“Gigs”

If you’re a service based business provider (B2B), you already know how challenging it is to find new clients.  Even harder if you’re relying on them finding you.  Forget about your website, forget about your online and offline marketing tactics, standing out in the sea of all others, is the equivalent to being the needle in the hay stack.  So then, how in the world are you suppose to find clients if your business’ site doesn’t rank on Google’s top 10 or your clients don’t know who you are?

You find THEM!

One of the most simplest tactics that may turn some heads or raised a few eyebrows is browsing a site that is infamous for scandal and scam: Craig’s List.  I know, I know — but bear with me here.  Although Craig’s List is sketchy and has been known to make the headlines in a very bad way, it is also a good source to find leads — depending on what kinds of services you offer.

Under the  “Gigs” tab on the Craig’s List home site, there are a handful of categories that fall under the types of gigs people are looking for help with.  Being realistic here, you have to cast your net wide and often.  You are not the only person who is scanning to see what’s available, so the more often you frequent this section, the more likely you’re gonna to stumble on a few worthwhile chases.  Also, be aware that some people already have a dollar amount in mind what they’re willing to pay for what they need.  You can negotiate if you feel the task is worth more or you  can take what’s offered.  Up to you.  In other cases, you’ll be able to set your own prices.  Depends on the agreement.

Avoid, as with any other posting, any listing that sounds like a scam, that gives you very few details or has a link that directs you to a more sketchy site.   The goal is to reap clients from an unlikely source, not be taken by some con artist.

Craig’s List is not for everybody.  Maybe the thought of doing of business from someone on Craig’s List disturbs the holy hell out of you — that’s completely understandable.  It does take some time to feel comfortable navigating those waters.  You may want to try Freelancer.com, People for Hire or Fiverr.com.  Those sites are much more reliable, but work is harder to find because much more people are competing.  If you want to see results and change things up a bit, you’re going to have to step outside your comfort zone.  And Craig’s List does border outside the green zone.  You know what they say, “In order to gain something you never have, you have to do something you never done.”

Just sayin’.

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Group Bang

Social Media.  Not whatever else you were thinking… (cochinos!)

Groups, to be exact… on LinkedIn.  No longer the underdog to keep a watchful eye on, LinkedIn is the number on professional social media network every professional should be log onto.  I first created my LinkedIn account in college because our university’s career advisor told us how important it could be in landing our ideal job.  She proclaimed it was going to be more effective and promising in helping young graduates find employment opportunities than CareerBuilder and whatever it was that came before Monster (come on, I know somebody out there remembers what I’m talking about).  So I created an account and filled out my profile — poorly, at first.  No picture, no description, just the mere basics.  And all of my connections were my classmates and friends because I didn’t know any better.

It wasn’t until after graduation that I took LinkedIn more seriously — because, hey, I needed a job — but LinkedIn too, got more serious.  In fact, that same year, LinkedIn rolled out its mobile app version for hipsters, yuppies and real professionals on the go.  So I sat my butt down, uploaded a cleaner looking picture, described my strengths, asked for recommendations, gave recommendations (in hopes of getting more recommendations), updated my skills, included academic information and joined groups.

Over the past few years, I’ve tweaked my profile, filling out more sections to my profile as LinkedIn offered more for me to add.  But the game changer for me  — joining groups.  At first, I was like everyone else.  A bystander watching others start and guide conversations and share valuable information.  Every so often I would click “like” to beef up my participation.  But no one cares so much if you just “like” a thought, a question or an article.  LinkedIn Groups are about conversation, feedback and most importantly, answers.  It’s one of the most viable places to get answers from professionals from diverse fields and backgrounds.  But you gotta be willing to be an active participant.

It can be a little intimidating in the beginning when you share your first article, blog post or question.  You don’t know who’s going to respond, what they’re going to say, or if they’re going to outshine you with their comment.  Oh, well.  It’s a worthwhile gamble in which you’ll never lose.  How is that? Most people are bystanders.  They’re watching the interaction and conversation without ever joining.  Those that do reply rarely attack (in my experience) shared content — as long as you’re sharing something valuable or thought provoking  — and anything they add in conjunction will be of value to you.  You’ll even find that some of these people you’ll add to your connections and continue many more conversations outside the group.  Quite honestly, you cannot lose.

Forget about how you might measure up.  These are other professionals, not perfectionists.  Start by sharing what matters to you and you’ll find it matters to someone else too.

 

Social Media Isn’t Your Problem

Social media isn’t your problem.  You think it’s your problem, but it really isn’t.  If someone sat you down and showed you how to set of a few platforms, upload videos and photos, schedule posts, ask for likes and comments, and return the favor, you could do it.  It is much simpler than what business owners imagine it to be.  Granted, it does require a little finesse, above average writing skills and time –obviously — but, social media isn’t your problem.  Knowing how to engage with social media… that’s your problem.

Be honest, how many of us thought that just setting up a Twitter account and a Facebook account was going to be enough for our business?  We thought if we had one or two pictures, the business contact info and a little somethin’-somethin’ about the business, people would visit and magically all on their own, convert themselves from visitors to customers.  How well did that work out for us?

First off, “enough” is the word we never want to use in business.  Businesses that are doing just enough are going out of business.  So, let’s unwrap our heads around this idea of “enough”.  Secondly, treat social media like a person.  A person who we are conversing with — well, in person.  Aside from the spam bots, there are people out there behind those profiles, likes and comments.  Talk to them as if they were sitting right across the way.  Social media and online marketing are such a staple in conversations for businesses that I feel like I’m beating a dead horse when I bring it up.  But so many business owners — home kitchen chefs, garage engineers, bathroom mixers, attic artists, and back yard scientists — are not even giving their ideas and businesses a chance because they’re failing to use social media the right way.

LinkedIn — Don’t just accept or extend an invitation to connect.  Communicate.  Yeah, we may have over 500 connections, but if you don’t message, endorse or share worthwhile information, then those 500 plus connections are meaningless.

Google + — Yeah, many of us have added someone or something to a circle, but what does that mean?   What makes that circle and those group of people special or relevant?  Get personal and personalize.  Not everyone wants the same thing even if it’s from the same company.

Twitter — Just about everyone and their mama has a Twitter account.  But it sucks when people start un-following us and we have no idea why.  Maybe you’re not conversing enough or at all!  Twitter is all about the conversation.  So get to talking.  Ask questions, answer questions, search what your customers are looking for and share — again — useful info.

Facebook — The Godfather of social media, right?  If that’s case, then this is the social media we should be crafty with.  Visually.  If we don’t know exactly what to share on Facebook, log on into our personal account and see what our friends are sharing and reading.  Then see what their friends are sharing and reading.  We’ll find memes, photos and videos dominate Facebook.  So, get visual but remain informative.

Social media isn’t the problem, it’s all about how well we use it for our business.  If you took the time to build the business, take time to market the business.

February Save The Dates

Check out these February events for those in the Greater Los Angeles area.  No matter what business you’re thinking about going into, or if you’ve already started your own company, there are events here for all levels of business owners and entrepreneurs,

 

  • February 4th – Taking Your Grant Writing Research Skills to The Next Level Event organized by eCivis, Inc. from 9am – 4pm PST.  Event cost is $299 for the early bird fee, $349 for general admission.
  • February 5th FREE Self-Publishing Workshop located at 1246 Glendon Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Westwood Library Branch) from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Toastmasters District One Speakers Bureau Workshop Committe, for more info, visit http://bit.ly/1fOqo6d
  • February 6thFREE Website Building Tools Class hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center from 6-8pm PST located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 6th – 8th – How To Sell To Women FREE Virtual Training Event hosted by Lisa Sasevich; to register http://bit.ly/1eHENio
  • February 7th – Women 2.0 Founder Friday, located at the Regus 3415 South Sepulveda, suite 1100 Los Angeles, CA 90034 from 6:30 to 9pm PST.  General admission starts at $22.09.  Visit http://bit.ly/1er4gjT for more information and to register
  • February 8thFREE Marketing and Promotions Event organized by the Business Entrepreneurship Club.  Event will take place the LA Mission College located at 13356 Elridge Ave, Los Angeles 91342 from 10am – 12pm PST.  Contact Dr. Norris Dorsey at  818.402.5050 and/or register at http://bit.ly/ML8CIQ
  • February 10th  — FREE Start Up Dos & Don’ts/ Business Plan class from 6-8pm PST hosted by the Valley Economic Development Center located at 5121 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor Van Nuys, CA 91403; from more information or to register, email hassali@vedc.org
  • February 10th – California Small Business Development Center is offering a How to Write a Business Plan Class for $40, hosted by Santa Monica College. Event takes place from 9am to 1pm PST on the campus.  To register, visit http://bit.ly/1fzdI51
  • February 19th – 2014 – 2015 Annual Economic Forecast and Industry Outlook hosted by the LA County Economic Development Corporation from 7 -10:30pm PST at the L.A. Hotel Downtown located at 333 Figueroa St, Los Angeles 90071; general admission is $155 if purchased by Feb. 14th.  Register at http://bit.ly/1acMC3E
  • February 26th – March 1st –  Black Enterpise Women of Power Summit hosted by State Farm held at the Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida.  Deadline to register for general admission is February 7th at $1395.  After February 7th, tickets to the event go up to $1695.  For more information visit, http://bit.ly/1ildZsN

(additional events may be added)

 

 

Write Outside The Lines

There is no trick or secret to blogging for your business.  There’s no formula or magic keywords or tags that will make your business blog be the most searched source on the internet. But it isn’t hard to blog either if you got something to offer and something to share.  Normally, I would say practice till you get it right, but sometimes it’s best to hire a freelancer or someone with much more experience.  And if you’re not a strong writer, don’t know your voice yet, or don’t have the time — someone else can do it for you in the meantime, right?  But if you wanna take a crack at it, review all the rules you’ve heard before: blog at least once a week, blog consistently and spread the word around through your other social media platforms.  Sounds easy enough.  But don’t forget the add-ons — the extras that make a blog a bit better: include video, photos and links whenever you can and appropriately, share more information that can help your customer or client rather than yakking it up about how great your company is and include links to your website.

But just like the tech companies, out there, there are some rules you should break —

  • Blog inconsistently consistently — What does that mean?  I try to blog every week, up to 3 times a week.  But I don’t have select days of the week when I blog.  I blog when I have an idea, or the time to devote to an entry.  Being flexible without a set schedule also allows me to add information as I get it — event dates, the latest news or what have you.  Decide how many times a week you’d like to blog and then go from there.  Your time should dictate when you have an opportunity to blog and share, not the calendar.
  • Play with the titles.  You’ll hear copywriters discuss the importance of a good headline or tag… I say, have fun with it.  Personally, I love innuendos for titles.  There’s something about misdirecting the topic that I enjoy all too much.  A (sexual) innuendo is more likely to stop people long enough to skim the article you wrote than a straight forward boring title.
  • Trade shoes when you write.  Think of the person who you are writing this blog for.  Think about what they would to get out of it, think  from their point of view.  Then give it to them.  Be that irate customer who doesn’t understand why the store won’t take back his purchase after 31 days even though his receipt says no returns, refunds or exchanges after 30 days.  Give him solution or a loophole to working with businesses and people like yourself.
  • Vent.  Here is that opportunity to tell the world about the awful no-paying-on-time client that won’t stop calling you whenever they feel like it. Here is the chance to spill how you (and most likely every other business owner) feels about that annoying client.  You can say it all, get it off your chest, be brutally honest without ever saying their name.  Think of it as a form of therapy.  Whoo-sah!

Blogging is the content marketing your business is going to need to keep it’s edge in 2014.  Anybody with a laptop and internet can blog, which means anyone with a business too, should be blogging.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t write outside the lines when you do.

 

 

 

Profiling

Everyone knows not to add or follow the “egg” accounts on Twitter.  Those are the people –or things, who knows –who seem to spam others with links, dirty photos, fake notices and crap.   And we all know not to open emails from people and companies we’ve never heard of or didn’t sign up for.  Another “no-no” — creating empty or skeleton profiles to start off your social media and online presence for your company.

twitter-white-icon

Would you build a store — for profit — and never open the doors?  No?  Exactly!  What would be the point?  The same concept is applied to those who think that just creating an online social media account is good enough.  They say to themselves, they’ll come back to it later and update it.  But days turn into months and they still have that egg picture account on Twitter –wondering why no one’s following them.  In business, it’s said, if people don’t know you’re there, you don’t exist.  It doesn’t matter how evolutionary your products are or how ground-breaking your service is, if people don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t exist.  If you social profiles are empty — you’ve written or added nothing there — you don’t exist.

People like to Google — EVERYTHING.  If you’re networking and you happen to bring up you have your own little boutique business and you do this and that, people are going to search for you on the internet.  It doesn’t matter if you gave them a business card or not, people are going to want to find out as much about you as they can.  And the more they can learn, the better they feel about you and your company.  But, if in their search, they stumble upon half-filled and empty profiles you’ve set up but never completed, they’re going wonder.  Wonder about the legitimacy of your business (yes, for real! because every business should have a carefully placed social media presence) and about your work style.  If you can’t complete something for yourself, how are you going to complete something for a colleague or a client?

But people do this all the time.  The hear of a new social site, join it — reading very little about it — create a profile with a little information and that’s it.   Really.  They give 30 seconds because they think that’s all it takes rather than spend the seven minutes to make their profile something worth exploring.  Some may say, ‘who cares, it’s just a profile’Your company cares.  Your company needs to be found and do business and make money.  Every business, even non-profits and religious organizations — are businesses and their goals are to make money (that might sound sacrilegious to some, but it’s the truth.  Think of the collection plates and “building funds“).

It doesn’t take a whole lot to make a nice and searchable profile, but you gotta put more in it.  Company name, logo/ photo — give an image to the name, something about the company or yourself  — why did you start your business and what is it’s primary mission– it’s general  location, ways to contact the business.  Definitely include a website or blog site link.  Give people a reason to touch base with you.  Get out of the habit of half doing things, even social media accounts.  They matter because they reflect your image and brand.  And if you think that doesn’t matter — you’re not in business.

{photo credit: http://www.iconarchive.com}

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Should Be Using Google Products…

… at least, in their early stages while they’re building and establishing themselves.

  1. Gmail Account – It comes with EVERYTHING!  Now, We all know how more professional it looks to have an email address with your company website domain, but there’s no rule or law that says you can only have one business email.  I have contact@intelboutique.com (and a few others) as well as intelboutiquela@gmail.com.  It allows me to create a Google + profile, connect with others and promote my business blog. 
  2. Google + –  Speaking of it, Google + has rebounded and bounced back from unnecessary to useful.  Like any other social media platform, you have to find your audience and what drives them to read and engage on Google +, but once you do, you’ll find worth your while.   Nonetheless, it’s another tool brought to us by Google that can help businesses stand out and grow.
  3.  YouTube –  One of the best, if not the best ways, to promote your business is the use of videos.  Why?  Videos are watched, shared and commented on more than links, quotes and yes, content.  Maybe it’s our short attention span or that we’re bombarded with so much information that videos give us the right platform to digest data.  Whatever the reason, jump on it, it works!
  4. Hangout (formerly known as GChat) – This is perhaps my most favorite tool because, I am not a fan of Skype. Hangout/GChat is video conferencing and instant messaging all wrapped up in one.  You can hold video meetings with your team, you can voice text conversations and share links and videos.  Making virtual businesses easy to conduct .. well, business.
  5. Google Drive –  If you’re still sketchy about “The Cloud” Google Drive offers you a place to save your work, documents, presentations, client list, correspondences and whatever else is important to your business operations.  And what makes Google Drive a better, you can save it offline to your desktop.  Beautiful!
  6. Google Calendar – I live by my Google Calendar.  I upload every meeting, every task, invite others to shared events, set reminders in advance to remind me of due dates and deadlines.  And I get every update and notice sent to my phone and tablet.
  7. Maps – I travel to my clients in LA.  And although I grew up in LA, I don’t always know every side street, dead-end and little area or district.  If I feel like I’m not that familiar to where I’m headed, I pull out my phone, type in the address and let the voice guide directions be my GPS.  It hasn’t failed me yet.  Also, Google Maps tells me where other businesses, buildings and anything of importance to me and my businesses.

I don’t want to lead anyone thinking that Google is the be all to end all, but it does offer a host of very useful tools for newbies and seasoned business owners who need to do more with pocket change.    And who knows, you might find more uses with Google than you ever imagined.