July 30, 2007

The Green Home Office: Other Tips


A few months ago, in my blog entry The Green Home Office: Duplex Printing, I talked about how you can save paper by printing double-sided (duplex) and how printing to a PDF file, instead of paper, can save you reams of paper each year.

I've got a few more "green home office" tips for you:

  • Whether you work in an office or from home, consider making small changes to the temperature in your office in order to save fuel. For instance, lowering your thermostat in the winter (and wearing a sweater and socks) or raising your air conditioning temperature in the summer (and using an electric fan or ceiling fan) can significantly. We lowered our electric bill by 10 percent by using our air conditioning less.
  • Use compact fluorescent (CF) light bulb. The older type CF bulbs use to flicker and had a weird color tone to them, making them practically impossible to use in an office setting. However, the new CF bulbs have a pleasant warm tone (especially the GE Soft White CF bulbs) and no longer flicker. We reduced our electric bill by 25 percent by changing all the light bulbs and turning off lights when we were leaving a room.
  • After you're done using paper in the office, you can recycle it. If your local garbage collection company does not have a recycling program, check with your city or township office, they may have one.
  • If you can't recycle paper, re-use the blank side for notes and to jot down information.
  • Buy recycled products and supplies for your home office. For suggestions, visit The Green Office.
  • Working from home can really impact the environment in a positive way. My husband and I bought new cars within a few months of each other. My car has 25 percent less mileage on it than his car, and he drives 250 miles a week as compared by my 45 miles (and that includes grocery shopping, post office, and other "errand" miles on my car). Just group all your errands together and make one long trip that includes the bank and post office, instead of separate, short trips.

I know global warming seems practically impossible to fix on a personal level, but every little bit helps. If you have other green home office tips, I'd love to hear them!

July 27, 2007

Autumn Classes Now Available


Our autumn class schedule has just been posted:


To learn more about these classes, visit our Learning Center:

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New Blog Looks and Feel!


I took today off from work to update the look and feel of this blog. What do you think?

(Talk about Shiny Object Syndrome!)

To subscribe to this blog, use one of the buttons to the right, or open your favorite newsreader (such as My Yahoo, Google, Newsgator, etc.) and paste this URL to add our blog to your newsreader:

http://feeds.feedburner.com/TheSelfEmploymentBlogForSmallBusinessOwners

July 26, 2007

Angel Investing Grows in 2006


According to an article from the National Dialogue on Entrepreneurship:

"Organized angel investors invested $25.6 billion in 2006—a 10.8% [increase] over 2005. Overall, 234,000 angels backed 51,000 different firms last year. Both deal numbers (up 3%) and average deal size (up 7.5%) grew, thus offering further indications of a healthy angel market."

An angel investor is a wealthy individual who provides business capital for start-up or growth of a business, in return for a share of the equity of the business. Typically they're looking for investments under $1 million. According to Wikipedia, "Of the 51,000 US companies that received angel funding in 2006, the average raise was about US$500,000."

While angel investors often invest in companies with larger revenue possibilities than a typical self-employed person might earn, it's worth considering angel investors as a source of capital, especially if you're growing an existing business to a new level.

You can read more news about the angel investment markets here:

July 23, 2007

Which Internet Marketing Techniques Work?



Small business owners often ask me which internet marketing techniques work best. The answer is, "it depends on your audience." Knowing your target audience and testing to see which techniques they respond to should be your #1 priority in your internet marketing plan.

With that said, MarketingSherpa did a survey recently with these results:

BEST internet marketing results:

  • 49% of survey respondents said "paid search ads"
  • 47% said their own in-house mailing list
  • 45% said search engine optimization (SEO)

WORST results:

  • 56% said rented mailing lists gave them the WORST results
  • 45% said pop-ups and pop-unders
MarketingSherpa.com is a wealth of information, especially surveys and studies. Here are some good reports. If you sign up for their mailing list, you get most of their reports and articles for free (if you access them within a week of the email broadcast; after that, there is a fee).

July 19, 2007

What To Look For in a Digital Recorder


Many people have asked me how I record my teleclasses. I use a digital recorder, connected to my telephone line. Some teleconference companies will allow you to record your call through their service. However, since I also record all my live speeches and workshops, a digital recorder was the way to go for me.

As for digital recorders, I have an Olympus DS-40. Here's what to look for when buying a digital recorder:

1. That the recorder can be connected to your PC for downloading files easily. I'm not sure if they work with a Mac, so if you have a Mac, you'll have to research the options available here.


2. Removable storage. This means the recordings are stored on a flash card. By having removable storage you can always buy more flash cards to store more audio if you're going to record a one- or two-day live workshop (where you can't get back to your PC to download the recording then remove it off the flash card).


3. That it can store files in MP3 format. This way, you don't have to do a lot of fiddling with file conversions: MP3 can be uploaded "as is" to your website.


4. That it has both a SP (standard play) and an LP (long play) mode. SP modes give you higher quality audio recording, but reduced the length of available recording because the file size is larger.


5. Long record times: If you're teaching a full day, 8-hour live workshop, you need to know that your recorder can record the whole day in SP mode.


6. It must have a microphone jack so that you can plug it into your telephone.


Good luck in your search!

July 18, 2007

Hotel Alert: Have You Heard of "Guest Gouging?"

I've stayed in many a hotel room while traveling on business, and I'm here to witness to the growing trend of "guest gouging" -- charging you for every little thing in order to make a few extra dollars. I mean, really, is it necessary to charge $3.95 per day for high-speed internet access? Can that $3.95 truly have that much effect on your bottom line, as compared to keeping your customers happy -- and loyal?

And the weird thing is, it's the high-end hotels charging for these items. Buget hotels are not. For instance, charging for internet connection: 60% of high-end hotels do, while only 10% of budget hotels do.

And it's not just internet connections. They're also charging fees to use the pool or fitness center, for your "free" newspaper, etc., even if you don't use them. Why not just charge me extra to take the elevator instead of the stairs and be done with it?

Next time you travel on business, pay attention to the extra costs before making your decision where to stay. These might be listed as "resort fees," so read carefully before saying Yes.

Here's an interesting article on the topic:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19421602/

July 13, 2007

Eeek! Shiny Object Syndrome!


It seems to be a trend that's growing: small business owners are getting distracted by too many ideas or the latest fad, going off in a million directions and never completing anything. This loss of focus is costing small business owners hundreds of hours a year in lost productivity, lost hours, lost dollars.

It even has a name: SOS - Shiny Object Syndrome. It's not quite ADD/ADHD. It's more that a new idea captures your imagination and attention in such a way that you get distracted from the bigger picture and go off in tangents instead of remaining focused on the goal.

We think of a new idea, we hear of a great new gadget or marketing technique, and ZOOM, we're off! There's great energy and excitement in starting something new.

Of course what happens is that that everything always gets started, but nothing ever gets finished. In addition, countless hours and dollars are wasted in pursuit of the new, shiny object without having thought through whether this new item, technique, service or product is "right" for your business.

Lest you think that it's only us small business owners who suffer from it, you'll be happy to know that it's rampant in many industries. Software and tech companies are notorious for following every cool new fad that comes along, without thinking strategically about whether it's a good fit for their business model. TV creates shows around SOS, then dumps the show after 6 or 8 episodes. Big business follows every business development fad that comes out in books or gurus, only to drop it when the next cool fad arrives. Countless people have started blogs and abandoned them within a year (or less!) because they got tired of writing posts -- or worse, no one was reading the posts.

I know it's hard not to get excited about every new idea that comes past you. Some of them are very, very cool. But you are running a business and you must stop and ask yourself:
  • Is this right for my business?
  • Do my customers want this, and are they willing to pay for it?
  • Do I have the time, resources, energy, and money to put into this to make it successful?
  • Do I have too many open projects sitting on my desk that need to be finished before I begin something new?
  • Do I have the ability to finish this new project, and implement it, and maintain it?
  • What has to drop off my radar in order for me to start something new?

There's nothing wrong with loving innovation. Just make sure you don't lose focus on what's most important for you, your business and your customers.

July 3, 2007

Business Week Profiles Women Entrepreneurs

Business Week has a great article profiling women who have successfully moved from "corporate America" to start and build their own businesses. Not only does the article tell their stories, but it shares insights from these women about the pros and cons of leaving the corporate world for the entrepreneurial world.

See related article: "This Time It’s Mine.”