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Archive for Home Business Articles

40 Days to a Better Business

Even with all of the brainstorming and networking that you’re now doing, based on the last 21 days of lessons, there will still be days where it feels like you’re sitting on the sidelines seeing no action. In times like these, it will be up to you as the leader of your business to create that forward motion that you desire. Sometimes we simply must create our own current to swim in.

Think Outside the Box

I know this saying is overused, but it’s so very true when it comes to running your own business. We often lock ourselves into doing things the way we see other businesses around us doing them. However, in order to stand out, we must do things differently.

Take a look at your business from your customer’s vantage point – what would make you jump at the chance to be a part of it? How can you promote that in a new and fresh way?

Ask a friend or colleague to give you their viewpoint on your business. In their opinion, what things could be changed and made better? How can you use that information to do things in a unique way?

Be Special

Another way to spice things up in your business is to offer a new discount, special or freebie. These things help to create excitement about what you’re doing. People will want to share about you and your business if they feel that you are meeting their needs in some way – a discount or freebie can do just that!

Be wise when using this format – require that people sign up for your mailing list in exchange for the freebie. Or offer a discount on a new (or old) product that you are featuring. Decide WHAT you would like your customers to do – sign up, purchase, etc – and then create the promotion in such a way that it directs them to do so. Read More→

40 Days to a Better Business

One of the toughest parts of being in business is deciding where and how to spend your time when it comes to customer relations. You must divide your time between current customers, whom you want to keep as happy returning customers, and new clients, many of which you need to go and find. You must then secure their business.

Thankfully, we live in an age where you don’t necessarily need to leave home to find new customers. Online networking avenues make it easier than ever for you to spread the word about your business. These tools include:

* Social Media Channels – These include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest and many more. Use these tools not just to market your business, but to build relationships with clients – both present and future.

* Message Boards – Many niche websites have message boards, also known as forums, where you can interact with others who share your interests.

* Online Advertising – Depending on your product or service, it may make sense for you to advertise online using tools like Google AdWords, Amazon or Twitter ad, or even ads on niche websites like CWAHM (check us out!).

Despite all of these ways to communicate and spread your message online, you can’t overlook the benefits of networking in-person, either. Here are a few ideas for connecting with your local community as a businessperson:

* Chamber of Commerce – Your community most likely has a Chamber of Commerce with events to help you meet and connect with other local business owners as well as new customers. Building relationships with other business owners can be a great way not only to gain great business advice, but to cross-promote each other as well.

* Christian Networks– Check to see if your city/town has an organization for Christian business owners that you can take part in. My local community has CBWF, which stands for Christian Women’s Business Fellowship. It’s a great way to connect not only in business, but in faith.

* Referrals – Never doubt the power of a referral. Ask for referrals from your face-to-face clients as well as online. Also, don’t be afraid to mention once in a while to your friends and family how much you appreciate any referrals that they can pass your way. Consider offering an incentive for referrals to help as an incentive, too.


Miss any posts from this week or last? Read the entire series here.

Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

40 Days to a Better Business

This week we’ve covered:

* Boundaries

* Contracts

* Handling Difficult Clients

* Making Getting Paid Easier


What have you learned? What do you need to put into action?


Your homework over the weekend (next 2 days) is:

1. Assess what needs to change in your business in the above areas.

2. Begin outlining any contracts and new payment options that need to be put into place.

3. Set a deadline for when you will complete each task.


Get to work! 


Miss any posts from this series? Read the entire series here.

Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

40 Days to a Better Business

When you’re in business for yourself, it’s important to be able to collect payment from your customers without a lot of drama. Some people are wired to be able to kindly confront others and ask for the necessary payment due, but others of us are not as comfortable in this particular area. We all know, however, that if we don’t receive payment, we can’t stay in business.

Here are some ideas for making payment easy for your customers while still keeping your sanity intact.

Collect payments up front. This, of course, depends on the type of business that you’re in. For CWAHM, I decided from the very beginning that I would collect payment for ads before they appear on the website. This alleviates the need for me to collect payment after the service has been rendered.

I know of Virtual Assistants who require at least half of the agreed upon payment before beginning a project. The allows them the security of knowing their client is serious about the project and gives them the ability to feel out what a working relationship with each client will be like from the get-go.

Make it as easy as possible.  I’ve noticed during my years in business that the easier I make it for people to do things – purchase something, respond to a post, enter a contest, etc – the more likely they are to actually do it. So, I’m constantly searching out ways to make things like this more accessible and understandable for people, no matter what level of computer use they may be at.

Even the simplest things like moving your payment button or “subscribe” button to the top of the page, or using a pop-up to direct traffic can make a world of difference. Know what you want your customers to do when they come to your website and then direct them in as few steps as possible toward that goal.

Give Options. If your business allows you to collect payments online, this may be the easiest way for your customers to make payment. One of the most widely known online payment systems is PayPal, but there are other options such as PayFlex, WePay, Google Checkout and Amazon Payments. Many banks also offer a service that will allow you to accept credit cards online.  There are also options like Square and PayPal Here that make it possible for you to accept credits cards through an app on your smartphone.

Even with all of these online options, it’s still important to consider accepting payment via check as well. Some people are still distrusting of online payment services and will prefer to send you payment through the mail, via check or money order. Make sure that your customers know that this is an option and that they can readily find your payment address information.


Miss any posts from this series? Read the entire series here.

Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

40 Days to a Better Business

You’ve got your contracts in order, you know your boundaries and your business has its mission and purpose in order.  But what do you do when you encounter those clients who just don’t seem to take no for an answer? Or that customer who lashes out at you for something that wasn’t even your fault?

Without a doubt you’ll encounter difficult customers during your business journey. Here are a few tips to help you stay sane and handle them with grace and kindness.

1. Step Back

When you receive a voicemail or email from a frustrated client, the first thing that you may want to do is respond and defend yourself. However, I’ve learned from experience that this rarely (read: never) works.

Close your email program. Step away from the computer and take some time to gain perspective.

I have found that even just 30 minutes away from the problem allows me time to cool down, think clearly and form a gentle response.


2. Respond In Love

God calls us to love above all else. In fact, Jesus tells us that the second greatest commandment (for the first, see Mt. 22:37) in the Bible is to love others as yourself (Mt. 22:39). It stands to reason, then, that we must be loving to others even through our businesses … and even when they hurt us.

It has repeatedly surprised me over the years how quickly a gentle answer can turn a conversation and resolve conflict.

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No Heavy Lifting

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dana Susan Beasley, the creator of an online training program called Brand Identity Quest, helps Christian families create sizzling brands so they can build dazzling futures. A graphic artist, writer, and homeschooling mom to a special needs son, she is the owner of AngelArts, an arts agency and publishing house. It’s purpose is to inspire audiences to reach for new heights in their lives and beyond through excellently-designed publications and products using original art and literature. To take her free mini-course, 5 Steps to a Wildly Successful Home Business, click here to start now.

40 Days to a Better Business

Yesterday in part 1 of this 2-part section on contracts we discussed definition, usage and lawyers in regards to contracts. Today we’ll continue on with terms and specific items to include in your contracts.

Terms. Certain items which should always be included in contracts include:

  • Date of the contract. This is the date you draw up the contract and submit it to the other party for execution (signing).
  • Names of parties involved, whether businesses or individuals. For example, because I incorporated my business my clients work with me as a business, not an individual person and that is reflected in my contracts. Though I sign the contracts, my business is clearly named in the contract.
  • Details of services or products to be delivered or received. With my clients I write out specifically in the contract what services I will be providing. Often times in the progression of a project additional services will be needed and if it is not included in the contract, it is up to your discretion as to an additional charge.
  • Payment amount. You want to clearly state how much you agree to be paid for the services or products detailed in the contract.
  • Payment due date. When do you expect payment? Whether you expect half up front for your services or the complete payment to be delivered promptly upon completion of the project or delivery of the product, this needs to be clearly spelled out. Remember, don’t make assumptions and don’t leave room for the other party to make assumptions, either.
  • Deadline. Also known as a ‘time is of the essence clause.’ When are services or product delivery expected?
  • Expiration of contract. Want to work with a new assistant, draw up a probationary contract, which is a contract for a short time period in which services are reviewed and renewed accordingly. Or maybe you are renting or leasing, expiration of the contract would clearly define for both parties when the contract expires.
  • Termination. Upon what conditions can said contract be terminated?
  • Signature. Whether one or both parties sign the contract, the signature ‘executes’ the contract, thereby making it official. A contract is not official until signed.

Lastly, never make assumptions. This is the point of having a written contract. Ask questions to clarify those assumptions that are not spelled out in your formal agreement. If you have any doubt at all about any contract, contact a lawyer before signing.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pebbles Jacobo is the owner of A&P Virtual Enterprises, which she, with the guidance of her husband, started when she began working from home as a virtual assistant several years ago. As Content Director of the leading Christian work-at-home site online,, Pebbles found herself thoroughly intrigued and fascinated with the world of social media. Her love of social media has grown over the years and she now offers social media marketing, along with a host of services, to her clients, which include speakers, authors and entrepreneurs alike. 

Miss any posts from this week or last? Read the entire series here.

Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

40 Days to a Better Business

Just like many of the topics Jill has already touched on in this series, proper use and execution of contracts and formal agreements with your business is essential. In fact, it can make or break even the strongest of businesses. Here are a few tips to ensure your contract success.

Definition. Wikipedia defines “business contract” as:

A contract is an agreement having a lawful object entered into involuntarily by four or more parties, each of whom intends to create one or more legal obligations between them.”  Basically, you are formalizing your agreement (I suggest specifically in writing) so there are no misunderstandings.

Usage. When do you want to use a contract? In a perfect world, never, but let’s face it, we don’t live in a perfect world, so then the question becomes, “When do you NEED to use a contract?” More frequently than you may realize, but basically anytime you enter into a working relationship with someone. Most of the time a contract involves a monetary exchange for services or products. Here are a few examples specifically for those of us working from home:

  • If you hire someone as an assistant, ground rules for your working relationship need to be established.
  • If you hire someone to work on a project for you, like building a website or ghostwriting sales letters, you’ll need to draw up a formal agreement.
  • If you enter into a partnership with someone, whether your spouse, family member, friend or business associate, you’ll need to get it in writing.
  • If you are hired as a speaker, coach or mentor, you’ll need to draw up a contract.
  • If you choose to buy or sell a business a contract will stipulate specifically what comes with the business and what doesn’t (like business contacts and/or customers).
  • If you are renting or leasing, you’ll need a contract that clearly states what is allowed and not allowed.

Research. Don’t know where to start? Neither did I the first time I put a contract together for my first client. As a freelancer I knew some sort of formal agreement was needed, so I put on my problem solving hat and went to figure it out. I did some research within my niche to see what other virtual assistants were using with regards to formal agreements with their clients. After downloading various examples, which I used for templates, I developed my own templates for the different services I offer as well as people I contract to work with me.

Lawyers. It can get expensive having a lawyer write up contracts for your business. To cut costs I suggest putting together the contracts as best you can and then contacting a lawyer. Be sure to let the lawyer know when you contact them that you only need them to review and make suggestions as needed. You would then pay for merely one hour of their time rather than several hours. Having a lawyer review your work can save your business, especially if you overlook a key component.

Tune in tomorrow for Contracts Part 2 to learn about terminology and specific items to include in your contract.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pebbles Jacobo is the owner of A&P Virtual Enterprises, which she, with the guidance of her husband, started when she began working from home as a virtual assistant several years ago. As Content Director of the leading Christian work-at-home site online,, Pebbles found herself thoroughly intrigued and fascinated with the world of social media. Her love of social media has grown over the years and she now offers social media marketing, along with a host of services, to her clients, which include speakers, authors and entrepreneurs alike.


Miss any posts from this week or last? Read the entire series here.

Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

Online platforms have redefined the consumer experience and raised the bar for what it means to deliver satisfactory customer service. Last year, Amazon once again topped all companies on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) with a ranking of 86. Overall, internet retailers scored an 83 on ACSI’s scale, illustrating that Amazon’s success is shared by other online platforms. Temkin Group tracking shows similar results, with the retail industry including e-commerce outranking all industries except supermarkets and fast food chains for customer experience.

What are e-commerce companies doing that is delivering such superior customer satisfaction? And how can other companies emulate their results? Here’s a look at three ways online platforms have improved the customer service experience that other companies can learn from.

Better Informing Consumers

One way online platforms have changed the customer service experience is making consumers better informed. Online information assists consumers in researching products and comparing prices. Nearly seven in 10 consumers now research products online before buying them in physical stores, while almost half research products in-store before buying them online, a Harris poll says.

The biggest thing customers use online platforms to research is prices, with 52 percent using mobile devices to check prices while they’re in stores. Helping customers check product information and reviews is another way online platforms help consumers, with 50 percent of in-store shoppers using their mobile devices for this purpose. Online retailers who recognize these consumer habits can use their websites to attract buyers by providing the information they’re looking for. For example, o-ring manufacturer Apple Rubber assists customers in their research by providing online information and tools for selecting the correct size and material for their sealing needs.

Providing Faster Service

Another way online platforms have raised customer service standards is by providing faster service. The most efficient service option for both customers and businesses is self-service tools such as FAQ listings and knowledge bases, which has made this the most popular online service option. A Dimension Data study found that 73 percent of customers prefer to use a company’s website for self-service instead of using other support channels. Three in four customers say faster service is the biggest attraction of self-service, according to a CMO Council survey.

Online platforms are also using automation to deliver faster service. One of the most popular automated service tools today is chatbots, which can manage routine text inquiries while forwarding questions that require human assistance to a representative. Chatbots are both faster for customers and more cost-efficient for companies, which is why 57 percent of businesses are already using them, Inc reports. Leading chatbot platforms include Chatfuel, Botsify and Flow XO.

Offering Faster and Cheaper Delivery

Online platforms have also raised customer expectations when it comes to delivery. Amazon’s fast and free shipping options have led consumers to expect similar service from other companies. Shopping cart abandonment rates rise progressively if shipping will take longer than two days, with abandonment rising to 40 percent for eight days, says Conveyco. Customers also expect shipping to be reasonably priced, with 63 percent cancelling purchases if they deem shipping excessive.

While Amazon relies on a huge national infrastructure to offer fast and free shipping options, smaller retailers are also finding ways to compete when it comes to delivery. FedEx now offers two-day shipping services for small businesses to 98 percent of the United States. You can also offer free shipping by using strategies such as requiring minimum order values to qualify for free shipping.

Providing consumers with better information, faster service, and faster and cheaper delivery are three ways online platforms have improved customer services. Both online and traditional retailers can boost their customer satisfaction as well by studying these strategies and adapting them to serve their own customers.

40 Days to a Better Business

We don’t often think of boundaries in terms of business, but the truth is that we must set boundaries when we are in business, especially since we work from home.  I’ve found over the years that I need business boundaries with my family, my friend and my clients. And even after you set boundaries, it’s not always easy to stick with them.

Over the years I’ve learned (often the hard way) that the key to sticking to my boundaries is to season them with love. So, while I may not be able to have lunch with someone tomorrow because I have writing deadline or some other work goal to meet, I can offer them some alternative dates.  And just because I don’t answer the phone when a friend calls during one of my coaching times doesn’t mean I won’t happily call her back later.

Eventually after you’ve stuck to your boundaries, those around you will get used to them and it will just be normal – what they expect from you. And because you handled them with love, they will be okay with it.

Here are a few areas that boundaries can be blurry in for us work-at-home business owners:

Business Hours

It’s important to set clear business hours – for our clients, for our families, and most importantly for ourselves.  You can’t leave your workplace like those in the corporate world can, so it can be hard to separate work time from family time. Setting an end-time for your day is especially important. And honoring that stopping time is even more important!

Contact Times

Even during business hours, there may be times when you can be reached and times that you can’t. For me, those can’t-be-reached times come during coaching appointments or writing time.  In order to make these times clear for yourself and your clients, set up a calendar system (using Google Calendar or another online calendar tool) or post them on your website.

Also make clear how you can be contacted.  Some business owners only allow contact through a form on their website or via email. Others prefer a more open approach using things like Facebook, Twitter, and even texting. Decide what works for you and your business and make it clear to your customers what is acceptable.


This might be the trickiest boundary to set. It can be hard to be both the creative force of your business and the payment collector as well. I decided at the very beginning of my business that I would only accept payment up front. This works for me because of the type of business that I run.

Other types of business such as Virtual Assistants and other service providers may not have this option. Some do request half of the agreed upon payment up front with the remainder due upon project completion.

Once you’ve decided how and when you will accept payment, it’s time to make sure that you receive payment. Depending on your business, you might choose to have your clients sign a written contract to help aid you when collecting payment. The more prepared you are, and the more up-front you are with your clients, the easier it will be when the time to ask for payment arrives.



Miss any posts from this week or last? Read the entire series here.

.Learn more about starting your own business HERE!

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