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IconKeeping Spam From Canning Your Business By Cliff Ennico www.cliffennico.com . How can you keep unsolicited e-mail messages #150; #147;spam#148; #150; at bay, without blocking out important messages from people you don#146;t already know? This is one of the great dilemmas of modern technology, one that every home based business needs to cope with, as there really is no perfect solution. The CAN-SPAM Act that Congress passed last year contains a lot of sympathetic language about how bloody awful spam is, but doesn#146;t really offer a simple or tough solution to the spam problem. Let#146;s say you are a business consultant who relies heavily on e-mail to communicate with your clients. You advertise your consulting practice heavily, and because you always include your e-mail address, you get lots of e-mail every day from people who have seen your advertising and want more information about what you do. Your biggest problem is spam. You#146;re getting over 1,000 spam messages every day, and it#146;s taking you close to an hour a day to wade through all the junk. That#146;s probably too much time, but you#146;re absolutely petrified that you are going to delete an important message from one of your clients in the mistaken belief that it#146;s spam. Sound familiar? E-mail is fast becoming the predominant means of communications between consultants (such as myself) and their clients. It#146;s fast, it#146;s cheap, and it happens in #147;real time#148;. The bad news is that it#146;s often tough to tell important e-mail messages from #147;spam#148;. For the uninitiated, #147;spam#148; is an unsolicited commercial e-mail from someone that#146;s trying to sell you something (usually a cheap or sleazy something) you don#146;t want, entice you to enter into a fraudulent investment scheme, or join a club of people you would never want to be associated with. Just in the 60 seconds it took me to write this paragraph, I have received 10 spam messages. Oops, there#146;s another one. Under the federal CAN-SPAM Act, spammers must allow you to #147;opt out#148; from receiving future messages, but fell far short of making spam illegal. Do you really have the time to follow the #147;opt out#148; procedures in every spam message you receive? Even if you did, how do you know the spammer won#146;t put your address on another junk mailing list and e-mail it to 10,000 of his spammer friends? Until Congress or the Federal Trade Commission sets up a #147;do not spam#148; registry of e-mail addresses similar to that already in effect for telemarketing phone calls (and to my knowledge, no efforts are currently being made in that direction), we are on our own when it comes to dealing with spam and the people who send them (many of whom, out of fairness, are small family businesses like your own who are trying to make a living in the rough and tumble world of the Internet #150; hey, I#146;m sure some spammers read this column). There are literally dozens of #147;spam filter#148; software programs you can buy that can filter out the worst of the spam messages you get each day (type #147;spam filter software#148; into your favorite search engine), but they all work on the same, somewhat limited, principle. The program scans your e-mail address book, and anyone who sends you an e-mail who#146;s not on the list is considered a #147;spammer#148;, and treated accordingly. While the better programs will give that someone a chance to prove that they are not sending spam, most prospective customers won#146;t take the time to deal with your watchdog software program (they will probably think the program#146;s response is itself a spam message, and will delete it accordingly). So what do you do? Check Your E-Mail Frequently . If you check your e-mail messages only once or twice a day, you are likely to have a couple of hundred messages to review. If you check your e-mail messages every 15 minutes or so, you will have only about a dozen, and it will be easier to spot the good ones. Use Your Preview Feature . Most e-mail programs (such as Outlook Express) have a #147;preview#148; feature that allows you to see the contents of an e-mail message before you officially open it. Look at the preview page first before looking at the subject heading or who it#146;s from. If the preview takes more than a split second to load, it#146;s probably spam. But . . . by using the #147;preview pane#148; in Outlook Express, aren#146;t you making your computer more vulnerable to computer viruses or #147;worms#148; that could destroy your hard drive? I polled several computer professionals about this recently, and received some conflicting advice. Some (whose anonymity I will protect) tell me the most prevalent computer viruses or #147;worms#148; are not in the text of the e-mail message itself, but rather in an attachment which would have to be separately opened. So merely viewing the #147;cover page#148; of the message would not begin installation of the virus or worm, and you should be okay using the preview pane in Outlook Express. Even if a worm or virus could be downloaded from the preview pane, it would take a couple of seconds to begin installation, so deleting a suspicious-looking message quickly would block the installation process before any damage could be done. Of course, you have to have a quick trigger finger to make that work. Arthur Gerstein, founder of SoHo Computer Solutions ( agerstein@sohocs.biz ), disagrees with this laid-back approach. #147;You really shouldn#146;t use the preview pane in Outlook Express#148; says Gerstein, who advises that the best way to avoid computer viruses and worms in general is to avoid #147;eating tainted flesh#148; #150; simply put, you should avoid Microsoft products as much as possible, as those are the programs the virus-mongers go after. Explains Gerstein: #147;There are perfectly good office suites that work in Windows, such as Star Office ( www.sun.com/staroffice ), that are far less expensive than Microsoft#146;s Office product and much less prone to attack from viruses. I am using Pocomail ( www.pocomail.com ) instead of Outlook Express right now, simply because nobody is writing malicious code for Pocomail. Linux, anyone?#148; Well, maybe, but how many readers out there are really ready to scrap software that an overwhelming majority of people use? There is no perfect answer to this problem, and you may have to make a difficult choice: if you are more afraid of deleting an important message in the mistaken belief that it#146;s spam, use the #147;preview#148; feature in your e-mail program; if you are more afraid of viruses or worms, do not use the #147;preview#148; feature in your e-mail program. Make the Subject Heading Distinctive . When you scroll through your e-mail, you are allowed to identify messages either by the sender#146;s name or by a subject heading. You should look at both before deleting any message #150; there are real people out there with names like #147;Mohammed O#146;Reilly#148;. Tell your clients they should put their name or a key phrase into the subject heading of each e-mail message they send you, so you will be sure to spot it. For example, if you send me an e-mail, you should put #147;re: your column#148; or #147;Home Business Journal#148; into the subject heading. If I see words like that, I will take a closer look at your message. More general subject headings, such as #147;thought you should see this#148; or #147;I#146;ve got a problem#148; are much more likely to be spam, and if I#146;m in a rush I will probably delete your message without reading the preview page. Use a Code Phrase . Of course, when it comes to prospective customers, you cannot call them in advance and tell them what to put in their subject headings. So, whenever you include your e-mail address in your advertising, Web site or whatever, be sure to say something like #147;mention #145;Code X#146; in your e-mail subject heading for better service#148;. That way, whenever you see #147;Code X#148; in an e-mail heading, you will know it#146;s from someone who saw your advertisement. Check Twice Before Deleting . When you delete an e-mail message, it usually goes to a #147;Deleted Items#148; folder before it disappears entirely from the face of the Earth. Before deleting the items in your #147;Deleted Items#148; folder (which you should do at least daily), review the sender names and subject headings one last time before sending them into oblivion. I can#146;t tell you how many times this has saved me from deleting an important message. Clearly, the solution to the spam problem is to cut down on the amount of spam you receive. Here are some tips on keeping your computer spam-free. First, never give anyone on the Web your e-mail address. Often sites ask visitors to #147;register for free#148; and then turn around and give or sell the addresses they collect to spammers. If you must register on someone#146;s Website, you should enter a fake e-mail address, or create an alternate e-mail address on a free Web e-mail service, such as hotmail.com, and use that one specifically for site registrations and surfing the Web. That way you can check the free address only once a month or so to delete all of the junk e-mail you will undoubtedly receive. If you are still getting too much spam, you can use the Rules Wizard in Microsoft Outlook to have the messages you receive automatically sorted, or simply delete the messages, which takes only a few seconds. Oh, and never, never, never reply to junk e-mail, even if it says to #147;unsubscribe#148; via e-mail. At best, it will let them know that they are sending spam to an active account and someone is reading it! To avoid spreading your spam to folks you e-mail, you should: delete headers (those long lists of addresses at the top of forwarded e-mail) from messages that you are forwarding to someone else #150; not only are headers annoying to scroll through, it also could provide an unscrupulous person with a host of new addresses to spam; and use #147;blind carbon copy#148; (bcc) instead of the #147;to#148; line when you send e-mail to a long list of people #150; #147;bcc#148; prevents recipients from seeing who else received the message. If anybody out there has any other solutions, please let me know. This is a problem I live with daily, and I#146;ll be happy to credit you in a future column. And be sure to include the words #147;Your Column on Spam#148; in the subject heading . . . CLIFF ENNICO, best known as the host of the PBS television series #147;MoneyHunt#148;, is the author of the nationally syndicated newspaper column #147;Succeeding in Your Business#148; and the legal correspondent for the Small Business Television Network at www.sbtv.com . You can find out more about him at www.cliffennico.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconRetail Spies By Julie Fichtner Associate Consumer Evaluations, LLC Staff Writer www.acemysteryshopping.com The customer looks innocent enough as she is browsing down the aisles, but she is a highly trained retail spy! She is an under cover agent in the business world. Observing the staff as if she is a regular customer, she#146;s taking everything in, from hospitality and cleanliness to knowledge of job. And that's not all! After her shopping experience, she will write a detailed narrative report that gets sent to the boss! The scenario is a longtime practice of mystery shopping or secret shopping, in which business owners hire shoppers to anonymously evaluate employees to monitor their customer service skills. #147;Mystery Shopping is a powerful tool,#148; says Tiffany Stewart, of Associate Consumer Evaluations, LLC. #147;Mystery Shopping can be used in a variety of ways, such as to train employees where more training is needed or to reward employees for a job well done.#148; Mystery shopping companies pay shoppers an average of $10.00 to $30.00 for completing an assignment. Sometimes they are reimbursed for services, such as oil changes or meals at restaurants. It#146;s an excellent opportunity for stay at home moms! Many assignments allow you to bring your children in tow. After all, the average customer has children too! #147;Mystery Shopping takes lots of practice#148;, Stewart says. #147;You must learn to be objective and observant at the same time, while keeping your cover. You need excellent writing skills, as well as a good memory.#148; After the visit, the mystery shopper goes online to transmit the report to the mystery shopping company, who then edits the report and verifies it for authenticity. Once the editors give the report the final review, results are available via the internet to the managers. With today#146;s technology of the internet, reports are often delivered to the company within 24 hours of the evaluation. No more snail mail, faxes or annoying e-mail attachments to open. Since everything is web based, businesses are able to view all their reports in one place, without having to shuffle through a stack of papers to see results. Patty Carter, owner of Clinton Quick Lube, Clinton, Missouri, said she is a firm believer of mystery shopping. "I get a lot more information than I would with customer comment cards," she said. "I get to see my business from the customer point of view. With comment cards, it seems that only very satisfied or very dissatisfied customers take the time to fill them out." Lexington, KY resident, Jacqueline Kelley, 32 and a mother of a three, said she likes the flexible hours of being a mystery shopper. "It#146;s so much fun to shop and eat out and get paid for it," she said. "I've done restaurants, hotels and retail stores and it's really fun! I love all the freebies I get doing this! It's unusual." Shoppers need to use caution when applying to mystery shopping companies. There are several services that charge shoppers for a list of companies #150; information they can find for free on the internet. The more companies a shopper signs up with, the more likely they are to get regular assignments. For more information on mystery shopping, go to www.acemysteryshopping.com Julie Fichtner, julie@mysteryshopping.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconThe Awesome Power of leverage. Archimedes created the lever of which he said: #147;Give me a lever long enough and fulcrum strong enough and I can move the world.#148; In business, that same concept is called leverage. Leverage is the power to control a lot with just a little. Big doors swing on little hinges. In the business world, there are five kinds of leverage. OPM#151;which means Other Peoples#146; Money. In real estate investing we buy residential real estate with ten percent down and yet we control one hundred percent of the property. Bob Allen#146;s classic book, Nothing Down, teaches how to achieve ultimate leverage: how to buy property with little or no money down.Thousands of people have become millionaires using this system. OPE#151;is Other Peoples#146; Experience. It takes too long to learn it yourself, so borrow or learn from others. The easiest way to become rich is to apprentice personally with someone that is rich. Learn all they know, meet all their contacts and do what they do#151;do it even better. If this isn#146;t possible, read their books, listen to their tapes, watch their videos, interview them, if possible, and attend their seminars. One idea you learn can save you ten years of work effort. Leverage is about maximizing your results in a minimum amount of time. Therefore, absorb lifetime bodies of information and insight#151;congealed into instant usability just for you#151;in the forms of books, tapes, CD#146;s, films, videos and seminars. This is the cheapest and quickest way to gain OPE. OPI#151;stands for Other Peoples#146; Ideas. When Mark wanted to become a professional speaker, he attended the National Speakers Association meeting in 1974. Cavett Robert, the Dean of Speakers and co-founder of this association talked about how to create multi-authored books. Within a month, Mark had adopted the idea and created a book with Keith DeGreen called Stand Up, Speak Out and Win. They enrolled fourteen co-contributors who each invested $2,000 to obtain 1,000 books each. It was Mark#146;s first zero cash investment. He capitalized on someone else#146;s idea to personally earn $200,000 in that year (selling 20,000 copies at $10 each.) Your objective is to associate with people who can share with you their powerful money making ideas. OPT#151;is Other Peoples#146; Time. Individuals will sometimes volunteer their time in certain circumstances, but most will sell you their time, talent, connections, resources and know-how relatively inexpensively. Leverage yourself with professionals who are excellent and unique at employing their abilities. OPW#151;Other Peoples#146; Work. Most people want a job. They want security, rather than opportunity. Hire and delegate to them everything that you don#146;t want to or can#146;t do as well. Leverage yourself through other people and grow. Millionaires are masters at using all five kinds of leverage. copy; 2001 Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen Contact Robert G. Allen at boballen@robertallen.com or visit his website at www.robertallen.com Permission granted for this excerpt from the forthcoming blockbuster, The One Minute Millionaire with Mark Victor Hansen; Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

Icon10 Tips for Avoiding Home Business Scams By Lesley Spencer, MSc. Founder Director of HomeBasedWorkingMoms.com Before investing in any home business opportunity, we strongly recommend that you take steps to research the opportunity and the company to reduce your chances of losing your hard-earned money. Here are 10 tips from the national association of Home-Based Working Moms ( www.HBWM.com ) Research the company and always check them out with the Better Business Bureau located in their city. Ask for at least three references of people they have worked with. Call each person and ask about their experiences with the company. Be cautious of any company that asks for money to make money (such as money for registration, materials or instructions). Don't be fooled by ads claiming you can make large amounts of money in short periods of time. And be cautious of companies that require you to sign up immediately. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. Get specific information (in writing) from the company such as how long they have been in business, where they are located (not just a P.O. Box), how many customers they have, what their refund policy is (read it thoroughly), how long it takes to get paid and if there are any restrictions on payments, etc. If you do invest in a business opportunity, use your credit card instead of cash. It may be easier to dispute the charges with your credit card company rather than trying to get your money back from a fraudulent company. Research current scams on web sites such as ScamBusters at: www.scambusters.com . Call the National Fraud Information Center at (800) 876-7060 for information or visit their web site at: www.fraud.org . Report any scams or fraudulent companies to the Federal Trade Commission www.ftc.gov , your state's Attorney General and the National Fraud Information Center, PO Box 65868, Washington, DC 20035, (800) 876-7060. Don't invest in any opportunity that you are not sure about. Instead, find something that you are interested in and will enjoy doing. (Do what you love, and the money will follow.) Lesley Spencer is founder and director of the national association of Home-Based Working Moms ( www.HBWM.com ) and the creator of Mom#146;s Work-at-Home Kit ( www.MomsWorkatHomeKit.com ). Helping moms find work-at-home success. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconBraille Transcribers: Working from Home By Sharon von See www.techadapt.com There are many of us in this country who have "work at home" businesses as Braille transcribers. The work involved requires training and dedication. The American Foundation for the Blind and the American Printing House are working in collaboration to begin community college training courses because of the lack of Braille transcribers in the country. In the past, a visually impaired child had to wait, usually months, to have the same book that the sighted child had on the first day of school. With Braille translation software that is now available, the wait could be non-existent, if there were enough transcribers available. My own business is a success, as are the many other transcribers I know who have gone "out on their own". Of course, if we could find a voice with Dr. Laura, the children without Braille books may get them in a timely manner. Sharon von See TechAdapt, Inc. Braille Services/XML File Conversion also see: www.aph.org www.afb.org The Braille Institute only offers one 11-month transcribing class in Los Angeles. They do not currently offer classes in any other cities or states. There are many other organizations that can provide your listeners with training on how to become a Braille transcriber. Please contact the Library of Congress at 1-800-424-8567, for additional information. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconThe Booklet Journey copy; 2003, Paulette Ensign Way back in 1991, when my professional organizing business was already 8 years old, Ispotted an offer for a free copy of a booklet called "117 Ideas For Better Business Presentations" . Well, because I do business presentations, and because the price was right, I sent for it. My first reaction was, 'geez, I could knock something like this out about organizing tips.' Then I threw it in a drawer. Six months later I was sitting in my office, bored, baffled and beaten down by the difficulty of selling my consulting services and workshops in a slow economy. I had no money. I mean no money! I remembered that little booklet. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but something hit me, and I knew I had to produce a booklet on organizing tips. I started dumping all those ideas I ever had about getting organized onto a file on my computer. These were all pearls that came out of my mouth when I was with clients or when I did a speaking engagement or a seminar. I could do one booklet on business organizing tips -- a 16-page tips booklet, fitting into a Number 10 size business envelope. The booklet was '110 Ideas for Organizing Your Business Life.' My first run was 250 copies. That was the most expensive per-unit run I made, but I had to get samples to distribute to start making money. It took a few months to pay the printer only $300. The only way I could think of selling the booklets was by sending a copy to magazines and newspapers, asking them to use excerpts and put an invitation at the bottom for readers to send $3 plus a self-addressed stamped envelope. I had no money to advertise. Then the orders started dribbling in, envelopes with $3 checks in them or 3 one-dollar bills. This was great stuff. I remember the day the first one arrived. It was like manna from heaven:$3! Of course, the fact that it took about 6 months from first starting to write the booklet until the first $3 arrived somehow didn't matter at that moment. I cast seeds all over the place, hoping that some would sprout. I found directories of publications at the library and started building my list. Finally, February of 1992 'the big one' hit. A 12-page biweekly newsletter with 1.6 million readers ran nine lines of copy ABOUT my booklet. They didn't even use excerpts!! That sold 5000 copies of my booklet. I distinctly remember the day I went to my P.O. box and found a little yellow slip in my box. It said, 'see clerk'. There was a TUB of envelopes that had arrived that day, about 250 envelopes as I recall, all with $3 in them. Round about June, I stopped and assessed what had happened. Was I making any money? By then, I had sold about 15,000 copies of the business organizing tips booklets one copy at a time for $3. When I checked my financial records, I realized I had tediously generated not a ton of money. And some of the lessons I had learned along the way were expensive ones. I didn't realize my bank was charging me $.12 for each item deposited until I got my first bank statement with a service charge of $191. Some very wonderful things happened while selling those 15,000 copies though. A public seminar company ordered a review copy to consider building another product from my booklet. They did, and I recorded an audio program based on the booklet. I can sell that tape to my clients as well and it led to a 20-minute interview on a major airline's in-flight audio programming during November and December one year. I was sorting through the envelopes, ...$3, $3, ,$1000, $3,..... wait a minute. Well, a manufacturer's rep decided to send my booklets to his customers that year instead of an imprinted calendar. A company asked me to write a booklet that was more specific to their product line. I got paid speaking engagements from people who bought the booklet. I found out that the list of people who bought my booklet was a saleable product. Things were starting to pick up. So, back to June and taking stock of where I was. You know those advertising card decks in the mail? Well, that day in June I was so bored, I opened one. Glancing through it, I said, 'jeez, here's a company that oughta see my booklet. And here's another one, and another one.' I sent booklets to each. Less than a week later, a woman called. At first, it sounded like a prospecting call. Fortunately, I wasn't too abrupt with her. She was calling to ask me the cost of 5000 customized copies of my booklet for an upcoming trade show. She wanted to know if I could match a certain price. I slightly underbid her price, she was thrilled and the sale was a done-deal. I thought, 'oh, this will be easy to sell large quantities now'. Wrong. It was another three-four months until the next large-quantity sale. But, the trade show they were attending was an organization I had contacted about getting my booklet into their catalog. They rejected it because I wasn't in their industry. So, my buyer had bought 5000 copies of my booklet, with my company information in it, to distribute at that trade show. I loved it! One day, a guy I know from a major consumer mail-order catalog company said, 'Why don't you license us reprint rights to your booklet. We can buy print cheaper than you, so if you charged us a few cents a unit, you wouldn't have to do production. 'Well, 18 months later after lots of zigging and zagging that sale happened: a non-exclusive agreement for them to print 250,000 copies. We exchanged a ten-page contract for a five-digit check. They provided the booklet free with any purchase in one issue of their catalog and made a 13% increase in sales in that issue. They were happy. I was happy. I looked for other licensing prospects (even though it took eighteen months for this sale to happen, and the five-digit check was low five-digits, not enough to sustain me). Round about spring 1993, I designed a class on how to write and market booklets and wrote an 80-page manual. The class was small and mostly people I knew. They paid me money, and I had a chance to test-run the class. So now, I had another new product, an 80-page manual, a blueprint of how I had then sold more than 50,000 copies of my booklet without spending a penny on advertising. I like teaching and now I had a new topic besides the organizing I had been presenting. I also like traveling. So I took the 3-hour class on the road and had great fun doing it. I toured the country for about 2 years, 6-8 classes a year. Many people have written interesting booklets on all kinds of topics. Some have hired me to write a customized marketing plan for their booklet or to coach them by phone to develop their booklet business. Midway through that year (August 1994), I discovered Compuserve. My sole purpose for getting online was to market my business. The third day I was online, I saw a forum message from a guy from Italy who had a marketing company there. He told me his client base was small businesses and companies who served small businesses. I told him I had a booklet he might find useful. I sent it to him, he liked it and we struck a deal. He translated, produced and marketed it, and paid me royalties on all sales. That January he wired several thousand dollars to my checking account from Italy. He made the first sale of 105,000 copies to a magazine that bundled a copy of my booklet with one issue of their publication. That meant I have sold more than 500,000 copies of my booklet, in three languages, without spending a penny on advertising. One slow week, I posted a message on some Compuserve forums about the story of the Italian booklet as an example of an online success story. Even though blatant selling is not allowed, creating mutually beneficial relationships is. I had received money from someone I had never spoken to and had only communicated with online, by fax, earth mail and EFT. Folks who read those postings replied that they would be interested in doing the same thing with my booklet, but in French and in Japanese. This never even dawned on me. I've also discovered licensing opportunities for my booklet content in other formats. Two different companies who produce laminated guides (one hinged, the other spiral bound) licensed my content. Tips Products International was created as a business of its own, providing a range of products and services to people wanting to write, produce, and market their own booklet, or have much of it done for them. We write tips booklets for clients based on their raw print materials. Three home study packages have been developed: How To Write and Market Booklets for Ca$h How to Promote Your Business With Booklets How to Make Huge Profits Licensing Your Booklet. All our courses and services are now also being distributed by resellers around the world. I've been invited to speak nationally and internationally, in person and by Teleclass, about how to write and market booklets and how to promote a business with booklets. I never could have written a business plan for how this has all unfolded. Clients of mine are now surpassing my own sales results, learning from allthat has gone on since the original organizing booklet was written in 1991. Paulette Ensign has never taken a business course in her life. She taughtstring instruments in public elementary schools for eleven years, became a Professional Organizing Consultant, and then went on to create a business based on the niche of booklets. Visit her web site at www.tipsbooklets.com to see the menu of products and services to support your booklet success. Paulette Ensign "We help individuals and organizations transform their knowledge into tips booklets for marketing, motivating, and making money." Tips Products International voice: 858-481-0890 fax 858-793-0880 Paulette@tipsbooklets.com Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconIs a Microloan Right for You? Jillian Coleman copy; 2003 Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com If you#146;ve been tossing around an idea for a small business, but wondering where you#146;ll find the money you need to get started, perhaps you should consider a microloan. Microloans are ideal for getting a new business off the ground. A microloan can also provide an infusion of cash to help an existing small business grow. The term #147;microloan#148; refers to a business loan smaller than most banks care to process, often to a borrower no bank would consider. The term came into vogue during the 1980#146;s, as funders began to realize that $200 loaned to a cooperative of women in a third world country could empower those women to start a business capable of supporting their families. In the United States, a microloan is usually between $2,000 and $35,000. Most microloans in this country are made by non-profit organizations funded by the Small Business Administration, a government agency. The SBA established a pilot program for microloans in 1992, and the program was made permanent in 1997. To date, more than $112 million has been made available to small businesses under the microloan program. Virtually any kind of small business can apply for a microloan. The form of the business, whether it is a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a corporation, is not a determining factor. Non-profit daycare centers are also eligible to apply. Loan funds can be allocated as working capital. The funds can also be used to purchase inventory, supplies, furnishings, fixtures, machinery or equipment. The one restriction is that the funds may not be used to purchase or make a down payment on real estate. Perfect credit is not necessary, although the credit requirements vary according to the requirements of the lender. Often lenders require collateral, but may be very flexible in terms of what they accept as collateral. For example, a lender may accept jewelry, office equipment, or used cars to collateralize the loan. Interest rates vary, but they are usually slightly higher than rates for conventional bank loans. Terms vary according to the size of the loan, the planned use of the funds, the requirement of the intermediary lender, and the needs of the borrower. The maximum term for repayment is six years. One of the real benefits of securing a microloan has nothing to do with the money. The non-profits that serve as intermediary lenders also provide a significant level of management training and coaching. For example, a lender may require a prospective borrower to participate in a class and receive assistance in writing a business plan. Another benefit is speed. The process of applying, qualifying for, and obtaining a microloan usually ranges between a few days and three weeks, depending upon the amount of funds needed, the procedures employed by the lender, and the degree of preparation on the part of the borrower. To speed the process along, it#146;s a good idea to assemble as much paperwork as possible in advance. Borrowers should be prepared to provide tax returns, financial statements for existing businesses, bank account records, and proof of collateral. To find out about lenders in your area, you can phone 1-800-U ASK SBA. Or use the following link to get a list of lenders nationwide: http://www.sba.gov/gopher/Local-Information/Microloan-Lender-Participants/ Jillian Coleman is a consultant to businesses and non-profit organizations. Her website, www.GrantMeRich.com , is a resource site for entrepreneurs, grant writers and consultants. Jillian is the author of books related to grants and business, includingBig Bucks for Free: The Complete e-Guide to U.S. Government Grants, and Build Your Small Business Now! Secrets of Success for Entrepreneurs. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconChoosing Your Millionaire Mountain In the whole wide world of money there are only three major ways of becoming a millionaire. No matter what your background, you can learn to master one of these areas. Stock Market: Accumulating shares. Real Estate: Owning properties. Business: Marketing products, services or ideas We call this the Mountain Range of Wealth. There are a lot of routes to the top of each mountain. We will teach you many different models for creating wealth later on in this book. But for now, realize that you will probably reach your million-dollar goal with a combination of all three. Suppose you make a fortune in business (admittedly, this is a very large category with hundreds of ways to make money.) You#146;ll still need to invest your excess cash in the stock market or other forms of passive investment. Certainly, you will need to buy some real estate along the way#151;and if you can buy it at wholesale prices instead of retail, it can make a huge difference. For now, just be aware of the three major mountains. Make an initial #147;gut#148; decision to choose one mountain#151;something that you sense is going to be your primary investment vehicle. Suppose you were enrolled in the University of Money. Which would be your #147;major?#148; Which would be your #147;minor?#148; Which mountain interests you the most? Which one scares you the most? Imagine yourself in conversation five years from now. Try these words on for size: #147;I made my millions in real estate.#148; #147;I made my millions in the stock market.#148; #147;I made my millions in business.#148; Which one seems right to you? copy; 2001 Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconSome Business Tips For The Aging Rocker By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com . I#146;ve been getting e-mails lately from aging Baby Boomers who are forming rock-and-roll bands. Proof yet again that our graying generation is refusing to grow old gracefully . . . Here#146;s a good one: #147;By day I#146;m a humble construction contractor, but at night I put on leather pants and hit the road with a rock band I#146;ve formed with three of my buddies. We play local bars and college hangouts, specializing in straight-ahead 1960#146;s style rock #150; mostly original songs that I#146;ve written. We have even cut a demo record which we#146;re trying to pitch to record companies. We all share the band#146;s expenses, and split the profits equally if there are any. Do we need to have a formal legal agreement? We#146;re all in our mid to late 40#146;s and are just looking to have a little fun before we die, but you never can tell #150; this could lead to something.#148; You gotta love a guy like this, still hanging onto rock-and-roll dreams while he#146;s hanging sheetrock. As long as you guys are just having fun for a few beers, it really won#146;t matter if there isn#146;t a formal agreement between you #150; after all, it wouldn#146;t be quite in the spirit of the 1960s, would it? But if you are thinking about taking your music seriously, then yes, #147;Mick#148;, there are legal issues to think about, such as: Avoiding a Legal Partnership . If you are splitting profits and expenses with your buddies, then what you#146;ve got is a #147;partnership#148; for legal and tax purposes. You will have to file a tax return with the IRS on Form 1065 each year (it#146;s due on April 15), or face late filing penalties of $600 per partner #150; so $2,400 in your case. Also, the only way you can legally get rid of a #147;partner#148; is to buy out his interest for whatever he#146;s willing to accept. So if your drummer decides he wants to spend more time #147;hanging out with his old lady#148;, it#146;s gonna cost you some bread. To avoid this, each band member should agree that there is no intent to form a partnership, that he is responsible for paying any taxes on his share of the band#146;s profits, and that only one dollar will be paid to any member who withdraws or is discharged from the band (for example, for repeatedly failing to show up at gigs). An agreement like that may not totally convince the IRS, but it#146;s better than nothing. Making Sure Decisions Get Made . When you#146;ve got a band, there are a lot of decisions to be made, like: what gigs are you going to take on, and turn down? what new songs will the band play, and what old ones aren#146;t working? where are you going to send your demo recording? if a record company offers you a deal, what terms will you accept? how will changes in the band#146;s lineup be made? Obviously, you are trying to run this band as a democracy, with decisions made as a group effort. But there will be times when the band#146;s members disagree, or an unpopular decision needs to be made. With four of you, there#146;s a good chance of a two-two split, which lawyers call a #147;deadlock#148;. You need to reach an agreement with your mates that one of you is the #147;leader#148; of the band, and will make all the tough decisions after seeking input from the other members. The other guys will have to trust that the leader will do the right thing. This is tough advice, but all music groups need to deal with it. Remember Pete Best? He was the original drummer for the Beatles, a good friend of John, Paul and George during their Liverpool days. Then the Beatles signed up with EMI Records, and their producer, George Martin, decided that Pete wasn#146;t up to the job. End result? We got stuck with Ringo Starr, and Best . . . well. The music business is an utterly ruthless one, and while you are no doubt loyal to your band mates, are you really willing to pass on being the next #147;American Idol#148; just because your bass player#146;s a little off key? Who Owns the Songs ? You say you have written all of the band#146;s original songs, but are you sure you own all of the rights to the songs? If any of your buddies has helped you write the music or lyrics to a song, they legally own a piece of the copyright. Rock musicians make money from their records and concerts, sure, but they make a lot more from copyright royalties on their original music #150; you don#146;t want a former bandmate coming out of the woodwork years from now with a fancy Hollywood lawyer claiming that his client #147;put the bomp in the bomp-bah-bomp-bah-bomp#148; (copyright Barry Mann and Gerry Goffin, 1961). Your agreement should clearly state that you are the #147;sole author, copyright holder and owner of all rights#148; to each song the band develops. Also, the other members should assign to you any rights they may #147;now or hereafter#148; have in any of the band#146;s songs. Again, we look to the Beatles for enlightenment (if you are interested in the Beatles#146; business dealings, by the way, the best book around is The Love You Make , by Peter Brown). Early on in the band#146;s history, someone convinced Messrs. Lennon and McCartney to sell the publishing rights to over 250 of their early hits for a #147;song#148;. So whenever you hear an early Beatles classic playing on your local radio station today, Sir Paul and Yoko Ono (John#146;s widow) get hardly anything for it. Instead, a small amount of money is paid to the person who owns the #147;publishing rights#148; to the song. Who, believe it or not, is . . . Michael Jackson, who bought the Beatles catalogue at an auction in 1985. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2004 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconSo You Want To Work From Home? Jodie Lynn ParentToParent.com www.WAHMtalkradio.com I recently read an article about women having to choose between the home and the office. I know that there is an area in-between the two of these that is the work-at-home movement. I am very interested in this but have no clue how to avoid scams. I would love to be a work-at-home parent to have more family time. Which ones do you recommend and are there any books or websites that you would personally recommend? Choose a business in which you have a working knowledge as a result of your education, work, hobby, and/or volunteer experiences. Make sure there is a potential market for your proposed idea. Here are some places to go for free or low-cost business startup counseling: Women's Business Center www.onlinewbc.gov or Small Business Development Center www.sba.gov/SBDC . These centers offer free or low-cost business startup counseling and seminars. SCORE www.score.org offices also offer free counseling and business planning. Visit these sites to search for their centers/offices nearest to you. If you want to perform work-from-home for another company, be very careful of home-business scams. Do not send any money for information. To check the legitimacy of a home business opportunity, see the Better Business Bureau#146;s site, www.bbb.org , the Federal Trade Commission provides advice on avoiding scams, www.ftc.gov and see www.fraud.org for The National Fraud Information Center that offers updates on the latest frauds and scams. I have two books that might help as well, "The Self-Employed Woman's Guide to Launching a Home-Based Business," Crown Publishing Group, $14.95 and "The Self-Employed Woman#146;s Guide to Launching a Home-Based Business," Crown Publishing Group, $14.95. - Priscilla Huff in Sellersville, Pa. Moms working from home can structure their businesses and their schedules around their children's and family's needs while still bringing in an income. There are many good work-at-home opportunities, but there are many that are more often scams than not. I suggest that you review our Tips for Avoiding Scams at HBWM.com to help you not fall victim to scams. You can save large amounts of time and money by defining your strengths, interests, skills and passions. I believe defining those and researching different types of opportunities that fit those unique traits will dramatically increase one's chances for true success in their home business. I offer a "Mom'sWorkAtHomeKit" that is helpful when trying to make a work at home decision. Please see my site for more details. - Lesley Spencer, Director, www.HBWM.com in Austin, TX From Jodie: Everyone is interested in one way or the other about the possibilities and earning potential in starting a work-from-home business or situation. If you have children underfoot, it#146;s a lot harder than people tell you it is. Be sure you have adequate childcare available or things will not go as planned. It is quite stressful and can ruin home life, family time and even your self-esteem. Keep your day job until things get off of the ground and even then, it will require well-organized time to succeed. Your success should be seen in making money, feeling good about what it is you are doing and most of all, a balanced life. I am not saying it cannot be done. I am saying everyone in the family will be affected by it and you need to know up front about the heartache and hard work it takes. If you do not have a home computer, it is much harder to make decent money from home. If you are going to work for a "home business company," ask questions and check them out before signing a contract. Read books from the best well-known work at home experts, Paul and Sarah Edwards. I also personally know Lesley Spencer and can guarantee she is above board with her "Mom'sWorkAtHomeKit"...it is what you need to make the final jump in working from home and I have implemented some of the suggestions in my own plans straight from the kit. Visit her site www.HBWM.com and check out the volumes of help she offers moms trying to make a life-altering decision. Another source that moms will love is www.InternetBasedMoms.com where my new friend web savvy Alice Seba offers plenty for beginners as well as seasoned work at home moms. She is one gal you must check out! Listen to www.WAHMtalkradio.com for incredible interviews with my pal, Kelly McCausey. Can you help? I have a 3-year-old daughter who is always upset because she thinks I do not want anything to do with her. I have been trying to open my business and work from home. Her mom works outside the home and I am responsible for her during the day. What should I do?What baby books do you recommend for dads-to-be? Please share your tips and help other parents. Send them -- or other parenting questions -- to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Rd., Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Send e-mail through our www.ParentToParent.com Web site.Jodie Lynn is an internationally syndicated parenting/family columnist. Her latest paperback book is Mommy-CEO, revised edition, Martin-Ola Press . (It's not just for moms!) -- check out her new e-book, "Syndication Secrets" at www.ParentToParent.com for more details. We now have new Mommy, CEO merchandise and logo! copy;2004 Jodie Lynn. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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