What Should I Pay?

 

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When you are buying services for the first time, it's easy to be dazzled by suppliers. So here is my guide to what you - the customer - is looking at:

Websites

Hosting – No more than £6-12 per month, probably less, especially if you pay annually

Creation – From £250 for a simple 5 page website (i.e. home, about us, services/products, contact, testimonials/case study). Expect to pay more if you need the web creator to come up with some of the wording and images too. Up to £500 for 10-12 page site.          

Domain (including email address) - £2-12. Be sure to purchase both co.uk and .com versions to prevent anyone else from having your name.

Branding

From £100 for logo design which will probably include adaptation for business card or website banner if you brief them correctly. Add a bit more if you want to include some generic flyers too. 

Social media management

Around £75 per month for several messages a day, 7 days a week including several engagements per week. Add more only if more than one platform managed, i.e. Twitter and Facebook

I recommend you to take this over yourself once you have mastered the platform, or at least bring it in-house when you have an employee. This allows you to be more spontaneous and to jump on opportunities and generally be personable with your engagement.

Accountant

The more organised you are less your accountant will cost. It can be less than £250 per year if you're a sole trader or around £600 per year for a limited company. It will be potentially more if VAT registered or payroll involved.

Add VAT to theses prices - accountants tend to be VAT registered!

If you have any trouble finding suppliers who will sell you their services at around these prices, please email me. I'll introduce you to those trusted people who will!

Top 10 Free Online Tools for Business

The top 10 must-have tools, that make my (business) life easier. 

 For creating attention grabbing email alerts (newsletters)

 For creating attention grabbing email alerts (newsletters)

Somehow nothing has come to rival this social media management platform that enables you to handle Twitter, Facebook & more

Somehow nothing has come to rival this social media management platform that enables you to handle Twitter, Facebook & more

Effortlessly keeps all your notes and ideas synced to all devices

Effortlessly keeps all your notes and ideas synced to all devices

Keep all your documents backed up & share large documents

Keep all your documents backed up & share large documents

Create collages or transform your photos

Create collages or transform your photos

Design for non-designers: flyers, business cards & online content

Design for non-designers: flyers, business cards & online content

Twitter: the simple social media platform for sharing & engaging

Twitter: the simple social media platform for sharing & engaging

Perfect for project planning & easy for those used to using pen & paper

Perfect for project planning & easy for those used to using pen & paper

Uploads your receipts & easily create invoices

Uploads your receipts & easily create invoices

Email platforms that allow you to use professional email addresses

Email platforms that allow you to use professional email addresses

Worth mentioning a couple paid for services:

Buy domain & professional email addresses

Buy domain & professional email addresses

Website designing for non-technical people. No coding, just drag and drop. I use it to create websites for clients - oh, and this one!

Website designing for non-technical people. No coding, just drag and drop. I use it to create websites for clients - oh, and this one!

Is the email dead?

And other learnings from the Internet Retail Expo 2016

75% of people admit to using their phone on the toilet

75% of people admit to using their phone on the toilet

A highlight of my year is when I go and learn about the latest methods, technologies and trends at the Internet Retail Expo. As you may know from my tweets, it is the only business event I attend all year, other than the ones I host each month of course (Likemind and Jelly). Once again, there were some outstanding sessions delivered by experts who work with some of the UK's best known retailers. I learn so much to share with clients.

How to speak to your customers on the toilet

For me, this session won the best title of the event! Lead by M&S, who say 75% of people admit to using their phone in the loo. For some, that's the only time to catch up on communications! Schuh maintain that 89% of people with a smart phone, only shop on that device.
Email is still king. Despite engagement on social media, it is the preferred of communication for customers. It's where people expect you to be.

Who is building apps now?

A session by My Supermarket gave the insight that 63% of people just look at the website on their phone, rather than an app. 
Although 29% of the country still doesn't have a smartphone, in another session, Schuh highlighted the importance of getting the mobile site as good as the desktop version.
I know that on many platforms, the mobile site is automatically formatted, including Squarespace, which I use to create easy to maintain websites for clients.

Powerfully connect with clients

How long do you spend scanning content on your phone?
Facebook say it's 1.7 seconds. That's all the time we have to get our message across, hence organisations are now making short 2-3 second films just to get their brand recognised. This is easy for the makers amongst us and with a little thought, we can create this for every service too. It makes sense to have them without sound.

Also, I learnt why the search button is more important than ever, the latest on marketplaces (Ebay/Amazon) and payment methods and how Sparks helped M&S Customers shop twice as often. Find out about next year's event here.

 

To learn how to apply my insights to your business, or discuss how to promote your enterprise more effectively, do drop me a line or get an idea of some of the topic ideas here.

Rickie

We are all social enterprises

I came across the book Impact: 6 Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation by Al Etmanski while in Vancouver earlier this year. In fact I was fortunate to able to attend the book’s unlaunch event which ensured my trip started on a high.

It’s called an unlaunch I imagined, as rather than a traditional book event, Al bought in five guests who can demonstrated their own ways of making impact on Planet Earth. The rock stars of the social innovation world! 

I love the term ‘making impact’. I’ve only just started hearing people in Vancouver (Canada?) using the term ‘social enterprise’, a phrase that has never rocked my world. I believe every business – every human being – has a duty to help the next person and a badge to say that we are that way inclined is unnecessary. Indeed, many of the best social businesses are not official – they just quietly do good things for the community or environment.

So, back to the unlaunch event, I’m a hard one to inspire – I’ve been on the planet for so long that it’s rare for me to hear a new idea - I scour books/articles/events to keep trying! But I was inspired at Impact 6 and glad to have a copy of the book to continue to refresh my learning. 

There is an early reminder that every small thing I do can grow and have a worthwhile impact and this is what stays with me. Each one of us can have an impact. By doing the smallest thing, that gets repeated by others, we can indeed change the world. Read on....*

Social Innovation is both a destination and a journey

The book focusses on the two years Al undertook with his wife Vicky to explore social innovation. They made many friends along the way but as important, they changed the their approach to their social innovation work. They’d received ‘an advanced course in letting it go’.

Al and Vicky co-founded PLAN in 1989, which describes itself as a ‘social enterprise that doesn’t rely on government grants’. This is a refreshing change from organisations that call themselves social enterprises in the UK who’s first port of call these days seems to be ‘what can we get for free?’. As someone who has been self-employed for over ten years, applying for ‘funding’ or ‘grants’ does not make an enterprise by any stretch of the imagination.

I enjoyed hearing the phrase ‘passionate amateurs’ at the event too; people who are constantly working to make things better.  Indeed, there are two purposes to being human; to love and to create.

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Of course some organisations have the opportunity to do good work if they get some government funding, but that’s a third sector organisation, rather than a business. To be an enterprise, they would need to find other streams of revenue too.

As I always say, using the airline analogy, put the oxygen mask on yourself first, then go and save the world.

The part of the book that really intrigued me is the history lesson on Canada’s social impact.

Did you know the Women’s Institute was founded in Ontario in 1897? ‘It’s a Canadian irony that the WI is better known in the UK than Canada’ although I’d have never made the connection. Less surprisingly Greenpeace was founded in Canada, in Vancouver in fact. 

Al Etmanski likened the 12 abolitionists who met in London determined to abolish slavery (when 75% of the world’s population were either enslaved or in forced labour or serfdom. Slavery was the norm) to the daunting task of abolishing guns in the US today or ending our current dependence on fossil fuel.

It is said the Canadian book industry is the cleanest on the planet, with 75% of book publishers printing 95% of their books on environmentally sustainable paper. 

Claudia Li, the founder of Shark Truth  was at the event. This is a Vancouver group that aims to save sharks from extinction by trying to prevent people eating shark fin soup. I learn that this is a Chinese tradition, especially at weddings and celebrations so clearly it was challenge for Claudia. 8000 sharks have been saved so far.

Also there, a former premier of British Columbia, Mike Harcourt – in impact legend - who came up with, among many slogans we’re told – blue box-i-tize.

*The back story is about all the work that was done to try and encourage people to recycle and -ironically - the books that were written on the subject. Then in 1986, in Kitchener, Ontario, someone painted a box blue and people started recycling. Simple idea, put into immediate action.

That’s what I’m going to remember every time I want to change something in the world. Take that first step and the impact will grow.

Which leads me to the final lesson; The question is WHY, rather than HOW.

With grateful thanks to Van City for giving me the book.

What impact stories have you to share? Do email me or let me know via @RickieWrites

5 Easy Ice Breakers to Use at Events

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If you’re in business, it’s a great idea to get out and about to meet fellow business owners. It gets you away from your desk/studio/laptop and you learn from others. Admittedly, when I started out back in 2004, it was no fun for me until I learned the following tips.

It’s so much easier now with social media so as I once wrote, use the internet to get off the internet! Here are the tips that work for me:

  1. Walk into a room smiling. Smile at everyone; the staff, the people you pass coming in just in case you see them later and everyone that's already at the event. A smile is the most inviting sign and people will gravitate towards you.
  2. Use social media to find out who you (vaguely) know that will be at the event and agree to look out for each other. Mentioning what you are wearing will help!
  3. Ask the host to introduce you to someone.
  4. Ask the first person you speak to introduce you to someone else.
  5. When you do speak to someone, a great conversation opener is ‘who can I can introduce you to?’ This doesn't just mean people in the room. You can connect them to your contact then and there via social media or drop them an email after the event. Another connection made!

If you have any other ice breakers, do share them below or vial @RickieWrites!

Peer-to-peer lending at Rebuilding Society

thR6QIBLREI got a chance to try out Rebuilding Society, the lending platform that’s not so much crowd funding but more about investments. The companies seeking funding are looking for a loan for expansion, except they have been vetted and from what I see, are generally much larger than what we see on crowd funding sites.

I’ve never invested on those so it took me a while to figure out how to invest but a few helpful back and forth emails soon put me right. For some reason, I expected they’d be more companies listed but there are only a handful of carefully selected organisations listed at a time.

I invested my £50 on a promising company looking to expand. They had a very clear vision and because they are involved in ‘cloud computing’ and moving away from the ‘traditional mode of supplying hardware, software and installation services’, I believe their potential is huge. I'm happy to pay a teeny part in their expansion.

Advatek are based in the North West but do business in Wales and the Midlands, where I live. Another reason for investing is that they only ‘deal with proven IT brands, such as Cisco, Microsoft’ etc. and that this £50K loan will pay for developing ‘a suite of services to offer to the market’. In all their P&L looked pretty good and the loan also meant them hiring an additional employee. They quickly raised the £50K - in fact I really they raised it early and felt lucky to be accepted as an investor!

In my business, I help start, grow and promote mainly micro businesses. Even £10,000 to them would quite frankly mean the difference between trying to start their business while holding onto a salary paying job to being able to work on their business full-time and make it pay.

I get regular updates from Rebuilding Society (what a great name!) and I've already had loan repayments of £2.87 and earned 83p interest. Imagine if my investment was 10-fold or even 50-fold?!

Rebuilding Society are currently sitting on nearly £2.5m lent with an average of 15.78% earned. Not a bad return on investment at all while helping companies grow.

Find out how you can apply for a loan or make and investment here and follow them @rebuildings.

With thanks to Fuel My Blog and Rebuilding Society for crediting me with £50 to try out this great platform.

Five Ways to Get Retweeted

Keep the tweet short Remember when people RT the message includes your Twitter name. Under 100 characters is fantastic as people can RT from any platform without having to edit to fit.

Also, when people read it quickly they can make a faster decision on whether to retweet.

Say something topical

A tweet that includes words such as ‘breaking news’ or ‘NEW’ draws attention.

Or tweet about something very topical (or trending).

Include a link

Adding a link gives the tweet value as people can click for more information. Remember to shrink all your links to keep your tweet short!

Tweet at the right time

When is the right time?

That will depend on what your business is and when your following is watching. Safe to say, in most cases, tweeting late at night is unlikely to reach a lot of people.  There are services available that will tell you when your followers are most active.

Competition

Run a competition that includes the line, RT this to enter!

What gets you most engagement on Twitter? Do add your comments below or tweet @BusinessFaves.

What’s your definition of success?

Is greed still good or are there more important aspirations? Do we still regard the old stereotype of having an abundance of money/cars/homes means success? Or does happiness equal success?

Is the freedom to choose the life you want to live the ultimate luxury? Be that a family life, living in the country or a life of adventure - or all three!

Yes, financial stability is important however, here is what makes me love life, every minute of it:

The Fun/Fun balance

Being able to do whatever I want to do every day is my definition of happiness, which ultimately equal success. Waking up and looking forward to the day, whichever the day is, fired up with ideas (too many in my case!) is what inspires me to get up and going. My aim is to love what I do 90% of the time – the other 10% is dealing with finances or fixing technical errors, never fun for me but obviously a joy if that’s what you love to do!

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Being able to travel

Travel is my main motivation, outside the need to eat, be warm etc! Over the years I’ve changed my business it works around my life and love of travel rather than having the other way around. In recent years, I’ve put my lifestyle first and everything else around that. It’s amazing how much more successful I feel now!

Surrounded by fabulous people

Collaborating with and mixing only with people I want to is vital to my success and well-being.  I strive to choose my clients, my colleagues and partners and surround myself with enthusiastic, happy and positive people.

Fresh coffee. Good cake

Do I need to explain that one?!

People often comment on how lucky I am to do what I love, live where I want, travel and be who I want to be. I’ll share what I say to them – luck has nothing to do with it! We make our own luck and can change anything about our lives, anytime. If we want to badly enough.

What’s your definition of success? Have you already achieved success without knowing it?

Please comment below of tweet me on @BusinessFaves or @RickieWrites

Five Ways to Be Effective

Call time! Give yourself a deadline for each task and once the timer goes off, switch over to the next job.

  • Plan your day, or whatever time you have, for the important tasks

  • Give each task a time slot

  • Include time slots for social media, emails, finances, telephone conversations and other essentials depending on the requirements of your business. I tend to check in with emails every 2-3 hours.

Needless to say, turn off phones/email/social media notifications during this productive period.  This will give you absolute focus and you’ll have lots ticked off your to-do list. Promise!

To give you an example, here’s one of my laptop based mornings:5 ways to get productive

Urgent tasks will always get done so try this method for important projects, all those items on your to do list that you know will help grow your business in the long-term that get pushed to the bottom. Bring them to the top and watch your business grow!

If you finish early, try to move right on to the next one without distraction. Place any unfinished tasks into the next ‘productive period’.

Mix it up

Blend what you love with the vitals.

We love what we do but there are always joyless tasks to do. For me it’s anything to do with finances!

So how about mixing up the tasks? After you’ve completed a less enjoyable task, follow with something you relish. It will sure make you complete that first task faster too!

Work out what’s best for you; some people like to get all the tough assignments  completed on one day, others like to just handle one a day and spread them out, but do alternate them with those you love.

Share the load

I’m a big fan of beg, borrow or barter. Is there a fellow business owner you can team up with and swap tasks? Perhaps one person loves excel spreadsheets (where are they?!) and another prefers the joy of designing posters or the creative work on websites?

The result is two happy people who have the fun of doing the tasks they love and helping another business grow! A beautiful friendship is formed!

Reward yourself

Whether it’s a coffee after a tough morning on WordPress or a new tablet to celebrate a major new client – presents are good!

More often it’s the simple pleasures of a good biscuit with your coffee or a hot lunch. Whatever keeps you going, have that as your own personal enticement to get those tasks completed.

Free marketing

Social media is in the main, free to use so it’s obvious we are all going to use this as part of our marketing strategy. Planning the times you set up your messages and engage with your potential customers is key.

The big tip here is to use a social media platform such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. These allow you to schedule messages and have multiple accounts on one platform so you can see and manage at a glance.

Of course, as I always advise, use scheduled messages with caution as people like to see that you are available to engage with after you’ve published an update.

Do you already use any of these? Do share your thoughts by adding your comments below!

By Rickie, who has been working with small businesses since 2004. Contact via @RickieWrites or @CraftySkills1

Coworking etiquette

Coworking is an excuse to work with other people for those who normally fly solo. As a aerial co-worker, here are my guidelines for perfect harmony.

  • Background noise is a plus of co-working, the energy is contagious, but if it’s quiet and you’re taking a long phone call, it’s a good idea to step away from the group for a while so as to not disrupt conversation or their work flow.
  • Similarly, if you need some uninterrupted time to focus, a subtle way of letting people know is putting some noise-reducing headphones in your ears, even if you’re not listening to anything. Just indicate when you back in the fold.
  • If you’re say you going to attend, turn up as people will be expecting you.
  • Make a point of saying hello to everyone, find out what their needs are and see if you can help or introduce them to anyone. If someone's helped you out, the simplest way of saying thanks (and making friends) is to offer to buy them a coffee!
  • Keep the place tidy and just take up the space you need and everyone will get along famously!

 By Rickie, founder of Birmingham Jelly who can be contacted via @RickieWrites