And Laziness Followed

So my post from May had big hopes…that I didn’t follow through on.  My packing in May mostly seems to have involved Netflix and reading fiction because I scrambled to finish packing before I left with nothing on my blogs having gotten done.  While at my parents house for a week I did some updating and online errands but not as much as I wanted.  Now I am two weeks away from my volunteer job ending and 12 days of travel before I get back in the comfortable setting of my parents’ place.  While here I have seen a lot of things and I started doing some reading and listening to business related podcasts.  I have posted one blog post for my travel blog and posted a lot of pictures on my travel blog’s Facebook page but nothing on Twitter or (my newest social media option for travelers) Trover.
I need to go to a bar a few blocks away for good internet or get slow internet up the hill at my workplace so it is very un-motivating to try to get online here.  I go to the bar to try to do research or work tasks to find half of my coworkers sitting around having a few beers so I can be unsocial or be unfocused.  Also, when my coworkers are there, they have their smartphones out so the internet is slow anyways.  Also, I decided not to bring my heavy laptop and instead use my tablet and keyboard, which I’m barely comfortable with.  So many excuses.  I recently realized that I can create a blog post offline and post it later so I am currently in my room in the villa I share with another American and two Greek girls typing this up.

And…Now down to business.  I’ve decided that since I have nothing to do after work (7-4) except travel (and work saps my interest in that) I can use my spare time between work and supper with friends reading my business books and planning my strategy and business so I can get straight to work once I get my laptop and strong internet connection back.  Thanks to my downloaded podcasts I already have a lot of ideas and I’m currently reading the Suitcase Entrepreneur’s book.  I’m trying to go back and reevaluate my blogs to decide how I can market them and which to focus on as well as what digital products I can create.  First, however, I need to figure out my motivation and, as Natalie Sisson puts it, my “secret sauce”.  That is what I do best.  I do a lot of things okay, but what do I do best?  I like to research but am not the best at explaining things orally.  My sister says that I like to find connections between things that don’t seem connected and I do like that, but how do I market that?  I’ve researched social media marketing for years but putting all the facts and tips  in my head into action has obviously not worked since I finally got 30 followers just before this trip from a paid advertisement on my travel  blog’s Facebook page, not from organic traffic.  I’m now fluctuating around 40 followers on that page as I don’t have a focus on the blog nor page.  Natalie says that the perfect place for a business is “the intersection between what you’re good (or great) at, what you enjoy – or better yet – love doing, and what people will pay you for.” She call that place “your sweet spot” in her book.  So what does a mulipotentite like me ( a word I learned on a podcast interview), who can’t manage to focus on one thing for long, find for my sweet spot?  Have you found your sweet spot yet?  I need to sit down and think before I attempt to refocus my business and blogs.

Let’s Start This Again

Wow, I just reread the first bit of my last post.  Over two years ago I thought that I would get out of the Navy and start focusing on my blogs and social media.  That hasn’t happened.  Although I have been doing slightly better with social media over the last month, I’m WAY behind on my blogs and I’m better at posting pictures of my current project than writing status updates at all.  (The fact that I was in a ceramics class meant that I had deadlines to get my projects done so I just posted photo updates as I made them.  Hmm…if that worked for a few months, maybe I should try to apply that online…if I can figure out self-discipline.)

This is not meant to be an excuse, but more of a admission of being stupid and lazy.  I’ve been dabbling with blogs for over five years now and I’ve only made $0.27.  For years I’ve been calling my blogs “my business” but I’ve treated it like so many of my craft hobbies which I get excited with for a few hours or days before getting bored or thinking of another interesting idea to pursue.

Finals are this week, then I’ve got two weeks to pack, move, clean, and leave my apartment before a week at my parent’s place.  Then I head to a volunteer project in Greece followed by some travel before a month at my parent’s place.  Then I have a week in England before classes start.  All of that is on student loans, my savings is basically gone.  If I don’t have an income from the internet by January, I’ll need to force myself to get a part-time job in the real world and give up my dreams for travel during college breaks.  This week I need to focus on my exams then figure out what all my options are for e-business and where to focus for two weeks.  I want to figure out my brand, my focus, and update all my blogs before my summer starts.  I need to stop doing research and start working.

I discovered a website today that I like: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/ .  I was searching for tips on building email lists and I came across this post of his: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/how-to-build-an-email-list/ .  After reading his posts and advice, I realized that I like his version of complete honesty and that podcasts may be what I need for motivation. I can listen to them on the bus before I get home after my tests to help motivate me to get to work.

So…let’s see if I can start this again and keep it going…

New Direction

I decided about three months ago to end this blog.  It is a time consuming blog that I wound up doing more research for than writing for.  Besides, I don’t want to create a business for myself creating and maintaining other people’s websites.  I want to be completely my own boss, creating things to my specifications, with the customer or user in mind.  However, I had some good articles on here and didn’t have time to copy them elsewhere, so I renewed this domain for another year.

Since I renewed this site, I might as well use it for something.  I’ll soon be done with the major certification for my current job and then I want to restart my various online businesses (meaning a number of blogs, stores, and article sites I haven’t touched in months).  To restart my online projects on solid footing, I am doing research on marketing and getting found online.  One of the big things I’m looking at is developing a serious presence on Twitter, which I’ve basically ignored.  I have an idea to start about three “professional” or targeted twitter names when I restart my business but for now I’ll experiment with my personal account.  I have 7 tweets, I’m following 27 people and have 13 followers.  I am going to use this blog as my journal of experiments, failures, successes, and lessons learned in social marketing, specifically on Twitter.  My first step will be to follow more people (trying to add another person I want to learn from each day) and try to create a relationship with follower.  That is a problem since I’ve never gotten the point of Twitter.  I just posted a request for Twitter tips, we’ll see what I receive.  Next I want to figure out how to start a conversation with my brother.  Is a conversation private or public on Twitter like it can be on Facebook?  I’ll see.  I should go for now, others are waiting for the computer.

Setting Up Social Media

Now that your website is set up to your satisfaction, it’s time to set up your social media connections.  Now a days social media is how people learn about new websites or products they may not see in stores.  All the big companies have social media pages such as Facebook or Twitter, most of the celebrities have accounts, and most marketing agencies will highly recommend that you get an account on a few sites.  MySpace used to be popular but has recently fallen out of popularity to Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook tends to be a place to interact with your followers.  You can put up images of products, recommend helpful articles, send out coupons, publish statuses of the everyday life of your business, and let your followers respond or put things on your “wall” for others to comment on.

Twitter is more of a way to get people curious about a link or a new product or just to write a quote you think your followers would like.  You only have a certain number of letters that can be used in each message so often the phrase is a teaser with a link to the full article or page.

Linked-In is aimed at business people so it is a good place to meet people in your niche and out of it to get referrals or to start partnerships on projects.

These are just three of the most known social media websites on the web.  You need to figure out where your target market hangs out and then decide which sites you have the time to keep up with.     Many marketers recommend that for every status you put out marketing your product or webpage, you should put out two or three statuses that help your audience.  Although social media is about being social and sharing, some businesses are not very well suited to that idea.  A Facebook page for a jewelry store has people “like” it because they like the brand and want to know what is new with that brand, they may not want “helpful” statuses suggesting other jewelry brands, articles on jewelry making, or tidbits about the designer’s life such as that her son is sick at home that day.  Another page designed to personalize the design line would be “liked” because people like the line and want to think they know the designer so hearing about the son or a romantic dinner with the husband or a gift the designer got from a friend would be a good way to not constantly be trying to sell something.  Keep in mind what your brand is, what you provide that others in your niche don’t provide, and build your social media plan around those ideas and guidelines.  You don’t want to annoy your followers with what they don’t want to know about, you want to provide them with things they’ll use and be interested in so they’ll stick around and tell friends.    Remember to connect your website to your social media profiles so it’s easy to follow you from your website and not a hassle.

Website: Paid Or Do-It-Yourself?

Now that you’ve got your hosting set up and bought your URL, you need to set up your website.  There are two basic ways to do this: you can pay someone else to build your website or you can build it yourself.

If you pay someone else to build your site for you, it will save you a lot of time but you need to be careful.  You often get what you pay for online so if  you get a cheap site, it may not look much better than if you had made one yourself.  You may also pay a lot to someone who wants to create your site their way instead of listening to how you want it or you may pay a lot to someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing.  Research carefully to find someone who will be willing to listen to you and able to make your site the way you want it for a good price.  Although they have been working with websites for a long time and may know what works well and what will hurt the website, it is ultimately your website and your decisions.

If you create your own website, it will be very time consuming and rather basic.  I’ve done two different ways of creating my websites: I programmed one myself and set the other ones up through WordPress.org.  By creating the website through HTTP and C++, I learned a lot of things.  I tried learning the programming through websites and quickly decided to buy a basic book on creating a website step by step.  The book was very helpful and I enjoyed tweaking things to get the look I wanted but all I could do was the basic site with a few lines on a page, different backgrounds, and links with a few pictures.  Granted, if I had bought more than one book I probably could have done more but I decided to try creating a WordPress site.  Most hosting companies allow you to download the programming from WordPress.org easily to your hosting, allowing you to chose from hundreds of templates people have designed throughout the web and use hundreds of plugins.  It is easy to create a good website from the WordPress template with plugins to allow advertising or affiliate links easily in the website or content.  My favorite template is Flexibility, now in it’s third generation.  It has the basic template with ways to customize size, color, links, pages, posts, and connects with all the plugins used on WordPress.  It is very easy to get my site to look uniquely my own although I know very little programming(none is needed to use Flexibiilty3) and it’s a free template that can be used over and over again once you download it to your computer to upload to your website.     There are many other programs to help you create your own website but those are the ones I use and the WordPress.org process is the beginner’s choice the big gurus are pushing.  Just be sure you get plugins to avoid spam and share your blog or articles on social media sites, if you have content to share.

(Hint: WordPress.com is where the free blogs that people write on the site are.  WordPress.org is where you download the program for self-hosted websites and any other templates or such designed by WordPress can be found.)

What Will Be Your Web Presence?

Now that you’ve created your business plan, having decided on the topic of your business and what makes you different from your competition, direct and indirect, you need to create your web presence, otherwise known as your website and your social media pages.  Let’s start with your website first.     First you need to decide what you want your web address, or URL, to be and where you want your site to be hosted.  There are hundreds of companies that will host your website.  That means they will let you use their huge server to store all the information about your site and the bandwidth needed to run your site smoothly for a monthly fee, usually paid by the month or in several months at once.  Often when you subscribe to a hosting company, they will give you a free URL as incentive.  A URL is typically $11 or $12 dollars a year no matter where you buy them and once your first year with the company is up, you start paying the yearly fee.  There are many hosting companies but I have only tried two: GoDaddy and BlueHost.  I haven’t hosted with GoDaddy, although I bought the URLs from them.  GoDaddy is an established brand name online and they feel comfortable having higher prices than some of the smaller hosting companies.  When I tried to switch my URLs over to BlueHost where I currently host my sites, I had to go through a process that involved a phone call, a scanner, and a few days for the transfer to complete.  However, I have found BlueHost to be an excellent hosting site with helpful chat, tutorials, and phone help if I run into a problem while creating or maintaining my site.     Not every hosting site will fulfill your specific needs.  Some sites have smaller servers than others and don’t provide space for a site to grow very much while others allow you to pay more as your websites use more bandwidth by getting more viewers.  Look at the details of your hosting company and their terms before settling on one hosting site.

It is also possible to create a website for free on various sites like Blogger.com, WordPress.com, and a number of other sites designed for new web designers.  However, they often control some of the look of the site and put their own advertising on your site making it look less professional.  If you pay for your own URL and hosting, you have absolute control over how your site looks, acts, and you get every penny of advertising money earned on your site.         (Tip: you can check sites like GoDaddy.com for free to see if a URL is in use or available while you search for a hosting site.  That way you don’t waste hours looking for a relevant URL with useful keywords once you found the hosting you want.)

Appendix/Executive Summary

You are finally at the end of your business plan: the Appendix.  Here is where you put all the spreadsheets and data you didn’t want to put in the other sections like indepth industry analysis or printouts of competitor information or the detailed cash flow budget instead of the more basic budget you knew they’d want to read.

Now that you’ve finished the business plan, you need to create the Executive Summary.  Here you combine everything(name, mission plan, product, industry placement, niche market, target customer, financials like the funding request) into about two pages that shows your passion for the business and why the universe needs your company to exist.  This has to be very well written as many banks or investors will barely read the first page before deciding if they want to read the plan for your online business or throw it in their growing trash bin.  Some articles quote investors on saying that if the first two sentances don’t grab their attention, they won’t read any more of the Executive Summary, not to mention the rest of the business plan.

Financial Plan Section

Your almost done with your business plan for your online business but before you’re finished, you need to create your Financial Plan section.  Here you write your budget, when, where from, and how much your income will be, how that money will be spent, and how much everyone in the company will be paid, among other things.  Anything having to do with money is here in the budget and it will have to be very complete if you plan to ask for funding from a person or a bank.  Although they are merely projections, you will need to account for every penny you expect to come into the company and what it does all the way through to more money coming in.  This section could take a long time but your previous sections of deciding your marketing budget, your materials needed for each product, and your employees should help you spend time less researching for prices.

Management Section

Now that you know what your product is, how it will be made, and future goals you need to discuss who your employees are and who will run your business.  Even if you are the production designer, creator, marketer, inventory control, accountant, public relations department, and Board of Directors, you still need to have that documented.  Now is a good time to take a realistic view at what it will take to run an online business and list who will do what or if you can outsource anything.  There are a number of sites for personal assistants or software that can help with anything writing content, being the accountant, to marketing for you, depending on your time and budget.

Operations And Developmental Plan

After your Marketing Plan section you need to explain your current plans and your future plans for your online business in your Operations and Developmental Plans section.  Here you go into how you will run your business and what you need to do before you can start your business.  You’ll need to go through your business and decide what you need to create your product, where you will get that material, how much you’ll need, how you will create the product, where you will store it, and how your materials and products will be stored until they are used or shipped out.  You’ll also want to talk about any copyrights or patents you have on your products and when those will expire.  Here is where you go in detail about your product such as life cycle, any problems with your product, how you will deal with any problems that occur such as things lost in the mail, or arriving broken, or any legal issues that may come such as improper use of the product resulting in injury or a lawsuit.  In these times of crazy lawsuits you can never be too careful and setting up a policy just in case is better than suddenly having problems and not knowing what to do.
The development part of this plan is your future goals.  What goals have you set and what products or expansion are you thinking you might take in the next five or ten years?  Life may be full of surprises but you want to show your reader or yourself that there is a reason to continue in the business or to finance it.  Goals and milestones also feel great when you can check them off the list and aim for the next step.

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