graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

Adopting a Video Content Strategy For Your Business

Just as businesses are catching on to trends in content marketing, with-it content publishers are upping the ante. If you’re still going about content marketing the same ol’ way–posting blogs, retweeting those blogs and participating in the occasional guest post–it’s time to redefine your strategy.

Adopting a Video Content Strategy For Your Business

Adapted from an article at ReelSEO.com. Click here to view the original.

Video content is the freshest way to gain the best kind of exposure for your business, and engaging in video content marketing is not quite as scary as it seems. There are just a few steps you need to take and a few tips to keep in mind to get the most out of video content marketing for your business.

Before you review the steps to follow in creating a worthwhile video, it’s important to understand why you should be video marketing in the first place, and what exactly the public is looking for. Generally speaking, “know thy audience” is the most important factor to any marketing campaign, and this is particularly true in video marketing!

The whole point of creating a video to market your business is to get that video shared across social media platforms. That’s just about all you’re after. For this reason, your main objective should be to create a highly compelling video that holds viewers’ attention and makes them think they’re viewing something more meaningful, entertaining or interesting than an advertisement. That being said, let’s make this clear now: DO NOT, by any means, make your video content resemble an ad. Doing so will crush its potential to be shared socially. Unless, of course, you can top the genius of Kmart’s Ship My Pants.

There are a few simple qualities the public looks for in a video in order to compel them to engage in social sharing, keeping one or more of these qualities in mind will increase your video’s chances of being shared at a higher rate:

Funny (much like “ship my pants”)
Adorable (think kittens, bunnies, puppies, babies)
Sexy (sex sells: resorting to half-naked men or women might be cheap–but it works)
Emotional (a heartfelt story or tear-jerking moment)
Narrative (people love a good story. Telling one in a short video can be really effective)
Random (randomness is endearing, and these days people can’t get enough of it)
Inciting (shocking viewers will get you the attention you’re after. Think controversial)
Uplifting (people are always looking for inspiration, and once they get it they’re likely to pass it along)

Alright, so now that you know the elements the public wants to see in an online video, you’ve got to figure out how to produce a video of your own. If you’re just starting out, aim to produce a short video that strongly makes use of one or more of the social sharing characteristics mentioned above.

Have a Plan

First, you need a plan: develop your story, and have a beginning, middle and end to your video. Take a professional approach–or your video will not get very far–create a story board, engage in preproduction, and HIRE PROFESSIONALS!

For a quality video, you need a quality team of professionals. Do your research and hire a great film crew or animation team. If your video is going to have a spokesperson or voiceover, get a professional with an engaging demeanor or a voice that demands attention. Also, make sure the final product has been edited by a team of experts for a clean, professional approach.

Don’t forget about music! Don’t use cheap sample audio clips, they won’t get you much respect and they’ll make your video seem low-grade. Get some original music created by an expert so your video really stands out in its own right.

Distribute Well

Once you’ve produced a high-quality video, you need to pick the right outlets for distribution. Of course you must make use of all the social media outlets possible, especially Facebook, Twitter, and at least one or two blogs. Also, make sure to put your own video on your business website, that’s a given!

Next, you need to look into YouTube (and you’ll probably need to do that before you can post a link to Twitter). YouTube is great because it’s free, and it gives your video the most chance of going viral because everyone uses it. It’s also by far the least expensive paid advertising medium out there (as of the posting date of this post).

The only bad thing about YouTube is it’s sometimes looked down on because it’s not professional or business related. So now you’ve got to find a well-respected business or industry-centered site that will showcase your video to executives and people in your field. There are many options out there and you’ve got to pick what’s best for your specific content (but you can start with something like Xavy, for example).

Boost Views

Just like your business website, you need to put a little SEO work into your video to encourage viewing. This means you should:

Tag the video with keywords
Incorporate metadata with a good description
Pick appropriate thumbnails
Build links across the Internet that direct back to your video
Use a video sitemap
You’ve got to maximize your video hits and SEO is really the best way to do this. Just make sure not to overdo it or try to be sneaky in any way. Don’t overuse keywords, and stay true to your content.

Fortify Your Hard Work

Finally, keep in mind a purpose and a timely occasion for your video to really underpin its importance. Your video content can be quirky and random, but the video’s release should have a point to make: Plan to launch your video leading up to the unveiling of a new product or service to create industry buzz. Perhaps include a press release with your video’s launch or a transcript of the video to send to executives in your industry.

Also, don’t take the one-and-done approach. Aim to produce a video every month or every couple of months depending on your business and budget. The more videos you have, the more you can improve on your strategy and the more attention you’ll gain for your company and exposure for your business, and engaging in video content marketing is not quite as scary as it seems. There are just a few steps you need to take and a few tips to keep in mind to get the most out of video content marketing for your business.

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

How to manage your freelance cashflow

Here’s seven top tips for taking care of the business side of freelance life.

The relationship between art and commerce is a rocky one, and it’s particularly rocky when you’re a freelancer. For all its many joys, being your own boss also means being your own accounting department and occasional bailiff.

Freelancers face three key issues: staying on top of the paperwork, getting paid and ensuring the taxman doesn’t chuck you in prison. Taking care of all that can eat into the time you’d rather spend on designing. So how do others do it?

01. Start a spreadsheet

One of a series of map illustrations by illustrator Elly Walton

Elly Walton has been a freelance illustrator for 10 years. Her client list reads like a who’s who of the advertising, design and publishing fields, but despite her success, she’s been using “pretty much the same old Excel spreadsheet with my incomings, outgoings and tax payable on it” all that time.

Walton also records “the jobs as they come in, how I got them and whether it was a result of promotion or word of mouth,” she explains. “It makes a nice, pretty graph that I look at occasionally to review my marketing.”

Walton uses an Adobe Photoshop template for invoices, prints hard copies – “I like to have a stack of physical paper to check through and stamp a little ‘PAID’ on it when it’s paid” – and invoices jobs on completion.

02. Don’t procrastinate

Hand Lettering Headlines, by Ely Walton

Procrastination, says Walton, is the enemy: “[Tax] isn’t really that painful, but it’s a hell of a lot more painful if you leave it until the deadline.”

If you’re a sole trader in the UK you’ll pay Income Tax on your profits (sales less expenses) as well as National Insurance contributions; limited companies pay Corporation Tax on business profits; and if you’re turning over more than £81,000 per year (it happens!) there’s quarterly VAT too.

It may be worth registering even if your turnover is less: under the Flat Rate Scheme someone in advertising can charge 20% but only pays 11%.

03. Consider an accountant

An architectural drawing, Belle & Bunting, by Scottish illustrator Willa Gebbie

Doing your own tax return isn’t difficult, but if you’re VAT registered or running a company you might want to consider hiring an accountant. It isn’t too expensive and there’s something enormously satisfying about handing over a shoebox full of receipts and never having to worry about it ever again.

Like Elly Walton, beauty, fashion and portrait illustrator Willa Gebbie used a system based around a spreadsheet, in this case Google Docs, but in 2013 she decided to switch to FreeAgent.

“That’s when I finally got around to having a proper business account as well,” she says. Until then she hadn’t felt it was necessary, not least because business accounts come with a plethora of charges after the first year.

“A normal account will do, as long as you keep your work money and personal money clearly separate,” Gebbie says. “As a sole trader, it’s unlikely that you’ll need the benefits (or costs) of a business account, so it’s better saving those few pounds.”

Gebbie is a big fan of FreeAgent. “I love how it completes my tax return for me, it’s truly a godsend,” she says, adding that “it’s really good at assigning bank payments to invoices automatically, so I can tell really quickly who has or hasn’t paid.”

04. Chase payment regularly

One of a series of illustrated New Year’s Resolutions collected via social media.Linzie Hunter NY Resolutions, by Linzie Hunter

While FreeAgent can automatically notify clients of overdue invoices, Gebbie fears that it could look “spammy”, so she prefers to do the chasing herself. “I write invoices as soon as I’ve finished the job,” she says. “Once a week I check payments and chase outstanding invoices. If they’re really late then I’ll start to chase every couple of days.”

Award-winning hand-lettering artist and illustrator Linzie Hunter is another convert to online systems, in her case Wave. As a former “shoebox and Excel spreadsheet” user, Wave has freed up a lot of her time.

“Having a cloud-based system means that I can keep track of payments and invoices easily wherever I am. My favourite feature is the ability to link it to your bank and PayPal accounts, so I no longer need to enter everything manually. It’s also good at showing you exactly where you are financially.”

05. State clear payment terms

Three fashion illustrations by Willa Gebbie

Tempting as it might be, one feature Wave and FreeAgent don’t currently offer is the ability to send drone strikes after late payers. Elly Walton is unusual – “I’ve been lucky not to have had a non-payer” – but stresses the value of clear payment terms.

“30 days is reasonable,” she says. “As soon as that date arrives, start chasing – as politely as possible, of course.”

Willa Gebbie agrees. “Sometimes clients don’t pay on time, but often that’s because of the finance department rather than the art director… it’s probably quite embarrassing for them.”

06. Settle late payments nicely

A hand-lettered and illustrated Label for Noted, by Linzie Hunter

Going in all guns blazing is never a good idea, but if you’re suffering from acute late payment or non-payment, then the Late Payment of Commercial Debts legislation enables you to charge interest and penalties for non-payment. That can be the nuclear option, however, and it’s always best to try and settle late payment nicely first.

07. Be prepared

Stickers and packaging for Peaceable Kingdom by Linzie Hunter

Our illustrators have all experienced the ups and downs of freelancing. What hard-won advice would they pass on? “If you’re only just going freelance, make sure you read up about how self-assessment works and make sure you understand about paying tax on account,” Linzie Hunter advises.

“Otherwise it can be a bit of a shock to find that you have to pay an extra chunk in the first year. And get used to saving every receipt in your wallet automatically from the start.”

Willa Gebbie agrees. “Even if it’ll be some time before you start paying tax, you can offset the set-up cost of your business against future tax. That’s a really useful opportunity to take.”

Keep your work money and play money separate, Elly Walton counsels, recommending that you put a percentage of each payment into a separate account. “I think if all payments went straight into one account, hoping that by the time the tax bill comes around I’ll still have the money to pay it is a risky strategy.” We can say from painful experience that Walton isn’t wrong.

for more, visit: http://www.creativebloq.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

Ultimate Guide To Setting Up Your First Online Shop

E-commerce is the most popular business trend in our futuristic society, as most modern cities have Internet equipped and it’s such a simple process to send payments anywhere in the world via Internet connection. Along with these technologies have risen hundreds of thousands of new digital web stores which sell both physical and digital products to one global marketplace.

setup online shop
(Image Source: Fotolia)

Business means trade, and trade means transaction. For Internet buyer, what they really care about is probably the security, as there are overwhelming fraud issues happening all around the world nowadays. So setting up web store is not like your regular Blogger blog, it requires careful planning and guided installation with hardened security in mind.

But hard doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to do it yourself. For any aspiring webmasters hoping to get into the e-commerce game, this post will serve as the guide mentioned above, to ease the transition a bit with full of helpful tips and recommended service, so don’t wonder anymore, let’s get down to business!

The Process of Building

Before even considering to launch your website it is crucial to spend some time away from the computer and build your idea. What kind of products will you be selling? Are there any competitors in this niche? Ideally how should your website’s user interface look?

building idea
(Image Source: Fotolia)

These are all very important topics of discussion which you should consider deeply. It will also help a lot to build a brand name in these early stages of development. You can purchase the matching domain name ahead of time to secure your company name and logo.

If you’re a businessman and interested in working online you may also wish to set up some profiles. A new Google account can help on multiple levels for a new corporation. With Google you’ll gain a brand new email account under Gmail and access to each of Google’s apps. This includes Google Docs and Google Analytics for tracking your web page traffic. YouTube accounts also tie into Google via OAuth, so it’s possible to market your store with video media too.

Registering a Domain

Once you have a rough idea of how your shop will work it’s time to make some bold steps. Registering a domain name and finding a web host aren’t very difficult tasks. Yet they are monumentally important steps in the overall launch process.

namesilo

Spend a lot of time considering your domain before purchase. Once you buy one it’s usually set for 1 year (or more if you choose), so you’re stuck with it! Personally I am a fan of NameSilo for registering new domains. Their user accounts let you set up portfolios and organize your domain names into different structures. Their domain search is also quick and produces to-the-point results.

Choosing the Web Hosting Service

When it comes to hosting things get a bit more difficult. You’ll want to consider the backend language which your online shop will run, and to choose the proper server settings. If you don’t have any preference or just don’t care I recommend sticking with PHP. It’s open source and supported in mostly 99% of server environments. But just ensure that any hosting account you purchase will support PHP and MySQL databases.

hostgator

Some companies Hostgator and Bluehost offer some incredible solutions for first-time webmasters. The average cost is $100-$150/year for unlimited storage and bandwidth. Now some web hosts do cap their storage and bandwidth limit. But for even the cheapest solutions you’ll generally be using well under their rules.

For more precise guidance, follow our post to help you choose the best web hosting service based on 10 essential factors, and consumer guide on understanding the very truth about web hosting and tips to avoid some annoying hosting troubles.

Choosing your E-Commerce Package

There are two main categories to choose from for building an online shop. Hosted solutions are companies which provide you with everything you need on the backend and host the e-commerce script on their servers. This means you won’t need to perform any programming or file uploads of any kind. You will however still need a domain name to redirect and give your shop a distinct URL.

yahoo merchant solution

Now you can also work with licensed scripts, both paid and open source. These kinds of e-commerce systems are easily customized and make up the majority of online web stores. Even if you aren’t a programmer at heart it’s a very simple process to download and re-upload script files onto your hosting server and follow some installation instructions.

But when you are working with money and payments online there are many security risks to consider. If you feel uncomfortable taking on that much responsibility it may be wise to choose a hosted solution. Many times you can talk with company representatives to figure out site security without any stress. The customer’s overall experience and safety should be held in regard to your bottom-line decision.

Hosted E-Commerce Solutions

Many of the hosted solutions can provide an amazing experience to your visitors with very little work on your end. The administration panel is also uniform to all other scripts, which should provide you an easy interface to upload photos and add catalogue entries.

There are so many choices out there it’s hard to pick just one. But I’ve included 3 below which stand out among the rest. They’re viable options for the average webmaster who isn’t interested in messing around with FTP and programming IDE’s. You do lose a lot of opportunity for customizations, but you are gaining added security and personal staff support.

Shopify

You can check out Shopify for yourself to see this amazing service in action. Their website is designed beautifully and contains some wonderful demos. If you are on the edge with choosing any company, Shopify may possibly be the best option. Their features include a personal app store, SSL security, unlimited server bandwidth, a custom mobile template and a whole lot more!

shopify

This is one script which offers a lot more user customizations than others. In the admin backend panel you may choose between dozens of themes to implement onto your live website. If you understand HTML/CSS it’s possible to edit the raw website design online. The editor is similar to WordPress theme‘s editor and offers a very simple UI for beginners.

Shopify also includes live chat and contacts 24/7 for any support. Check out their huge examples page if you’d like to see a few Shopify-powered stores. By looking at some templates it’s difficult to even tell what script they’re running.

Pricing can range from very cheap to very expensive over the course of their 5 plans. Compare details and see if any would stack up to your credentials. Ideally I would recommend Shopify if you have some standard knowledge of HTML and are looking for a fully-accountable staff to back up your new launch.

Yahoo! Merchant Solution

For small businesses Yahoo! Merchant Solution may also catch your attention. The layout for your standard Y!MS account is fairly straightforward and easy to customize. They provide custom traffic analytics and split testing right from your admin panel. The most popular payment gateways are supported, including PayPal, money orders, checks, and credit cards.

yahoo merchant solution

Yahoo! is a great company to partner with if you’re choosing to go the hosted route. They spur large bouts of traffic through organic search and ad clicks, quite honestly only rivalled by Google. You can set up a small marketing account and help spread the word of your new store. Additionally if you’re looking to work with a skilled web designer or developer the small business network includes these features. Yahoo! can practically manage your entire store deployment and launch.

BigCommerce

The BigCommerce shop software could be compared to Shopify with trimmed features. They offer a clean user interface which clears up a lot of confusion in the signup process. It’s a breeze to add in new features, products, users, and take payments online in just a few minutes.

bigcommerce

Granted if you are a developer the team has spent time building an online API. Check out the integration and API settings on their website for details about page plugins. You may include details from many accounts around the web such as Facebook, eBay, 2Checkout, MasterCard, and PayPal. The staffs offer plenty of template customizations to choose from so you’ll never be worried about branding.

To see a few stores in action check out their live stores showcase, updated regularly and spurring some of the finest e-commerce designs in modern Internet layouts. There are a lot of features to go through when you’re first working with BigCommerce. Consider e-mailing the developers or get in touch with somebody at the company to answer questions you may have. I have only heard very positive reviews about their customer service and support for clients.

Custom-Owned Scripts

On the flip side to pre-hosted solutions it may be easier for developers to work within their own boundaries. Of the many scripts online to choose from there are only a handful worthy of testing. Although I’ve included 4 of my personal favorites here, check Google and do a bit of research if nothing suits you, alternatively check out our featured open source e-commerce shopping carts.

magento.

Each website launch is unique and will require unique conditions which another e-commerce solution may provide. In popularity these 4 scripts rank very high, so I’m sure you’ll find most things you need.

Zen Cart

Possibly one of the best known brands for e-commerce scripts on the web, Zen Cart is written in PHP and supports mostly all hosting environments. It’s free to download and install on as many websites as you’d like. The only retributions which they require is leaving the “Powered by Zen Cart” link open in the footer area.

zen cart

Working with Zen Cart provides connections into other services. Some of these are included as modules and it’s possible to download them from their website. Others are simply companies which have tied into the Zen Cart software. Check out their personal recommended services list to see if anything jumps out.

If you know API development yourself there’s a simple XHTML templating system applied onto each website. It is incredibly easy for your standard web developer to create a custom theme.

Additionally the support community is alive and constantly buzzing. Zen Cart has personally sponsored an entire wiki devoted to the script and common topics. Their support forums are also often active with helpful members. You can ask questions ranging from setup and installation all the way to custom module controls.

Magento

Magento has developed a very fine script for e-commerce websites. Their whole script is written on PHP and includes plenty of details for getting started. If you’re familiar with active development and FTP deployments check out the current SVN. It’s updated frequently and gives you a great way to access raw PHP files.

magento.

Certainly it’s possible for non-programmers to work with the Magento suite. But I would recommend checking out another option if you aren’t at least well-versed in HTML/CSS. Truly those looking to customize an amazing store with brilliant functionality should check out their product features and weigh the options. It won’t be a simple task to learn the Magento backend, however if you are familiar with PHP or a similar programming language you should be very comfortable within 2-3 weeks.

This is one company which provides a lot of support for users. Aside from the free edition there are many alternative options which you can pay per licence. Enterprise and Professional edition stand out as the two best-featured scripts. If you’re torn check their charts on the comparison page and choose what you think is best suited for your business need.

To get started with your learning spend a bit of time learning about their system, which includes screencast videos and some technical documentation. One area the Magento system isn’t lacking is in documentation.

WordPress eShop

Classic WordPress CMS has stood among many challengers in its day. Yet today there are millions of websites powered by WordPress, both static content and live blogs. So it only makes sense that over time a team of developers would create one spectacular e-commerce solution tied into WordPress. I believe WordPress eShop provides everything an e-commerce site would need, from orders to shipping to discount codes, all running within the WordPress admin.

eshop

If you’re a bit confused browse through a few of their tabs. The developer has provided amazing documentation and examples. Their installation process is also very simple, yet an elegant way of handling such a complex task. They have included a brief FAQ tab demonstrating some of their finer features.

With this method you will have to concern yourself with security and updates. It is of the utmost importance that your website stays secure and hack-free. SQL injections are all too common, and in this day personal user information and credit card numbers are much too important to lose. If you’re looking for a place to start on this, WordPress hosts support forums with many related topics. Try out their search feature to see if anybody has asked similar questions before.

Interspire Shopping Cart

Interspire is an Australia-based web development company. They create custom scripts with administrator backend support and CSS3 templates. These products include a general CMS, email marketing software, and a powerful shopping cart featured here. They do charge a hefty fee for their software out of the box ($295 per license), but you’re given amazing possibilities for customization.

interspire

Interesting enough the software which powers Interspire Shopping Cart is the same which powers BigCommerce discussed earlier. The only difference with them is a paid hosting account and you don’t have any access to editing the server files. But Interspire is such a complex system it may be a lot easier this way. For developers, Interspire is a goldmine of creativity.

They have released some brand new features in version 6 which will blow you away. They have hundreds of modules and templates to choose from. And their list of accepted payment gateways is enormous in comparison to many other scripts.

If possible try out their demo install, both frontend and administrator panel. You’ll fall in love with the features immediately and recognize if this is truly the best option for you. Your ideas will change depending on the needs of your shop, but for the average web developer the Interspire Cart is easily the best solution.

Taking Merchant Payments Online

Credit card payments are possibly the largest out of any other style. Many digital sources like Google and PayPal have started to corner the market, but credit card companies are still raking in the profits. And it’s obvious as credit cards provide a simple solution for your customers and you to pay online.

network solutions

You’ll probably want to sign up for two different accounts and include your new business name on file. An Internet merchant account is used to receive funds over the web for goods or services. Similarly a payment gateway or payment provider is a service which connects your store with your merchant account. This means you’ll be able to accept instant payments via credit card whenever your customers buy something.

To sign up for a merchant account you may try checking your local bank. Banks offer a signup process to credit your website and create an Internet-based merchant account. But if this isn’t an option try a merchant account provider. These 3rd parties work as the middle man transferring payments from your site to the bank of your choice. There are a few merchants to choose from. I’ve listed the most popular companies below:

After you have successfully created a merchant account you’ll have to choose a gateway. These are companies which securely transfer the data your customers input into your merchant account.

Sometimes banks will provide you with the gateway, although there are plenty of options to choose from otherwise. The most credible company for those based in the United States is Authorize. Their website includes some standard information and forms which should help clear up any questions you have regarding their services. Additionally eWAY is a new launch targeting the international audience.

Alternative Payment Methods

If you won’t be taking such direct payments from clients, it may be easier to work in the short term. Digital payment methods have become a lot easier to work within the past decade. PayPal is the obvious leader among the pack and can be featured on almost all of the most popular e-commerce empires, with strong assisting guides laying everywhere, even from Hongkiat. Amazon and eBay are another two best known for this feature.

paypal

Many of the runner-up services work just as well as PayPal but haven’t gained enough attention. Specifically Google Checkout offers a very secure and speedy transaction process. If you’re already using Gmail or have a Google Account it’s simple to tie into a new Google Checkout account. Their backend supports widgets which you can add onto your page for a nicer design.

Both PayPal and Google Checkout support solutions for invoicing. This can be useful if you’re planning on purchasing modules or further domains. Try staying with a single account and use this for all your business transactions online. It’s a lot quicker than waiting for payments or working through shady non-secured payment pages.

Add Content and Products

After you’ve got a domain, hosting, and you can view your script live online then you’ve really made it far! Moving past this process you’re merely required to perform some maintenance and building of website structures. Not too bad for a first e-commerce setup.

add content and products

Familiarize yourself with the administrator panel and how to work with product pages. It’s important for your viewers to receive the best user experience on your website and hopefully land the sale. If you notice any image size limits or set proportions consider spending some time pre-cropping your product images. Or at the very least standardize the image size so your products will display evenly in rows/columns.

Along with product listings you’ll want to begin working on your page copy. Written content on your website is vitally important to get your message across and land sales. Visitors will be interested to hear about your company and many will hope to get in contact with you. These are just a few base pages to consider building, but you may focus on a few more as time goes on. For example a privacy policy page is very important concerning how you’ll handle user information.

Marketing and Beyond

After this point your first shop should be online and full of new content. Congratulations! It’s a difficult process to build and launch a full-scale e-commerce solution. But now the fun really picks up as you start taking orders and marketing.

google analytics

Nobody is going to find your website without some form of marketing. If you haven’t signed up for a Google account yet I highly recommend creating one for Google Analytics. They provide completely free tracking software which boasts some incredible features you can’t find anywhere else! With their tools you can find your most trafficked pages and biggest referring websites. Alternatively you can also try out some worthy analytic tools to find the one which best suits you.

If you feel that a professional marketing strategy would provide some prosperous results I recommend joining with a few publishing agencies. Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! are the top 3 contextual ad publishers in the whole Internet. Google AdWords is obviously very well known and trusted amongst hundreds of marketers – and for good reason! Google AdWords provides large traffic numbers and laser-targeted click results for whatever products you’re selling.

Additionally Microsoft’s AdCenter and Yahoo! Advertising Solutions have really taken off the ground in recent months. These are viable options for smaller online stores with a much smaller marketing budget. You’ll be able to afford a lot more ad clicks and garner attention from a wide audience. Once you’ve run a few successful marketing campaigns your traffic numbers will slowly raise and you are sure to grow success in your online e-commerce shop.

Conclusion

This guide provides a conclusive walkthrough of the major steps to creating your first e-commerce store. It’s not an easy process to complete start-to-finish. Even professional web designers struggle when sitting down to create new e-commerce stores. But once you’ve gone through this a few times things seem a lot more efficient and will flow easier.

The solutions offered here are just some of the many opportunities for e-commerce developers. In addition if you have tips or strategies for launching an online store please share them in the discussion section below, we do appreciate them!

For more, visit; http://www.hongkiat.com

 

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

40+ Beautiful & Free Responsive WordPress Themes to Build Awesome Websites 2015

WordPress is indisputably the most preferred CMS platform on the web. Due to the popularity and development of WordPress CMS, themes that are specially made for sites powered by WordPress also gained considerable fame in the market. Users love WordPress themes because it is painless to set up and can be used to create a website like blog, personal, corporate and portfolio site. However, quality free WordPress themes are not easy to find that is why I decided to gather some of the finest free WordPress themes on hand. Most of these themes include astonishing features that will certainly blow your mind. So, here’s the list of the best free WordPress themes that you can use for your next project:

Zerif Lite

zerif lite - corporate theme

Zerif Lite is a clean and modern one page WordPress theme well suited for web agencies, digital studios, corporate, product showcase, personal and business portfolio. Zerif Lite is optimized to support many popular WordPress plugins such as WooCommerce for eCommerce and WPML plugin to create multilingual WordPress website. This theme is SEO friendly, optimized for all mobile devices and features a clean W3C validated markup.

More info / Download Demo

Sparkling

Sparkling - Free WordPress theme

Let your website sparkle with sophistication with Sparkling free WordPress theme. This modern and flat theme is designed based on the latest bootstrap technology. Sparkling looks amazing on any mobile devices due to its sharp design and fluid layout. This WordPress theme also includes heaps of great features that you can find in premium WordPress themes. It boasts its full-screen slider that allows you to lay greater emphasis on your splendid photos and other creative content. It supports powerful plugins such as Contact Form 7, Gravity Forms, SEO by Yoast, W3 Total Cache and many more. Sparkling is a blend of beauty and efficiency.

More info / Download Demo

Dazzling

Dazzling - Free Business WordPress theme

Dazzling is a stunning Free WordPress theme based on Bootstrap 3, which pride itself on its unrivaled responsiveness and mobile-friendliness. The theme comes with an optional full-screen featured slider, which is very serviceable in building striking business or creative websites. If you are fond of flat design with mint green accent colors, then you should really check this out! What’s more, Dazzling includes added optimization for several popular plugins WordPress SEO, Jetpack, Contact Form 7 and more.

More info / Download Demo

Travelify

Travelify - Free Travel theme

Travelify is a free theme that generously provide premium functionality and excellent support. It is a sleek, trendy and responsive WordPress travel theme that can to contend against first rate premium WordPress themes. This theme is bristled with pixel perfect design, incredible featured slider, custom page and blog templates and lots of other great features. It also includes countless theme options to alter different theme aspects. The best thing about this theme is that you can use it free of charge for your personal travel blog or company website.

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Unite

Unite - Free wedding theme

Unite is a clean and stylish free WordPress theme that comes with fully responsive flat design. It is created using the latest Bootstrap 3 and designed to provide a minimalist and user-friendly framework for your site. With Unite, you are able to customize some aspects of your theme such as footer, navigation menu and fonts with ease. This elegant theme is not only suitable for wedding websites/blogs but can also look wonderful on other creative sites that gives more focus on images.

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Constructzine Lite

Constructzine WordPress theme

Constructzine Lite is a beautiful and fully responsive WordPress theme well suited for corporate websites. This theme features pixel-perfect design that will look awesome on smartphones, tablets and desktop. Theme settings can be tweaked via simple yet powerful options panel. Constructzine Lit theme has social menu, footer and sidebar widget areas and clean blog template. Its is designed and developed to be used for business websites but it can be used for blogs, portfolio, hobby or any other websites.

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The SSMAG

ssmag portfolio theme

The SSMAG Theme is a grid based layout theme, it’s super easy to use just plug and play. This theme was made for content creators wanting to go viral. SSMAG as a big empathise on social sharing and the design layout is also optimize to keep readers exploring your site further.

Like most themes created in 2015, SSMAG is responsive so your site will look good on all devices. Not only that but you also get, custom widgets and optimize ad placement built in. This theme also comes with social menu icons to further promote your Twitter, Facebook profiles etc. The SSMAG theme support embedded video which you can use instead of a featured image on a post page.

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BookRev Lite

bookrev - book review theme

BookRev Lite is unique and well crafted WordPress theme designed for book reviews. It will allow you to review any book and allow users to leave their feedback about these books as well and your can monetize all your efforts through affiliate links and sell books from Amazon or other online book stores. With some tweaking and design changed you might as well review other affiliate products such as gadgets, online services or other digital products. BookRev Lite theme features simple yet powerful theme options to tweak this theme functionality without your own code. Theme is SEO friendly, allowing you to make most out of your book or other product reviews.

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Simple Theme

Simple - WordPress Theme

The Simple theme is an eye-grabbing business/corporate WordPress theme. Gracefully responsive and built on Bootstrap’s v3.x front-end framework, the Simple theme looks fantastic on the smallest mobile phone and the largest desktop monitor. A powerful theme options panel provides you with the ability to fully manage the look and feel of your website. Choose from over a hundred fonts that can be further refined using weight, color, and style options. The frontpage template provides the option to display a Parallax-style or static banner along with featured pages, page content, and a custom post layout. If you’re looking for a professional, modern WordPress theme, then the Simple theme is a must-see!

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Opulus Theme

Opulus WP Theme

The Opulus theme is a super versatile portfolio and business WordPress theme designed for creatives, small businesses, and professionals. Opulus is fully responsive and built on the Bootstrap front-end framework using valid HTML5. This responsiveness ensures that your website will look amazing on the smallest mobile device and the largest desktop monitor. Take advantage of the built-in portfolio to show off your work, and choose from six portfolio layout options. The powerful theme options panel will enable you to modify your website’s look and feel by choosing from more than 100 fonts and infinite color combinations.

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Esteem

esteem - minimal & flat corporate theme

Esteem is a simple and easy to use website template that you can use for your blogging, showcasing a portfolio or blogging. You can set this theme into boxed or wide layout. It offer users unlimited theme color options to help them change the look of their website and set their brand apart from the competition. This theme includes 2 custom templates: the first one is custom-built to display your content or products, while the other one is created as your contact page. Esteem supports custom logo and site title, to supplement the changes that you made in the color scheme of your theme. By taking advantage of its custom logo and title, you are able to attract the attention of your target audience and establish brand recognition.

Esteem theme has a completely customizable header image that lets you display contents or images that could boost user engagement in your website. Esteem supports WordPress custom background feature and custom CSS. It has a full screen slider right at the homepage of your website. This theme also offers 3 different blog options, 5 custom widgets and Contact Form 7 ready. This theme has implemented the breadcrumb trail, an alternative navigation scheme that arranges your website in a hierarchical manner. This theme is translation ready, perfect for individuals, agencies or businesses that are targeting local market. Lastly, they offer brilliant support to assist their users in building and managing their website.

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Ample

ample - fullscreen business theme

Ample is a free multipurpose theme developed to help you achieve an eye-catching and professional looking website. It is feature-rich and comes with tons of customization options that helps you build the site that you want. You can set this theme into boxed or wide layout. Personalize and make your website easier to remember by adding logo and header text to your website, with the themes incredible logo and header text options. This free theme offer users a primary color option, which you can use for changing the color scheme of the theme to suit your website design as well as online branding needs.

Ample theme comes with awesome slider that helps you present your website in an elegant way with slide effects and splendid transitions. It includes 4 custom widgets that are carefully designed to provide you a presentable business template. Ample has 2 custom menus, one on the primary header and the other on the footer. It also supports the WordPress custom background feature that you can take advantage of if you opt to use the boxed layout option. It comes with custom css to help you tweak the look and design of your website. This theme is translation ready, just create language files and use it in your own language. In case you encounter technical problems in the installation of your website, just leave your inquiries on their support forum.

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Accelerate

accelerate - minimal portfolio theme

Accelerate is an attractive and super flexible theme created to provide you a theme with premium look that you can use free of charge. This theme is crafted to make your content stand out and send a clear message to your target audience. It is suitable for portfolio, business, blog, personal, travel, corporate, business services or any other kinds of sites. It has a fluid and flexible layout that enables you to create a portfolio or corporate website, where you can showcase your previous works or display your products. It has a flat and straight forward design that blends perfectly with any types of content that you would like to publish in your website. Moreover, its fully responsive theme makes certain that your website runs smoothly on different type of mobile devices and retina ready to give your audience an optimal viewing experience.

Accelerate theme is designed to flaunt the strengths of your website and let your brand leave a good impression to your target audience. This theme comes with an extensive homepage slider where you can place eye-catching featured images that will certainly grab the attention of your visitors. This theme also support multiple post formats, which means you are able to display different types of content such as images, videos, quotes, links, audio, and short snippets called “asides” to your site. Manage the overall appearance of your portfolio using its theme options pages. Customize your theme by modifying the custom header image or setting the background image or color that represents your trade name. It also allows you to integrate a contact form to your website to help you build a network and help your prospective clients contact you directly.

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Inkness

Inkness photography theme

If you’re look for a stylish yet functional framework for your web design, Inkness could be the one for you. This exquisite free WordPress Theme is built with the most recent Twitter Bootstrap frontend framework and integrated with countless features. It is fully responsive and offers an adaptable layout design that let your site fit on any types of mobile devices. Its minimalist design gives more space for highlighting your content. The theme include handy features that offers great customization options such as responsive slider, 4 page layouts, immense theme options, tons of font options, terrific CSS transition effects and clean HTML5 design structure for better SEO. With a right choice of images and suitable theme customization, Inkness can serve as a wonderful theme for any kind of blog.

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Fullby

fullby - free template

Perhaps, Fullby theme seems familiar to you. Well, I guess that is because its creation was inspired by Twenty Fourteen. You’ll love the layout design of this fine theme even at first glance. Its framework was based on latest Bootstrap framework, fully responsive and features a grid style. This lightweight theme includes two customizable images. It also offer assorted column layouts and provides a good platform for your content. If you prefer to include your most recent post in the featured section, you can just check the “featured’ option in your post. This marvelous theme also incorporates gallery and video support that you can make use of in building a stunning website.

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Arcade Basic

Arcade - free full-screen theme

Arcade Basic is a lightweight yet fully responsive HTML5 WordPress theme. It features an extensive and high-flying header image that can instantly capture the interest of anyone who comes to your website. Its amazing theme customizer let you modify your page layout, header image, site width, etc. It also includes JetPack to your site that can be useful in impressing your site visitors with your eye-catching galleries on a tile view and jQuery carousel. Arcade Basic supports bbPress & BuddyPress plugin that could help you set up an interactive forum within your site. The theme’s framework is also built based on Bootstrap 3, SASS and Compass. Arcade Basic provides a wide range of font options to perk up the typeface readability.

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StanleyWP

StanleyWP - Free blog theme

Stanley is one of the most remarkable free WordPress theme brought to us by BlackTie. Stanley employs the best Twitter Bootstrap technology with minimal integration of color in its framework. Stanley proved free stuff isn’t always substandard and could provide first-class functionality. This meek free WordPress theme is overloaded with great built-in features such as user-friendly theme options panel, drag and drop homepage builder, three page templates, Font Awesome 4.0.3, fluid layout design and portfolio post types. This theme is specially designed to help you showcase you stunning success in a simple way.

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Romangie

romangie - blog theme

Romangie is a chic and minimalist free WordPress theme. Each aspect of this theme is retina-ready and built based on Bootstrap Framework to guarantee wonderful browsing experience, regardless of what device your website visitor prefers to use. Romangie choose modest and simple design to give more attention to your site’s speed and let your content take center-stage. It may look plain from the outside but it is actually teeming with incredible features such as Twitter embedding, categories, nice navigation menus, galleries, commenting and a calendar.

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Flat Theme

Flat Theme For Business

Flat Theme is deemed as the finest free WordPress theme built with twitter Bootstrap 3.0. Its highly developed theme option with shortcodes generator is beyond compare. This simple theme allows you to customize the logo and favicon to go well with your website’s brand. It provides several color and font customization features that could help you give your website a major revamp. It also comes with various theme options such as contact page settings, change admin logo, google analytics and so on.

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Lawyeria Lite

lawyeria - free WordPress lawyer theme

If you are looking for free WordPress lawyer theme then Lawyeria Lite is the best choice. It is designed specially for primate attorneys and law firms but it can be used for any consulting or regular business website. Developer have made this theme SEO friendly which means that it will help you get more visitors from search engines such as Google and Bing. Thanks to its clean code base this theme loads incredibly fast and that is going to help to improve user experience and what can be even more important? Lawyeria theme has everything to take your business to the next level, so the choice is yours if you want it or not.

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Metro Creative X

metrox - free blog theme

Metro Creative X is a beautiful and fully responsive metro style WordPress blog theme. This theme is based on Masonry grid which makes it fully responsive and optimized for all devices. This theme features a clean code base and valid HTML5 and CSS3. This theme doesn’t have many advanced functions but this also works as an advantage because it loads faster than many other themes on this theme collection. This is the right theme if you are looking for simple and SEO friendly blog theme.

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Ward

Ward - customizable theme

Ward is a lightweight and fully responsive WordPress theme created by Bavotasan.com. This theme would be an ideal framework for any types of blog, portfolio or business site. The theme is built with Twitter Bootstrap, which includes tons of great design elements. This unique theme offers heaps of font options that improve your website’s readability. It exhibits an exceptional layout and provides support for post formats. The entire framework of this theme is easy to modify, thanks to its built-in customizer. Lastly, Ward allows you to install a forum in your site since it supports both bbPress & BuddyPress.

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Customizr

Customizr - Free business wp theme

Customizr is a clean and responsive WordPress theme that offers tons of fantastic features that can be found on premium website template. This free theme makes building a unique and attractive website a child’s play. The theme has been designed to give fully functional theme options, so everyone could manage it with ease. Moreover, it built with clean HTML5 and CSS3 (from the Twitter Bootstrap) and cross-browser tested. Customizr is also translation ready and gives strong support for WooCommerce and bbPress. This fully responsive free website theme is perfect for creating portfolios, blogs, small businesses, landing pages and corporate sites.

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MERIS

Meris - free WordPress theme

Meris is a new free WordPress Theme suitable for any types of businesses. It is retina-ready and offers a responsive layout in order to fit with the recent trends in web design. This theme is built with Bootstrap 3 to function impeccably on different mobile device. It also provides a striking design, packed with useful widgets, full-screen sliders and portfolios to give your site an outstanding design. Meris is an ideal theme for travel, food, sports, portfolios and business websites.

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Virtue

Virtue - free multipurpose theme

The Virtue theme is overloaded with amazing customization options for your website. This simple yet well-designed theme is built with clean HTML5 and CSS3. It also adapts a responsive framework from Bootstrap to help your website become fully responsive and mobile friendly. It provides support for WooCommerce that is essential in building an online store. Virtue’s flexible framework goes well with any kind of businesses, online store and portfolio.

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Tracks

tracks portfolio WP theme

Tracks is a bold and beautiful free WordPress theme that comes with inimitable design. This theme uses panoramic featured images to convey a unique visual effect to website visitors. The homepage presents recent posts and a brief description for each full-size and bold images alternating down the page. If you are searching for a simple and easy to customize theme, Tracks is the one for you. It offers great built-in customization options that help you create a website in a flash. You can upload a logo image, set the navigation menu, insert site title and tagline and opt for a static front page. Tracks is 100% responsive.

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Make

Make - free business theme

Make is a responsive and retina-ready theme fit for building corporate, agency, nonprofit, freelancer or general business website. This theme is built with Bootstrap technology and well coded. It’s easy to build and customize, you can modify layout, styling, colors directly from the website’s backend. Make also comes with powerful Shortcode Generator that provides a convenient interface for creating pages. The theme includes lots of customization options that help you to easily modify the background, layouts, fonts, colors, and logo of your site. Moreover, Make incorporates a functional page builder. This versatile free WordPress theme also supports cool plugins such as Woo Commerce, Gravity Forms and Jetpack.

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Responsive

responsive - most popular free theme

Responsive theme is offers an intuitive foundation with a smooth grid system that spontaneously adjust the framework of your website to any mobile devices to give you an excellent user experience. This theme includes 9 Page Templates, 11 Widget Areas, 6 Template Layouts and 4 Menu Positions that you can use in organizing the main structure of your theme. It also provides simple yet fantastic theme options for full CMS control with easy logo upload, social media integration, incredible webmaster tools and many more. Responsive is also WooCommerce to help to establish your own online shop without much effort. Other great features of this amazing theme include Multilingual Ready (WPML), RTL-Language Support, Retina-Ready, Search Engine Friendly, W3C Markup Validated and currently translated into 45 languages. Responsive is by far the most popular free WordPress themes with over 1 million downloads and counting.

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Spacious

Spacious - free WP template

Spacious WordPress Theme is a versatile template that can be used for blog, portfolio or business website. It offers vast customization options given its multiple page layouts that provide utmost flexibility as well as six different page templates, and 13 widget areas. It also includes five custom widgets suitable for creating business-oriented sites. Its features such as slider, a boxed and a wide layout, a light and a dark color skin, and a color scheme option that you can use in designing a decent website for your business or portfolio. To finish, the theme is designed proficiently to run with precision on different mobile devices.

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Vantage

Vantage - free app showcase theme

Use Vantage theme to your advantage! By far, Vantage is the most innovative free theme that you can exploit for different purposes. This modern theme is overloaded with nice features that can also be found on premium WordPress themes. It has a page builder integration that makes building a professional website a piece of cake. Vantage also features a MetaSlider, an incredible free slider plugin that lets you effortlessly manage and tidy up your sliders. You should make best use of this feature to show your visitors what you’ve got. Last but not least, Vantage supports WooCommerce that can be serviceable to you in building an online store within your website.

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Semicolon

Semicolon - free magazine theme

Semicolon is a super clean and fabulously designed magazine-type WordPress theme. This is one of the most sophisticated and organized magazine theme that you can use for free. Semicolon is on the Underscores starter theme and features a responsive design. With its exceptional grid layout, legible typography, social profiles menu and widget areas, this theme manages to stands out from the crowd in an elegant way. You can customize the theme by adding your preferred background image or changing the background color using WordPress customizer. Semicolon also supports two menus: a primary navigation menu and a social menu that utilizes the Genericons vector icon webfont.

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Hueman

Hueman - Free Magazine theme

Hueman is a responsive WordPress magazine theme that comes with oodles of modern features. It’s a rare chance to find a proficiently designed, super flexible and user-friendly theme that you can use at no cost. Its vast styling options and adjustable layout settings allow users to incorporate personal touch to their website. Moreover, Hueman is designed to adapt on any screen sizes. This trendy magazine theme also supports 10 post formats, has unlimited widget areas, built-in social buttons and a lot more!

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Interface

Interface - free business theme

If you want to build a simple business site and you want to incorporate the flat-style mint green design trend, then choose Interface WordPress theme. This theme comes with a responsive layout and retina-ready. It is also compatible with both BuddyPress and bbPress, so you can set up a forum to your site with no trouble. With its built-in theme option, you can easily change the appearance of your website to suit your business needs. This theme also includes many different building blocks for customizing your business site such as homepage Featured slider, various layout options, diverse page templates and many more. It also supports popular plugins like Breadcrumb NavXT, WP-PageNavi and Contact Form 7. Without a doubt, Interface is the ultimate free WordPress theme for your business website!

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Radiate

radiate - free parallax theme

Radiate is a clean, creative blogging free responsive WordPress theme. This theme supports a fancy parallax header image. It integrates primary color option in the theme customizer page that allows you to manage all links and icons in your site. Let your creativity and ingenuity radiate by flaunting amazing photographs in your WordPress Gallery. Change the overall design of your theme with ease using custom CSS. Other features include: custom background, front page featured section, widget area etc.

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Adventurous

Adventurous - portfolio theme

Adventurous is an eye-catching free WordPress theme brought to us by Catch Themes. It offers a flexible framework that can be used for corporate, photography and blog sites. This theme features a minimal and clean layout design to give more focus on your content. Adventurous is built with HTML5, CSS3 and is very easy to use. This versatile theme is packed with fantastic features and options to help you create an outstanding online presence with this theme. It also includes a powerful theme options that makes theme customization so easy. Adventurous comes with other incredible features such as post slider, custom widgets, page templates, dropdown menu, shortcodes, custom CSS, localized for translations, etc.

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Nictitate

Nictitate - Free Business theme

Nictitate is an elegant business WordPress theme that you can download for free. Its flexible and responsive layout is perfect for building portfolios and corporate sites. The theme is built based on KOPATHEME layout manager, which allows you select layout of any pages within your site easily. This feature is very helpful in creating an effective visual hierarchy in your site. You can also define unlimited sidebar for widget areas. With its powerful custom widgets, Nictitate gives you greater flexibility and accessibility to the main framework of your site. With Nictitate, you do not have to give up sophistication only to save money.

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Minamaze

Minamaze - App Showcase theme

Take advantage of the free version of Minamaze multi-purpose professional WordPress theme. This theme offers a great template for business or general blog site. The theme is built with responsive layout and HD retina-ready to adapt and function marvelously on different mobile devices. The theme also includes a dynamic theme options panel that allows you to do tremendous changes within your theme without composing a single line of code. You can use built-in homepage layout to add a logo to your site and build a fine-looking homepage. The theme also comes with a full width easy to use slider that you can utilize in promoting your work or product.

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EvoLve

evolve - multipurpose theme

EvoLve is an excellent and flexible One Page WordPress Theme. It is a free theme packed with incredible features that you can use in building an outstanding website. It is fully responsive and runs faultlessly on different modern devices. This theme gives you an option to employ single or grid homepage layout to your website. It was built using Bootstrap with latest HTML5 and CSS3 standards. Google fonts, Parallax slider and theme panel options are just some of the more important features that you can utilize in building a unique website that truly stands out.

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Mystile

Mystile - WooCommerce theme

Mystile is a free eCommerce WordPress theme professionally designed by WooThemes. This clean and flexible WooCommerce theme is designed as a canvas which you can use as-is. You can also this theme to create a unique website design that matches your products or brand. It also provides an amazing support for WooCommerce plugin. It also works smoothly in all browsers and devices, thanks to its responsive layout. Moreover, Mystile is bundled with great features such as custom homepage, several color schemes, custom page templates, threaded comments and custom widgets.

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Artificer

Artificer - free WordPress thtme

Artificer is a free responsive eCommerce WordPress theme tailor made for people selling arts & crafts. Its agnostic design and responsive layout makes it a perfect platform to showcase your hand made products. It was designed to work properly any device and adjust fittingly to any screen size. It is packed with features serviceable to an online store. Moreover, Artificer supports WooCommerce plugin could help you set up an online shop in an instant! This responsive WordPress theme is best suitable for any online product store, online shop or any eCommerce website.

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Serene

Serene WP blog theme

Serene is a simple yet stylish free WordPress theme created by Elegant Themes. Serene is designed for sophistication. It features a very clean and straightforward navigation and rounded social icons. Serene supports unlimited color options that you can mix and match to get the best look that you want for your website. The best part of this responsive theme is its extensive post format support. With Serene, you can effortlessly show off a dynamic feed of articles, videos, audio files, quotes, galleries and links in the most elegant way possible. Other amazing features include WordPress 3.6+ compatibility, a widgetized footer, comment support and more.

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MH Magazine lite

Mh - Free Magazine Theme

MH Magazine lite is an elegant free WordPress theme from MH Themes. This theme is perfect for magazines, portals and online news websites. If you want to make sure that your content gets a significant attention from your site visitors, then this is a theme that you will like for sure. This free theme offers great features such as FlexSlider 2 with touch swipe functionality, dynamic theme options, custom menus, 12 widget areas, built in author box to feature your authors, 404 page, supports featured images and much more. Furthermore, this theme is optimized for speed and major search engines like Google.

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Flat

Flat Blog Theme

Flat is a free WordPress theme that exudes a charm and sophistication. Its minimalist design makes your website look attractive and accentuates your content. It includes Bootstrap 3, HTML5 and LESS that makes the site more responsive and more impressive. It boasts its flat design and other astounding features such as responsive layout, retina ready, an off canvas sidebar, custom background and sidebar color, customizable logo, favicon sidebar and background. If you want to give greater focus on your content without spending a single dollar, Flat is the best choice for you.

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Hemingway

Hemingway - Free personal blog theme

Hemingway displays a very neat and responsive two-column theme for bloggers. With its beautiful colors, legible typography and prominent images you are able to create a unique blog or website. This clean theme is crammed with cool features like responsive design, retina-ready assets, full-width header image with parallax scrolling effect, custom accent color, custom logo upload, custom widgets (video, Flickr and Dribbble), page templates and translation-ready code. Hemingway also provides an excellent post format support.

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graphic designing, web designing

How to Make Money Blogging – 2015 Edition by Amy Lynn Andrews

How to Make Money Blogging – 2015 Edition

If you’ve ever wondered how to make money blogging, you’ve come to the right place. My goal was to create a one-stop guide with as much up-to-date information about blogging for money as possible. Let’s get started!

make money blogging

Introduction – Can the average person make money blogging?
Things You Need
How It Works
The Bottom Line
Ways to Make Money Blogging

Where to Begin
Tips
Myths
Next Steps

introduction

Can the average person make money blogging?

Absolutely. Just like any business it requires hustle – a lot of hustle – but it is definitely within reach.

The internet has provided opportunities in business unlike any other time in history. There’s a very low barrier to entry, the playing field is leveled, it costs next to nothing to get started and the overhead and risk are minimal.

I know this to be true because I’ve done it myself and I’ve watched countless others do the same.

At the beginning of 2010 I was not making any significant money online. Less than two years later, my husband quit his job and my online income now supports us.

Related: How Much Do Bloggers Make?

Note: I have included some of my referral links in this post. If you click through them and make a purchase, I will make a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you, but it helps keep the lights on here so I can keep bringing you great tips. I really appreciate your support in this way.
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things you need

There are a few things you need before you start making money blogging.

A blog

If you want to make money blogging, obviously you’ll need a blog. If you don’t have one, no worries, simply follow the steps I outlined in How to Start a Blog.

Time

Once you’re set up, you’ll need to create content. You’ll have to write informative posts and articles about your chosen topic. This is the time consuming part. It’ll be a while before you start seeing an income. There is no way around this. There are no shortcuts. We all have to put in our time.

Related: How to Decide What to Blog About

I assure you, the bloggers who are doing this for a living have been at it for years. Online business is no different than offline business in that regard.

The good news is, you can do it too.
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how it works

When someone learns that blogging supports our family, I’m almost always asked, “How do you make money blogging?”

Before I started, I had the same question. The answer is not so straightforward, but I think an analogy will help.

Think of musicians

There are many musicians in the world. Some make money, some don’t. There are many ways to make money as a musician. How do musicians make money?

  • Some go on tour and make money through ticket sales.
  • Many sell their music in the form of CDs, MP3s and other formats.
  • Some create their own merchandise (clothing, cosmetics, souvenirs, etc.).
  • Others are under contract with a record label.
  • Some are employed by a company that puts on regular shows (like a Las Vegas hotel for example).
  • Some musicians write books and make money that way.
  • Others are compensated when they endorse products.
  • The list goes on…

Each of these ways to make money as a musician could be called an income stream. In short, there are many ways one can make money as a musician. It just depends on what income streams are used and how many.

The same goes for bloggers. I’ll get into the specifics of each income stream for bloggers in a moment, but first I need to talk about the 4-legged chair.

The 4-legged chair

To continue the analogy, think about how many musicians there are in the world. A lot right? So why aren’t all musicians professional musicians? Why don’t all of them make money?

I’m sure you would agree, it’s because other things are required.

Before a musician can make money, they need other things, like good connections with the right people, recognition for their ability and an established fan base.

It works the same for bloggers. Just having a blog doesn’t make someone a professional blogger. There must be other things present. What are those things?

This is where my 4-legged chair comes in.

You must have all 4 legs

Think of these 4 main components like the four legs on a chair. To experience the most success as a blogger, all must be present. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are missing any of the four, you will struggle. And like most things in life, the more time and effort you put into the quality of each of these “legs” the bigger your return.

Setting up the first three legs will take a lot of time. There won’t be a whole lot of return at first. But if you keep going, you’ll eventually see an uptick in income.

1. Create excellent content

Once you have a blog, you must add high-quality content. On a blog, this content comes in the form of blog posts. Your blog posts have to be excellent. In order to make money, you have to have visitors, but in order to have visitors, you must have content worthwhile to visit.

To create your content, draw from the expertise or experience you already have. Start there. After that, never stop learning. Keep growing in your knowledge of your craft so the content you produce gets increasingly great.

The content equivalent for a musician would obviously be music. They have to have music in their repertoire. And it has to be good.

2. Establish real relationships

While you create your content, start building sincere, no-strings-attached relationships via social media, commenting, forums, promoting others and the like.

If no one knows you exist, it’s unlikely you’ll get many visitors. People won’t naturally find you if you don’t put yourself out there. Plus, these relationships may benefit you when it comes time to promote your stuff later on.

“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” There’s a lot of truth in that little saying. Never underestimate the power of connections.

Don’t we hear about this all the time in music? People go out on auditions, they network, they take lessons, they attend gatherings and parties and do their best to establish relationships with people that might be able to help them along in their musical pursuits.

3. Build your platform

A lot of people don’t realize that for many bloggers most of the money they make does not come from blogging directly. For many, a blog is a platform. It’s online property. It’s where they establish an “official” digital home. It’s where people can get information about them. It’s like a modern-day business card, headshot, calling card or resume.

Bloggers use their blogs as springboards to launch other projects that bring in income, such as ebooks, books, speaking, other products, etc. (more below).

Your blog is a way to get exposure, build authority, gain trust and be helpful. Call it your brand. Call it your platform. Build a consistent, trustworthy reputation and digital presence, and it will help you rise above the noise online.

4. Choose and implement streams of income

Developing income streams is the last leg of the 4-legged chair. Many people want to focus only on this leg, but without the other three, it won’t work. Trust me on this.

Income streams ebb and flow, so successful bloggers are constantly exploring new ways to make money. The key to making good money as a blogger is to have multiple streams of income. Even small trickles of money coming from various places over time, can really add up.

In the next section I’ll break things down and get specific about the various income streams bloggers adopt, but first you need to know the bottom line.
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the bottom line

The bottom line is, making money as a blogger is about selling. Either you sell your own stuff or you sell someone else’s stuff (directly on your site or indirectly by referring people to them).

It shouldn’t be surprising, but for some reason this idea makes people cringe.

Ponder it for a moment. If you are making money doing what you do, you would be called a “professional.”  And therefore, a professional of any sort, be it musicians, authors, consultants, doctors, makers of widgets is in the business of selling too. They’re selling products, services, art or any number of things.

As a professional blogger, you’ll be selling.

Think of selling as an investment

For many people, selling online conjures up visions of spam or slick, sleazy and gimmicky products of dubious quality. There’s plenty of that online, but there’s a whole lot more that’s valuable, useful and frankly, super convenient (I’m so glad I can buy a 50-pound bag of dog food on Amazon and have it delivered to my front door!).

I hope you’ve personally experienced the value of buying and selling online. If you’ve adopted the idea that any business online is sketchy (outside of the “big” online stores perhaps), erase the thought.

Selling is about investment. We are being sold to constantly. Some things we are willing to invest in and some we’re not. The trick in making money as a blogger is selling things you can stand behind and things your readers are willing to invest in.

But I run a nonprofit

I’d still argue you’re “selling” something. It may not be goods or services, but you’re still trying to get people to buy into your cause, program, vision or movement.

It’s not selling in the most common sense of the word, but the concept behind it is the same: you spread the word about your organization and encourage people to invest in it either financially, emotionally, physically or spiritually.

But I don’t like selling!

I hear ya. I’m not good at promoting my own stuff and I feel uncomfortable “asking for the sale” over and over and over again. But I turned a corner when I realized selling can look a million different ways. It’s just a matter of doing it in a way that works for you.

The fact is, there’s a good chance someone out there wants what you provide. Don’t apologize for it and don’t brag about it. Don’t tip-toe and don’t gush. Just do it, and tell others about it, straight up.

Not sure what it is you have to offer? Here, try this:

Do people marvel at something you do? Do you love doing it?

There. Focus on that.
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ways to make money blogging

As in our example of the musician, you’ll see there are numerous ways bloggers make money. Each blogger has a different combination of income streams. Knowing what types of income streams there are is helpful and can spark ideas, but if you try to dive into monetizing your blog before you’ve really built it, you run the risk of damaging the reputation (platform) you so desperately need.

At the risk of sounding corny, the best way to start monetizing is to let it grow organically out of what you are already doing. So, start blogging about what you enjoy. As you grow, you’ll figure out what ways of monetizing would most suit you. Go with the opportunities as they make sense. Don’t try to force them.

Following are the main categories of income streams.
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advertising

This group is all about generating income directly from your blog, website or your other digital assests.

Display Ads

Display ads are graphics or images similar to billboards or ads in a magazine. Typically they are positioned on your site in the sidebar, header, footer or within your content. They are also known as banner ads.

They are meant to complement your blog’s content, making them attractive and relevant to visitors. Advertisers hope that your visitors will then click on those images to explore and purchase the products or services they offer.

Display ads are often provided through ad networks. Ad networks are companies that pair advertisers with publishers (bloggers). Ad networks act as a middle man between advertisers and publishers, negotiating partnership details between the two. The ad network takes a cut from the partnership profit.

Ad networks are attractive to many bloggers because they take the hassle out of display advertising. Some ad networks, like Google Adsense, are relatively easy to get into and are easy to set up. Other ad networks, though, are selective in who they accept.

Examples of ad networks are Google Adsense, BlogadsBlogHerBeacon Ads, Federated Media, Sovrn, (formerly Lijit), Media.net, Rivit, Sway. (WAHAdventures has a lot more listed as well.)

Can you really make money with Google AdSense?

This is a very popular question, and a good one. Google Adsense is probably the most popular ad network and a good place for beginning bloggers to start if they want to pursue display ads because it’s so easy to set up.

However, if you want to make really good money with Google AdSense, you either have to be in a unique niche in which advertisers will pay a lot for clicks on their ads (hard to find), or you have to have a lot of traffic (hard to get). For these reasons, I don’t recommend AdSense (or display advertising in general) as the main pursuit for new bloggers.

Tips:

  • If you want to get an idea of pricing and traffic for popular blogs, sites like Beacon Ads and Federated Media are places you can do that.
  • If you’re using CPC/PPC ads (cost per click/pay per click), check out Google’s recommendations for best ad placement on your site. It’s important that your content doesn’t get drowned out by ads. Google has indicated sites with too many ads above the fold may be penalized in search. If you’re not sure what is above the fold, use this tool.
  • As always, experiment. Experiment with ad placement to get the right combination on your site.

Further reading: Jason from ProBlogSchool explains ad networks in great detail in his post Ads 102: How to Make Money Using Ad Networks.

Private Ads

Private ads are similar to display ads in that they also come in the form of buttons or graphics and usually appear in the sidebars of blogs. They are unique in that there is no middle man (ad network) to negotiate the partnership. Partnerships are arranged directly between a blogger and an individual, small business or company.

Initial contact can be made by the blogger or by the advertiser. Be clear on what’s expected by both parties.

Not sure what to charge? Look around to see what others in your niche charge. You can often find this information on their advertising pages or in media kits.

Don’t just throw up an advertising page and expect advertisers to come calling. Go to them. Not sure how to do that? Find other blogs like yours that are your size or slightly larger. See who is advertising on their site. Contact those companies and ask if they’d like to advertise on your site too. Create a pitch and make it a win-win.

Check out iHeartOrganizing‘s advertising page as an example.

Tip:

  • If you have ads in your sidebar, keep them full. Instead of displaying a blank box with “Advertise here” fill it with an affiliate graphic (like my Tell Your Time ebook) in there. Crystal Paine puts it well when she says, “This screams, ‘My advertising space isn’t valuable enough for people to want to buy so I instead have this big blank box!’”

Giveaways & Reviews

If you’ve read blogs for any length of time, you’ve surely seen a review or giveaway and maybe participated yourself. A company supplies a product to a blogger to be reviewed and/or given away to readers. A word about giveaways…

I list giveaways here because some bloggers charge to run giveaways in addition to the expected free product to keep for themselves.

There are varying opinions about whether or not one should be compensated for giveaways. As I see it, it largely depends on whether the product is for marketing purposes or for advertising purposes. Companies use marketing to spread the word about their product or service. With advertising, a company makes a deal with another party to help them spread the word. Companies expect to pay for advertising.

For example, a company may market their product by handing out free t-shirts. Because you like the t-shirt, you take it and wear it. You obviously wouldn’t charge the company when you wore their t-shirt.

But I think a giveaway on a blog would often fall in the category of advertising. Yes, the company you’re working with may give you a product to use (indeed, they should!). However, they are also asking you to provide a service to them. After all, you are spending your valuable time to field their emails, communicate with them, write a post (or posts), follow up with giveaway entrants, etc. If there is nothing else you’re getting from the partnership except for the free product, this service should be compensated in my opinion.

Resource: Amy from Mom Advice wrote a post about reviews a few years back that still offers good tips.

Tips:

  • Products you receive for free need to be reported as income on your taxes so keep excellent records and make sure the products you are accepting for review are really ones you want to pay taxes on later.
  • Don’t be afraid to negotiate. This is your blog. No need to just take what you’re offered on the first round. Make it a win-win for both.
  • If you don’t want to do a review for a company, ask the company if they’d like to buy ad space instead. Mention that they’ll still get a spot in front of your readers.

Newsletter/Podcast Sponsorships

If you have an email newsletter or podcast, you can accept advertising just as you would on your blog. You can reach out to potential advertisers, tell them how they would benefit from advertising with you and pitch your idea.

If you want to learn more about monetizing podcasts, I highly recommend Podcast Launch: A complete guide to launching your Podcast with 15 Video Tutorials! by John Lee Dumas. Dumas is just a regular guy who consistently makes 6 figures per month from his podcast. Not only does he show you how to launch a podcast, but he covers making money from your podcast as well.

Sponsored Posts

Writing a sponsored post means you work with a company and write a post about their product or service. Be upfront and disclose your relationship to your readers. Keep sponsored posts to a minimum so you don’t turn off readers.

If you read blogs, you’ve probably seen sponsored posts. They can be spotted by the disclosure stating something like, “This post was sponsored by [company] but all opinions are mine.”

Find examples of sponsored post details and rates on Life Your Way.

Underwritten Posts or Series

Underwritten posts differ from sponsored posts in that the post topic is about whatever you want it to be (as opposed to the company’s product/service), but an advertiser pays to get a “Brought to you by” type note in the post. Anticipate the posts you think will get a lot of response and pitch companies with an underwritten spot.

An example of an underwritten series is this Christmas Gift Guide at MoneySavingMom.com.

Hear what others have to say

There are bloggers who have been quite successful with advertising and who’ve shared what they’ve learned. Check out:

  1. Elite Blog Academy – This course deals with getting more traffic and therefore increasing your advertising revenue. Read my full review of this course first.
  2. How to Monetize Your Food Blog – This ebook is about ad networks, advertising and how to set up an ad waterfall so you get the most out of your ad spots. (It also briefly covers some of the other monetization methods listed below.)
  3. Niche Site Duel – This deals with doing keyword research to find the niches advertisers pay high rates to.

Advertising pros

  • Many are easy to set up and maintain.
  • They can be used as a way to get readers used to ads on your site before you gain higher-earning advertisers. In other words, it can eliminate “ad shock” down the road.
  • Advertising is indeed lucrative for select bloggers. Read on…

Advertising cons

  • Mobile access, popup ad blockers and streamlined browser readers often remove ads from websites, rendering them far less effective.
  • Good advertising revenue depends on very high traffic or a niche with high-paying keywords (hard to find these days).
  • Advertising rates have declined over the last few years.
  • Ads often make a site look spammy and cluttered.
  • Ads often make a user click away from your blog. For a few cents, is it worth it? You have to decide.
  • Many readers have developed ad blindness.
  • Many bloggers have been banned by Google’s Adsense program for no apparent reason. It’s unpredictable.
  • While it is possible to block certain URLs from showing up in your Adsense ads, sometimes bad ones sneak through. This can be detrimental to your brand and platform.

My advertising advice

  • Be patient. Wait for the right partnership that won’t make you compromise.
  • Make sure your advertisers are in line with your values.
  • Don’t do text links. They are often spammy and looked down upon by Google.
  • Unless you are an established blogger for whom advertising is already working, this is the income stream I would pursue last. The traffic requirement and low ad rates means your time will be better spent elsewhere.

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affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing involves promoting someone else’s product or service and earning a commission when one of your readers clicks through your unique affiliate link and makes a purchase.

I wrote about affiliate marketing at length in What is Affiliate Marketing? and My Top Affiliate Marketing Tips.
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digital products

Audio/Video

You can sell music or video that others can use as intros or outros. Audio Jungle or iStockPhoto (they sell audio too).

Apps, Plugins or Themes

If you have a knack for code-writing and can write your own themes or plugins, you can sell them at a place like Creative Market.

Also, many plugin authors offer their plugins for free but ask for donations.

Domains

Do you have a domain collecting problem? Did you know you could sell them for profit?

Ecourses/Webinars/Online Workshops

You could do all sorts of things with this from small to large. Of course, you wouldn’t have to go big the first time around. Test the waters by holding a small, local event first. Grow bigger as you learn the ropes and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Just pick something you’re good at that other people want to know and teach it! Do it once or twice to refine your presentation and then start charging a small fee to those who want to take your class. Check out how LeadPages uses webinars to sell their product in this free 10-part video series.

Ebooks

Many, many bloggers have written ebooks. I’ve made a healthy chunk selling my own ebook Tell Your Time the last few years. (Here’s why I turned down a traditional book deal in favor of self-publishing.)

I don’t think ebooks (generally) make the same kind of money they did a few years ago, but for some, with very compelling topics and a decent group of supporters who help promote, it can be a good option.

If you want to write your own ebook, check out my series How to Write an Ebook.

One benefit of having an ebook is the ability to participate in ebook bundles which can generate quite a bit of income. Again, it’s about relationships and pooling your resources. See how Stephanie and Erin do it at Ultimate Bundles.

Related: How to Make Money as an Ultimate Bundle Affiliate.

Premium Content & Membership Communities

Insider spaces, one-on-one interaction, VIP rooms. Premium content is just what it sounds like – content that others must pay to access. This isn’t a new concept, but I do think it will become more and more common.

There is free information all over the internet, so in order for this to work, you would have to offer something truly unique — some sort of “insider information,” special access to individuals whose expertise is highly sought after, products or services that go above and beyond the norm, such or special treatment such as one-on-one interaction and coaching.

I’ve experimented with premium content when I created my Useletter Archives (now closed).

Another example of a premium content site is Food Blogger Pro. Bjork started this site after being asked by food bloggers how he and his wife Lindsay built their hugely popular food blog, Pinch of Yum.

Photos

Are you a photographer? Illustrator? Why not sell your photos on a site like iStockphoto? SomeGirl has an excellent series about how to become an iStockphoto seller. A significant portion of her family’s income comes from selling photos.

Selling Blogs & Websites

Many bloggers have sold their blogs or websites for 4-, 5-, 6- and even 7-figure sums. There is also something called flipping websites where you obtain a small blog or website, grow it and then sell it for profit later.

If you want to flip a site, check out Flippa. And if you want to read about those who have sold their blog, you can read this.
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physical products

Books

For many bloggers, their blogs have helped them sell books, both self and traditionally published. I’ve heard over and over again that traditional publishers will not typically consider your manuscript if you don’t have a blog first.

And if you’re a self-published author or hybrid author (that is, you have both self-published and traditionally-published books), a blog is a great way to sell books.

Conferences, Classes or Special Events

I consider hosting an event like a conference a “physical” product since it involves an exchange of something tangible (in this case, money for a ticket to an experience). You can also do bigger events like day-long seminars or workshops or even multi-day conferences.

Do not underestimate the work that would go into pulling off one of these events successfully. It’s a huge undertaking, but if you have a background in event planning or are extremely motivated, organized and are good at networking and making connections with companies (sponsors) etc., this might be for you.

In your niche or area of interest, it’s likely there are large, established conferences already. So, try narrowing down your conference topic in order to target a more specific group. If you’re going to put on a large-scale event, be very clear and very specific in your goals and make sure there’s a strong desire for the information you can provide. And then do it with excellence.

The way you would make money, of course, is to charge a fee to attend and/or partner with sponsors to cover your costs (and your salary).

Handmade Products

Are you crafty? Consider selling on Etsy. You can set up your own shop for free and it’s simple to get started. It’s not so simple to stand out from the crowd, so that’s likely to be your biggest challenge. Here are some tips on how to market your shop.

Manufactured Products

Sell manufactured products. Use your site/blog/newsletter to promote it.

If you create the product yourself, that’s great, but if you don’t know how to create your own product, you can sell someone else’s in your own shop.

If you have an idea for a product you’d like to sell but aren’t sure where to start, this couple tells you how they started selling wedding linens online. Their Online Store Tutorials are particularly helpful.
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services

You might think of this like freelancing. If you have a skill (who doesn’t?), why not offer your services via the internet (a.k.a. virtually)? It does not have to be computer related. Think of ways you can use your already-gained skills in your favor and put them online.

  • Administrative Assistant
  • App Developer
  • Audio/Video Editor
  • Coach
  • Concierge/Personal Assistant
  • Consultant
  • Cook – This isn’t completely virtual as you would have to deliver food, but you could still use the internet to get exposure. Here’s an example.
  • Counselor
  • Designer – Check out Minted’s Design Challenge for a place to start.
  • Digital Freelancer – Pick a task you can do quickly that others “will get around to someday.” For example, digitizing their boxes of photos.
  • Photo Editor
  • Project Manager
  • Social Media Manager
  • Software Writer
  • Speaker
  • Trainer
  • Transcriptionist
  • Tutor
  • Visioneer – Have people send you pictures of their room/house/yard and offer suggestions for improvement. Post before & after photos on your blog.
  • Web Builder – If you’ve set up your own site, contact local brick & mortar businesses and see if you can set up theirs. Barter services to get your feet wet, gain experience and build a portfolio.
  • Web Developer
  • Writer – The advantage of writing for other sites is that you get to be a part of something that’s already established. Also, you don’t have to worry about the technical aspects of running and maintaining your own site. Keep your ears peeled for contributor opportunities. You could start by guest posting.

I wrote a post called How to Become a Virtual Assistant with tips for anyone wanting to offer their services online.

Resource: The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant, Getting and Keeping Clients, and More, an ebook by Lisa Morosky. Make it your first business investment. This ebook blew my mind; it’s loaded with tips, resources and step-by-step instruction.

Pro to offering a service:

  • Low startup cost. Little to no inventory required.

Con to offering a service:

  • Not scaleable. In other words, your business size depends on how much time you have. You only have so much time in your day so you can provide a finite amount of service.

Tips for service providers:

  • Create a simple brochure-type site with just a few pages: Home, About, Contact, Resume, Services & Pricing, Before and After Photos (if applicable) and Testimonials once you get some.
  • Participate in forums, comments and other social media platforms and answer questions. Build a reputation as an authority and expert.

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where to begin

Feeling overwhelmed yet? You’re not alone. It is overwhelming.

You should know there are no magic bullets. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another and vice versa. There are no guaranteed, across-the-board results either. Your mileage may vary. Take the time to think through what might work for you.

What’s your personality?

Are you an introvert? Extrovert? Are you organized and like to work ahead? Are you spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants? All these questions will help you determine the best fit for you.

For example, I started a forum many years ago, but as an introvert, I quickly realized managing and moderating all the conversation was too stressful. So, I handed it over to someone who loved the social aspect of it.

Also, I like to tackle a project and move on. I don’t like open-ended projects that are ongoing. That’s why I prefer writing and selling an ebook rather than running a membership site.

Take your personality and temperament into account and decide what will work for you.

What’s your season of life?

When I started blogging I was a mom with newborns and toddlers. There was just no way I had the time or energy to devote to an online business. But now my kids are older and it works differently.

It’s true my children are now out of the newborn and toddler stage but we have moved into the spend-your-life-in-the-car stage, chauffeuring people to activities all the live long day. Not to mention the hungry-every-5-minutes stage where they eat as fast as I cook. If it weren’t for my husband’s flexible schedule, I’d have to seriously rethink things.

Think realistically about what’s going on in your life. How much time do you really have to devote to blogging?

What are others in your niche doing?

If you’re still stumped, one of the best ways to figure out what might work for you is to look at well-established bloggers in your niche and take note of the monetization methods they use. If those methods will work with your personality and season of life, start there.
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tips header

Start small

Keep your day job and build your blog on the side, particularly if you have a family to support. Once you gain traction and can confidently replace your income, launch out on your own.

Find a hole and fill it

You’ll significantly increase your chances of success if you meet a need for others instead of blogging as an outlet for yourself.

Change with the times

Blogging for money today is quite different than it was even 2 years ago. You must stay ahead of the curve. It means you’ll constantly need to be experimenting and branching out. Read a lot. Or, if you’d prefer not to do all that reading, subscribe to my useletter and I’ll keep you posted on the latest.

Experiment and take risks

I don’t  think there is a business on earth that has as little risk or overhead as blogging (if you bootstrap it). For that reason, be bold. You’ve got very, very little to lose and so much to potentially gain.

And when you’re first starting out, risk more. You won’t have as many followers so you can work out the kinks early without the whole world watching.

Be observant

There is something to be said about putting your head down and getting to work. However, if you don’t occasionally glance up to see how you might need to adjust and grow, you’ll get left behind.

Diversify

I already mentioned the importance of finding new income streams, but the other piece of that is to keep them diverse. The internet changes constantly. That way, if one stream dries up (happens all the time in online business), you’ve still got the others.

Don’t just make an income, make a living

Consider passion, productivity and profit. Find the intersection of all three.

  • If you are passionate about something and you can produce stuff but you aren’t making money, you have a hobby.
  • If you produce stuff and you make money but you lack passion, you have a job.
  • If you are passionate and are making money but you feel like it’s taking over your life to the detriment of your other responsibilities, you have an obsession.

Hobbies, jobs and even obsessions might not be totally bad, but try to adjust so you are passionate, productive and profitable. To me, that’s making a living.

Establish a blogging routine

Carve out regular time each day to focus on a few simple tasks (mostly creating great content). Learn to tune out the noise and do your thing.

Be you

There’s nothing new under the sun, that’s true. Everything online is just a repackaging of what already was there. However, there is no one that can repackage something in the way you can. Tap into your uniqueness.

Be memorable

Before you start a blog in a huge niche with a lot of blogs, be sure you have a concrete plan for standing out. A large niche is a good sign because it means there are a lot of readers in that niche, but for those starting out, it’ll be very difficult to compete with the blogs that have already established themselves. How will you make others take a second look?

Don’t forget about taxes

I realize I can’t speak for everyone in the world, but here in the U.S., income you make blogging should be reported on your taxes. My advice here is to keep good records from the beginning. An ebook I found personally helpful was Your Blogging Business: Tax Talk & Tips from a Bookkeeper Turned Blogger.

Work hard

If you want to make money blogging, especially a full-time income, you’ll never work harder in your life. But you’ll probably never have so much fun either. Go for it!
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myths

There are a number of misconceptions about blogging for money I’ve touched on throughout this guide, but just in case you skipped down here first, I’ll restate them. Better to be aware of them upfront so you have a realistic picture of the journey.

Myth: Blogging is a good way to make money fast

A lot of people think blogging has quick monetary returns. For most of us, it absolutely does not. Most of the people I know who are making a great part-time income have been at it for at least a year. Anyone who is making a full-time income has been at it for years. If anyone tells you differently, be very skeptical.

Myth: Once it’s live on the internet, people will find your blog

There are millions and millions of blogs online. Unless you win the internet lottery (not likely), there’s no way people will find you unless you tell them. Thus the importance of actively building relationships (see above).

Myth: Making money online isn’t legitimate

This is just simply untrue. There are sketchy people in any industry, but not only is online entrepreneurialism legitimate, it’s fast becoming a preferred way to do business because there’s low overhead and low risk.

Myth: Blogging for money doesn’t work

It’s true, a lot of bloggers don’t make money even after working toward that end. However, the reason is not because it doesn’t work. From what I’ve observed, it usually results from lack of motivation, lack of creativity or originality, lack of patience or lack of hustle. It’s a hard gig!

Myth: Blogging is for business types

This is what I thought when I first started blogging in 2004. I thought it was for men who could devote themselves full time to their blogging endeavor. But then I met a lot of moms and regular people like me who were making impressive incomes.
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next steps

So, what does this mean for you?

First, I have to ask, do you have a blog?

If not, start by setting up your own site. There is no need to be intimidated by the process. I have written another guide called How to Blog.

how to blog

Next go back up the 4-legged section above and start creating excellent content and building relationships on social media. Figure out where your perfect reader hangs out online and go there. Start to follow people you find interesting. Comment on posts, pins, updates or tweets. Demonstrate genuine interest in what they’re doing. Just make friends.

I would also suggest you sign up for my useletter. In it, I try to keep you updated on what’s going on in the blogging world and cool things bloggers might find useful. You can sign up here. It’s free of course and emails arrive usually on Saturday mornings.

If you want to see what others have done, check out my popular post How Much Do Real Bloggers Make?
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like it share it

Do you think this guide would be useful to others?

I always appreciate a comprehensive guide where I can get the information I need without a lot of fluff. If you agree, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this post with others so they can be helped too. Thank you!
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For more helpful tips, visit http://amylynnandrews.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

6 Online Marketing Strategy Questions You MUST Answer

Are you finally getting around to planning out your online marketing strategy for the year? Or are you trying to re-strategize your existing online marketing plan? Before you do either you need to make sure you have answers to some very important questions.

In this article we are going to cover 6 online marketing strategy questions that you MUST answer before spending any time or money marketing your business online.

Online Marketing Strategy Questions

Why You Need an Online Marketing Strategy in the First Place

From our experience, very few businesses actually have an online marketing strategy in place. Some common reasons why usually include the following:

Common Responses

If you, or your boss, are guilty of using any of these excuses, then it’s important for us to clearly communicate how detrimental this could be to the success of your marketing efforts.

7 Reasons Why You Really Need a Strategy

  1. Lack of direction will lead to wasted time and money
  2. You will miss the best opportunities by not knowing what to focus on
  3. It’ll be easier for existing and startup competitors with solid strategies to take market share from you
  4. You won’t know your online audience clearly enough to market to them effectively
  5. Your resources won’t be able to work in concert to produce the best results
  6. Important strategies and tactics will take a back seat to other business priorities
  7. You won’t know what to optimize or when to optimize to produce the best ROI

These probably sound pretty familiar if your business has still not put together an online marketing strategy. Hopefully the impact has not been too bad and you’re able to recover and get started with a strategy now.

For those that are, we’re going to help…or at least try to help. Let’s start by getting you to answer some extremely important questions.


Know the Answers to these Online Marketing Strategy Questions

Online Marketing Strategy Pie Chart

Before you think about starting an online marketing campaign, before you try to put together a marketing plan and before you ever consider calling a company or online marketing professional to help you, you MUST know the answers to the following 6 questions.

 

QUESTION #1: What is Your Brand’s Story?

This question, as simple as it sounds, is one that produces the most “What do you mean?” responses. If you don’t smirk with nostalgia or feel a sense of passion in your stomach when asked this question, then there’s no way your online marketing is going to communicate your story effectively. Even worse, there’s no way your audience will understand it, connect with it or believe in it.

Zappos Story

Having a story makes your brand more human and something that people can connect with.

An example of a company that has a great story, and does an even better job of communicating it to its customers, is Zappos. The Zappos story is one that most entrepreneurs are familiar with, but more importantly, it’s one that many of Zappos’ customers have bought into.

Need help answering this?
 Sit down, think about how and when you first started and also why you do what you do. Once you have this either written down, recorded or videotaped, then dedicate at least one page of your website to your story. Share your brand’s story with your employees, prospects and customers by promoting this content instead of hiding it deep in your “About” section.

 

QUESTION #2: Who is Your Audience and Where Do They Spend Time Online?

Perhaps it’s more common than we think, but we are continuously amazed by the lack of knowledge that many companies have about their audience. The two very basic business questions of “Who is your audience?” and “Where do they spend time online?” get reactions and responses as if we were asking someone to explain quantum physics to us in detail.

Virgin Mobile Quote

You’ve got to know who your audience is and where they spend their time online. Throwing marketing out onto the web without knowing who it’s aimed at or where it will perform the best is equivalent to printing a bunch of flyers and posting them in some arbitrary location.

You’ll have a hard time seeing a company like Virgin Mobile just throw out random content all over the web. Instead they focus on delivering content to specific audiences where those people spend their time online.

Need help answering this?
Start by creating buyer personas that are segmented by demographics, needs and behavior. Even though these personas are just fictional representations of your ideal customers, they are typically based off real data and educated speculation that can help you really find and target the people most important to your business.

 

QUESTION #3: What KPIs are Most Important to Your Business?

If there was one question that gets more “I have no idea” responses this would be it. As much as we’d like to think that every business should know what online marketing KPIs (key performance indicators) to set and track we understand that working with this information can be a task in and of itself.  Even if you don’t have experience setting up or tracking your company’s KPIs there is still somewhere you can start.

KPI definition

Establishing metrics and benchmarks are not only critical elements of your online marketing strategy, but they are also essential for keeping everyone in your company on track, in sync and motivated.

For example, knowing that each 10% increase in organic search traffic produces $100,000 in more revenue helps your team to lay out a strong, consistent SEO strategy that everyone can play a role in (e.g. producing content).

Need help answering this?
 To determine which KPIs to work off of you must first know what your business goals are (e.g. Increase gross sales by 15% in Q2). Working backwards from here you can use your website analytics to determine what channels produce the most revenue and how customers got to those channels in the first place. Just remember to choose your KPIs wisely as the wrong metrics can distract you and prevent you from actually growing your business.

 

QUESTION #4: What is Your Content Strategy?

You can argue and resist the need for a content strategy as much you like, but the fact is that if you don’t have one in place then you can expect to get lapped by your competitors that do. Content is not just something you hire a freelance writer to whip up for you one time and then hope to get results from it. Instead, it is a foundational component of your marketing that will dictate the effectiveness of your entire marketing strategy.

Coca-Cola Content Marketing

Content tells your story, educates your audience, services your customers, builds your authority and makes your website worth visiting. A business without a content strategy is one without a voice. If your audience can’t hear you, then they sure as won’t buy from you.

For these reasons, even some of the most successful companies dedicate most of their marketing resources to their content strategies. Take Coca-Cola for example – a huge company with the resources available to do any marketing they want. Where have they focused these resources? That’s right…in content marketing.

Need help answering this?
  A solid process for developing a content strategy goes a little something like this: (1) brainstorm content ideas, (2) filter the ideas by effectiveness, reach potential and relevancy, (3) research everything surrounding that content, (4) create the content remembering that it doesn’t have to just be written articles and (5) promote the content once it’s published.

 

QUESTION #5: Why and How Would Someone Share Your Content or Talk About Your Company?

Making content an integral part of your online marketing strategy is a step in the right direction, but not the only one. In order for your content to really perform it must be promoted – by you and your audience. This process of creating quality content and spreading it across the web is known as content marketing and it’s something that needs to be the backbone of your online marketing strategy.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1&isUI=1

When creating content for your audience you need to really think about why someone would share it and also how easy it is for them to do so. Often times you need to do more than just have quality content. You need to promote it yourself and sometimes even incentivize others to share it as well.

One company that does this incredibly well is Nike, specifically with their #MakeItCount campaign. Nike does an amazing job of using content that motivates its consumers to participate, and thus, help to spread the campaign for them.

Need help answering this?
  You don’t need millions of dollars like Nike to pull off a successful content marketing strategy. Instead focus on creating content that is helpful to your audience, but also unique. Maybe do a video instead of an article if everyone else in your space has only done articles. To get people to share your content think about running a social media contest that challenges your audience to compete with each other while spreading your content.

 

QUESTION #6: What Resources Do You Have Available?

You may be thinking “All of this seems great, but we don’t have the resources to do any of this.” This common response is usually one that comes from frustration, but also from not really understanding what is actually involved in a successful online marketing strategy or knowing what resources you actually have.

As mentioned above, you don’t need to be Nike to pull off successful campaigns. Start by either educating yourself on what online marketing entails or work with an agency that can assist you while educating you along the way. Next step is to know what you have to work with.

Some of the best marketing campaigns didn’t come from huge companies with large teams and fat wallets. As a matter of fact, some of the most viral marketing campaigns have come from small businesses that used their creativity, existing resources and a little help from professionals to spread their business across the web.

Take Dollar Shave Club for example, who spent just $4500 to create one of the most successful business video campaigns in the past few years. If you aren’t familiar with this bootstrapped company video, then you owe it to yourself to watch it.

Need help answering this?
  Ideally you’d want to have the following resources on your team to create an ongoing, effective online marketing strategy; writer, designer, developer, social media / outreach person, data analyst. Since most small to medium sized businesses (and even some large businesses) don’t have all of these resources, then you need to look for help where you’re lacking. If you have a great writer, but no technical resources, then find an agency to work with. If you have a technical team, but no one to write / create content, then hire a writer or, again, work with an agency that has a reputable content team.

 


Knowing is Half the Battle

Knowing is Half the Battle

Yes, we did use a quote from GI Joe to headline this section….don’t pretend like you didn’t smirk.

Seriously though, just knowing the answers to the six questions above can mean the difference between wasting thousands of dollars on directionless marketing or getting a great ROI from highly targeted, creative campaigns.

Answering the questions can be difficult for a lot of businesses, especially ones without any type of experience with online marketing, but sometimes just the process of trying to answer them can be more enlightening than you would have thought.

Your business needs to be online and it needs to have a well planned online marketing strategy that is built for producing tangible results….not just vanity metrics like organic rankings. Take the time to educate yourself or build your team up with people that have experience planning and implementing successful strategies.

As always, we would love to help; whether it is just assisting with planning your strategy, implementing it or both. If you’re finally ready to get your online marketing strategy going this year, then think about the six questions above and get in touch with us to get something going.

Ready to create and implement an effective online marketing strategy?


Images courtesy of Zappos, Coca-Cola and VisualizeUs

For more, visit : http://www.imforza.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

50+ Awesome Logo Design Resources Online

graphic designing, web designing

How To Price Your Services: A Guide For Web Designers by Kevin Muldoon

How To Price Your Services: A Guide For Web Designers

Pricing your design services is a dilemma that all web designers face. It can be very difficult to put a monetary value on your time and your experience. Whether you like this aspect of designing or not, it is something you need to do if you are a freelancer or if you operate a web design company.

Unfortunately, pricing your services is not an exact science. You need to consider a lot of factors in order to price a project correctly. And you may find that you need to price different projects in a different way so that you are compensated fairly.

In this article, I would like speak about the factors you should consider when pricing your web design services.

Hourly or Fixed

Design projects are normally charged as a fixed price or on an hourly basis. It is important to understand the pros and cons of each pricing structure.

Clients generally prefer to pay a fixed price for design work so that they know in advance the full cost of a project. The benefit of this is that both parties know up front what the cost will be i.e. a client wants a design and will pay you X amount of money.

For designers, charging on an hourly basis may be a more practical solution as it ensures you do not lose out financially if the project takes longer.

Consider a website design that you expect will take 20 hours to complete. Before you take on the project, you could quote the client a fee of $1,000 or an hourly fee of $50 per hour. If you charge a fixed price and manage to complete the website within ten hours, you have effectively earned an additional ten hours of income. But what if the project takes longer than expected? What if the website took 25 hours, 30 hours, or even 40 hours to complete? You could end up spending double the time you had expected for no additional earnings.

As you gain more experience in freelancing, you will have a better understanding of what is involved in a project. Therefore, if you are positive that you will not face any problems with a design, it may be worth charging the client a fixed price. However, things do not always go to plan and it is difficult to see the challenges that a particular design may present. That is why charging per hour is favored by many designers. A good alternative is to charge a fixed price for a project and then charge more if it takes more than an agreed number of hours to complete.

Even if you favor charging by the hour, you may be faced with the decision on whether it is worth taking on a project on a fixed price basis (e.g. a project advertised on a freelancing website or because a client wants to know the final cost up front). Be sure to evaluate each project and know the pros and cons of each charging option before you agree terms with the client.

Determine the Market Rate

Knowing the market rate for design work will help you price your own services effectively. You can do this by checking the rates of competitors on their website and through freelance marketplaces.

Understand the market that you will be targeting:

  • Will you be offering your services locally or internationally?
  • Are you targeting small businesses or large companies?
  • Will you be taking on smaller jobs (e.g. logos, banners) or bigger projects (e.g. complete websites)?

Compare like with like to ensure that you have a realistic estimate of the market rate of your services.

Evaluate Your Own Skill Level

If you can put your ego to one side, it is worthwhile evaluating the quality of your services against competitors. This will help you determine whether you can charge more than the market rate.

  • Do you have more experience than your competitors?
  • Can you offer something that others cannot e.g. technical or design experience?
  • Do you have a good reputation within your market?

Being aware of your own skill level will allow you to price your rates accordingly and justify these rates to clients.

Drafting the Initial Design

Are You in Demand?

If you just starting out, you may have to drop your rates initially in order to build up a portfolio. This will help you secure projects you may have lost due to your recent entry into the market.

As demand for your services grows, you will be in a position to increase your rates. Turning down clients because you have too much work on your hands is a sure sign that you are in demand and probably not charging clients enough. So don’t be afraid to increase your rates if you have a lot of enquiries about work.

Identify Your Own Costs

Be aware of your business costs when you are pricing your services. On a project to project basis, you should incorporate the cost of any stock images or templates you need to purchase for the project. You should include any costs of hiring another developer or designer to help you with any problems you may face too.

Also take into account ongoing freelancing costs such as marketing expenses, telephone calls, insurance, and any traveling expenses that are involved visiting the client. The important thing to remember is that any expenses you incur will eat into your profits. Therefore, they should be incorporated into your pricing structure from the start.

Sign A Contract

It is in your interests, and your clients interests, to sign a contract before you work together. Your contract should detail:

  • The estimated time to complete the project and what happens if the project takes longer to complete
  • How many revisions are included with your initial draft
  • Whether you will be working set days per week and whether you have any holidays planned
  • How payment will be made
  • What happens if the client changes their mind and wants to change the design
  • What conditions need to be met to cancel the project early
  • Whether the client be charged an additional fee if the project requires more work than expected
  • Whether the client can pay an additional fee to make their project priority and finish the design sooner
  • The amount of support, if any, that is provided after the design has been completed

It is not enough to have your terms and conditions agreed verbally with the client. You should sign a contract so that the law is on your side. At the very least, you need to make it clear on your website what happens in certain situations and have the client agree to those terms through an online declaration form. This will avoid unnecessary problems arising in the future.

Terms and Conditions

After Sales Support

Providing support to clients can be a big drain on time. If you are going to provide after sales support to your clients, you should agree with them beforehand how much support is provided free of charge after you have delivered the final design. For example, you may include two hours of email support after delivering a website design to help explain how important functions work. Beyond that, you could offer additional support at a set rate.

A good way to earn extra money in the future is to set up a contract for two or three days of maintenance work and support every month on an ongoing basis (perhaps under a retainer). If a few clients sign up to this, you can easily increase your passive income.

Discounts for Loyal Customers

It sometimes pays to be a little flexible with your pricing, particularly when it comes to offering discounts to loyal customers.

  • Will you offer a discount for placing more than one order?
  • Will you offer a discount if the project is larger and contracts you to a longer period of time?
  • Will you offer a discount to returning clients?
  • Will you offer a small referral fee or discount to a client if they refer you new business?

While you should not get into the habit of dropping your rates, you should give consideration to offering discounts to good customers. Remember the 80/20 rule. 20% of your customers will bring in 80% of your income; therefore it pays to give preferential rates to your best clients.

Negotiation Skills

Jeff Gardner wrote a great article for Smashing Magazine five years ago in which he spoke about the Quality-Price-Ratio in Web Design.

The quality of a design and the monetary cost of producing or procuring that design have absolutely no relationship whatsoever.

Jeff noted that, from a client’s point of view, a design will fall into one of four categories:

  • Bad design that’s expensive
  • Bad design that’s cheap
  • Good design that’s expensive
  • Good design that’s cheap

This illustrates that both the quality of your designs, and the price of your services, are subjective. Your branding and your confidence in your own abilities will therefore be a big factor on how you sell yourself to clients.

Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can negotiate a price and sell yourself to the client. Do not be afraid to walk away if a client is not willing to meet your demands, as you may have to turn down a higher paying client later because you have agreed to work at a lower rate.

Accepting Payment

It is common for designers to accept as much as 50% of the final price as a deposit. Some designers deliver the final work on delivery of the final payment, while others charge clients in stages. For example, the first payment before the initial draft, another payment after the next draft, final payment upon completion etc. Paying in stages reduces the risk for both you and your clients.

Another important thing you need to consider is the method of payment. Before you do anything, discuss with the client how you will be paid. You should be aware of the costs involved in accepting payment through a service such as PayPal, and the corresponding risk of a client making a complaint through a payment service about non-delivery. This is why many designers accept payment by check or direct bank transfer instead.

To get a better understanding of how other designers charge clients, I recommend reading this fantastic series of articles by David Airey from 2008. A total of 60 designers share the method they use to charge clients and why they chose that particular method. It is a great insight into how other designers operate.

It may be tempting to do some work for a client before payment has been made, though it is better to wait until you have been sent the initial payment before you do anything. If not, you run the risk of doing design work for a client that does not pay up.

Final Thoughts

Pricing your services is a necessary part of working as a designer. If you take all pricing factors into consideration, you should price your services correctly. Though remember that pricing your services is not an exact science, so you need to accept the fact that you may sometimes under price your services. With experience, this becomes less of an issue.

While you may need to drop your prices a little at the start to encourage clients to try a designer with few past clients, be aware that pricing your services too low might attract tire kickers that waste all your time.

We are proud of the fact that web designers from around the world use Elegant Themes designs to create websites for their clients. Therefore, we want you to get a good price for the work you do by taking into consideration all the factors raised in this article.

Do you have any pricing advice to share with fellow designers? If so, please share your tips in the comment area below .

For more tips, visit: http://www.elegantthemes.com/blog

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

Top Twenty Businesses For 2015

Get-Rich-2015. Follow your dream. We have the top twenty businesses for you to start now!

You don’t need to have a lot of money or experience to start your own business. You need to have passion and drive. You need to be detailed oriented with a dedicated follow-through. Are you ready?

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration anyone can start a business and succeed if they have a good idea, a good target market and leadership ability. Do you have what it takes to launch your very own private gold mine? There is something for everyone in our top twenty businesses.

Over the past several years, one of the most important contributions psychology has made to the field of business has been in determining the key traits of acknowledged leaders. Tests have been used to determine what characteristics are most commonly noted among successful leaders. This list of characteristics can be used for developmental purposes to help managers gain insight and develop their leadership skills. You can use it to rate your chances of being a great leader.

Raymond Cattell, a pioneer in the field of personality assessment, developed the Leadership Potential equation in 1954. This equation, which was based on a study of military leaders, is used today to determine the traits that characterize an effective leader. The traits of an effective leader include the following:

• Emotional stability: Leaders must be able to tolerate frustration and stress.

• Dominance: Leaders are often competitive, and enjoy overcoming obstacles.

• Enthusiasm: Leaders are usually seen as active, expressive and energetic. They are often very optimistic and open to change.

• Conscientiousness: Leaders are often dominated by a sense of duty and tend to be very exacting in character.

• Social boldness: Leaders tend to be spontaneous risk-takers. They are usually socially aggressive and generally
thick-skinned.

• Self-assurance: Self-confidence and resiliency are common traits among leaders. They tend to be free of guilt and have little or no need for approval.

• Intuitiveness: Rapid changes in the world today, combined with information overload result in an inability to know everything. In other words,
reasoning and logic will not get you through all situations.

• Compulsiveness: Leaders are controlled and very precise in social interactions.

• Empathy: Being able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes is a key trait. Without empathy, you can’t build trust.

• Charisma: People usually perceive leaders as larger than life. Charisma plays a large part in this perception. Leaders who have charisma are able to arouse strong emotions in their employees by defining a vision that unites and captivates them.

Leaders are rarely (if ever) born. Circumstances and persistence are major components in the developmental process of any leader, so if your goal is to become a leader, work on developing those areas of your personality that you feel are not up to par.
Top Twenty Businesses

What Business Should You Start?

To be successful, you must launch a venture that you will love. If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life. And if you enjoy operating your business, every day will be an exciting adventure. There is something for everyone in our top twenty businesses.

Thanks to our global world there is no category of business that is off-limits to you. Purchase a business opportunity, buy a franchise, launch an independently owned company from your home or outside facility. Consider taking on a partner if you lack certain talents or skills that they can provide.

Start the business you dream about! We’ve put together fifteen amazing business categories that will be hot in 2015 and into the future. We present the top twenty businesses you should consider starting now. There is something for every interest and budget. See what will work in your community. Is there a market for this business in your area? How will you reach your target customers? Do you require special permits? Conduct your own due diligence research to see if one of our top twenty businesses is viable for you.

■ FOOD

Food businesses are hot and you don’t have to be a five star chef to get into the food industry. There are plenty of ways to get started with a food business of your own! Food definitely deserves a place on our list of top twenty businesses.

If you make a food product, sell it! Bottle that sauce, offer your custom cakes for sale or create fabulous dinners in your client’s home as a personal chef. Make sure you investigate the rules and regulations involving selling food products that you make at home. In some states you will need a Food Handler’s License. It is similar to taking a permit test to get a driver’s license.

Call the county clerk’s office in your area and see what the regulations are and you can find them online at your state’s website.

You might also have to have your home kitchen inspected by the Health Department.

You can also sell food from an established business that already has a Food Handler’s License. You can purchase sandwiches from a local food shop or deli, for example, and then resell them for a

profit at industrial parks, sport fields, etc. See if you need a permit to sell food in a public space. Again, the county clerk can answer these questions for you.

You can also bake bread for a local restaurant or catering company, bottle your salad dressing or pasta sauce and sell it at local crafts fairs and food markets. Check out the laws and print up a label of ingredients for your sauce and dressing. Go online conduct your own due diligence research to check out the requirements in your state.

If you want to tie in with a proven leader and sell their food products consider Little Jimmy’s Italian Ices & Push Carts. Their fun and colorful, crowd pleasing carts, fit in most minivans or SUVs. The push carts require no electricity or dry ice.

Your first order placed with Little Jimmy’s will include more than 6000 servings of their Italian Ice that includes no fat, no dairy, no cholesterol, and no high fructose corn syrup.

You don’t need any experience to launch this business and you can run it on weekends, part-time or full-time. Sell at fairs, crafts shows, flea markets, wherever people gather.

The startup cost is less than $4300 and you can learn more about by visiting http://www.ITALIANICE.net or call 800-763-4348.

L’il Orbits is another food company that offers a business opportunity program. The company offers donut making machines and accessories. Anyone who has walked a street fair or crafts shows, etc., has probably been lured to the booth of a L’il Donuts vendor by the aroma of fresh baked donuts.

According to the company, “Our mini-donut and pancake & crepe machines are proven money-makers, made in America and now operated profitably in over 100 countries around the globe. For more information on joining the Lil’ Orbits family of operators worldwide, click on the links above.

“Fresh, Hot Mini-Donuts have always been a popular food item at carnivals, festivals, fairs and many other outdoor seasonal events. Our customers often tell us how much fun it is to hear their customers reminisce about eating mini-donuts when they were kids.

“The Lil’ Orbits Uni-matic II pancake & crepe machine can help you add new, easy-to-prepare items to your current menu, and also improve product consistency. The Uni-Matic will cook anything you can cook on a griddle, without oil or grease.

“In addition to seasonal, outdoor events, there are hundreds of other places where our popular automated equipment can be very profitable. Here are just a few examples of where a well-placed mini-donut or pancake & crepe machine can help you become your own boss or expand your current business: coffee shops, bakeries, mall kiosks, storefronts (indoor or outdoor), sports arenas, food courts, entertainment complexes, high school sports, fundraising and much much more!”

To learn more about how you can start a business with help from L’il Orbits, visit http://www.lilorbits.com and read about their history, business startup info and more. You can also call 800-228-8305 to contact the company.

■ DETAILING

Our obsession and love for our vehicles seems to have no signs of slowing down. Our automobiles and trucks are treated with kid gloves. Many car buyers spend in the high five figures for a vehicle and want them cared for by someone who can see to every detail.

You can start your own car detailing business and expand to include trucks, RV’s, boats, planes, scooter and motorcycles. A must for any list of top twenty businesses to consider now.

There are books on how to detail for sale on amazon.com and there are videos on YouTube that show the finer points of detailing a vehicle. You can do it on your own. Visit an auto store and take a look at the products.

If you don’t want to be completely on your own, consider buying a kit. The Detail King company sells business opportunity packages priced from $1595 to $20,495. Visit their website at http://www.detailking.com to see their six different auto detailing startup kits.

Paint Bull offers a business opportunity package that will help you become a mobile automotive repair technician. You’ll offer: paint repair, paintless dent repair, interior repair, headlight restoration and rim repair. The company is based in Saginaw, Michigan and their website is http://www.paintbullbusiness.com. You can also call them at 800-800-5725.

Do an online search and see what you can learn about the business and the industry.

■ LANDSCAPING

We all love to get home, kick back and relax. But who has the time to cater to the lawn, prune the shrubs, handle the weeding, organize the seeding and fertilizing schedule, order the mulch and put it down, and a host of other chores that caring for our landscaping and yard entails.

You can start a lucrative small business in your community taking care of these tasks. We know of a woman who was let go from her firm in Chicago, and starting with a single small gas powered lawnmower and a minivan, launched what is now a six-figure landscaping empire.

She printed up a flyer and left it everywhere: on cars, hanging on community bulletins boards, at any local establishment that would let her leave it for the taking. She placed a small ad in her local paper and offered a discount to “new customers.” Gradually, she built up her enterprise to the point where she just booked the jobs and sat back and collected the fees.

You can choose to specialize in a particular type of landscaping business –such as weed pulling-or you can run the gamut and offer it all. The choice is up to you, Boss.

By the way, weeds are a large problem for many landscapers who hire out the task to “Weeds Only” type landscape companies. You can start a “Weeds Only” business and never have to work to get jobs. Just contact the existing landscapers in your community and let them know when you are available to begin work.

Contact PLANET: Professional Landcare Network to learn more about the landscaping profession. This group represents more than 100,000 landscapers. For more info visit http://www.landcarenetwork.org/PLANET.

■ PARTY SERVICES

Businesses that cater to parties always seem to do well no matter what shape the economy is in and there are plenty of options to consider in the party services business category.

Have you been told you make a great host? Consider starting a party planning enterprise. The Event Planners Association is a great website to investigate for ideas and options. Visit http://eventplannersassociation.com/ to see their information on a wide variety of events.

If you love cocktails and even like to invent your own, why not become a freelance bartender? You can attend one of the many bartending schools located throughout the United States. Just search for Bartending Schools online and see what is available in your region. Some bartending schools offer “intensive study” so you can get your certificate of completion right away. Going to a bartending school is not a requirement to launch your own freelance bartending service, but it could help you establish credibility and make it easier to take on gigs as a bartender for a local caterer.

Other small business possibilities include: photographer, florist, dish and glass rental, chair and table rental, tents and DJ. If you are an excellent cake maker consider starting your own custom cake business.

You can also run a fun photo booth. Mojo Photo Booth offers The Original Portable Photo Booth that has been a hit at many weddings, parties and events. The booth packages begin at $3995 and take only 15 minutes to set up. They fit in any passenger car and can be run by one person. You can even purchase the booth and then rent it out to wedding planners and other party planning or catering operations. The company website can help you learn more. Visit http://www.mojophotobooth.com or call 888-484-MOJO (6656).

■ KIDS

Small businesses that cater to kids are hot moneymakers. Parents don’t have enough hours in the day to take care of every programmed event for their children. Music lessons, sports activities, after school clubs, dance class, planning birthday parties, schools and tutoring are just a few options. Parents need help.

A number of stay-at-home Moms have launched day care centers in their homes figuring if they are home taking care of their own kids, why not get paid to watch and care for a few more. You’ll need supplies ranging from diapers and food to play things. You’ll need liability insurance and a waiver form for parents to sign. You might even need help and have to hire a few assistants to help you. Check with your local country clerk’s office to see if any special permits are required in your region of the country.

If you excelled at a subject in school or can play an instrument, consider giving classes or lessons. If you teach to a group, you’ll make more money in one hour than if you offer individual instruction.

Tutor in the child’s home to save on dressing up your own facility. Less liability, too, with this option.

If you enjoy kids but don’t want to be involved in a business working directly with them, consider starting your own Friendly Songs small business. You offer personalized music and gifts. You sell singing stuffed animals to your customers and CDs that have customized names for the children. This is a business opportunity dealer program and the company will help you get started. Visit http://www.FriendlySongs.com or call 803-485-1544 to learn more.

■ WEBSITE SALES

If you are online you can see how many sales are generated by websites. You can launch your own website and sell a product that you’ve created or sell a product that you purchase wholesale from another company. Selling online today is the equivalent of a modern day mail order venture. More than 191 million shoppers in the U.S. buy goods online. More than 87% of the world’s population has shopped online. This is a global market for your products.

There are plenty of “drop and drag” affordable websites that offers easy to use tools to create a website in less than an hour. Yola.com, weebly.com , squarespace.com or 1and1Internet.com are just a few examples of web hosting companies with tools that you can master.

What types of products interest you? If you are a biker, sell a new type of bike lock, seat or helmet. Get involved with products you love and make your small business interesting and fun.

If you are a musician, sells music books or tools to fix guitars. You can even tie in with MusiciansFriends.com and become an affiliate. You place ads on your website for their products and if a visitor to your site goes to MusiciansFriends and buys it, you receive a percentage of the profits.

Amazon.com has a similar affiliate program that you can investigate.

You can visit the alibaba.com website to view products that you can purchase from overseas and China. You should be cautious of making transactions with companies that have not been referred to you or that have a poor rating online. Google the company first and check out any complaints or negative reports. Do your homework before you purchase anything and avoid being ripped off later.

You can even start a business building websites for the almost 88% of small business owners that don’t currently have them. Investigate the website hosting services, learn the tools, build one of your own to promote your business and start selling to local entrepreneurs.

■ CLEANING SERVICES

Cleaning services come in all shapes and sizes from the sole proprietor who is out there cleaning store windows to the mega-franchise owner who operates a dozen residential and commercial cleaning businesses. There is plenty of room for opportunity with a cleaning business.

You can start your own residential and commercial cleaning service by tying in with a franchisor and using their system of doing business, or purchase supplies, place ads, build a website homepage to give your business recognition online and start shopping for customers.

You can also start a variety of other cleaning businesses.

The Master’s Touch, for example, offers a complete turnkey system so you can launch your own hard surface cleaning company. This is not a franchise. There are no royalty payments. Financing is available for qualified candidates.

Training for The Master’s Touch program is comprehensive. According to the company, “Training is one of the most important elements when starting a new business, so we’ve put together a comprehensive training program designed to properly equip you for success. You’ll learn it all.

“The first day you will experience the tools first hand on a live job followed by a tour of our facility and classroom training where you learn the variety of surfaces you can clean with The Master’s Touch tools.

“On day two we’ll dive into the equipment training. This is where you will learn how to operate and maintain the equipment that power your tools.

“Now, generating sales is key the growth of your business so we’ll spend the third and fourth day with an emphasis on sales, marketing, and ongoing support.

“And Friday is graduation day, an experience that you’ll always remember as you officially become a small business owner.”

Visit tmtopportunity.com to learn more or call 866-932-5353 for more information about the opportunity.

Rotovac offers a startup carpet cleaning package for $2995. Many carpet cleaning businesses just use the old manual scrub wand method because it has been around for over 40 years. Using a manual wand requires a great deal of physical labor and only cleans from two directions, often producing only mediocre results. The manual wand is old technology and gives you nothing new or different to market to your customers.

The Rotovac company has patented special Rotary Vacuum Heads that can deep clean the carpet from all directions. The tools do all the work.

The company also offers a package to clean tile and grout and we all know what a chore that can be. Their tile and grout-cleaning package is $3995. You can book residential and/or commercial clients.

Contact the company by phone at 888-768-6822 or visit their website http://www.rotovac.com for more information on how you can start this type of cleaning venture.

You can start a cleaning business cleaning out foreclosed properties. The Cleanout Foreclosures Guide is $249. The startup manual comes with a CD, business forms and professional marketing materials. You can run this business on weekends, evenings, part-time or full-time. The author, JT Stewart shares his insight. Stewart has ten years of experience in this field. Call the company at 800-685-9670 or visit their website at CleanoutForeclosures.com to get more info or to order the startup package.

The legendary VonSchrader company has been in business for 79 years and that carries a lot of weight to consumers. You can tie-in with VonSchrader to purchase their systems that include a carpet cleaning package and an upholstery package.

The company offers free training and a money-back guarantee. They also provide free sales and marketing service and support when you become a VonSchrader associate. The company offers Green Seal Certified cleaning products, a how-to business manual and support material. A comprehensive instruction book and DVD is included.

For more information call the company at 800-626-6916 or visit http://www.VonSchrader.com for information on how to get started.

Another disagreeable necessity for homeowners and apartment owners is blind cleaning. You can launch a blind cleaning business that also includes the cleaning, repair and installing of shades and shutters as well with help from LetsCleanBlinds. The company suggests that entrepreneurs can earn about $2000 a week with this business—and that’s just working for less than five hours a day, Monday to Friday.

LetsCleanBlinds suggests the business is ideal for part-time or full-time launch and offers good repeat business. Visit their website LetsCleanBlinds.com or call 770-616-1964 to learn how you can make money cleaning blinds for homeowners, commercial businesses, restaurants and more.

Hygienitech Systems offers a business opportunity turnkey package that will help you start your own mattress, upholstery cleaning and sanitizing service. You’ll receive free training, marketing assistance and help with advertising. You can learn more about the cleaning business by visiting the company website http://www.hygienitech.com or call 561-381-4202/888-999-9030. You can also send an email to the sales department: sales@hygienitech.com for information.

Another cleaning venture you might want to consider is the cleaning of barbeque grills. We offer information on a unique cleaning business called The BBQ Cleaner The BBQ Cleaner in the BACKYARD BONANZA section of this feature.

■ JUNK HAULER

If you own a truck, you have the basic tool you need to launch your own junk hauling service. Many people don’t have a truck or van to take their discarded items to the local dump or recycling facility.

Small business owners also make up your target audience. They could have recyclables that need to be carted away along with old chairs, filing cabinets and equipment.

Brian Scudamore started the 1-800-GOT-JUNK company back in 1989 and today it is the world’s largest junk removal company. Visit their website to see what they do and how they do it: http://www.1800gotjunk.com. You can start a high-profit business based on junk!

■ PROPERTY MANAGEMENT

If you live in any area that attracts a lot of absentee property owners you can launch your own property management venture. Your assignments will be to drop in, check on and take care of properties while the owners are away.

There are a lot of tasks to consider: pool care, leaf raking, and maintenance of the house. You can also offer to restock the refrigerator and fill cars with gas.

You’ll be the one around to work with the local contractor while the property owner is off site, help with any deliveries and, in general, check on things while the owner is away.

Once you develop a couple of clients and receive positive word of mouth, you can start building a good and lucrative client base.

■ MAIL ORDER

You can make money by selling goods through the mail or from your website and it has never been easier to get started. There are plenty of exciting options for even the first-time entrepreneur with no experience. You can sell your goods to a global audience. The first thing you need to find is a product to sell on your site or from your mail order ad.

A good source for your startup is “How To Become A Mail Order Millionaire,” by Fred Broitman. Fred Broitman is a well-known mail order authority and principal at Sunman Direct, Chicago’s largest independently owned Direct Response Advertising Agency.

Broitman’s book is a comprehensive
manual to help you start, run and manage your own mail order business using the Internet. You’ll learn about how to find a great product to sell, how to create winning ads and how to establish your online presence and maximize search engine optimization that will drive customers to your website.

The mail order manual is available via mail order and at select conventions. For a limited time only you can buy the guide for $29.95 plus $3.50 for first class postage and handling. Send a check or money order in the amount of $33.45 to Superior Press, 333 N. Michigan Ave., Suite 1032, Chicago, IL 60601. To learn more You can also visit http://www.becomeamailordermillionaire.com.

■ PERSONALIZED PRODUCTS

Start your own business making high profits on goods that are personalized. You can work with everything from candy wrappers and personalized water bottles to key rings, badges, signs and even customized songs for children.

You can sell these items from your own with a website or by placing a mail order ad. You can also sell from a space in another person’s store. This is called “piggybacking.” You can establish a booth at a crafts fair or flea market. Rent a kiosk in a mall during the busy holiday season (if you don’t have the funds to rent the booth all year long.)

If your products are targeted to a particular market—weddings—for example, contact caterers in your area and show them your product line. See if they would offer their clients what you have to sell and give them a commission on the sales. If you have personalized labels to put on candy or water bottles for a wedding party or other event, the caterer might want to include this in their “party package.”

Children are a large market for personalized books, stuffed animals and musical CDs.

The promotional products industry is a $20 billion industry and growing every year. Here are a few companies that can help you get started with your own personalized products business right in your home:

Promotional advertising specialties are a good way for small businesses to generate goodwill among their clients. You can tie in with the Kaeser & Blair company to offer hundreds of items ranging from travel coffee mugs and backpacks to awards, caps and shirts. The program costs just $85 to become a dealer and this fee is refunded when you begin to sell products and reach certain goals. The sky is the limit on sales. You can earn anywhere from $100 to $10,000 a week. It is all up to you and how entrepreneurial you want to be. Contact the company to receive a free Kaeser & Blair prospectus package. Call 800-642-0790 or visit http://www.kaeser-blair.com to get started.

Occasionography offers a fun and moneymaking business opportunity that will have you taking orders to personalize a wide variety of products from candy bars and mints to water bottles and much more. If you own a computer you can generate these fun labels yourself and then place them on the appropriate products. The company suggests they are great for weddings, graduations, fundraising events, showers, new baby announcements, birthdays, family reunions, small businesses and more.

Work on this business part-time or full-time. To receive more information on how to make money creating labels and wrappers for products, visit Occasionography.com and you can learn everything you need to know. The phone is 800-306-3552.

Personal Touch Products can help you launch your own business selling personalized products with names and surnames for just $249. You don’t need expensive equipment, just your computer. The company will provide you with software to create gifts for every event ranging from First and Last Name Keepsakes and Gifts, to Coat of Arms, Personalized Poetry Gifts, Popular Bible Verse Gifts and Family Tree Gifts. Visit the website at http://www.personaltouchproducts.com/bizopp to learn more or call the company at 909-596-1166 and they will answer any questions you have about the business.

Badge a Minit is a proven leader in the field of personalized products. They offer a startup kit for only $29.95 that can enable you to create button for every occasion or event. The buttons can be used for fundraising events, community celebrations, anniversaries, small business giveaways, birthday parties and other special acknowledgements, schools, sports teams, crafts parties and much more. The company has been in business since 1971 and is ready to help you start your own business. Visit http://www.badgeaminit.com or call 800-223-4103 to learn more.

We featured contact information on Friendly Songs in our section on KIDS. Visit http://www.FriendlySongs.com to learn about their custom music for children.

■ SPORTS

A major activity around the world is sports! If we are not playing sports, we are watching and wearing the logo items of our favorite teams in our communities and schools as well as pro teams.

SportsLife Enterprises can help you establish your own small business selling sporting goods and promotional items to local schools, corporations, clubs, special events, small businesses and more. You can offer screen printed or embroidered pieces ranging from hats and sweatshirts to ref’s shirts and custom uniforms.

If you love sports, this is a fun business to start. The company is celebrating their 23rd year in business in 2015, so you can work and learn from this proven leader. The startup costs are low. There is something available for every sport including football, basketball, soccer, softball and baseball.

Begin the dialog by contacting their website at http://www.sportslife.com or by calling the headquarters at 800-909-5433. Make this the year you start your dream business venture.

Pro Star Athletics is another company that can help you get started selling sporting goods, caps and jackets, team uniforms, licensed gifts, licensed apparel and much more. The sports they cover include football, volleyball, hockey, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer and more. You can sell the custom team products to local sports groups, clubs, community teams, small businesses who sponsor local events and more. Visit http://www.Prostarathletics.net to learn more about Pro Star or call the company at 866-390-7732 and start making money doing something you love.

■ HANDYMAN

There are plenty of jobs for the handyman thanks to a building boom that has larger carpentry services turning down the “little” jobs. If you have experience swinging a hammer or performing tasks such as deck repair and building, fixing minor leaks and changing faucets, putting up fences and power washing homes, you have the potential to launch your own handyman service.

Check out the competition in your area. Is there room for another handyman enterprise? What are their rates? Do they charge by the project or by the hour? What will you charge your customers?

Call your insurance company and learn about liability insurance and getting bonded. This means that you will be covered by insurance should any damage occur on the property where you are working.

Call your county clerk’s office and determine if you need any special licenses or permits to operate in your county.

Develop a flier and a website with photos of some of the projects you’ve undertaken. You can start with your own home improvement projects or those that you’ve performed for your friends, family and neighbors. Get business cards, place an ad in your local newspaper.

Contact franchises such as Mr. Handyman by visiting their website
http://www.mrhandyman.com and House Doctors at http://www.housedoctors.com as well as Handyman Connection at http://www.handymanconnection.com. To learn more about franchising, visit the International Franchise Association website http://www.franchise.org to investigate the concept.

■ BACKYARD BONANZA

Start your own business catering to homeowners’ love of their backyards. You can start one or all of these ventures.

Mirage Waterless Grass is looking for entrepreneurs who want to own their own dealership marketing and installing Mirage Waterless Grass products. The company has created a synthetic grass that is a moneysaving, eco-friendly alternative to natural grass. It doesn’t have to be cut, fertilized, watered, seeded or mowed.

The product is ideal for both commercial and residential applications. You can run this business on a part-time or full-time basis. Visit http://www.WGDealer.com to learn more about the business opportunity. The overhead is low and it costs about $2450 to get started.

The company also has opportunities available to install Putting Greens. Visit http://www.MirageGreens.com to learn more about that business startup opportunity.

Barbeque Cleaning is a hot business to start. We all love to barbeque but who likes to clean the grill? You come in and offer the service with your BBQ cleaning opportunity program from The BBQ Cleaner. The company offers a proven tested business system for cleaning barbeque grills.

You purchase the system, the kit and a complete operations manual that will teach you how to clean and repair BBQ grills. Contact The BBQ Cleaner by visiting their website http://www.thebbqcleaner.com or call the company at 888-296-8368 to learn more.

Another company that offers a business opportunity program cleaning barbeques is BBQ Renew. The company wants you to cash-in on all of those dirty gas BBQ grills out there. They offer a gas grill cleaning and restoration business opportunity that include equipment, tools and supplies, along with marketing materials. Visit their website http://www.bbqrenew.com, or send an email to info@bbqrenew.com to learn more.

Set Up & Install Outdoor TVs with help from Mirage Vision who has packaged their knowledge on outdoor LED/LCD TV systems into a business opportunity package. Backyard entertainment is booming and the company wants you to capitalize on the home cocooning trend.

You can learn to install the outdoor, waterproof TV systems and make a profit on every one you sell and install. Plenty of designs and options available.

Market this business to homeowners, bar and restaurant owners, hotels and resorts, sports bars, cafes with outdoor terraces, tail gate parties, campers, fisherman and anyone else who loves to hang out and relax in the great outdoors. Call 702-533-8899 or visit http://www.TheOutdoorTVStore.com to find out how you can start this business in your region.

■ HOME INVENTORY

There have been an increasing amount of natural disasters ranging from floods and wildfires to hurricanes, tornadoes and windstorms. Many homeowners do not have adequate protection in the form of a proper listing of their belongings such as household goods, jewelry, artwork, musical instruments, computer equipment, and more.

This is where you come in: you can establish your own small business taking care of the job of creating an inventory listing of all items in the home or apartment. You can start and run this business as a mobile entrepreneur with your laptop computer and a camera/video camera/smartphone.

Develop marketing tools such as a website, brochure, business cards and place an ad in your local newspaper.

Visit the homes or apartments of your clients and make a list of their items. Photograph and/or video the contents of the home. Present your client with a written list and a CD/DVD of the home tour.

Small business owners will also want to be your clients.

You can start your own or purchase the business opportunity program from Home Journal Business. Their startup kit contains everything you need to launch and run this business from forms and marketing ideas to software. To learn more about the opportunity they offer to entrepreneurs visit www. homejournalbusiness.com

graphic designing, Uncategorized, web designing

8 Reasons Why Who You Are Affects Your Business

In the past few years, the word entrepreneurship has become a buzzword rivaling others like synergy or globalization. Emerging from a slumping economy, our country’s best and brightest thinkers have gotten the itch to start their own businesses.

According to DocStoc, there are over 28 million small businesses in America as of 2013. In that same report, an estimated 543,000 new small businesses get started each month. Additionally, over half of the working population now works for small businesses.

With all of this innovation, its easy to get caught up in the excitement of the brilliant new ideas and creative solutions produced by the flux of these startups. But what about the people behind the businesses? Who are the folks that are bringing these ideas to the market and what are their stories? What collaborations and coalitions among individuals make entrepreneurship possible?

The answers to these questions might be easily brushed aside by the outside observer, concerned more about the bottom line than leadership and team dynamics. But anyone who has started their own business likely sees things differently. Indeed, the vault of quotes from top business execs and CEOs about how companies are only as good as their people is vast and exhaustive. If its true that the people who make up businesses are the magic, why is it that many of these companies leave their employees feeling like they can’t be their authentic selves?

A study conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation shows that many people of color say they need to, “compromise their authenticity” in order to fit in at their company. Andres Tapia, author of The Inclusion Paradox, notes that companies have done a great job of achieving compositional diversity within their organizations but struggle when it comes to developing a “corporate culture where all employees feel included, respected, comfortable, and able to do their best work.”

Who we are matters and in order to reach our potential in business we have to embrace conversations about identity to best serve ourselves, the people we work with, and our clients.

Here are eight reasons why who you are affects your business:

1. You are your product. No matter how innovative or earth-shattering your idea is, people won’t care to listen to it if they don’t know your story. The best sales people don’t sell products, they sell themselves. The life experiences you’ve had significantly impact your product and the way you run your business. If clients know the person behind the idea, they will have a more profound understanding of why the idea is important and why they should invest in it.

2. The more you understand yourself, the more effective you’ll be. On performance reviews it is often referred to as self-awareness. Those who have a developed understanding of their own strengths, areas for growth, vulnerabilities, and insecurities are better able to navigate challenges and be effective through adversity. Taking some time to explore your own identity as an entrepreneur will help you to better understand your business and your product. It will also allow you to more authentically and confidently communicate your ideas to potential clients.

3. The business world isn’t fair. The sad reality is that our society has been set up to benefit some groups of people and marginalize others. Whether it is racial privilege for white folks or gender discrimination toward women, the systemic structures of privilege and oppression affect us all. Regardless of whether your business does anything to change these structures, it is impacted by them. This might mean that men have a better chance of advancing business than women or that people of color will face obstacles that their White counterparts do not experience. A study by the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that minorities are less likely to get loans, more likely to be denied credit, and pay higher interest rates. The more conscious we are of these inequities that influence business, the more likely we’ll be to navigate them effectively.

4. Your competitors care about identity and diversity. Every industry has niche markets that businesses aim their advertising efforts toward. Market research is one of the most important strategies for a successful startup. Good companies know the different types of people interested in their product and how best to appeal to those demographics. Ignoring these differences and assuming that the market is colorblind could mean that your competitors are getting the leg up in attracting a prime market for your business.

5. The market is more global than ever before. With e-commerce and the flattening of the world, business today is more global than ever before. This means that companies are learning to navigate cultural boundaries, like language, tradition, and custom, in totally new ways. And understanding globalization doesn’t just apply to big international corporations, it affects small startups right here on Main Street. The U.S. is growing increasingly more diverse everyday and successful companies that know how these changes impact their business will thrive.

6. Effective businesses leverage difference. Every good business knows how to utilize its different resources. Each person working in your company brings a vast portfolio of strengths to the table. Not talking about those differences, whether they be specialized training, personality types, or cultural perspectives, means that you have useful skills and talents going to waste. Too often companies focus on diversity in terms of numbers and filling quotas, instead of going a step further and actually capitalizing on the differences among their employees. Different ideas and perspectives only serve to make a product better and more appealing to a broader audience. Smart entrepreneurs seek out feedback and input from diverse perspectives in order to improve their business and see things they couldn’t otherwise.

7. Retaining good people means understanding who they are. Good companies do more than just hire diverse employees, they know how to keep them engaged. Employees who are fully engaged in their companies are 50% more likely to exceed expectations than their non-engaged counterparts. Companies who engage their employees outperform companies who don’t in terms of retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth – by a lot! That being said, it makes smart business sense to go the extra mile and provide the resources necessary to keep members of your team engaged in the business. This means taking the time to learn about who they are and what is important to them.

8. Understanding identity and diversity can make or break your image. A company’s success depends largely on the way it is seen by the public. Social media and the internet has significantly impacted the way businesses think about their image, specifically around issues of diversity and discrimination. Incidents of bias that would have flown under the radar a few years ago can cripple a company’s reputation overnight. Companies are being held to a higher standard and this accountability is leading to better businesses that care about issues of diversity and inclusion. Instead of hoping to avoid embarrassing instances of bias, smart entrepreneurs look to understand diversity and the ways it improves their business.