mutually exclusive fields, after all.

In fact, there’s a lot marketers can learn from journalists. Consider the following three lessons for improving your content marketing.

1. Pull from the headlines.

From pop culture to sports to current events, what are the major trends making news right now? Your content marketing doesn’t have to be exclusively about this topic, but it’s a smart angle to use to stand out in a sea of the same content.

In October, Volkswagen made headlines for manipulating software in its cars to hide emissions problems. Journalists nicknamed the scandal “Diesel Gate.” And some companies took note: Binary Options Reporter, for example, smartly tweaked its content marketing strategy to address this hot topic.

Binary Options Reporter even published a blog post titled “Volkswagen Diesel Disaster Continues.” The post focused on the latest revelations from the VW disaster before subtly referencing its own company’s service, binary options trading. The focus was on how consumers could handle any VW stock they might hold, as part of an investing strategy.

2. Don’t ‘bury the lead.’

“Don’t bury the lead” is a popular saying in journalism, and it certainly applies to content marketing. Burying the lead means forcing a reader to plow through several paragraphs in an article, post or story before reaching the main point. No one wants to open a newspaper and read through three paragraphs in order to find out the big news.

The same is true for content marketing. Your target audience members have a short attention span. They’re scanning your blog content while waiting in line to order their coffee, commuting to work in the morning or downing mouthfuls of lunch at their desks. So, get straight to the point. Content marketing (even white papers) are not an academic paper in college: Brevity and clarity are to be rewarded. Keep content scannable: Make headers, bullet points and numbered lists work for you.

 

3. Be a storyteller.

Great journalists find a human angle for their stories and you should, too. Don’t hide behind a brand or idea. Put a human face on your stories. For example, if you’re writing about a common problem affecting many of your clients, open your piece with a brief story about how Client XYZ addressed this problem.

Always ask clients, of course, for permission before sharing their stories. You may be surprised by just how positive the feedback is and how many clients want to be part of your case studies!

Remember, each piece of content you produce should support your business’ long-term marketing and branding goals. This means that in addition to each piece being a great stand-alone story in itself, your various pieces must work together to tell one larger coherent story about your business.

Not sure how to get started? Content Marketing Institute published a fantastic guide to business storytelling last year and its key points remain relevant today.

Bottom line: As your business prepares for 2016, it’s easy to get swept up in the new marketing trends and the growing demand for visual, interactive content. Before you add those bells and whistles on to your own content marketing strategy, be sure that that strategy is solidly grounded in the principles of journalism.

Create a great hook by pulling from the headlines. Never bury the lead. And bring a human angle to every story you tell.

Author: Brian Hughes of Integrity Marketing

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.

 

3 Ways to Succeed as a Creative That You’re Probably Not Doing

The Unfair Truth About How Creative People Succeed

The other week, I was invited to a dinner hosted by a friend. Those attending included people I’ve admired for years. Halfway through the dinner, I silently asked myself, “How did I get here?” The answer lies in what I subsequently learned.

For years, I had heard people talk about their influential friendships and subsequent success, and each time, I would seethe with envy. It seemed unfair. Of course those people were successful. They knew the right people. They were in the right place at the right time. They got lucky.

Years later, however, I discovered that success is born of luck — I don’t think any honest person can dispute that. But luck, in many ways, can be created, or at the very least, improved. The truth is, life is not fair. For creative work to spread, you need more than talent. You have to get exposure to the right networks. And as unfair as that may seem, it’s the way the world has always worked.

The good news is, you have more control over this than you realize.

 

Are we doomed to failure if we don’t live in the right place at the right time? Of course not. But networks matter, maybe more than we care to admit. Vincent van Gogh’s work matured much more quickly once he met the French Impressionists. And why wouldn’t it? He now had a field of gatekeepers who both critiqued and validated his work.

Whether we like it or not, we all need some kind of objective standard against which to measure our work. And although van Gogh did not sell much of his work in his lifetime, it was the tenacity of a well-connected sister-in-law that eventually brought his paintings to market. In fact, most of the great art the world has ever seen came about not through a single stroke of genius but by the continual effort of a community.

Networks. Partnerships. Creative collaborations. This is where enduring work originates, and, incidentally, this is how we get works like The Lord of the Rings and The White Album. Creativity is not a solitary invention but a collaborative creation. And communities create opportunities for creative work to succeed. But how do you apply this approach if you don’t live someplace like Paris, New York or Rome?

Well, of course, you could move. According to Csikszentmihalyi, it’s better to move somewhere new than it is to will yourself to be more creative. And today, it’s easier than ever to transplant yourself someplace inspiring, even if your move is just temporary. I did this eight years ago, relocating from northern Illinois to Nashville and unknowingly inserting myself into what would become a hub of creativity, technology and entrepreneurship. I’m glad I did.

But you could also let go of your excuses and realize that there’s a network available to you right now, wherever you are. This may come in the form of an online mastermind group or a series of events you attend, maybe even one you organize yourself. The truth is, there are connections everywhere and always more resources available to those willing to look.

A seat at the table

Five years ago, I decided to do something radical — well, radical for me at least. I let go of my cynicism and began reaching out to influential bloggers and authors, people I had watched for years and wanted to know. I asked them to meet me for coffee. And here’s the crazy part: Most of them said yes.

Even though I was a shy person, I met these heroes of mine and followed up with them, doing everything I could think of to help them. In some cases, it just meant buying their coffee. In others, I would interview them for my tiny blog, realizing that even the most influential people don’t mind talking about themselves.

I tried to be the kind of person these people would want to invest in — following every piece of advice they gave, doing everything they told me to do and not questioning a single word of it. And at some point, I got lucky.

It’s naive to say success doesn’t involve luck. Of course, it does. Crazy stuff happens all the time, stuff we can’t control that sometimes works in our favor. At the same time, luck is not completely out of your control. Luck can be planned. Although I can’t tell when or where luck is going to come from, I do know that the more you put yourself in the company of greatness, the more likely some of that greatness will rub off on you.

So if you want a seat at the table, the process might look something like this:

1. Find a gatekeeper.

For Hemingway, this was Sherwood Anderson and eventually Gertrude Stein. These were the people who held the keys to the kingdom, and every domain has at least one. Find someone who is connected to the people you want to know, and be strategic in reaching out, tenacious in staying in touch and intentional in demonstrating your competency.

2. Connect with people in the network.

Stein introduced Hemingway to other writers in Paris who could help him, but he was also relentless about meeting with them. He used to spar with Ezra Pound on a regular basis, boxing with him and learning how to write terse prose in the process. If you show the gatekeeper you’re willing to learn, he or she will likely introduce you to others and keep investing in you.

3. Help as many people as possible.

This is crucial. It’s not just whom you know, it’s whom you help. People remember what you do for them a lot more than they remember how clever you were. In spite of his reputation as an alpha male, Hemingway did this, too — helping Stein get her work published, encouraging Fitzgerald when he suffered from creative blocks and bringing attention to the work of the Left Bank.

Of course, every person’s journey is his or her own. But what I am now more certain of than ever is that success in any creative field is contingent on the networks you are a part of. The question is, will you embrace the power of networks, or will you keep thinking those people are just “lucky”?

Luck comes to us all. But those who recognize it are the ones who succeed. Every story of success is really a story of community, and the way you find yours is by reaching out and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves — whether the setting is Paris, Chicago or your own hometown.

 

Author: Jeff Goins

This article was originally published in Entrepreneur.

4 Business Lessons from Giovanni DeCunto

What a Famous Artist Taught Me About Business

 

When I recently started spending time with world-renowned artist, Giovanni DeCunto, never did I expect to learn a thing or two about business.

In fact, I was spending time with him to learn about art; all kinds of art, including his paintings which have attracted celebrity collectors from around the world. He has spent more than 60 years studying art while also creating a name for himself as a global expressionist. His paintings may be found around the world in places like the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the U.S. Embassy in Hong Kong and in the private art collections of Tony Bennett, Lionel Richie and Tom Cruise, to name a few.

 

In his effort to teach me about art, he unknowingly painted me a picture of a better future for my companies — a better way to run my empires. Here’s how to run a better business in four simple strokes:

1. Be that good.

One of Giovanni’s favorite quotes is that of Leonardo da Vinci — “Make sure it’s so good it doesn’t die with you.”  DeCunto strives for perfection on every canvas. He does not track time when he’s painting, because he allows nothing to detract from his sole focus of putting onto canvas what lives within him. For DeCunto, it’s not just about making art, it’s about making art so good that it will live forever.

In business, good enough should never be an option. A business, like a painting, may live forever if the original creator strives daily for absolute impeccable results.

2. Be disruptive.

Giovanni says that it is impossible to impact any person unless you disrupt or disturb then. We live in a world where communication is coming at us 24-7 from phones, email, text, voice, television and other outlets. If you can’t be heard, you cannot create impact. Giovanni says that he aims to create art that disrupts people when they see it, because by doing so, he can get into their head and create an impact, even just for a moment.

So it is true in business. If you want to create traction for your business, you need to get good at stopping people in their tracks, disrupting old behavior and making them think.

 

3. Finish what you start.

DeCunto says that he has never been able to leave a canvas in an unfinished state. Even if the painting isn’t done yet, it looks like it’s completed, and an observer could interpret its meaning. He says that the world is full of enough incomplete projects. Most people are great at starting and poor at finishing. He says that whatever your art is, you should learn to get good at finishing it.

What would your business look like if you finished everything you started? After all, your business is a masterpiece too.

4. Be a free-thinker.

Giovanni says that he does his best to avoid watching television or reading media, because too often, it is just a one-sided communication of the facts. He says that his art requires that he be a free-thinker, so he sticks to learning facts by studying history and then creating his own interpretations.

The way this has transcended business for me is that I constantly have my head buried in books and case studies, always trying to find out how someone else would solve the issue at hand. Giovanni has taught me how to better rely on my own intuition and my own past experiences to make solid decisions for the future of my business.

You are more than an entrepreneur — you are an artist. Create a legacy, disrupt people often, finish what you start, and know that you already have the answers inside of you. Keep on making your art.

 

From: Stacey Alcorn

This article was originally published on  Entrepreneur Magazine

Great Business Tools for Creative Entreprenuers

Tools I Use To Learn, Work And Travel Anywhere

I often get asked what apps, services and tools I use to learn, plan, track habits, manage time, travel, write, read and more.

I’d like to emphasize one thing, it’s not about the tools, it’s about your results, personal preference, and efficiency. If you work best with a pen and paper, there is no need to try and adopt a digital tool that doesn’t feel right for you, just because your peers or someone you admire uses one or the other tool you shouldn’t force yourself to use it just to be cool.

Traveling

I love traveling and try to do it as much as possible. To make my travel experiences more pleasurable, I research and plan a lot. Check out some of the tools and services I use.

Google Flights — a great tool for checking the world map with available flights to numerous destinations and prices.

Momondo — a smart tool for searching cheapest flights.

JetRadar — another great tool to search various airlines and find cheapest tickets.

Nomad List — useful tool for finding where to go next as a digital nomad, find prices of accommodation, weather, community

Agoda — find cheap hotels, a quite good value in Southeast Asia.

Airbnb — find accommodation anywhere in the world, get $20 credit for your first stay.

Booking — find and book cheap hotels, what I like about Booking is that it allows you to reserve a hotel without payment, you can pay once you arrive.

Google Maps — no introduction needed for this amazing service for finding your way anywhere in the world.

Foursquare — great app for discovering coffee shops, restaurants, gyms, bars and more.

Planning

It’s incredibly important to plan things. Your personal life, professional career, holidays, weekends and more. Just having a goal without a plan is just a wish. Even though you will not have a clear plan or the plan will change along the way it’s still good to have a direction to go to.

Pen and paper — old school pen and notebook work well for quick sketching or daily planning.

Toggl — simple and easy to use time tracker.

RescueTime — analytics software that tracks everything I do on my laptop and shows a productivity score.

Trello — a great tool for planning your projects and managing tasks with a team.

Apple Calendar — part of OSX operating system, works and synchronizes very well with my MacBook and iPhone.

Apple Notes — another native OSX app that works very well on MacBook and iPhone.

Evernote — a great tool for taking notes, saving PDF’s, scanning and saving receipts.

Swipes — to-do list app with intuitive user interface.

iDoneThis — tool for daily progress logging.

Coach.me — organize and track your habits, set goals and find a coach to help you achieve your dreams.

Speedtest — best tool to quickly evaluate if a cafe or restaurant has a fast WiFi for working.

Social Media

Social media has changed the way people interact with each other, discover news and make connections. It certainly has changed my life, I meet new people, have interesting conversations, find jobs and get discovered on social media. Below are some tools I use to analyze, track, create and moderate my social media accounts.

Buffer — a handy tool for scheduling social media updates.

TweetDeck — easily manage multiple Twitter accounts.

Klout — analyze, measure and track your social media presence.

Finances

PayPal — get paid from anywhere in the world and pay for services online like hotels, flights etc.

Wave Accounting — best free accounting and invoicing software.

Scannable — scan and save business cards, documents, receipts and more directly to Evernote.

Learning

I am constantly learning new things, self-development is one of the most interesting fields for me. From design to web development to business to marketing to writing to speaking, most of my learning comes from the following sources.

TED — amazing and inspiring videos on

Duolingo — learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian for free. I’m currently learning Spanish.

Skillshare — high-quality courses for creatives and entrepreneurs.

Udemy — thousands of courses on every imaginable subject.

Codeacademy — interactive and free coding courses.

Medium — a platform that connects amazing storytellers and readers seeking for inspiring stories.

Books

I’ve not been a huge reading fan when I was in school, but after I got the right book in my hands, I’ve made reading my priority. You can follow my reviews and reading list on Goodreads.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie — it is mostly common sense but principles in the book work like magic.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho — this book transformed my way of thinking about pursuing my dreams.

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss — a book that will inspire you to take action, start optimizing your work and escape the 9–5 trap.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau — Chris shares inspiring stories of people who started a business and redesigned their lifestyle with little to no money.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek — learn how to find clarity in your actions and inspire people.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie — a touching story of TOMS Shoes, building a social business and making a positive impact in the world.

Willpower by Roy F. Baumeister — willpower must be the most important factor in making you successful.

Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman — being intelligent is not enough, you have to learn to handle your emotions and read people.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell — virality is not an accident, there is a well-prepared process behind the big movements.

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell — you might be overthinking in your daily life when making decisions. This book shows the power of thinking without thinking.

Inspiration

Dribbble — a great way to explore how other designers work and learn from most talented designers in the world.

Product Hunt — a powerful tool for discovering hottest products in the world voted by the community of tech experts, investors and general public.

StumbleUpon — a free web-browser extension which acts as an intelligent browsing tool for discovering and sharing websites.

Random Useful Websites — hit the button and get a random useful website, surprisingly works like magic.

Nuzzel — social, real-time platform that allows you to see the news that your friends share.

Prismatic — choose topics you are interested in and get the best content recommendations.

Muzli — an add-on for Google Chrome that provides you inspiration and useful resources for designers every day.

Podcasts

The School of Greatness with Lewis Howes — Lewis interviews bestselling authors, top athletes, successful entrepreneurs and other inspiring individuals.

The Tim Ferriss Show — Tim talks with scientists, authors, entrepreneurs and people who change the world. Topics range from neuroscience to psychology to business and more.

The Jacquesvh Podcast — Jacques interviews inspiring entrepreneurs and creatives, also talks about marketing, entrepreneurship and motivation. Check out an interview with me.

The $100 MBA Show — real life business lessons in short form episodes with Omar Zenhom and Nicole Baldinu.

The Fizzle Show — fun, actionable and inspiring show for creative entrepreneurs.

The Cubicle Crashing Podcast by Lydia Lee — Lydia interviews creative entrepreneurs and individuals about unconventional lifestyle and escaping 9–5. Check out my conversation with Lydia.

Entrepreneur on Fire — John Lee Dumas interviews most inspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

Communication

Slack — messaging app for teams. Get focused on work and reduce email communication.

Calendly — a tool for scheduling meetings, calls.

Skype — free software for instant messaging and video/audio calls.

Gmail — I use Gmail for personal email and Google for Business forDespreneur. Even though, Google for Business costs $5/person/month it’s definitely worth it.

Blogging

WordPress — a blogging platform that powers 25% of the internet. This blog is built on WordPress too.

Bluehost — affordable and reliable hosting for your blog or small project.

MediaTemple — more powerful hosting for bigger blogs and projects.

ThemeForest — Photoshop and HTML templates, themes for different content management systems (CMS), such as WordPress, Shopify, Drupal and more.

MaxCDN — a content delivery network which makes your website load significantly faster.

Grammarly— a fantastic tool that will make you a better writer. It checks your spelling, grammar and suggests fixes instantly.

MailerLite — email marketing software with super easy to use interface and affordable pricing.

MailChimp — another email marketing software. Good for smaller projects, an account with up to 2,000 subscribers is free.

SumoMe — online software for growing your website’s traffic and subscribers.

Creative Market — market for design resources like fonts, templates, themes and more.

Unsplash — high-quality free photos to use for personal and commercial projects.

StockSnap — this tool allows you to search for free stock photos that don’t suck.

Plugins

Google Analyticator — an easy way to install Google Analytics on your website.

Search Meter — this plugin tracks what your readers are searching for on your blog.

WP External Links — open external links in a new window or tab, add “no follow”, set link icon, styling, SEO friendly options and more.

Akismet — blocks incoming spam to your blog.

WP Smush — reduce image file sizes, improve performance and boost your SEO.

Yoast SEO — the ultimate all-in-one SEO plugin.

W3 Total Cache — easy web performance optimization using caching: browser, page, object, database, minify and content delivery network support.

Photo & Video

iPhone 6 — this powerful device fulfills all my photo/video needs.

ScreenFlow (for Mac users) — the screen capture software I’m currently using for screencasts.

VSCO Cam — I don’t use any other software for editing my photos, this app for iPhone is all I need.

Instagram — a great source of inspiration as well as a medium to share my travels and daily life.

Flickr — great for storing photos online. Flickr gives you 1,000 GB for free.

YouTube — great for watching videos, listening to music but also for storing all videos from my iPhone, upload, set to private and save.

Podcasting

Samson C01U Microphone — affordable USB microphone, quality is quite good if used it properly.

Logic Pro X — professional audio editing software for Mac users.

SoundCloud — great service for storing audio files, discovering new music and listening to podcasts.

iTunes — listen to internet radio, music on your computer and discover new podcasts or submit yours.

Business

Dropbox — easy to use cloud storage for your files. I store my projects on Dropbox.

Google Docs — free online alternative to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The best part that it allows live collaboration.

Google Analytics — free online software for tracking, measuring and analyzing website content.

Gumroad — great online software for selling anything online.

Focus

Headspace — I recommend this app for everyone who wants to try meditation.

ZenFriend — after my Vipassana experience I no longer use guided meditation, ZenFriend provides a simple timer I need.

StayFocusd — block distracting websites and have a limited time a day to access them. I’ve blocked Twitter, Facebook, and some news websites.

AdBlock — an add-on for Chrome that blocks ads on the websites, including video ads on YouTube.

Spotify — millions of songs for free. I have different playlists for different moods so I can get into the zone easier.

Legal Advice Every Creative Should Know

The Biggest Legal Mistake Freelancers Make

Whether freelancing is something that you’ve started out doing casually with machinations of eventually quitting your job or it’s the work that keeps your bread buttered, you’ll want to acquaint yourself with a sexy little document we lawyers like to call, the Client Service Agreement (or CSA, for short).

If you are selling a service, you must have all of your clients sign a well-drafted CSA before any work begins. It’s not enough to have a Statement of Work or a handshake or a friendly conversation. None of those will sufficiently cover your rump when the excrement hits the wind-machine.

A CSA, as the name suggests, is all about your relationship with your clients, and it’s capital ‘E’ essential. If you are a photographer, designer, coach, or pretty much any other type of freelancer providing a service, it’s imperative that your clients know what to expect when working with you and what their responsibilities are in the transaction.

A well-drafted CSA not only memorializes the basic terms of your relationship with your client, it also provides next steps in the event something unexpected happens. It can prevent disagreements and confusion with your customers, which in turn can prevent all manner of assorted fuckery such as:

  • requests for refunds that destroy your cash flow for the month,
  • threats of lawsuits,
  • actual lawsuits, and
  • a former client telling everyone they know that you are the devil himself (or herself — the devil could totally be a woman).

Why we all need CSAs.

Before we get into what a CSA should contain, let’s first take a brief trip down scenario lane so you get a good idea of what I mean about covering your tuckus in case things go wrong. If we lawyers know anything, it’s that everything’s all smiles and giggles until somebody’s project is suddenly three times the size (but not three times the money), or someone else demands a full refund because the website you spent 6 months designing and building “just don’t look right.” Take it from us, whenever somebody is paying you for a creative service, where the outcome can be pretty subjective, things can get all Judge Judy real fast. People have certain expectations about the outcomes of services that they pay for (as they should), and unfortunately, sometimes those expectations are completely unreasonable. If you have your policies clearly set forth in a CSA, you’ll have something concrete to point to when someone comes complaining about the work that you produced, making preposterous demands.

But, CSAs aren’t just for governing complaints from unreasonable clients. CSAs also exist to inform your clients–at the get-go– of how your engagement will proceed, and what they should expect from the relationship. By having a CSA in place, your client has some peace of mind in knowing when, how, and at what cost you will perform your services and deliver your product. Likewise, you have peace of mind knowing that you have a legal document to lean on if their payment is late, or you make a mistake, or a hacker crashes their site.

Ok fine. We all need CSAs. But how do I make that happen?

Now that I’ve scared you into getting a CSA (we lawyers feed on fear and gummy-bears, as you probably know), here’s a list of what a decent CSA should contain, so you can draft it yourself if need be. This is just a general list of the most important points, and there may be things relevant to you that aren’t included here. At a minimum, you should make sure you include this stuff. Because, as important as CSAs are, a crappy CSA can really cramp your style.

  • How many calls/emails/meetings with you can the client expect?
  • When and how will the services be delivered?
  • When and how will the client pay you? What happens if payment is late?
  • How many rounds of revisions/edits will you do?
  • What rights to the intellectual property (and by intellectual property we mean the designs, photos, copy, marketing plan or other exclusive thing you’re creating for them) is the client purchasing?
  • How can you use that intellectual property after you sell or license it to them?
  • What happens if you discover that don’t like this client and need a get out of jail free card?

But what about all that other stuff?

Sometimes business owners look at a CSA and ask, “Do I really need all of that legalese at the end?” The answer is a resounding: hells yeah!

The stuff at the end of your CSA is called boilerplate. These are standard clauses that are often found at the end of a contract to protect you if there is misunderstanding, confusion, or just plain trouble-at-the-OK-corral during the relationship with your client. The boilerplate clauses control what happens when the parties to the agreement disagree.

You may not care for the seemingly long and unnecessary language at the end addressing things like modifications, assignments and choice of law, at first glance. But trust me, when you get that one shitstorm of a client (you know the one I’m talking about and if you don’t know then you haven’t met him yet but you will; oh, you will), you will be so incredibly glad that all of that superfluous boilerplate was at the end of the contract your client signed. That boilerplate will be your fortress when a client from hell tries to storm the battlements.

For example, the Limitation of Liability clause is meant to do just that: it limits the amount of liability you could have if an issue arises out of the contract. In other words, thanks to this clause, the amount of money a problem will cost you is limited and won’t be inflated by extra, over-the-top damages.

Recently, a client of mine who works as a consultant was threatened with a lawsuit by her customer. She had worked with her customer for 3 months, and when the engagement was over, the customer wanted her to finish the projects they had worked on together. When my client informed him that the term of their engagement was up and he would need to pay more to keep working with her, he threatened to sue her for loss of profits (she was that good).

Of course because she’s a smartypants, she had her customer sign a client service agreement before they started working together. Her client service agreement included some very helpful items:

  • It specified a term for the agreement with a clearly defined end point.
  • It included the limitation of liability clause that prevented her from being sued for loss of profits (see how handy that is?).
  • End result — with these superhero clauses, my client wasn’t too concerned with her customer’s empty threats.

By the agreement he signed, she couldn’t be sued for lost profits, and the term of the agreement meant she was not obligated to continue working with him either. She directed him to these clauses in the contract and never heard from him again. (I assume he is off somewhere trying to bully someone who didn’t have him sign a CSA.)

Another important clause in the boilerplate is called Recovery of Litigation Expenses (also known as the attorney’s fees clause which is such a better name, right?). The typical attorney’s fees clause allows the winning party of a lawsuit to recover their attorney’s fees and other costs incurred when bringing a lawsuit to enforce the agreement. In other words, if the judge agrees to it, then whomever wins gets their attorney’s fees covered. Which is awesome, because some attorneys can be expensive (Not me though. I am worth every penny.)

Look at it this way. If your client owes you $7,000 but it’s going to cost you $5,500 to bring a lawsuit, well, it’s kind of not worth it, right? But if you can get the $7,000 you are owed and the other guy has to pay the $5,500 you spent to bring the lawsuit, all’s right with the world.

(By the way, this happened to a freelancer I know because they thought it was enough to have their client sign a statement of work. As I mentioned in the beginning, this is a big no-no! A statement of work is not a client service agreement!)

The moral of these stories is that all of that boilerplate at the end of your CSA is actually protecting you from the typical kinds of freelancer problems that can cost you large sums of your time and money to resolve.

And another thing!

The terms of your CSA should be reasonable, and the way you deal with clients is an important part of building your reputation and your business. So, try to strike a balance between protecting yourself and respecting your time, and pleasing somewhat picky clients. It’s ok to go above and beyond what you’ve promised in your CSA from time to time (so long as it isn’t to the client’s detriment).

PS. What to do when you forget to bring a pen

Here’s one last tip to make this CSA thing super easy: use HelloSign or a similar app to have all of your clients electronically sign your CSA. Electronic signatures are totally legit and they’ll help you get your agreements signed quickly by every single client.

Now, go get your CSA together. Your conscience (and your bank account) will thank you.

Author: Rachel Rodgers from Esq

Source: Creative Class

 

What Do All Great Leaders Have In Common [VIDEO]

…they “Start With Why

 

Simon Sinek is a TED talker well worth the listen. This is one of my favorite TED talks of all time, packed full of inspiration and referencing Apple, Martin Luther King Jr., and The Wright Brothers.  Watch this and let us know what it is you’re inspired to do!!!

 

And as always, share on social media beneath to find out what your friends are inspired to do!

4 Effective Steps To Monetize Your Art

Many artists and creative entrepreneurs mistakenly assume that the sales process begins when they ask for the money. But in actuality the sales process begins the minute you to start to communicate with your buyer in both direct and non-direct ways like using social media or email marketing for example.

 

In this article, blogger Rodney Washington will show you a simple four-step process so you can better communicate with your target buyer while making more money from the very beginning.
1. Focus On Creating Connection – It’s tempting to only want to show or talk about your work and immediately ask for the sale, but often in the beginning people just want to get to know more about you, your personality and perhaps your process. Make it easy for your audience to connect with you.

Ways To Accomplish This:

~ Host a open house and speak directly with your guests, tell them about your latest inspiration, series, etc.
~ Ask them for their thoughts on your latest body of work, presentation, products etc.
~ Ask them about themselves (people love to talk about themselves)
~ Don’t worry about making a sale, focus on the connection
~ Follow up with targeted messages (more on this in Step 2)
2. Always Be List Building – Usually your customer will not buy from you on the first connection, they will want to get know more about you and that happens over a period of time. One of the most effective ways is through maintaining communication with your audience by sending a series of targeted follow-up emails and/or building connection using social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for example.

When you send or post your follow up messages to your followers or subscribers don’t bombard them with “buy my stuff’ messages. That’s called spamming and it won’t work.

On the other hand, if you focus on providing lots of valuable usable content like photos, videos, audio replays, a worksheet template, an article, a 20 minute telephone or skype chat for example these will go a long way towards establishing and nurturing relationships with your followers that lead to sales.

Question to ask yourself: What do I have of value that I could freely to give to people who follow me?

List Building Tip: Whenever you meet new people invite them to connect with you on social media or to opt-in to your online mailing list on your blog or website to get your latest goodie.
3. Create A No-Brainer Offer – Often times new potential customers are not prepared to invest in your higher ticket items on the first encounter, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make easier for them to work with you.

Look for ways to create what I call “entry level” pieces. The key is to price these items or services under $50 dollars. Make it something that new customers can find high value in and easily say yes to.

Keep this in mind: It’s far easier to sell to an existing customer than to find a new one. So that $50 dollar entry level product could lead to higher priced sales if your customer perceives and receives value from the entry level items you offer.  In other words, everything you create must provide value.
4. Always be seeding the next step – The most common mistake I see entrepreneurs make is never introducing or what I call seeding the next opportunity to work with you. For example, let’s say you want to write an ebook why not seed throughout the book the next logical step? For a new author that could be to work to with you directly or to sign up for your course on topics discussed in your book.

Think about last time you went to Starbucks, (assuming you drink coffee) were you offered a sample of a new blend, pastry or whipped drink? That’s called seeding. You may or may not purchase the item you sampled but if you enjoyed it, hopefully  it made enough of an impression on you that you’ll order it on your next visit or better still, tell a few friends about it.

 

Source: Get Paid For Your Creativity

Author: Rodney Washington

7 Useful Tips To Get More Traffic to Your Blog

Originally published on Foundr.

When you’re blogging, there are literally a ton of different strategies, ideas, and tips to keep in mind: optimize for SEO, use a personable writing tone, do your best to engage with your reader, et cetera. The list goes on and on.

Most of these blogging tips require a good deal of time to implement. For instance: an engaging, personal writing tone takes a fair amount of time to develop, particularly if you are used to writing in a stiff, corporate style. Optimizing for SEO requires in-depth keyword planning, strategic placement of researched keywords, thought-out meta descriptions, and more, all while keeping the primary goal of reader friendliness in mind.

Yes, these deep, detailed strategies definitely have their place in blogging, but also remember that there are smaller, less time-consuming techniques and hacks that you should be applying to your blog.

You might be tempted to think that these smaller blogging tips produce smaller results, simply because they don’t take a long time to implement. At first glance, it seems to be a reasonable assumption. After all, it is counter-intuitive to think that a small change to your blog will produce as big a result as a large change.

However, the reality is quite often the opposite: small, seemingly insignificant changes to your blogging method can produce staggeringly significant results.

If you’re not yet convinced, then take a look at the following 7 blogging tips that take only a little work but can produce big results (each strategy takes 30 minutes max to put into operation).

1. SPLIT TEST MULTIPLE TITLES

I’m sure you’ve heard this before in the past, but I’ll say it again: your blog post title is one ofthe most important parts of your content (click to tweet).

Seriously.

The value of a curiosity inducing, search engine friendly, click-through generating title simply cannot be underestimated.

It’s too bad, then, that most bloggers spend only the minimum amount of time on their title, while focusing the vast majority of their effort on the actual content.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t focus on writing top-notch post content (far from it), but you should definitely treat your post title as of significantly more importance than even your introductory sentence.

One quick way to boost the quality of your blog post headline is to split test multiple titles to see which ones performs the best.

At Foundr, we use the KingSumo Headlines plugin to do exactly that.

All you need to do is think up several different titles, rather than just one, for your blog post and key them in. After the post is published, the plugin will then automatically test each headline to see which headline produces the highest click-through rate. Here’s an example result from a post that Foundr ran back in October 2014 on 50 billionaire quotes about business and lifestyle.

Although a bit pricey (the plugin starts at a one-time fee of $99 for support of up to 50K visitors per month), it’s definitely a worthwhile investment in the long run.

2. ADD OPT-IN FORMS TO THE YOUR MOST POPULAR BLOG CONTENT

Here’s another ultra-simple strategy that will boost your content ROI: add opt-in forms to your best-performing blog content. It takes no more than a few minutes and will significantly increase conversions to your email list.

I really can’t take credit for this idea, though, as it comes from Pat Flynn’s post on his Smart Passive Income blog.

Basically, Pat noticed that his about page was one of the highest-trafficked pages on his site. Realizing that he was missing out on a massive opportunity to convert large volumes of targeted traffic into valued subscribers, he distributed opt-in forms throughout the about page and saw an instantaneous 446% increase in opt-in conversions from that page the very next month.

It’s a no-brainer, really. Simply look up your best-performing blog content (consider metrics like number of views, bounce rate, search engine rankings, conversion rate, avg. time on page, etc.) and capitalize on this information by spreading out opt-in forms throughout the post/page where relevant.

3. START SOCIAL MEDIA CONVERSATIONS AROUND YOUR TOPIC BEFORE WRITING THE POST

 

The next time you’re about to start writing a blog post, do this first: hop onto social media and start a discussion around your topic.

For a practical example, let’s say that you’re going to write a post for a B2B audience on using white papers for content marketing purposes.

Get on LinkedIn and post a new discussion in a relevant group around that topic. Engage with the community by asking questions like:

  • What practices do you keep in mind when writing white papers to maximize marketing potential?
  • How do you spread the word when you release a new white paper?
  • How does the ROI of other content formats, like case studies and infographics, compare to the typical ROI you see from a white paper?

If your discussion takes off, you will kill two birds with one stone.

Firstly, you’ll have a great source of ideas to develop your post from the contributing commentators.

Secondly, you’ll have a place to post your link when the article goes live, giving you some instant traction.

I’ve recently started using this tactic for my writing, and its benefits are already proving to be enormous. Not only am I boosting blog post traffic and getting some immediate social media traction, but I’m also able to develop my personal brand and position myself as an authority in my field.

Not a bad result for the few minutes required to start and maintain a simple discussion.

When using this strategy, remember to only start discussions on the social networks most appropriate to your niche and post topic. Also, whenever possible, try to post in groups dedicated to your topic. The example discussion above, for instance, could have gone into a LinkedIn content marketing or B2B marketing group.

4. SCHEDULE BLOG POSTS AT PEAK TIMES FOR TRAFFIC & ENGAGEMENT

All days of the week were not created equal.

This truth is evidenced in research collected by Buffer. The research shows that the day you publish your post and even the time at which you publish it can significantly alter traffic and engagement results.

The study revealed that blog posts tend to attract the most traffic when published on a Monday and typically get the most comments when published on Thursday (click to tweet). In both scenarios, publishing in the morning generally has the best results.

Exploit this research by scheduling your blog posts in advance for either Monday or Thursday mornings, depending on the goals you want to achieve with your blog. It takes no more than 30 seconds to do and can get you as much as 300% more traffic and engagement, as referenced in the study.

5. GET THE WORD OUT IMMEDIATELY

You might have thought that your work was done when you spent time crafting a quality blog post and scheduled it for publishing, but far from it. Your very first step after publishing a new blog post should be to start promoting it.

One extremely efficient and results-oriented promotion strategy is blogger outreach. The concept is essentially this:

Email bloggers you have mentioned, linked to, or otherwise attributed in your post and let them know about your latest content release. Tell them about how you’ve credited them in your post, and ask if they would be willing to share the content to your social networks and/or link to it in the future.

I do this on nearly every blog post I write, and I typically see a >50% conversion rate on my email requests, even for some highly popular blogs with already have huge audiences. This goes to prove that once you’ve done a favor for someone (by linking to or promoting them), the person is usually quite willing to return the favor.

When doing this strategy, it’s important that you to use a standard e-mail template to conserve time. Writing each outreach email from scratch would simply be too time-consuming. Remember, however, to personalize each email for the person/company you’re contacting (NEVER try to automate the process).

Here’s a sample e-mail template I often use:

Hi [name of blogger],

My name is [your name] and I’m a blogger over at [your blog name].

I recently came across [the post/page/content you linked to]. It was a great read, and I especially loved the part where you discussed [topic in post that you found interesting].

Actually, I’ve just published a new post at my blog on [post topic]. In it I talk in-depth about [more info about your post topic]. I’ve also linked to your content within the post as it’s a really solid and relevant resource for my readers that develops the info on [your post topic] further. Here’s the link to my post if you’d like to take a look: [your post link]

If you have the time, I’d love to hear what you think of the post (maybe you’d like to share some feedback/advice in the comment section?) and whether you’d like to share it to your social networks and/or link to it in the future.

All the best, and keep up the awesome work!

Cheers,
[your name]

The email is reasonably short, to the point, and has up till now produced some pretty good conversions for me personally.

The best part is that this strategy only takes 10-20 minutes per post once you get into a flow. For that relatively small amount of work, you give yourself a real chance to be featured on some of the most relevant and popular blogs and social networks in your niche.

6. IMPROVE SHAREABILITY WITH CLICK TO TWEET LINKS

Throughout this post, you’ve probably noticed a couple of the click to tweet links that pop up every so often (maybe you’ve even clicked on one of them and shared this post to your Twitter — if so, good for you!).

By strategically placing click to tweet links throughout your post, you improve the post’s shareability. In essence, you’re gently reminding readers to share your article on social media, and also giving them a ready-made tweet all ready to publish.

I use Clicktotweet.com to create links, but there are also other options for the same function available from SumoMe and CoSchedule.

7. INTERLINK, INTERLINK, INTERLINK

Interlinking between your blog content’s has 2 major benefits: better SEO, and more pageviews.

When you link from one of your blog posts to other ones, it helps to spread SEO juice around and develops your site’s architecture and structure.

It also increases the likelihood that a reader of your post will visit another page in your site, giving you a boost in the pageviews metric.

Interlinking is an incredibly simple thing to do. After you finish writing your post, go back over it and scout areas where you can reference a previous post to make your content an even better resource for readers. Then, choose the appropriate anchor text and link away.

CONCLUSION

It’s downright wrong to assume that the only blogging techniques that will produce significant results are ones that are time-consuming to implement. Any one of the 7 quick blogging tips above will help you to take your blog to the next level, without draining a huge amount of time.

How do you plan to implement these efficient, results-producing tips in your blog? Do you have any blogging tips, tricks, or hacks that you’d like to share?

Voice your thoughts in the comments below!