Archive for September, 2013

5 Easy Website Builders for Your Small Business or Freelance Site

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Building your own WebSite!

A recent small business study from Yodle revealed some startling findings: 52 percent of small businesses don’t currently have a website.

What makes this so surprising? Not only is a website an essential tool for marketing any business, but there are plenty of easy-to-use site building tools, ranging from inexpensive to free, that make creating a professional-looking website a snap.

If you’re not happy with your current freelance or small business website—or you don’t have one yet—take a look at these full-featured services to find out if one of them is right for you.

SnapPages

This DIY website builder comes with a drag-and-drop page editor and a large library of website themes and customizations—colors, fonts, typography, and more. There’s also a sizable collection of social plugins and an integrated blogging platform.

Cost: Free for limited pages and file storage with SnapPages branding; $8 per month for a Pro account with a personal domain, extra features, and more.

Squarespace

Designed especially for businesses, Squarespace comes with a 14-day trial that includes a free domain. A user-friendly interface allows you to add pages, customize font and colors to match your brand, and integrate an ecommerce store. There’s also a full blog platform, social media integration, analytics, a built-in mobile website, and more.

Cost: Starts at $8 per month, up to $24 per month for fully integrated ecommerce, advanced options, and unlimited features.

Jigsy

At once website builder and content management system, Jigsy has a drag-and-drop editor for simple page creation, and unique designs with mobile-friendly templates. Blogging, photo sharing, drag-and-drop ecommerce, and more are included.

Cost: Free for a single website with advertisements and limited storage. Ad-free Pro memberships with unlimited features and storage are $8.25 per month.

Wix

This free website builder comes with a huge library of slick, professional website templates, and many selections that are designed with types of businesses in mind—restaurants, sellers, service providers, consultants, and many more. The drag-and-drop editor allows integration with a wide range of web apps for social media and comments, online stores, email marketing tools, live chat, and more.

Cost: Ad-supported Wix websites are free, with ad-free plans starting at $8.25 per month.

WordPress

Perhaps the most popular platform for building websites, both WordPress.com and WordPress.org offer fully featured website tools that include practically everything you’ll ever need for your site. For those who lack technical skill, WordPress.com is often the better choice—it’s an easy drag-and-drop interface with premade templates, while WordPress.org is a platform that requires a domain host (though the platform itself is just as easy to use).

Cost: The WordPress platform is free, and there are hundreds of free templates to choose from. While free domains are WordPress branded (yoursite.wordpress.com), you can purchase a personal domain through WordPress starting at $18.00 per year. There are also premium templates available for a one-time fee, typically starting at $75.

 

How to Lose a Social Media Follower in 10 Days

Saturday, September 21st, 2013

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In the real world, unless there’s a major betrayal or conflict, friends and colleagues tend to stick around. But in the realm of social media, it’s all too easy to lose followers and fans. Even a minor annoyance can prompt people to click that “Unlike” or “Unfollow” button.

Unless you want to see your follower list dwindle, avoid committing these social media don’ts:

  1. Ignoring your followers. When someone likes and/or interacts with your page, they expect to get something out of it—whether it’s regular updates, responses to their comments, or special offers.
  2. Being too salesy. Your customers came to your page for information, entertainment, and perhaps the occasional special offer, not for a deluge of advertisements.
  3. Posting random or irrelevant content. If someone subscribes to a women’s fashion page, they don’t want to see parenting tips. Serve up content that pertains to the theme and audience of your profile.
  4. Overdoing the quotes. Sure, there are plenty of poignant and catchy quotes out there…but your followers want to hear what YOU have to say, not just regurgitated tidbits from other people.
  5. Sending generic responses. Don’t think you’re fooling anyone with those autoresponders. Social media users can spot a canned message a mile away.
  6. Posting too much. When it comes to social media, quality trumps quantity. Leave them wanting more.
  7. Overdoing the hashtags. Tagging can be a highly effective way to bring exposure to your posts, but don’t let the value of your messages get obscured by too many #s.
  8. Whining. No-one likes a complainer. While you don’t necessarily have to post about puppies and rainbows all the time, too much negativity will quickly alienate followers.
  9. Repeat yourself. If you post the same message again and again, bored followers will run for the hills.
  10. Letting the stream dry up. When it’s time for social media spring cleaning, the first casualties are the pages that remain stagnant for long stretches of time.

By not committing these ten social media sins, you’ll have a much better chance of keeping a firm grasp on your fans and followers.

 

 

5 Quick Tips for Beating Procrastination

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

do it - procrastination concept

So you’re facing a huge project that’s going to take days to get through. Or maybe a series of small, unpleasant tasks you’ve been dreading. Or perhaps you simply don’t feel like getting any work done right now.

Whatever the reason, we all battle the procrastination monster at some point—usually more than once in any given workweek. Try these tips to tame the beast and conquer the stress of having unfinished work hanging over your head.

  • Start with the hardest task. Beating procrastination is all about momentum, so it may seem like a good idea to begin your day with easy tasks—you can knock them out quickly and you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something. The problem is, that sense of accomplishment can sap your motivation to keep going. Tackle the toughest projects first, and work on easy things when you don’t need the motivation you’ve already expended.
  • Break it down. Facing a huge or seemingly never-ending project? Take a few minutes to break the project out into stages, and then tackle one stage at a time. You’ll end up with a series of small successes, eventually leading to the big goal.
  • Sit up straight. Believe it or not, your posture can have a strong effect on your mood—and if your mood is slouchy and bored, your motivation to get things done will reflect that. The simple act of sitting up straight in your chair can help you feel like you’re ready to work.
  • Adjust your environment. Sitting at your desk all day can quickly get monotonous, and monotony detracts your focus from work, toward all the other things you could be doing away from your desk. Move to another computer, grab a laptop, or try the radical pen-and-paper method for a change in routine that will shake your productive mind loose.
  • Take a break. Use this strategy to beat the type of procrastination that comes with “I’ve already been working four hours straight.” Countless studies have shown that regular breaks actually improve productivity. Get up, grab a drink or healthy snack, and spend a few minutes cleansing your mental palate so you can come back refreshed.

What are your favorite procrastination crashers?

Solving the Biggest Work-From-Home Challenge: How to Stop Working

Monday, September 16th, 2013

For anyone who works from home, or wants to make the transition, there’s plenty of information out there about how great it is. No more commuting! Work in your pajamas! Follow your passion! It’s true—working from home is undeniably awesome.

Except when it’s not.

If you’ve been working from home for a while, you probably roll your eyes whenever someone tells you how lucky you are. There are definite advantages. But there are also pitfalls, and one of them is figuring out how to stop working. Preferably before your family forgets who you are, and then calls the police the next time you sit down at the dinner table because they don’t recognize you.

So how do you leave work when you’re living with it? These tips will help you occasionally take the office out of home, so you can remember what it’s like to sit on your couch without your laptop and a pile of projects, wondering who brought the cat to work with them.

  • Define your space and stick to it (that goes for everybody). If you don’t already have one, you absolutely need a home office. You might not have a spare room, or a closet you can transform. If that’s the case, stake out a corner of a room and declare it your office. Explain to your family that when you’re there, you’re working (and when they stop laughing, tell them you’re serious).
  • Give yourself a schedule. Yes, one of the benefits of working from home is scheduling freedom. You’re flexible and you know it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t at least plan on working certain times of the day—because it makes it that much easier to quit when your “day” is done. If you have to stop for an emergency, you can always tack on hours later. That’s flexibility.
  • At the end of the day, quit. You’re done. Turn off the computer and don’t look at it until you start work the next day. This takes practice, but it can be done. If you have to, you can let clients or supervisors know to text or call after a certain time with emergencies. But only real emergencies.
  • Schedule an activity to reinforce quitting time. Your willpower might not be enough to keep you out of your home office at the end of the day. To combat this, give yourself an appointment after work. Use that dusty gym membership or go for a nightly walk, catch the next episode of the show you’ve been diligently not watching during work hours, or just make a date with your family for dinner.

Make a habit of separating your work from the rest of your home, and watch your stress levels drop!

 

Small Business, Entrepreneurs & Freelancers: Optimize Your Lunch Break

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Eating at the desk

If you work on a self-imposed timetable, you might be in the habit of working through lunch at your desk. For many freelancers and small business owners, this feels like the most productive way to do things. You need to eat, but if you can work while you’re doing it, you can finish your day sooner. Right?

Ironically enough, studies have proven that taking breaks actually make you more productive—not less. If you work eight hours straight, your brain will slow down on you, and you’ll find yourself burning the midnight oil yet again.

Here’s how to make the most of your lunch break, and come back to work refreshed and ready to tackle your schedule so you can enjoy some actual free time after dinner.

Leave your desk

It’s not truly a time-out if you’re still on the computer—even if you’re only catching up on your favorite blogs or hitting friends up on Facebook instead of working. The simple act of standing up and walking away from your desk is enough to signify to your brain that you’re truly taking a break, which gives you a more effective recharge.

In fact, leave all electronics, period

During your lunch break, put everything aside—even your smartphone or tablet. Telling yourself, “Oh, I’ll just answer a few emails” is cheating. You’re still working, and your brain will feel it later.

If you’re truly on a tight deadline, take it mobile

Some days, you really do have to work through lunch. After you take a minute to verify that it’s honestly inescapable, consider downloading what you’re working onto a laptop or tablet, and heading outside (or to another room, at least) to eat while you work. If you have to keep going, the temporary change of scenery can help to keep your mind stimulated.

Enjoy what you’re eating

Regardless of how or where you take your lunch break, treat yourself well by eating something that tastes good and gives you the fuel you need to get through the rest of the day. Save the lighter fare for dinner, and allow yourself a few extra calories at lunch for the sake of pleasing your taste buds.

And if you can’t remember the last time you took an actual lunch break, now is the perfect time to start!

5 Backup & Disaster Recovery Tips for Your Small Business

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

Smart Women Mousepad

As summer winds to a close, your business faces an increased risk for data loss from seasonal storms, power outages, and a general increase in activity that can lead to human error. Now is a great time to review your backup and recovery plan—and make sure you have good habits in place to protect your data.

These five tips will help ensure that you’re covered in the event of data loss or disaster.

  • Check your defenses. Effective, up-to-date anti-malware programs and firewalls are an important part of an overall data backup plan. Make sure that all of your work machines—including any mobile devices that are used for business purposes—have the latest definitions and security updates.
  • Automate your backups. If you don’t have one in place already, set up a system that will automatically back up all of your data on a periodic basis. Good choices for small businesses are cloud-based backup solutions like MozyPro (starts at $10 per month) or Carbonite Business (starts at $229 per year).
  • Run periodic tests. Make sure your backup and recovery system is working by periodically recovering an important file and testing it for validity—make sure it still opens, contains the right data, and can be edited and saved. You can also use an alternate hard drive to test a full-system recovery.
  • Stick to proven brands. In technology, there’s something to be said for a recognizable brand name. Your backup plan is useless if you’re storing data with a cloud service provider with weak security, or on hard disks that are easy to break or corrupt. If you’re considering a new brand of backup hardware or software, ask for opinions from other businesses who have used it before you commit.
  • Keep a full remote backup. Whether it’s a cloud storage service or a few terabytes of external hard drive, make sure you have at least one full set of data stored off-site. If you need to keep a backup hard drive onsite, invest in a heavy-duty, fireproof safe to store it in.

Your small business backup plan is essential for keeping you up and running. Take the time to test your plan today!