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  • 5 Oddly Effective Hacks to Grow Your Home Business

    Thursday, May 25, 2017 by

    Growth Hacks Home Business5 Creative Ways to Expand Your Home Business

    Running a home business can feel like a lonely occupation when there isn’t enough business to keep your time occupied and no matter what you try, customers seem to stay away. Without a doubt, times are tough. Given how hard it is for small businesses to thrive, it is vital that you, as a home business owner, work as effectively as possible to grow your business. Easier said than done, I know. The good news is that there are some creative hacks that can have a huge impact on your business - from reducing expenses to gaining valuable media coverage.  

    1. Get Involved in a Great Local Cause

    A Corporate Social Responsibility campaign is a powerful marketing strategy that can build consumer trust in your business. By identifying a great cause that people care about (locally, regionally or nationally) and researching potential beneficiaries to work with, you can use CSR as a vehicle to generate newsworthy stories that are mutually beneficial to both parties. Seek out particular problems and partner with a trustworthy charitable organization to solve that problem. It could be cleaning up a local river, or helping homeless people find jobs, whatever is relevant to your town or region. Not only will you help charities and non-profits do better work, you’ll also create fantastic newsworthy stories that can be incorporated into your own PR campaign in the process.  

    2. Buy Cheap & Sell Back

    Amazon is a leading retailer of both home and office supplies, as well as a host of other business related products and services. It has many sellers offering discounts on these products at different times, which means there are great discounts to be had. The problem is that they are easy to miss, because prices can change so quickly – sometimes even on an hourly basis (depending on how many sellers there are and how competitive the market is for that particular item). The best way to stay updated on pricing changes is to use an accurate hourly price tracker that sends you alerts when the price drops (or increases – useful if you want to sell reusable items back to make a bit of profit) any time, day or night. Here’s a chart from RankTracer showing how the price of a common office product changes with time. RankTracer Obviously, there are better times to buy this toner cartridge than others - as you can see from the prices ranging from around $22 to $32 over the course of a month. And while this particular item is consumable and not really suited to reselling, there are plenty of products that you could easily purchase and then resell in used condition on Amazon (to recover some of your expenses).  

    3. Turn Bad PR into Good

    Often negative reviews are a spur of the moment result of frustration and can be easily turned into a positive experience with very little effort. Identify people who have created bad publicity out of a knee-jerk reaction and engage with them to address their concern. Sometimes this can be as simple as helping them select the product they want, or complete payment. Seriously, I’ve had bad reviews from people who forgot their login password and didn’t know how to click on the ‘forgotten password’ link to get a new one. They’re happy to write a terrible review about the entire service because they can’t login – it happens. It’s important to focus on where you can make the most impact – this is especially true online. According to the Pew Research Center, around 82% of U.S. adults read online reviews before making a purchase, making them an essential part of online marketing for home business entrepreneur. Online reviews Instead of viewing bad PR as a disaster, treat it as a marketing strategy. Using existing customers to create online reviews is a great strategy anyone can use right from the start - no matter how small your customer base. Customers who have a positive interaction with you are often happy to send on goodwill recommendations and reviews to their friends, family and colleagues – making them a valuable inbound marketing channel.  

    4. Make the News (Literally)

    Most good journalists and news editors are completely overwhelmed with spammy outreach emails from entrepreneurs, small businesses, organizations and companies. As a result, they don't waste time on anything that doesn't reach out and grab them straight away. That’s why you need to actively put yourself in the news. Here’s how…

    Step 1: Come up with Interesting News

    I decided to rank the top new business ideas from university entrepreneurs over the last year or so. It took a small team of people a few days to comb through the Internet looking at winners and finalists from hundreds of different colleges across the states.

    Step 2: Build a List

    I had two groups:
    1. University media and public relations
    2. News media covering education
    This meant I had to create two press release templates - not one.

    Step 3: Send out a Press Release

    I thought about what the PR and media people in those two groups of influencers needed in order to make my press release compelling and easy to use. Here's my advice: As a general rule, be succinct and to the point. Don't waste time and effort rambling on about anything. Short, punchy sentences that don't beat around the bush are by far the most effective way to get your message across.

    Step 4: Run a PR Campaign

    Sometimes, for whatever reason, a journalist who is actually interested in your news misses it - perhaps they spilled coffee on themselves just as they were opening the press release. If you haven't heard anything back, it's worthwhile to send a follow-up email about 3 - 4 days after your original press release. After that, it's best not to harass them further. Be prepared to engage with journos and media people to help them get the information they want in order to publish content around your press release. The easier it is for them to put together a piece that mentions you, the more likely it is to happen. It's also worthwhile keeping an eye out on Google for recent news articles mentioning you (or set up an alert), because media houses often publish without notifying the source. Create Your Blog  

    5. Create a Killer Sales Funnel Using Content

    Online content that drives business is difficult to create. The two most common mistakes I see are:
    1. writing content that assumes the reader is ready to buy, and
    2. not spending nearly enough time promoting content you create.
    It’s very important to write content that reaches out to a wide audience so that potential customers can enter the top of the sales funnel and get to know you and your service, without feeling immediate pressure to buy. For example, you might write an article about “how to use widget A to accomplish something important,” with a link to your buying page for widget A. People who are doing research before they buy can read the article, get the information they were after, and be exposed to your brand before moving to a buying decision. Content that home business owners (especially online store owners) create should also be of interest to other people, organizations and influencers because getting other people to share it is important. Without interest from important influencers it’s hard for your content to have any real impact since you'll have a tougher time getting it in front of your target audience. This means building relationships with influencers (often called influencer marketing). Building relationships with bloggers, reviewers, and journalists is time-consuming, but pays accumulating dividends as time goes by. The sooner you start, the quicker you’ll develop a strong network of influencers and quicker you’ll start seeing returns. Don't forget that content that ranks well in Google search results can be a nice source of passive income for work at home entrepreneurs, too.   As a small business owner, I’ve no doubt you’ve got plenty of other great tricks up your sleeve. Perhaps you recently discovered a fool-proof way of finding new customers, or getting bloggers to talk about your service? Whatever it is, share what’s worked for you in the comments to help others grow their business!
  • Become an Infopreneur Using Videos

    Thursday, May 18, 2017 by
    infopreneur videos

    Using Video to Create Your Infopreneur Business

    Most entrepreneurs choose to build a new business based on products or services, but a third option is becoming increasingly common for those thinking about starting a business: infopreneurship. Infopreneurs build their entire business around information products that help customers learn something valuable to them.  Information businesses usually rely on a mix of different format types to package and promote their information products. In this series, we’ve already looked at using ebooks and tutorials to become an infopreneur, now we’ll look at one of the most popular information formats out there: videos. HostGator WordPress Hosting  

    Ways to Use Videos in an Infopreneur Business

    Videos combine different information formats. You’ve got visuals, text, and audio all wrapped up in one package. They allow viewers to learn and consume on multiple levels at one time and can use the combination of media types to help keep users’ attention while they watch. And video is massively popular. Over a billion people use YouTube, the primary platform for viewing videos online. One-third of the time people spend online is spent watching video, and 92% of mobile video consumers say they share videos they like with other people. That makes video a potentially important part of a good infopreneur strategy. As we’ve discussed in other posts on the series, infopreneurs generally have to figure out the right mix of content types to build their infopreneur business on and the right balance in determining which items to offer for free as a way to promote the business, and which to charge for. Working videos into an infopreneur business strategy poses the same challenges. There are four main ways infopreneurs can use video to build their business.  

    Base your business entirely on videos.

    Some YouTube personalities have managed to make a business out of nothing but videos. If your videos get enough views, you can start to make a share of the ad revenue. For a rare few, that can result in enough money to make a living. For most aspiring infopreneurs though, that’s not your best route. Reaching the point where you have enough followers and views on YouTube that your small portion of the ad share adds up takes a long time, if it ever happens. But there are some types of information businesses that can work by offering video alone. If you have a number of valuable videos to offer, you could set up a subscription service like the Daily Burn, which is built entirely on workout videos that people pay a monthly fee for continued to access to. That kind of business model requires both having a lot of videos and for them to be the kind of thing people will want to access repeatedly. Daily Burn While building a business on video alone is possible, most people reading this will be more likely to benefit from using video in one of the ways described below.  

    Use video as a way to promote other information products.

    This is one of the most common ways infopreneurs use video. Jessica Smith offers free workout videos to people that may later become interested in the weight loss plans she charges for. College Info Geek uses a YouTube channel to help build the brand that makes him money through affiliate links on his website. And The Suitcase Entrepreneur offers video training to visitors likely to benefit from her online courses. Exercise Videos Of all the options included here for using video, this is the one you’ll see used most frequently by successful infopreneurs. A well-made, short video gives potential customers a low-commitment way to learn more about the business and get a sense of the infopreneur behind it. It personalizes the brand while adding value, which makes it a great format for getting new customers through the door to start considering your other products. College Info Geek      Ad Revenue  

    Use video as an information product you charge people for.

    This is less common, but still a possible route to take. If you make videos packed with enough valuable information, you can charge for them. With so many free videos out there on YouTube though, you have to make sure that your videos are unique and high quality enough to stand out from the pack. With this option, you can either offer a subscription model for access to a number of videos, like the Daily Burn does, or you can offer individual videos for sale on your website or through video platforms like Vimeo.  

    Use video as part of the information products you charge people for.

    This is a much more commonly used method than simply selling video as a product alone. Amongst the most common products infopreneurs sell (and the type of product they typically charge the most for) are courses. And most courses include video in some form – video of the infopreneur talking about their experiences, video that provides a screencast of how to do something, or a video presentation on the subject at hand. For a good number of infopreneurs, video isn’t treated as a lucrative product to sell on its own, but is instead included as an important part of the information product that is.  

    How to Make High-Quality Videos

    Since videos do involve the combination of a few different formats, they can take more work to put together than some other information products. Videos can take a number of different forms as well, which also influences what’s involved in making them. While there will be a bit of variety in the particulars of how to make a video for your infopreneur business, here are the basic steps you should plan on taking.  

    Step 1: Figure out the topic(s) your target audience will be most interested in.

    If you’ve been reading our other posts on starting an infopreneur business, this step will sound familiar. The first thing you should do with every information product you make is figure out what it should be about – not based on your own interests, but according to research you do on what your prospects are interested in. Clearly define who your target audience is, then research what videos are most popular in your general information space. This will both give you an idea of which sorts of topics the market is already oversaturated in so you know what to avoid doing, and can teach you the types of topics and video styles your audience responds well to. Make a list of ideas you have that are relevant to the subject area your infopreneur brand offers and that aren’t well covered in videos that are already out there.  Now decide which ones seem worth the time and effort to turn into high-quality videos for your audience.  

    Step 2: Create a plan.

    Videos take enough time and moving pieces to create that you want to have a plan in place to ensure your work is efficient and you’re prepared to get the most out of it. Figure out what you want your videos to look like.  Will they be recordings of you doing something your customers want to learn, like a particular exercise or how to do certain gardening activities? Will they take on a show format where you interview experts in your field or answer questions from customers? Will they be recordings of presentations you create on the computer, with a mix of text and stock images? Knowing the basics of how your videos will look will help you determine what you need to create them. You should start to get an idea in this step of what products you’ll need to buy and whether or not you’ll need to hire professionals for any part of making your video. If your videos will primarily be screen grabs and online presentations, then you’ll need a good screen recording software, like Camtasia, to record your videos with. If you’ll be making videos that include recordings of you or other people doing something, as with an interview show setup or cooking lessons, then you’ll either need a good camcorder or to spend some time practicing how to take high-quality videos on your smartphone. Whatever decisions you make in this stage, you want to have a basic idea of how your video will look and what you need to do by the time you move on to the next step.  

    Step 3: Write your script and storyboard.

    Before you do any recording, you need to work out exactly what you’re going to say in the video, and what image you plan to have on the screen at the moment you’re saying it. If you’re doing something like an interview show, then you may not need an exact script to work off of, but you’ll want to have a general plan going into recording to keep things running smoothly. For most types of video, you’ll want a script prepared that you can work from as you record that includes both the words you’ll be saying and what visuals you want showing up on the screen to match those words. Before you get to the point of recording, read over your script out loud to see how it sounds and how long it takes you to read it. Then go through the steps of your video a couple of times while reading the script out to get practice matching your words to what’s happening in the video. Taking some time to practice your video run-through in advance will make the recording step go much smoother.  

    Step 4: Record your video.

    Now, you record! If you’ve done the proper preparation, you may find this step to be much easier than those that have come before. Keep in mind while recording that you’ll be able to cut parts of the recording out, so it’s ok to record the same part of the video a few times to get it right.  

    Step 5: Edit your video.

    Be prepared for this step to take some time. If you’re not familiar with the process of editing a video, check the tutorials and instructions provided with your video recording software. (Note: if you use a camcorder, you’ll need to purchase video recording software separately. If you use a screen recording software, editing is usually an included feature). Cut out any parts that don’t work or include unnecessary noise or talking. Add in any music, images, or intro and outro slides you plan to use (be careful here to stick with media you have the rights to). And turn that video into a complete, polished, professional product.  

    Step 6: Launch your video.

    You have a few options in this step for how to launch your video. If your video will primarily be a way to build your infopreneur business and help promote your other products, then you should put it up on your website. You may also want to put it up on a website like YouTube to give it a further reach as well. If your video will be something you charge customers for, then look into a service that will make that possible, such as:
    • Wishlist Member which allows you to keep your content restricted from anyone other than the people that have paid for it.
    • Cleeng which allows you to make your videos available for pay on a video-on-demand model.
    • Vimeo which allows you to load your videos to their platform and sell them through it.
    • Patreon which works on more of a donation model, but allows you to encourage fans to donate a set amount to you each month in exchange for special content.
    Take some time to review your options, considering the pricing and features of each, and figure out which route is best for what you’re hoping to get out of your videos. (Quick note here: if your video was created to become part of a course, then this and the next step will apply more to the full course than the individual video).  

    Step 7: Promote.

    Whether you’re planning to use your video as a promotional tool or a product you make money from, this step is important. Figure out a promotion plan to get your video in front of more people. Make sure you use the proper tagging in YouTube to make it more discoverable by people searching and browsing on the website.  Share it on your social media platforms and create an awesome landing page for it. Consider if it’s worth investing in paid advertising on search engines or social media to help expand the reach of your video. If you’re just starting out, spending a little bit now to reach the right audience for your information products can help you grow your following quickly. Videos take a lot of time to create, but a video that’s high quality and provides information your audience needs can do a lot to help build their trust and interest in your information brand. It’s an important tool in any infopreneur’s toolkit.
  • Keys to Keyword Research: 4 Reasons Your Rankings Are Tanking

    Tuesday, May 9, 2017 by

    Keyword Research Mistakes

    4 Mistakes You're Making With Keyword Research

    We live in a content-driven online world, and writing for the web is a tricky business. That’s not to say you can’t have great success with the right mix of keyword optimizations and authoritative content resources. Quality keyword research (and how you leverage your findings) can mean the difference between your brand being nobody to Google and being on the first page of search results. We're talking about the difference between tens of visitors and tens of thousands of visitors each month. Let’s face it: Organic web traffic means money. And who doesn’t like money? I decided to take a look at some of the most common mistakes people make when conducting keyword research. We’ll cover some specifics—what tools to use and when to use them—as well as some specific examples of what not to do as a business aiming to capture all the keyword volume you come across at the data-collection stage. Dedicated Server  

    Mistake #1: You’re Answering Questions You Think People Are Asking

    This is the blogging mistake to rule all web content mistakes: You’re arbitrarily writing what you think readers are interested in, rather than writing what you know web users are searching for. The whole point of keyword research is data-driven decision-making, so don’t assume you have all the answers before doing your homework. Even if you do have all the answers figured out, you can’t possibly know every single question, or who might be asking it and what their background is. This is where keyword tools come into play. A smattering of my favorite tools for targeted keyword inspiration and a pro tip for each:  

    Mistake #2: You’ve Got Keyword Tunnel Vision

    There’s a phenomenon in psychology in which you assume what you know to be true to be the whole truth, and you interpret any new evidence as reinforcement for that truth. It’s called confirmation bias—and I think it’s extremely common in SEO keyword practices. Picture this: You’re a 10-year-old “startup” in the health IT sector, and your business has experienced extreme growth in recent years. You’ve decided it’s time to upgrade from your managed shared hosting account and have opted for a dedicated server due to your unique security and compute requirements. You take to Google: “best dedicated hosting provider.” Your intent is pretty clear: You want a server from a well-reputed dedicated hosting provider. Now imagine you’re the host trying to attract said user. Here’s what not to do as a web marketer, using HostGator as a stand-in for the host:
    • Attempt to drive sales to a product or service unrelated to the targeted query (e.g., shared hosting when the search is “dedicated hosting”)
    • Say everything else about the topic but ignore the main qualifier (e.g., talking about HostGator’s history, team, and industry reputation with no mention of server specs)
    • Lie. If the thing users are searching for doesn’t exist, don’t try to trick them (we all hate that)
    Just because a product type or market niche is popular doesn’t mean it’s what everyone needs or wants. And just because you really want to sell your business to a potential customer doesn’t mean your product is the best one for that user. Your best bet is to focus on providing honest information and hope your product sells itself (with some other marketing efforts, of course).  

    Mistake #3: You’re Pulling Your Keyword Data From A Single Source

    Remember the trusted keyword tools I suggested a couple sections ago? Use them—all of them! Or, at least, use more than one. Just as your high school English teacher taught you to cite multiple sources when writing an authoritative research paper, you shouldn’t put all your keyword eggs in one basket. Leverage any and all tools at your disposal, and stay up to date on the latest search engine studies. The Moz blog is one I refer back to regularly to stay in the know on all things SEO.

    Mistake #4: You’re Not Answering the Question at All

    Funnily enough, I’ve seen way too many cases in which web content producers do extensive keyword research only to throw it out the window. Seriously, imagine spending hours and money on resources to analyze a user question (the search queries) and then flushing that information and serving up an answer to a tangentially related question instead. People do it! All. The. Time. I’ll use credit cards as an example. Say someone wants to find a good cash-back card to kickstart funding to design their new site and launch their online business. Unfortunately, this someone hit an unlucky strike with student loan debt in the past, so their credit score isn’t the greatest. They might turn to Google for the “best cash-back credit cards for fair credit.” Off the top of my head, I can think of about a dozen types of credit cards. The top credit card comparison sites break cards down by issuer, by level of credit needed, and by features such as air miles or 0% APR, and, you guessed it, credit cards with the best cash-back perks. It would be wasted effort to promote premium cards on a page supposedly optimized to capture “fair credit” searches. It would be like Forbes trying to run a story on a political rally in Washington and sending a reporter to interview a group of middle schoolers in Utah. What? Internet users are, for the most part, pretty specific about what they want out of a Google result. The more modifiers they’ve thrown onto a query—e.g., “best,” “free,” “green,” “for women,” “no ads,” etc.—the more fed up they are with existing search results. And if you don’t focus on actually answering the question, no matter how trivial, minor, or seemingly non-monetizable it is, they will bounce from your site, too. And that’s bad. Listen to your searchers!  

    One final tip

    My last piece of advice is to remember to treat search engines as a platform for consumers to voice their questions about anything (some questions will be relevant to your business, but most will not). Each search term is a user question, and your #1 goal as a content writer for the web should be to answer those questions better than anyone else has previously.
  • How the Breitbart Controversy Revealed the Unintended Effects of Digital Advertising

    Friday, May 5, 2017 by

    how digital advertising display networks work

    How Digital Advertising Works, or Why Your Ad Still Might Appear on Breitbart

    Digital advertising is an inexpensive and convenient way to reach the target audience for your business—as long as it's not also undermining your brand image. Some major companies have learned the hard way recently that digital advertising's drawbacks include the possibility of exposure on sites they don't want associated with their brands. For example, Kellogg's, Warby Parker and other high-profile companies faced consumer complaints and bad publicity after the presidential election, when their ads were found on far-right-wing site Breitbart. Verizon, Walmart and other brands pulled their ads off YouTube earlier this year after they learned that the platform's automated ad serving tools were placing their ads on videos advocating violence and hate. If you're wondering (a) why ad networks would place their clients' ads next to controversial or offensive content and (b) whether your business should avoid digital advertising, it helps to understand how these brand missteps happened and what ad networks are doing to resolve the problem. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    How does digital advertising work?

    It's easier to understand digital ads if you compare them to old-fashioned pre-internet advertising. Back then, advertisers spent money to place their ads in specific magazines and newspapers or to air during particular radio and TV shows. These outlets had limited reach, but advertisers knew exactly what content they were supporting and which audiences they were reaching. Now, of course, there are millions of sites where businesses can display ads, and it's simply impossible to know them all. Digital advertising networks like Google AdSense, which includes YouTube, allow sites to join if they meet the network's criteria for appropriate content, audience, location, and more. Then the networks use machine learning, keyword algorithms, and consumer data to run “programmatic” ad placements on their network of sites. For example, a snowshoe company's ads might run on sites with content on alpine trekking and winter sports – but maybe also on sites dedicated to yeti sightings. Machine learning isn't perfect so it sometimes includes sites that aren't a good fit (yetis) or which cause brand damage by association (offensive content). Another digital advertising practice, ad retargeting, means that your prospects and customers may see your ads on many sites they visit, not because your brand has bought ad space on each of those sites in particular, but because those customers' browser cookies are set to display your ads on other sites they visit. If those cookies cause your company's ads to appear on sites with offensive content, the customer may think your company chose to place them there, and the brand damage is done.  

    Where, exactly, do your ads show up?

    The short answer to the question of where your ads display is, it's hard to know. Huge digital ad networks, programmatic ad placement, and ad retargeting give companies with even small ad budgets the ability to reach lots of prospective customers across a wide geographic area. Google AdSense placementThat's something that simply wasn't possible in the days before the digital transformation, when print, radio and television ads reached fewer consumers at a higher cost. This change has made it possible for small businesses and startups to build customer bases quickly and reach new customers inexpensively. Even better, from an audience-reach perspective, most digital advertising networks add new sites continuously, and sites like YouTube are inundated with fresh content to advertise on every day. The downside of a far-reaching, constantly expanding network that can display your ads anywhere is that your ads can turn up just about anywhere, and you may never know which sites your ads display on unless someone notifies you. Even when ad networks are vigilant about blacklisting known problem sites, new ones may fly under their radar until someone complains. If that someone is an angry customer or offended prospect, you have to respond quickly and appropriately to control the damage to your brand.  

    What are ad networks doing to fix the problem?

    Some industry veterans say the real solution is for advertisers to demand more transparency about ad placement and better screening of participating sites by ad networks. This sort of pressure can work quickly. For example, Google gets 90% of its revenue from ads, so losing companies like Walmart and Verizon was a major motivator to improve their ad serving tools. As of this writing, the company's AdSense network is broadening its rules barring content that incites hate, promotes violence or advocates discrimination. AdSense could previously block an entire site for violating its rules, but now the network can block individual pages, which makes it easier to keep ads off hateful user-generated content in—for example—comments sections. About a month after several major brands pulled their ads off YouTube, the video platform announced new audit tools. Companies can use these tools to see exactly where their ads have been placed on the site. Ad networks can also supplement their machine-learning algorithms with human reviews of content, as YouTube is doing. Human input can make ad-serving algorithms less error-prone over time, but it's grueling work that requires screening a constant stream of new sites and videos quickly.  

    How can you protect your brand and still reach your target audience?

    Because the number of sites in most ad networks is always changing, and because machine learning will always need human input to keep up with new sites and new controversies, it's up to you to protect your brand's image. Here are some best practices for your business's online ad program.
    • Talk to prospective ad networks about your concerns before you sign up and find out what their requirements are for publishers to participate in their networks.
    • Know your “lines in the sand” before you launch your digital ad campaigns. This can save response time if there are complaints later on.
    • Use your ad network's opt-out lists to pinpoint specific sites or categories you don't want to associate with your brand. For example, YouTube advertisers can opt out of up to 5 categories, including hot-button social issues, tragedies, profanity, sexually suggestive content, and “sensational and shocking” videos.
    • Respond quickly to any ad complaints from customers and ad-advocacy groups, and follow up to let them know how you've resolved their complaints. Thoughtful, timely responses can mitigate the damage to your company's reputation.
    • Immediately report any consumer complaints about your ads to your ad network and have your ads blocked from sites your customers have complained about.
    • Consider using an ad auditing service to evaluate the quality of impressions your ads earn on the networks you participate in. Startups like DoubleVerify offer audits across multiple ad networks.

    With digital advertising, the positive still outweighs the negative for brands

    Ultimately, you shouldn't let the prospect of misplaced ads discourage you from using digital advertising to promote your business. In most cases, digital ads appear where they're supposed to, and the tools that ad networks use to screen sites are increasingly effective. The problem of inappropriate content will probably never go away entirely, but ad networks know their business model depends on helping advertisers protect their brands. As a consumer, remember that brands care most about giving you what you want. If you don't want ads of brands you love to appear on sites you hate, the fix could be as simple as not visiting those sites. HostGator joined our sister company Constant Contact in removing our ads from sites like Breitbart. If you see us our ads on those sites, it is likely a result of retargeting, although we encourage you to let us know in the comments below or by contacting our support team.   Learn more about advertising on Facebook and Instagram from the HostGator blog.
  • 14 Essentials Any Freelance Business Needs

    Wednesday, May 3, 2017 by
    online tools for freelancers Deciding to go freelance is a big decision, but it’s not as daunting as it used to be. Today, about a third of US workers are freelancers or independent contractors, and they’ve blazed a clear trail for everyone comes along after them. If you’re considering going full-on freelance, here are some tools and apps to make the transition and your new line of work easier. HostGator Website Builder  

    1. Your business license

    Business licensing requirements for freelancers vary by location and by industry. You might only need a Home Occupation Permit or a DBA permit for a sole proprietorship. However, if your city zoning code or homeowners’ association has strict rules about home-based businesses, make sure you understand the guidelines to avoid possible fines later on.  

    2. Your employer identification number

    You can apply for a free Employer Identification Number (EIN) in just a few minutes at the IRS website. Most freelancers aren’t required to have an EIN, but there are advantages to having one. You can use your EIN instead of your Social Security number on W9 forms and other client documents to protect against identity theft. Banks and credit unions will want to see an EIN before you open a business account.  

    3. Your business bank account

    A business bank account makes bookkeeping and taxes easier. It also makes it easy to set aside money for your quarterly estimated income tax payments (more on that below) so you don’t accidentally spend it and get hit with late-payment penalties.  

    4. Your 1040-ES package

    Most freelancers and independent contractors pay quarterly income tax instead of only paying in April. You can use this worksheet to determine how much you’ll pay. Remember that you’ll need to adjust the estimated payment amount each year, based on your previous year’s income.  

    5. Your business insurance

    Most freelancers work as sole proprietors, which means you assume unlimited liability for your business debts, including any judgments against you. Odds are you’ll never face a lawsuit, but if you do, you definitely don’t want to lose all your assets. Talk to your insurance agent about professional liability coverage or contact the Freelancers Union, a national group based in New York that offers insurance for members. The Freelancers Union is also a good source for long-term disability insurance coverage, which many insurers don’t extend to freelancers.  

    6. Your client list

    Your client list should contain the email addresses, personal information, and contact preferences of your current and previous clients. Use your list to keep those connections warm a few times a year and to send out holiday cards or thank-you gifts to your best clients. When you’re starting out, your list may be small or even nonexistent, but you’ll want a way to manage it as it grows. Some freelancers use the same customer relationship management (CRM) tools that businesses use for customer lifecycle tracking, because they’re so useful. Hubspot CRM is a popular free option for freelancers and small businesses. You can integrate it with your email to track conversations, see details about your contacts, and make notes of where they are in the customer cycle: lead, prospect, client, etc.  

    7. Your time-management tools

    When you’re a freelancer, time is money. To stay on top of your assignments, due dates, marketing efforts, and interviews, you’ll need a to-do list, an appointment reminder tool, and time-tracking software. For to-do lists, I like GoodToDo, an inexpensive paid service that integrates with email, lets you sort to-dos into categories, rolls over undone list items to the next day, and lets you create recurring to-do items. Google Calendar is invaluable for sending conference-call and phone-interview invitations and reminders to sources, clients, and yourself, to keep projects on track. Time-tracking software is a must if you bill by the hour and helpful even if you don’t. That’s because over time you can see a clear picture of how much time you spend on each client’s projects and get a sense of your “hourly wage” on flat-rate projects. TopTracker is a free option designed just for freelancers that’s been recommended in Entrepreneur.  

    8. Your web hosting service

    You need a business website so customers can find you, see your portfolio, read your client testimonials, and contact you at the professional email address you’ll create for your business. Your site hosting service should have reliable uptime, good customer service, and templates to make your site look professional without the expense of hiring a designer. Not surprisingly, we’d suggest HostGator.  

    9. Your connectivity

    Your business internet and mobile service should be as reliable as possible. Shop around to find the options with the best speed, least downtime, and broadest coverage so you can work uninterrupted.  

    10. Your job sites

    Not all freelancers are fans of job sites, but those who are tend to recommend Upwork and Contently. These platforms connect clients who have high-paying gigs with freelancers who want them, so they’re worth looking into as part of your overall marketing strategy.  

    11. Your contracts

    As a freelancer, you need a contract to use with clients, to define everyone’s expectations, responsibilities, rights, and payment terms. You can use DIY templates from services like RocketLawyer and LawDepot, but it’s always smart to have a trusted attorney review your contract before you use it.  

    12. Your accounting and invoicing software

    Lots of fellow freelancers tell me they use FreshBooks for their bookkeeping, project recording, and invoice creation. It also has time-tracking functions that PC Magazine calls “exceptional.”  

    13. Your printing service

    Online services like Vistaprint offer professionally printed business cards at budget prices, especially if you’re willing to wait a couple of weeks for delivery.  

    14. Your professional connections

    The most successful freelancers view their fellow freelancers as colleagues, not competitors. Get to know your local and national freelancer groups to build your peer network, learn more about the business of freelancing, exchange gig leads, and find mentors. You’ll also want to connect with industry veterans and experts in your field. For example, if you write about web design trends for trade publications, you should cultivate relationships with designers and follow the thought leaders in the web design field so you can pitch new projects and find sources easily. Getting started as a freelancer is definitely work, but the rewards can be worth it: a work schedule you control, projects you enjoy, and a network of clients and colleagues you like and learn from. What are your best tips for new freelancers?