LAND A BOOK DEAL FROM JUST TWENTY PAGES
By Mahesh Grossman
Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger
My father used to tell me that you could build or fix anything with the right tools.
If you want to land a book deal, the right tool (for a non-fiction book) is called a book proposal. It consists of some marketing information, your biography, and a twenty-page sample of your book, hence the title of this article.
Even if you have written a complete manuscript, make sure you submit a book proposal first#151;not the manuscript.
Here#146;s why publishing pros want a sample instead of the whole book:
They are incredibly busy. The major publishing houses receive as many as 5000 book proposals a week. Literary agents get inundated as well. They just don#146;t have time to read complete manuscripts.
They want to know why they should invest in you. Publishing is a business. More than half of a book proposal is a business plan that explains how and why your book will make money.
They may only like part of your idea. An editor may think, #145;gee, if he writes #145;x#146; instead of #145;y#146;, I might be interested.#146; And she#146;ll tell you. But with a complete manuscript, it#146;s hard to tell someone they should have taken a different path starting on page 37. Instead, you#146;ll just hear #145;no#146;.
If publishing pros do like your idea, they need it in a form that they can present to other people. Agents present your material to editors. And editors submit your idea to an editorial board. They make the final decision, and they don#146;t have enough time to read your whole book.
THE SECRET FORMULA
If you want
from agents and publishers, make sure your book proposal includes each of these ingredients:
A GREAT TITLE PAGE
A great title can go a long way toward selling your book. So your title page is very important. Include your name and contact information on this page.
TABLE OF CONTENTS (for the proposal)
Just list the sections of your book proposal and the pages they are on.
An overview is a one to three page mini-version of your proposal.
Start off with a short paragraph that#146;s an attention-grabber. This is called the hook. Look at any bestselling paperback for an example of how to write three or four sentences that will quickly grab a reader#146;s attention.
Include a paragraph or two on each of the following: the main benefits and features of your book, who its audience will be, and why they#146;ll buy your book instead of another one that is already published. Add a paragraph that explains why you#146;re especially qualified to be the author of this text.
Prove to an agent or editor that there are enough people interested in your subject to make your book worth publishing. Make sure you use statistics.
For this section, answer these two questions:
What are five or six of the bestselling books that compete with yours?
How does your book differ from each of those books? What does your book do better than they do?
Write six short paragraphs, one per book, about what your book does better than each of these books.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Show why you are qualified to write on your particular topic here. Also mention your general writing experience. Mention anything that indicates you have a built-in audience for your book.
What will your book look like when it#146;s published? Describe it here.
How many words will it be? (A double-spaced manuscript page contains 250 words.) How long it will take you to finish? (Take your best guess and then add three months.) What format do you want it to be published in#151;hardcover, trade paperback, or mass market paperback? Will there be any drawings or photographs?
Publishers need to be convinced that your book will sell. Show them how you plan on getting your book in front of the specific target audiences you mentioned earlier in the proposal. Will you hire a publicist? Do you speak in front of groups? Do you have a syndicated column, or an e-zine with lots of subscribers? Are you planning on starting off with a great media event for charity? You need to have some plan so that people can become aware of you and your book.
This section is a short outline of your book.
Build evidence that you have a whole book, not just a long magazine article. Briefly describe the material you will include in each chapter. Use at least half a page, but don#146;t go over a full page per chapter, unless you have a really good reason.
What do agents and editors want to see in your sample chapters? Your knowledge, your heart, your personality and your writing skill.
Include about twenty pages of your book, or one to three chapters. Start each chapter in a way that will captivate readers. Use a stunning statistic, a metaphor, tell a story, or ask questions that will make your reader feel like you are writing about her. Close each chapter in a way that will leave your wanting to read more.
That#146;s the formula. Write a strong enough book proposal and you could wind up getting paid to write your book.
It may seem like the odds are against you, but as literary agent and author Peter Rubie says, #147;if you have a polished and well-written book idea, you#146;re in competition, not with all the others who submit, but with the 5 to 10 percent whose material cries out to be taken seriously by editors and agents.#148;
To look at four samples of book proposals that sold (two by first-time authors who received over 100K to write their books), read
Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger
, available at
For a free ezine with tips on how to find an agent, get published, publish your own book and get publicity for it, go to
Mahesh Grossman is the author of
Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger
) and President of The Authors Team (
), a company that helps credible experts become Incredible Authors, through ghostwriting, editing, coaching, publishing and distributing books to bookstores nationwide. He can be reached via e-mail at:
. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.
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11 Creative Ways To Brand Your Name, Sell Lots of Books, and Become a Best-Selling Author
By Randy Gilbert
Author of the best-selling book "Success Bound"
Amazon.com is not just another place to sell books. The proactive author, speaker, coach, and consultant can use it creatively to brand their name, sell tons of products, and create a flood of traffic to their own Internet Web Sites. Yes, you can turn Amazon into your very own "River of Gold!"
Don't believe me? Then just stand back for a moment and consider that Amazon is consistently rated in the top 15 websites for traffic and they have over 27 million customers annually (and its growing). The typical Amazon customer loves to buy books and products ONLINE, and, they are trained to USE THEIR CREDIT CARDS. They are the kind of people you want to have come to your own website and buy lots of things from you. By helping them to flow into your own sales funnel, they will become gold to you.
Also think about this for a moment. Since Amazon is the largest bookstore in the world, they have every book that is related to your subject area. Therefore, all of your perfect customers, who love the books and products, are already being filtered into your niche by Amazon.
You can get these people to your website if you take advantage of the opportunities that Amazon is giving you. If you are not introducing yourself to your potential customers every time they are logging onto Amazon, you are making a really big mistake (HUGE!).
** Your Perfect Customers Are Visiting Amazon! **
How do I know your "perfect customers" are visiting Amazon? Well, simply because they are buying every type of book on Amazon that is in your specialty area, genre, and niche. If you don't believe me, then who do you think are buying all those books?
How do I know people who shop on Amazon use their credit card online? Because that is how you buy things on Amazon. Additionally consider this, Amazon knows they are a proven source of people who buy on the Internet, because they have branched out and are now selling just about everything else under the sun.
I'll say it again, Amazon has trained millions of your potential "perfect customers" to use their credit cards online (impulsively), and you can attract them to your websites by branding your name in front of them every time they shop there.
** Amazon Is Ten Times Better Than Walmart! **
Amazon is fast becoming the Walmart of the Internet; however, size is not the issue. What makes Amazon far superior to Walmart is that Amazon is willing to share its customer traffic with you!!
Can you imagine being able to duplicate yourself and being allowed to stand in every Walmart store in the country, holding out your book and introducing yourself? And even better, can you imagine having a display of your books and products next to every other complimentary product that is sold in every Walmart? Well, that is what you CAN DO virtually on Amazon.
** Here Are 11 Golden Tips You Can Start Using Right Away **
Below are listed 11 creative ideas for turning the people who visit Amazon into your own "perfect customers." Follow these 'Golden Tips' and you will see your book sales on Amazon increase dramatically and you will lots of perfect customers to your other websites. You will literally be turning Amazon into your own river of Gold.
[Author's Side Note: I almost hate to share these, because I feel some of them have been my own little money making secrets. However, I know that if I give good things away, eventually I'll get good things in return. So here they are...please use them for your own benefit and feel free to share them with others.]
Golden Tip #1 - Tell People 'Who You Are and What You Sell'
Amazon has given you a very special place called "Your About You Area," that is a goldmine in itself. This is your own area that you have complete control over. You can post a flattering picture of yourself, and if you want, include your family or even your book.
You should use your "About Me" area to its maximum extent allowed. You can post who you are, what books you've written, how you can help people, and most importantly, which of your websites they can go visit to get your help. This description of yourself can go on and on for up to 4000 characters (~650 to 700 words).
But here's a note to the wise; be sincere, be personal, don't include any hype, and stay within Amazon's guidelines. Amazon's guidelines say no domain names, URLs, or hyperlinks. Also, no commercial advertising, promotion, or solicitation. Therefore, you only promote yourself and describe your websites and their addresses with words. I also describe what I will give to people who contact me and so far Amazon says that's OK.
To find "Your About You Area," click on your store tab. For example, if your name is Jan, then the tab will most likely say "Jan's Store." Then click on the sub-tab "Friends Favorites." Next, look down on the left of the page and click on "Your About You Area." Please, don't let this vein of gold go untouched.
To see a sample of mine, I've set up a link that will take you there directly:
Golden Tip #2 - Use Your Branded Name or Web Address as Your 'Amazon Name'
In "Your About You Area" there is a place for you to type in 'Your Name.' It may sound like a simpleton idea, but I recommend you enter the name that you want people to know you by.
Here are some possibilities. Use your branded name (ex. Randy Gilbert, Host, The Inside Success Show). You can also make it easy for people to get in touch with you if you use your branded name email address (ex.
, or your vanity toll free telephone number (ex. Randy Gilbert, call 866-MAUI-BOY).
Check out this vein of gold. If you have more than one specialty or branded website, you can open an Amazon account for each. All you have to do is create a separate account using another email and purchase something from that Amazon account. I have three accounts. One for my "Dr. Proactive" niche, one for my Host of "The Inside Success Show" niche, and one for my "Amazon Best Seller Secrets" niche. There's no cost, so why not?
Gold Tip #3 - Don't Be Shy, Recommend Your Book!
As you view a book that you like and it is even remotely related to your book, you should recommend your book on that page. This is a great opportunity for you to get the name of your book all over Amazon. The only caution is, don't do this in any sort of SPAM fashion. Just do it at the same pace as you normally use Amazon.
The Amazon sales page only shows one recommended book title for each category, which is the one with the most number of recommendations. So, if you have a mailing list of loyal readers and customers, you should by bold and ask them to recommend your book too.
Gold Tip #4 - Review Other Books and Let People Know You Are The Expert
If you're like me, you have just about every other book in your subject area and you have read them all (that's another reason why you are an expert). Use your expertise to review other books and review them in such a way as to give yourself credibility.
In addition to becoming known as the person people can trust (which in itself is a sufficient reason to write reviews), people will find out what books you've written because you are going to close each review with "Your Name, author of YOUR BOOK." This is a legitimate credential that Amazon wants you to use (because they like it when you sell lots of your books and they wish everybody did).
And, if you're a speaker, consultant, or coach, you can also use your other legitimate credentials. For example, I often use, "Randy Gilbert, Host of The Inside Success Show" on my radio show account. On my Dr. Proactive account I end with, "Randy Gilbert, Proactive Success Coach."
You need to be cautioned on a couple of points. You cannot sell yourself in the review or it will not be posted. It should definitely be an honest review of the book. Also, never, ever use a demeaning tone in your review. You will quickly brand yourself as vindictive and nobody will read any more of your reviews or your book. If you always have the highest respect for other people's thoughts, and you write objectively, you will earn the trust of the people who read your review and they will want to read your book too.
Gold Tip #5 - Post A Review Of Your Competitor's Book and Sell Your Book Too
In addition to reviewing all of the other books in your subject area, you should post a review of the books that might be considered your competition. For those of you who are unfamiliar with writing book proposals, these are the books you identify as being available to people who are looking for information in your subject or specialty area.
Since you're going to put your name and book title at the bottom of a very well written review that makes you look like the true expert in your field, people will take the time to search for your book and buy it too.
The thing I like most about doing this is, whenever your competitor is receiving a boost in sales, perhaps due to some good PR they've received, your name and book will be seem more often too and your own book sales will inevitably rise.
Golden Tip #6 - Use Listmania and Become THE EXPERT In Your Subject Area
On every sales page and "Your About You Area" there is an opportunity to create a list of books for whatever reason you choose - it's called "Listmania. This is one of easiest and most effective things you can do on Amazon to brand your name and become known everywhere as THE EXPERT in your subject area.
Some people create really corny lists, but not you. You are going to create lists of books in your subject area and write short (200 character) reviews that will create the picture in other people's minds of you being the top expert in your field.
I love Listmania, because it allows you to put your branded contact information (see Golden Tip 2) on every sales page for the books in your subject area (or any other area you choose). Another great thing about Listmania is that it will show up almost instantaneously, where as a review can take several days.
Golden Tip #7 - Become The "Answer-Man" on Amazon
If you are an authority in a field (which you are as an author) there is a wonderful feature on Amazon that has your name written all over it (or it should have your name all over it). It's called "So You'd Like To..." and it's the place where you can post your 'how to' articles. Use this to show the world you can help them find the answers to difficult questions and solver their pressing problems.
In your articles you will list all of the books that are appropriate to the topic, which then does a magical job of posting your articles everywhere in your subject area. So, when your perfect customer is out looking for an answer, they will quickly be introduced to you. This is the ultimate article publishing phenomenon and Amazon has brought it to you free of charge.
A word to the wise, don't pitch your book, just write interesting articles and people will want more of what you write. They will eventually want to buy your book because you are the one answering their questions and meeting their needs.
Golden Tip #8 - Look Like a Prolific Author and a Big Publisher
In addition to paper books, you can sell ebooks and other products online on Amazon. Your ebooks by the same title will be shown with the same type of page. The reviews for your ebook will even show up on your paper book. It's a fine way to get more exposure.
Under the Amazon Advantage program and you cannot list a book for sale that isn't ready for sale. However, if the e-book is ready (and the paper book has not been printed,) you can begin to sell your ebook and begin getting reviews.
If you have them, you can also sell lots of low cost ebooks (that might otherwise be booklets or reports) and by doing so make yourself look like a prolific writer. I'm discovering that you are not limited to just written ebooks either, because you can sell audio and video pdf file ebooks (the kind with links in them for listening or viewing online). This is a feature of Amazon that is still being explored, but by the looks of things, it is going to turn out to be another area of pure gold for 'infopreneurs' like us.
Another good reason to sell as much as possible on Amazon, is that your titles will automatically be available on a range of other major web sites: Borders.com, CDnow.com, Target.com, VirginMega.com and Waldenbooks.com.
Golden Tip #9 - Use Google Adwords To Put Your Domain URL All Over Amazon
Amazon is a joint venture (JV) Partner with Google Adwords and they post the top selling Google Adword ads on every book sales page that has the same keywords, which includes the words in the title and author's names. When you select the title or authors name as your keywords, your ad will show up under "Customers interested in this title may also be interested in..." on that book's page.
Although advertising on Google Adwords isn't free (you set the amount it will cost you), the payback can be enormous, especially if your product is pulling in more money than it costs to advertise. Even if it costs you money, the exposure on Amazon is worth every penny, especially when you combine it with the next Golden Tip.
Golden Tip #10 - Link Your Main Website to Each of Your Book (orproduct) Reviews.
(This tip is a 'two-fer,' so pay attention) By linking your main website page to each book's sales page that you've posted a review for, you can make your review show up on Google. I noticed this happening a short while ago when I was studying how to use the new strategy called "Link Meshing" to improve my own site's ranking on Google.
And, if you use this tip in conjunction with the Golden Tip #9, it will turbo-charge your own websites ranking, because it is very likely that your website's URL link will show up when Amazon's sales page is indexed. And, because Amazon is so popular, it will make your own website jump up; maybe even to the third, second, or (cross your fingers) first place listing. (Isn't that cool?)
I can't tell you any more right now because I'm still testing it, but don't forget to sign up for getting information about the guide when it is completed. Just send a blank email to:
Golden Tip #11 - Get your book onto Amazon's Top 100 Bestseller List
I've saved the best for last -- YOU can proactively control your sales rankings on Amazon. Therefore, by intentionally driving up the sales of your book, you can earn yourself the lifetime credential, "Best-Selling Author."
Amazon rankings are completely systematized, so when you get people to buy more of your books on Amazon, your ranking will increase accordingly. The more books you sell, the higher your book's ranking will go. Your goal should be to sell enough in one day, for your book's ranking to go all the way up to the #1 position on Amazon's Top 100 Bestseller List.
After you have followed all of the first 10, this will be a lot easier, but the others are not a pre-requisite. There is now a proven Internet marketing strategy that you can use to deliberately drive up the sales of your book. You don't need to be an online expert (you don't even need to have previous experience), you don't need to have a large mailing list (in fact, you don't need a list at all), and best of all you don't need a fortune in cash (believe it or not, it can be done with ZERO COST).
What you DO need, is a proven strategy and someone who has done it for himself (and others) and who can explain it in terms you can follow. For more tips on how to do this send a blank email to:
There You Have It!
Now you have 11 Golden Tips, each of which will help to increase sales of your books and other products and will help brand your name as an expert in your subject area. Amazon is rich with resources, so you can be sure more gold is going to be found by me as time goes on. If you would like to be kept up to date with future explorations of how to brand yourself as an export and sell more of your info products, send a blank email to
Randy Gilbert is the best-selling author of "Success Bound: Breaking Free of Mediocrity" (
) and the creator of "AmazonBestSellerSecrets: How To Quickly and Easily Make Your Book a Bestseller on Amazon in Only 28 Days.
P: 540-856-3318, F: 540-856-2698, E:
He can show you how to be a Best-Selling Author on Amazon! Fast, Easy, Powerful.
Randy is also the host of "The Inside Success Show," the most talked aboutradio talk show
Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com
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Taming The Small Business Beast
By Kristie Tamsevicius
Speaker, Home Biz Expert Mother of Two
Owning a small business can be a dream come true, or a nightmare if you let it be. Without careful and deliberate attention, a new fledgling business can take over your life and leave you miserable. So how do you keep your business from overrunning your life? Here are a few tips to help you lighten your workload.
Tips for lighten your entrepreneurial workload
Say No! Say no to clients who aren't your "ideal" clients. Say "no" to things that don't honor your personal needs and agenda.
Clear the clutter. Keep your work area neat, plan your day, and keep a good calendar. It's easier to stay focused and productive when you know where everything is.
Prioritize. After you make your to do list, put a star beside the top three priorities for the day for yourself and your business. Promise yourself if you get these things done, that the rest can "wait".
Uphold your personal boundaries. Say "no" to clients, opportunities, and projects that that don't feel good. Clearly communicating with your clients and family members about your policies, your work hours, and what they can expect. By letting clients know that you have set work hours, they can respect your family time. Similarly, you can tell your family not to call you with personal chitchat until your "home" hours begin. Caller ID can help you identify calls to see if they are from family, friends, or pesky sales people.
Eliminate energy drains. Is there a friend or client who drives you nuts? Are you doing overkill with housework? Is there an unresolved problem in your life?
Give yourself ample time to do everything. When you try to accomplish too many things in too little time you set yourself up for catastrophe. By working at a steady pace, making time to dream, reevaluate your goals, and making the space for change, you'll leave you'll have the energy and time for "million dollar: opportunities when they come.
Don't over promise yourself. If you need 2 days to work on a project, say it will take 3 and then pleasantly surprise the client.
Learn to delegate. Identify only those tasks, which you NEED to perform and hand the rest of to an assistant. Maybe it's time to hire a bookkeeper to help with the bills and invoicing. Is there some work you can outsource? You'll feel "lighter" not having to do tasks that drain you and can invest the newfound time and energy into growing your business.
Simplify and Systematize. Manage your time efficiently. Group similar tasks together.
Work with your body's natural rhythms. If you are more alert early in the morning, tackle those tough tasks first. If you wake up later with the 5th cup of coffee, then read your mail or perform a no-brainer task first.
Take a Break! Learn how to slow down and unwind during off hours. Stay in touch with friends. Pamper yourself. Creating a routine such as drinking a cup of hot tea, or changing to comfy clothes to help you mentally switch to "relaxation" time. Stop to enjoy the impromptu kisses, songs, and pretty pictures your kids offer you. If your child wants a moment, stop, breathe, give it to him, enjoy the special feeling of that moment then move on.
** Starting or growing a business online? Here's a free web-based guide that details exactly how to do it right...
Kristie is a leading expert in the areas of home based business, Internet marketing, and web development. She is the author of three books including her newest release,
"I LOVE MY LIFE: A Mom's Guide to Working from Home"
(Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing 2003) available at Amazon.com. Join
, an online community for work at home parents. Permission granted for DrLaura.com.
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Are You A Work-A-Holic?
by Kristie Tamsevicius
How many of us have had a day that starts at 6 a.m. - no shower -crunching on a dry piece of toast only to come across a major client emergency? In-between getting the kids off to school, buying milk because you are out, and attending a client meeting at 2 p.m. and hoping it will end so you can get home in time to meet your child as they get off the school bus. We all have days like this, that's life, but you can make sure those days are the exception and not the rule.
When you work from home it can be hard to STOP working. Temptations such as the ringing of your business phone, the constant flow of email, and piles of paper work can easily draw you back into work mode if you let them.
Tips To Cure Work-a-holism:
Here are four ideas to help keep you for working overtime.
Set a regular schedule for work and family time.
Make a deliberate effort to stop working on time. When you are done with work, shut off the computer, and mentally shut off work. Let your family know how important they are to you by honoring them with your total presence during that family time. Honor yourself by taking that time off to live your life, renew, and dream new dreams. If you started your business to make more time for your life, then make sure you are actually taking that time to do so.
Create a routine to help you switch gears from CEO mom or dad to family time. Ask yourself what you could do to mentally change gears and prepare for the family time portion of the day. Maybe you could change from your "work" clothes to comfy sweats. Whatever "transition" routine you choose, make it something simple that you can do at the same time everyday. Locate your office in a separate area of the house. Having your office out of sight may help you forget about work. When work is done, you can shut the door and forget about it. Another idea is to get an armoire with a desk, a kind of fold out workstation. When you close the doors, your work is out of sight.
Enjoy your "off" time. Pamper yourself! Schedule regular vacations! Take time to relax! Spend time doing the things you love most. If you started working from home to spend more time with your family, then make sure you are actually DOING that. Schedule daytrips with your kids. Take time to visit a friend you have lost touch with.
I just feel like I can't focus today! I feel like I'm not enjoying my job like I used to. What's the matter with me? CALGON, TAKE ME AWAY!
When you are CEO, head nurse, mommy, head of janitorial services, and chief crafts coordinator, life can leave you a little weary sometimes. As a business owner YOU are your most valuable resource, so it makes sense to take care of yourself! When you start to feel overwhelmed, it's important to know when to slow down and take a break. Below you'll find 10 tips to help you take a vacation pamper and renew.
Schedule a day off. When we are the busiest, this is often when we need a break the most. Write a day in your calendar just for you. Promise to enjoy your time off. Turn off the computer, and don't answer the phone. Don't let guilt or a list of impending deadlines steal your relaxation and enjoyment for the day.
Make time for the special relationships in your life. Go on a date with your husband. Enjoy a cup of gourmet coffee with a friend. Steal away on a mommy and daughter/son breakfast. Write a special note to a friend or spouse letting you know how you feel about them. Give someone a long meaningful hug. Spend a little extra time cuddling with your children before bed.
Take time to celebrate. Make up a holiday. Invite a friend to a "just because" lunch. Order out for pizza. At our house, we have a tradition called "pajama party." When we want to celebrate, we all get into our pajamas extra early, get all our pillows and blankets, pull out the sofa bed, snuggle up, watch a special movie, and tell each other stories. This is a special treat that the whole family REALLY looks forward to!
Pamper yourself. Indulge in a candle-lit bubble bath. Listen to some soothing music. Read a juicy romance novel. Take a day at the spa. Soak up some sun at the beach. Sip a glass of wine and watch the sun set in your back yard. Why not buy yourself a bouquet of flowers?
Nurture your body. Treat yourself to plenty of sleep, eat balanced meals, drink lots of water, and take vitamins. If you've been neglecting a checkup, now's the time to schedule it! When you take care of your body, you'll have more energy and feel happier.
Get up from that chair and exercise. Sitting in your office chair all day isn't exactly the ideal workout. Head to the gym, take a walk through the park, or take a dip in the pool. Take in a game of golf, racquetball or tennis. Exercise is a proven stress reducer!
Catch a ray of sunshine. Remember the song, "I'm walking on sunshine, well...and don't it feel good"? There's nothing more energizing then feeling the sun on your face and breathing in some fresh air. Spend time in your garden, play ball with the kids, or take a trip to the park. I enjoytaking a "nature walk" right in my back yard. I walk slowly looking at each flower, and really taking each detail in again as if for the very first time.
Be a kid for a day. Forget your responsibilities for just one day. Put away your "to do list" and revel in all the things you'd like to do but shouldn't. Let your house be messy, sleep in, eat an ice-cream sundae for supper, and watch a funny movie. Make up a silly song. Put on yourfavorite CD and dance! Mix up a batch of monster size cookies! Let the little kid in you come out and play!
Renew your spirit. Often in the busyness of life, we forget to take quiet time for ourselves. I encourage you to take time to journal, daydream, read the scriptures, or meditate. In stillness, you can tune in to what really matters to you. Take time to listen to your heart; reflect on and honor the quiet voice within.
Treat yourself to a day at the spa. When you look good, you FEEL good. Get a new haircut or a manicure. Get a facial or indulge in a back or foot massage.
* Article by Kristie Tamsevicius, America'sFavorite Small Business Success Story. This article is an excerpt from Ch 10"Work/Life Success Strategies" of the new book"I LOVE MY LIFE: A Mom's Guide to Working from Home"by Kristie Tamsevicius - (Wyatt MacKenzie Publishing March 2003 Available at Amazon.com Join our community of Work at Home parents at
. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.
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Home-Based Business Myths
By 2003 Priscilla Y. Huff
With the American Association of Home-Business Owners stating there are over 24 million home-business owners in the U. S. and other research findings showing that a new home business is started approximately every eleven seconds, you may be considering starting your own home venture. Making money from the convenience of your own home, being able to have more time with your family, and doing work you love sounds like the ideal work-life situation. However, realistically, there are several home-business myths that should be dispelled as you consider starting a home-based business:
Myth #1: A home-based business has no overhead.
Reality: Often as much as 50 percent of a home-based business#146; billing rate will go towards covering overhead costs, but the good news is that you can deduct from your income tax a percentage of your home-related bills if you work out of your house. It is best to check with your accountant or bookkeeper, or your local IRS office or the site,
for guidelines about these home office/business tax deductions.
Myth #2: I will not need childcare if I work from home.
Reality: True, a home business allows you the flexibility of working your own hours, but it is still difficult, if not impossible, to conduct a conference call with a two-year-old in the same room! Truth is, a majority of entrepreneurial moms and dads have some sort of child care coverage#151;either a spouse or babysitter taking care of the children in the home while they work for a block of time; taking their children to a child care center or sitter for a few hours a day; trading coverage with another work-at-home parent, or some other arrangement. Even older children can be demanding and sometimes resentful of your business#146; demands. It is best to realistically discuss your business idea with your family and think carefully about the number of hours you will actually be able to put towards your business.
Myth # 3: If I have a home business, I will have time to clean house, continue to volunteer at church and school, cook delectable meals, taxi the kids to all their activities, and have a meaningful, personal relationship with a #147;significant other.#148;
Reality: This really is a fantasy world!! A home and small business demands more hours than a regular job#151;especially in the start-up phase. Unless you are a #147;super-woman or -man or #147;supermom/dad#148; (I know I am not!!), then you will have to prioritize the important parts of your life and phase yourself out of all but the important activities and people with which you are involved. Learn how to say #147;No#148; with a smile. On a positive note, you can use your business to help your community like providing jobs or internships to youth, being a mentor to a struggling entrepreneur, donating your product and/or services to a charity auction, and in a number of other ways. And your altruistic efforts will have the added benefit of promoting publicity for your business.
Myth #4: I have a great idea that I know will make me lots of money, and I want to start it next week.Reality: Business experts say that the amount of time and research a person puts into a business idea relates directly to the success of that business. Not to damper your enthusiasm, but one of the biggest mistakes a new entrepreneur often makes is starting her venture too soon, before thoroughly investigating the business and its trade. One woman who owns a successful home-based food delivery franchise, took a full year to research the business before she invested a single dollar. In order to grasp a better understanding of what is involved in running a business, experts recommend that you make list of business ideas that interest you, and then work for a time in a business that is similar to the idea that interests you.
Phyllis Gillis, author of Entrepreneurial Mothers, said at a seminar I attended, #147;If you think you might like to bake special desserts for caterers or restaurants, bake a hundred pies in a week to see if that is what you really want to do, fifty weeks a year!#148; Working or volunteering in the trade that interests can also give you valuable skills and knowledge you can apply later on to your own home venture and even some funds to help you start your new at-home venture. It is important to also conduct some preliminary market research to see if people need and want to pay for your business#146; products or services. Without customers, you cannot make money. Be aware, too, that it may take from two to five years until your business#146; profits can support you and your family. When you believe you have a good idea and a potential market, then you can begin to write a business plan to set your goals and the steps you will need to get your business up and operating. You may wish you could start your venture tomorrow, but taking the time to first research and plan your business idea, will pay off, literally, in the end and your business will be much more likely to succeed.
Myth #5: If I work from home, I can be much more casual in both how I dress and how I treat my customers.
Reality: Yes, you can dress in your T-shirt and sweatpants while you make business calls#151;unless you have a home office that receives customers#151;but how you treat your customers should be as professional as any business protocol dictates. Do you respond promptly to customer requests? Do you have professional-looking promotional materials? Can your customers depend on your product and service? How can customers and business associates reach you if you are not in your home office? Do you belong to any professional trade groups or associations? In other words, you can work from your home office, but you should always follow professional procedures and ethics as if you were working from an office as the CEO of a major corporation. After all, you are the CEO of your business, even if you are the only employee. Just remember to act like one, or no one will take your business seriously.
If you take the time to plan for your business, prepare yourself and your family, and persist in learning the skills you need, you can make a successful home business a reality instead of just a myth!
U. S. Small Business Administration
, 1-800-UASK-SBA (1-800-827-5722) #150; provides listing of local SBA offices that assist people in entrepreneurial ventures.
Women#146;s Online Business Center
provides a listing of these centers that are located across the U. S., and in Puerto Rico and other U. S. territories that offer business education and training to women entrepreneurs at every stage of business development.
Priscilla Y. Huff is the author of 101 Best Home Business Ideas for Women, 3rd ed. and The Self-Employed Woman#146;s Guide to Launching a Home-Based Business. She welcomes home-business questions at
; and offers a free list of resources for women entrepreneurs to those who request it. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com
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Open a Fancy Flea Market #147;Store#148;
By Glory Borgeson
Ann and Cathy wanted to start a business together that they could do part time, that would utilize their creativity (especially Ann#146;s beautiful hand painting talent), and that would be a lot of fun. They considered opening some type of retail store, but they knew that the hours the store would be open would turn it into full-time work.
After expanding their thoughts a bit, they realized there was a flea market a few towns to the west that was open once a month on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. One weekend, they visited the flea market to see what types of items were sold at each booth and the types of things people were buying.
They decided that the flea market was a great place to start their business. They would find bargain items and fix them up with paint, Ann#146;s decorative painting, silk greens such as ivy, ribbon, and whatever else they could dream up. They would create their booth each month like it was a beautiful store with an antique/shabby chic look.
Their plan worked so well, that by their third month, customers lined up on Friday morning early to get to their booth first. Before long, Ann and Cathy began renting two booths to double the size of their fancy flea market #147;store#148;.
How did they do it?
First, they formed their business as a corporation, opened their bank account, and did the work needed to get set up to collect sales tax on their future sales, and to be set up to purchase some materials at wholesale. (Note: The scope of this article will not focus on the how-to#146;s of that general aspect of the business, but will focus on the activities specific to this type of business.)
From there, they started scouring garage sales, tag sales, rummage sales, resale shops, and other flea markets for items they knew would be great to start with for their first sale. They also decided which month to join the flea market and reserved an indoor booth starting with that month. They each had a workspace in their homes. Sometimes they worked alone, but they also spent time together to plan, create, and review ideas for the items they purchased. They sanded and scraped, removed rust, painted, and made all of the items they purchased become more beautiful, desirable, and sell-able.
What About Pricing?
Choosing prices for items proved to be tricky. Since theirs was not a typical retail store (where items are usually #147;keystoned#148;, meaning the cost is doubled to arrive at the sales price), they needed to be more creative and forthright in how they priced their items.
So far, the idea for this business may have sparked a few thoughts of fun possibilities, and you also get to make money! And in order to get the best price for your merchandise, I#146;m going to show you how to keep track of each item in a manner that helps you to keep your sanity.
You want to keep track of each item that you fix up and beautify in order to price it appropriately. To do that, create a form that you will use to track the cost of an item, the cost of anything you add to it, and the amount of time you spend working on it. It will include the hourly rate you choose to apply to your work. The form will help you arrive at a price for the item. You can even have a column to add the initials of the business partner who worked on the item.
Toward the bottom of the form, include a box titled #147;Price#148; to write in the final sales price.
To make the form even more useful, leave an area in the top right corner for a number. Then take the mocked-up form to a printer to create pre-numbered forms for you. This will ensure that each item has its own unique item number.
When you purchase an item that will be fixed up in any way, start a form for that item and write in the amount you paid for it. Find a way to keep the form with the item (for example, staple it to a wooden item; put it in a plastic sleeve and tape it to the item; or tag the item and write the form#146;s item # on the tag, and file the form). As you work on the piece, update the form with the amount of time spent working on it, plus the cost of any materials you add to it (i.e. the cost of silk greens put in a container; this would not include the cost of paint and other materials that you purchase to fix many items).
If an item you purchase does not need to be fixed or painted, but can be sold #147;as is#148;, keep a log sheet for these purchases. You can create a log in Excel and use Excel#146;s #147;fill-a-series#148; function to create an item number column. Perhaps you can start with #A1001 to keep these numbers separate from the other item numbers for the items you fix. Tag these items with the item number on the log. Use the log to decide the item#146;s sales price. Later, when you#146;re ready to price items that you#146;re selling #147;as is#148;, you can easily match the tagged items to the log and re-tag the item with a price tag.
For the items you fix up, you may also choose to keep a log of these items as well. This log would have the item number (from the form) and a brief description (such as #147;wooden chair#148;; #147;birdhouse#148;; #147;metal container/planter#148;). You could also add a column titled #147;Sales Price#148;. You could bring your log sheets with you to the sale as an inventory control.
The beauty of the log page and the individual item sheets is that your accountant can easily determine your cost of good sold.
You may find that, as you choose your sales price, there may not be a simple formula that is applied to price each item. More likely, you will find that as you gain experience, you will select the best sales price: a price that your customers will pay and that will yield you the highest possible gain.
Arranging Your Booth
Ann and Cathy needed a way to display their merchandise in their booth. On their purchase outings, they bought lightweight furniture pieces, crates, and bookshelves, fixed them up, and used them for their displays.
Make certain the pieces you buy for display are easy for you to fit into your vehicle and to carry. You may choose to put this furniture up for sale, or you may decide that certain pieces are working well for your displays and that you will keep them. If they display your merchandise well and are easy to transport, why not keep them? (Put a tag on display pieces you want to keep that read: #147;Display only; Not for sale#148; so that customers will not ask you for the price all day.)
Nice looking silk green pieces will make your booth look very attractive! As a business that buys wholesale (i.e. assuming you have already obtained something from your state that says you are buying to re-sell, such as a sales tax ID), you can set up an account with a wholesale florist company that sells silk greens, ribbon, and other trim. You can usually shop at these companies in person to choose exactly what you want. Check the #147;business-to-business#148; yellow pages under categories such as #147;Florists-Wholesale#148;. Also check
and click on your state for the names, addresses, and phone numbers of wholesale florists in your area. Before you make a trip to visit them, call all of them in your area to find out what types of floral items they sell. Once you know that they have the types of silk greens you are looking for, ask them about their terms for setting up an account with them. Some will require that you pay by check when you shop with them. Others will have you do that for a short time, and then will give you net 30 terms.
Use silk greens either as display pieces only, or use them in your displays and sell them, too. (If you purchase nice quality greens, people will want to buy them!) Working these silk greens into your displays will attract many people who are looking to purchase items that are #147;a step up#148; from flea market wares. And that#146;s what you#146;re selling: merchandise that is a little nicer than the average found at the flea market.
The whole look and feel of your booth will be a little nicer than the customers usually find. People will be drawn to your booth. You will go home with only a few items left over (for next month) and lots of money from all of your sales.
Use Your Booth for Marketing
Because they wanted the good word to get out about their booth, Ann and Cathy created a half-sheet flier as their marketing materials. They used plain light pink paper, some creative wording, and a creative font style. They gave one to each buying customer and made them available to people who visited their booth.
Using a word processor, you can create your own half-sheet flier to give away at your booth. Put it on pastel-colored plain paper. Choose a color that will be your #147;signature#148; color: pink? light green? baby blue? In addition to including your business name, come up with a clever phrase or tag line (for example,
#147;Creative Objets d#146;art for Your Home Garden#148;; #147;Funky Frolicking Fun from the Flea Market!#148;
). If appropriate, list some of the types of things you sell. Include the dates you will be at the flea market for the next several months (or for as long as you have booked a booth). Also include the name of the flea market, the address, and days and hours of operation. If appropriate, include your contact information (name, phone number and/or e-mail address). If you know the booth number you have reserved for future events, include the number.
People may give your marketing sheets to friends who haven#146;t seen your booth. You want them to be able to find you. When customers purchase your items, be sure to give them a marketing sheet in their shopping bag or rolled up inside one of the items they purchased.
Ann and Cathy sold some breakable items, and they didn#146;t want customers having to be concerned about breakage. They purchased some plain paper for packing. (They thought about using newspaper, but they knew the newsprint could be a problem for some of their items.)
Depending on the item purchased, you may need to wrap it in some type of wrapping materials so that it doesn#146;t break. Find a local supplier of materials such as packing paper and bags. When you are first starting out, stick with inexpensive wrapping materials and bags. Try to choose similar colors (i.e. white, cream, or a pastel to match your marketing sheet) to go along with the whole theme you#146;re creating for your business.
Your Flea Market #147;Store#148;
Are you ready to create your flea market #147;store#148;? Do some up-front planning. Are you going to have a business partner or are you going it alone? Do you have an area in your home to store your purchases and fix them up? Have you checked the flea markets in your area? Have you scoped out how you#146;re going to find the inexpensive items to purchase?
Print out this article and start a #147;to do#148; list of all the things you need to do to get started. Then prioritize the list. In what order are you going to tackle the items on your #147;to do#148; list? What things can you do at the same time?
And, please, let me know how you#146;re coming along with your #147;fancy flea market store#148;!
Glory Borgeson is a small business consultant and coach who loves to work with clients by phone from her Chicago-area home office. She works with clients individually, and is also planning to hold teleclasses on the details of starting a home-based business. Please contact her by e-mail at
for more information about your home-based business. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.
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Are You a Natural Party Planner?
By Glory Borgeson
Do you enjoy a great party? Do you get a charge out of planning parties?
Why not consider starting a party planning business?As with all work-from-home businesses, you'll need to decide ahead how much time per week you can devote to the business, especially if you have children at home. Consider starting small, creating small parties for busy people. Figure out how many parties per month you can reasonably handle (for example, starting small might mean doing 2 to 4 parties per month).
Jan loved giving parties and loved to cook. She heard many women in her area talk about how they liked to have people over, too, but they were often too stressed out for company. Some of them worked full time or they had a "high maintenance" family. Others just didn't enjoy the cooking and other preparations that go into hosting a party. Most seemed to have the financial means to pay for some help, though.Jan figured she got an idea from these ladies in her town. What if she worked with them to plan the party and to do the cooking and other food preparation? Better yet, what if she cooked the food in the hostess' own bakeware and served the food in the hostess' serving pieces? That way, it would look as if the hostess created the meal herself.
Jan knew that she needed to have several menus to choose from. She made a list of several items, including meat and other entrees, hot vegetables, salads, breads, appetizers, soups, and desserts. She also created suggested combinations of menus for complete meals that included one of each of these that went well together.
Jan figured that she would get requests for various sizes of parties: anything from a small intimate dinner party for four to a large party. So for each recipe, she created a Word document on her PC that included the amount of ingredients needed for various numbers of party guests. At the beginning of the recipe document she included a table. Along the left column of the table, she listed the ingredients. Across the top row, she put the number of people served. Then, in the table she entered the amount of the particular ingredient required for the particular number of servings.
After checking out the party planning industry, Jan knew she might need some additional training and would need to connect with others in the industry. She looked into classes offered at her local community college and classes given through the adult education program through her high school district. She also found a couple organizations to investigate, to see if it would be beneficial for her to join now or to join later.
Check into the following associations to see if they would be a good fit for you:
#149; The International Special Events Society (ISES),
Meeting Professionals, Int'l,
Visit local chapter meetings, if there are any in your area, prior to joining. These groups may or may not be "overkill" for you, as they also are for those business people who plan huge events. But you may find some value in them that would help you in your business. Also, some day you might want to expand your business to full time or take it in another direction, and these associations may be helpful to you as you steer your business into new areas of growth.
Jan soon realized that she needed to find great suppliers in her area for related items and services, such as rental businesses where she (or her hostess) could rent items such as punch bowls, punch fountains, extra chafing dishes, coat racks, tents, etc. She also got to know a couple florists, photographers, and bakery owners. She looked into party supplier businesses where she could find disposable items.
Publications Trade Shows
Jan kept up on what was happening in the party planning and party supply business by subscribing to trade publications. She read Party Paper Retailer (
), Special Events (
), and Event Solutions Magazine (
). Between the publications and the trade associations, she found out about trade shows, which showcased many vendors and offered seminars. She also looked into party-related trade shows hosted by TransWorld Exhibits, Inc. by visiting their website at
Jan worked up the cost of each recipe per number of people and entered it on her recipe documents. Then she figured in her time to prepare it, plus some profit, to arrive at a sales price. She made a note in her schedule to re-visit her pricing every summer, and to have her prices effective from September 1st to August 31st.
Types of Parties
Jan was tempted to be a party "generalist", but she knew that could hurt her business more than help it. She needed to select a niche that would work well in her geographical area. Think about the area where you live. For the people who would be most likely to benefit from your services and hire you, what type of parties would they prefer?
Upscale dinner parties and cocktail parties
Theme parties (such as luau, 1950's, Hollywood, etc.)
What other types of parties could be popular in your area?
Once Jan checked with her county and state for any regulations for caterers and talked with her insurance agent about the type of insurance she would need, she decided to host some parties of her own and invite people over who would either be in the market for her services or who would be likely to talk about her business to others. Her parties showcased her new business and her creative talent. She also had simple brochures and business cards available for everyone who attended.
She decided to do three different types of parties in her home to give people a good idea of party options. She needed to see where peoples' interests would be before deciding on her niche.
Next, Jan asked three busy friends if she could do a party for each of them, without charging them for her services. They would plan it together and the hostess would pay for the food and supplies. The hostess also agreed to tell her guests that Jan was the party planner for her party, to promote Jan during the party, and to give each guest Jan's brochure and business card. This gave her the practice she needed for doing the parties and catering for other people. She told all three friends that she needed to do one upscale party for 4 to 6 people, one upscale cocktail party for a large group, and one fun theme party. Each friend hosted one of those parties. Jan created everything from great invitations to the food and beverages to the decorations (for the theme party) and atmosphere (lighting, candles, tablescapes, music, etc.).
Jan took photos at the parties hosted at her home and at her friends' homes. She put the pictures in a small portfolio. That way she could show prospective customers what her party tables, buffets, decorations, and atmospheres looked like in peoples' homes. She also included samples of the invitations in her portfolio.
Next, Jan spent time finding out about upscale charity fundraisers in her area, because she knew that the women attending these events tend to give a lot of parties and would be likely to hire her. She wanted to advertise in the charities' program booklets. For many of these booklets, they could use her business card at their lowest advertising fee. (Because of this, she made certain that her business card had sufficient information on the front of the card that made it clear what she did as a party planner and caterer.) For a couple charity events, she donated an "in-home dinner party for 4" for auction or raffle. Those events gave her an additional listing in their booklets and the attendees of those charity events were exactly in her target market.
Meetings with Clients Paperwork
When working with a client, Jan found that she needed to meet with them at least two times prior to the event. She tried to schedule these meetings either while her children were in school, or, for customers who worked during the day, she scheduled meetings in the evenings or on Saturday mornings when her husband could stay with their children. Other than those meetings, she used the telephone, fax, and e-mail to communicate with customers.
Once a client agreed to book a party, Jan wrote an agreement which included the date, time, and address of the party, the items and services she would provide (i.e. the menu, supplies, etc.), if she would pick up any serving pieces prior to the event from the client and when, the time she would arrive at the party location, the total price, the amount of deposit due, the amount of balance due on the day of the party, and any other details particular to the party.
Jan's Party Planning Business
Jan received a great response to the parties she created both at her home and at her friends' homes. She also started to make a name for herself in her community. She knew this would be a word-of-mouth business and made certain that people would talk about her new business to others. She let other parents know (at her kids' schools and sporting events) what she was doing, as well as people at her place of worship. She also talked about it at her health club. Her friends were very helpful, too, as they talked about her new business to their relatives and acquaintances. Some friends even kept a small inventory of her brochures and business cards to give out.
Before long, Jan was handling the amount of parties she wanted in order to put in between 15 and 25 hours per week. At first, it took her longer to do certain tasks. After a while, she shortened the amount of time she needed to spend on most tasks as she became more familiar with what was required for each party. When her children are older, she plans to grow her business. For now, the pace suits her just fine.
Your Party Planning Business
Are you ready to plan your party planning business? Do some up-front brainstorming. What do you think would go over well in your community? Who are the busy people who would like to have more parties, but their schedule just doesn't allow them to create time for planning and hosting a party on their own?Print out this article and start a "to do" list of all the things you need to do to get started. Then prioritize the list. In what order are you going to tackle the items on your "to do" list? What things can you do at the same time?
And, please, send me some pictures of your first few parties!
Glory Borgeson is a small business consultant and coach who loves to work with clients by phone from her Chicago-area home office. She works with clients individually, and is also planning to hold teleclasses on the details of starting a home-based business. Please contact her by e-mail at
for more information about your home-based business. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com
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How to Create a 'Virtual Assistant' Business
By Glory Borgeson
Virtual assistants are one of the newest careers in work-at-home businesses. Using a personal computer, a phone, and a fax machine, virtual assistants (VAs) create value for their clients from their home office. They create their own hours, have no commute to a job, and call the shots in their own business. Some of the work a VA does during the day is administration. They do various tasks for their client as if they were at their client's office. This could include mailings to their clients' customers and prospects, creating presentations, and making reminder phone calls for appointments. The beauty of the VA business is that it is "virtual". Your clients can be anywhere: they don't even have to be in your vicinity! They can even be in a different state!
In my companion article, "
Could You Be a Virtual Assistant?
", I discussed the skills you need before deciding to become a VA. These include being organized, excellent grammar and spelling skills, good communication skills, and computer hardware and software knowledge.
How to Get Training
Some VAs learn the business from another VA. Other VAs attend a school that trains them how to be a VA. Most such schools conduct teleclasses, so you can attend from anywhere.
One VA school is called AssistU (
). Their virtual training program lasts 20 weeks.
Another school is Virtual Assistance U (
). Their virtual training program lasts 16 weeks.
A third training program to look into is with The Virtual Wizards (
, or call 352-242-2234).
If you attend one of the VA schools, you will automatically be introduced to a support network of other VAs. You will also want to check the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) (
), The Virtual Business Group (
), and for military spouses who are VAs, look into Staffcentrix (
Clients and Fees
Most VAs bill at about $30 an hour or more. The rate you charge can go higher if you:
Have industry-specific education and your clients are in that industry
Gain more experience as a VA
Can do many types of work for a client without requiring supervision from the client
Have many resources and skills at your disposal
Know a little html code and can update your client's website
Some VAs bill clients for actual hours worked and break it down to 30-minute increments. They may invoice weekly or bi-weekly. Others work on retainer. They plan a certain number of hours per month for a particular client. The client pays the retainer fee at the beginning of the month. During the month, the VA keeps a log of hours worked for each client to make certain that retainer clients do not go over their allotted amounts (or, they may have an agreement in place for billing additional time). Unused hours do not roll over to the next month. VAs will often discount their hourly rate by 10% for clients paying on retainer.
You can invoice your clients using a software program such as Quickbooks, which also allows you to easily keep track of unpaid invoices. (You would also use Quickbooks to enter all of your expenses, whether paid for by cash, check, or credit card, reconcile your bank statements and credit card statements, and keep all of your data together for monthly [or quarterly] and annual tax reporting.)
You can also receive payments by credit card, if that is how your clients prefer to pay. If you sign up to use an online system, such as Practice Pay Solutions (
), the client will get a receipt by e-mail to notify him or her of their purchase of your services after you enter the charge online.
If you give your invoiced clients, for example, "net 15" terms, you need to decide how many days past due is too long, and start contacting the client to request payment. You will find that some clients pay on time and others pay late. You will need to decide how late is too late.
If a new client wants you to just work on a project, consider asking for some money up-front. First, think about how much time the project will take, multiply that by your hourly rate, and then ask the client for one-third of that amount up front. Trust your instincts on this issue.
If a client asks you about how long a project will take you to complete, you will need to use your experience to arrive at your best estimate. It is generally a good idea to give them a range (for example, "It will probably take somewhere between 4 and 8 hours."). Also, it is best to give your estimate on the high side. This is a customer satisfaction principle in action. If you estimate on the high side, and the actual comes close to that or lower, your client will be happy. If you estimate too low and the actual comes out higher (for example, you estimate that some work will take 8 hours, but it actually takes 11 hours), your client will get a "bad" surprise and his "customer satisfaction" level will be lower.
Who Will Be My Client, and How Will I Find Them?
Who can use the services of a virtual assistant? Just about any "solo-preneur" who does not have office support staff! For example: Insurance agents, consultants, coaches, speakers, authors, caterers, artists, etc., may be able to use the services of a VA.
When you are first starting out, tell everyone you know about your new business and the services you offer. Send them a letter with your business card, and then follow up with a phone call. Ask people who they know who might be able to use your services (and give them examples of the types of businesses that might be interested).
Ask your friends for introductions to people who might be interested in your work. Join a local chamber of commerce and attend networking events. Make certain that your business card includes a brief list of your services, even if it's printed on the back of the card. Two or three months after you first notify all of your friends about your business, contact them again. Stay in front of them, reminding them of your new business.
Frequent networking in your current circles and in new groups will ensure that people are reminded of the work you are doing, and they will be more likely to remember to refer you to people they meet.
Tips for Doing the Work
Some VAs agree that they do their best work with clients who have established long-term business relationships with them, as opposed to project work or piece work. They enjoy working in 'partnership' with their clients. The longer a VA works with a client, the more she gets to know the client. This is especially important when, for example, a client gives you documentation that has errors. If you have worked with him or her for some time, you will be more likely to catch the errors than if you rarely work with them.
An area where your organization skills become of utmost importance is in following up on phone conversations with your clients. Since you have no visual cues when you are on the phone, taking detailed notes during a call with your client is very important. Just as crucial is sending an e-mail or fax to the client after the call to confirm what you've agreed to in the call. Your organization of your clients' projects must be done as if you're a project manager. You will have tight "to do" lists. Keep as much work as possible in soft copy so that you do not accumulate too much paper. Have a good PC "filing system" in Windows Explorer. Remember to back up your PC regularly.
What Software Should You Know?
Most VAs agree that you should have and know how to use Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, ACT, and Adobe Acrobat PDFWriter. Some VAs do very little PowerPoint, while others create several presentations a month. Many clients will want their documents given to them in a pdf format. Adobe's PDFWriter is very easy to use to create documents in pdf. Some VAs have learned some html code in order to make minor changes to their clients' websites. Most recommend using software such as Dreamweaver, but do not use FrontPage. Others use FrontPage for ease and convenience's sake.
You need to get to know your clients and what products you need to know in order to serve them well. Take intermediate and advanced classes in these software titles to provide a great level of skill for your clients.
Are You Ready?
Is it time to create your own "to do" list about taking steps to begin your virtual assistant business? Print this article and then start a list of the tasks you need to do to get started!
Review how much time you have to devote to this business: How much time do you have now, in 6 months, in 12 months? How many hours per week to you want to work? What skills do you currently have, and which need improvement?
Is your PC ready for this business?
After you print out this article, go through it and note what you need to do, first, to decide if this is the business for you (also see my article titled, "
Could You Be a Virtual Assistant?
"). Second, go through this article again and note what you need to do to get the business going. Make a "to do" list out of it and schedule those "to do's" into your calendar. Then follow through. And let me know about your success!
Glory Borgeson is a small business consultant and coach who loves to work with clients by phone from her Chicago-area home office. Please contact her at 630-653-0992 or by e-mail at
for more information about your home-based business. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com
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Getting It Right
Robert G. Allen
In the field of marketing, "getting it right" is very important. Sometimes success can hinge on just a single digit. Take this story for example:
About thirty years ago, Joe Karbo wrote a book called
The Lazy Man's Way to Riches
. He launched his $10 book with a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times with the headline, "How to earn $50,000 a year the lazy way". Not a single person responded! Joe didn't give up. He was a master at marketing; he knew he had a good idea and if he could only get it right, then he would succeed. He placed his ad again but with a slight change. Instead of offering people an easy way to earn $50,000 a year, he changed it to $20,000 a year. His book was a huge hit making him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Why did such a small change make such a huge difference? At the time, a good income was $10,000 a year. Earning ten times that was not believable, but earning twice that amount was. When it became more believable, then people were able to "see" what he was offering and responded.
Multiple Streams of Income
by Robert G. Allen. Contact Robert G. Allen at
or visit his website at
for more information. Permission granted for this article for use on DrLaura.com.
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