Best Books for Online EntrepreneursKids are heading back to school and people have learning on the mind. Adults may not have classes of their own to return to, but it’s a good time for us to start thinking about how to improve our own learning. Any good entrepreneur knows that you never reach the point of knowing too much. To keep your brain fresh and your business acumen sharp, check out some of these books for online entrepreneurs.
1. The Lean Startup, by Eric ReisThe Lean Startup has been influential in changing the way many people think about running a business. The book aims to help entrepreneurs make better, faster business decisions by embracing experimentation and valuing creativity and customer feedback more in decision making. The book has inspired many entrepreneurs and even launched a movement and community of people that meet around the world. It could change the way you do business too.
2. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell has made a career out of looking at popular subjects in a unique way fueled by research. His book Outliers puts that approach to the subject of what makes people successful. If you want to understand how some of the most successful people in the world got where they are, Gladwell’s book can provide some insight.
3. Lean In, by Sheryl SandbergWhile Sandberg’s book is focused more on advice for businesswomen in general rather than entrepreneurs specifically, many of her recommendations can be helpful for women who run businesses now, or hope to start one. The book can also be a good education for male entrepreneurs who want to understand what their female employees face and create a more inclusive work environment.
4. The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It, by Michael GerberIn this updated followup to his 1988 book on the same subject, Gerber tackles some of the myths that make people think they know what they’re doing in business when they’re really on the path to failure. He walks readers through the actual steps that entrepreneurs should plan on taking to succeed in business.
5. Grit, by Angela DuckworthPsychologist Angela Duckworth provides her analysis of what it takes to succeed in the book Grit. She lays out the case that ultimately talent and smarts aren’t as important to how well you do in business as perseverance and passion. Give the book a look to see how you can put her research to use in your own life.
6. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert CialdiniYet another book focusing on the role psychology can play in business success, Cialdini’s Influence has been extremely influential in the marketing industry over the past few decades. The book can help you understand how to reach and gain customers better, as well as providing concepts that could make you a better manager of the people who work for you.
7. Tools of Titans, by Tim FerrissFerriss interviewed nearly 200 successful people in a variety of industries in order to put together this tome that collects a wide range of tips and techniques to improve business success, productivity, and life.
8. The Psychology of Selling, by Brian TracySalesmen aren’t the only ones who need to understand how to craft a successful sales pitch. Business owners have to know how to sell their business idea to potential investors, customers, and employees. The Psychology of Selling can give you a firmer grasp on how to successfully convince people the value of your business and products.
9. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack TroutIt’s common knowledge by now that we live in a world oversaturated with information and advertisements. The only way for brands to reach customers is to figure out a way to cut through the noise. Positioning seeks to help brands figure out how to do that by crafting clear positioning for your business and products that helps you stand out.
10. Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, by Arianna HuffingtonThe title may be a mouthful, but the concept behind Huffington’s book is one that may bring more simplicity to your life. She tackles the subject of work-life balance and how to make self-care and well being a part of your definition of success. We all work better when we’re happy and fulfilled. Huffington makes the case for giving those values the same priority as money and recognition.
11. Deep Work, by Cal NewportWe’re all besieged by distractions every day. It’s getting harder and harder to stay productive throughout the entire workday without frequent forays into social media, blogs, or other sources of online distraction. Deep Work argues that one of the most important skills for success is one that many people are losing touch with: the ability to focus. The book will help you figure out how to regain your ability to tune out distractions and focus on the main tasks you need to complete.
12. The Power of Broke, by Daymond JohnIt’s easy to feel like all your business problems would be solved if you simply had more money. The Power of Broke argues otherwise. Based on personal experience, John shares his view that starting out with almost nothing can actually be an asset that forces you to get creative and strategic. If you’re struggling with feeling like you don’t have enough capital to take where business where you want it to go, this book could be the inspiration you need.
13. The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom, by Carrie WilkersonBeing an entrepreneur doesn’t have to mean spending long, stressful days at an office. You can approach it as a way to be your own boss and run things on your own terms. Wilkerson’s book provides suggestions on how to make a more low-key, low-stress version of entrepreneurship a reality.
14. The Miracle Morning for Entrepreneurs, Hal Elrod and Cameron HeroldThe Miracle Morning provides tips for ways to start your day that will make you more energized and productive once you dive into work. If you’re not convinced a few new morning habits can make much of a difference, five minutes reading reviews of this book may change your mind. People praise the book for improving in their energy levels and success for each day in tangible ways.
15. Hooked: How to Build Habit Forming Products, by Nir EyalMost of these books are about how to run a business effectively, but one of the biggest factors in the success of a business is its product. Hooked looks at what’s behind the kind of products that people just can’t get enough of and provides an analysis of what you can do to create that kind of product yourself.
16. What If It Does Work Out? By Susie MooreMoore’s motivational book aims to take the power out of the question that keeps many entrepreneurs from moving forward on their ideas: what if it doesn’t work out? The book takes a stab at the fear of failure that could be keeping you back.
17. The Hard Thing About Hard Things, by Ben HorowitzA lot of books about entrepreneurship focus on the inspirational side of things – insisting that you can do it, you just have to put the work in. This book gives a hard look to the aspects of entrepreneurship that are hard for reasons that go beyond being a lot of work. If you want some guidance on some of the difficult decisions you may have to face as an entrepreneur and how to handle them, this is a good book to check out.
18. The Personal MBA, by Josh KaufmanMBA programs are expensive and, Kaufman argues, not worth it. This book lays out fundamentals you need to know and some tips on how to learn the rest in practice. Instead of spending years in school and tens of thousands of dollars, this book can cover the most important basics for you.
19. The Entrepreneur Mind, by Kevin JohnsonA big part of how successful you’ll be as an entrepreneur is the kind of mindset you bring into each day of work. The Entrepreneur Mind provides many of the lessons entrepreneurs need to learn to be able to approach various tasks and problems in their business with the right mindset to do well.
20. The 10 Laws of Enduring Success, Maria BartiromoBartiromo has talked to a number of successful people over the years. Her book is based on the lessons and insights gleaned from those many interviews. The book speaks to not only how people achieve success, but how they maintain it once they’ve reached it. No matter where you are in your entrepreneur’s journey, the lessons others have learned have something to teach you. Take some time this back-to-school season to give yourself a little bit of schooling. You may be able to bring something new and useful to your business as a result of it.
Monday, July 31, 2017 by Kristen HicksWorking as a solopreneur can be extremely rewarding, but only if you can consistently find enough work to keep your business afloat. Luckily, every client gets you one step closer to ongoing sustainability in your freelance business, and not just because of the money you’ll make from that one client or project. The number one resource solopreneurs have for getting new customers is usually their current or former customers. 84% of high-earning soloprenuers list word of mouth as a top source for getting new work. The solopreneurs who turn their solo businesses into successful ventures do it, at least in part, by utilizing current clients to help them find new clients. You don’t have too much power over what your clients will say to their friends and colleagues on their own time, but you can use the power of word of mouth through online reviews and testimonials on your own website. Getting clients to provide reviews and testimonials doesn’t have to be hard, but it can feel a little awkward at first. Here are a few steps you can take to help increase the number of testimonials and reviews you have to help you promote your solopreneur business.
1. Include a link to review sites in your email signature.Any website you’re on that includes a review section is an opportunity for you to get more feedback and reviews from customers. So promote them. Add a link to the site in your email signature with a note asking recipients to give you a review. That way, every person you correspond with will learn the site exists and see a CTA to go give you a review every time you interact over email. This is a fairly passive form of asking for a review or testimonial, so if you’re trying to work up to being more comfortable soliciting testimonials, it’s a good place to start.
2. Include links to review sites on your website as well.This is really the same idea as number one. Add links and a note encouraging visitors to review you on these review sites. This way, potential customers trying to decide whether or not to hire you can see what others have thought of you, and current customers know where to add their review once they have some experience working with you.
3. Provide a survey after projects.At some point, you need to graduate from the more passive methods described in steps one and two and start being more direct in soliciting feedback. Sending a quick survey over to your clients after a project’s complete or once you’ve been working with them for a certain amount of time can accomplish two things at once:
- It gives you a chance to collect customer feedback that you can use to improve your services.
- You can use open-ended questions as a way to collect potential testimonials.
4. Keep an eye out for positive comments on social media.Sometimes people turn to social media to voice their opinions of a business they’ve worked with. If you’re not making a point to pay attention to what people are saying about your work on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, you may be missing out on some great comments that could make website testimonials. Go beyond just checking your mentions now and then and start practicing a wider scale of social listening. That way, if you encounter criticism, you have the chance to step in and work to make things right. And when you encounter compliments, you can ask the client about turning them into a testimonial for your website.
5. When you receive positive feedback, ask for permission to repurpose it as a testimonial.You know how now and then a client will send you an email saying something kind and complimentary about your work? It might not happen all the time, but it sure feels nice when it does. Instead of simply enjoying that nice feeling and sending back a “thanks,” next time go a step further and ask if they’d be ok with you using what they’ve said as a testimonial on your website. There’s a very high likelihood in a situation like this that they’ll say yes, since they’ve already made it clear they like you and have taken the time to write something to that effect.
6. If you’re just starting out, ask non-client contacts to provide you relevant testimonials.If everything on this list sounds completely out of reach because you’re still in that early stage of looking for your very first clients, that’s ok - you can use testimonials from other people in your life. If you’re a writer that has helped friends or an organization you volunteer for with your writing skills, they can be your early testimonials. If you’re a graphic designer that learned your skill in school, the professors who know your work well can serve as your first testimonials. If you’re branching out from full-time employment to freelancing, your former employer could make a great testimonial. Make sure you only ask people who know your work. You want the testimonials to be genuine and accurate. But don’t feel disheartened about turning to other people who know your skills and work ethic to start, you can build up your testimonials from actual clients as you go.
7. Just ask!A lot of these come down to the same thing, but you don’t always need the types of starting prompts described in the steps above to collect testimonials. Any time you’ve done work for a client you’re proud of, it’s ok to simply send an email asking if they’d be willing to write a few words about their experience with you for the website. It doesn’t take them long, and if they’re satisfied with your work, many clients will be happy to do it. And you’ll be able to add the honest opinion of a third-party to your website, which immediately makes a stronger persuasive case to most visitors than anything you can say about your own work will. Soliciting customer testimonials may be a bit awkward and require you to work up some courage, but the end results are worth it.
Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
How Do I Get My Own Email?In navigating the line between professional and unprofessional, email addresses have an especially important role to play. Just think of how you regard a person differently if they email you from a email@example.com email address versus if it comes from firstname.lastname@example.org? Whether or not it seems fair to you, if you want to be taken seriously professionally, having a professional email address matters. And if you run a business (even if it’s a one-person business), then you need one that matches the domain name of your website.
Why Having a Branded Email For Your Business is ImportantIf you’re still skeptical about the importance of a branded email address, there are a few main reasons to re-think your position.
1. It makes you look more professional.This is the most important reason on the list. If you want people to take your business seriously, one of the most important things you can do is create a quality business website and have an email address to match. It shows people that you’re not just someone dabbling; you take what you do seriously. In a world full of scammers, knowing you have a legit website and email address sets you apart and lets potential customers know you’re trustworthy.
2. It makes it clear who the email is coming from.If your email address in no way resembles your business name, people will have a hard time connecting the two. In one survey, the biggest factor people named for why they decide to open emails they receive is who the sender is. Your recipients are more likely to write you off as a stranger and ignore your email if they don’t know to associate the unfamiliar email address with the business they have a relationship with.
3. It lets people know where to find your business website.As an added bonus, if someone who receives your email is interested in learning more about your business, they can see the domain name embedded within the email itself. It’s easy to figure out where to go to get more information on what you sell and make a purchase, if they’re so inclined.
How to Set Up a Branded Email AddressNow that you know you need it, how can you make it happen?
Step 1: Invest in a web hosting account.If you already have a business website, then this step is already complete. If not, it’s an important prerequisite to having both a website and a personalized email that matches the domain name. Many hosting plans (including those offered by HostGator) come with free email addresses – sometimes even an unlimited number of them. If yours doesn’t, then it’s time to consider switching to one that does (like HostGator).
Step 2: Decide on a naming convention.If you have a one-person business, this might not seem important now, but if your business ever grows, you’ll want consistency. Try one of the following traditional formats: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Whatever you choose now, it will be easier for customers down the line to know how to contact you and your employees if you stick with it.
Step 3: Create your email account.How this step works will vary depending on the web hosting provider you use. Check the support articles on your provider’s website for step-by-step instructions. If your hosting is with HostGator, then you can watch a video tutorial on how to create an email address here, or follow a few simple instructions:
- Sign into your cPanel account.
- Find the Mail section and select Email Accounts.
- Fill in the Email field with the name you want to use, and the password fields with your desired password.
- Click Create Account.
Step 4: Set up your email client.Chances are, you don’t want to keep up with your emails through cPanel, so you'll need to set up your new email address in the email client of your choice. Some of the most popular options are Outlook, MacMail, Eudora, Thunderbird, and Gmail. You can find specific instructions for getting set up with each email client here.
How to Use Your New Business Email WellNow you’ve got your professional, personalized email address set up and ready to go. However, you should know that having a professional-looking email address isn’t enough to ensure you always look good in your emails. There are a few other tips you should follow to gain the respect of the people you communicate with and keep your professional relationships positive.
1. Have a clear signature.A signature makes it easy for anyone you correspond with to figure out how to contact you if they need to do so through some means other than email. It’s a nice courtesy for them and gives you a chance to do some additional branding, since you can include a link back to your business.
2. Never email angry.One of the nice benefits of email in comparison to other forms of communication is that you’re never put on the spot. If you’re feeling emotional and likely to say something unprofessional that you might regret later, you can always close the window or step away from the computer for a bit. Wait to send business emails until you’ve had a chance to cool down and think through the best way to communicate what you want to say.
3. Read over all your emails.Typos happen to everyone, but they can quickly make an email that seems clear to you become incomprehensible to the recipient. Read over each email before you send it to make sure that you haven’t made any embarrassing errors and that what you’re trying to say is clear. You’ll be amazed at all the little mistakes you catch when you do this.
4. Don’t be a spammer.Anyone who uses email professionally needs to be careful about this. If you’re not, your domain name could be blacklisted so that all your emails get caught in spam filters rather than reaching their recipients. The most important way to avoid being a spammer is to keep an opt-in philosophy: only send marketing emails to people who have already said it’s okay to do so. When you send out mass emails, make sure to use an email marketing software like Constant Contact (note: HostGator customers that subscribe to Constant Contact through HostGator can enjoy an extended free trial). And avoid all the tricks you see used in the spam emails in your own spam folder, like deceptive subject lines, misleading claims, or the overuse of language associated with pushy salesmen like “free” and “prize.” Having a personalized email that matches your domain name is an important step in showing your potential customers that you’re serious, but from there you still have to run your business and email account in the right way to keep up that professionalism. Following a few best practices can ensure your business email account stays on the up and up and represents the business well.
Monday, July 17, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
6 Steps to Business Inventory ManagementOne of the big, complicated parts of running a business that sells physical products is keeping up with inventory (unless you use dropshipping, but that’s a whole other thing). For your customers to have a good experience, you have to make sure that every item you sell is in stock. For you to make a profit, you need to make sure you don’t overstock items customers don’t buy much of, lest you’re stuck paying to buy and store items you don’t need. You have to maneuver the tricky balance between having too many items to store and too few to sell. And the profitability of your business depends on getting it right. Developing a strong inventory management system is therefore an important step in running a successful business. It enables you to track all your inventory easily and effectively, do a better job of spotting inventory issues (like theft, breakage, or incomplete orders), and improves your ability to figure out the right quantities of each product to buy when you make a new order. If you’re in the early stages of getting a new business off the ground, or if you’re trying to figure a better system than the one you have now, this post will help walk you through how to set up business inventory.
1. Organize Your Physical SpaceFor business owners, space is money. You need a storeroom to keep your inventory in so you have the items on hand when orders come in. But generally speaking, the bigger that space is, the more you’ll be paying for it. That means it’s crucial that you use the space as efficiently as possible and keep it well organized.
2. Create a Plan for The SpaceFirst, you need to establish a plan for using the space. Research shelving options that will help you make the most of it. Use the measurements you have for the storeroom to figure out how many rows of shelves you can reasonably fit and how high up they can go. Use that information to start working up a floor plan. Make sure you don’t get so focused on products during this step that you forget about people. You need to leave enough space between rows to allow your staff access to the inventory, and the higher you build your shelves, the harder it will be for people to access the items on the top. When you’re working out what specific products should be stored where, remember to make sure that the most popular items are the most easily accessible and that anything fragile or heavy should be stored where it’s easy to move it without too much trouble. Keeping a heavy box of breakable dishes on a shelf that someone would need a ladder to reach probably won’t end well. Try to organize the space so that it’s intuitive for people to find things. If you have a few main categories of products, group them together in the same section of the storeroom. For instance, put the basketballs in the same section as the footballs, rather than next to the kitchen products.
3. Provide Proper SignageYou need it to be as easy as possible for your staff to find the right product at the right moment. Good organization is a big part of that equation, but clear signage is at least as important. Hang big signs to label the main sections of the storeroom – you want your staff to be able to see them from a distance when they’re scanning the room to figure out where to go. Then make sure every row is labeled, as well as each individual product. You’ll benefit here from working out a numbering system to keep everything more organized and easier to find. Luckily, many types of inventory software help with that part.
4. Choose Your Inventory SoftwareIt’s not impossible to do inventory management without software – some businesses still walk around with a clipboard and paper and laboriously load their inventory into a spreadsheet. But using inventory software that’s specifically designed for the process will save you time and help you stay more on top of what you have in stock at any given moment. In addition to making the process of adding new inventory into the system and tracking it as it sells easier, inventory software can also process the data that helps you make better predictions about your future inventory needs so you can order the right amount of stock moving forward. And if you find a product that’s compatible with the other software you use, it will be easy to link them so you don’t have to manually update your inventory software when your POS system registers a sale. To identify the best inventory software for your needs, do some preliminary research into what’s out there. For some industries, you’ll find industry specific inventory software that’s especially well suited to the types of products and processes you use. Get a few quotes and compare the features different tools offer against your particular needs. Once your software is picked out, the way it functions can help shape the inventory process you develop.
5. Determine Your Inventory ProcessNow it’s time to figure out the exact steps your staff should take:
- Every time inventory comes in and needs to be loaded into your system
- Every time a piece of inventory gets sold, damaged, or goes missing
- And each time you check the items in the storeroom against your list of inventory (which you should do periodically)
6. Analyze Your Process Periodically and Tweak for ImprovementsThe chances of developing a perfect inventory management process from day one are pretty much nonexistent. The longer you’re in business, the better you’ll be able to tweak the process based on the information you gain on how things actually work. Maybe you’ll realize a certain type of product is more popular than you expected and needs to be moved in order to be more accessible, or maybe you’ll realize you’re buying way too much of a product type that sells slowly. Pay attention to what your staff and the data you’re collecting both tell you and check in on your process every so often – say once every 6 months – to look for ways to make it better. As with many parts of running a business, setting up a business inventory process requires a certain amount of trial and error before you’ll come up with the system that works best for you and your staff. Take stock periodically of how well your system and software are working for you, so you can make an informed decision about any changes you consider.