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This Week’s Articles of Interest September 18, 2009

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It’s been a busy week at GS Business Resources, but I’ve still come across some excellent information on the internet that I want to share. Take a look:

Anatomy of a Successful Small Business Blog is a great article on how small businesses can benefit from a blog and lots of tips to help you find topics and craft the post. I’ve bookmarked this to refer back to often.

What is the difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com? Watch “Julia Child” in this hysterical video to learn more! And then read the rest of the post for more details.

FYI – I have a more positive view of WordPress.com than in the video and post. It was a great way for me to get a blog/website for my business going without having the expense (however minimal) and worry of hosting when I started last spring. I am moving over to WordPress.org because I want to take the next step and have more flexibility on my site. I know this is not the best way to go for every business, but for some it can be a great option.

I keep trying to tell clients and potential clients about the things they could begin doing online to connect with their current and potential customers. Often I feel like I’m talking to myself, so I think I’ll begin refering them to Chris Brogan’s excellent post. By the way, how many of these are you doing today? Which one could you add?

Redoing your website? As I mentioned, I’m in the process of moving my site and blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org and while most of it will remain the same, these are some great questions from Seth Godin  for me to keep in mind as I redo and update.

That’s my list for this week. What articles/blog posts have you found that you took note of? Please share them in the comments!

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Going To Camp September 9, 2009

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Social Camp Memphis

Social Camp Memphis

Where will you be on September 19th? I’ll be at Social Camp Memphis and you should be too!

Why should you be there? Because it will be fun, because it will be informative, and because you will get to hang out with some really cool people! Trust me on this – if I choose to spend an entire day inside, it must be worth while.

Here’s the details:
Saturday, September 19, 2009

8:00 – 5:00

Memphis Academy of Science and Engineering
1254 Jefferson Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104

For more information, go to Social Camp Memphis. To register click here. And follow on Twitter @socialcampmem.

Hope to see you there!

Blog Tour – So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom September 3, 2009

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Today I am pleased to be a part of the blog tour for So You Want To Be A Work-At-Home Mom by Jill Hart and Diana Ennen! As a mom who works from home a lot of the time, this book sounds like something I definitely need to check out. Keep reading for an overview of the book, information about the authors, and a Q and A section with them.

Interested in purchasing the book? Just follow the links in the article!

Home-based businesses are estimated to be a $427 billion-a-year industry. In recent studies it was found that as many as 105 million people in North America alone were working at home. Considering this information, it is obvious that home-based businesses can be successful and authors Jill Hart and Diana Ennen will help you succeed with your own.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom details all the basics of starting a business in a spiritual, motivational, and comprehensive manner. From deciding what type of business to start to keeping your family and faith first, this helpful tool details every aspect of establishing a business. With proven success tips utilized by the authors and others who own work-at-home businesses, this inspiration approach will provide you with the resources you need to start your own home-based business.

So You Want to Be a Work-at-Home Mom includes:
* Detailed information on types of businesses to start
* Ideas and assistance for setting up, operating, and marketing your business
* Definitions and descriptions of work-at-home terminology and processes
* Help for developing your Website
* Explanations of the business nuts and bolts, including bookkeeping, taxes, and more

About the Authors
JILL HART is the founder of Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com. Jill is a co-author of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom. Jill has published many articles and is a contributing author in Laundry Tales, The Business Mom Guide Book, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Faith Deployed. She holds a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. Learn more about working from home at http://www.cwahm.com/work-at-home/ .

DIANA ENNEN has been a leader and mentor in the work-at-home industry since starting her business, Virtual Word Publishing, in 1985. She is the author of many books, including Virtual Assistant the Series; Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA and Words from Home: Start, Run, and Profit from a Home-Based Word Processing Business. She resides in Margate, Florida, with her husband and their three children.

Below is an interview with the authors of So You Want To Be a Work-at-Home Mom – Jill & Diana.

If have questions they are happy to answer your questions anytime. Leave a comment below or email Jill@cwahm.com or Diana@virtualwordpublishing.com

How long have you been working at home?

Jill Hart – I’ve been working at home since 2000. I had to go back to work full-time for a brief period in 2003 when my husband got out of the Air Force. At that point I got even more serious about making my business work and I’ve been home full-time since then.

Diana Ennen – I’ve been working at home since 1985, when my son was born. He’s now graduated college and already working towards his own career. I absolutely love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.

What types of businesses do you operate?

Jill Hart – I run Christian Work at Home Moms, CWAHM.com, a website full of free resources, job listings and information about home businesses. I also write articles and books (yes, more books to come!) and am a blogger for sites like Time/Warner’s Christian Momlogic.com and a member of the Guideposts blogger team

Diana Ennen– I’m the President of Virtual Word Publishing. I’m a virtual assistant and specialize in marketing & publicity. I’ve also written numerous books on how to start a VA business and offer PR and VA Coaching.

Tell us about your book? How do you think it can benefit those who want to start a business?

Jill Hart – The book has been such a “God thing.” He orchestrated the entire sequence of events – from putting Diana and I together as co-authors to bringing us to the right publisher. The book is a hands-on practical guide for anyone who wants to build a business from home. We cover topics ranging from how to select the right type of business for you, to how to get started, to how to market and grow your business.

Diana Ennen – I think one of the best features of our book is that it’s not only informative, but motivational as well. You’ll feel like friends are helping you on your journey to success. Also, we discuss numerous types of businesses to start and provide proven methods to achieve success. We also often hear how starting a business can be so overwhelming. That’s why we pay special attention to all the how tos. We feel very confident our book will help, not only those starting a business, but those already in business wanting to expand it.

What types of businesses are featured in your book?

Jill Hart – We have such a great range of contributors – everything from direct sales companies like Southern Living at Home and Avon to unique product-driven businesses like BSM Media and GrillCharms. These woman are amazing and give readers a great insight into how they’ve grown their businesses in very different ways.

Diana Ennen – We cover everything from direct sales companies to specialized areas such as medical transcription and virtual assisting. Also, Jill shares detailed information on starting a community based membership site. We think you’ll get a lot of helpful tips too from such work-at-home powerhouses as Maria Bailey and Lesley Spencer Pyle.

Do you have any tips for success for Christian entrepreneurs that you’d like to share?

Jill Hart – I think my favorite tip – shared with me by one of our contributors, Tammy Degenhart, almost ten years ago is that working together benefits everyone. She told me, “Jill, what you give to others God brings back tenfold” and I’ve seen that hold true time and time again. It may not be in financial gains and it may not look like what we expected but God is so faithful in that when we work together there is no competition – it’s a win-win situation.

Diana Ennen – Do what you believe in and use your own skills and prior experience to find the business that’s just right for you. Research/Research/Research. The more you research, the better your business. Continue to market and be out there. So many once they find a few clients stop marketing. You need to get out there continually. You then become the go to person when someone needs services or products that you offer.

What are some of the challenges that you see with those starting or operating a business?

Jill Hart – In my experience, I’ve talked with many women who get frustrated because success doesn’t come easily or quickly. Working from home may sound easy, but in reality it can actually be just as hard as working outside the home. There are many unique challenges, especially when working at home while raising children. If women don’t prepare themselves, they can become discouraged and disheartened.

Diana Ennen– One of the major challenges I see is losing belief in yourself that you can do it. That’s why I think a faith-based book will be so beneficial. Even when times get tough, you can rely on your faith to forge ahead.

With the economy, do you believe it’s still a good time to start a business? Why?

Jill Hart – I think it’s a better time than ever. The internet is so much more widely used than it was even nine years ago when I began my website. If people do their research and find a company that fits them as well as their budget this can be a great time to break into the work-at-home field.

Diana Ennen – Absolutely. In fact, I think there’s never been a better time. You might have to work a little harder, but it absolutely can be done. Plus, there are so many businesses who need us more than ever because of the economy. For example, with virtual assistants because businesses are downsizing they are seeking the help of a VA to help on an as needed basis.

Your book is written from a Christian perspective? Tell us a little about that and how you feel that makes it so unique?

Jill Hart – My faith is central to who I am and therefore central to my business. I began Christian Work at Home Moms because I wanted women to have a safe place where they could discuss not only business things, but also talk about an area that doesn’t get talked about a lot in business circles – how our faith affects our businesses. The book is written in a way that doesn’t hit anyone over the head with our faith, but it’s true to who we are and talks about things from the vantage point that we see life – through the lens of our faith.

Diana Ennen – There are so many books out there today on starting a business. However, few have the Christian mom in mind. We provide a lot of scriptures and examples of how you can use your faith to help you. Our hope is that not only will your business thrive, but it might just give a little boost to your faith as well.


Learn more about the book at Beacon Hill Press or SoYouWantToBeAWAHM.com.

Focusing on Time August 17, 2009

Posted by gsbusinessresources in Biz Resources, GS Business Resources, time management.
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If you check this blog with any regularity, you noticed that I never got a post up last week.

Bad, very bad.

One of my goals is  to make regular posts, and I am pleased that I have been getting up 1-2 each week. I even drafted a post to go up early last week, but I never got back to it.

Now, I can blame my schedule, but I knew what was coming, so it wasn’t any surprise; I just never planned for it. Instead of editing the post last weekend, I did client work, got my son ready to go back to school, and took it easy. Taking a break was a very good thing, but I believe I could have done that AND gotten the blog post done, if I had managed my time better.

Time management is one of my issues, or perhaps it is the lack of time management. It is an area I need to focus on to grow my business, and as of last Thursday, I need to focus harder than ever.

Thursday morning I received word that funding for my position was a bit iffy for 2010. This did not surprise me, but having it told to me made it very real. I’ve been looking at taking GS Business Resources full-time, and this might be just the opportunity. I spent the next several hours rolling that around in my head, thinking how I’d spend the next 4 1/2 months growing my business, saving money, etc.

Then, mid-afternoon I got another phone call. The funding that was expected for the rest of this year had been sent in 2008 – and spent then. So, the money isn’t coming, and the organization doesn’t have any extra to cover it.

Wow.

While this is certainly scary, it may actually be the kick that I need to go after my dreams. And in order to do that, I HAVE to get myself organized and manage my time much better.So where do I begin? First, I went to Christine Kane’s Uplevel Your Business blog and watched the video and downloaded the daily schedule worksheet. Just watching the video gave me enthusiasm to start planning each and every day. I’ve started using the worksheet for each day this week, and while I like the structure it gives me, I know I’m going to have to tweak it some.

There is a part of me that resists being told to do something at a certain time; I want to have flexibility in my schedule. But I know that I need more structure as well. The more I hear about time management, the more I believe that giving myself an outline to my day is actually going to free up my creativity. I know when something is going to be worked on, so I don’t have to think or worry about it. And since I am setting my daily schedule, I can adjust it as needed (as I’ve already done several times on my first day – my printer stopped talking to my desktop computer this afternoon, so I’ve spent 3 hours trying to make them work together. Will need to schedule time tomorrow to go buy another printer.)

Next, I am going to order Time Management In An Instant by Karen Leland and Keith Bailey. I was part of the blog tour for the book’s launch, and in reading through various articles and blog posts Karen has written on time management, I know she understands the issues I face, and has practical solutions to meet them.

With each day, I believe I’m going to get a better sense of how to plan my day – what time of day I do some things better than others, where I tend to get off track, and where I need to allow more time. Look for an update in the next week or two to see what is working for me.

I am curious to know what tips and tricks you use to manage your time. Everyone thinks and works differently, but you never know when a method you developed can benefit someone else. Please post a comment and share your secrets!

Multi-Tasking August 7, 2009

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Who out there multi-tasks? I confess that I do – or at least I try to. Even in light of information (such as this article I read today) that show multi-tasking to be inefficient, I still believe I can do multiple things at once.

In looking over a typical day, however, I have discovered that there are ways I can get two things done at once without actually doing them both. While these won’t work for everyone’s situation, see if they may at least inspire you to accomplish more.

1) Wash laundry/dishes while working. Yes, I know this works only if you work from home (and works better if you have a washer and dryer in your home so you aren’t schlepping your work along with dirty clothes), but if you do, this is a great way to get multiple things done at once. Put the laundry on or start the dishwasher, then go to work. If you are really organized, pick items on your to-do list that you should be able to finish about the time the wash is.

2) Cook dinner in a slow cooker. This works whether you work at home or not. Put dinner in the slow cooker first thing in the morning, then forget about it until time to eat. I love not having to stop work to prepare dinner (since late afternoon seems to be a very productive time for me), and my home smells great all day. Need recipes? I’ve tried several from A Year of Slow Cooking, and haven’t been disappointed yet.

3) On the phone and on hold? How much time do we spend doing this? What can you do with this time? How about clean out your inbox? Don’t try to tackle any email that you have to think about and answer, but see how many can be deleted or archived. Go through and find the 2 or 3 most urgent to work on after you get off the phone. Likewise, take a paper folder or two and clean them out.  Anything you instantly know can be thrown out, do it! If you’re not sure, save it for another time when you can give it your full attention.

4) If you’re trying to sort out some complex answer and the ideas just aren’t coming, take a break from work and go outside and do some physical activity. Doesn’t have to be strenuous and it doesn’t have to be for a long period of time, but I find that going for a walk or a swim while taking my mind completely off the problem will at the least put me in a better frame of mind when I go back to it. And sometimes, solutions appear I hadn’t even thought of.

Those are some ways I’ve found to be a more efficient multi-tasker, but I’d love to have more ideas. How do you get two things done without having to work on both of them at once?

Edited 8-13-2009 – I found this article, and found it had some great tips in it. I really like the way it  looks at multi-tasking certain tasks and mono-tasking others.

Google Docs – Templates August 3, 2009

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Google Docs can be an excellent way to store documents and share them with someone else. As a virtual assistant, I can save a document there and give my client access to view and edit. While we can certainly email documents back and forth, I think this is an excellent way to reduce clutter in my inbox, and to make sure we are both working with the most recent version of the document.

Google Docs also provides templates that are available for anyone to download and use. Most of them have been created by Google, but they recently added a new feature – you can submit your own template for other people to use.

What a great resources this can be. More templates will be available for use, and if you don’t see a template you need, you can create one and submit it to the gallery. Chances are good that if you need it, someone else will as well.

The submission process is simple. Save the document in your Google docs, then go to the link at the top of the page on the right hand side where it says New! Submit a Template. Follow the steps listed, and your document will be added to the Template Gallery. Please be sure and take a minute to read over the terms and policies (listed on the right side of the submission page). Understand that you are giving people permission to use the document that you created. Also understand that if you change your template in your docs, it changes it in the template gallery, so watch out for any personal information you might add. So if you want to use a template, save it under another name and make the edits you want. Anyone who wants to use it has to download it, so your original won’t be affected.

So far I’ve submitted one template, for a Fax Cover Sheet (and no one has rated it yet. If you use it and find it helpful, please rate it. If you don’t like it, please email me and let me know what you don’t like so I can made adjustments). I’m busy working on some more, but I’m wondering – what templates would you be interesting in having available to you? What template(s) have you looked for and not been able to find? Let me know and I’ll try to create something and make it available to you and anyone else who could use it.

Time Management In An Instant Book Review July 23, 2009

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Time – is there ever enough of it? No matter how well I think I’ve planned my day, obstacles come up, plans have to be changed, and I have to adapt. If you work from home, you have to be even more aware of how your time is spent. A quick trip to put the laundry in the washer can become a time drain if you then proceed to unload the dishwasher, make the bed, and pick up the bathroom.

But there is help! Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Day offers expert advice and tips to help you manage your time and get more out of your days. Written by Karen Leland and Keith Bailey, the book offers (as the subtitle says!) 60 ways to help you get manage your time.

So, do they know what they are talking about? Yes, they do! Below is a video of an interview Karen did on telecommuting. For the last 6 years, I’ve telecommuted for my full-time job at least three days each week. The tips and advice Karen offers are spot on! Take a look:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Time Management In An Instant Blog Tour“, posted with vodpod

The ideas for telecommuters also apply to those who run a business from home. You have to be professional, you have to manage your time to get your work done, and sometimes, you have to prove to your client that you really do work even if you are at home.

Want some more suggestions: Karen has also written an article on The Art of Telecommuting, which offers some additional ideas for those looking for a way to work from home, and for those already there. Read through it and see what tips would help you work form home.

Special Offer: Buy a copy of Time Management In An Instant the week of July 20th and receive a free license to view the Essential Email online course. To buy the book and claim your bonus, or just to buy the book go to: http://www.quality-service.com/timemanagementinaninstant

About the authors: Karen Leland and Keith Bailey are the bestselling authors of six books including Time Management In An Instant: 60 Ways to Make the Most of Your Day. They are the co-founders of Sterling Consulting Group, which helps organizations and individuals learn how to fight distraction and find their focus in a wired world. For more information please contact: kleland@scgtraining.com.

To read more reviews of the book, visit here.

For those of you who telecommute/work from home, what tips and suggestions can you offer? What has worked for you…and what hasn’t? Please leave a comment to let us know.

Get Clients Now! Update #3 July 21, 2009

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I worked through the Get Clients Now! program in June, and wrote about it  here, here, and here . The condensed version: I started strong and full of enthusiasm. I wanted to really challenge and push myself, but after a couple of weeks, realized that my schedule (full-time job on top of my biz) was not going to allow me to reach most of my goals. I decided to re-direct my energies to a couple of areas for the last part of the program, then take a week’s vacation in early July and work on the part I had made no progress on: networking and referral building.

While I didn’t accomplish everything on my to-do list (I was on vacation after all, and spent most afternoons by the pool!) it was very productive and successful. I attended two networking lunches. The first groups didn’t seem to be a very good fit for me; the second, however, was much more successful. I had two members express interest in my services for their business, and I had members attending from other chapters who encouraged me to visit their chapters as well. Turns out, there isn’t another Virtual Assistant in any of the chapters in Memphis, so my business wouldn’t conflict with another one in any of the chapters.

I did attend another chapter meeting last Thursday morning, and also found several members interested in my services and how it could help their businesses. I am very pleased with the overall reception I had, and with the interest there was among the members. My problem – committing to a weekly meeting at this time. Given my work schedule, a breakfast meeting would be best; however, most of them start at 7:30 am and I have to drop my son off at school after 7:45 am. This means I would be late every meeting during the school year, and miss out on some of the best time for one-on-one networking. In another year, when my son is in high school (which starts at 7:15 am!!!) attendance would be less of an issue. And, my business may have grown to the point that I am no longer having to work the full-time job, which opens up myschedule considerably.

For now, I’m going to attend some of the other chapter meetings, and see which one seems to work best for me. Then, I’ll decide if it is the right time to join or not.

So, I’ve got several potential clients, a long list of ideas for blog posts, and a feeling that this business is actually going to work. Just hearing people express interest in what I do, and how I can help their business was very reassuring.

Next, I’m going to take the rest of July and work through the potential clients I’ve met. At the end of the month, I’ll see where things stand, and consider doing another 28 days of the Get Clients Now! program in August.

I think this is a great program, and I strongly encourage anyone with a service business to consider it. In addition to the structure and wealth of ideas on getting cleints, I also like that it is flexible. They have a plan set out for you to use, but you can adjust it to fit your schedule. As I learned in June, with my schedule, I probably need to focus on fewer areas so that I can really devote myself to them. I may even plan to work on the program fewer days during the week, so I have at least one day completely off from work and business. Or, I may come up with something else that works for me.

If anyone else has done the Get Clients Now! program, what are your thoughts on it? If you are considering the program and have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Saving Money on Business Expenses – Making Purchases July 17, 2009

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One of the biggest challenges small business owners face is cash flow – or rather, lack of cash flow!  For those that borrow money, it has to last as long as possible to keep from incurring further debt. For those that are using personal funds to get the business going – or to keep one going – stretching the money you have available is even more important.

There is good news. There are ways to save money without sacrificing your business’ growth and development. Since this is an issue that I confront daily in getting GS Business Resources off the ground, I want to share with you some of the tips and tricks I have learned.

Whether you have a new or established business, you are going to have to purchase supplies. For me, it is going to be office supplies and equipment primarily. Before I decide to make any business purchase, I ask myself the following questions.

First – do I really need this item I am considering? If so, do I need to buy it now? Can it wait until I get more money coming in to the business, or does not having this item cause me to lose business?

So often we think we need an item and never stop to consider if we really do. This is a very important question to ask. Once you have decided that you do need to make this purchase, and it needs to be made now, you can go forward with the next question.

Are there free samples I can try first? Of course this won’t work for everything you need to buy, but it is worth trying when it does apply. Do a google search for the product name and “sample” and see if any are available. You sometimes get a coupon with the sample to encourage you to make a purchase. Be sure to hang on to these – they will help out!

Can I find it on sale?  Most stores will post their weekly sales flyers online; if not, call various stores where you could purchase the item and ask if it is on sale. If it is near the end of the week, be sure and ask if the item will be going on sale the next week. Often you can get a price adjustment if you bought an item within a week or two of it going on sale.

Is there a coupon that I can use for this?Again, if you check the sales flyers, there may be coupons in there. Also, do a google search for the name of the product and “coupon”. You might be surprised what turns up.

Is there a reward program at the store where I am considering making the purchase? If more than one store has the item you need at a comparable price, consider purchasing at the store that offers some sort of reward program. The rewards may vary (and may change over time), but if it is something that would benefit you and your business, sign up!

How does the price at a warehouse store compare with other stores? Carefully check out the price per unit to make sure it is a good deal. If it is, but you don’t need the quantity (or have room to store it all!) contact friends, networking partners, etc. to see if someone wants to split the purchase with you.

There’s a few tips to get you started. How do you save money on business purchases?

Twitter Time Management Tips July 15, 2009

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Is Twitter taking over your life? Do you log in and suddenly realize you’ve been reading, responding and retweeting for nearly an hour?

Twitter can be fun, it can be informative, and if you’re not careful, it can be a big waste of time. If you need help managing your time on Twitter, check this out:

Karen Leland, time management blogger on the Huffington Post, has an article up today called “I’m All A Twitter: 7 Tips To Manage Your Twime”. Please give it a read and see if any of these tips might help you manage your time on Twitter – or Facebook, blogs, or any other source that sucks up a lot of your time.

I’m also honored to have my tip included in the post (it’s #6!). When I found out my tip was going to be included, I was excited. When I read through the list this morning and saw who else provided tips, I was gobsmacked!! These are people whose blogs and web sites I look at often for great information and helpful comments. So take a look at their websites for more information on starting, running, and marketing your business.

What time management tips do you use on Twitter? Leave a comment here, or on Karen’s blog so other can benefit from your knowledge.