Tag Archives: Building a Successful Business

Building a Successful Business: A Rotten Economy? I Think Not! Part 2

This is the fifth installment of our Building a Successful Business series. We explore the second part of this rotten economy we’re in.

It’s been tough for a lot of people and businesses in recent years. But there’s change happening and that’s where I have to keep with the times and not close my mind to new technologies and new ways of doing business.

What I see happening, and it’s been going once since around 2005, is a new way of working. It’s the equivalent of people giving up horses to drive around in cars. Times are changing and like or not, traditional jobs have been flushed down the toilet.

If I want to go outside for a B&M job, I’d be looking at HEB cashier (at best) or bagger (more likely) for minimum wage, part time hours, and no benefits. If I couldn’t snag an HEB job (which is highly likely), I’d have to do fast food. Which makes me cringe. Don’t get me wrong, if that’s what it took to make things work, I’d be grateful for the opportunity.

But I’d lose my horses and all that goes with being an equestrian. And I doubt I could pay my bills…it would be a very sad life living – barely – hand to mouth.

That’s my scenario – and that’s why I keep my business going. I REFUSE to listen to what’s happening around me that’s negative. My area has not been hit hard like other areas of the country and there is plenty of money to go around. I tap into that. There are still people spending the bucks to play and entertain themselves.

Course, that’s going on everywhere. And back to my point about jobs.

Those who do not make this new economy work are gonna hurt. And hurt badly. Especially if they were accustomed to a better way of life.

Those who make this new economy work for them will prosper. And from those who prosper, some will rise to the top of the pile and do fabulously. (It’s all relative when it comes to money and happiness, ya know?)

In my lifetime, pensions and the company man and outstanding benefits and insurance WERE TAKEN AWAY.

In my lifetime, people now know they will have many jobs and possibly several careers. And that’s okay! (When I started in the early 80s, it wasn’t.)

But back then, you could still graduate high school, get a sales job in the tech industry – which was incredibly hot – and earn $50,000 your first year. All this without a college degree – if you could make it in sales.

Remember when $50K actually meant something? Ha!

We can make this economy work. We know the rules, the structure, and the organization. We understand the culture. Heck, if you told me, 20 years ago, that I’d be doing the majority of my business transactions virtually, I would have laughed. And probably not believed you.

Believe it now, folks. Make this economy WORK for you. There is PLENTY of money to be made. We are pioneers. Those of you who’ve been doing this for over 10 years are fully ingrained into the new culture and posses a deep understanding of how vibrant and fluid the web is.

Those of us who jumped on board in the last five to seven years are getting it, too. Things are changing FAST.

There’s tons of money to be made. Clients are STARVING for content. And websites. And mobile apps. And social media managers. And…and…and…

Your old way of making money may not work anymore. But there are plenty of opportunities for you to make money NOW. You have to find those ways, carve out your niche, and GO FOR IT.

Since this is such a fluid technology with rapid changes, you also have to be just as fluid with your business.

And speaking of business…because that’s why we’re here…good business means taking action. Good business means you’re going to fail and make some mistakes. Not every project will hit the ground running and make you millions. Unless you take action, however, and are willing to test and experiment and put your work/projects out there, you’ll never make a dime.

And that is good business no matter the economy, no matter the decade, the century, or the technology.

Direct your marketing questions to me – I can help you. And if you’ve realized that your site is starving for content that you don’t have time to write, we offer packages to suit your needs.

I look forward to hearing the responses to this post, and I hope to meet you soon!

Building a Successful Business: A Rotten Economy? I Think Not!

This is the fourth post in the Building a Successful Business series. Today we’re talking about the rotten economy we’re in. The awful, retched, wickedly insane, terrible economy everyone in the U.S. faces. Or could it be this economy is a blessing? While it’s no lie this new economy’s been tough for millions of people, millions of others are prospering, succeeding, and doing better than ever. Is this a rotten economy? I think not!

A recurring theme I’m finding is how the economy’s downturn circa 2008 changed everyone’s lives.

No kidding. I had a great job but faced ageism in the workplace. No one wants to hire an “old” woman. If you think it won’t happen to you, wait until you turn 40. Seton Healthcare Network never did it directly to me, but I saw other women and one man treated horribly. And yes, all were over the age of 50. Regardless, I was tired of the rat race. My youngest was entering high school and I wanted to be there for her. It was down to the two of us with my other children grown and gone.

Time to come home and make money through new income streams. While my choice to start a business was planned and deliberate, others didn’t have that luxury.

Whatever the reasons we’ve chosen to work from home, or even had to work from home, we are here.

Do We Have a Rotten Economy?

But do we truly have a rotten economy? I think not. I beg to differ when people say there’s not enough money, only low ball clients who gripe about prices, or something along those lines.

Trust me, I know areas of the U.S. have been hit HARD. I get that. But, there’s still plenty of money floating around, and people are spending it. Texas was never hit as hard as some parts of America. We’re fortunate. And I live in an area that has a bit of money to throw around. We’re extremely fortunate. In spite of that, Texas did see businesses falter, a decrease in revenues, and high tech layoffs. There are also people who lost significant chunks of their 401(k) accounts (as I did). But the expensive boats carrying families on the lakes remain, as do people renting luxury homes for weeks at a time. New homes continue to be built right here in Sunrise Beach and other homes are undergoing extreme remodeling projects. We’ve got people in the stores and people eating out. People drive around in SUVs and pick up trucks in spite of rising gas prices.

And people are buying writing, marketing, and social media services every. single. day.

My point? Maybe I’m seeing what I want to. Or maybe people are spending money in spite of tighter times.

What I see is a new economy in full bloom and a new way of working and doing business with the world. The people who are making money and doing well are the ones who are adapting.

If you’re creative, can think on your feet, and possess leadership abilities, why not spearhead your own company? Freelancers and entrepreneurs who see the benefit of helping individuals and companies are the people who are thriving. And the big brands who earn billions in our new economy? They are the ones who understand the power of connecting with their customers. Social media and all its glory aside, if you can help your customers solve problems, you will make money.

Final Thoughts About the Brilliant Economy We’re In

My conclusion? I do NOT think this is a rotten economy. Why not build an empire out of the new economy? Why not be positive about the changes that have occurred? Moving through time and space shouldn’t be that hard. Like it or not, times have changed.

We can bitch and gripe about the rotten economy or we can look for opportunities to make money. I choose to see the boats with families jetting around the lakes, people eating out, and people with full shopping carts in line at HEB. And all those folks speeding down Highway 71 in their SUVs. Spending money and being part of the financial circle will keep our new economy healthy and thriving.

Course, my positivity is fueled by my bottom line: I have to make my business work. In my area, it would be a sad to ask for employment. My area’s rural and the competition for jobs is fierce.

I don’t see having to do that, however. I’ve carved a niche in my industry and am doing just fine.

Does the new way of working confuse you? Are you having a hard time wrapping your mind around new ideas such as fresh website content and social media campaigns? Stumped about online options and how that relates to making more money? If you’re stuck, contact me for a consultation. We will look at your business goals, marketing plans, and flesh out the next step. I love seeing businesses succeed. Because when you succeed, so do I! Contact me for more information.

Building a Successful Business: Tips to Help Other Businesses

The third part of our Building a Successful Business series offers tips to help other businesses. While I’ve focused on helping fellow writers, these tips can be used by any marketer who’s drumming up new business. If you’re hungry for new clients and want to develop relationships with prospects, you’ll enjoy these suggestions.

The Problem

A writer asks, “Other writers talk about having their own clients to write for, and I want to get inside that part of the industry. Problem is, I’m not sure where to start. Where do I find clients?”

My Solution

Here are some of my simple secrets for helping businesses:

1) Twitter

  • I watch what my followers are talking about.
  • I also do searches on particular terms I’m interested in to pull from outside the pool I swim in.
  • I watch what the folks I follow are talking about.

2) LinkedIn

  • I look at where my contacts have worked, who they’ve worked with, see what they are currently doing, and who their connections are. I work hard to connect on a local and regional level as opposed to national/worldwide. It’s easier for me that way.

3) Read the local weeklies

  • I see what’s happening, where it’s happening, when it’s happening. Local events, people coming to town, people doing special things.
  • I carefully monitor who advertises – they have some sort of marketing budget and understand the value of marketing/advertising.
  • I look for those who pull 1/2 and full page ads. They are very conscious of marketing and eager to find new business/customers.
  • I scan for who has a website. ‘Nuff said.

4) Talk to people

  • I can’t stress how important this is. I don’t care if it’s the cashier at HEB (these folks know everything because they see everyone), the guy down the street, or the people at my barn. Without conversations, nothing happens. When you listen, you will find all kinds of groovy information to work with.

So you’ve gleaned information about the people you want to work with. You know who’s in need of new customers and who has an advertising budget. You know who has a website. You know the events going on around your community and the businesses that are involved.

The next step is so easy, but few writers take it. ACTION!

  1. Contact the businesses that are sponsoring a local charity event. Congratulate them for the sponsorships and introduce yourself.
  2. Hand out a few business cards when you see your stylist, local grocer, realtor, etc. Tell people what you do.
  3. Telephone businesses that advertise in your local weekly (or daily) and introduce yourself.
  4. Send a letter of introduction when you connect with new people on LinkedIn. Ask for introductions to their connections, too.
  5. Re-tweet news that’s relevant to your Twitter followers. Let the person who tweeted know you’re interested in their news. Ask for an interview. Give them free exposure.

These are a few things that I do to help.

Notice that I said I do these things to help businesses, not close a sale. You gotta start warm and work your way up. I cannot stress how important it is to qualify a lead before pouncing on it.

Have questions? Need more help? Would you like a private consultation with Laura to discuss your marketing needs? Contact me and let’s get the ball rolling in the right direction. I’m here to get your business on track!

Building a Successful Business: Content Mills vs. Private Clients

This is the second part of Big Grey Horse Media’s Building a Successful Business series.  Today, we zoom in on the dilemma some writers have: content mills vs. private clients. Check out our Marketing Guide for Writers if you need help marketing your business and snagging the gigs.

One of my favorite forums had a lively discussion that turned into a small debate about content mills vs. private clients. It’s the same old argument, with writers on both sides, and each declaring why they work for the mills. Or not.

It was a highly agreeable discussion that was quite friendly, but it boiled down to a few specifics I find questionable.

Specifically, the idea that content mill writers hold is that marketing isn’t worth the time spent. Or it’s too much time spent on an unpaid activity, and they want money now. So why market when you can write a $3-$25 article? This logic makes sense, but my take is different.

What happens when you have to pay taxes?

Remember that those $3-$25 articles get chopped in half – fast. You’re not working for an employer, you’re a subcontractor/freelancer. You’ve got absolutely no benefits except that you are working from home (a big benefit, for sure, but that’s not a safe model to build a business upon).

What happens when the work runs out?

Content mills are businesses. There are no guarantees. This business model is not out to protect writers. The mills are a business like any other and the profits that are made line the pockets of the business’ owners.

More importantly, when the work is gone, you better have more content mills on the schedule or you’re screwed. You’d think freelance writers would operate from this premise and work regularly with several mills. While a few smart writers do spread their work out, the majority DO NOT.

Myth

Private Clients are hard to find and the time spent marketing to find private clients is unpaid.Why would I want to spend hours looking for work in a highly competitive market when I can crank out five $3 articles at XYZ content mill? My hourly rate is then secured at $15 an hour, which ain’t too bad.

The Truth

I’ve found that content mill work also has the unpaid time or downtime, too.

  • Time spent looking for articles in a queue.
  • Time spent refreshing a screen when there is nothing and you’re hoping something will appear.
  • Time spent finding those content mills.
  • Time spent filling out applications and turning in samples/clips.
  • Time spent on administrative tasks (which we ALL do, no matter who the client is or how they roll).
  • Time spent posting in forums, Facebook pages, etc. that the mills offer as their “writer water cooler”.
  • Time spent dealing with edits, rejections, appeals.

For me, working with higher paying clients is a dream come true. Content mill work can be easy because once you’re in, work is in a queue and “handed” to you, seemingly without struggle.

The problem with this model is the lack of personalization. It’s crowdsourcing. While that’s certainly one solid business model in our new way of working, it can bite many people in the arse if they’re not careful.

While the work is there, the light shines brightly upon everyone who’s working.

When the pickings are slim, well, mass panic and a huge exodus occurs.

I’m not slamming the mills or anyone who works with them. I’ve done it myself and from time to time, will pick up work to test the business model.

But it’s not worth it, for me, to do it long term or as my primary way of making money. Too unstable, the pay SUCKS, and everyone is treated the same.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a private client – or fill your list exclusively with private clients. You don’t have to travel to their locations, either. I’ve worked with clients from around the world and made it work.

I prefer the meetings and greetings and kissing babies and shaking hands simply because I’m my father’s daughter. He was a very successful entrepreneur and marketing/sales was his specialty. What he did to rise from a poor family to being worth millions by the time he was in his 40s are the same principles people talk about today.

Relationships. Taking care of your customers.

So when you’re looking for work, whether it’s a mill or something else, take care of your customer. The mill probably won’t have too many ways for you to be a shining star, but you can cut your teeth on the gig and learn. If you choose to work with this business model, there’s nothing wrong with that. It has excellent points and it has limitations. As long as you realize that crowdsourcing can run out, and as long as you have back up plans or more income to rely upon, then I say go for it.

I don’t have the luxury of relying upon anyone’s income but my own. While I have multiple income streams, I have to watch my money carefully and be aware because there’s no one else to look to if my money runs out.

Private clients rock because the opportunity exists to package a deal and make it work over the long run. And if you over-deliver and rock the gig, you get referrals.

Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, folks. And you won’t get this from a mill.

When you get exclusive, private client work, it’s solely on YOUR terms. It’s YOUR work – the project isn’t going anywhere if you step away from the computer. You’ve set the parameters with your customer and as long as you deliver what you’ve promised in the time frame you’ve discussed, it’s your gig.

And please, please, please don’t take what the bottom-feeder, crab apple clients want as real work. Sure, it’s work, but it’s the most distasteful work around, and it’s abundant. This is not the pool that you want to cast your net into.

I want to show the bright side of stepping away from the mills – not because I think they are wrong or bad – because I fear some people get the wrong impression about private clients and how to work with them. It’s not the huge pain you think it might be, especially when all things are considered and the entire picture is in focus.

Dealing with private clients means you factor in the administrative, downtime, and marketing costs. It’s not like you throw away the time you are unable to bill.

You factor those costs into your overall pricing structure.

You can’t do that with a mill. The price is set and it’s up to you to make it work (taxes, admin time, downtime, vacations, holidays, savings, expenses, etc.).

If you have questions, need some guidance, or want to talk with me about a project, contact me. I’m here to help!

Building a Successful Business: A Marketing Guide for Writers

Do you want to build a successful business? If you’re a writer on the hunt for work, this marketing guide for writers is for you. Not a writer? The marketing principles I outline apply to anyone who is looking for new clients.

This is the first part of a series dedicated to people who want to grow their businesses.

How do new writers get a gig?

The question isn’t new. If you’ve spent any amount of time in the freelance writing world, you’ve heard this question. I, too, was once a writer looking for work and establishing Big Grey Horse Media. Five years down the road, I’ve got some answers for new freelance writers.

What I’m sharing isn’t a trade secret or coveted marketing and sales insider info. I’ve learned to get work by doing just that: looking for work. When you’re hustling a new business out of red ink and into profit, you will do just about anything to gain the gigs. So much of building a business is active work. You never learn (or accomplish) anything by sitting around and remaining passive.

If you want wealth, if you want success, you must be willing to make mistakes. If you want to build a successful business, read what successful business owners have written. (More on this as I review and recommend my fav business books in future posts.) Partner with a mentor who’s been there and done that. Listen to what the experts recommend.

A Writer’s Marketing Guide

Pitching is the soul of getting new business. If you want to improve your chances of closing the gig, however, you must target your market.

If you’re pitching publications (online or offline), find those that are part of your target market. In other words, publications you can easily write for or the ones you have experience with. If you are a fashion expert, are aware of trends, and up to date on the latest and greatest, pitch what you know to that particular segment of publications.

If you are versed in marketing/advertising/sales and know how to put an informative press release together, pitch companies that need your services.

What it all boils down to when you’re looking for work (gigs):

1) Find niches that you understand and know. It’s easier to start here than in areas you’re not familiar with. Although great writers are fantastic researchers and can write about topics they are not familiar with, this takes more research, potential interviews with experts, etc. Make it easy and keep it simple when you’re starting out. Take what you know and start there.

2) Find your target market. It’s a marriage of blending what you know and who is in that sector of business.

3) Write a query/LOI (letter of introduction)/pitch to your prospect. Introduce yourself and include a killer query about the subject and how you will approach the piece. Show how your background supports writing about the topic.

**If your LOI/pitch is to introduce yourself/your business in order to secure a gig, this will be in a warm email introduction, sales call, appointment, etc. You don’t have to respond to ads or calls for queries/writers…you can make your own gigs by approaching a warm market in need of your services.

4) Close the deal. Follow up on sales calls, appointments, email, etc. If you’ve put out feelers but have no bites, stay in touch with your contact. You won’t always get the nibble on the first go. Persistence and patience pay off in spades.

5) Keep the deal. Offer high value for your customers. Help your customers solve problems. Customers pay for your expertise. Partner with your clients and you will have plenty of work and a highly loyal client base. This step also plays into #3 and #4. If you want to close the deal, if you want to get the deal, you must know what your customer wants/needs and have the answer to their problems. Remember this when you are putting your pitches together and when you are closing the deals.

Writing is a hot field, it’s not going anywhere, and there are endless possibilities to help individuals and businesses achieve their goals and prosper. And when they prosper…so do you!

Refer to this marketing guide when you’re drumming up new business. If you have questions, want mentoring, or would like to request a marketing consultation, contact me. I’m here to help!