April 24, 2007

Creating Small Business Websites That Grab Attention



Your website can be a wonderful marketing and educational tool. But what makes a small business owner’s website great?

Come learn the basics of what you should know to add polish and professionalism to your small business website, everything from the message you deliver to the psychology of the colors you use.

Whether you design your own site or hire someone to do it for you, this information-packed class is for you!

You will learn:

  • The real purpose of a small business website.
  • What makes a good web site design that’s both appealing and usable, while accomplishing your marketing goals at the same time.
  • What visitors really want to find when they visit your website
  • How to choose effective page layouts and colors for your site.
  • The keys to powerful website text that sells your products and services.
  • How to critique websites (including your own!) in order to apply this knowledge to your own website.
  • How to effectively market your website to get more traffic to it.
  • How to get high rankings on search engines with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques.
  • Which website statistics are important to track for the success of your business.
  • What to look for in a website designer/programmer.

This six-week teleclass begins May 22, 3:00 - 4:00 PM eastern. Don't worry if you miss a class! Classes will be recorded and available for all registered students to download.

 

April 23, 2007

How to Choose a Virtual Assistant


For over 15 years I worked with an assistant who came to my home office and helped me with the administrative side of my business. When I moved away from the area 18 months ago, I lost her services.

I had two choices: look for another administrative assistant nearer to my new home office, or delve into the world of "virtual assistants." A virtual assistant does not come to your office. Instead he or she works from their own office and assists you via phone, internet, fax, and email.

When I looked through the list of all the tasks I wanted an assistant to perform, there was no reason why this person couldn't be located anywhere in the world. After careful research I hired an assistant who lives 2,500 miles away, and although we've never met in person, we've formed a strong foundation which helps my business run smoothly.



The Benefits of Using a Virtual Assistant


There are many benefits of using a "virtual" assistant versus bringing an assistant into your home office.



  • You don't have to share your computer, or set up a second computer, for the assistant to use. A VA uses his own equipment and computers. In addition, you don't have to set up an extra desk in your office for an assistant.

  • Instead of having a fixed schedule of hours each week, with a VA you only pay for the hours you use.

  • You can hire a VA to work a specific numbers of hours per month on a retainer which guarantees availability. Some VAs work on a per-project or per-hour basis as well.
    You can find VAs with specific skill sets, from certified QuickBooks specialists to those with graphic, internet, marketing, or technical skills.

  • VAs own their own business, so they know what it's like to be self-employed.

  • A VA works as a consultant, not as an employee. Therefore, you won't have to pay employment taxes or benefits for your VA. (It's critical that you understand the government rules about employees versus sub-contractors; in the USA, check out the IRS website for the rules www.irs.gov).



Some of the Drawbacks of Hiring a VA


Not all VAs are created equal and you don't want to be paying someone to learn on the job. Some are new to the assistant industry and have a lot to learn about helping a self-employed small business owner. Some have excellent technical skills while others labor with using a computer or the internet. Some have great customer service skills while others struggle to keep in touch with you about the status of your projects. Some work part-time and are only available for limited hours per week. We'll talk further about selecting a VA below, but be aware that it's up to you to interview the VA and determine if his skills match your needs.

Some VAs are taught that they should be a "partner" with you in your business. On the surface, this sounds great. However, I have heard too many horror stories about VAs who did things without asking permission, from modifying website text to changing established class titles. Make sure you are clear about the boundaries of what your VA can do without your permission. I prefer that my VA takes the extra time to ask my permission, rather than taking it upon herself to do something that might negatively impact my business. Many self-employed people are not looking for someone to "take over" running their company; instead they want a professional who can assist them with specific tasks and projects.



When Is It Time To Hire A VA?


It's a rare entrepreneur who doesn't feel overwhelmed wearing all the hats and doing all the tasks alone. But when is the right time to hire a VA?

First, look at your task list and determine which tasks should be delegated. Don't fall into the trap of thinking, "I can do this so much faster and better, I won't delegate this task." The question isn't whether you can do a task; the question is whether you should be the one to do the task. Think how you will use all the time you free up from administrative tasks to create more income for your business.

Second, look at your budget. How much can you afford to spend? Remember to add into your budget calculations the fact that you'll be able to generate more income, and design more products and services, with the time that is freed up by hiring a VA.


April 12, 2007

Who Owns Your Website?

Recently I heard a story that bears repeating:

A well-established company had hired a website designer/graphics art firm to create their website for them. After working with this vendor for several years, they decided to move to a new graphic artist. At the same time, they decided to move to a new hosting company, so they simply copied their website files from the old hosting company and moved them to the new hosting company. After all, they owned the website, didn't they?

The surprising answer is No. Since the vendor and the client didn't have a "work for hire" written agreement, many courts would say that the previous vendor still owned the work. And "work for hire" agreements might not cover the copyright complications of both the graphics work done on behalf of the client, and the software work done.

It would seem to me that a fair resolution to this type of case would be to use the assumption that the website designer was doing work for you, and therefore you own the work. In the legal world, this may not be the case, as websites include both graphic work and software work. These two types of work are protected differently under copyright law.

You can read more about this type of situation here:

http://www.weblawresources.com/who_owns_art.htm

and

http://www.businessweek.com/smallbiz/news/coladvice/book/bk991112.htm

If you've hired a website designer to design your site, check your written contract. Make sure it clearly states that YOU own the website upon full payment to the designer. If you never had a written agreement with your designer (or if your current agreement does not have this clause in it), it's time to re-negotiate with your designer.

If you feel awkward or embarrassed to speak with your website designer and ask for this in writing, then you are putting your business success in jeopardy. Don't delay. Take care of this immediately.

April 9, 2007

Copywriting Class begins April 17


Copywriting 101 For Small Business Owners
Begins April 17!


Copywriting 101 is an interactive teleclass designed specifically for small business owners looking to put their message into words correctly, persuasively and stress-lessly.

Upon completion of this teleclass, your copywriting skills and marketing materials (including your website text) will be more polished, professional, powerful and effective than ever.

When you write, you are making a powerful statement about yourself and your company. You need to ask yourself:

Am I getting the results I want?

Am I presenting my company in the best light?

Is my writing tailored to the medium I'm using and the market I'm targeting?

Is my message clear, concise and easily understood?