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Vanita Cyril

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There are many highly valued and unusual or unexpected benefits to running your own business. They rarely get mentioned, but they are always there.

Many entrepreneurs will tell you that sometimes these hidden benefits are worth more than the business itself.

One of the most valuable, but also most unexpected benefits are the deep, lifelong friendships that can be forged and experienced with people of a like mind that you get to meet through your business, sometimes in the most unexpected circumstances.

If you use the internet, you’re likely to initiate several deep, meaningful relationships with some incredible people, many of which might well be half a world away. In fact, many of these kinds of relationships will be created, nurtured, and sustained without ever meeting that person face-to-face. I have clients and work associates that I’ve known online for ten years now and we’ve become great friends. We message one another to check-in and have online meetings to flesh out new business ideas.

Strange as it may seem to the uninitiated, deep purposeful relationships can be forged with just email, text, telephone, and video conferencing technology. These are not just relationships held together with common business interests. It goes much deeper than that.

Ask anyone who has been in any kind of business for any length of time if they’ve ever met anyone of substance, of character, who has subsequently become a lifelong friend, and then listen. You’ll be surprised how common it is, and how valuable those friendships are to the people concerned.

The Mastermind Group

One of the coolest things you can create together with these kinds of people is a Mastermind Group.

This is where a small group of like-minded individuals meet on a regular basis and discuss their own issues of the day. They use the collective wisdom of the group to resolve issues, create philosophies, and discuss strategies.

Everyone in the group benefits in one way or another and the camaraderie created has a phenomenal power to it. You can learn so much, so quickly, with your own Mastermind Group. Everyone in any kind of business can benefit by being in one.

Studies have shown that frequent engagement, discussions, and participation with fellow entrepreneurs can accelerate your progress dramatically.

That’s why Mastermind Groups are so popular. You can tap directly into the collective wisdom of the group to resolve any issue or create new ideas.

A Mastermind Group will also bring you all kinds of new perspectives and philosophies, some of which you may choose to adopt as your own. These alone can change every aspect of your life completely.

A mastermind group brings you new ideas for clear and effective decision making, idea exploration and development, marketing initiatives, and business strategies. These kinds of exercises and activities will cause you to think differently, work differently, and BE different.

Confidence

Then, there are the more tangible types of personal growth that will undoubtedly change your life for the better. Your ability to start conversations with people you meet in absolutely any circumstance and from any walk of life grows when you have your own business.

You might even, one day, surprise yourself by enjoying talking to groups of people as a Speaker. Because most people cannot imagine this being an enjoyable activity, they’re often shocked to find out how much they do enjoy it, given the right topic, the right people, and the right circumstances. And all without any formal training at all.

The common denominator in all these things is CONFIDENCE. Having an abundance of confidence is probably the greatest asset you can have if you want to live a prosperous, joyful, stress-free life.

Confidence is another one of those things that money just cannot buy. You can only acquire it from doing. So, in order to build your confidence, you simply have to practice whatever it is you would like to get good at.

For example, the only way to get good at swimming is to swim. But there is a world of difference between swimming the 22-mile English Channel and swimming in a pool. There’s also a world of difference between swimming in a modest pool in your backyard and a full-sized pool in the Olympics!

But the strategy is always the same. Start from where you are and practice.
Everything is doable given the right perspective and support.

So, if you want to get really good at business, you first have to have a business. No amount of video or classroom training can substitute for the real thing. When I started my business 10 years ago, I was only experienced in helping other startups grow. It wasn’t until I had to get into every aspect of being a business owner that I actually started to grow and thrive.

You must fully engage yourself in that business daily until you fully understand all the principles and elements of it. THEN your confidence will begin to grow until you are not phased, distracted, side-tracked, or knocked off course by anything that happens in that business.

DO IT!

The same is true for decision-making, organizing, planning, setting goals, and so on. You just have to DO IT! If you do it often, you learn to do it well.

In due course, you will master every aspect of owning and running a business, and at that point, business strategy will cease to become something you do. It will become an integral part of who you are and any sense of ‘work’ will then leave you permanently.

You will instinctively know what to do, what to say, and how to get things done. YOU will become your businesses’ most powerful asset.

You will then be able to show up anywhere in the world and get things going simply from what you have learned and who you are.

It has been said many times that we become the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with. If you’re thinking of starting a business, this might be a good time to ponder what that means to you in your life.

There are several things you can do to get more traffic from search engines to your website. There’s page optimization, keyword research, and building backlinks, just to name a few.

Where you rank in the search results for a search query determines your opportunity for traffic to your website. Even though the search engine algorithms which determine rankings change often, there are still tried and true SEO methods that are proven to help you rise higher in the rankings throughout these changes.

Here are the 10 best practices for SEO success resulting in Website Traffic:

1. Ensure that your website is secure.

Most people today are concerned with the privacy and security of the websites that they visit. A security certificate will ensure that your content is delivered by SSL (secure socket layer).

With SSL, your website will start with an “HTTPS://” instead of “HTTP://” and the little lock icon will show up next to the web address in many browsers. Some web hosts will provide you with an SSL certificate as part of your hosting package. You can also buy a certificate from a third party and connect it to your website. I buy my SSLs from Namecheap. 

2. Add your main topic aka keywords, early into the content.

Including your keyword early on lets the search engines know what your content is about. This will tell the search engines that this term is important, which will help you rank well for this term. This is also important for a good user experience. When a user searches Google for an answer to their question, they like to know up front that the link they clicked will provide that answer. If the beginning of your webpage does not make it clear to the reader that it will provide the answer, your visitor will leave.

3. Use unique titles, descriptions, and content.

This lets the search engines know that your content is original material and can add further knowledge to the other information that can already be found on the internet about your topic.

4. Optimize your title tag for SEO.

Always include your main keyword in the title of the webpage.

People are usually searching for How-Tos or Ways To Do Something. It will be beneficial for your webpage if the title can incorporate those phrases (or similar) along with your keywords. But please, only do so if the intent of the webpage can provide what the title offers.

5. Ensure that your website loads quickly.

It’s important that you make your website load as quickly as possible. Especially with the advent of smartphones, loading time is an important ranking factor in search engines.

You can accomplish this by compressing the size of images, removing any unneeded code, and considering using a content delivery network (CDN). If you use a CDN, your website will be able to serve images and other media from servers that are close to your audience, thus cutting down on the loading time.

Many web hosts now use CDNs to deliver content for their clients’ websites. Talk with your web host or your web manager about this priority.

If you have a WordPress site, there are many plugins that help you speed up the loading time for your website.

6. Optimize any images.

You can do this by giving the filenames descriptive names. Using image alt text is also recommended so that the search engines can understand what images are present on your website. The alt text aka alt tag, should include your keyword. If the photo is under a subheading of your content, the alt tag should be similar to that subheading. Properly optimized images can boost your website rank.

7. Use internal linking.

The key here is to link to a main page on your site that has a topic related to the page you’re linking from. So, any smaller pages can link to a larger, authoritative piece. This will help to increase the rank of the more important page.

8. Write high-quality content that answers questions that your readers might have about your topic.

If you can answer a question in less than 1,000 words, that is fine. However, it’s worth noting that it’s important to be thorough with any answer, so you may want to write considerably more than this amount. Creating a rough outline of the content can help. List your title and then the subheadings you can write on.

Many of the highest-ranking pages include a thorough answer to a question. For example, if you were to Google search “how to tie a shoelace” you’ll find that the content is quite short yet offer multiple methods.

9. Build backlinks to your website.

Despite what you may have read online that backlinks are no longer important, please note that backlinks, when done properly, are still very important. They show the search engines that your content is valuable enough for other webmasters to link to.

When you first start your website, you may want to go slow when building backlinks. After a few months you’ll be able to ramp up your efforts.

With this strategy, you want to obtain links from other important websites in this field. Links from low-quality websites that accept advertising from anyone to any website are likely to hurt your search engine rankings.

Investing in a sponsored post should only be done so with a credible, authoritative website that has content that compliments yours or if the author of the site can write an article that is as normal as their usual writing but can also incorporate your business or product naturally.

Those with e-commerce sites should consider buying listings on online directories. Be sure to pick a directory that lists businesses similar to yours (geographical or product/service-wise) and check the quality of the directory.

10. Look at the user experience.

If you find that visitors are struggling to navigate your website or that you have a high bounce rate, which is when people leave your website after just a short time, take a close look at your user experience.

Perhaps your visitors aren’t finding the answers that they’re looking for, or maybe your website is broken in some way. See what you can do to improve the overall experience of your visitors.

Bonus!

All websites should have a privacy policy page and a cookie policy page, linked to from their footer.  Business sites should also have their full address and contact details in the footer. This signals to search engines that you take user rights seriously and are an actual business.

Following these 10 best practices for website traffic will enable you to build a strong foundation for higher rankings in the search engines. The higher you rank, the more traffic you should be able to achieve.

End of year can be super stressful for us entrepreneurial moms. There are holiday sales to manage, the bookkeeping to correlate and bonuses to hand out along with holiday shopping and family visits to plan. The beginning of the year is no easier. We’ve got to get our numbers together for the CPA and get the kids ready to return to school after their holiday break. Where do we find time to soak in a bubble bath much less build a business plan for the coming year?

But plan we must! If it’s not something you currently do, I strongly encourage you to embrace it and make time for it. Setting aside time at the end of the year, to plan out what I want to do and more importantly what growth I want to achieve in the coming year has been crucial to my own success. In this blog post, I want to share some of what I’ve learned and what I’ve found helpful with you.

Why I became A Big Fan of Business Planning.

There are a few different factors that come into play here.

The first is efficiency. When you go in with a clear plan, you can focus on what’s most important. Instead of spending time trying to figure out what you should be working on, what pieces of the puzzle are missing from your product funnel, or what you need to do to break through to the next income level, you know exactly what needs to come next.

With a clear goal in mind and a plan for the year, it becomes easy to walk backwards to create effective and efficient daily to-do lists. To-do lists are the key to being productive. Work on what needs to get done each day based on deadlines you’ve determined for each task and you can succeed at reaching your goals.

Next, setting a big goal for yourself helps you think outside the box. If you don’t believe me, try it. Decide on a big income goal for the coming year. Divide it by 12 and let that be your financial goal for the first month. You can always increase it for future months. Write it down. Keep it in front of you. Then get to work and start to notice what happens next. You start to think of things that didn’t occur to you before. You come up with creative ways to get more traffic. You decide to run a fun promo that adds dollars to your bank account. The same happens when an important deadline comes up unexpectedly. Think back on that time in college when finals rolled around, or the last time your in-laws told you they would stop by later in the day. You got very creative about studying and cleaning respectively.

How Business Planning Can Work With The Subconscious And Why We Want It To.

So far we’ve been focused on what we are actively doing to make progress by making a plan, setting goals and following through. There’s another dimension to all this and that’s what’s going on in our subconscious mind.

When we make plans for our business, we’re making plans for our life.

We’re saying, THIS is what we plan to do so we can feel THIS.

What and how we feel/react to situations comes from our subconscious mind. This may seem odd but your subconscious mind is a powerful force to be reckoned with. It makes up around 95% of your brain power. It’s what tells you in a split second what to be afraid of, when to feel insecure, what you like and don’t like. We should use that power to benefit our plans, right?

While we are busy plowing through our to-do list, cooking dinner for the family, and even sleeping, our subconscious mind should be working towards those goals as well. When your subconscious mind and your conscious mind are working together to visualize what you want or what your goal is, your chances of success increase.

So how do you get the subconscious mind on track with your plans for the coming year?
Meditation and visualization, routinely.

Meditation is a practice that involves training your mind to focus, and it’s becoming quite popular these days. You’ve probably read articles about it, heard about celebrities who swear by it or even know people in your everyday circles who sing its praises. It’s used for a variety of reasons. Some feel it helps them to feel calmer when life is particularly hectic. Others just want to reduce their overall stress or to improve their sleep and feel meditation could help. You may have heard that meditating can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. All of these things are true. Ten minutes of breathing meditation can relieve you of the noise, allowing you to reach your subconscious.

Visualizing how succeeding with your business plans will come about and make you feel, signals to your subconscious mind what it is you want. So visualizing routinely will consistently reinforce the messages to your subconscious mind of what outcome you’re expecting to experience. You can’t control exactly what comes out of the process, but you can lead it in the right direction by sending it the right messages.

Your conscious mind commands and your subconscious mind obeys.

Your subconscious mind is an unquestioning servant that works day and night to make your behaviors fit a pattern consistent with your emotionalized thoughts, hopes, and desires. Your subconscious mind grows either flowers or weeds in the garden of your life, whichever you plant by the mental equivalents you create. -Brian Tracy

In short, planning, setting goals and instilling them into your subconscious is important because it helps you grow faster. That means you end up with more money for yourself and your loved ones while spending less time slaving away at your desk.

After years of ignoring the pleas of friends, family, and clients to start an online business so you can help the masses (really, people are fine with paying good money for your help!), you’ve finally decided to extend your practice to the world wide web. You’re going to offer your services, and/or products online.

But here is the question: which platform is best for an online newbie like you?

If Etsy is the first thing that comes to mind, you’re certainly not alone — Etsy is very popular and there are a lot of merchants selling handmade products and/or their services on the Etsy marketplace.

However, there can be some major disadvantages to the site, and these are significant enough to convince entrepreneurs to choose to sell via their own eCommerce websites.

I started with my own eCommerce website, but I’m not a newbie at selling online.

For the sake of expanding my selling opportunities, I worked on building an Etsy shop too. I have some first-hand experience to share with you and then my advice as a professional who has been marketing products and services online for over 10 years.

So, let’s quickly take a look at which is best for your services: Etsy or your own eCommerce website? Here are some of the pros and cons for both.

The pros of Etsy

The costs to get started are minimal if you have minimal products/services to sell.

It is easy to set up an Etsy shop: no web hosting or domain fees, no design costs. It is literally free to set up shop except for two things:

  1. Etsy takes a commission on items you sell.

Transaction Fees

When you make a sale through Etsy.com, you will be charged a transaction fee of 5% of the price you display for each listing plus the amount you charge for shipping and gift wrapping. …

See full details here.

2. There is a $0.20 fee for creating or renewing a listing on Etsy.

Listings renew every 4 months if there is still a number of products or services to sell within that listing.

You will be charged a listing fee whether or not the listed item sells. (see Etsy Fees)

To illustrate how quantity and listing fees work, let’s say you sell bowls in your Etsy shop:

What if I list only one bowl?

You’ll be charged $0.20 USD when listing your bowl. Listings expire after 4 months. Later, if you choose renew your listing, you’ll be charged a $0.20 USD renewal fee.

What if I list a quantity of four bowls?

You’ll be charged $0.20 USD for the listing. If none of the four bowls sells and your listing expires, it will cost you $0.20 USD to renew the listing.

What if I list a quantity of three bowls and I only sell one before the listing expires?

You’ll be charged $0.20 USD for the listing. When the item sells, the listing will automatically renew because you’ve still got two left. You’ll be charged an additional $0.20 USD auto-renewal fee so that the listing remains for sale in your shop.

What if I list a quantity of ten bowls, and I sell all ten?

When you first list the bowls, you’ll be charged $0.20 USD for the listing. When all the bowls in the listing sell, you’ll be charged an additional $1.80 USD ($0.20 USD for each additional quantity that was sold).

If you renew the listing with the same quantity of 10, you’ll be charged another $0.20 USD. — Etsy Help Doc

Quick to set up

Setting up a product listing on Etsy is fast. You can simply create your account and start selling your products/services within the hour. It takes the same amount of time to set up a product listing on your own eCommerce website, but your website has requirements other than just listing products.

Example etsy listing from backend
Screenshot by author

Possibly greater exposure

Etsy shops are set up based on the belief that they get great exposure as clients browse the platform. While this may be true, there are “cons” to this — which we have covered later in this post.

Customers trust Etsy

As a popular and established website, Etsy has policies to protect its customers, thus earning their trust.

Reliable

Those selling on Etsy do not have to worry about bugs or technical issues on the website. Sure, this can happen but this is rare and dealt with quickly by Etsy’s in-house tech team.

Community

Etsy has a community of like-minded practitioners. There are local groups that organize get-togethers, there are forums to chat and seek advice and discuss things.

That being said, let’s look at the cons of Etsy.

The cons of Etsy

There are selling fees

You already know that using a payment processor involves incurring a fee since it is offered by a business provider bearing the cost of that service.

But as mentioned earlier, Etsy also takes a percentage of every payment you receive plus requires a listing fee. This makes it difficult to price competitively since you have to cover your expenses and make a profit.

There is tough competition

Etsy had over 2.5 million sellers at the end of 2019 and this number is only growing. So, it can be quite hard for a practitioner to be found via search. In fact, Etsy is like a search engine where millions are competing to rank.

Because of the intense competition, search engine marketing on Etsy can be quite a time-consuming effort, often more than doing the search engine marketing for your own eCommerce website.

Just setting up a store on Etsy does not mean that those seeking your services will find you easily.

Not much brand awareness

While Etsy does allow you to customize your store, the design options are very limited and this can make it hard to create brand awareness.

Add the tough competition, and you are lost among others in the same business as you. This makes it difficult to establish your presence.

Moreover, most of the audience on Etsy is there to just browse around and are unlikely to recall your brand.

There is no ownership and therefore, high risk

When you don’t own something, you are naturally at risk as you don’t have full control over your business. What if Etsy decided to revamp its policies or raise its fees? You simply have to take it without question.

You don’t own your customer data as Etsy owns it. Once you make a sale, you cannot approach that customer for more sales.

However, on your own website, you control your activities, your policies, your clients, and best of all — you can market to your audience and convert them into loyal returning customers.

Etsy supports the customer rather than you

Things do go wrong sometimes but on Etsy, let’s say there is a problem with a transaction. When that happens, Etsy is on the customer’s side and will offer them a refund even if you would not.

This is simply because Etsy has ownership of the customer’s data and no matter what the details of the issue, they want to resolve it quickly, even if it is the customer’s fault.

Maybe the customer put in the wrong delivery address and the item sent by you is not delivered to the right destination. Etsy will go ahead and refund the customer, no questions asked.

However, when you do business from your own website, you can clearly state the terms and conditions of your services, indicating that there are no refunds for inaccurate checkout information. You have the right to charge your customer extra shipping costs in such a situation.

Etsy places a Payment account reserve for new sellers.

Etsy Payment account reserve
screenshot by author

If you have a reserve on your account, for each subsequent sale you receive, a set percentage of the sale amount will not be available for deposit for up to 45 days from the sale date. This reserve will be removed from your account in 90 days, unless there are additional policy infractions with your account. Learn more here.

Negative feedback from customers

Feedback is always welcome from customers, but this can escalate in a negative way on platforms like Etsy. Since customers have the freedom to post an “honest” review, some can be quite nasty and unreasonable.

For example, if they don’t receive an instant response to their messages to the seller, they leave a one-star rating even if the services/products were excellent.

It does not matter if the seller is located halfway across the world with a twelve-hour time difference. This, even if the service is delivered according to the terms promised.

This sort of thing does not happen when you have your own website because you’re able to evaluate the review before publishing it on your site. This will allow you to email the customer and resolve the issue, possibly resulting in a more positive review.

While this may not actually look like a big disadvantage with Etsy, it can still be discouraging as prospective clients do go by your ratings and you could easily lose a potentially good client simply because someone was unfair.

Now let’s look at the other option: running your own eCommerce website

Sure, Etsy is good for the advantages listed above, but if there is one challenge with Etsy, it is the huge competition one has to deal with. Your customers can easily access both your services as well as your competitors’.

Also, not much can be said about brand awareness on Etsy.

With Etsy, you can’t really establish yourself as a brand and expect people to remember and follow you, and share your services with everyone they know.

The reason is there is too much distraction, what with your competitor’s listings. On top of that, the design options for your shop front are quite limited.

Etsy controls your client’s purchase journey. As a result, should someone ask your client where they availed your services, they’ll just say Etsy instead of referring to you specifically by your name or brand.

When you set up your own eCommerce website, besides the unlimited design options and space to present yourself, you can establish your unique brand and personality exactly the way you want.

You also control your shop policies and incur no extra fees on payments received except the standard fee charged by the payment processors.

Your own website also gives you the freedom to promote your services via a blog, an events page, and sign-up forms for your clients.

You can build an email list to keep in touch with customers, alerting them to new products/services. In fact, your website is your home on the world wide web that you can completely customize for your business.

Here are the main advantages of setting up your own website.

Greater control over design and digital marketing

As we mentioned earlier, your website is yours to control. This includes the layout, branding, design, and marketing. You can add any feature that will help you attract more loyal customers. You can tweak the design, add a button, run a promotion, change your policies, and more. You never have to worry about someone else calling the shots.

Fewer distractions for your customer

When your customer lands on your website, you can rest assured that they won’t be distracted by competitor ads. You will have their full attention when they are on your website.

You are seen as a professional

With a beautifully designed website, your customers take you more seriously. Unlike Etsy where you can only upload a few photos and add content, your website can reflect your branding with your personal URL and design and bring you more referrals.

Your prospective customers will also find you online more easily with a well-optimized site.

There are some perceived disadvantages.

A website takes time and money to set up

Setting up your own website means more time and costs compared to setting up on Etsy. Also, managing it all on your own, unless you are an expert, can take months along with a steep learning curve to get it right.

It makes sense to hire an experienced website designer to handle it quickly and professionally. Costs typically include setup fees, ongoing hosting costs, and domain registration charges.

Once you are up and running you save money in the long run as you no longer have to incur recurring fees every time a customer uses your services.

You have to manage and maintain your website

When you have your own website, you have to take care of maintenance and ensure that your website runs smoothly. You can choose to hire a reliable website maintenance expert to manage updates, database maintenance, and fix any technical bugs. If you host your website with SiteGround, your designer can configure these tasks to run automatically for you.

You have to look after your own marketing

Unlike Etsy where you may be featured among popular stores as soon as you set up shop, you will need to come up with an effective marketing plan to promote your services as soon as you set up your website. This includes social media marketing, blog marketing, and other ways to get the word out there. A digital marketing strategist can guide you on where and how to start.

Competition

Yes, competition. Even though you have your customer’s attention when they are on your web page, you will face competition from other websites, including Etsy. At the same time, you also have plenty of opportunities.

By creating a search engine marketing plan based on the right keywords for your services and your target audience, you can compete on the web more successfully than on Etsy.

When we combine your knowledge of your customers’ needs, your services, and your website, with a bit of search engine marketing research, a solid plan, and a bit of training so you can do it yourself, competing on the web will be more beneficial to your business than trying to compete on Etsy.

Something to bear in mind

In the process of deciding between setting up your own website vs Etsy, there is a common misconception that website marketing is much harder compared to Etsy where it is easy to be found.

The truth is, Etsy is not easier. You can easily be lost in the massive competition. Also, Etsy’s search engine marketing is tough to master. Attracting people to your website takes just about the same effort as bringing them to your Etsy store; in fact, it is harder with Etsy which is crowded with similar listings. You can pay for Etsy advertising but I find the fee structure overwhelming.

At the end of the day, whether you set up your own website or use an Etsy store, the main goal should be to build your brand through marketing to gain repeat business.

I am not disputing the fact that Etsy is a good platform to attract customers and make sales. But if you plan to grow your business into a sustainable brand that your audience will recognize, Etsy is just not enough.

Quite a few merchants maintain both an Etsy store as well as their own website. I tried it in an attempt to expand my selling channels for wuvala.com, and decided the fees were not worth it.

If you’ve had experience with selling on Etsy, please share in the comments. I’d love to know.

There were a lot of financial promises made at the onset of the COVID19 pandemic, including stimulus packages, support for small businesses, pandemic relief, food programs, temporary rent relief, and so much more. I hadn’t seen any of this promised financial assistance until this week, when Facebook approved my small business grant of $2500. I probably won’t see it for another few weeks, but I’m grateful to know help is coming. Many people all over the world can’t say the same.

Working and living in NYC was not easy during the months of April, May, and June. So many people suffered physically, mentally, emotionally, and especially financially. One of our two major streams of income vanished into thin air. My husband and I own a HVAC company. We provide air conditioning, heating, and ventilation services to NYC restaurants. They were completely shut down. Clients who owed us money requested extensions and we granted them because of the pandemic. We realized that we were all struggling together.

NEW YORK - APRIL 22, 2020: The ‘Fearless Girl’ statue by Kristen Visbal in front of the New York Stock Exchange wearing a surgical face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic By Jennifer M. Mason

Six weeks in, I became nervous. We are a family of six and there was no temporary rent relief or help with monthly household expenses available to us. Three of our children were distance learning from home and groceries were hard to come by initially. When the supermarket shelves were stocked again, nothing was on sale. Our grocery costs that usually amounted to roughly $250/week had gone up to $400/week when shopping at local supermarkets. Food prices remain ridiculously high. We also had to pay out of pocket for virtual doctor appointments because we couldn’t get in contact with our insurance company. I’m still paying for health insurance.

Now that the worst is behind us (temporarily, at the very least), I count my blessings. This pandemic is huge. It’s something I’ve never seen in my lifetime. Thankfully, I had a safety net that was established 12 years ago and because of it, we didn’t financially struggle during this unprecedented time.

Can I share with you how I created it? It’s something important for you to consider.

In 2008, the economy was in a downturn and my employers were in constant meetings about the continual drop in sales. I started a side hustle because I had a baby on the way and needed a backup plan. I utilized my experience in graphics, design, and marketing to offer website designs to friends and their business associates. We all chased our entrepreneurial dreams without any startup money. All we had was our skills, experience, and talent. I remembered very little about HTML from college, so Barnes & Noble was my best friend. I did extensive research and learned so much about CSS, online marketing, and WordPress blogs.

In 2009, with another baby on the way and my employer downsizing, I started a blog to put what I was learning about online marketing into practice. I became an avid social media user, a SEO superstar, and I networked with people online to learn what they needed. I discovered all the ways bloggers could make money and I tried these tactics myself. I succeeded very quickly because of my past work experience.

By 2010, the US economy had been in dire straits for almost three years. My husband and I were both laid off. My side hustle kept us fed and provided diapers and baby formula for our babies. It kept the lights and internet on. It didn’t quite pay the rent and we were always behind, but we had a great landlady who worked with us. With my husband’s skills as an HVAC technician, we didn’t expect him to be out of work for long, so we both decided that I should work the side hustle as a full-time business so I could also care for our small children and be there for our tweens while I helped him build his HVAC business. I started offering design and marketing services to other bloggers and then eventually to entrepreneurs and small businesses.

It’s 10 years later and the economy is in the dumps again due to the COVID19 pandemic. As I mentioned earlier, because his clients are in the service industry, my husband couldn’t work. I could and I continue to do so. Work has not slowed down for me at all.

Who knew in 2008 when I feared for my job, starting this little side business would save us in 2020? I did look for other work all those years ago, but trying to find employment in a slow economy while pregnant meant my options were limited. I stayed with my corporate job as long as I could before being laid off because I was afraid to let go of the paycheck. The moment I decided to not return to the workforce and to turn my side hustle into my actual businesses, I secured our future and created a safety net for this current pandemic.

The world is changing and the future is uncertain, but we know what we know. We know what we’re good at. We know what we enjoy doing. We can use this knowledge, our experience, and our talents, to generate additional income and start a business. If you’ve ever considered starting your own business or creating a side hustle to have another income stream, don’t let fear hold you back. Get a side hustle plan in place and work the plan. To get you started here are some free resources:

20 Businesses You Can Start From Home

15 Specialized Virtual Assistant Businesses You Can Start From Home

Tips On Getting Started As A Ghostwriter

 

If you have experience working in a specific industry or with an online business-related platform, you can quickly turn those skills into working remotely as a virtual assistant.

If you look at the world of work, you soon realize that people who specialize make more money than those who don’t. This works in all aspects of our society. If you’re a primary care doctor, you make a lot less money on average than if you specialized in something such as oncology, or even podiatry. This is also very true for virtual assistants.

Marketing yourself as a VA who specializes in a specific industry or skill is always going to help you make more money in less time than if you generalize. You’ll also want to create a package of services instead of offering yourself hourly because it’ll help you control your time better plus help you avoid scope creep.

For each of the ideas below, think about the things that potential clients need completing that they don’t have time to do, and then create a package for the things you are skilled at doing.

SOME INDUSTRY SPECIALTIES FOR VIRTUAL ASSISTANTS TO CONSIDER:

A virtual assistant often performs secretarial work for business owners at a distance using technology. A VA can really work for almost any type of business owner if the tasks they do can be done virtually.

  • Social Media Influencer VA —Influencers in social media are people who have built a reputation for their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic. A virtual assistant is an investment to the influencer looking to take their brand to the next level. A VA assists by managing the calendar, editing, uploading, and scheduling social media content, researching sponsors to pitch, coordinating photoshoots and other appointments, and more! It’s office administrative tasks with social media savvy.
  • Real Estate VA (REVA) — Real estate agents need someone to help them list properties, promote them on social media, and do other office-type work such as checking email, writing letters, and so forth. While you don’t need special licensing to become a real estate VA, you might want to consider getting your real estate license in order to be more competitive or investing in a REVA certification.
  • Accountant/CPA VA — Accountants spend endless hours looking for ways to save money for their clients. Unfortunately, many fail to recognize some effective ways to cut their own operational costs. By allowing accountants to offload critical tasks, a virtual assistant can drastically increase productivity and allow professionals to focus on the things that matter most.
  • Medical/Dental VA — Yes these professions do have a team in-house — a team that’s busy with patients. A virtual assistant can offer support in: Research of every kind, including content for newsletters, blog posts, and email marketing. Social media management to help establish and maintain contacts. Research and book travel. Website updates and maintenance. Client outreach, including thank you notes, phone calls, emails, and more.
  • Legal or Paralegal VA — If you have legal secretary or paralegal experience, transitioning to a virtual assistant will not be hard. Most of the work you do here doesn’t need to be in the office or in a location, although you may need access to specific databases and other information via your clients to do this job properly.
  • Research VA — Many people, including scientists, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and others, need people to conduct research for them. If you are good at research, understand how to find scholarly works to back up ideas, this can really be a fun opportunity for you. You’d do it from your computer and just need a good internet connection.
  • Coach and Speaker VA — Many coaches and speakers need an assistant to help find speaking gigs, answer customer service emails, create their marketing materials, and keep them organized and ready for their clients and speaking gigs. Sometimes you might even get to travel if you work with speakers, if that’s something you want to do. It’s not required as you can do it fully, 100 percent, virtually.
  • Author Assistant VA — Many authors who work with publishing houses or on their own need help with all the things authors have to do today, from editing to marketing. If you have experience in publishing, you can help organize your authors with packages from websites, to social media, and more.
  • Local Small Business VA — Many small businesses in your area have plenty of administrative things that need to be done, but often they either don’t do them, or they burn the candle at both ends because they don’t realize they can hire a VA part-time to help them. You can work for daycare centers, restaurants, beauty shops, and more.

SOME PLATFORMS THAT ARE POPULAR RIGHT NOW:

As you think about the platforms and systems that are popular right now, what you’re good at doing, and who you want to do it for, you should be able to narrow down some very specific services for your customers based on the platform and your experience with it.

  • WordPress VA — You can set up WordPress for your clients and help them add blog posts and other content to their website regularly. You don’t have to build the entire site, but instead, the web designer creates it, and you just update it with the content provided by your clients. You’ll make sure it looks pretty, all the links work, and that the SEO is working.
  • Mailchimp VA — It doesn’t have to be Mailchimp. Of course, it can be any email marketing autoresponder platform. If you know how to use it very well and can help customers get more out of their use of it, then that’s what you should market to them. Most people don’t know how to use any software fully, but if you do, you can really knock it out of the park by helping your clients get the most out of it.
  • Instagram (And TikTok) VA — Many popular Instagram/TikTok stars get busy after they become popular. It makes it hard for them to have time to publish their images and videos, edit them, and promote their work. You can help them with that and help them build an audience from the ground up too. If you know how to do that, market your services to the people you most want to work with.
  • YouTube VA — Many people want to start YouTube channels, or they already have them, you can work with newbies, or you can work with only platforms with 500K subscribers, it’s up to you regarding who you want to work with and the services you put together for them based on their needs as a YouTube Star.
  • Facebook Marketing VA — Do you know something about how to run ads on Facebook to help your clients make more money and sales? If so, you can become a Facebook Marketing VA. Many people who help companies run ads charge a percentage of sales, a percentage of ad spend budget or a flat rate for each campaign.
  • Pinterest VA — Many businesses like to set up shoppable pins on Pinterest but don’t know how to do it or don’t have time. You do. You can help your clients set up the best pins and get more engagement on their pins.
  • Kindle Publishing VA — Being a self-published author isn’t as hard today as it used to be, but if you know something about publishing on Amazon Kindle, you can help guide your customers through the process. You don’t have to be an editor or anything, you just need to know people that can help your clients, and you’re golden.
  • Marketing Funnel VA — Everyone who has a business needs an online marketing funnel today. It’s a high-level skill set that any business owner needs. All you need to do is set up a package for creating a marketing funnel for your customers, and you can make six figures plus.
  • Project Manager VA — Every business owner who manages contractors and employees needs help doing it. No CEO does everything alone. They always have a smart and organized assistant that does all that for them. That can be you. If you’re good at setting up processes and steps to achieve goals using project management software and working with individuals, you can do this.

You get the idea. It’s a good idea to specialize so that you can command higher rates. Plus, when you specialize in what you do, you set the tasks that you will do for them, as well as the rates, so you automatically know what you’ll be doing for them each day throughout the year instead of waiting for them to tell you what to do.

Remember to create an entire package instead of just charging hourly for the services. Packages ensure that you have time for more than one customer and that you produce consistent results.

Starting a business from home is easier than many realize. You may think you need to invest thousands of dollars, but you really don’t. I started my business from home 12 years ago as a side hustle to my regular 9 to 5. I didn’t have a website or an office. I was 6 months pregnant and working a couple of hours per night and on the weekends from a little table in the nursery. Being the most technical among my friends and working in an advertising-related industry, a friend asked me to build a website for his new company. I did take HTML classes some ten years prior so I figured why not? I would learn as I go. He had no budget so there was no deadline. I did some online research, bought some books and TAADAA! the website was up before the baby was born! 😛 A handful of referrals came from building the site but most importantly I gained skills that complemented my education and career experience. Two years (and another child) later I started my own fulltime business from home via a mom blog. Today I own two web-based businesses and co-own a local business. You can use your skills, experience, and talents to start your own business too!

Owning your own business is a great way to take control of your life. You are 100 percent in control of when you work, how you work, and who you work with. Some who own their own business may disagree with that but IT IS absolutely up to you how much of that control you want to give away to clients. You can have 3 day weekends. You can schedule to have an online class in the middle of the day to learn that new skill that can help you earn more money. You are in command of how much you get paid. You choose the rate, not the customer. Also, since you’re just you, you can often end up charging less than a huge corporation and still end up more profitable as your expenses are lower. You are in control of your choices and your destiny.

Owning your own business does not require you to work from home. You can literally work from anywhere. For the purpose of today’s article, we’ll discuss 25 businesses you can start from home.

1. Mobile Hairdresser

I’m listing this one first for two reasons.

1. During the current Covid19 pandemic there is not one hair salon open in my neighborhood here in NYC. Forced me to give myself a dye job. It did not go well.

2. Fifteen years ago when I was a single working mom of a 6 and 8-year-old, (I am happily remarried and have 4 kids now) I had no time to sit in a salon. A local woman would come by my apartment twice per week to blow dry my hair straight. She charged the same as the salon but she came to my home which saved me 3 hours a week. I could check homework or watch TV with my girls while she attended to my hair. Whenever my daughters and I had an event to attend, I’d book a few extra hours that week so they could get something special done with their hair too.

How did she get started? She just introduced herself to harried-looking moms that she met at the supermarket, in the playground, at the laundromat. She kept a list of references and photos of the work she’s done in her flip phone to show people. Eventually, she made 5×7 postcards depicting some of her work and handed those out. A social media account and a listing on Google Maps would have done wonders for her business. Gosh, Google Maps didn’t even exist then!

2. Mobile Make-up Artists and 3. Mobile Pet Groomers

Similar to Mobile Hairdressers. All you need is talent, skills, experience, the applicable tools, and the confidence to start up conversations with strangers. An active social media account and a Google Map listing is a must these days.

4. Blogging

Blogging is a competitive industry but you CAN make money. When I started blogging over a decade ago, all I needed was a website and a computer. Now? All you need is a website and a smartphone! As a blogger, you can earn money from online ads, by being an affiliate, selling merchandise, selling digital downloads and by charging for premium content. It’s true, you do need a lot of traffic, so understanding SEO and social media is crucial. You also need a super-fast website with an SSL certificate (I am an affiliate of WP Engine because they rock for startups who don’t have a webmaster on payroll). Successfully creating an income via blogging is not easy and requires dedication and some investment, but that’s how we get started with any business, right?

5. Caterer 6. Baker 7. Mixologist

Caterers and Bakers are lifesavers. Forget fancy events. Think family reunions and birthday parties. These can be stressful for any host. Having someone show up with pans of chicken and ribs, side dishes and fancy cupcakes and layered cakes is just amazing when you have a full-time job, a full-time family and have to host a party. As for Mixologists, they’re the life of the party! An experienced Mixologist will create drinks to align with the dishes and desserts being served. But how do you get started? I would recommend a Facebook Business Page with lots of photos of your dishes/desserts/drinks and a Google Maps listing. I would have friends and family who’ve had my incredible offerings leave reviews and post photos. I would host a tasting party for people I know where they can try some of my dishes and we can take lots of photos for promotion. Be sure to ask your guests to refer you to friends, neighbors, and co-workers!

8. Copywriter

One of the 2 most impressive writers I’ve ever met is Vidya Sury. She has an MBA in Human Resources and Marketing and a Diploma in Training and Development. She also graduated with a B.Sc. in Zoology, Chemistry, and Botany. WOW, right? She currently, and for as long as I’ve known her, works from home as a Writer, Editor and Business Blogger. Clients find her through her LinkedIn Profile and hire her for copywriting, blogging, and manuscript editing. Want to start a business as a copywriter? Build your LinkedIn profile and an Upwork profile. You can search Upwork for openings and bid on paying projects.

9. Social Media Manager 10. Virtual Assistant 11. Virtual Bookkeeping 12. IT Service 13. Marketing Campaign Manager 14. Software/Platform Specialist

The other most impressive writer I’ve ever met is Angel Austin. She is also a fabulous singer, the owner of a media marketing business and of a mobile concierge business, and a heart-centered activist. Angel has a BA in Public Relations and Mass Communications and currently provides Social Media Management and Consumer Engagement services to a multi-million dollar company, from home. Angel left the corporate grind years ago so she could pursue her dream of a work/life balance where she calls the shots!

How did she get started? Through personal recommendations in her community working with local businesses. Executive assistants, ITs, software/platform specialists, marketing campaign managers, and bookkeeping administrators can also start their own business by offering their services. Reaching out to your network and local businesses is a good way to start. You can also offer your services on upwork.com.

15. Mobile Masseuse 16. Reiki Practitioner 17. Massage Therapist

If you’re trained and certified as a masseuse, a massage therapist, or a reiki practitioner, you can build your own mobile business where you travel to your clients. Groupon is a good platform to offer deals on your services when first starting out. You will definitely need somewhere online to direct people to read reviews and learn about you. That could be a website, a social media business page or a free About.me page.

18. Custom Art Commissions

My very talented artistic daughter, pictured in #1 above, is now a 21-year-old Art Major in college, who started her own business painting on sneakers and clothing. How does she gain business? She wears her personal projects! People stop her on the train and on the street to ask about her boots and jacket. Friends and past clients recommend her too! And of course… Instagram, cause what 21 year old isn’t on Instagram?

 
 
 
 
 
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19. Launderer

No, you don’t need your own laundromat to make this one work. Have a car? Know how to separate whites from colors and fold clothing? I’d pay good money to have someone pick up my laundry, wash it, dry it, fold it and bring it back to me all within a day. Take in several orders a day. No website is needed. Hit the pavement and use social media.

20. Photographer

This is one of my favorites. I’ve come across women with an amazing eye for photography. Some who trained professionally, some who it comes to naturally and grew up with a camera in their hands. AMAZING photographers, i should know, I worked in the imaging industry for 12 years with photographers. Guys who make big bucks from name brands. I know when a shot is breathtaking. When the lighting is right. When the picture is retouched or the real deal. Take that camera, build your portfolio, build a search engine optimized website offering your niche of photography (family photographers are the best way to start) to local customers, and go for it!

Design the Life You Really Want to Live

The truth is working too much is not suitable for your life. If you really want to have a happier and fulfilled life, you need to build balance into it. You need to be able to schedule family time, friend time, work time and YOU time. As a business owner, you are in control of that schedule and can live a more fulfilled and happy life by managing your time to include all parts of your life.

Owning your own business also provides you more security, more options, and generally more money than working hourly jobs. You can stop trading hours for dollars and work with the people you want to work with, in a way that enables you to have more flexibility with your family and your life. There really is unlimited opportunity out there if you’re willing to invest in yourself. You can start small with a side hustle and seriously plan to scale to your own business.

Does the thought of blogging leave you cold? You’re not alone. In fact, if you ask most any online business owner what their most dreaded task is, blogging will likely rank right up there with bookkeeping and cold calling. With few exceptions, most people simply do not like to write, so they find any excuse not to do it.
And as you can imagine, their traffic suffers for it.
The good news is, if you hate to write or feel you’re just not good at it, there are plenty of other ways to create shareable content on a regular basis without ever putting your fingers to a keyboard (much).

Crowdsource

Despite Google’s apparent dislike for it, guest blogging is still a fantastic way to both generate content and get in front of a whole new audience. Other bloggers, marketers, coaches and service providers are looking for ways to grow their audiences, and many of them would jump at the chance to appear as a guest on your blog. It’s a win/win for both of you.
Not into guest blogging? What about a text interview or cross-blog conversation? Simply supply a list of questions to your interviewee, and post her responses. The interview format is perfect for introducing your audience to someone they might want to get to know better.
A cross-blog conversation requires a little more work on your part but it can be a fun way for your readers to get to know you a bit better. A cross-blog conversation is exactly what it sounds like: a discussion that takes place on two different blogs, with you and your blogging partner both offering opinions about a topic, just as if you were having a chat over coffee.

Audio and Video

Podcasting and video blogs are more popular than ever and they’re perfect for those who don’t care for writing. With either type of content, all that’s required is you, sharing your thoughts. You don’t have to do anything as involved or complex as interviews, and you certainly don’t have to hire a studio for a day to record a series of “professional” videos.
You can create podcasts and video blogs with nothing more than your laptop with its built-in camera or a headset and an audio recorder. Just fire up your computer and share your thoughts. Don’t worry about perfection, your visitors will love a chance to see the real you!

Curate

If you’re like most people, you very likely share a variety of content on your social media accounts. You point out articles you’ve read, videos you’ve enjoyed, infographics that explain a complex idea in a simple way. It’s part of what makes social media fun and informational.
But what if you took your sharing one step further, and posted your thoughts on your blog first, before linking on social media?
The result of this curation technique, where you add your opinion with a link to the original article or video, is that you drive traffic to your site rather than someone else’s. Not only that, but it gives you more opportunity to start a conversation with your readers about the content you’re sharing.

Relying on Google or the other search engines to send you traffic can be an exercise in frustration. A better method is to encourage sharing on social media. But if you’re not a wordsmith, creating content can seem an overwhelming task. Rather than giving up and letting your blog languish, explore some other ways to create content your readers will enjoy and share.

We’ve been told (and told and told) for years that “the money is in the list” and that “your mailing list is your biggest business asset.” But if your list numbers are hovering in the low four-figures—or fewer—with no sign of growth on the horizon, such advice can seem a bit unhelpful.

The fact is, building a list is a catch 22: You can’t get sign ups without traffic and it’s difficult to find traffic when you have no list. What’s a busy coach to do?

Paid Ads Make List-Building Easy

By strategically placing ads in front of your target audience, you can drive tons of traffic to your opt-in offers and enjoy conversion rates of two or three percent or more. Even better, with some tweaking and split testing of your offers, you can carefully refine your ads and copy so that you’re attracting your exact ideal client and filling your list with buyers who are ready to take action, rather than freebie seekers.

All you need to run paid ads to your opt-in pages is:

A compelling offer, such as a video training series or live webinar
Copy to grab the attention of your target audience

Best Ad Placements

Once you have your components in place, the only question remaining is where to run your ads. You have dozens of choices, from Twitter to Google to YouTube to solo email spots.
The key is to first determine where your market is most likely to be hanging out. If they’re on LinkedIn, then running ads on Twitter will be a waste of time. Keep in mind the cost as well. Ads on Facebook are generally less expensive and less competitive than a Google Adwords placement.

Start Small, Then Refine

Once you’ve decided where to place your ads, it’s time to set your budget and begin running a small set of ads. Consider setting a small daily budget, such as $10 or $20 at the beginning, so you can get a feel for how your ads will perform. Watch the traffic, track your conversions, and create split tests of your landing page and ad sets to determine which performs the best. You can also refine the audience you’re targeting based on the stats you receive. For example, if you find that men between the ages of 20 and 30 are clicking but not opting in, you might want to remove them from your audience.
At least at first, it’s best to avoid running ads for paid products. Conversions for a free offer will far outshine those to a paid product—especially if your program is expensive. After all, those who are clicking on an ad most likely do not know you at all, so it takes a much bigger leap of faith to offer up a credit card number than it will to provide an email address.

Ad Copy Blunders to Avoid

Have you ever clicked on an ad because you saw an adorable pair of sandals that you just had to have, only to land on a page full of sneakers, with not a sandal in sight? It’s frustrating, to say the least, and that kind of ad to landing page mismatch will kill your conversions.

Your ad copy is making a promise to the reader. If your landing page doesn’t fulfill that promise, your readers will click away, and you’ll have wasted the money you spent to get them there. Before running any ads, be sure your ad headline, image, and copy all match the message on the landing page.

Paid advertising was once a tool used only by big companies or marketers with a lot of money to spare, but today they’re more cost-effective than ever, and the technology makes them easy to create and monitor. If you haven’t yet tried your hand at this useful traffic generation method, it’s time to do some experimenting. You might just find your list numbers—and sales—growing.

Ever wonder what makes some Facebook posts, videos, or blogs “go viral,” while yours are lucky to have 7 shares and two comments? While it might seem like some well-kept secret, the truth is it’s easy enough to create shareable content, if you put some thought and creativity into your efforts.

Everyone Loves Infographics

Whether you want to know more about how coffee is grown, or you’re looking for ways to boost your blog traffic, you’ll find a variety of infographics to fill you in.
These colorful, easy-to-read graphics share vast amounts of data while still entertaining an audience. By condensing numbers and stats down to easily digestible bite-sized pieces, you can make valuable information highly understandable for any audience. Even better, your market will be happy to share (and share and share).
If you’re not artistic, or don’t have the skills required to create your own, you can hire designers from Fiverr and other job sites, or use a tool such as Piktochart to quickly make infographics your audience will love.
**Pro tip: create an embeddable link for your infographic and encourage other blog owners to share it on their sites. You’ll automatically drive traffic from every site that posts your content.

Create Valuable Posts

Writing a blog post? Don’t just skim the surface of a topic. Dig deep. Provide as much information as you can on the topic.
While some bloggers will tell you that shorter is better, the truth is, posts of 3,000 words are more likely to be shared than their shorter cousins. So don’t worry about attention spans. Readers have proven they want good info and they don’t mind digging into a long post to find it.

Let Your Personality Shine

No one wants to read or share another “me too” post. Not you and not your audience.
What they do want—and what they’ll happily share with their friends and fans—is personality-driven pieces that aren’t afraid to take a stand.
That’s why coaches such as Kimra Luna and Marie Forleo are so popular. You know, simply by reading their content and watching their videos, that what you see is exactly what you get. Nothing is hidden; there’s no “corporate speak” to be found.
It’s easy to form a connection with someone like that because you feel like you know them personally. And what do you do with your friend’s content? You share it, of course!
It doesn’t take much to be shareable. Just be yourself, be transparent, and be valuable. In short, just do what you’re already doing, only with a little bit more oomph!