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IconAs featured in Work From Home Magazine How to Start, Run, Promote Profit From Your Own Membership Website How to Sell Online content - The transition from free to "pay-for-content" is taking the Internet by storm By Janice Ayre www.MembershipSiteAdvisor.com Want to sell subscriptions for online content with your own membership site? Selling online content via a password protected website has become big business. Not only is it fast to set up (with the right tools), but the start-up and running costs are minimal. Work from home entrepreneurs and big businesses alike are lapping up this new found revenue source. People are willing to pay for online content. In fact, the "Online Publishers Association" revealed that pay-for content is emerging as a hot revenue model. Business content, personals/match making, and entertainment are the hottest niches. But even smaller niches, like DVD authoring, sports coaching, marketing services, and dieting are producing profits. Internet users spend $300 Million in 4 Months for Online Content U.S. consumer spending for online content in the first 4 months of 2002 was $300 million, a growth of 155% over the first quarter of 2001 (and that#146;s post-September 11th). It#146;s apparent that online users will pay for content on their passion or profession. Subscribers are paying anywhere from $9.95 a month to $19.95, and in some cases up to $200 a month #150; depending on the nature of the content. Annual subscription renewals hold a solid 72%, giving site owners an impressive recurring residual income. Renewals accounted for nearly half of paid content sales in 2001. A Rapidly Growing Market Less than 9% of online users currently pay for online content. This means the market is wide open for the savvy entrepreneur. Paying for content in 2002 was more than 5 times what it was in 2001. That#146;s a massive 500% growth! Those who capture the market first in their niche will have the obvious advantage. It#146;s an international market, so anyone can play. Starting your own Membership Site There are 4 key elements to starting a subscription based membership site, says Ansel Gough, Editor of MembershipSiteAdvisor.com #150; an Australian based membership site, teaching others how to start and run membership sites. Target the right market: Find a market that is passionate about a subject, and then build your membership site around it. There are so many topics to choose from. Doing a key word search will reveal what people are searching for online. You can know before you even launch a membership site if there#146;s a big enough market. Make it unique: Ideally potential subscribers shouldn#146;t be able to find the same information elsewhere for free online. Your job is to search online (and in some case offline) for content, and provide it in a convenient manner for your subscribers. Being unique could just mean having exclusive interviews with experts in your field. If you#146;ve done the interview, then that#146;s unique. Finding experts (and even famous people) to interview is not hard. In fact, as your site grows in popularity they are likely to contact you. This situation gives you a two-fold advantage. It gives you credibility or an endorsement, and it gives you exclusive content. Of course your exclusive content may be from your own specialized knowledge! Finding Subscribers: If you#146;ve started off targeting the right market, then finding traffic and subscribers aren#146;t as difficult as some people believe. The best methods for generating quality traffic to your website include: Search engine positioning (including pay-per-click), Internet Joint Venture Marketing, Ezines (online newsletters), affiliate programs, and viral marketing (accelerated word of mouth marketing). Add tools or services: To enhance your membership site try including simple software, tools, ebooks, resources, etc. as a give-away. These can usually be found for free or at a very low cost online. "Marrying services, resources or tools with content can dramatically boost your subscription rates," Gough says. "However it#146;s best to include something that doesn#146;t take up your time. Giving people a reason to return to your members only area is critical #150; tools, resources, discussion forums and quality content will do that! "The exciting thing is, you can take your hobby, specialized knowledge or profession and turn it into a profitable membership site. Your challenge will be finding exclusive content. You can start it part time #150; something I did myself, while working a full time job. As your subscriptions increase you can plan on full time involvement in your area of interest." Starting and running a membership site can be a lot of fun and very fulfilling, however you need to know what#146;s involved in setting one up, and then managing it effectively. Planning and allowing for auto-responders, automated sign-ups, credit card processing, automated cancellations, etc is all part of a successful membership website. As complex as this seems, many companies offer a low cost, easy-to-use software solution. A few companies, like MembershipSiteAdvisor.com offer a free software membership management tool to subscribers, allowing them to manage all of these routine tasks. This makes it possible for almost anyone to start and market a membership site for next to nothing. Gough is quick to challenge that "Paying for online content is inevitable . You can either be the one paying for it, or the one profiting from it. Ideally you#146;ll do both, and learn a great deal in the process." For more information, resources and tools for starting and running a membership site, visit www.MembershipSiteAdvisor.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconFinding The Right Lawyer For Your Business By Cliff Ennico* www.protectingyourbusiness.com There are two professionals every business will need early on: an accountant and a lawyer. The reasons for hiring an accountant are pretty obvious #150; you need someone to help you set up your #147;chart of accounts#148;, review your numbers periodically, and prepare all of your necessary federal, state and local tax returns. The reason for hiring a business attorney may not, however, be so apparent. A good business attorney will provide vital assistance in almost every aspect of your business, from basic zoning compliance to copyright and trademark advice to formal business incorporation to lawsuits and liability.First, some general rules about dealing with lawyers: If You Are Being Sued, It#146;s Too Late . Most small businesses put off hiring a lawyer until the Sheriff is standing at the door serving them with a summons. Bad mistake. The time to hook up with a good business lawyer is BEFORE you are sued. Once you have been served with a summons and complaint, it#146;s too late #150; the problem has already occurred, and it#146;s just a question of how much you will have to pay (in court costs, attorneys#146; fees, settlements and other expenses) to get the problem resolved. America#146;s judicial system is a lot like a Roach MotelTM -- it#146;s easy to get into court, but very difficult to get out once you#146;ve been #147;trapped#148;. Most lawyers agree that while nobody likes to pay attorneys#146; fees for anything (heck, let#146;s let our hair down, nobody likes paying or dealing with lawyers, period), but the fee a lawyer will charge to keep you out of trouble is only a small fraction of the fee a lawyer will charge to get you out of trouble once it#146;s happened. Big Firm or Small Firm? Generally speaking, the larger the law firm, the greater the overhead, therefore the higher the hourly rates you will be expected to pay. Still, larger firms have a number of advantages over smaller ones. Over the past 20 years, lawyers have become incredibly specialized. If you use a solo practitioner or small firm as your lawyer(s), it#146;s likely that they will not have all the skills you may need to grow business. I don#146;t know of any solo practitioner, and very few small firms (under 10 lawyers) that could handle your lawsuits, negotiate your lease of office or retail space, file a patent or trademark, draft a software license agreement, advise you on terminating a disruptive employee, and oversee your corporate annual meeting. Sooner or later, these #147;generalists#148; will have to refer you out to specialists, and you will find yourself dealing with two or three (or even more) attorneys. While larger firms are more expensive to deal with, they have two significant advantages: (1) they usually have all the legal skills you need #147;under one roof#148;, and (2) they have a lot of clout in the local, regional and (perhaps) national legal community. A nasty letter from a #147;powerhouse#148; law firm with offices in 30 states is a lot more intimidating than a nasty letter from a solo practitioner who is not admitted to practice in the defendant#146;s state. Also, being connected with a large, well established law firm may have intangible benefits #150; they may be willing to introduce you to financing sources, or use their name as a reference when seeking partnership arrangements. Certainly if you run a fast growing entrepreneurial company that plans to go public (or sell out to a big company) some day, you would need to work with lawyers whose names are recognized in the investment banking and venture capital communities. What Kind of Lawyer? Like doctors, lawyers are becoming increasingly specialized. Someone who does mostly wills, house closings and other #147;non-business#148; matters is probably not a good fit for your business. At the very least, you will need the following sets of skills. The more skills reside in the same human being, the better! Contracts. You will need a lawyer who can understand your business quickly, prepare the standard form contracts you will need with customers, clients, and suppliers, and help you respond to contracts that other people will want you to sign. Business Organizations. You will need a lawyer who can help you decide whether a corporation or limited liability company (LLC) is the better way to organize your business, and prepare the necessary paperwork. Taxes and Licenses. Although your accountant will prepare and file your business tax returns each year, your lawyer should know how to register your business for federal and state tax identification numbers, and understand the tax consequences of the more basic business transactions in which your business will engage. Intellectual Property. If you are in a media, design or other #147;creative#148; type business, it is certainly a #147;plus#148; if your lawyer can help you register your products and services for federal trademark and copyright protection. Generally, though, these tasks are performed by specialists who do nothing but #147;intellectual property#148; legal work. If your lawyer says he or she #147;specializes in small businesses#148;, then he or she should have a close working relationship with one or more intellectual property specialists. Tough Questions to Ask When Interviewing Lawyers. Are You Experienced? Don#146;t be afraid to ask direct questions about a lawyer#146;s experience. If you know you want to incorporate your business, for example, ask if he or she has ever handled an incorporation. Are You Well Connected? Your business attorney should be something of a legal #147;internist#148; #150; one who can diagnose your problem, perform any #147;minor surgery#148; that may be needed, and refer you to local specialists for #147;major surgery#148; if needed. No lawyer can possibly know everything about every area of law. If you business has specialized legal needs (a graphic designer, for example, may need someone who is familiar with copyright laws), your attorney should either be familiar with that special area or have a working relationship with someone who is. You shouldn#146;t have to go scrounging for a new lawyer each time a different type of legal problem comes up. Do You Have Other Clients In My Industry? Your attorney should be somewhat familiar with your industry and its legal environment. If not, he or she should be willing to learn the ins and outs of it. Scan your candidate#146;s bookshelf or magazine rack for copies of the same journals and professional literature that you read. Be wary, however, of attorneys who represent one or more of your competitors. While the legal code of ethics (yes, there is one, believe it or not) requires that your lawyer keep everything you tell him or her strictly confidential, you do not want to risk an accidental leak of sensitive information to a competitor. Are You a Good Teacher? Your attorney should be willing to take the time to educate you and your staff about the legal environment of your business. He or she should tell you what the law says and explain how it affects the way you do business so that you can spot problems well in advance. The right lawyer will distribute such freebies as newsletters or memoranda that describe recent developments in the law affecting your business. Are You a Finder, a Minder, or a Grinder? Nearly every law firm has three types of lawyer. The #147;finder#148; scouts for business and brings in new clients; the #147;minder#148; takes on new clients and makes sure existing ones are happy; and the #147;grinder#148; does the clients#146; work. Your attorney should be a combination of a #147;minder#148; and a #147;grinder#148;. If you sense that the lawyer you are talking to is not the one who will actually be doing your work, ask to meet the #147;grinder#148;, and be sure you are comfortable with him or her. Will You Be Flexible in Your Billing? Because there is currently a #147;glut#148; of lawyers, with far too many practicing in most geographic locales, lawyers are in a position to have to negotiate their fees as never before, and it is definitely a #147;buyer#146;s market#148;. Still, there are limits #150; unlike the personal injury lawyers who advertise on television, business lawyers almost always will not work for a #147;contingency fee#148;, payable only if your legal work is completed to your satisfaction. Most lawyers will charge a flat one-time fee for routine matters, such as forming a corporation or LLC, but will not volunteer a flat fee unless you ask for it. Be sure to ask if the #147;flat fee#148; includes disbursements (the lawyer#146;s out of pocket expenses, such as filing fees and overnight courier charges), and when the #147;flat fee#148; is expected to be paid. Many attorneys require payment of a #147;flat fee#148; up front, so that they can cover their out of pocket expenses. You should always ask to #147;hold back#148; 10% to 20% of a flat fee, though, in the event the lawyer doesn#146;t do the job well. Lawyers will be reluctant to quote #147;flat fees#148; if the matter involves litigation or negotiations with third parties. The reason for this is bluntly stated by a lawyer friend of mine: #147;even though it#146;s a transaction I#146;ve done dozens of times, if the other side#146;s lawyer turns out to be a blithering idiot who wants to fight over every comma and semicolon in the contracts, then I can#146;t control the amount of time I will be putting into the matter, and will end up losing money if I quote a flat fee#148;. In such situations, you will have to pay the lawyer#146;s hourly rate. You should always ask for a written estimate of the amount of time involved, and advance notice if circumstances occur that will cause the lawyer to exceed his or her estimate. If a lawyer asks you for a retainer or deposit against future fees, make sure the money will be used and not held indefinitely in escrow, and that the lawyer commits to return any unused portion of the retainer if the deal fails to close for any reason. You should be suspicious of any lawyer who offers to take an ownership interest in your business in lieu of a fee. One last thing: don#146;t forget to follow your instincts and feelings. You should be able to communicate openly and freely with your attorney at all times. If you feel you cannot trust a particular lawyer or you believe the two of you have different perspectives, keep looking. Just remember that #147;Ally McBeal#148; is not reality: good looks and a dynamic personality are not as important in a lawyer as accuracy, thoroughness, intelligence, the willingness to work hard for you, and attention to detail. As a former client once told me, #147;My father always said #145;never trust a lawyer who has 20/20 vision and wears Armani.#146; I chose you as my lawyer because you look like you work for a living.#148; The right lawyer for your business will take that as a compliment. 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.protectingyourbusiness.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconLittle Adventures - "Adorable Dress Ups at an Affordable Price" By Jenny Farnsworth www.littleadventures.com As a mother of five, it is a challenge to make ends meet each month. I ran a day care business for two years so I could remain home with my children. As a day care provider, I discovered how much children love to dress up. I went out to purchase some dress ups but was very disappointed. There were no dress ups on the market that met the needs of an active child. I decided to design dress ups for children that were made of quality fabrics, were washable and comfortable. I tried them out on my own children as well as the day care kids. The children loved them so much that many mothers expressed an interest in purchasing them. I saw this as a great opportunity to create a way to get out of the daycare business once and for all. I approached my friend Heather, the mother of one of the children in my day care, with the idea of starting a dress up business. It has not been easy. Pregnant with my fifth child, I have memories of Heather and I sewing hundreds of costumes in the basement after the kids had gone to bed. Sometimes we were nearly in tears. The machines never seemed to cooperate when we were facing deadlines. Broken needles and jammed threads frustrated our efforts. To help us get through the struggles, our husbands tried to make us laugh and helped out a little more at home. There were times we wondered if our business was going to fail, which would have forced me to return to daycare or find employment elsewhere. I desperately wanted to stay at home with my kids and that motivated me to push my own limits. Heather and I decided to look into a local factory where we could turn the sewing over to someone else freeing us up to grow our business. In order to utilize a factory, we faced minimum requirements which meant large, expensive fabric purchases on our tight budget. I remember the big freight truck arriving and filling my driveway with fabrics in every color of the rainbow. I sat next to the pile wondering what I was going to do with all that fabric if our business did not succeed. Amazingly, that fabric was quickly sewn into hundreds of costumes that all sold. In fact, we outgrew the factory and were forced into other options. We currently have our dress ups sewn at a factory dedicated to our products in a small town in Idaho where the economy is depressed and many people are in need of jobs. We also employ five stay-at-home moms to make our accessories. Here we are two and a half years later. We are able to be full time moms to our seven kids. Although we are up late with the business (as most work begins after bedtime hugs) and up early with the kids, we wouldn#146;t have it any other way. We love what we do and are proud to say that We are our kids' moms! We believe that no matter the circumstances, all little girls are princesses and deserve to feel special. We have seen the joy of our own little girls as they dance and play as princesses. We would like to share that same experience with Dr. Laura#146;s kids and allow some to escape their circumstances, if only for a moment, and become princesses. We consider it an honor to donate to Dr. Laura#146;s "My Stuff Bags" program. We hope that as our at-home business continues to grow, our donations will be able to grow as well. Little Adventures Email: info@litteadventures.com Wholesale Website: www.littleadventures.com Retail eBay store: www.stores.ebay.com/mydressuptrunk?refid=stores Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconSome Really Cool Things I Learned At Ebay Live! By Cliff Ennico cennico@legalcareer.com If you are selling stuff on eBay, and missed last weekend#146;s eBay Live! conference in New Orleans (co-sponsored by eBay and Entrepreneur magazine), shame on you! More than 12,000 of your competitors were there, and they came away with some great advice about how to build their eBay businesses from over 100 of America#146;s leading business experts (including myself, who spoke on how to avoid being sued by disgruntled buyers). When not speaking myself, I tried to attend as many of the classes, workshops and roundtable discussions as I could. Here are some of the best tips I picked up: To see some of the weirdest things being sold on eBay, go to the home page and type #147;one of a kind#148; or #147;OOAK#148; into the search engine (Jim #147;Griff#148; Griffith, author of #147;The Official eBay Bible#148;) #150; a warning, though, some of this stuff is not for the squeamish When choosing #147;keywords#148; to advertise your auction sites on the popular search engines (such as Google or Yahoo!), do not use somebody else#146;s registered trademark, as the trademark owner can sue you for infringement (Catherine Seda, author of #147;Search Engine Advertising#148;) Don#146;t rely on accountants to tell you about all the tax deductions you can take when running an eBay business; you will be able to deduct more than most accountants will allow if you learn the rules yourself (Barbara Weltman, author of #147;J.K. Lasser#146;s Small Business Taxes 6th edition#148;) More than 20 states have adopted legislation in support of the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP), which requires out-of-state vendors such as eBay sellers to charge sales tax when selling to in-state consumers; a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision forbids states from enforcing the SSTP, but legislation is pending in Congress to reverse this decision and allow states to pursue out-of-state vendors who don#146;t comply with the SSTP (Steve DelBianco, Executive Director of the NetChoice Coalition) When hiring employees, don#146;t look for #147;safe#148; people #150; people you know won#146;t sue you if things don#146;t work out; instead, hire the #147;right#148; people for your business and learn to manage them the right way so lawsuits won#146;t happen (Eric Winegardner, Director of Product Certification for monster.com) Don#146;t just list your auction on eBay#146;s site in the United States; for a small additional fee, you can list your auction on each of eBay#146;s overseas sites and reach millions of overseas buyers who don#146;t frequent the U.S. site (John and Kim Kincaid, CollectorBookstore.com) According to a recent survey, 83% of eBay buyers won#146;t even look at your auction site unless you have posted a digital photo of the item you are selling (#147;Beginning Digital Photography#148;, a free handout from the Hewlett-Packard Corporation) By listing your auction site with eBay Giving Works, you can donate a portion of each sale to your favorite charity (#147;eBay Giving Works#148;) Consider changing your eBay user name to your Website address #150; that way people interested in your auction listings can visit your Website and see what else you#146;ve got for sale that isn#146;t on eBay (Chris Murch, President of the eBay Radio Network) If you still don#146;t think eBay isn#146;t #147;big business#148; these days, more than 100 entrepreneurs rented booths on the trade show floor at eBay Live! to talk about the resources they provide for eBay sellers. Some of the more interesting exhibitors I talked to were: The Disabled Online Users Association (DOUA), a nonprofit organization formed to helped handicapped people start eBay businesses out of their homes iSold ItTM, a nationwide franchise of eBay consignment shops formed to help sellers who don#146;t have Internet access, can#146;t figure out how a digital camera works, or otherwise do not want to list their auctions themselves Diane Kennedy#146;s TaxLoopholesTM, which provides a three-day #147;tax strategy camp#148; to teach eBay sellers about all of the business tax deductions they can take TalkinAuction.com, which helps you add audio commentary to your eBay auction listings WhatsItWorthToYou.com, which will review digital photos of your merchandise and give you online appraisals of specific items for $9.95 each MyStoreCredit.com, which helps you offer #147;in-store credits#148; to successful bidders in your eBay auctions that they can use if they bid successfully in your future auctions FreightQuote.com, which calculates the shipping charges for your eBay merchandise and helps you post a #147;calculator#148; on each auction listing so your buyers can figure out the shipping, handling and insurance charges without your having to do it for them #150; really useful if you are running lots of auctions and don#146;t want to calculate shipping for each one separately. 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 >>

IconCreative Ways to Raise Money To Start a Home Based Business Carrie Lauth is a work from home Mom of 3 If you're like many women who want to start a home based business, one of the things that may be stopping you is a lack of funds. While there are many new Network Marketing and Direct Sales businesses that are free to join, it will take at least some money to get things rolling...money for business cards, inexpensive marketing and advertising methods, postage, your own personal products to experiment with, samples, etc. Even if you are starting an online business that markets a service, or that has no physical product, you will need money for domain name registration, web site hosting, low cost advertising and the like. Here are some ideas for raising the needed capital. Get a loan Do you have a relative who would loan you the money to get started? What about that Great Aunt who always said you'd be great in your own business? How about Mom or Grandma? Perhaps they would accept barter (your new product, for instance...good rejection-proof way to get them hooked on it!) in lieu of repayment? Does Grandma have a shed full of stuff that she's been wanting to sell on eBay but doesn't have the energy? Would Mom like to have her house cleaned for the next few months? Ask your sponsor for help If you join a MLM (Multi Level Marketing company) ask your upline sponsor if they would consider buying the starter kit for you, and then taking the profits from your first parties or commission checks as repayment? Some sponsors do this already, but if not, she may be so impressed with your drive to succeed that she will say yes. Have a yard sale This is what I did to get started in my business. This one has twofold benefits...you're making some extra cash but also have a captive audience of people coming to you! If you're really energetic, go around to your neighbors and tell them that if they leave their castaways in a box on the curb, you will come pick them up. Do this before your sale. Slap a price tag on the merchandise and cha-ching! Be sure to make a sign advertising your new product or service and plenty of flyers or business cards to give to each shopper. Sell some stuff on eBay Sell things from your own home (name brand kid's clothes and popular book titles are easy and almost always pull a good price). Go to library book sales and buy books for .10 or .25 and list those. Use your my eBay page to advertise your new website! Release the clutter, sell a useless piece of furniture or item in your home For me, it was the dusty electric guitar. Kitchen appliances (you know what I'm talking about here!) that were going to make your life easier, exercise equipment that makes you feel guilty when you trip over it... Use the money you receive from your tax return Pre-sell the product I got this one from my beloved Kim Klaver. Go around to your tribe (the people who love you enough to do anything you say), your coworkers, neighbors, playgroup Mommies, and show them a "picture" of the product, tell them what it does, collect the checks, deposit them and order your product. You buy the product wholesale and they pay the retail price so you make a profit. Do a quick, temporary odd job A friend of mine just did this one. She put a sign up at a local health food market that said "Non-toxic cleaning services". (Notice that she created a niche). That day she got a call, did a job for an elderly women and made $150. Of course, she used her own nontoxic cleaning product and will probably end up getting a customer out of the deal too! Babysitting for a couple of weeks, dogsitting, housesitting...you get the picture. Talk to your husband Notice I'm leaving this one until last! Hopefully you have the kind of relationship where your husband will be overjoyed that you want to improve your financial standing. If you garner his support in the beginning he is much more likely to be helpful along your journey, with the inevitable ups and downs of business life. Carrie Lauth is a work from home Mom of 3. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

IconSome Tough Questions About "Business Opportunities" By Cliff Ennico This week#146;s crop of e-mails all have to do with buying a #147;business opportunity#148;, and the pitfalls of doing so. #147;I was approached at a trade show recently by a man who is a leading computer consultant for large companies. This man told me he had an arrangement with several #145;apprentices#146; who were learning the business under his guidance. The man assigns one or more #145;apprentices#146; to work for his clients. He bills the clients for each hour an #145;apprentice#146; works, and remits all the hourly fees to the #145;apprentice#146; except for $5,000 a month, which this man keeps as a training fee. Is this legal?#148; This arrangement falls squarely into the definition of a #147;business opportunity#148;. Generally, a business opportunity is any kind of investment program in which you are offered a chance to act as a distributor, marketing agent or reseller for a company#146;s products or services. While the most common business opportunities involve vending machines (you buy the machines from the seller, find locations for them, and stock them with the seller#146;s stuff in exchange for a portion of the proceeds), and farm animals (you buy a training kit and supplies, raise the animals in your back yard, and sell the animals back to the seller for slaughter when they#146;re fully grown), any type of #147;distributor#148; or #147;affiliate program#148; arrangement can be a #147;business opportunity#148; if it#146;s not put together carefully. Business opportunities often must register with state government agencies (see next question) and comply with a host of state laws designed to protect consumers against fraudulent investments, and I#146;ll betcha this guy hasn#146;t done any of that. I#146;m particularly troubled by the $5,000-a-month fixed fee, which #147;apprentices#148; must pay regardless of the number of hours they actually work. What happens if this guy doesn#146;t give them enough work to cover the $5,000 fee #150; do the #147;apprentices#148; pay the training fee out of their own pockets? I also think there#146;s a serious chance the #147;apprentices#148; will be considered #147;employees#148; of this man for tax purposes, since he determines where and when they work, and how much they get paid. Next time you see him, show him this column, and tell him he needs to talk to a lawyer, pronto. #147;I am thinking of buying a business opportunity, and have just recently learned that the business opportunity has not registered in my state, as the law requires it to do. The process will take months, though, and I really want to get going. What is my exposure if I go ahead and buy into the business opportunity anyway?#148; Most states require business opportunities to register with a state government agency (usually the same one that regulates offerings of securities in the state) and/or disclose certain information to people, before they are allowed to sell the opportunity to state residents. While these laws impose fines and penalties on a business opportunity that fails to comply, they are often quite vague about the consequences to the person who buys an unregistered business opportunity. Most state laws I#146;m aware of allow an unhappy purchaser to obtain a full refund of his money within a period of time (usually six months or 1 year) after learning that a business opportunity hadn#146;t registered. This #147;rescission right#148; usually disappears, however, if you knew at the time you bought into the business opportunity that it wasn#146;t registered. Since you know this business opportunity isn#146;t registered in your state, you probably will not be able to get your money back if it turns out to be a sham. But be careful: if the business opportunity wants you to solicit other prospective purchasers in your state, you may be legally responsible for registering the business opportunity with your state government, and paying the fees out of your own pocket. You may also be subject to the same fines and penalties as the out-of-state company if they catch you selling an unregistered business opportunity within the state. #147;I am looking into a business opportunity where I buy vending machines and lease them to area businesses. I#146;m a little nervous, though. They want a lot of money up front for their training materials, plus I have to pay cash when buying the machines from them. When I talk to the president, it#146;s always on his personal cell phone. The company address is a P.O. Box, they don#146;t have a Website, and the e-mail address is at America Online. How can I find out more information about this business opportunity?#148; I think you have all the information you need about this one, pal. Walk . . . no, run away as fast as you can. This one has #147;F-R-A-U-D#148; written all over it. If you buy into this, I foresee a basement full of vending machines you can#146;t give away, and a very angry spouse. 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 >>

IconStickers of the Month Club By Diane Rosenberg www.creativemailings.net Listening to Dr. Laura gave me the strength to quit my job and open my own business. I started listening to Dr. Laura about 8 years ago when my husband walked out on me and our sons who were 1 and 2 at the time. He left us with nothing. I was in an expensive house with a new car and two babies to feed. My dream was to be a stay-at-home mom so I could raise my children, but to my dismay my dream was suddenly shattered. In search of a job I found a sales position selling advertising. Working in sales provided me with flexible hours so I could take time off to be with my kids for all of their activities. I tried to run my life as if I was a stay at home mom. Things were pretty good, I made good money and the kids were growing up to be wellbehaved happy children until about two years ago when my company was bought out.Unfortunately, the new company had no tolerance for families. I tried to side step them for a while but eventually I had to decide what I wanted to do with my life and how I would support myself and the kids. I could have looked for another position in another company but the nausea I felt every time I considered it made me realized that that wasn#146;t the right thing to do either. So I started my own home business. It#146;s a sticker of the month club for children 3 to 6 years of age. It is similar to a magazine subscription but instead of getting magazines the children receive stickers each month. Both kids and parents love it and it provides hours of entertainment. I love it because I can finally live my dream and my kids love having me home. Plus, they tell me that I#146;m calmer now that I#146;m not working outside of the home. Proof that when you enjoy your work and you#146;re home raising your children the entire family benefits. I came up with the idea when my oldest son turned 3 years old. A friend gave my son stickers as a birthday gift and said that he would be receiving them each month. This was what inspired me to eventually start my own Sticker of the Month Club. One of the first things I observed when my son received his stickers was that he didn#146;t get very many each month and several of them were duplicates from previous months. I knew I could do a better job and I thought it would be fun. I kept everything that this company sent me and put it away in my cabinet. From time to time I would mention the idea to friends and family and everyone shrugged at the idea and said it wouldn#146;t make any money. But, when my employer changed for the worse the stickers of the month idea just started sounding better and better. It took seven years for me to gain the strength to say #147;I can do this and it#146;s a good idea and it will work!#148; As soon as I made up my mind and decided that starting the stickers of the month club was my goal I had to figure out what to do first. I knew I needed to come up with a name for my company that was catchy and would let people know what I was selling. The name I decided on was Creative Mailings. Once you choose a name, you need to find out if the area you reside in needs youto have a business license and if you need to register your company name. Whenyou do this you also need to publish a fictitious name in a local paper. Make sure you check the cost for several different newspapers because some of the local papers are very pricey. The next thing that you might want to do is get a business phone line. I have a localand an 800 number. When you do this you should really sit down and plan out how andwhere in your home you will operate your business it is best to set a separate corner orroom aside just for your business. You will also need to get a sellers permit and a business bank account. I think it#146;simportant to keep your business expenses separate from your personal spending. The toughest challenge for me was getting money to finance my business venture. I looked into all sorts of loans and decided to take out an equity line of credit. That worked best for me because I wasn#146;t sure exactly how much money I would need. This allowed me to take a little out at a time and only pay for the amount that I borrowed. My monthly payment was much smaller than if I had taken a loan for a large amount. A few other things I had to find were vendors for merchandise, a good graphic artist to design a flyer or a brochure, a website and ways to advertise and promote my business. After you get your feet wet you will start revamping your ideas because you will findthat things that sounded so great in your head when you were getting started sometimes are not that great in reality. You may want to find a person who has a business to be your mentor or the Small Business Association has information to help you get started so you can develop a thriving business. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

IconGolden Tennis Shoes by Chellie Campbell #147;To do good marketing, you want to attract the people you want#133;and repel the people you don#146;t want!#148;#151;Unknown If there#146;s one thing I#146;ve learned traveling along this life#146;s highways and byways, is that in all things it is best to completely be yourself. Take a stand for yourself, choose your likes and dislikes, and stand proudly in them. When you are clearly you, other people will see it and know you for who you are. This simplifies life immeasurably. Your people will be drawn to you more quickly, and the other people will pass you by. I was thinking about this as I drove to the Jonathan Club downtown Los Angeles, to speak to the Los Angeles Chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners). I was dressed in my usual #147;Give-a-speech-costume#148;#151;blouse, blazer, pants and gold tennis shoes. Mind you, I wear gold tennis shoes all the time. I have casual gold tennies that have a quilted pattern and gold beads for everyday wear, but for speeches, I wear my dressy gold tennis shoes that have rhinestones all over them. I had thought briefly of wearing #147;real shoes#148; to this event, since this was a rather corporate environment, but then I decided just to stick with my usual style. Wouldn#146;t you know, my momentary hesitation manifested itself in a challenge issued to me by one of the Jonathan Club employees in the lobby. #147;Excuse me, miss,#148; he said frowning disapprovingly at my feet, #147;but we don#146;t allow tennis shoes in our club.#148; Oops! Caught already. I grinned up at him and said, #147;I#146;m terribly sorry, but I am the speaker this evening and this is my costume!#148; He wasn#146;t buying it. #147;Don#146;t you have any other shoes?#148; he inquired. #147;No,#148; I shrugged, #147;not with me.#148; Oh, dear, I thought, am I going to be thrown out? Barred from the club? My eyes widened and I said, #147;You know, I#146;m sure your dress code means tennis shoes as in gym shoes. These are clearly not gym shoes#151;they are gold mesh, dressy shoes with diamonds on them!#148; He paused for a long moment as he thought this over. It must have made sense to him, because he said, #147;Okay#133;but hurry!#148; He wanted me out of his jurisdiction as soon as possible, and I was happy to oblige him as I scurried upstairs to the meeting room. The meeting was fabulous with lots of great people#151;no one else in tennis shoes, I noted. (They must have been tipped off to the dress code.) The reactions to my gold shoes are always very interesting. Lots of people smile and comment how they just love my shoes, how comfortable they look, etc. I know these are #147;my people.#148; And of course, some people don#146;t like them#151;one woman told me after the talk that I should look more professional if I was going to talk about a serious subject like money. I just smiled, because I think that#146;s one of the problems I#146;m trying to solve#151;that people are too serious about money. So don#146;t judge me until you walk a mile in my gold tennis shoes. Today#146;s Affirmation: #147;I am a powerful, fun-filled person, swinging passionately through the chandeliers of life!#148; Chellie Campbell is the author of The Wealthy Spirit: Daily Affirmations for Financial Stress Reduction , selected as one of Dr. Laura#146;s book recommendations in March, 2003. She created and teaches the Financial Stress Reductionreg; Workshops on which her book is based in the Los Angeles area and gives programs throughout the country. Her free e-newsletter is available at www.thewealthyspirit.com . Permission granted for use on Dr.Laura.com. More >>

IconAvoiding Home Business "Time Wasters" by copy; 2004 Priscilla Y. Huff We all have the same 24 hours in a day -- but some of us make better use of those hours better than others -- especially when it comes to managing a home business#146; operations amidst all the other demands on our lives. What are some examples of #147;time-wasters#148; and causes of wasting one#146;s time? Having work-related items scattered about the house and not keeping or returning those work-related items in the office area where they belong! Solution: When possible, conduct most of your business work in your home office or space. If you do have to take it out of the room, return it immediately when you are finished so important papers or phone numbers or other work-related items do not become misplaced or #147;buried#148; amongst household #147;piles.#148; Unnecessary telephone usage can be a large disruption in one#146;s work schedule. Solution: Thankfully, phones#151;ground lines or cellular phones#151;are easily set-up to take messages. Unless you are expecting an important call, let voice mail or another answering system handle your calls and then periodically return them all in one block of time Not setting specific work hours. Solution: If you set specific times for your work#151;while factoring in scheduled breaks and allowing some extra time for unexpected interruptions#151;you will be accomplishing the #147;must do#148; tasks in your business #147;space#148; where you can focus better in accomplishing them. Not having a plan of action. Solution: You can create a daily #147;to do#148; list from a weekly plan you can draw-up each weekend. Prioritize business and personal chores; but be realistic about how many tasks you can actually accomplish. Do not overwhelm yourself with too many duties or you will become frustrated when you cannot achieve all that you hoped to do for the day. The Clutter!! Solution: Hire or (or barter time with) a professional organizer! I hired one and together we filled 4 frac12; trash bags from my files and office space!! If you cannot find one in your area, go to the site of the National Association of Professional Organizers www.napo.net to find one in your area. Additional Tips One time management expert says, home business owners and managers should learn their own personal time wasters. Once known, they can then be eliminated.#148; Other time-management experts suggest that you set apart blocks of time to carry out specific tasks. For example, block out specific days and hours to run business and/or personal errands and assign yourself as many as you can do into your designated time period in order to save time and gas money. Keep a time diary of all your activities for a week and then closely analyze your most productive work times. Take advantage of technology#151;PDAs, software, daily planners, and other organizational aids to assist you in your time management. Do you have a "time-waster," of which you are guilty? Mine is being on the Internet too long (even though I write for a number of Internet sites!). I find that if I go online at the end of my workday or at least until I finish the most important tasks of the day, I am more productive and less likely to #147;wander#148; around in cyberspace. The challenge here of every home or small business entrepreneur is to find his or her own #147;balance#148; of business and personal-related tasks. It may take a while -- but believe it or not, you will find the best schedule that fits your business and your life! It goes without saying, that even with the best daily plan, life #147;happens#148; and is filled with unexpected #147;surprises; but that is one of the great advantages of being self-employed -- flexibility. Unlike most 9 to 5 jobs, you can pick up your child from school when they are suddenly sick or miss their bus, and re-schedule a task at a later time or day. Being aware of how you use your time can increase your business#146; productivity, profits, and organization, while helping you also find more time for yourself and for those people who are most important to you. FOR MORE INFORMATION Books: Home Based Business Mom: A Practical Guide to Time Management and Organization for the Working Woman by Juli Shulem (Newhoff Publishing) (out of print, but look for copies in your local public or college library). Home Management 101:A Guide for Busy Parents by Debbie Williams www.organizedtimes.com Internet sites: Organized U.com. www.organizedu.com www.thebusywoman.com Susie Glennan#146;s The Busy Woman'sTM Daily PlannerTM ( Time Management Strategies and Tools for Busy Women) #147; Controlling Time Waste #148; #150; article on the Women#146;s Online Business Center Priscilla Y. Huff is the author of 101 Best Home-Based Businesses for Women , 3rd ed.; and The Self-Employed Woman#146;s Guide to Launching a Home-Based Business ; for business-related questions or to request a listing of resources for women entrepreneurs, e-mail Priscilla: pyhuff@hotmail.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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