Small Business

8 Holiday Gift Giving Etiquettes You Need to Know

By Martin, Davinci Virtual

Tis the season to be jolly—and generous. The holidays are a strategic time to show appreciation to your best customers. Of course, there are a few things you need to know before you make moves to express your goodwill. Yes, there is gift giving etiquette—even for holiday cards—in an age that celebrates diversity. Consider these guidelines:

1. Make it personal

Personalizing a gift, if possible, may speak louder than the gift itself. That’s because it demonstrates you have taken the time to really get to know them. If all else fails, seek advice from your client’s secretary or look on their Facebook page if you’re connected. If you can’t personalize gifts for all your clients, at least write a personal note in the card.  

2. Don’t overspend

You should have a budget for client gift-giving, but don’t be so extravagant it puts the receiver in an awkward position. Some of your clients may not be able to receive a gift value over a specific amount. Do your homework. Find out what is acceptable before you send the gift.

3. Consider faiths 

Not everybody believes the same as you do. You may celebrate Hanukkah, but your clients may celebrate Christmas, Ramadan, Kwanzaa or some other holiday in December. You don’t want to be offensive when you’re trying to be kind. Find out what your client celebrates if you can, or just send the generic “Season’s Greetings.”

4. Deliver on time

Just as you would deliver a product or service on time, be sure your holiday gift is delivered on time. Typically, a December 20th deadline is ideal because it falls in the sweet spot of the holiday season for people of various faiths.

5. Don’t rely on food and wine 

There’s nothing wrong with falling back on food, wine and liquor if you know your client has a special affinity for a good wine or chocolate, but generally speaking it’s generic and forgettable. Remember, make it personal.

6. Avoid gift cards

If you are dealing with employees, gift cards may work fine. But when sending client gifts, don’t opt for this route. The gift card option basically says, “I couldn’t think what to give you, so I’m giving you cash.” It’s impersonal.

7. Don’t send company T-shirts

Gifts with your logo scribbled all over them are not gifts, they are promotional tools and will be viewed that way. Likely, they will go in the circular file. Instead of classy, you may be seen as cheap and self-serving.

8. Re-gift carefully

Thirty-two percent of all Americans re-gift, which means they give a gift away to someone because they didn’t need or like it, according to an American Express survey. You can easily hurt the feelings of the gift-giver if they find out.

 

Budgeting for client gifts is easy when you save money with a Virtual Office and Live Receptionist Services from Davinci Virtual Office Solutions.  Click here to learn more.

 

Martin has been enjoying the creation and successful execution of many technology and service related ventures over the past 25 years. He is very passionate about building businesses from the ground up by leveraging cutting edge technologies, innovation and smart, driven people. Martin currently leads all business operations at Davinci Virtual Office Solutions. He credits his international upbringing and Swiss approach for many of his successes. Stress relievers include skiing, tennis, mountain biking and blue oceans.

Please note that Bookly’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of Bookly.

Netflix and Startup: The Three Most Inspiring Shows for Entrepreneurs to Binge Watch

Netflix for Entrepreneurs

Ask any small business owner and they’ll tell you they don’t have the time to ease into a routine of nightly TV before bed. The entrepreneurs I know typically don’t have time for television at all, but, when they do, it’s usually all in one sitting. For some of us, binge watching is the new spa day. If you’re looking for a new show to inspire your business life while vegging out on your couch and eating ice cream, give one of these a try on your next day off:  

Shark Tank

You can’t have a list of shows for entrepreneurs without Shark Tank. For those who don’t know, Shark Tank is a reality television show that started in 2009 on ABC. It involves new entrepreneurs or inventors pitching their business ideas to a panel of “shark” investors.

Just as the show presents some really good ideas that do indeed turn into successful products sold at a large scale, it also shows plenty of duds. Entrepreneurs, whether veteran or novice, can learn from watching both good and bad ideas get pitched. Take notes on the good pitches: how did they present their idea? What was their prep work like? In what manner did they speak to the investors? You can really tell when someone’s prepared and confident in his/her product. The next time you have to pitch your business, or even just a new idea at a meeting with partners, mimic the successful entrepreneurs you see on Shark Tank. In a different way, you can also learn a thing or two from the unsuccessful pitches you see. Exactly why was their pitch or product bad? Why wouldn’t you have invested your money if given the chance?       

Parks and Recreation

This next one isn’t quite so in your face in terms of made-for-entrepreneurs TV, but it does provide plenty of good lessons about getting stuff done and sticking to your guns while making you laugh along the way. Parks and Recreation also started in 2009 (a good year for shows for small business owners), and stars Amy Poehler as the main character, Leslie Knope, a mid-level bureaucrat working in the Parks Department of Pawnee, Indiana. Throughout the series, Knope faces a myriad of challenges to overcome to better the lives of those in the fictional Pawnee, Indiana. In every episode the viewer learns about hard work, determination, and how to make the world a better place by doing something you’re good at.

StartUp

Startup is a new American television series that just debuted on Crackle in September. On IMDB, It’s described as a “crime/thriller” about “a desperate banker who needs to conceal some stolen money. A Haitian-American gang lord who wants to “go legit.” And a Cuban-American hacker who has an idea that will revolutionize the very future of money itself. Forced to work together, they unwittingly create their version of the American dream.” A good lesson in working together and overcoming differences to fight for one common goal: the success of a business. 

 

Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Please note that Bookly’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of Bookly.

How to Hire for a Startup Company

Hiring for a Startup

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

If you’re wondering how to hire for a startup company, you’re not alone. Every month, thousands of entrepreneurs Hit the Search ENgines to Ask the Same Thing. In this article we’ll breakdown how you can hire startup employees with little to no capital.

Bootstrapping a new company, getting it off the ground and producing income is a challenging process. By definition, bootstrapping is a "means of advancing oneself or accomplishing something, relying entirely on one's efforts and resources." When you're trying to hire a new sales person or operations person but don't yet have sales revenue to back up the payroll, it's time to get creative. That's what bootstrapping is all about!

Startup Hiring Tip** Know the Difference Between Employees and Contractors

As it happens, there are three proven ways to hire new employees who will work for your company when you have no cash. In most cases those people you hire will not be your employees—they'll be contractors. Now there's nothing wrong with hiring contractors, but you'll need to know the pros and cons (such as the tax implications) if you decide to pursue this route. The Internal Revenue Service has a strict set of rules that determine whether a person is an employee or a contractor. For example, the IRS considers a person an employee if you control what will be done and how it will be done. 

If you spell out the time the person needs to be at work; if you require the person to follow a certain procedure in completing the work; if you specify how the work needs to be completedyou are treating that person as an employee. You are required by law to withhold payroll taxes from that person's paycheck.

However, if you allow a person to use his or her own methods in completing the work, allow them to work on their own schedule and otherwise treat that person as an independent business person performing a task for you, it's likely that the IRS will classify that person as a contractor. Contractors are responsible for paying their own payroll taxes.

For example...

Imagine that a large oak tree has been weakened by a storm and threatens to fall upon your business office. You hire a tree removal company to cut the tree down and haul it away. That removal company is a contractor. You would certainly not presume to tell them how to do their work, require them to be on site at a specific time nor dictate what tools they should use. They are contractors. Similarly, your contractors must be allowed to work for you using their own methods, tools and techniques.

Special allowances are made for sales people you might hire. It seems the IRS understands the bootstrapping process by acknowledging that sales must occur if a company is to survive. Therefore, the tax code automatically places most sales people into an independent contractor role by default.

The IRS rules are important. If a company hires a person as a contractor, but lays down policies and procedures that must be followed—such as what time to report to the job each day, or how to complete the work—the IRS is likely to find that person is an employee. The tax courts are filled with cases where companies were obligated to pay back payroll taxes for improperly classified workers, often over many years with costs and penalties running into tens of thousands of dollars.

how to hire for a startup company

How to Hire for a Startup Company When Strapped for Cash: 3 Different Approaches

Now that you’ve got a general review of the IRS rules, let's look at three ways you can find and hire qualified candidates for your bootstrapped startup.

1.  Interns

Most every college and university has an intern program that aims to give students real world experience in their major field of study. For example, a student studying accounting might seek out an internship position with a cloud-based bookkeeping company, working without pay, but accumulating college credits for his or her efforts. Multimedia art students might be able to help a company grow by designing the company's web site and advertising material. An accounting major might keep the books. Computer and IT students might develop software. Marketing students might contribute to the business plan.

Interns can be found by contacting the local college or university and asking for the person who handles the internship program. In most cases each speciality will have its own contact person. That is, the school of marketing will have a person who oversees the internship program, while the computer programming school will have a different person. A few calls will get you in touch with qualified, motivated students who can help bootstrap your company—even though you have no cash.

2. Commission Deals

Most new companies face the issue of building awareness in the marketplace—letting prospective customers know that the company exists and that its products and services deserve their attention. The people who specialize in that area are in the business development, marketing and sales specialties. It’s entirely possible to hire people who have extensive backgrounds and substantial expertise on a commission basis. As the person closes or contributes to sales, the company pays him or her a portion of the sales revenue as commission.

Finding these people is not difficult. Job openings can be posted at both Craigslist and Indeed. It's important to post an opening that is written professionally. Too many postings scream, "Make $3000 per Month, No Experience Necessary." Honesty, professionalism and integrity are the best policies when writing job postings. Be sure to explain that the company is a start-up and that the job is commission-only. Give the respondent a way to reach you with his or her resume, then do the courtesy of replying to each applicant.  

3. Manufacturer Rep Firms

If you sell a product, rather than a service, manufacturer rep firms may help you build your business. These firms are in business to represent and sell products from a variety of similar manufacturers. Some manufacturers use these firms as their sales division, rather than hiring in-house sales people. A given rep firm usually has a focus. Perhaps they handle industrial chemicals, machine tools or technology products. They work on a commission basis, so it is rarely necessary to pay them up front. Your only financial exposure would be providing demonstration models of your product which the rep firm would use in their sales process.

Again, finding a rep firm is not difficult. Do a web search for "manufacturer rep [product type]" where you insert the kind of product you want to sell. These firms have an established team of professional sales people and a base of customers who may well begin buying your company's products in short order.

Conclusion

Bootstrapping a company is challenging. However, finding people who will work for a company with no cash on hand is easier today than ever before, thanks to the resources available via the Internet. Begin your search today using the startup hiring tips we’ve discussed and you’re likely to find your startup being one step closer to become a profitable business.

 

How to Turn 1-time Buyers Into Lifelong Customers

CLV Office

“You want to go where everybody knows your name… da da da… and they’re always glad you came… da da da.” Familiar? Even if you weren’t in the Cheers generation you have probably heard this theme song somewhere along the line. People like to feel valued whether in personal relationships, the bar/restaurant they decide to frequent, or in the service providers they choose to call when they need something. Either way, you will win the loyalty game if you learn a few key principles to turn 1-time customers into lifelong loyal business, and the secret is they are a lot cheaper (it’s 6-7x more costly to market to a brand new customer than a returning one) and way more valuable (10x the profit over a lifetime) for your business growth.

 Via  Giphy

Via Giphy

1. Be honest!

I recently worked on a project to help a carpet cleaner in a small town build their visibility online to help drive new business and loyalty. The first thing I noticed when I went to their Facebook page was 3 reviews that started with “This company does not represent themselves accurately online with who they are in person. Don’t hire them to clean your carpets.” Another one said “Stop making up fake reviews from customers! You don’t even do the things you talk about in the reviews you are making up!” Unfortunately the list of bad reviews went on and on. We are living in the day and age of abundant online reviews - you can’t afford bad publicity especially when you are just getting started!

In addition to representing yourself honestly online be honest about your pricing up front and if there is a possibility of an increase (or decrease) in an estimate, be upfront with that too. Try to live a policy of “no surprises” when it comes to what you are offering. When you are transparent you may lose customers before you get started, but in the long run you will gain trust and loyal customers tenfold. Loyal customers are also 10x more likely to refer you to their friends so they can multiply your customer base without you spending a dime! So be like Abe, and be honest.

2. First impressions are everything

Business Insider suggest that you have 7 seconds to make a strong positive impression. So before you ever pick up your first phone call or visit a new or returning customer, think first about how you would like to be treated or the experience you would like to have if they were in your shoes. Dress nicely, have good hygiene, and if you are rushing over from another dirty job, then be genuine, smile and say “today has been so busy I haven’t had time to clean up but I didn’t want to leave you hanging another minute!” If you enter a customer’s home or property leave it cleaner and better than you found it. If an accident does happen don’t pretend it didn’t. The scary truth is that 59% of customers that are left with a negative impression then leave a poor review online. Get ahead of the game and put your best foot forward before it comes back to bite you.

When you leave an appointment your first impression of an exit is just as important as when you first meet a customer. Jay Bean, CEO of FreshLime always says, “Handing over a paper invoice to a customer after a service is like sending them to the loyalty graveyard - you will never hear from them again.” Offer to send their invoice via text or e-mail to save on paper. This not only makes you look environmentally-friendly and tech-savvy, but it will also give you the opportunity to re-engage with your customer after your first service. You can send a thank you - a follow-up to see how everything is working several days afterward and you can let them know about specials and other offers you have going on. If you are active on Facebook let them know about it and send a follow-up e-mail asking them to like your page so they can know the latest and greatest. Be friendly and leave a reason for them to want to engage again. An extra 5 minutes will make 5x the difference in your bottom line growth.

3. Pleasant persistence

The key to good follow-up isn’t always fancy graphically-designed e-mails or intricately-automated marketing campaigns. Sometimes it’s just simple, good old-fashioned timing. Whatever industry you are in, start a document outlining your ideal customer. Include how often they would call your business to come back, and what issues they would likely call for. In a separate column outline your busy season, and any seasonal or holiday trends your business encounters. Then match up the two. Try to communicate at those ideal times and for ideal reasons and don’t communicate without a strategy in mind.

Make sure you inform your customer about your intentions to communicate. If you start sending out e-mails every few days and they didn’t expect to get them, it will annoy them more than endear you to their over-eager strategy. If you don’t hear back right away after texting a customer with a deal that you think is killer, don’t reach out right away and wonder why. They might not always reply to every message, but it takes 6-8 touches with a customer to get them to hire you. Just make sure those 6-8 touches aren’t a cumulation of texts and e-mails all in a few days:).

4. Highest quality every time

Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in how to market and communicate with our customers that we forget that the most important thing we need to do is make sure our service is the highest quality, each and every time. Your product and craft will speak for itself and drive online reviews and referrals more than anything else. You can get the best marketing strategy in place but you have to back it up, otherwise it will be considered “false advertising” and you will be looking at the kind of reviews I mentioned above.

The Economist recently published an article about the cost savings associated with outsourcing areas of your business that aren’t core to your offering. Not only does hiring someone else to do your marketing or your financials make you 60% more productive, but it also saves you time and resources that you could be spending on deals that actually bring in the bacon. Consider this - the 2 hours it takes you every week to design a newsletter might bring in a new client or two, but it’s also 2 hours of time you could be out on a job that is 4 to 6 times more profitable. Hire a service to help you out and it’s their core business. You pay a fraction of what your time costs, it’s usually more effective, and everyone wins. Breaking down the not-so-obvious helps you avoid unnecessary decisions and business cost.

5. VIP Insider Club

If you have left a good impression, are communicating at a good pace, and are genuine and honest in your customer dealings, you are setting a great foundation for long-term business growth. So the next step is more of a principle on how to treat each customer, especially those that have come to you more than once. Make them feel like a VIP. Every time you talk to them listen intently and try to provide the best and most cost-effective solution. Care about them and show them the kind of service you would always want to receive. Make them feel like any offer you extend is only for the VIP Club - and they are part of it.

One of the reasons Facebook grew so rapidly when MySpace was already in the game of social networking is that it started out exclusive. You could only join if you were enrolled in certain universities. You had to be part of the elite. It was considered superior just for that reason and people felt special to be part of it. Those on the outside wanted in. This led to a tipping point and once it was open to anyone it originally still felt unique. Provide this same kind of allure and experience and your customers will rave about how well they are treated and how much they love coming back every time. It works like a charm.

The service businesses we surveyed last year reported that they thought 80% of their customers had come back more than once if not a lot more frequent than a one-time deal. When we really looked at their data, however, we found that in reality, only 20% of their customers were coming back. It’s been our mission to change that number, and implementing these principles has made all the difference.

Erin Schurtz is the VP of Marketing for FreshLime. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and subscribe to her blog posts.

Please note that Bookly’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of Bookly.

Three Big Bang For Your Buck Business Communication Tools

Woman at Desk

You’re a small business owner and for you, time is money right? Here are three tools to help you communicate better and faster with your team, your customers and your target market.

1. Set a No Email Policy with your Team

Is “Inbox Zero” some state of nirvana that you’ve never actually encountered? Join the “I’m drowning in emails and I can’t get out” club. Start using Slack and set a “no email” policy with your team. As of 4/1/16, there were 800,000 Slack accounts (Slack has been on the market for about a year). It's free for small teams and storage for up to 10,000 messages. You can create "channels" for projects and invite users to relevant channels. My team uses slack and our internal communications are 98% email-free which is live-changing and time-saving. Need to focus and avoid interruptions? Just turn it off. The mobile app is a great way to stay on top of internal activity when you're on the run, again without jamming up your email inbox. The time saved processing emails is priceless.

2. Start Conversations with Hot Leads Faster

Your customers are increasingly used to instant gratification communication platforms such as Mobile phone texting, Facebook messaging and Snapchat. Today’s  The standard website "Contact Us" form is so 2014. The direct interaction possible through a webchat app removes days of email delays as each party waits for the other to respond. With a webchat app, the potential customer indicates interest, asks questions and may move right into purchase in one, real-time interaction. And the best part? You can develop a "human" relationship with the potential customer that is impossible to do over email. The exchange is much more similar to an in-person conversation than to a string of email exchanges. This more authentic interaction will improve brand perception and customer service experience.

You can install a web chat tool on your website such as LiveChat for about $49/month. The challenge with this approach is that if your live chat is "on" then your team needs to be in front of a screen to be available for chats that can come in at any time. I have accidentally left my Live Chat app set to "on" on my phone and found myself answering customer inquiries at the park while walking my dog. Having you or your team manage the chat is a great way to understand the dynamics of the interactions and to create a list of frequently asked questions, but the attentiveness required is generally unsustainable. You can outsource web chat to providers like Davinci Virtual Office Solutions starting at $59/month.

3. Get more Leverage out of your Social Media Posts and Reach your Fan Base more Often

You know that one favorite, life-changing tool that you can’t stop yourself from sharing with friends? For me, that’s Meet Edgar. This is hands-down my favorite time-saving social media tool. Add content to your library, categorize it, and Edgar will pull content from across your categories and post it to Twitter and Facebook on a randomized, recurring basis until you tell it to stop.

Meet Edgar is definitely best for Evergreen content, otherwise your reposts might seem stale or outdated. And while many business owners spend time creating and posting content to social feeds where only 10% of their followers will happen to see it, Edgar drips out your content so that it hits more pockets of your audience over time.

 

Guest Post by Jamie Russo of Global Workspace Association. GWA is the connection-based resource for shared space operators, workplace strategists, real estate investors and service providers to stay connected, current and competitive.

Please note that Bookly’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of Bookly.

How to Exist in the Cloud Without Losing Your 'Human Touch'

in the cloud

Small businesses use tools that enable them to do more and to engage with their customers in ways previously not possible. This can drive revenues, increase profit margins, and deliver better customer experiences. When the cloud appeared on the horizon five or six years ago, its implications for small businesses weren’t completely clear.

Many small businesses probably didn’t pay much heed to all of the advertisements—from print, to radio, to television. Nowadays it's obvious that things have changed (85 percent believe cloud solutions can help them scale and grow their businesses faster). Businesses that now exist "in the cloud" are seeing the results first hand. Small businesses using an above average number of cloud services (2.5 tools) experience 26 percent faster revenue growth and 21 percent higher profitability. This is pretty astounding when you think about it. 

Slow to Move to the Cloud

However, despite the vast majority of “cloud believers,” there are still a number of businesses that haven’t stepped into the cloud at all, and still another sizable portion that have only dipped their toes into the water (e.g., using Google Mail). Merely skimming the surface of possibilities leaves stones unturned. Opportunities to grow your business, drive operational efficiencies, and build closer relationships with your customers are lost.

To realize business benefits of the cloud, small businesses must make a strategic IT investment. Where are you at when it comes to your peers? While average IT spend is between three and five percent, small businesses with the fastest growth put over 10 percent of their revenues back into their IT system—and a significant portion of this is in cloud services.  

Certainly investing in IT for the sake of “being average” or “above average” isn’t a valid reason to do so. Investigating, assessing, and identifying opportunities, however, to transform existing processes and systems by moving them to the cloud is a must for a business planning to remain competitive in today’s fast-changing digital age. Sticking with the status quo isn’t a viable option. 

in the cloud

Top Reasons and Strategies for the Cloud

So what are the primary reasons small businesses are investing in the cloud? Albeit cost is a factor in about one-third of instances, it isn’t at the top list of reasons small businesses turn to cloud solutions. Rather, flexibility around mobility and remote work ranks first. A joint Deloitte-Google study spells out the list of priorities:

·      Mobility and Remote Working, 47%

·      Reduced Operating Costs, 38%

·      Collaboration, 36%

·      Lower Maintenance Requirements, 32%

·      Access to Technical Expertise, 27%

·      Scalability, 25%

·      Avoid Long-Term Contracts, 16%

More interesting insights become obvious when one looks at the responses of small businesses that show up as growth leaders. Collaboration and communications rank at the top of the list for them (42 percent), with workforce mobility as a close second (41 percent). Business outcomes don’t necessarily revolve around cost either:

·      Scale and Growth, 80%

·      Access to New Markets, 77%

·      Focus on Strategic Projects, 75%

·      Beat Competitors, 66%

Where to Start with the Cloud

So where in the cloud should you start to generate the biggest impact to your business? A recent study pinpoints accounting-related functions as the two lowest-hanging categories: back-office work such as bookkeeping and accounting and invoicing and account receivables. Moving your accounting applications to the cloud is one thing; managing them is another. Indeed, accounting is a complex undertaking and fraught with compliance requirements. Failure to address can result in hefty fines and hits to your reputation. This is why businesses need to supplement their cloud-based accounting solutions with the expertise of human accounting specialists. This was the genesis of Bookly.

This concept of technology plus the human element is something Davinci Virtual Office Solutions understands well. Our communications services were developed with this premise in mind. We built and acquired best-in-class technologies, combining these with sales and customer services agents who serve as an extension of each client, to deliver outstanding engagement experiences—whether via our Live Receptionist or Live Web Chat services. It is not one or the other, but rather both that stand at the center of our value proposition. We believe in this integrated approach so much that we use it ourselves for sales and customer service for DavinciVirtual.com and DavinciMeetingRooms.com.

 

In the cloud - writer

Martin has been enjoying the creation and successful execution of many technology and service related ventures over the past 25 years. He is very passionate about building businesses from the ground up by leveraging cutting edge technologies, innovation and smart, driven people. Martin currently leads all business operations at Davinci Virtual Office Solutions. He credits his international upbringing and Swiss approach for many of his successes. Stress relievers include skiing, tennis, mountain biking and blue oceans.

Please note that Bookly’s sponsorship of this blog article is not intended to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual or entity and does not constitute an endorsement of any entity or its products or services. This content represents the views of the author, and does not necessarily represent the views or professional advice of Bookly.

 

 

How to Write and Publish a Novel in 50 Days—Side Hustler's Edition

typewriter minimalism

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

From Gary Vaynerchuck to Eddie Huang, many Entrepreneurs have published Books highlighting their unique voice and establishing themselves as leaders of their industries.

Whether you're looking to publish a book about your success story or you'd like to sound off on your area expertisewriting a book is a great vehicle to legitimize and solidify your ideas. Maybe it's the historical role that books have played, or maybe it's just good marketingbut books (whether electronic or not) seem to carry a little more cache than your average internet article.  

Reasons an Entrepreneur Should Publish a Novel

  • Publishing a novel is a lead generation tool
  • Publishing a novel is a branding tool
  • Publishing a novel provides value to others
  • Publishing a novel can help solidify you as an "expert" 
  • Publishing a novel gives you a chance to point out flaws in an industry (which hopefully you're solving)
moleskin how to publish a novel

In determining the math for “How to Write and Publish a Novel in 50 Days” we undoubtedly have to make some generalizations. Book length preferences vary by genre, target audience, publisher, and author. There are epic fantasies that range well over 100,000 words, mystery novels that tend to range from 60,000-80,000 and novellas that are not considered short stories but not yet novel length. For all intensive purposes we have decided on a word count of 60,000, so you may need to adjust your work load accordingly (i.e. instead of 3 pages per day you may only need to write 2 etc.)

-Each stylized novel page in word contains roughly: 500 words

-If you commit to writing 3 pages a day that equals: 1,500 words

-At 1,500 words a day we will achieve the 60,000 word goal in: just 40 days!

“But wait, why did you say 50 days?” Let’s be honest, it would have sounded a lot nicer when writing this “how to publish a novel guide” to put 40 days instead of 50—but with publishing and editing considerations that’s just not realistic. By adding 10 extra days, for mapping out your book, making edits, formatting, doing cover art etc.—you can feel a lot more confident with a 50 day time limit. 

As you can see from the math, a 50 day goal is very achievable but as all writers do—you need help along the way. The rest of this manuscript will consist of several helpful tips and guidelines that will assist you in your literary aspirations.

How to Publish a Novel: Mapping out Success

how to publish a novel

How to Publish a Novel Step One: Set a Macro Goal

The first thing you must ask yourself is why do you want to write a novel? Is it to become rich and famous? Need to express yourself? Is it for pure enjoyment? 

The reason does not matter so much, as long as you find it sufficiently motivating. Writing a novel is tough—it will test you in every way. 

Once you have determined your primary goal, write it down. This is your macro goal—the end-all be-all object of desire you are looking forward too, the reason you’re willing to beat yourself up over the next 50 days. 

Whatever reason you decide on for writing a novel, make sure it is enough to fuel you through the next 50 days and that you make it the focus of everything you do.

HOW TO PUBLISH A NOVEL Step Two: Quantify Your Goal

After you have determined your macro goal you will need to ask yourself, what are the necessary steps to achieve your goal. Here we are referring to your maximum goal (not the goal of publishing a novel, but what you hope to happen after publishing said novel. 

Let’s say my macro goal is to be a rich and famous author. What quantifiable goal can I set that will make me “rich and famous”. Perhaps it is selling X number of books, and achieving a certain X amount of interviews. 

Maybe your goal is not economically driven, but you just want to be considered an "expert" of your field. What quantifiable terms can we put next to this broad term? Perhaps we could write down, you want to have X number of reviews written about your work, you want X of new twitter followers, and X number of sales.

Do you see how even non-number driven goals can be quantifiable? The most important thing you can do in goal setting is to set measurable goals and to define how many X’s it takes for you to reach your Y. 

HOW TO PUBLISH A NOVEL Step Three: Set Micro Goals

Now that you have an achievable and quantifiable goal you will need to break your plan into months, weeks, days, and even hours. But before you can do any of this you must first write that book.

Yeah, about that…

We recommend you use a physical calendar (these are easy to find/print for free online). Of course you could also use one of the millions of digital calendars out there to keep you on pace—but there's something primally obligatory about writing something in ink.

Place the calendar on the wall next to where you write, make it so you can see your macro goals and micro goals at the same time. If you are trying to write a 60,000 word novel, make sure you write each day at what specific time you will be doing said writing. Merely writing down “three pages” is not good enough, you need to block out a specific time period in which you know you can get it done. If you fall short one page for some unforeseen emergency, make sure to tack those pages on to the next day—do not however, make this a habit.

Publishing Routes

how to publish a novel

Professional AKA A publishing house

This route is most likely for your well established CEO. (Publishing houses love to see what you have "accomplished" that makes you an expert at said topic.) Make sure that on your calendar when you start to near the final stages of your writing (perhaps a week in advance), you write down a specific date you will be contacting an editor. Do this in advance so you can receive confirmation.

But since this guide is for the "side-hustler" (and scrappier business owner) we will focus on the self-published e-book route.  

Self-Published E-Book

If you don't have a huge budget, we recommend you email a university’s graduate school English department and do it in advance. Those students have plenty on their plates, and yes most of the students will be dying for a chance to make some money (and put something besides worked at Barnes and Nobles on their CV). But to do an effective job, they will need time to prepare and plan ahead.

Also, make sure to put a spot on your calendar for when to get in touch with your cover artist as soon as you have a good outline of your book. Think about whom you’re marketing to, and what you want them to feel when they look at the cover of your book. Take a look at other books in your genre and find out what they are doing. Chances are they have a professional marketing expert help choose a cover. And chances also are you don’t—so browse around and take a look at the bestsellers. 

Getting in touch with an artist as soon as possible will also allow you to make changes in advance if necessary. After all you are on a 50 day schedule.

Marketing Your Novel

online-marketing-1246457_640.jpg

For the self-publisher, this will be your hardest step. The first (and most obvious) step is to reach out to family, friends, and employees. If the novel is brand-related or fits within your niche—feel free to exploit your business channels to market your book i.e. social media accounts, email lists, webinars, and partnerships.

Digital Ads

After tapping into your core base, digital marketing will most likely be the most affordable and profitable way to market your book. Think about your value proposition "What will your customers learn from your book?" and use that to your advantage. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram—all have ad platforms that are relatively inexpensive. If your book teaches people how to maximize ROI, or exploit a niche--say so! Don't just regurgitate the title of your novel without first considering what value you bring to others.  

SEO

Let it be known that SEO is a marathon not a sprint. This is what you would call a "long play." It takes time, constant dedication, and guess what? More writing!

Not all business owners, side hustlers, CEO's, or entrepreneurs have a working knowledge of SEO practices (nor do they need to). But what they do need to know is that SEO is important (if not crucial) to a web-presence and those who are unfamiliar with the practice need to A. learn or B. hire out. (To read more about the importance of SEO, read our article Is SEO Dead?)

The biggest challenge for self-published authors is getting people to read your work. With so many people now publishing their material (much of it unrevised and ill-written) your masterpiece can easily become lost in the fray. If you don’t learn basic SEO skills you will never find your book at the top of anyone’s pile. If you are to be successful in your online endeavors you must become familiar with how search engines work. 

This does not mean every writer needs to be a blogger, but you must have some type of platform you can reach an audience with. In order to receive you have to first give content to the world they find useful. Eventually these people will start to become curious as to who you are and more importantly—your works. 

This means you have to be commenting on blog posts, forums, google + groups, etc. You need to be writing and submitting articles to various publications and websites, producing content about topics you know.

Resource Directory:

Where to Publish    

Smashwords

Amazon

Wattpad 

Cover Design

DeviantArt

Fiverr

Phonto

oDesk

Editing

Contact your nearby university’s Graduate School English Department*

(Only use online services if you are willing to pay professional rates.)

Marketing Resources

"23 Marketing Tools That Will Cut Your Workflow in Half"

Google Webmaster Tools

Quake – SEO Analyzer

"How to Neuromarket the Proper Way"

"Want to Generate More Leads? There Might be a Goldmine Right Under Your Nose."

Blogging Platforms

Squarespace

Wordpress

Medium

Manuscript Formatting

Smashwords provides an official “formatting guide” that you have to download, it is long, it is confusing, and frankly we do not recommend it. If you are interested in publishing through Smashwords we recommend a more user friendly version found here:

CyberWitch Press

SEO Tips + Tools

Buzzsumo 

Moz’s Beginners Guide 

Search Engine Land 

Images

Pixabay

Pexels

Book Mockups

Mockup World

Smart Mockups

 

 

The Top 50 Google Chrome Extensions For Small Businesses

best chrome extensions

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

In no particular order, here's A completely subjective list of the best Google Chrome Extensions for Small Business. These are the types of tools that are going to help you transform your daily grind  into a seamlessly transcendental workflow. Many of these extensions can also be used with Firefox.

Top 50 Google Chrome Extensions

  1. Momentum - Gets your traditionally boring dashboard (pictured above )up to snuff. The dashboard includes weather updates, quotes, a digital clock, goal setting tools and inspirational landscapes. 

  2. Email Hunter - A simple to use extension that lets you quickly search for email addresses associated with a website. For Marketing and PR people who need to reach out to other companies on a regular basis, this will become your new best friend. Email hunter easily earns a spot on our top Chrome extensions list.
  3. Scraper - Extracts data from web pages and puts them into spreadsheets. Quick, clean, and useful. 
  4. Google Docs - Create, save, edit and share web based text documents.
  5. Google Sheets - Create, save, edit and share web based spreadsheets. It's basically a stripped down web-enabled version of Excel. (Definitely one of our most used Chrome extensions.)
  6. Google Calendar - THE online calendar. Includes lots of integrations and syncing options. One of the most important plugins for Chrome when it comes to maintaining a calendar that follows you everywhere.
  7. Google Slides - Google's web based answer to PowerPoint. 
  8. Impactana Content Marketing Toolbar - The Upworthy of Chrome Extensions. “Find content and people that make an impact!"
  9. Toky for Business - “Receive and make calls using your browser as a telephone." Toky lets you get your office out of the 90's with this web-based dialing extension. 
  10. Tick Tick Todo & Task List - A solid task manager AKA the get "ish" done extension.
  11. Poper Blocker - If you couldn’t tell from the name, it’s a popup blocker. 
  12. Adgaurd AdBlocker - Another solid popup blocker. 
  13. Yesware Email Tracking - Email analytics and templates for Gmail.
  14. Woorank - Like having a virtual SEO guru sidekick. Woorank helps you get SEO reports, tips, and analytics. One of the best browser plugins Content Marketers. 
  15. Multi Highlight - Highlight your web pages like it’s 1999!
  16. Google Publisher Toolbar - The politician of extensions, as it simultaneously (and ironically) helps to analyze your ads while simultaneously blocking them. 
  17. RSS Subscription Extension (by Google) - Easily subscribe to a site’s RSS feed. 
  18. Office Online - Make office docs in your browser.
  19. GoToMeeting - Synch your webinar calendar with your Google Calendar.
  20. Wikiwand - Hypsterizes your Wikipedia pages, making them look fresh and vibrant. With no more boring "encyclopedia feel," research becomes more bearable. 
  21. Awesome File Opener - Let's you open and edit files in your browser.
  22. PictureMate - Allows the user to view hidden photos of anyone on Facebook. A potentially important plugin for recruiters (if not a bit eery).
  23. PasswordBox - “Never forget a Password Again!" Easily one of the best browser plugins for moms and dads who call you on the daily asking if you remember their password ;)
  24. Fontface Ninja - Browsing a site and see a font you like? Grab it and try it for yourself!
  25. Toggl Button - No more getting sidetracked! Toggl helps you manage your workflow with a nifty timer. Integrates with over 50+ 3rd party applications including the ever formidable SalesForce. 
  26. Sync Google Drive - "Sync and manage all your files in the cloud directly from Google Drive."
  27. Mixmax - A great email tool that helps you create surveys, track emails, create tasks, and schedule email blasts through Gmail. 
  28. Streak for Gmail - A CRM for Gmail.
  29. PDF Viewer - “Uses HTML5 to display PDF files directly in the browser."
  30. Shoeboxed - "Clip images of receipts, business cards and bills directly from your browser and submit them to Shoeboxes for immediate processing." As receipts increasingly go mobile, Shoeboxed provides you with a way to  quickly capture these transactions without ever having to touch a printer. 
  31. MozBar - “Streamline your SEO while you surf the web.” MozBar allows you to create custom searches, identify keywords, and compare sites. Essential for anyone trying to rank their pages higher—which let's be honest, is all of us.
  32. Keepa - Let’s you stay on top of price drops for Amazon sites. One of the best browser plugins for Amazon sellers needing to stay apprised of their competition.
  33. DO IT! - The ultimate motivational tool that gives you quick access to Shia LaBeouf’s  memorable rat tail infused speech!
  34. Evernote Web Clipper - Sync your “web clippings” to your Evernote account.
  35. MakeGIF Video Capture - An awesome tool for content marketers. Lets you capture HTML5 videos and turn them into GIFs. 
  36. Sumo Paint - Another great Sumo extension, comparable to Pixlr—this extension is a picture editor and painting application.
  37. ChromeVox - A great tool for the impaired OR overwhelmed. ChromeVox will read webpages out loud allowing you to multitask. 
  38. Amazon Publisher Studio Extension Beta - “…add links to products on Amazon directly from your Blog or content management systems (CMS), without the need to visit Associates Central to get links."
  39. XKit - A solid set of tools for those pushing content on Tumblr.
  40. UberConference - Let’s you schedule calls from Google Calendar. 
  41. Buffer - A popular extension that allows you to share content to your social media accounts from anywhere on the web. Integrates with a lot of third party apps like Tweetdeck and Hacker News. A solid tool for content marketers that can greatly reduce time and effort. 
  42. Klout - Quickly share content to your social media accounts from anywhere on the web. Easily one of the best Chrome extensions. 
  43. Password Alert - An app made by Google geared towards protecting you against phishing scams. 
  44. Talk and Comment - Let’s you record and send voice notes on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Wordpress. Might be a little awkward in the office (speaking to your computer), but great for those who work at home/those without shame. 
  45. Spots - A clean interface for your homepage. Allows you to organize and customize your favorite websites into seamless catalogues. 
  46. JSONView - Reformats JSON into a more readable format. This should easily be a top Chrome extension for developers.
  47. Postman - Allows you to make HTTP requests to speed up API or development. 
  48. Premier League Live Blog - We tried to make this one applicable to small business. It’s not, but you still need it, because Premier League.
  49. Honey - A great tool for distributors/retailers or just your everyday consumer. Automatically searches and applies coupons to your purchases.
  50. The Great Suspender - “Automatically suspends unused tabs to free up system resources.” 

How to Share MailChimp Templates With Non-MailChimp Users

MailChimp Logo

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

Open rates might not be like they were in the early 2,000's, but email still forms the marketing backbone of thousands of small businesses. Knowing how to leverage it to its full potential is crucialespecially when it comes to working with other partners on cobranded email blasts.

MailChimp is one of the most popular (for a good reason) email service providers in the business. It has incredibly handy features like auto-scheduling, A/B testing, third party integrations and a cool chimpanzee logo to boot (for the nerdishly curious, his name is Freddie). 

And while MailChimp is extremely intuitive when it comes to sharing email templates with other users, it's not so self-explanatory when it comes to sharing templates with others who don't have access to MailChimp.

How to Share an HTML Template With Non-MailChimp Users:

After creating your template, the first thing you'll need to do is click the drop down arrow next to the edit button.

mailchimp

Scroll down and click where it says "Export as HTML." Once you do, you'll receive the following pop-up...

mail chimp template

Despite the scary text that makes it sound as if you'll lose all of your saved work, just click where it says "Export Template." So far, so goodright? Well, here's where the majority of confusion comes in...

After exporting your template as an HTML file, you'll receive a file download button. If you're using Safari this will appear under the downloads arrow on the top right of your browser, or if you're using Chromeat the bottom left.

Rather than click on the file and open it (as you would a normal download), place your cursor over the HTML download file and drag it onto the desktop. Attach the file to an email, and send it. Now you're done, it's as simple as that! 

Smart Contracts: A Step Towards Dystopia or Utopia?

By Austin Miller, Content Marketing Manager

Not too long ago Karl Schroeder (author of Lockstep) claimed on Wired’s A Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, that the future of contract law (and other legal fields) would be in the hands of the internet and even potentially in the hands of A.I.—our interest was undoubtedly peaked. The future of small business contracts potentially in the hands of A.I.? What a claim! 

First off, what are Smart Contracts?

For those of you who are not accustomed with current legal and technological trends—smart contracts are the future format for legally binding documents. These documents would presumably be available to anyone and provide a basic open-source medium for the average Joe to create legally binding contracts quicker and more efficiently. In theory these contracts would eliminate the need for a middle man AKA contract lawyers and provide a a medium for non Juris Doctorates to write up their own legally binding contracts.

For a more finite definition, Wikipedia offers us the following:

...computer protocols that facilitate, verify, or enforce the negotiation or performance of a contract, or that obviate the need for a contractual clause. Smart contracts usually also have a user interface and often emulate the logic of contractual clauses. Proponents of smart contracts claim that many kinds of contractual clauses may thus be made partially or fully self-executing, self-enforcing, or both. Smart contracts aim to provide security superior to traditional contract law and to reduce other transaction costs associated with contracting.

What do smart contracts mean for law?

Although we all hate to see anyone get replaced by technology, smart contracts could level the playing field for various parties in commerce. In theory, the common man would have open access to the same “contract writers” and resources as anyone else including big business. Therefore in theory, corporations could be held to the same standards as the common man (remember, in “theory”). Bitcoin may have failed to survive in a Darwinian sense, but nonetheless it did lay a future groundwork for other technologies. In fact, one of the forefathers of Bitcoin Nick Szabo is thought to be the first to create the idea of Smart Contracts, and even started evangelizing them as early as the 80's. In spite of Bitcoin’s market failure, it's unlikely that  smart contracts will face the same result. Smart contracts provide obvious benefits to society whereas Bitcoin seemed to present little to no advantage (except for users who tend to swim in darker corners of the internet) over current modes of currency. Is swiping a card really any more difficult than using Bitcoin?

Lawyers are often compared to parasites (Liar Liar) or superheroes (Suits). Whatever the preferred metaphor--both exude resilience, a beneficial trait for those who are in the field or have a loved one who works in contract litigation. In other words, don’t worry lawyers or loved ones of lawyers—your kind have always thrived and it's unlikely things will radically change in the near future. For one thing, there is too much money to be had by powerful arms of society (i.e. Law School, D.C. Lobbying etc.) for us to readily get rid of the field. Secondly, even though Schroeder might have hinted towards other arms of law being replaced by A.I. such as judges—contract law is only one branch of many within the field. Moreover, the American public (for many reasons) has a legitimate fear of technology—and more specifically, a fear of its ability to be manipulated (be it by foreign entities, domestic governments, or black hat keyboard warriors). These fears could strengthen the contract lawyers’ argument if they market it as such.

How do smart contracts affect mY Business?

Even if within the year, legislation goes through that legally validates smart contracts—it will most likely be some time before the effects become a daily reality. Just as with any new technology, there is a period of transition. Such is the case with e-commerce, no matter the advantages—a lot of people still prefer to go into the store and shop. We predict that the transition from traditional contract writing to smart contracts will be much the same. These types of contracts will most likely be pioneered and championed by small business owners over larger corporations that require extremely intimate and detailed knowledge of the business proposals at hand.

Moreover, if the legal field pulls together and produces a strong ad campaign, they very well may thrive in spite of advancing technology. It's likely that the change will be gradual and your company will not face dramatic changes in the near future. Smart contracts will probably remain in a hybrid state much like the publishing industry and their relationship with printing vs. eBooks.

Final thoughts:

Whether smart contracts will take us a step closer to utopia or dystopia remains to be seen. On one hand it will give quicker, easier, and more accessible contract writing tools to business owners and the general public. On the other hand, it opens the doors for future possibilities of automatizing the legal field which conjures up fearful Orwellian-like images in the head of robotic juries and judges—faceless authority with no one person being held responsible for their actions. And although everyone has these images burned in their heads (thanks to popular Sci-fi), we are optimistic about the future of smart contracts and their potential to give small business owners greater access and control.

We don't pretend to be legal experts by any means, but as a startup in the technology space—we see first hand the power of disruptive tech, and we are optimistic about the future.