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  • 5 New Year’s Resolutions for Online Entrepreneurs

    Friday, December 30, 2016 by
    New Year's Resolutions for Online Entrepreneurs Every year, right around the time December 31st begins to approach, we may find ourselves reminiscing on the prior year's happenings, for better or worse. Our thoughts soon turn to New Year's Resolutions. The word resolution in many definitions is intended to be the action of solving a problem, making a firm decision to do, or not to do, something. As an online entrepreneur, the very nature of succeeding is to try, and with trying, it is practically guaranteed we're going to experience failures along the way. Failures, however, aren't an aspect to business you should be setting resolutions to abolish; instead, pat yourself on the back for opening up opportunities to learn which strategies are worthwhile. This year we've chosen to emphasize resolutions catering to your health, happiness, and vitality as an online entrepreneur. Running your business from the online space takes an enormous amount of time and energy. This year let's plan to take some of that time and energy back, so you can keep pushing forward professionally. HostGator Website Builder  

    1. Take Control Of Your Time Spent Working

    For the typical American, a forty hour work week is the standard expectation when it comes to time spent on the clock. For the typical entrepreneur, forty hours a week sounds like the amount of time spent working on their last vacation. Entrepreneurs do not have the luxury of always specifying when or how long they're going to work. When business comes knocking on the door you answer it; when business is feeling scarce you dig deeper to find it. Working away your life, however, isn't the reason you became an entrepreneur in the first place. This year make it your number one priority to divide your time between all the areas of your life that matter, be it entertainment, friends, time at the gym, or just getting enough sleep. Balance will always be key to long-term business sustainability and growth. Ask yourself a few questions:
    • Am I actually focused on work, while I work? Or am I constantly checking my phone?
    • Can I give myself a quit time everyday?
    • Do I do too much work while I'm at home or around friends?
    • Can I stop working on the weekends?
      [bctt tweet="40 hours: a typical American workweek or a week of vacation for the typical entrepreneur? #hustle" username="hostgator"]

    2. Sharpen Up Your Financial Knowledge

    Whether you've hired a personal CPA, or have to run the books all on your own, there's always more to learn when it comes to saving money for your business. Starting a new year means all of your expenses get reset, and the knowledge you carry with you starting January 1st will greatly improve your quarterly tallies. Here are a few smart spending tips for 2017:
    • Maximize your deductions by meeting with a  reputable CPA who will refresh your memory on which lunches can be written off, in addition to all the other business expenses you want to keep fresh in your mind.
    • Still have bad debts with high APRs? Get rid of them this year for good. It may seem difficult but swallowing interest costs will really add up over time.
    • If possible, lower your operating costs without sacrificing noticeable quality.
    • If you're debt free, but actually could benefit from a loan, work on raising your personal credit as this is a major factor in getting business loans.
    • Use 2016's revenue as a prediction for which months performed best, and learn to anticipate future efforts for improving these numbers.

    3. Make Health A Priority Everyday

    Of all the cliche New Year Resolutions, “eat better and workout” has to be among the most prevalent. Sadly most people start with a burst of motivation, only to quit once the Super Bowl party or box of Valentine's Day chocolates disrupts their determination. How do you make health a priority everyday? You mix it up, and set one realistic goal every morning. No one, except professional athletes and devout gym rats, can find time to exercise everyday. So don't tell yourself you're going to, only to feel like you've broken a resolution when you don't. Make exercise a craving. Do it in the middle of the day, opposed to after you're done working. Do it in the morning. Squeeze it into your schedule every given opportunity just like every other aspect of being an entrepreneur. Below are some healthy tips to follow besides exercise. Successfully implementing one of these everyday will allow you to achieve micro goals which add up to long term healthy habits:
    • Buy a large water bottle, 32oz or more, and make it a goal to refill it several times a day. Being hydrated is often under prioritized for most people.
    • Get into making nutrient dense smoothies in the morning. They’re quick, easy, and will keep you running until well past lunch time.
    • Spend less time on your screens, and more time outside.
    • Take a five minute breather every 30 minutes. Just because you sit in front of your desk for three hours, doesn't mean you were actually working.
      [bctt tweet="How do you make health a priority everyday? Set 1 realistic goal every morning. #NewYearsResolution" username="hostgator"]  

    4. Give Back To Your Community

    Leaving politics aside, 2016 was a pretty rough year for a lot of people. This cloud of negativity has given the impression things in the world are not okay, and our general attitude towards one another is divisive to say the least. As a business person dependent upon the support of your community, whether locally or in an online sphere, it's up to you to play a role in bringing people back together.
    • Use your technical skills to assist a non-profit organization.
    • Sponsor events catered to less fortunate community members.
    • Mentor other entrepreneurs just starting out to provide a sense of support and guidance.
    It really is true that the more you give, the more you're going to get in return.  

    5. Do Not Let Others Define Your Success

    Part of obtaining health and happiness is remembering how to be grateful for what we have, and not focus on what we think we're missing. Being an entrepreneur is undeniably competitive; however, measuring yourself against the highlight reels and successes of your peers is not a formula for having an excellent 2017. The best thing about “success” is that it is entirely subjective. Someone may make more money than you, but do they have the time to enjoy their earnings. How is their health? The point is, define your own success. Which of these resolutions do you plan to follow in 2017? Let us know in the comments! We wish you a happy new year filled with success, growth, and new opportunities!
  • Your Post-Holiday Small Business Checklist is Here

    Wednesday, December 28, 2016 by
    Post Holiday Small Business Checklist You may be so over wrapping paper and rush orders by this point, but successful online shop owners know they aren’t finished with the holidays until they’ve done a thorough review of what worked and what didn’t during the holiday season. This will give you the information you need to refine your marketing and product offerings for 2017’s holiday season, and it can help you retool your marketing, fulfillment, and shipping practices ahead of late-winter and spring gift-buying holidays like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and graduation. Recommended WordPress Hosting  

    Define your business holiday season

    First, decide what period you’re including in your holiday review. There’s no official definition of the holiday shopping season, but many retailers start with Black Friday and end with Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or another date in that range. Use the same date range for all the elements of your checklist below.  

    Review your holiday sales data

    The best way to start is to prepare a profit and loss statement just for your holiday sales period. If you’re not already doing P&L statements, now is a good time to start. Over time, these documents can show you whether your business is growing, shrinking or stuck in place. QuickBooks offers a free P&L template here. While you’re looking at your sales numbers for the P&L, make a note of your:
    • Total holiday season sales
    • Peak days for transactions
    • Peak days for sales totals
    • Best-selling items
    • Worst-selling items
    • Average transaction amount
    • Most common billing ZIP codes
    • Most common shipping ZIP codes
    • If you offered holiday promo codes, percentage of transactions that used them
    • If you offered a free shipping deal, percentage of transactions that used it
    • If you offered gift wrap (free or paid), percentage of transactions that used it
    These numbers will help show you which products and offers performed best, which areas contain most of your customers (and gift recipients), and how your daily transactions and sales totals compared to other times of the year. [bctt tweet="Reviewing how well your holiday sales went? Start with a P&L statement. #bestpractice" username="hostgator"]  

    Calculate your holiday sales season costs

    This information can go into your holiday season P&L sheet. Remember to include seasonal expenses such as:
    • part-time help
    • gift-wrap and additional shipping supplies
    • higher payment processing and fraud-prevention costs
    • seasonal print and/or digital advertising costs
    If you paid for holiday-season print or digital advertising, be sure to include it in your total, too.  

    Review your customer feedback

    Round up all the holiday-season reviews left by your customers on social media and review sites, customer survey results, and feedback from emails and calls, and you’ll get a sense of how well you served your holiday shoppers.
    • Where did you excel?
    • Where can you improve?
    • What were the most common questions from customers?
    Take the time now to sort out any unresolved customer issues to bolster your reputation, maintain those relationships, and save time next holiday season.  

    Think about how you spent your time during the holiday sales season

    Being busy due to holiday sales is a good problem to have, but being too busy can harm your customer service, order fulfillment, reputation, bottom line, and even your personal life. Ask yourself:
    • Did you have enough time to manage your business during holiday sales peaks while still answering customer questions and dealing with problems as they arose?
    • If not, how can you head off those problems next holiday season?
    The solution might be as simple as streamlining your packing and shipping processes. Or it may be that you need to hire seasonal help during holiday sales peaks.  

    Evaluate your holiday season profit (or loss)

    If you made a solid profit during the holidays, scored great reviews from your customers, and had time to manage your business well during the rush, congratulations! You won the small business holiday trifecta. If you were overworked, you can start planning to hire help for next year, and if your reviews were only so-so, you have a roadmap for delivering better customer service. What if your sales, reviews, and time allocation were good but you still didn’t make a profit, or didn’t make as much of a profit as you’d hoped? In that case, it’s time to review pricing and costs to see where you can make adjustments. Pay special attention to these areas:
    • Packing. If you sell and ship fragile or delicate items, your packing supply costs will increase along with your sales. Shop around for better prices on boxes, tape, bubble wrap and other must-haves, and hold onto recycled packing materials for peak sales times.
    • Shipping. If you offer free shipping, make sure the cost is built into your product prices. If shipping rates are proving to be a turnoff to your customers, compare your carrier and delivery speed options along with the costs of tracking and insurance. There’s no reason you can’t offer shipping options with more than one carrier if those options will cover your customers’ expectations at rates they’re willing to pay.
    • Advertising. Track your ad results very carefully to see which types of ads converted customers and which types underperformed. Going forward, focus just on the ad types that worked.
    • Pricing. If your shipping, advertising, and other costs are as low as you can get them, sales are strong, and you’re still not profitable, consider that your pricing may be too low across the board. As a small business owner, you’ll never be able to compete with retail giants on price, but you may be able to outdo the competition on customer service. In fact, that’s what experts recommend. The Harvard Business Review in 2015 noted, “Perhaps the most successful retailers this holiday season will be the ones who compete on customer experience.” Make sure your customer service is excellent, then raise your prices and monitor the results.
    The good news about making cost and price adjustments now is that you have plenty of time to test and refine them before Black Friday 2017. Consider Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day, and graduation season early test runs for improvements to your business, and get your business ready for the 2017 winter holidays
  • Want to Start a New Home-Based Business? Do These 11 Things

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    Start new business ebook A home-based business sounds ideal to a lot of people, especially those who’d like to stop commuting, generate side income, spend more time with their families, or have more control over how they work. It’s possible to start a viable and eventually thriving business from your home (Steve Jobs and Mary Kay Ash did), but it’s also possible to start a business that never gets off the ground. Some part of success is always luck, but the big difference between successful and failed home-based businesses is how serious you are about getting it right. If you’ve ever built a successful business from home (I’m in year four of running a profitable freelance writing business) you know preparation is a must. Ideally, you’ll read how-to books, pore over blogs, ask questions and get answers in professional forums, join mastermind groups, and seek the advice of mentors. As you do, here are some recommendations you’ll probably see over and over. You can use this list as a guide to avoiding pitfalls, a checklist to see how prepared you are, and a resource for digging deeper into the areas you need to know more about.  

    1. Interview yourself.

    Not only will you be your own boss, you’ll be your own employee, so hire with care.
    • Do you see things through?
    • Do you plan carefully before investing time and effort in a new project?
    • Do you enjoy learning new things and connecting with people?
    The answers to these questions should be yes. If not, can you improve your skills or find a business partner whose strengths balance your weak areas? [bctt tweet="Want to start a home-based business? Start by interviewing yourself, employee #1." username="hostgator"]  

    2. Study the logistics of self-employment.

    If you have the temperament to go ahead, next you’ll need to think about the practicalities of working from home, such as:
    • Do you have space to work and to store any inventory, equipment, and raw materials?
    • If you have children or other household members who need care, can you get help so you can spend some time each day purely focused on work?
    • Do you have the money to get started? Even a home-based business with no physical inventory will require a few hundred dollars’ worth of startup expenses—local business licenses and permits, professional liability insurance, a web site, and business cards at the very least.
    If the answer to any of these questions is no, you can save yourself time, money, and frustration by sorting out those issues before you start your business.  

    3. Make a simple and clear business plan.

    What do you plan to sell? Who will buy it? How will you reach them? How often will they buy from you, and how much will they spend? What can you expect in terms of gross revenue and net profit? You can find free business plan templates all over the internet, like this one from The $100 Startup, and checklists like this one from the Small Business Administration. [bctt tweet="The key to any successful #HomeBusiness? Start with a clear and actionable plan." username="hostgator"]  

    4. Put your legal and financial ducks in a row.

    Decide on your business type (most likely a sole proprietorship, but there are other options). Get your city or county business permit and an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS. You’ll need them to open a business checking account, which you’ll fund with the money you’ve allocated to start your business. (You’ll need the account so you don’t create a tax-time nightmare of commingled personal and business funds.) If you need a state sales tax permit, you’ll need your EIN to apply for that as well. This is the time to look into professional liability insurance to protect you from possible lawsuits. If you’re a service provider, learn what kind of client contract is standard in your industry and customize a version for your business.  

    5. Set up your web site.

    Even if for now it’s just a landing page where visitors can join your email list. Look for a web hosting service that offers mobile-optimized site templates and fast page-load times, because most people search and browse on their phones now. If you plan to sell from your website, your hosting service should integrate easily with a high-quality e-commerce platform so your customers can pay you securely online. Many work-from-homers got their start with a website from HostGator. Check out our web hosting plans here.  

    6. Set up a professional email address.

    To your friends, you may be foxytiger@??.com, but your prospects want to see a reassuringly professional address based on your company’s domain name. Not all web hosts offer email hosting. Streamline things for yourselves by choosing a web host (like HostGator) that offers free emails with your website.  

    7. Listen to your prospective customers.

    This step is actually steps zero through infinity, because the most successful home-based businesses go out of their way to meet the needs of their customers, and it’s especially important to listen well as you plan your first product or service. Ask questions and get input on your ideas. You can do this in online forums, over social media, and on your blog, if you add one to your website. [bctt tweet="Want your #HomeBusiness to succeed? Never stop listening to your customers." username="hostgator"]  

    8. Develop your MVP.

    Yes, you are your business’ most valuable player, but this is the minimum viable product step. What can you offer your audience that will provide value for them and require a not-ridiculous amount of risk (in terms of effort and expense) from you? The MVP won’t be your only product. It's just a first step that allows you to test demand and customer response, see that your checkout process works, and get feedback from buyers about what they’d like to see in your next version or product.  

    9. Ramp up your marketing.

    Once you have a product to offer and a customer base, you can market to prospects like the customers you already have. The exact marketing strategies to use depend on your audience. Do they hang out on Facebook or are they readers of your local free weekly paper? Find out how your current customers heard about you and go from there.  

    10. Develop new products or services.

    Expand or iterate on your product line based on customer feedback. Market them to your current and prospective customers, and listen to their feedback on each new offering.  

    11. Review regularly.

    After your MVP launch and again after each new product or service introduction (or a couple of times a year if you sell one particular service), ask yourself a few questions about your business in general.
    • Are you making progress?
    • Is your business profitable or on a clear path to profitability?
    • Can you handle the workload?
    • Do you need to upgrade your web hosting plan or redesign your site?
    • Do you have an excellent business relationship with your customers?
      You may need to go back to an earlier step and make some adjustments. You might need to hire an employee. You might even need to pat yourself on the back for a job (of your own making) well done.

    Ready to get started? Download our FREE eBook: Launch Your New Home Business!

  • WEBINAR: Set Up Your Sales Tracking for a Stress-Free 2017

    Tuesday, December 27, 2016 by
    sales tracking Facebook Live Think back on your most recent sale and ask yourself the following questions...
    1. How did it go?
    2. Which channels did you use?
    3. Which ones performed best? Which performed worst?
    4. What do you need to replicate next time?
    5. What should you not do again?
    It’s easy enough to answer the first question. If you aren’t able to answer the rest, or you find yourself just answering from your gut, that’s a sign that you need to be using sales tracking.  Fortunately, we've got an upcoming webinar designed to help you do just that. Drawing on our own experiences at HostGator from managing the sales tracking for our weeklong 2016 Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, we'll share how to easily and systematically identify your marketing channels and track which sales come from which channels. How does this knowledge help you?
    • You'll plan future sales better because you'll know which channels perform best.
    • You'll devote more energy and spend to your higher-performing channels, and waste less money in your underperforming ones.
    • You'll have more time to spend strategizing and building your business because the tracking will be taken care of.
    • Most importantly, you'll make more money and grow your business faster.
    Join us Wednesday, January 25th at noon Central on Facebook Live for a FREE webinar. You'll leave feeling energized, motivated, and excited for better sales performance. We promise.

    RSVP Now!

    Meet Your Hosts:

    Amelia WillsonAbout Amelia Willson Amelia is the Content Marketing Manager for HostGator. Her areas of expertise include content development and strategy, SEO, and online reputation management. When she's not helping entrepreneurs with their online marketing needs, you can usually find her running around Austin with her dog or blogging about Disneyland.   Kyler PattersonAbout Kyler Patterson Kyler is the Customer Growth Manager for HostGator. He has been featured in Search Engine Journal, Social Media Examiner, and other industry publications. When he’s not working his 9-5, you can probably catch him playing with his Facebook ads.  

    Discover the simple solution to sales tracking. Join us Wednesday, January 25th at noon Central for a FREE webinar hosted on Facebook Live. We'll reveal how we manage our sales tracking at HostGator, and provide you with free plug-and-play resources so you can do the same. See you there!

    RSVP Now!

  • 6 Tips For E-Commerce Sites Who Want to Promote On Google

    Monday, December 19, 2016 by
    ecommerce sites Google is a household name, and everyone knows that Google has the potential to make a business successful. It requires hard work and dedication, but the results can be very fruitful and rewarding. The traditional technique for getting exposure on Google is search engine optimization (SEO), of which there are countless tutorials and guides available that help webmasters and business owners to get started with search promotion, but what about other techniques? What else does Google offer to webmasters to increase rankings, gain more exposure, and most importantly, acquire more customers? Over the years Google has built a number of features that any small or big business owner can take advantage of, and all of these tips and techniques are totally free of charge, so you're getting more exposure at literally no cost.  

    1. Customer Reviews & Ratings

    Google loves rich snippets, and customer reviews and ratings is one of the rich-snippets that Google will happily integrate in the search engine result pages. Not only does this help you gain credibility from your own customers, it also gives you more visibility in search engine pages, and fair rankings for the kind of products and services you are selling. Take a look at the snapshot below and you'll see what we mean. Which search result pops? Reviews Rich Snippets  

    2. E-Commerce Link Building

    E-Commerce sites should focus on trying to get backlinks for their product pages, rather than the homepage alone. Because of how big the E-Commerce market is, it can be quite difficult to get product pages to rank when you are only getting links to the homepage. A strategy that involves promoting product pages individually should be essential. Google is built upon the idea of link building and link influence, so to better improve your product page rankings, focus on getting links for those pages alone.  

    3. Product Descriptions

    An E-Commerce site will be using a lot of content for product descriptions. Make sure that this content is fully optimized for the keywords you are trying to rank for, but don't forget to ensure that this content is friendly to the user, and explains in detail what your product is really about; that's the important part. Saying something is great without explaining why doesn't work these days. Google loves insightful content that answers peoples questions.  

    4. Google My Business

    Google My Business puts your business info on Search, Maps and Google+ so that customers can find you, no matter what device they're using. Give customers the right info at the right time, whether that be physical directions to your business in Maps, hours of operations in Search or a phone number they can click to call you on mobile phones. Google My Business helps you build a loyal fan base. Your customers can show their appreciation with ratings and reviews, use the +1 button to endorse your content, and re-share your Google+ posts across the web.  

    5. Visual Content

    Much of what you do on an E-Commerce site involves using visual content, whether it is images to showcase what your products look like, or the use of video content to demo your content and talk more about it. Visual content is an essential part of a successful E-Commerce strategy, and Google is known to reward sites that use high-quality photography accompanied by appropriate and relevant keywords; same applies to hosting your video content on YouTube and using concise descriptions for the videos.  

    6. Outline Your Most Important Details

    Everywhere! This means your contact phone numbers, your physical address, your website address, anything that could possibly connect you with your audience at any given time. Whether it's your Facebook fan page, or Twitter profile, if it allows for you to enter your contact details, by all means do it, since this will further help Google understand the way you have structured your business and its website. Do you have any additional tips for promoting your business on Google? Let us know in the comments!  

    Start your E-Commerce site off right with HostGator business hosting.

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