Wednesday, September 19, 2007

10 Ways to Grow Your Homebased Business

When the status quo just won't do anymore, these 10 ideas will help you take your homebased business to a new level.

Small is beautiful.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Inch by inch, row by row, that's the way my garden grows.

While such homespun wisdom might be fine for common folk, it can be awfully frustrating for an ambitious homebased business owner determined to take his company to the next level of growth and profitability.

Sure, a thriving one- or two-person service business with no inventory, rent or employees can seem like an easy way to make money at first, but when the phone starts ringing off the hook and customers keep coming back for more, homebased business owners who fail to plan often fall victim to their own success. Either they burn out trying to juggle everything themselves or they spend so much time and money hiring people to help them that their profits go down the drain.

Fortunately, there are some ways to take your homebased business to new heights without sacrificing your business's profitability or losing your peace of mind.

Follow these 10 steps to grow your homebased business into the personal and professional success it was meant to be:

1. Focus on a single product or service, and then market it, sell it, promote it-do everything you can to increase sales of that one product or service. While it's tempting to swing for the fences and try to be all things to all people, it's often less risky and more profitable to pick a product or two that you can execute really well and just try to get on base.

Richard Roy, a Sparta, New Jersey landscaper, started a homebased dog-waste removal business called Dr. Pooper Scooper when he got tired of picking up the dog poop from his customers' lawns. Instead of splurging on a retail storefront or an expensive Yellow Pages ad, Roy decided to use his truck as his primary advertising vehicle.

Says Roy, "I decorated the truck as a Dalmatian, used full signage and put magnetic business cards on it. By using the truck as my moving billboard, by joining community groups and through word of mouth, I've turned what was once my nightmare into a thriving business serving 100 customers and making 1,100 pickups a week."

Thanks to Dr. Pooper Scooper's success, Roy is now planning to phase out his landscaping business and focus on his new venture full time. "When I scoop the poop, I do it 12 months a year and never have to fix or replace equipment," Roy says. "It's also three time easier than landscaping, and I can do it until I can't walk anymore."

2. Expand your product line to offer complementary products or services. Once you've hit on a product or service that customers really like, don't miss the opportunity to bring out related items to diversify your product line. Not only does that give your customers a wider selection, but it also makes your products more appealing to retailers who typically like to stock a line of products as opposed to a single item.

Meredith LiePelt, who runs a company called Contemporary Baby out of her home in Dublin, Ohio, started off making colorful burp cloths for newborns. Now she's expanded her line to include such "go along" products as receiving blankets, bibs and gift baskets. Says LiePelt, "Our retail customers have enjoyed having more gift-giving options, and our wholesale clients are able to offer their customers a wider selection to choose from."

3. Find ways to increase sales to your existing customers. It's a lot cheaper than finding new ones. Even if you can't expand your product line, you can boost revenues by selling more of your existing product or service to the clients you already have. One easy way to do this is through volume discounts. Especially if your products cost little to produce, offering your customers the chance to buy, say, two T-shirts for the price of one lets you ring up additional sales without sacrificing much profit.

Another common practice is to reward loyal customers by giving them a punch card that entitles them to a free product or service for every 10 items they buy. This technique is common at hair salons, car washes and arts-and-crafts stores, but homebased businesses can use it, too.

4. Hire someone to help you out-an employee, a freelancer, an intern, an independent contractor, even your kids. Not only does this free up cash flow by adjusting your expenses to the level of work you bring in, but it also enables you to cultivate a large network of talented people you probably couldn't afford to hire full time.

Marc Kirschner, a neighborhood directory publisher in New York City, employs 50 to 75 writers-all of whom are freelancers-to develop his directory's content. This way, Marc saves on payroll taxes, medical benefits, employer liability insurance and all the other costs of hiring full-time staffers. There are other benefits, too. "Bringing in outside help gives you someone else to bounce ideas and strategies off of," Kirschner says. "It prevents you from feeling you're going it alone."

5. Create a Web site to advertise your company or sell products online. Thanks to the Internet, it's no longer necessary to open a store to reach retail customers. For marketers of specialty products like rare books, collectibles and gourmet foods, a Web-based boutique lets you reach millions of shoppers around the world without paying for rent, utilities or garbage collection.

And while creating Web sites once required a big investment and the skills of an experienced Web designer or programmer, do-it-yourself Web sites are now available for less than $30 a month with no technical knowledge required. Typically, the companies that help you register your domain name (Web address) will provide online templates you can use to build your site, host your Web pages on their server and provide you with multiple e-mail addresses as well. E-commerce capabilities can often be had for an additional charge. You can also set up low-cost Web sites through Web hosting companies and search engines.

6. Join forces with another business to promote your company. Partnering with a company in a related industry is one of the cheapest and easiest forms of marketing that you can employ. If you make spa products, for example, you may be able to convince a local health club to carry them in its store by offering a discount to its members. Likewise, you can send a free, one-day health club pass to anybody who buys your lotions and scrubs.

Nancy Tamosaitis, a homebased publicist, says her New York firm, Vorticom, has partnered with a graphic design firm to provide creative services such as Web design and brochures to her corporate PR clients. From time to time, she also joins forces with specialty PR firms to assist clients in fashion, finance and other industries. "Now that I'm working from home, my clients receive infinitely better service and results-at much lower cost-than when I managed a $3 million profit center at a top PR agency," Tamosaitis says.

7. Target other markets. If you sell to teens, start marketing to college students. If you sell to working moms, maybe your product will work for stay-at-home moms with a few modifications. Another strategy is to take a retail-oriented product or service and sell it wholesale. For example, a homebased catering business that specializes in cakes, pies and other tasty desserts can contact local bakeries to sell its goods on a wholesale basis. While the price you get from the bakeries will be lower (because the bakeries need to mark it up to their customers to make a profit), you'll sell more products and generate consistent cash flow that you can bank on.

8. Find new and different ways to market your business through e-mail newsletters or by doing guest-speaking gigs or by teaching a class. Marketing your homebased business doesn't need to involve spending big money on newspaper ads, Yellow Pages listings, or TV or radio spots. Grassroots marketing techniques cost far less and are often much more effective. Most chambers of commerce and community groups are more than happy to provide a forum to a local business owner who's willing to share his expertise at no charge. Sending out a weekly newsletter is also a great way to get your name out in front of new and potential clients. Thanks to the Internet, you can send out your newsletter via e-mail using online templates and automated delivery systems.

9. Expand to another location. That could mean renting "virtual" office space in a business center or by sharing office space with another growing business. Brad Taylor, a CPA in Springfield, New Jersey, spends most of his time at home preparing tax returns, developing tax-planning strategies and revising his clients' QuickBooks files. But when he needs to come to New York City for a meeting, he sometimes rents space at a Manhattan business center operated by HQ Global, a national provider of temporary office space.

For a monthly fee or a la cart, business centers like these offer everything from conference rooms and receptionist services to remote-access voicemail, high-speed Internet connectivity and tech support, offering homebased business owners as much or as little outside office services as they need. Taylor pays just $10 an hour to use the space and is able to bill the cost to his client. "While I still want to run my business from home, this has allowed me to pursue new opportunities and network with other professionals," Taylor says.

10. Think about turning your business into a franchise or business opportunity. While most homebased businesses remain small, yours may have the potential to hit the big time through franchising, licensing or wholesale distribution. The key question to ask yourself is if your business can be converted into a business format that somebody else could operate (a franchise) or if you have a standardized product or service that someone could resell multiple times (a business opportunity). While you may think that expanding your business requires raising capital, hiring employees, buying equipment and leasing office or warehouse space, it's often more profitable-and less risky-to license your product to a big corporation with manufacturing capabilities and an existing sales force to do the work for you.

By Rosalind Resnick

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eleven Ways To Find Customers

What's the hardest thing about starting a business? For many new business owners, the answer is "Finding customers". Having a great product or service that you are sure many people will need isn't good enough. Customers won't find you or your web site just because you have started selling a product or service. Indeed, most business owners have to go on regular and frequent fishing trips to find customers and keep new business coming in their doors.

But how do you do that? Here are several suggestions to get you started.

Develop a plan. Consider who would make the ideal customer. If you sell to businesses, consider what department is most likely to buy your products or services, and what individual (what level of responsibility) would be the one to determine the specific purchase requirements. (Make some calls if you don't know!) Then consider how that individual would normally find products or services like yours. What circles do they travel in? Who are they likely to listen to or where do they look when they want to buy a product or service. Find a way to put your information, or yourself, in their path.

Realize there is no one path to success. Sales often happen because prospective customers hear about your products and services in several different ways and from several different sources. The more often they hear about you, the more likely they are to consider what you have to offer when they are ready to buy.

Work your local newspapers. Daily and weekly newspapers are an incredible source of contact information and leads to potential customers. Watch for names of people who have been promoted, who have won awards, who have opened new businesses, or who in any way may be potential customers. Send those people personalized mailings letting them know the benefits of what you sell. Try to attend meetings they will be at, as well. When you meet them or send mail, let them know you read about them and congratulate them on their success or mention how interesting the article about them was.

Watch for events that may bring your potential market together. Contact the organizers of the event and offer to give away your product or service as a prize during the event in exchange for having the group promote you in their promotions.

Attend meetings and seminars that your prospects might attend. If you've been doing that and haven't made contacts that could lead to sales, look in the newspapers to see what other organizations hold events that might attract your target market and attend some of those meetings.

Follow up after meetings. Contact the people you've met to see if they may be prospects. If they say they don't need your services now, ask when a good time to call them back would be, or if they have business associates who could use what you sell now.

Give a little to get a lot. Give away free samples of your product and ask the recipients to tell their friends if they are pleased. Or, if you are a consultant, give away some free advice. This could be in the form of a newsletter with that contains news or tips and hints, or it could be a free consultation during which you provide just enough information to help the client scope out their project and know that you have the ability to handle it.

Work your personal network. Ask your friends if they know of people who can use your services, or people who may know others who could use your services. If your pricing structure will allow it, offer friends and business associates a finders' fee for referrals that turn into jobs.
Study your competition. Advertise where they do. Promote yourself where your competition promotes themselves.

Use multiple small ads instead of one big one. If most people in your type of business advertise to bring in customers, you should do the same. But don't plan on making a big splash with one large ad. Plan smaller ads to run over a long time in the same publications that your competitors advertise in. The repetition will build name recognition. If you advertise in the yellow pages, consider taking out ads in multiple category headings. If you provide office support services, you might want to advertise under the Word Processing and the Typing headings.

Ask for feedback when prospects don't buy. Did they find a product that better served their needs? Did they decide they don't need the product at all? Did they just postpone their buying decision? Did they find it difficult to place an order on your web site? Use what you learn to make needed changes and watch your sales start to grow.

By Janet Attard

Saturday, September 30, 2006

10 Things You Need for a Home Business

You've got an idea for a winner of a home-based business, and you're about ready to announce it to the world. Good for you.

I certainly don't want to delay you from joining the millions of people now running viable businesses from the comfort of their own homes. But take a moment to read this checklist. It's the 10 things you need — besides customers — to start your home business off on the right foot.

1. First and foremost, a market for your product or services. If you haven't done any homework on this, go no further. "This is a critical first step, and it is amazing how many people set up a business without having a market for it," says Jane Applegate, nationally known small-business author and advice columnist. Even "verbal" market research can clear up a lot of questions, she says. "If you want to do cake decorating at home, talk to 50 people you know and see if they would buy from you. Talk to people at your church. Make sure there are people who want to buy what you have to sell."

2. A separate space for your office. Yes, a separate room in your house would be nice. No, it is not mandatory. But you do need an area that is distinctly your workspace, and can be closed off from the rest of the house by partitions, dividers, drapes, even a shower curtain, if that is all you have. "You really need some sort of boundary," Applegate says, "so that on one side you can say, 'This is my business,' and on the other, 'This is my life.' " Don't use your dining room table as a desk, advises Jeff Berner, an author and consultant who has worked out of his home for more than 35 years. "You'll never get it back to eat on." Ah, but if you rarely use your dining room table for dining, go for it, counters Lisa Kanarek, a home-office expert and organizational guru. "I converted our dining room, took out the chandelier and put French doors around it for my office," she says.

3. An ergonomically sound workstation to go with your PC or laptop. If you are Azriela Jaffe, a noted author and writer on home-business psychology, you might spend nearly as much money on a comfortable chair as you would on your computer. "Years of sitting on the wrong chair can leave you with disabilities and poor posture," she says. "I think it is worth the investment to spend $750 on a chair." Jaffe feels similarly about her mouse. "You need a mouse that doesn't stress out your wrist. Your basic cheap-o mouse won't work." PC or laptop? Suit yourself. Today's laptops offer many of the same features as a PC, and greater mobility. You are subjected to a smaller keyboard and, in many cases, a touch pad instead of a mouse. But if you travel or are outside of your office a lot, a laptop may be the way to go. If you can afford it, it may be worth having both a laptop and desktop PC.

4. A separate phone line — or two — and a decent modem. Your customers will appreciate their calls being answered by you, your assistant or a professional-sounding voice-mail message — not your young child, with the dog barking in the background. A separate phone line for your business is a must, and another line for online access is highly recommended. Get a voice-mail system too, rather than an answering machine, says Applegate, because the recordings are better quality and the system is more reliable. Do you need a high-speed DSL or cable modem? Absolutely, most home-biz pros will tell you. "It depends on what your time is worth," says Kanarek. "If you spend all day on the Internet, it may be worth it to you to invest in DSL."

5. A separate bank account. While not legally required for tax purposes, this is important, because you never want to mix your business money with your personal money. Having a bank account in your business's name is the way to go, Applegate says. She also recommends a finance software program such as Microsoft Money to keep track of your business finances.

6. A business license and federal tax ID number. Your city or county may or may not require you to have a business license; it varies per jurisdiction. Contact your local governments to find out. Many large companies will want to see a business license before they do business with you, Applegate says. Getting a tax identification number is a must. Get one from the IRS.

7. A Web site and e-mail account in your business's name. Yes, you need a Web site, for business and marketing purposes. And you want a Web domain name that matches the name of your business's name — not some complicated slash-tilde gibberish that no one can remember. Same thing with your e-mail address — an account with an Internet service provider ( won't do here. Not only do you want to sound professional; you also must promote your brand. "My Web site definitely helps my business," says Kanarek, who runs out of her Dallas home. "I get e-mail from around the world from it. It is probably the best marketing tool I have."

8. Business cards, stationery and, yes, a fax machine. Are fax machines obsolete? "Becoming so," says Applegate, "but you still need some sort of faxing capability." She prefers faxing software, so that you can send faxes through your computer. Jeff Berner would rather have a regular fax machine, so he doesn't have to scan documents into his PC to fax. Both like the idea of a pricier fax copier-scanner machine in addition to your PC.

9. Health and liability insurance. If you quit your other job to do this full-time, you're on your own now. You won't have paid sick days. You don't have paid vacations. And you're responsible for acquiring your own health coverage. Health insurance is probably the biggest thorn in the sides of small-business owners; it's expensive and sometimes hard to get. One of the best ways to get health insurance is through business or trade organizations — even your local chamber of commerce may offer a health insurance option. You also need to consider business insurance.

10. Regular business hours, and a life outside your office. For many people, starting a home-based business means blurring the lines between your work life and family life. Veteran home-based business operators say they set regular business hours and stick to them. When they are off work, they shut the doors to their office or close the partition around their workstation, and leave. Likewise, they don't allow children to hang around their workspace when they are trying to get work done. You're kidding yourself if you expect to get a lot accomplished with a baby on your lap. "You have to be disciplined," says Applegate. "You need to tell others in your family, 'Interrupt me only if the house is burning down.'" At the same time, home-based business owners can go too far and isolate themselves from the rest of the world. "Don't cocoon yourself," Berner says. Maintain your network of friends, and find ways to make new ones, he says. "Seek out other independent professionals doing similar work as you are, and form a 'skill guild.' Meet people for lunch as much as possible." Secluding yourself in your office not only ruins your social life, but it's bad for business.

By Monte Enbysk

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Making Time for Marketing

"I don't have time to market."

It's a common complaint from self-employed professionals. When you are the only one who can serve the clients, manage the business, and perform all the sales and marketing functions, time becomes the most precious commodity you have. How can you find time for marketing with so many other important priorities? There are many time management techniques at your disposal, of course. You can defer tasks or delegate them, chunk down projects to smaller steps, and set aside time on your calendar for making calls, writing letters, or updating marketing materials. Perhaps you have already tried all those methods and discovered that time is still scarce.

Maybe the real answer is not to find more time for marketing, but to MAKE time. Every day, you take part in many time-consuming activities that don't include marketing.

What if you could integrate marketing with all those things you are already doing? Here are some examples of how that can work:

1. Attending workshops, business mixers, and cultural events. Whenever you plan to attend an event like this, consider inviting a business contact to join you. Just extending the invitation will contribute to building a stronger relationship between you. If your contact decides to attend, you can often get to know each other better in a more relaxed way than meeting one-to-one.

2. Having lunch or coffee with a prospect or colleague. If you are already planning to take time meeting with someone, add a third or fourth person to the party. Those invited will usually appreciate the opportunity to make new contacts themselves, and you may find conversation flows more easily when there is a group.

3. Traveling to another city. Whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, arrange to meet for lunch or dinner with a client or colleague. On a business trip, this is usually much more enjoyable than dining alone. As a tourist, a meal you would be eating anyway takes no time out of your vacation schedule, plus you'll often get local tips about where to go and what to do.

4. Taking a walk, visiting the gym, and other forms of exercise. Meetings with business associates don't have to take place in the office or a restaurant. Invite someone to join you for a walk in the park, run around the track, or a game of tennis. You don't have to learn to play golf in order to get exercise and do business at the same time.

5. Reading an article. Any time you read an interesting article in the newspaper, a magazine, or online, think of three people you could send it to. Writing a short "thought-you-would-be-interested" note and forwarding the item will take only a moment, but can make a big impression on the recipient.

6. Shopping, dining, or running errands. Every time you leave your home or office, you meet new people. They are behind the counter at the office supply store, in line at the coffee shop, sitting at the next table, or shopping in the same aisle. Whenever you find yourself chatting with strangers, remember to introduce yourself by name and occupation. You'll be surprised to discover how often this will lead to a connection that can result in business.

7. Attending social events. The best business relationships often begin casually in social environments. Keep your business cards in your pocket when you attend a wedding, housewarming, holiday party, or your child's soccer game. After you ask, "How do you know our hosts?" or "Which child is yours?" make your next question, "What do you do?"

8. Relaxing. You may have a long list of marketing projects that will take time but not your full attention. Consider doubling up these mundane tasks with a fun activity or some pleasant company. Enter business cards into your contact database on your laptop at the beach. Make phone calls from the hot tub or a park bench. Review your prospect list while watching old movies or listening to music. Ask your kids to help you stuff and address envelopes. Take your project to a friend's house so the two of you can work together on marketing.

As you can see, there are many ways to include marketing activities in your busy life. So instead of wishing you had more time for marketing, why not make marketing a part of the time you are already spending?

By C.J. Hayden

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Five Common Mistakes of Home-Based Business Owners and How to Avoid Them

More and more individuals are opting to work from home. According to the latest U.S. Census, nearly 4.2 million people worked from home in 2000; this up from 3.4 million in 1990. The Census estimates are for people who work most days of the week from home. Additionally, there are about 16 million more individuals who also work from home one to two days a week.

Many of these work-at-home individuals are entrepreneurs: The U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2004 more than 4.5 million people worked at home with a home-based business, these individuals comprising about 30 percent of the work-at-home population.

The advantages of a home-based business are many and include:
- Zero commuting time and expenses

- Lower start-up costs and overhead
- Tax benefits
- Optimum flexibility and time management
- Part or full-time work options
- The satisfaction of being your own boss
- Greater income potential

The reality though of working from home presents a number of new challenges unique to the home-based business owner. Knowing about these potential pratfalls ahead of time can be a key factor in preventing them from becoming a roadblock to your home-based business success.

1. Not keeping business and personal life separate

Too many people have learned the hard way that if you commingle business and personal responsibilities at the same time, you won't make any real progress in either.

Family members need to know that your being home does not equate to being at their beck and call 24/7. Frequent interruptions can wreak havoc with performing business tasks efficiently. And when the chores of the household start beckoning, you'll need to be able to resist their call.

If possible, have an entire room of your home set up exclusively for your home business, optimally with an outside separate entrance if business clients or visitors will be coming to call. If not possible, and your home office is part of a larger room, be sure to partition it off with something like a screen or an area rug. Have a dedicated phone line for business use only, and make sure your home-business space has a door to close off any household noise. You may also need to come up with a "signal" so that family members know you literally "mean business." Closing your office door or affixing a sign reading "Hard at work -- Do not Disturb" may be all that's necessary.

And the flexibility afforded by having a home-based business doesn't mean there should be no schedule at all. Yes, it's great that you can adjust your work hours to attend Timmy's kindergarten graduation, but do plan out blocks of time every week devoted exclusively to the business and try to stick to it; i.e. every weekday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 6 to 10 p.m. (i.e., when your spouse can take over care of the kids or household duties).

Remember, treat your home-based business as a "real" professional business and others will follow suit.

2. Not doing something you really like

"You have to love what you're doing, because then it won't seem like work to you, and you'll bring the necessary energy to profit from it." Billionaire Entrepreneur Donald Trump

In addition to being good at what you do and fulfilling a real need in the marketplace, you need to have a real passion for what you'll be doing in order to be a success at it. If you don't love what you do, how will you "sell" it to someone else? Enthusiasm is contagious and so is the lack thereof.

Of course passion alone does not a successful business make. Other factors such as sufficient start-up funds, proper planning and management, and understanding cash flow all contribute to the success of your business. But, the ultimate factor in starting your own business should be that it will allow you to earn your living by doing something you truly like or love to do.

If not -- those sometimes-necessary long hours, those ups and downs, and those long trade journals -- may eventually be just too much to bear.

3. Not considering the legalities or protection of your home-based business

One tax consultant spent thousands of dollars renovating his home for his home-based business. He should have known that in areas zoned as "residential only," restrictions may rule out home businesses that involve the coming and going of customers, clients or employees. Soon after his neighbors became aware of his steady stream of client, their complaints started and then continued. Within months, this tax consultant closed down shop at his home and rented a building for his business on a nearby street zoned for business.

Don't leave yourself open to this type of scenario -- be sure to check with your city and county zoning boards to ascertain how the ordinances in your particular area may affect your home-based business plans. You may find that, for example, that business sign you were planning to hang outside your side door is forbidden, or that it is illegal for you to sell your products on your premises.

Another consideration: Will your homeowner's insurance policy cover the property and liability involved in your home-based business? Be sure to speak with your insurance agent about obtaining the coverage needed for your in-home business; sufficient coverage may be as simple as adding a fairly inexpensive rider to your homeowner's policy.

Like any other business, a crucial element in your home-based business success will be your ability to minimize potential risks.

4. Not charging enough

A college art student started a home-based business selling jewelry made with Swarovski crystals. She based her jewelry prices on what she felt were prices her prospective customers would be willing to pay. While tabulating her receipts for that year's tax returns -- and after countless hours of making her custom-made jewelry -- she was shocked to find that she had actually spent more on crystals and jewelry supplies than she had earned on her finished products. This dean's list student learned the hard way about appropriate pricing.

It's not just students who miscalculate pricing; this is a common mistake many home-based business owners make when setting prices for their products and services. New business owners often charge lower prices initially to drum up business. Then they find themselves in the awkward position of having to boost prices in order to stay in business, while customers' expectations for lower prices have already been set.

Prior to setting prices for products and services, business owners need to determine fair market pricing in their industry, and then establish and maintain an optimum pricing strategy. Pricing items correctly is a key way to: improve short-term cash flow; improve return on investment (ROI); and to manage and maximize profits. And when determining prices, don't forget to factor in the slow times -- every business has them. On the other side of the pricing coin, home-based business owners should periodically compare prices from different suppliers in order to get the best price for their business needs.

Don't forget that incoming revenue is the financial lifeblood and nourishment your home-based business needs to grow and thrive in order to stay alive.

5. Not considering a website

Every home-based business should consider a website. For the vast majority, a website can be a powerful and relatively low-cost way to announce a business, its products and services -- and reach prospective customers 24 hours a day. With a new home-based business, you may not want to tackle this right away, but failing to have a website indefinitely may prove to be a critical mistake.

Be aware that e-Commerce revenues are on the rise. Statistics from The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce show total U.S. e-Commerce sales for 2005 at $86.3 billion; up from 15 billion in 1999 when e-Commerce sales were first tracked. Additionally, U.S. e-commerce sales are now 2.7 percent of total retail sales; up from .6 percent of total retail sales in 1999.

Remember, at some point, your home-based business should have a website -- one that is professional looking and well-designed, and one that enables users to easily find out about your business and how to avail themselves of your products and services.

by Patricia Schaefer,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

10 Networking Tips for Home-Based Businesses

Referrals are a powerful way to increase your sales, and networking is a proven way to generate referrals for your business. When you reach out to other business owners, you are forging an alliance which can benefit everyone involved. Networking involves meeting with business peers and discussing ways that you can work together to improve sales. For example, if you operate a dry cleaning store, you can begin networking with local clothing retailers. They can provide referrals for your service and, in turn, you can refer your existing customers to these retailers when your clients need to purchase new clothes.

You can join local business organizations to meet other business owners who are looking for the exact same thing you are: more business. By banding together and offering referrals, everyone benefits.

If you cannot find any suitable networking organizations, you can create your own by contacting businesses in your area that share your interest in networking. You will have the added bonus of making new contacts as you form your organization.

In addition, there are also several national networking organizations that utilize the power of the Internet to increase referrals and bring many companies together.

Here are ten tips to becoming a successful networker.

1. Set your networking goals. What do you hope to achieve by networking with your peers? More sales, more customer leads, or just helpful information? Setting your goals now will help you focus your networking efforts.

2. Join existing networking groups. There is power in numbers -- and that certainly applies to networking. By becoming a member of several groups, you can ensure that you will be creating more opportunities for your business.

3. Become a volunteer. If you have extra time, you can volunteer for local or state events. As you get yourself out in the public eye, your company will become more visible.

4. Get informed ahead of time. The more you know, the more your peers will be drawn to you. Make sure that you are prepared before joining a networking group or attending an event.

5. Be sincere. Don't say things you don't mean or make offers you have no intention of keeping. In networking, as in business in general, maintaining your reputation is critical. If you are disingenuous, your peers will eventually find out, and word will get around.

6. Work on your communication skills. You will need to be able to state clearly what you are looking for when you are networking. This way, your peers will be able to provide you with the help that you need.

7. Learn to share. If something has worked for you in the past, do not keep it a secret. Sharing your successes -- and even your failures -- with your peers will build relationships and gain you even more networking partners.

8. Work on your follow-through. Many busy business owners get caught up and forget to follow through on networking promises. Don't disappoint your new networking associates. Follow through if you want to receive good referrals from your peers.

9. Word your questions carefully. When you are asking questions at a networking event, try to make them open-ended. This will result in better responses.

10. Be indispensable. If you have a great deal of knowledge, you can become a networking resource on your own. By sharing your knowledge, you will be gaining more potential referrals and more networking partners.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

Guerrilla Marketing, Why Not?

One of the books that I really found useful to guide your home or small business is Guerrilla Marketing. Not only this book gave a lot of inspirations, also that it can be easily used. This is what I got fro

Editorial Reviews

The Los Angeles Times: "No matter what business you're in, Guerrilla Marketing, the bible of lively, low-cost marketing tips, is invaluable."

"No matter what business you're in, Guerrilla Marketing, the bible of lively, low-cost marketing tips, is invaluable."

Book Description
When Guerrilla Marketing was first published in 1983, Jay Levinson revolutionalized marketing strategies for the small-business owner with his take-no-prisoners approach to finding clients. Filled with hundreds of solid ideas that really work, Levinson's philosophy has given birth to a new way of learning about market share and how to gain it.

In this completely revised and expanded third edition, Levinson offers a new arsenal of weaponry for small-business success in the next century. Filled with strategies for marketing on the Internet (explaining when and precisely how to use it), tips for putting other new technologies to work, programs for targeting prospects and cultivating repeat and referral business, and management lessons in the age of telecommuting and freelance employees, this book will be the entrepreneur's marketing bible in the twenty-first century.

About the Author
Jay Conrad Levinson, president of Guerrilla Marketing International, lecturers around the world on guerrilla business techniques for majors companies, professional organizations, and universities. He is the author or coauthor of eleven books in the Guerrilla Marketing series and write the popular "'Guerrilla Entrepreneur"' column for Entrepreneur magazine. The author currently lives in California.