Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Funding, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

This Is Why Your Small Business Needs a Budget

Many factors influence how successful a small home business will be. Unfortunately, your expertise and dedication alone are not enough to guarantee your business will thrive. You also need to address certain practical factors.

That’s why creating a budget is so important. While this isn’t necessarily a task many business owners look forward to, it can be easier than you think. There are now many budgeting tools that help you automate the process, and the benefits of taking advantage of these are significant.

A proper budget is essential for the success of any small business. The following are only a few of the most important reasons why:


Understanding Your Own Growth

From a financial perspective, the basic goal of any business owner is to make more money than they spend. You can’t understand whether you’re hitting that goal if you don’t understand your expenses, set limits, and track cash flow. A budget gives you parameters for assessing your overall financial situation. Understanding your profitability is impossible without a budget.

A budget will also help you monitor your growth with greater accuracy. While your basic goal may simply be “earn more than I spend” when you start out, you may have more ambitious goals as you grow, like earning a certain amount each year. Maintaining a budget will let you know if you’re on track to reaching your goals. If you find you’re not making progress to the degree you had hoped, you’ll also have the opportunity to address key problems you might have overlooked without a budget.



Identifying Waste

It’s uncommon for any business owner to avoid wasting money entirely. There’s certainly a good chance you are spending more on something than necessary, which can impede your progress toward profitability. When you routinely exceed your budget limits for a particular category of expense, that’s a red flag that may indicate waste. The limits a budget imposes can also motivate you to find lower-cost replacements for expenses as well.

Of course, if you don’t maintain a budget, you may not even realize that you’re wasting money—and you certainly won’t know which specific expenses are higher than they should be. This is yet another issue a budget helps to solve.


Understanding When You Need to Save

Every business is different. That said, in many industries, there tend to be periods throughout the year when work is slow. You shouldn’t assume you’ll make a consistent amount of money every quarter, or even every month.

Keeping a budget helps you identify when those slow periods tend to occur. This gives you the chance to save up ahead of time, so you have the funds necessary to stay in business until the busy season starts again.


Attracting Investors

You may eventually want to seek funding from outside sources as you grow your business. You’ll need to prove to these outside sources that you have a proper strategy in place to grow the business with the funds they provide.

They’ll be less inclined to invest, however, if you don’t have a budget to show them. Your budget demonstrates that you have a plan for your business to achieve profitability—it shows that you’re serious about your venture, not just “winging it.” Potential investors need the opportunity to evaluate your current financial circumstances before they agree to provide funding. With a budget, you can boost their confidence in the overall safety of investing in your business.




Helping You Afford Major Investments

If you don’t have a monthly or quarterly budget, you may not be able to save up for equipment purchases, new initiatives, or other major expenses that represent long-term investments rather than operating costs. When you don’t keep track of your cash flow, it can be difficult to think long-term—you’ll likely be more occupied with just getting by each month. This is a mistake, because almost every business will have to invest in new equipment, facilities, or a new venture at some point, no matter the industry. Budget limits help you reign in spending and allow you to allocate something for these major investments that your business will need to grow.


Paying Yourself Fairly

One of the most difficult tasks for any small business owner is determining how much of their earnings they should keep, and how much they should funnel back into the business.

Of course, there is a danger in paying yourself too much. On the other hand, it’s absolutely possible you’re not paying yourself nearly as much as you ought to be—many small business owners do not pay themselves at all, thinking they should keep the money they make in their business, rather than draw a salary.

Regardless, you can’t accurately determine how much you should pay yourself unless you keep a budget. If you ever decide to hire new employees or enlist the help of freelancers, a budget is also essential for keeping track of labor costs.

Once again, budgeting for a small business does not need to be as difficult as you may assume. Research the many tools available for this purpose, and implement those that seem ideal for your needs. You’ll be happy you did in the long run.

Business, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success

This Is What You Need to Know about Contacting Clients for a Small Business

Starting a small business you can run from your home is a dream for many people. Of course, even if you’re good at what you do, you may not reach the heights of success you’re aiming for if you can’t find clients. You need to grow a client list relatively early when starting your business to ensure you make enough money to stay afloat during this critical stage.

This can seem like an intimidating task to those who have never tried to reach out to new clients before. However, it doesn’t have to be that difficult at all. In the past, this blog has provided information about where to find clients for your business. The following are key tips you should keep in mind when first approaching people—they’ll help you make the right impression.




Be Real

Your goal is to convince a potential client that your services or products can be of value to them. You need to communicate this information while understanding they are busy people who don’t have time to listen to a long-winded pitch.

At the same time, you want to give them the sense that you’re the kind of person they would enjoy having a professional relationship with. That’s why it’s important to identify ways to express some degree of personality. If you’re talking with a potential client via phone or video conference, be willing to start with some degree of small talk. Include personal details when discussing the actual business. Perhaps there’s a casual detail or story from your life you can share that will help someone better understand why you’re passionate about your work.

If you’re discussing your services via email, stay on topic, but don’t feel the need to be strictly formal in every possible sense. A few genuine jokes or personal details can make you come across as much more friendly and approachable. If someone likes you as a person, they’ll be more willing to become one of your clients.



Think about this process from the perspective of the client. If someone were to approach you pitching the kinds of services you offer, what questions would you have for them? Write down as many as possible and come up with thorough (and honest) answers to them.

A potential client will be more likely to take you seriously if they see that you’re the type of person who emphasizes preparation. Additionally, the answers you give to their questions may determine whether they’re going to work with you. If you don’t have an answer to a question they find important, your chances of securing their business are probably low.


Ask Questions

Being prepared for a new customer’s questions is definitely important. That said, it’s also helpful to ask questions of your own.

This serves two purposes. One, it gives you more opportunities to interact with a potential client in a human way. When both of you are asking questions, the experience can turn into a genuine conversation.

Perhaps more importantly, asking the right questions signals to the other person that you genuinely care about providing quality service and that you’re interested in meeting their specific needs.

For example, perhaps you’re trying to start a freelance graphic design business. When pitching someone, you first should ask what types of graphic design work they need, who the audience for this work is, and what message the work should communicate. Find out what they appreciated about any graphic design services they used in the past, as well as what they didn’t like. Try to figure out their aesthetic preferences—ask about favorite colors, fonts, and works of art, for example. Importantly, ask them what their goals are. For one person, the goal may be to create a visual design for their website that engages visitors and keeps their attention focused on the screen. Another client might want a graphic designer to help them create a branded visual identity for their business.

If you can demonstrate that you’re willing and eager to understand their specific needs, you’ll set yourself apart from competitors who don’t take the time to do this.




Be Practical

Don’t overlook practical details when reaching out to potential clients. For example, if you decide to contact them by phone, make sure you’re in a quiet place where you have strong reception. Interruptions can make the wrong impression. In addition, have a pen and paper on hand to take notes, as well as any documents you want to refer to. You should also consider when it would be most convenient to receive a phone call. Getting in touch with someone too early in the work day, when they likely have other tasks to attend to, may not be effective. Of course, you should also use language that is friendly, but appropriate for the particular industry in which you work.

Growing a client list does not need to be as difficult as some people assume. Yes, you may have to approach many potential clients at first, and you may have to deliver several pitches before you find your rhythm for it. That said, by keeping these tips in mind and practicing frequently, you’ll soon find that pitching your services and attracting business is easier than you may have imagined.

Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Organization, Productivity, Success, Technology

How to Boost Online Shop Sales: What You Need to Know

Many people who start their own small home businesses do so with the dream of turning a passion into profit. For example, you may be an artistic person who enjoys making specialty items, like handmade jewelry. Your plan is to make money selling your work online.

It’s by no means a bad idea. However, plenty of people who go this route don’t generate the sales they expect.

This doesn’t mean their work is low-quality. It simply serves as a reminder that selling items on the internet can be a challenge. There is a lot of distracting content online. Making a strong enough impression on potential customers that they decide to purchase your items isn’t easy.

That’s why you should keep the following essential tips in mind. They’ll help you boost sales at your online shop.


Explain the Benefits of the Product

The specifics of how you apply this tip will vary depending on what you’re selling. That said, it’s an important point to remember when adding a listing to any online shop.

Too often, the initial product headline simply tells a customer what the product is. Instead, you should focus on telling a customer what a product can do. You want to ensure they appreciate how valuable the item can truly be.

Perhaps you have a patent for a tool that you’re now selling online. Don’t merely explain what the tool is. Highlight the problem it can solve for a customer. This makes them more likely to understand why they should purchase it.




Don’t Let Customers Abandon Their Carts

Did you know that most online shopping carts are abandoned before a shopper ever completes a purchase? There are many reasons this may occur. Again, there is a lot of distracting content online.

It’s easy to abandon a cart when you suddenly get a notification that you’ve received an important email. A shopper may check his or her inbox, reply to an email, then get caught checking and replying to other emails. Before long, they’ve completely forgotten about their shopping cart on another website.

That’s a key reason to make sure the process of making a purchase through your online shop consists of as few steps as possible. The faster customers can check out, the greater the odds they will.

You may want to implement an automated email system that contacts a customer after they’ve abandoned a cart. Reminding them they were in the middle of a purchase makes them more likely to complete it. Obviously, you’ll need their email address, which you can get if they opt in to your email newsletter.


Use Professional-Quality Photos

Although everyone knows you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, many people still do so.

No matter what type of items you’re selling online, you want to make sure the pictures you include to display them look professional. If you don’t have photography experience, this may mean hiring someone to take pictures for you.

This is a smart investment. While it does cost money to hire a photographer, doing so will pay off in the long run. People are simply more likely to buy an item from you if the visual elements of your listing give them the impression that you’re a trustworthy professional.

Quality pictures can also communicate value. The price of an item will seem much more reasonable to a customer if the item looks impressive in pictures.




Leverage Social Media

Social media can give you many opportunities to boost sales. For example, with a Facebook business account, you can sell directly to customers on the social media platform. Because Facebook has more than 2 billion active monthly users, this gives you the chance to reach a large base of potential customers efficiently.

Instagram can also be very helpful, particularly if you are selling visually appealing items. Leveraging popular hashtags and posting quality images can help you grow a following. Your followers will also share your content on their own accounts, doing a lot of your marketing for you.

Having a large base of followers on a platform like Instagram can be particularly helpful if you sell more than one item. A customer who has bought from you in the past is more likely to make a purchase in the future, assuming they’re satisfied with the initial purchase. Thus, a large social media following lets you target repeat customers easily.

Of course, there are many factors that contribute to the success of an online shop. Quality site design, reliable customer service, and the presence of products that customers actually want are all necessary elements. That said, these tips may be valuable to anyone who feels they aren’t making enough sales. Apply them to ensure your home business thrives.

work from home
Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Success, Work at Home

This Is What You Need to Do to Build a Successful Home Business

It’s no secret that not all home businesses will succeed. In truth, many different factors influence whether a business will thrive or not. Each case is unique.

Still, there are certain principles any business owner can apply to boost their own odds of success. Have you been planning to start your own small business from home? If so, keep the following points in mind. While they won’t guarantee success, following these tips can increase your likelihood of reaching your goals.


Be Honest with Yourself

Some people who start home businesses already have enough capital to hire extra help if they lack specialized skills. For example, if you’re starting a consulting firm but don’t know how to attract clients, you might hire someone with communications, marketing, or PR experience to help you find them.


However, odds are good you won’t have that kind of money right away. That’s why you should be honest and realistic about the type of home business you can start. By honestly assessing your talents, you can narrow down your options and choose the type of business you’re most likely to succeed at running. While there’s nothing wrong with having an ambitious mindset, an unrealistic mindset can have bad consequences.


Do Your Research

Having an idea for a business isn’t the same as knowing that people are willing to pay for the services you offer.

For instance, if you want to offer graphic design services to other small companies in your area, you probably won’t have a difficult time finding clients. On the other hand, if your idea is too niche, finding customers could be a struggle.

That’s why you need to research the market first to find out if there is one. To start, check to see if there are other successful businesses like your own already out there. While it can be risky to jump into a market where there is a lot of competition, if you can identify successful businesses that are similar to your own, odds are good you’ll at least have a chance at success.


Act Like It’s a Real Business

Many people who start small businesses have other jobs on the side or a full-time job that demands their attention 40 hours a week.

As you know, you wouldn’t neglect your day job or treat it merely like a side project that didn’t matter much. You depend on the income the job provides. Thus, you take it seriously—you show up on time, put in your hours, and get your work done.

online business

This is the same attitude you should have toward your home business. While it can absolutely be difficult to devote time and energy to a home business when you already have another job, this attitude can have a major impact on your odds of thriving. Hopefully, you’re starting your own business at least in part because you’re passionate about it, so the work shouldn’t feel like drudgery.


Search for Inspiration

This tip may not seem as practical as the others on this list. However, it may actually play a major role in your motivation when you’re starting your business.

The fact of the matter is, progress can come slow during the early days of a home business. It’s easy to get discouraged and lose confidence in yourself as you struggle to find clients, even if you love the work you’re doing.

However, this is a natural and very common part of the process of starting a home business. Many people quit at this stage because they become convinced that their business idea is merely a waste of time and money. They stop before they’ve truly started, sabotaging their own chances of success.

That’s why it can be a good idea to search the Internet and publications for stories about other people who struggled when they first started their own business. It’s not uncommon for successful people to face numerous challenges and setbacks during the early stages of entrepreneurism. Reading their stories can inspire you and help you maintain focus.


Set Goals

Let’s face it: “success” is a pretty vague goal. It can therefore be helpful to clearly define what exactly constitutes success in your opinion. This will help you set specific, challenging, yet achievable goals to work toward.

These kinds of goals are important because they allow you to accurately assess your progress. If you don’t know exactly what you want to achieve, you’ll have a hard time knowing whether you’re on the right track. On the other hand, if you have defined specific goals, you can gain a more accurate perspective on how close you are to reaching success.

Unfortunately, there’s never any guarantee of success in the business world. There are simply too many factors involved to make that kind of guarantee. Following these tips, however, can put you on the right path.

Business, Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Organization, Productivity, Technology

How to Use Social Media to Promote a Small Business

Starting a small home business can be a dream come true, but you’re not going to stay in business for long if people don’t know your company exists. That’s why developing and implementing a strong marketing strategy is important. No matter how good you are at what you do, you won’t succeed without finding a way to let potential clients know you’re in business.

Fortunately, there is a variety of marketing channels at your disposal, each offering its own set of pros and cons. However, in today’s digital world, a social media marketing strategy is essential. Whether you run a freelance graphic design business or a consulting service in a niche industry, using these platforms effectively will help you establish your brand, grow a loyal following, and reach new customers.

You just need to know how to start. While not a comprehensive guide to social media marketing, the following tips will help you better understand how you can leverage this strategy to reach your goals.


Understanding Your Options

There are several different social media platforms to consider when you first begin to market your business. It’s worth exploring the benefits each one offers. For instance, Facebook allows marketers to target specific types of users with ads. But if your business involves creating visual work (like graphic design or photography), Instagram is the place to show it off. With Twitter, you can post more often and take advantage of trending topics to reach more customers. If you’re catering to industry professionals, LinkedIn is the best place to find them.

online business

In the long run, you’ll want to maintain several different social media accounts to enjoy the unique benefits of each. At first, it’s best to start with just two so you have the opportunity to test different marketing strategies before developing a more complex and comprehensive plan.

It’s also smart to learn which platforms your target audience engage with the most. For example, if you’re targeting younger customers who aren’t professionally involved in any particular industry, LinkedIn might not be as useful to you as it would be to someone running a consulting firm.


Learn to Automate

Running a small business from your home involves a lot of work, and during the early stages of growth, you may not have the money to pay for extra staff. This can make devoting time to social media marketing daunting to anyone.

However, it’s not a time-consuming as you may think. While you will have to generate content and monitor your campaigns to determine which tactics are most effective, you can also implement automation tools to make maintaining a social media presence easier. These programs allow you to compose posts and schedule a date and time for when you’d like them posted automatically.


Be Social

To achieve your desired results, make sure to emphasize the “social” aspect of a social media marketing campaign. That means engaging with your followers by responding to questions, liking or sharing their posts, responding to comments (even a simple “Thanks!” on a positive comment can help), and even promoting the services of related businesses in your industry. While you may not want to promote another competing business, there is the possibility of finding similar businesses that aren’t in direct competition but can help you grow your professional network.

social media

For example, perhaps you offer graphic design services to other companies. These businesses could also probably use the help of web designers, bloggers, and social media marketing specialists. Promoting these kinds of businesses and engaging with them gives you the chance to network with others who can spread the word about your business as well.


Share Interesting Content

Don’t use social media solely to promote your own business. For the best results, you’ll want to offer your followers a variety of valuable content, from humor to current events. People are less likely to continue following your account if you’re only posting information about your services. As an example, if you run a freelance writing business for local nonprofits, you might share information about events in the area that your clients would be interested in attending. If you run a graphic design business, you can share content about how strong graphic design can help a company attract more customers.

Remember, it’s always important to monitor your campaigns and adjust your strategy when necessary. These tips will help you get started. However, social media marketing is an ongoing process. You’ll be much more likely to succeed if you’re vigilant about tracking your progress.

business plan
Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Organization, Productivity, Success

This Is What You Need to Know about Writing a Business Plan

To create a successful small business from home, it helps to start with a business plan.

Of course, drafting such a document when you don’t have any experience doing so can seem like a challenge. How long should it be? What information should it include? Do you follow the plan consistently, or do you adjust it?

The information here should help simplify the process and help you better understand what essential information to include in an early draft.


Keep It Short

The initial business plan can be a “mini-plan” you use to develop a more thorough document in the future. The ideal length for a mini-plan is about 10 pages.

business record

When you’re satisfied with your mini-plan, you can expand on it to create a longer working plan that you’ll refer to during regular operations. This is important if you hire others and need them to be familiar with your goals and essential processes. However, when you’re just starting out, you can simply use your mini-plan as a basic tool.


Describe the Company

The business plan should begin with a section in which you describe exactly what product or service your company offers. You may think this is a simple concept you don’t need to put down on paper. However, as you flesh out the details, you’ll realize that’s not the case.

For example, perhaps you’re starting a freelance graphic design business. That’s a broad category. Are you going to design the visual elements of websites? Book covers? Albums? Company logos? Odds are good you’re going to focus on certain markets. Use the description of your company to determine specifically what those markets are.

It’s also smart to describe how your company differs from others. Why will a client choose you when they could go with another option? This exercise helps you identify the ways your business can stand out.


Analyze the Market

Your small business is much more likely to succeed if you take the time to analyze the market first. Identify and describe who your clients or customers will be. Explain where you’ll find them.

market research

Keep in mind that the nature of your business will have an impact on this section’s content. If you’re offering graphic design for websites, you can target clients throughout the world. If you’re focusing on graphic design for small local businesses, your market analysis should reflect this.

A crucial element of the market analysis involves studying what your successful competitors do right, as well as what they can improve on. This also helps you identify ways to stand out from the competition.


Calculate Funding Requirements

Calculate how much money you’ll probably need to spend on your business in the early stages. Then calculate how much funding you currently have. You can also account for funding you expect to generate, but be conservative in your estimates. This part of your business plan is simply a practical element that will help you avoid financial surprises as you start and grow your company.

You might also want to include a funding request. If you think you’ll need help from investors to get your business off the ground, use your financial projections to estimate how much funding you’ll need. Include ideas for how you’ll secure it. That may involve approaching a bank or someone with the capital you need for a loan.

Keep in mind, as you expand on your business plan and develop future iterations of it, it could be a good idea to create a separate presentation plan designed specifically to attract investors.


Outline Marketing Strategies

A strong marketing strategy should have its own document. That said, your business plan should include some basic information about marketing.


Once you’ve described your business and the clients you intend to serve, you need to also decide how you plan on getting the attention of potential clients. This element of the plan is where you explain general ideas for reaching out to those interested in your products or services.


Organization of the Business

This element may not be necessary if you’re the only one involved in the business and expect it to remain that way for the foreseeable future. However, if your business will consist of a multimember team, create a chart that illustrates management’s organizational structure

This can help you more effectively grow the business when you do add new employees or departments. Knowing the overall structure helps you identify who manages who in the business.

Again, these are just the basics, but they’ll get you started. Refer to your business plan and build upon it as you build your company. You’re much more likely to succeed if you actively maintain and develop a strong roadmap.

Business, Entrepreneurship, Improvement, Management, Organization, Productivity, Work at Home

This Is How You Can Design the Perfect Home Office

Starting a home business naturally involves, well, working from home.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds for some people. Many people find that, even if they’re productive at an office, remaining disciplined enough to build and grow a business from home is a challenge. It’s no secret that your environment can have a major effect on your willingness to buckle down and get work done.

That’s why it’s important to optimize your home office. Creating an environment that’s conducive to work will help you focus and ultimately grow your business much more efficiently. In order to do so, keep the following tips in mind:


Select the Ideal Space

If you have a spare bedroom or a room that’s being used for storage, these will obviously be the best choices for your home office. However, not everyone has an extra room—and that’s OK. You can still design a functional, comfortable home office even if you don’t have a whole room to devote to it. Whatever space you’re working with, it helps to keep certain guidelines in mind.

computer desk

First, you may be tempted to use a corner of your bedroom as your home office. For some people, this can work well because the bedroom is quieter than other rooms and typically doesn’t see much foot traffic. However, consider carefully. For many people, the bedroom is the one room that’s devoted primarily to relaxation, so you may be tempted to relax when you’re actually trying to work. Similarly, it will be difficult to switch off at the end of the day if you use your bedroom as a place to get tasks done.

You should also try to find a space that has enough room for all the equipment and materials you’ll need. Lack of organization can overwhelm some people, making it difficult to get started on a project. You’ll find it’s easier to focus on your work if all the items you need are accessible, so make sure to choose a spot where you can fit a desk big enough for all your work necessities.

Of course, it’s also important to limit distractions as much as possible. Try not to have a TV in your home office, and try not to choose a room where other tasks may distract you. For instance, some people think they’ll enjoy working in their dining room, only to find that being too close to the kitchen makes it too easy to focus on unrelated tasks, like cleaning or cooking.


Optimize Your Comfort

Well-designed offices are created with comfort in mind. You may not feel this is the case at your office, but there’s a good chance the layout is at least supposed to facilitate an environment where people can comfortably stay at their desks for long periods of time. That’s not always the case in a home office. People don’t realize how certain factors can boost their discomfort and impact their productivity.

For example, you want to make sure you’re seated in a chair that lets you rest your feet on the floor or another supporting surface. It’s also important to ensure your computer screen is at eye level or a little below, and that your keyboard rests at an angle where your forearms are parallel to the floor. If you can justify the expense, purchasing an ergonomic chair (the kind you might find in an actual office) with proper back support can yield productivity gains that offset the cost.


Focus on Lighting

Building a business takes time. Thus, you may be working longer hours than you expected at first. That’s a good reason to combine different sources of light.


During the day, natural light may be enough to illuminate the space, and it’s typically the most pleasant to work in. An open window can also offer a relaxing and rejuvenating view when you need to take breaks.

On the other hand, you can’t rely on natural light if you’re working after the sun sets. One small lamp might also fail to provide sufficient lighting for your needs. If you can afford it, opt to purchase a few floor or table lamps rather than rely on the harsh, built-in overhead lighting common in many homes. These lamps provide softer light that’s easier on the eyes.


Limit Interruptions from Friends and Family

Not everyone has the luxury of complete isolation when they work from home. If you can’t afford childcare, for instance, you may have to accept the fact that your child will interrupt your work from time to time.

That said, you should strive to limit interruptions as much as possible. For example, if you have a pet that doesn’t need much supervision, consider closing the door so they can’t come in and distract you. Let older family members know they should only interrupt you if the issue is something they’d also interrupt you about if you worked in a traditional office setting.

You may need to explain this concept more than once to some family and friends—many people will believe that because you’re at home, you can drop your work at any time to chitchat, run an errand, or do them a favor. Explain that your work time is devoted to just that—work—and that while you determine your own schedule and can certainly take breaks, you can’t just skip out whenever. Multitasking is a myth, after all. You’ll never complete a project if you can’t devote longer, uninterrupted periods of time to it.

Experiment with different layouts and space options when designing your home office. Your first idea may not be your best. However, this is something that’s worth getting right, since your environment impacts your productivity. You want to be sure you’ve created a home office that’s ideal for growing your business.