Outsourcing to Improve Your Business Productivity

If you are stressed and letting your customers down because you are trying to do it all yourself, you inevitably stand the risk of losing those customers! This is when outsourcing can really start to take the pressure off.

For me, I always want to maximise my profits. I am sure any business owner feels exactly the same way. However, there are times I have woken up at 8am and I am still working at 2am. I’ve done this 7 days in a row, 10 days in row, and so on. No time for my son, who is always trying to get my attention – “Daddy is busy” – “Working AGAIN!” is the reply I get.

At the end of the day, you may have targets you need to meet, especially when it comes to money, but sometimes you are just making matters worse. Take it from me. I was sending reports with mistakes in them, reports with the wrong logo, and my productivity per hour was very low. In fact, had I been working just 6 or 7 hours per day, I would have probably gotten through twice as much work.

Check out www.timferriss.com for more info on outsourcing your business. I found this guys book; The 4 Hour Work Week, incredibly helpful with some great insights.

Why do we end up doing most of the work ourselves?

Reason 1: Money

For me, when I was working all those hour is because I needed the money. I had bills to pay, my son’s school fees, a dental implant of things, and the list just went on. No matter how I figured out and played with my budget, I had to earn XXX by date XXX.

Reason 2: No One Can Do the Job Like Me

It was not like I had never outsourced anything before. However, the training that goes into it, and the briefs you need write, then all the chasing up and answering questions. And all this for the small amount of profit I will make compared to me doing the work myself.

However, the biggest problem was – the result was never to the quality that I wanted. I would then have to go through and make corrections, reorganise, and so on.

I know now the mistakes that I made:

  1. I just did not go about the right way explaining the work
  2. I hired people that were too cheap
  3. I hired the wrong people

Yes, some of the people I outsource to now still don’t do the work to the same high standard that I would do. However, at least there are no sloppy mistakes, and it only takes me a few little touch-ups to bring it up to speed.

And guess what! I don’t even do the touch ups anymore. I have someone else doing that for me now. I have someone that is OK at the job to do the research and provide me with what is needed at a good rate, then I have someone I pay exactly the same rate that is a pro in my profession to do the touch ups.

For me, it is a case of quick scan over, and the quality is 99.9% of the time amazing. That really makes my business look pro!

What Happened Before I Outsourced?

At that point, outsourcing just would have meant outgoings that I could not afford. The backlash of all this was not positive work productivity, but negative work productivity. My customers were getting angry because was not communicating, my work became sloppy, and I was missing deadlines.

In the end I made the money I needed to pay for the school fees, and the dental implant, along with other bills that were suddenly dropped on me. On the other hand, I lost a couple of customers because my brain was not in the right gear to grovel and keep their business.

Back in full circle, I was worried about money again, what will happen next term when my son’s school fees prop again, as well as starting my pension.

It was time for a new business model. Now I had worked hard, got the money I aimed for, but also, I was a couple of customers out. I had more time on my hands!

How Did I Manage to Make Outsourcing Work?

Just because I had lost a couple of customers, it did not mean I was not busy. Instead I started to look at the areas of my business that were taking up a lot of my time.

For example, organising content from my writers. You can easily hire someone to organise content for different customers, and make sure it goes into the correct folders. All I needed was an Excel spreadsheet, a shared drop box folder and a little faith.

$5 per hour I paid for a contractor to gather content from my writers, look at the spreadsheet to see who that content writer was writing for, and place it in the correct folder. Next tick it off the spreadsheet. If someone was late, she would chase them. Should there be no reply, she would pass it to another writer that had already finished. Easy! How did they get it do wrong before?

Here was my secret: Camtazia!

It is a video recording program. It records your actions on your computer. No need for a brief on how to do simple task – and those briefs were complicated believe me – hence all the questions. Instead I recorded my jobs that were mundane and shared the video with the person I had hired.

No more questions – or at far less – and then to pay someone to double check everything costs the same – not hourly – but costs just a few dollars. In the meantime, I could get on with doing the jobs I specialised at – not the ones that were just taking up all my time.

Round Up: Offering Quality Means More Customers

This is a very brief overview of how outsourcing works, but it also gives you an idea of how simply you can turn things around. In the end, I was getting more customers for word of mouth, which then turned into enough money for a PR, email and marketing campaign.

Now I work on my business a lot more than used to. Plus, those tasks I specialise in – well I am already hiring a new person to share those duties, and I will still make more money because I have landed yet another customer!

How do I organize my online business?

Seriously this has been a question that I have been asking myself for a long time. With online writers to employ, designers, then all my own tasks, business profit and personal finances it seems that every time I write a TO DO list, it never gets done. Sound familiar? 

I believe after several years of working online that I have cracked it. This is without any software or magical tricks that take a genius to figure out. Literally I use an Excel spreadsheet for everything.  

If you are having problems or find yourself in a constant mess, then read on because maybe there are tips you can pick up from me. 

1.Use Tabs on your Excel Spreadsheet 

OK so this is not going to change your life. It’s not even a genius suggestion. I am just starting with the simple steps that I started to do. Basically, having different tabs with different names help me organize all the aspects of my business all from one Excel spreadsheet. You can of course also use Google Sheets, which I also use – but I use this more for sharing information with writers, coders, and designers 

2.Cash Flow Forecasts 

Like many of us that run our own online freelance business, it is hard not mix business finance with personal finances. After all, our online earnings as freelancers are by and large for our own personal finances. 

For me, use 2 tabs on my spreadsheet to record all my finances. 

  1. Business cash flow forecast 
  2. Personal cash flow forecast 

Prior to this I had nothing. Then I decided to keep a cash flow forecast. After this I found it easier to separate the two. In my business cash flow forecast now all my income from any work I do is not counted as personal income; instead, I pay my self a set salary for my month to month expenses. 

Effectively I have made myself an employee in my own business. That is exactly how it should be. All my customer payments are in my cash flow forecast. I have regular customers that pay on different dates, and new one-time or ad-hoc projects that come in also added on there as well as their expected payment dates.  

TIP: Both these forecasts I have set to 12 months in advance 

And wow… Having a 12-month outlook at my business has been the best thing I have ever done. I know when contracts end, I know when money in future months could go down. This is opposed to figuring it out 1 month before it happens and panicking looking for more customers.  

What’s more is – I have stopped taking cheap jobs just for the sake of bumping up a bad patch. I know when there is a possibility of bad patch well in advance now and so I start looking for other contracts, prospects, and I only take jobs that pay for what I believe my time is worth.  

For my personal cash flow, I can predict when I can take a holiday! I know when my son’s school fees are coming well in advance (again rather than panicking a month before thinking – dayum – I am going to have to live on pot noodles for a month and no Starbucks for a month ;-( 

3.Keep a Buffer Tab 

On my business cashflow forecast, it always shows my business balance. I then subtract $1,000 from this balance. This is my buffer. It fluctuates between subtracting $500 and $1,000. I make this up using percentages of projects as time goes on. This buffer is then put into a tab so I know what O have used it for.  

Many of us also must pay for other people to do work for us. There are also those bad patches or even lazy patches. When I say lazy patches – I get days and sometimes several days when I cannot get motivated. My productivity is rubbish and time seems to fly past. 

Basically, I was doodling. The next thing I know, I have not produced as much work as I should have. I do not have time to keep my customer schedule on track so I must hire help, and so on.  

Rather than me working on those days, I should have just outsourced immediately. Instead I sat there not feeling at all motivated and wasted a day in front of the computer. I could have gone out, taken the family out, run, swim, gone to beach (I live in Thailand!), gone for bike ride – I think you get the picture – I could have taken the day off.  

The same applies to when we get sick and cannot work, we have holidays, family visits, unexpected family or friend problems. At the end of it all, I work on holiday, I look for excuses to get an hour or two away from the family to get some much-needed work done. 

Why? Because I did not have a buffer to.

4.Target Earnings Tab 

We all have an idea of what our target earnings are. Many of my freelancer friends live day to day or month to month just earning what they earn. When their earnings are low, they cut back for the month. When their earnings are high, they are flush.  

I also did this for a long time, but it also meant I would run into a lot of the issues I have already mentioned in the (keep a buffer tab) section.  

Now I have target daily and weekly earnings. Well sort of! So, my daily target is $250 Monday to Friday. It almost NEVER works that way. The good thing is if I make $100 because I worked only a couple of hours, I can make up for it on a Saturday. Therefore, $100 Tuesday, I make up $150 on Saturday. I basically took most of the day off on Tuesday anyway.  

Each day I mark how much I made compared to the set target earning. This really has helped me out to no end. If I am $20 short one day, I can easily make that up the next day and so on. 

What did I do before I had the target earnings tab? 

Honestly, it was all air and dust. I was just making calculations in my head. It became so bad that I would start thinking about it when I was trying to sleep. When I was driving. Questions running through my mind like “what did I do yesterday?”, “How much did I earn?”, “What did that job pay?”, and so on.  

Every job pays differently and you imagine by the end of the week I was just sending invoices off blindly and watching the cash roll into my PayPal, Neteller, First Choice and bank account not really knowing if I had my target or not.  

Now I never have that problem because my target earnings tab shows me: 

  • The jobs I need to complete to hit my target that day 
  • How much time I will need to dedicate 
  • Who that customer is  

I can also rearrange this if the day does not go as planned. As opposed to having a day that does not go to plan and not knowing what I need to do the next day to catch up to hit my target. 

5.Daily Time Management 

Yawn, yawn, yawn. Yes, I know. How many people harp on about time management. I had the same opinion too. Why waste time organising time management when it takes time to organise your time. What a waste of time huh? 

This is the one time in my life I could not have been more wrong. At the beginning of day I look at my “Target Earnings” tab, I organise my time for that day, add in any surprise tasks too, and I have a plan. I can take regular breaks, I can reduce stress and I have time to exercise, watch a quick episode of the latest series I am watching – I now even have time to eat a proper meal – (yes – eating properly!!!).  

6.Progress (TO DO List) 

Now this helps me organise my daily management and ties in with my targets. I call it a progress list rather than a TO Do list simply because I have read the book “The One Thing”. TO Do is mundane; while, progress means you are in fact making progress towards your target earnings and job completion. 

This is a monthly “progress list” list. Every day of the month is on there on the left vertically, and the jobs I need to complete run horizontally. I have this planned 6 months in advance. 6 MONTHS!!! You might be screaming!!! Don’t worry – I have not set myself all the things I must do in 6 months. I have a 12-week plan for that, which I will discuss later. 

Anyways – it is not as much work as you think making this monthly progress list covering each day of the week. Every month there are the same regular tasks you must do.  

Here are some of my regular tasks: 

  • Customer report 
  • Customer invoice 
  • Pay myself 
  • Weekly Skype Catch Ups 
  • Email Comms 

Invoicing or reporting can occur on different days of the month. I need to know on which day I need to do that. Now it is easy to keep track of. I never forget to pay myself!!! I know which days I have arranged for a Skype catch up if it is needed, and I remind myself I should answer my emails at some point in the day. 

7.Customer Cost Tracking Tab 

Always keep a separate tab for each customer if there are costs associated with their contract. I do a lot of SEO contracts. They may pay me $500 or $2,000 a month, which looks great, but there are a lot of outgoing costs involved. For instance, I only do White Hat SEO.  

This means building relationships. I manage the relationship building by hiring Outreach experts, writers, and designers. All these people work together so they can create engaging content – in effect PR. To get people to your website, or to let them know there is a website that exists that has content or products that they be interested in or may help them means a lot of good content.  

All this costs money. If I do not know how much I am spending on these contractors, then I do not know if I am making a profit. However, with this tab I always know, and I know how much profit I am making at the end of the month.  

The sum is simple: 

  • Monthly Payment – Expenditure = Profit 

This profit is directly integrated into my business cash flow forecast. Any changes in customer expenditure are entered on this tab. This is then auto calculated on my business cash flow forecast tab. This is because the cell associated with the customer on my business cash flow forecast is set to display the value of the profit cell on the Customer Cost Tracking tab’s for each respective customer.   

How does all this fit together? 

Honestly, it took me ages to set all of this up. It was more my accident. One Excel spreadsheet developed into 2 tabs, then 3 tabs and so it went on. Eventually I fit them all together to work in sync.  

  1. My targets tab is coordinated with my Progress List. When I know the jobs I need to do to hit my daily targets, I can add this to the relative day on my progress list to get a visual of what I need to do each day. Regular tasks are that earn daily money are added to my progress list for the entire month.  
  2. Now the jobs that have helped me hit my target earnings are added to my progress list, I don’t have to worry about the value of each job. I already know this as I calculated this in my target tab. His takes a lot off my mind because all I need to know now is what I need to do for the day without worrying about money. Sometimes this can work for an entire week if undisturbed.  
  3. My Time Management from day to day comes next. At the start of the day I look at my progress list. I know what I need to do to hit my targets by using the progress list, which is already planned out for the week. To manage my day, this is a 5-minute job. I dedicate hours in the day to get the work done from my progress list. At the same time, I need to give my brain a rest so I can include breaks. This helps me become more productive. 

Here is a simple break down: 

  1. Target earnings -> (2) Things that need doing for the day -> (3) Managing the day 
  2. My progress list dictates my entire month – it is not set in stone. It is a guide rather than a solid “you MUST do this”. It needs to be flexible with my day to day work. However, it is also designed months in advance too. I know when I have holidays. I know when I am not working, so I can plan to outsource when I need to. I don’t miss invoicing or reports for customers. So you can see how this also has a long term function. 
  3. When I have completed work, I can tick it off as done. If by some chance it is not done, then I know my earnings have dropped. I can reflect this straight away by adding this to my business cash flow forecast sheet. This allows me to see if it is OK that this work was not completed, or whether I will need to make up the time. (in a way – this means overtime). If there is no huge financial repercussion, then there is no problem. 

Read My Summary (especially if you think this is way too much management) 

Now all these tabs may seem ridiculous. How many tabs do I have to edit? Isn’t this all a waste of time? For some it is… I have read many books whereby successful people have said that too much management or over management of your time, finances, targets, and so on are counterproductive.  

Honestly, for me, this works. the reason I created each tab is because my brain was finding it hard to cope with all the information. I wanted to stop jotting down notes on pieces of paper or creating notepad files on my computer that I would never look again. Even I did, they made no sense, so I wasted more time trying to work out why I wrote what I wrote.  

It may not work for you and it could well be counterproductive. For me, everything fits and so I know how to earn the money I need to earn and this fits into my finances.  

I hope though some areas, if not all, apply to you and will help you become a better business owner or better freelancer. 

e-commerce payments

E-Wallets & E-Comm Website Owners

e-commIf you decide that you want to become an e-comm website owner, then one of the most important areas of your website strategy will be the payment methods that you accept. Since the internet began, a rising payment method known as E-wallets have fast become a fad in the e-comm marketplace!

It isn’t rocket science to figure out that without a diverse range of ways to accept online payments, you are not going have a successful sales tally. Quite simply, if people can’t pay you regardless of how much they like your products or services, then you are not going to make money.

What is surprising to see is that there are still large numbers of e-comm websites that I have visited myself that do not accept some of the most popular e-wallets out there. Forgive my bad language, but WTF!!!

Why am I writing about e-comm e-wallets?

I have been in the online affiliate marketing and e-comm business for years. As you may have read, this blog is just a place for me to brain dump my ideas and thoughts. There is no angle here for me to make money. So this is my latest gripe in the online marketplace.

Here is where the WTF comes in when it comes to e-wallets!

My job is not just to make money for myself, but also I get paid as a consultant to help e-comm sites become more successful. And, what is one of the of the first things I see when I go and test my customers e-comm website check outs?

They do not accept e-wallets!

Everyone seems to be sold on just accepting VISA, MasterCard or Amex. How many customers are they missing out on?

Sometimes when I point this out, the only valid answer the webmaster or company owner comes up with is – we accept PayPal.

What about Skrill or Neteller?

Did you know this:

Neteller is responsible for not millions, but billions of US$ worth of financial transaction online EVERY YEAR!

Really, this is massive. Imagine, if you own an e-comm website, and someone visits your website that is a Neteller account holder. They see something they like and go to the checkout area – select payment methods – and boom – they leave. Why? The ecomm site only accepts PayPal and/or major credit and debit cards.

  1. The Neteller customer goes to your competitor
  2. You have lost a potential customer
  3. You have lost a potential repeat customer

The same applies to Skrill members.

Skrill Sign Up Page

Neteller Sign Up Page

Open Accounts with Every E-Wallet You Can Find

One of the best pieces of advice I can offer you if you are into e-comm is to offer every type of e-wallet you possibly can. There are several advantages to doing this.

  1. E-wallets accept multiple currencies
  2. People use e-wallets for security
  3. You can withdraw to your bank account easily (Free)
  4. E-wallets have great customer services
  5. Some e-wallets like Skrill offer VIP accounts
  6. You will increase your sale

Why Do People Use E-wallets?

E-wallets have come into fashion for a very good reason. One of those reasons is so you do not have continuously spread your bank card details around the internet. This is massive in terms of security for those that choose to use e-wallets.

  • You only need to give your e-wallet your bank details or credit card details
  • The e-wallet is topped up using your registered cards or bank account
  • You can withdraw from your e-wallet back to your bank account
  • You then ONLY need to use an email address to pay online

If you are not familiar with e-wallets, then it is worth noting that one of the main attractions to using them is the fact that all your need to remember is your email address and password.

How Do People Pay For Good or Service Via E-Wallets

As long the online store the person is visiting accepts the e-wallet(s) the customer is a member of, then the payment process for them is easy.

  1. Add to cart
  2. Go to check out
  3. Select the e-wallet payment method

Now the website’s backend will redirect the customer to the e-wallets secure payment website. The URL is coded with e-wallets URL and a small string that refers back to the shop the customer is paying from. This is an encrypted payment system 100% safe and secure.

  1. The customer enters the email address and password if their e-wallet
  2. Next the customer confirms payment
  3. The payment is then processed
  4. Customer is returned back to the e-com website thank you and/or payment confirmation page

Obviously, there may be some other steps in-between this such as entering your delivery address if the product you are ordering online is a physical one. That is about all there is to it.

For the e-com website owner, they will see the sale come in on their website and see it is from one of the e-wallet account they have. The owner can log on to check that the funds have been delivered for that order.

Another Reason People Like E-Wallets – Disputes are Easily Solved

Online PaymentsPeace of mind is something we all want when we make a transaction online. However, sometimes that isn’t always the case. Even though credit card and debit card companies are pretty good at getting your money back for you if you are not happy with a product, they are only effective 50% of the time.

There is no common link between the buyer and the seller. A customer may use an HSBC VISA and the website owner has an account with Standard Charter bank. If there is a dispute, the customer and seller have to leave it to the credit card companies. On the other hand, e-wallets have a better solution.

As the seller and buyer are both member of the same e-wallet, they can speak directly

Scenario 1: The buyer purchases your product. The product arrives damaged. The customer opens a dispute with the e-wallet company. You see the dispute and you can deal with it quickly. You can use the e-wallet’s communication system to communicate directly with the customer and resolve the issue quickly – this is great for reputation management.

This solves very customers fears of being ripped off

Scenario 2: If you have shopped online regularly, then you may have experienced this scenario. That is you paid an e-com site using your credit/debit card. The goods/service promised was not what you expected. You try to contact the seller via their website (because this is the only choice you have). You are ignored, or replies from the seller are sporadic. You give up!

In scenario 2 an e-wallet would not allow this to happen

One of the key advantages to having an e-wallet is the fact that customers know they are protected in a variety of scenarios. They do not need to give their bank or card details to shops online. The payment/check out process is guaranteed by the e-wallet company. The buyer is protected from malicious website sellers. For the seller, it allows you and also forces you to deal with customer issues promptly.

Working Online

5 Ways to Start an Online Business

Working online means you can work for yourself. Well at least you can work from home, in a coffee shop, on the beach or on a rocky mountain slope just as long as you have an internet connection. It doesn’t always mean being your own boss because you may find yourself working from home and having a virtual boss if you are lucky enough to find a business that will pay you an online salary.

As an online entrepreneur, I have spoken with a lot of people that use the internet to make a living. Mainly those that interact with the same website as me – upwork.com. I also looked through a lot of the jobs that are available on UpWork to see what kind of jobs are on offer for online freelancers.

Let’s just say the world is your oyster because just about any skill with software, applications, coding, marketing and more can be found.

Here are 5 jobs that you may not know exist online:

  • Support Desk/Customer Services

 

Yes, you read correctly. If you are currently stuck in a 9-5 customer services role in a busy office, then you have the skills to do the same job from home. There are plenty of companies out there that do not want to hire the office space, pay for the equipment, and have to pay their staff medical insurance! (Yes, no medical insurance can be a downside!). This leaves the door wide open for those that want to leave the office and work from home in a customer services role.

  • Data Inputting/Data Entry

 

Another job that usually means hiring someone to come into the office and add extra expenses when it could be done at home. There are many data entry jobs that can be anything from scouring the web to find email addresses marketers may find useful, to the transfer of information from one system to another.

  • Affiliate Marketing

 

Arguably one of the most difficult professions to get into. You will really need some people skills and a knack for persuasive argument. You also need to make sure that you are not just selling junk – this could quickly ruin your reputation; especially if you have built up an email list. The most popular affiliate marketing sites now are online gaming sites that promote games on behalf of other companies. One of my own personal sites is www.c9bet.com.

  • Online Games Testing

 

If you know where to look, you can volunteer to start testing games. Sounds like a dream job, right? For some it is. Once you get to learn the process of game testing and build up an understanding of the information the developers could really benefit from, you can build up your own portfolio. With that portfolio, you can start to charge a freelancer rate. The more you build relationships with various software developers, the higher the chances become of you landing paid jobs in this field.

  • Become an online writer

 

With billions of websites out there and bloggers such as myself, there are tons of writing jobs out there. I really enjoy writing or I would not be writing this blog! Every so often when I my thoughts are not in one place (because online work can do that to you), I like to write and so today I came up with 5 jobs online. If you are a very good writer, you can earn from $10 – $500+ per article you write. To get started you can try UpWork mentioned above – join and search for writing jobs.

Wrapping up, these are just some of the jobs you can build an online business with. All you need is a decent website that says who you are and what you specialize in. You don’t always have to have a website – I know a writer buddy of mine earning $3,000 – $5,000 a month on UpWork with no website to show off his talent.

However, I do suggest to you that a website would help if you are new. Keep it short and sweet – a one page homepage on a free Wix, Google or Weebly website will be suffice. As you build up your portfolio, you can begin adding your clients and examples/descriptions of your work to your website. After a while, you may be so busy that you will be able to hire someone to update your website for you!

Building Incentives Into Your Business Offerings

Incetives Blog
Planning Business incentive Strategy

When building a business be it online or offline, you should always think about how you can attract customers by offering something extra to your services – something free.

The world of business in nearly any industry or niche will have its fair share of competition without a doubt. There are the major players that you must get around to start with. Most of the larger businesses can offer lower prices because of they have designed their business to consider economies of scale.

What are Economies of Scales in Business?

If you take a building company for example. Let’s say they have been running for several years. This business has probably built up a huge client base and done properly has customer or clients that will not use anyone else. 75% of your customer base should be loyal customers; essentially repeat business.

With a regular income guaranteed from these loyal followers, the company will have money to play with. They will also have more buying power than smaller businesses with less money coming in. That buying power alone allows them to purchase common materials used to build all manner buildings in bulk. We all know that when you buy in bulk, the general rule of thumb is the price comes down.

This means with cheaper material; the company can offer more affordable services. Something the little man generally is unable to do.

In addition to this, the shipping of material in bulk is often cheaper overall. Yes, of course as 20-ton truck will cost more than 10-ton truck, but when they are shipping or transporting in bulk the cost per ton being transported is actually less. More money saved and more costs shaved off their base costs.

As a result, the company can still make large profit margins while offering lower prices. This is exactly the reason we do not see vegetable shops or butchers quite as often as we used to. That is because the large super markets can undercut them in price. They can process and package food much more effectively and by better machinery to output more food.

Again, the outcome is the same as the building company. The economies of scale (scale meaning size and economies meaning the economic cost) will allow the bigger companies to offer better deals.

business Strategy Wheel
Strategize Incentive Offerings

How Can You Beat the Big-Name Competitors?

One of the best ways to do this, is to offer something for free. Now your competitors may also already be doing this. However, usually the offer something that is not unique or is just one incentive that may not suit everyone.

For you, the little man just starting out, it is best to look at ways to offer niche incentives. Maybe packages that appeal to a different group of people. For example, at www.naga128.com, they offer incentives for a wide variety of customers in Malaysia. There are plenty of websites like theirs out there offering the same deal because the businesses they deal with already have set deals. There is not much flexibility at all.

Nonetheless, they have found a great way to get around it. They offer great customer service with different ways to get in touch with them. WeeChat, email, telephone, and Facebook.

Customer Service Is a Huge Incentive

Prior to becoming a blog writer, I worked for a software development company in Thailand. Now this is one tough industry to crack. One of the ways that we managed to get customers over our much larger competitors was just being contactable.

Our customer services (and still is at this company) was something that we took pride in. In terms of incentives in the IT and software development industry, there is not a hell of a lot that you can offer that someone (a competitor) had already thought of. However, we knew that communicating with our customers and potential customers alike was one incentive to sign up to us.

We were a small company so the customer got to speak directly with the marketers, coders, sales persons and more. It made them feel special and it worked! Our feedback from surveys, Social Media and PR circulations was 99.9% positive. Yes, there are always those 0.01% of people that just cannot be made happy no how many loops you jump through to keep them happy. That is something that you will have to deal with and this is where our second incentive came in.

Money Back Guarantees

This is not the easiest of incentives to offer. Who wants to take the time and effort servicing a client only to give them their money back? It just doesn’t work! Well at least not with all products. There are some services out there a full 100% satisfaction refund or money back guarantee will not negatively affect the business – these are far and few between.

We did however figure out a way around this. That way around was to make sure that we at least covered a large percentage of our costs. We did this by offering a 50% money back guarantee and you get to keep the work we did.

How many refunds do you think we had to issue?

Out of more than 1,000 clients we had 1 refund issued to a guy that was out of his depth when it came to project managing a software application production. We natured him most of the way, which ended up costing us time and money. In the end though it was better to offer the refund (and more cost effective) then continue with this individual and his company.

Overall – many of our customers signed up to our service because of the satisfaction guarantee.

  1. It gave them almost a risk-free investment that they could fall back on financially if the job was not up to scratch
  2. They know that we do not want to give them their money back – so they also know we will work our hardest to make their project work
  3. Most of the time businesses and their intentions are inherently good – they are not looking for a refund – they are looking for a job well done. In the future if they need our services again, they know we are the go to service provider for them.
  4. All the while our customer service was better than everything else throughout their contract

Look For Ways To Beat Your Competition

To round this up, an incentive is anything that adds value to your service or product offering. There may be times where your competitors appear to have covered every angle. However, if you dig deep enough, you will find a niche area that you can use as your unique sales proposition. This could be put across in a brochure, email, business meeting or however it is you manage to bring in leads or present your services/products. It has to say, “THIS IS WHY WE ARE DIFFERENT!”.

Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or would like to share your similar experiences, please email us and we may even publish what you should say by adding your experiences to this blog.

Things You Need To Know Before Starting Your Own Business Online

Today, Internet and businesses online go hand in hand. There is a lot of technology that goes behind the scenes of an Internet business. Therefore, getting a grip on the basics is worth it when beginning a business on the Internet. The option to pay for goods or service online is offered by businesses that operate over the Internet. The benefit and ease of running a business online has become quite evident in recent times. A business becomes more attractive when running online since customers are able to pay online, regardless of where in the world they might be.

What Do You Need To Know About Internet And Businesses Online?

There are no excessive costs or complications involved when it comes to setting up a business online. Only three basics things are needed to set up an online business, which are:

1. A website through where the products or services being offered can be selected and purchased by consumers. For anyone with no website experience, a low cost option is to purchase â€off the shelf’ websites and customize them later.

2. The website has to be connected to a Payment Gateway. Once connected to the website, online payments are sent securely for authorization by this service.

3. A bank account known as a Merchant Account, which is specifically for the funds accepted online and is not associated to a normal bank account.

How To Put An Online Business Together On The Internet?

Normally, purchasing something online is quite simple. The goods or services that want to be purchased by shoppers are added to a shopping cart and payment details are entered upon checking out. Of course, there is more to the underlying technology.

How Do Business Operate On The Internet?

Shopping cart: Items that are purchased by an online shopper are added to a shopping cart, which is effectively equal to the shopping basket of a high street store. It must be noted that often a shopping cart is not included in an online business website, especially when just one product is being sold.

Checkout: Shoppers check out when they are ready to pay. A â€purchase description’ is generated according to the product information in the shopping cart, which is then sent to a Payment Gateway so that the payment can be processed securely.

Payment Gateway: After being directed to the Payment Gateway, a payment method is chosen by the shopper and payment details are entered.

Transaction: The payment details of shoppers are paired by the Payment Gateway with the purchase description from the shopping cart as a result of which a â€transaction’ is produced.

Authorization: Transaction details are encrypted and sent to the card issuer of a shopper by the Payment Gateway for authorization. The transaction is either authorized or declined by the card issuer.

Confirmation: The shopper and the online business is notified by the Payment Gateway via a conformation popup and an email upon completion of the order.

Merchant Account: The purchase amount is received by the Payment Gateway from the card issuer of the shopper, and is sent to the Merchant Account of the business. It takes about 1 to 2 days for this to occur.

Bank account: Finally, funds from the Merchant Account are sent to the standard bank account of the business.

Thus, this is how Internet and businesses online work together for the mutual convenience of both business owners and shoppers.

Top 3 useful mobile applications for you

Modern technology has made life simple. Today, there is an application for everything. Whether you want to manage time, organize your work or secure your home from thugs among others, you will always find an application that can assist you at the end of the day. Here are 3 useful mobile applications that you need to install on your device.

Goodluck

Do you want to look fashionable and stylish? Well, if the answer to this question is yes then it is high time you looked for Goodluck app. The application is not only simple to use but also effective. The app has been designed to guide when it comes to the trendy lifestyle by giving you useful tips that you can apply to stand out from the crowd. The application will guide you on what to wear as well as how to combine different outfits in order to look stunning. Each day, the application will offer you with new looks. Whether you are a man or woman, this application has something that will impress you at the end of the day.

Remote Mouse

Remote mouse helps turn your smartphone into a remote control for different devices including your PC. If you have lost your remote control no reason to worry. Instead, download this application from the application store and then use the same to make things easier and simpler on your part. The application can also be useful whenever you want to make a presentation or watching a movie from the comfort of your couch. The application is easy to use thus making it ideal for both experienced as well as first time users of the same.

Marvin

Our discussion of top mobile applications that you need for your device will not be complete if we do not mention Marvin. Thousands of users keep downloading the application daily because it has a lot to offer. The application acts as an eBook reader. If you are passionate with reading then this is a perfect application to go for. The application allows you to select colors as well as your background. The artificial intelligence engine allows users to discover certain amazing things about the characters and author of different books. The application has a separate window for the table of contents, glossary as well as highlights among other important concepts. You can download this application to make your reading experience more fun.

In conclusion, smartphones have become part and parcel of our daily lives. Today, you cannot do without a smartphone if at all you know anything about technology. Mobile applications can be applied in different areas to make things a breeze. It does not make sense to struggle with certain tasks when there is an application that you can apply for the same. The app store is filled with different applications that you can apply whenever you want to make things simpler. Each of the applications on the market comes with its advantages as well as disadvantages. Therefore, it is wise to compare different applications before selecting one of them for your use.

Which Web Hosting Plan is Right for Me?

Hosting Tips

There are a ton of web hosting companies out there that offer reliable website hosting and will ensure that your website will never go down. With so many choices out there it can be difficult to decide which web hosting is right for you.

In the past if you went for a cheap hosting company, it usually meant that your website would yoyo (go up and down all the time). That may be fine if you have a small website and few visitors because a little downtown would not hurt your business.

However, nowadays with so much competition out there online even for local businesses, a 100% uptime is vital.

Plus, for this companies that need their hosting to stay up at a 100% rate because they have so many web visitors, down time is something they cannot afford to have.

Web Hosting Comparisons

Luckily today there are some very good companies out there that help you compare the best web hosting packages so you can pick the one that is right for you.

Not only that. You can get coupons from many of these websites so you can get a discount on any web hosting that you sign up for.

www.alreadyhosts.com is a site that I have used before to get my own web hosting for my own customers. The reason I use this site is because they have an expansive range of coupon codes and they also offer some great advice about hosting.

For example, not many of these websites that are offering their various hosting deals mention anything about Google Hosting. What intrigued me the most about the Already Hosts website is the up to date information they provide about all the various hosting options out there including a very rarely mentioned Google web hosting option.

 

Choosing the Right Web Hosting

With so many options out there that all look great, it is very difficult to decide which hosting company to go with. Luckily, I have a lot of experience because I have owned many websites over my time.

 

  • Do you want an email address with your web site’s name in it?

I put this at the top of the list because one thing you don’t want to be doing is going off to another 3rd party company to get your email hosting sorted out. Therefore, if you need an email address with your domain name in it, look for a hosting company that also includes ‘Free Email’ accounts.

 

  • Do you already own your domain or will you buy a new one?

If you already own your domain, then does the company that you bought the domain with offer hosting? It is often easier just have all your hosting and registrar (domain renewal) in one place. This makes the admin side of your website much easier to handle.

 

  • Will you be hosting multiple sites?

Should you decide that you need multiple websites, then you can choose a web hosting company that allows you to use a shared hosting package where you can host all your websites on a single hosting platform. They will share the same IP.

One thing to note here is that if you start to get a lot of traffic to all or one of these websites, you may want to consider buying a dedicated IP and upgrading your hosting package for more speed.

 

  • Are you expecting a lot of visitors?

If you are expecting a lot of visitors, then you will need a more powerful package. Nearly all web companies offer unlimited band width; however, that does not mean the server load can handle a huge number of visitors.

Often when you get a lot of traffic, it is not the bandwidth that is slowing down your website’s responsiveness to quires and requests. It is the server itself. If you are on a shared hosting plan, then there will be many websites all requesting for a piece of the server’s hardware.

Thus, if you are expecting a lot of visitors, get one of the more expensive packages that includes more features with it. Virtual Private Servers are often a good idea.

Having a virtual server just means you will be provided your very own server. That server can be dedicated to you.

 

  • Do you have a large budget?

As with anything in life, budget plays its part in your final purchase decision. In all honesty, hosting is hosting. There is not a huge difference between all the hosting companies anymore aside from their marketing abilities.

For instance, GoDaddy and Hostgator tend to dominate most markets. This is because they have huge advertising campaigns. Bluehost is also another one. However, they also tend to be the most expensive web hosting.

Do not feel that because you did not choose one of the big 3, that you have gone cheap. Honestly, if you are on a tight budget, then budget hosting is OK. FatCow, iPage and JustHost (just to name a few) are all just as good as the big 3, it is just they do not have as bigger advertising budgets.

For those of you that have been in the business of hosting for a while, you will know Hostgator, GoDaddy and Bluehost are 3 of the oldest hosting companies around- hence, they have managed to build huge profits over the years enabling them to advertise as much as they do.

 

  • How technical are you?

Not all of us are tech experts when it comes to web hosting. This means that you need something very simple when it comes to web hosting. I came across a company recently called ‘Onlydomains’. They are rarely heard of, but they have some great packages on offer.

Not only do they have great packages, their interface is extremely user friendly. Everything is in the most obvious places, so it is incredibly easy to find your away around. Whereas, even though I do like Hostgator and GoDaddy, I often find that their user interfaces are not too obvious.

Nonetheless, all this means is that it just takes you a little time to figure it out and work your way around.

That is all good and well if you are regularly visiting your hosting interface. For those that are only log into their hosting once in a blue moon, the process of finding your way around once again (because you have forgotten since the last 6 month ago) can be tie consuming.

In short, look at YouTube or any other resources available to you and type in the name of the hosting companies you have shortlisted. More often than not, you will find live examples of people using the hosting interface. This way you can get a good look and feel for each option that you have.

 

  • Where are you located?

Currently the large majority of hosting companies operate in the USA. This means it is highly likely that most services you purchase will be hosted in the USA. That is not deal if your business is in Europe or Asia.

Although load times will not be hugely affected, techies are always concerned about their milliseconds. If you are in the United Kingdom, then you should be looking into a hosting company that has servers in the United Kingdom that you can host your website on.

 

  • How big is your website? / What will it do?

Size matters when it comes to websites. If you are going to be hosting a huge website that does any of the following, then the site is likely to grow:

  1. Interacts with users
  2. Offers games/videos/movies/downloads
  3. Has a log on area
  4. Will continually grow in content at a fast rate

Now you can do all this on a simple hosting program no problems. However, once your visitor count grows, you start to get more members, then the server needs to be bigger and better.

Especially if you are offering any type of online gaming. You can imagine that the most popular games out there are located on servers around the world. Each one of those severs needs to be able to handle the load.

In most cases this is not something you will need to worry about if you are starting a new website. Nonetheless, it is good to be aware that sometime in the future you may want to consider the fact that you need better hosting as your website starts become increasingly successful.

 

Weighing Up All the Options

At the end of the day, choosing a hosting company is almost the same as choosing your next TV or even your next car. For many of us it is a new process; while, for others it is a walk in the park because we have done it so many times or it is like a hobby to us.

If you are not too fussy, and you just want to get a site up, then you are most likely best going with the cheapest option you can find. Just make sure that you use a website like AlreadyHosts or b2evolution so you are being given recommended options.

On the other hand, if you are particular about your webhosting, then take into account the points made above regarding number of visitors, the size of your website, location and so on. You will need to shop around. In this case, as stated above, treat it like you are looking for a new car.

WordPress Drag and Drop Themes Save Costs

WordPress Web Template

Have you heard about the WordPress drag and drop themes that are available now? They are easy to use for both people looking to design their site on their own, or for people looking to hire a professional web developer to design the site for them.

Contributor

Before I begin, I would like to thank Software Development Naples, a web design company in Naples, FL USA for contributing advice to this blog. You can find out more about this company run by a friend of mine, Andrew at the following link: softwaredevelopment.com.

Save Time

Firstly, if you are designing your own site, then a drag and drop theme will save you tones of time. On the other hand, if you are hiring a web dev company to design the theme for you, then you will also be saving them time using a drag and drop theme.

Saving time on web design is incredibly important because time is money. You can concentrate on other important aspects of your website such as getting traffic, sales processes and other important aspects such as running your business!

Avoid Admin Fees

Buying a theme in advance or having at least a short list gives you another cost advantage. you can approach the web developer already with a theme in mind and avoid the admin fees a web development company would charge you for looking at themes on your behalf.

Remember that you may feel that selecting or buying a theme is not something that should be charged.

On the contrary. As with your own business, using resources comes with a chargeable cost. Whether you charge this at an hourly/daily rate or include this into the profit margins of your product/service, you will be looking to make a return on your services.

For web dev companies this is the same. Somehow in the costs, the time spent searching and even purchasing a theme will be somehow fathomed into the final cost. Therefore, being prepared with a drag and drop theme that you like will give you distinct cost advantage.

Can I get Responsive Themes?

If you come across a WordPress theme that is not responsive, then ignore it. In fact, there should not be any website templates out there for sale today that do not offer a responsive design. The reason for this is because in today’s mobile and the move crazy digital environment, a non responsive website is as near as dammit a dead website. This is the fact of life when it comes to web design in today’s modern digital era.

Where can I find out more?

You can check out this website for WordPress drag and drop themes. They are available at very good prices and you can save costs with your web developer by buying the theme yourself before they quote you. This is a great example of what is out there.

Make sure you decide upon a theme or a selection of themes. Make it easy for your web developer to help you make the right choice. If you start to change your mind all the time or you become indecisive, then this could end up costing you more time and money. On the other hand, as this is your company website, you do not want to rush things or choosing the wrong theme could cost you a lot of money in redesign later on. It is a bit of a catch 22.

Finally, you will have an easy to use and almost effortless website to design and maintain. This is where you want to be in the end. Something that does not take too much time, but gets across your brand image and services in such a way that it engages your visitors and brings in sales if making money from the site is in fact your final objective.

Any questions, please feel free to email me via my contacts page.

 

Why Optimize A Business Website With Responsive Web Design?


Most business owners have no idea that they are doing their business a great disservice by having merely a single version of their business website. These days, responsive business sites are essentially required in order to keep a business current and up to date with the latest technological trends.

Not having a responsive website cannot be afforded by businesses operating in the digital climate of today. So, one of the reasons you should optimize your business website for mobile devices is to enable you to meet the needs of the people who seem to be always on the go. You will risk losing your customers if they cannot access your business website on their mobile devices.

Why are responsive sites so important?

A Distinct Viewpoint

One of the reasons a responsive website will be important for you since the information available on your website will become accessible on mobile devices. These days, millions of people are viewing websites on their smartphones via mobile internet access. The main, original version of your website will not appear the way it does on a computer screen, on a mobile device, since they usually have very small screens.

The layout of traditional websites gets distorted on smartphones making it hard to view them and navigate through them. Often mobile users are able to view important to information or need to do a lot of clicking and scrolling to get to the information they want to view. So, if your website is really difficult to navigate for mobile users, then they will move on to some other site that is accessible on their mobile device, and they will never return.

Streamlined Information

When accessing a website on the go on their mobile devices, people generally expect to a totally different experience than when accessing the same website on their computer. When accessing users on their mobile device, mobile users usually hope to find the information they are looking for easily and quickly. Most mobile users want immediate access to the details they are in search and most of them do not have the time to browse through an entire large website on their mobile device.

This is why responsive business sites do a better job of catering to their specific needs, conveniently and instantly providing them with the information they are looking for. If you have a responsive business site, then it will excellently fulfill the requirements of mobile users. If you do not have a responsive business site, then those who access your site on their mobile device will quickly get frustrated and leave.

Developing a responsive website for their business has become almost mandatory for the business owners of today since more and more people are accessing the web using smartphones. People will think your business is not up to date if you merely have a single version of your business website.

Developing a responsive website is not so difficult and can benefit your business to a great extent. So, when it comes to creating responsive business sites, business owners should wait any longer.