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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!

40 Days to a Better Business

This week we’ve covered some in-depth topics that will help your business get ready for growth:

* Why you need a business plan

* How to write a mission statement

* The basics of writing a business plan

* Setting up business policies and procedures

* When and how to outsource tasks


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 your mission statement and business plan.

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


Get to work! 🙂


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

There came a time in my business when I simply couldn’t do it all. There too many tasks, too many emails and too many children that needed my attention for me to be able to do it all well. And as hard as it was for me to admit to myself that I needed help back then, I’m SO glad I did.

As work-at-home business owners, many of us with kids underfoot, we tend to think that we have to do it all. I remember thinking to myself that I had ASKED for this life, so it was out of the question to ask for help.  Thankfully, it was right around this time that a godly friend pointed out to me that even Moses had to be told when he needed help. And God provided that help when he asked. (See Exodus 18)

So, how do we know when it’s time to get help?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

1. Are there enough hours in the day for me to accomplish what’s on my list (without losing my sanity)?

2. Are there tasks on my list that only I can do that are getting pushed aside by general tasks that someone else can do?

3. Can I find a volunteer/intern to train or afford to pay someone to help me? Read More→


40 Days to a Better Business: Day 10 – Business Policies

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40 Days to a Better Business

One of the most stressful parts of being in business is handling the difficult situations that arise from time to time. Hopefully writing your business plan has helped you identify some of the weak areas in your business.  Sometimes, though, you simply can’t see the potential problems that are looming ahead and so there is just no way to prepare for them.

To aid you in handling the tough situations that will crop up when you’re in business, it’s important that you write up policies and procedures. It’s especially important if you will be hiring employees. Your policies and procedures will help to make sure that all of your business contacts – clients and employees alike – are on the same page. They will also give you the foundation to stand on if some type of dispute arises.

Let’s get started:

Begin outlining your policies and procedures by pinpointing weak areas. Some of these can only be learned over time by dealing with them as they occur. However, you can look through your business plan and pick out any weak areas that you can address in your Policies and Procedures. Also, ask trusted colleagues for ideas and suggestions.  Try to think through what parts of your business may cause confusion for customers, especially if you do things differently than other companies of your type.

Over the years, it became clear that one area of confusion at CWAHM was the types of ads that we will (or won’t) post. After answering the same questions time and time again, I realized it made much more sense to simply post our advertising policies and procedures on the website. I still get questions once in a while, but I can simply give them the link. There’s rarely an argument since the policies are spelled out in black and white for all to see.

Define how you will address each area. Now it’s time to think through not only what questions need to be answered, but how you will lay the answers out for your clients and employees. If your business is primarily online, you may want to choose some policies to post online. You can also have a document with all of your policies and procedures that you can email if necessary. Read More→

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40 Days to a Better Business: Day 8 – Your Mission Statement

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40 Days to a Better Business

Before digging into your business plan, let’s begin by writing your business mission statement. We want it to clearly reflect WHY you’re in business and WHAT your business is all about.  Begin by making a list of things that you might want to include in your mission statement. Take a look at the mission statements of other companies or ministries to give you an idea of what might work for you.

Below are a couple of things to think through as you start jotting down ideas for your mission statement.

Short and Sweet

You want your mission statement to be concise, so keep it short and simple. There’s no need for big words or fancy language. You want it to give an overview of your business in words that anyone can understand.

Personal Is Good

You want your mission statement to connect with your customers and clients. It should give them the sense that your business is more about THEM then it is about YOU. Think through questions like:

“What have I been called by God to do?”

“Who have I been called to serve?”

“Why am I starting this business?” Read More→

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The Solution to the Problem of Not Getting Noticed

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DanaGetting iStock_000002807197XSmallnoticed above the crowd for the home business owner can be very frustrating and cost much in profits, time, and money. And very often, home business owners run on thin margins and even non­existent marketing budgets. How can you get the word out about

what you do when there is so much competition out there and very little money?

Well, here are some ideas to help you with two common problems when it comes to getting noticed:

1) Very little customer engagement.

You may be heavily involved in social media yet you get little response. What might take you over that hump is customer testimonials. Have none available? Then you might want to consider giving some copies away in exchange for reviews. Bloggers are always looking for content and they love to get free stuff! If you offer an affiliate link in exchange for promoting your work, then you will have the benefit of somebody else who believes in your product or service and who is motivated to help you.

When a customer is satisfied with your product or service, be sure to ask for a testimonial. Make sure that that testimonial is results oriented. Want a really powerful testimony? Ask your satisfied customers to make a video! And be sure to offer a link to a website so they see the benefit in taking the time for you.

2) Nobody knows you exist.

Without a marketing budget, you don’t have the means for advertising. Therefore no one knows you exist out there. How can you overcome that? Read More→

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