Essential Tips for the COVID-preneur

Essential Tips for the COVID-preneur

Guest Blog Post by Amy Collett

In 2020, there was an average of 84,253 new business applications filed each week in the United States. The rise of COVID-preneurs was almost as difficult to predict as the pandemic itself. And so far, the trend remains unshaken this year.

The truth is, there’s no such thing as the perfect time to launch a startup. It’s always going to be challenging, and it’s always going to require you to work a little harder than the rest.

But there are some significant advantages to starting a business at the moment. For example, new consumer needs provide a wide-open door to entrepreneurs everywhere. The pool of talenthas never been broader or of higher quality. And then there’s the fact that you can do most—if not all—of your tasks and projects remotely, which comes with a slew of benefits on its own.

So, if you’re considering becoming a COVID-preneur, you have good reason to move forward with your plans. From testing out your business idea to working with a digital marketing and PR agency like PR ByIntention, here are some practical tips for how you can set yourself up for success:

Ensure your idea will meet a need. Coming up with a business idea is one thing. Making it work is another. Commit to researching your market to ensure that your idea will satisfy a consumer need. After all, that’s the only way you stand a chance of making a profit and enjoying long-term success. Conduct market research, put out surveys, and take any other steps that can help you determine how to refine your business idea to line up with your target market.

Carefully determine your business model.

Few things are as important as choosing the right business model. This will determine how your company handles everything from production to sales, from delivery methods to pricing strategy. In other words, it really is the model through which your business will be run. Take plenty of time to consider all the implications so that you can start off strong. Here are a few common types of business models to look into:

● Marketplace

● Franchise

● Advertising

● Pay-as-you-go

● Subscription

● Crowdsourcing

Choosing a business model is all about positioning your company to provide value to customers long-term. Make sure you figure out your target audience, business processes, unique selling proposition, and strategy for generating demand before moving forward.

Establish your company structure.

Your company structure is also essential. Many entrepreneurs operate as sole proprietors because it’s the easiest structure to set up and manage. But forming an LLC is typically worth the extra effort because it provides protection from liability and tax benefits, among many other perks. Plus, you can hire an online service to establish your LLC for you; this is much cheaper than hiring attorneys, and it will ensure that your LLC meets the rules and regulations of your state.

Create a digital advertising strategy.

As soon as you begin crafting your brand, it’s a good idea to start promoting online. Digital marketing can play an indispensable role in boosting your brand awareness, conversion rate, leads, and sales. And it’s quite cost-effective, especially when you consider the impact it can have on your business. Work with professionals like PR ByIntention, and you’ll be sure to see results, whether it’s through pay-per-click, social media, or any other type of marketing.

Plan to hire help.

Depending on your business, it’s likely that you’ll need to hire staff or even freelance workers to help with different aspects of your venture. For example, you may need several people to help with day-to-day operational needs. Or, if you aren’t savvy with web design and dislike the idea of a DIY build, you may need to connect with a freelance web designer and developer. It’s wiseto know your limitations and to plan for hiring our outsourcing to ensure a job is handled correctly and that you’re not wasting money or time in the long run.

Whatever type of worker you decide to hire, it’s important to have a payroll system in place so that everyone is compensated on time. While you can tackle this manually, you can avoid the risk of costly errors by using a reputable software system. A popular platform like QuickBooks can be a boon since it provides a wealth of capabilities that help with payroll such as automatic scheduling, tax filing and calculating. You can even tap into their mobile app which allows you to run your books from your phone.

There’s a wealth of opportunity right now to build a business that experiences long-term success. Do the homework to ensure that your business idea is filling a gap in the market, and take time to select a business model that will serve your company well in the long run. Finally, carefully choose your business structure, and invest in digital advertising early in the process.

There’s more involved in launching a thriving business, but following these tips will help you lay a solid foundation.

Photo Credit: RawPixels

The Most Important Tech for Your Small Business to Incorporate

The Most Important Tech for Your Small Business to Incorporate

Guest Post By Marcus Lansky

Technology is rapidly changing how the world does business, and to ignore that as a small business owner can come at a great cost. Yes, some of the tech out there is really expensive and may not prove worth the investment. However, some of it is affordable and can help your business operations so much that you may be wasting money by not using it. 

If you’re looking to give your small business a boost and realize your full potential, then check out these cost-effective tech solutions brought to you by PR ByIntention.

Powerful Internet Capabilities

As Entrepreneur explains, these days, day-to-day affairs are increasingly virtual, and that seems unlikely to change. The last thing you want is for your streaming sessions to lag when you’re in the midst of an important meeting; little is more undermining than having to ask an important client or associate to have to repeat information. Thankfully, 5G is now available in the Chicagoland area; shop around to see if you can subscribe.  

Digital Marketing

As mentioned above, everything is moving to the web. If you don’t have a robust digital marketing plan, you’re already behind the times. But between the shifting sands of the business climate and the ever-changing world of social media, you don’t have time to manage your outreach and grow your business, too. 

But there is hope! You should connect with an agency well-versed in creating unique, integrative campaigns that are effective and success-oriented. Ensure your messaging is unified, conveys your values, and promotes your brand in a manner that resonates positively with your target audience.

Data Recovery 

One unfortunate byproduct of technological development is cybercrime. And it’s rampant, particularly among small businesses. If you experience a database or hard drive crash, phishing attack, or another form of cyberattack that results in lost data, you should take steps to remedy the situation. 

You can attempt to recover your lost information with a software application, but it oftentimes requires the help of a professional. Connect with a computer forensics expert for your best chance of success. 

Cybersecurity Measures

Ideally, you won’t experience a cyberattack that jeopardizes the fate of your company. But the fact is, from 2017 to 2018, there was a 424 percent increase in small business breaches, and 60 percent of small business owners who encountered a cyberattack are out of business in six months. Needless to say, putting effective data security measures in place is critical, even though it often requires an investment upfront. 

The quickest and most effective way to do this is to run a risk assessment tool. If you find trouble, then consider hiring professionals to handle it; you can hire a freelance agency to ensure you’re well-protected. It may even be worth considering keeping them on retainer so you can rest assured knowing your business and customer data is secure. 

Many small business owners feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start when addressing such an overarching and complex issue. However, IT professionals can provide invaluable help in this regard. A well-established security firm can put everything in place for you, such as helping you develop cybersecurity protocols and implementing software to protect data within your company’s on-site infrastructure, mobile apps, cloud applications, and endpoint devices. 

Remote Work

If you need to hire new workers, consider putting together a distributed team. This can save you loads of money on overhead, and it removes the restrictions that come with only hiring locally. 

There are many kinds of affordable tech tools to make this not only possible but cost-effective as well. For instance, you can find, interview, and hire qualified workers from around the globe by going through online job boards — many of which pre-vet candidates, which means they’re weeding out the duds so you don’t have to. 

You can use collaboration tools and project management tools to communicate with your team and get projects done effectively. You can even hold weekly or monthly virtual team meetings by incorporating video conference software. These days, the possibilities are nearly endless!

Technology plays an undeniable role in today’s business world, and it’s essential to embrace it if your business is going to thrive. If you invest in tech solutions like these, you will likely see a big payoff in no time. 

For more ideas and inspiration that will grow your business, connect with PR ByIntention!

Image via Rawpixel

YOUR HOME-BASED BUSINESS: THE FIRST YEAR

YOUR HOME-BASED BUSINESS: THE FIRST YEAR

Guest Post by Amy Collett

In today’s market, the driven solopreneur can be a surprisingly powerful force. Creating a home-based business empowers you to define your own success, work the hours that make sense for you, and take your career in the directions that inspire you. Establishing success is a challenge, however, especially early on. The first year of working for yourself can feel like an uphill battle.

Fortunately, with allies like April Neill Public Relations, you can make the most of the first year and set yourself up for long-term success. Here’s a look at some of the best techniques you can use to establish a strong foundation for your business in the long run:

Secure and Track Your Funding

If you’re starting a solo consultancy or freelance business, you might think you don’t really need funding. However, you might be surprised at how much you’ll spend getting started. For example, you’ll need a website – just keeping a site live can cost as much as $135 a year, depending on the details. That’s not even factoring in the cost of using a site builder or web designer to make sure your site is attractive and functional.

Other costs – cloud storage to keep your computer space open, productivity apps that sync between devices, tools you’ll need for work or technology upgrades – they’ll all add up. You can use small business funding to help mitigate these costs and keep things affordable. However, it’s extremely important to track all of your business spending closely. Not only will this help you stay on budget, but it will be extremely valuable during tax time. After all, you can claim business expenses on your taxes, lowering how much you have to pay (or even leading to a return!)

Invest In Yourself

Another good reason to get funding is that you deserve to give your business the best shot possible through a strong self-investment. For example, hiring a marketing team can lead to great things for your business. In the early days especially, good branding and marketing can make or break your chance at success. After all, you can’t succeed without clients and customers, and marketing is the way to get them.

Another great investment is some kind of productivity system. Take some time to explore the options and see what works best for you. Some people work well using apps, others can’t function without a physical planner or organizer. Still, other people’s best bet is to hire a virtual personal assistant to keep track of tasks and make sure everything’s going as it should. Think about your own workstyle and use that as a jumping off point for how to get organized.

Be Flexible

On the topic of workstyle, however, you should also be prepared to see that change over the first year. After all, if you’ve never worked for yourself, you may not even know what your self- employed workflow looks like. Once you’re no longer constrained by outside schedules and demands, you have the freedom to find the flow that works best for you. Try to stay flexible, and allow yourself to figure out just what an ideal workday looks like for you.

You can use your employed workstyle to get a sense for what might work. For example, maybe you were always super productive in the mornings, but couldn’t seem to stay on track in the afternoon. When you work for yourself, maybe you dedicate afternoons to going on a walk, reading a book, or other forms of self-care and relaxation. Then get back to it in the evening, refreshed from your break. This is just one possibility: Explore your options. You might be surprised by how far your ideal schedule is from the traditional 9-5.

Our final piece of advice: expect a struggle. The first year is hard on businesses – in fact, most businesses don’t really turn a profit till year two or even three. This isn’t a reason to be pessimistic, and in fact we recommend you go in with an attitude of determined optimism. It’s going to be a challenge, but you’ve got the stuff to handle it. It’s time to fight for those dreams.

Turn to April Neill Public Relations for more tips like these and for professional expertise in meeting your outreach needs.

Amy Collett is a Personal Branding Strategist & Author of You, Exemplified: The Role of Personal Branding in Your Professional Life. Amy can be reached at BizWell.org

Photo Credit: Pexels

Simple Stress Management Advice for Busy Professionals

Simple Stress Management Advice for Busy Professionals

One thing that almost all hard-working people have in common is a struggle with job stress. The type of work that causes the most stress is often unpredictable or involves things out of your control. This is typically the case for business owners and professionals who struggle with balancing their career goals, financial pressures and family demands. Unfortunately, stress defeats your ability to perform at your optimal level and can even hold you back from achieving your business goals. Set out to manage your stress so you can reach higher success in your business endeavors.

Do Some Basic Financial Planning

Getting your business finances in order is one of the best ways to tackle stress right at the source. Budgeting, prioritizing and staying organized can set you up for success by helping you allocate money where it can be the most useful. E Simplified recommends making use of software for tracking financial records and coming up with a budget plan. All you have to do is plug in your numbers and these programs will do all the calculations for you. Don’t forget about the importance of business credit when it comes to getting loans and landing good interest rates. You should make it a priority to repair bad credit, paying off debt as quickly as possible by using your business profits. You can also try contacting your money lenders and negotiating a change to your repayment structure.

Learn to Work More Efficiently

You might think that doing more than one task at once will make you more efficient, but this is not the case. Multitasking only creates an illusion of productivity, according to Inc.com. In reality, it forces the brain to switch between multiple tasks, reducing its ability to work efficiently on any single thing. Instead, focus on just one task at a time, and you’ll be able to get your work done faster.

Additionally, learn to schedule and plan out your work so you can prioritize important tasks that are causing you the most stress. We often avoid the things that make us feel anxious, causing us to procrastinate when we would feel better just getting something over and done with. Along these lines, Bustle recommends setting short deadlines for yourself so you avoid issues with procrastination.

Make Some Lifestyle Changes

Many of us overlook the importance of exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating on our mental health. In fact, simply getting enough exercise on a regular basis has been found to elevate mood and improve anxiety symptoms. Exercise causes chemical changes in the body that are beneficial to our mood but also helps increase our self-esteem and confidence. Additionally, diet plays an important role in stress-reduction as excessive caffeine and high-sugar diets have been linked to increased anxiety. Finally, sleep is important for maintaining the balance of chemicals in the brain to keep our moods steady and increase our brain’s resilience to stressful situations.

Have a Stress-Reduction Plan

Having a stress-management plan will help you quickly get back on track with your work or personal life when you’re consumed by feelings of stress. If you’re at work, this may mean taking a quick break to go outside and walk around, or simply sit at your desk and practice deep breathing. At home, you may like to set up a meditation space where you can practice mindfulness and build resilience against stress over time. One of the best stress-relievers is doing something fun. So, pick up a hobby you can be passionate about or go see a movie with friends when you need to wind down.

A lot of job stress can be dealt with by reorganizing your work style, dealing with financial issues and engaging in stress-reducing activities. But, sometimes you just have too much work on your plate. Look into hiring an employee or contractor to help you out with business tasks. This takes a lot of the stress off, giving you time to explore new revenue sources and focus on your business goals.

About the Author
Julie Morris is a life and career coach who strives to help others live the best lives that they can. She believes she can relate to clients who feel run over by life because of her own experiences. She spent years in an unfulfilling career in finance before deciding to help people in other ways.

Top Reasons Why your SEO Plan is Failing.

Executing a search engine optimization strategy isn’t enough to get you on the front page of Google’s search results.

Even with an SEO plan in place, there’s a strong possibility it isn’t working the way you hoped and expected.

There are a number of reasons your SEO strategy is failing to get you prime real estate on the first page. Without an understanding of what you’re doing wrong, your content will most likely get lost in the middle of the pack.

Click here for three of the most common—and crippling—mistakes to avoid.

Relevance Key Ingredient to Great PR.

Relevance Key Ingredient to Great PR.

 

As a PR professional, I can say unequivocally that great PR is all about intention. Knowing who to pitch; crafting a pitch that resonates; knowing when and how to pitch; all key ingredients to producing PR that gets results.

Creating PR that’s relatable is key. Check out this article from Forbes Magazine on how to make great PR by putting relevance first. Click here to read more about why relevance matters in PR.

Still need help? If you need support creating news and press releases that resonate and connect with your audience, we can help! April Neill PR has 20+ years’ experience helping businesses tell their stories, crafting messages that matter and producing PR that connects and delivers results.

 

Feeling Entrepreneurial Doubts? Try These Tips for Pushing Through.

BusinessWomanFrustrated

A few years ago, I wrote a post about overcoming entrepreneurial fears and doubts. As a small business owner myself, I understand how important your mind-set is in overcoming challenges, and in the last two years, I’ve had to draw upon my own advice. And I’ve learned a few more lessons along the way.

It’s a given that your success depends on your ability to handle ongoing challenges, however, often times the biggest obstacles you’ll face come not from the outside, but from within.

“Successful entrepreneurs and small-business owners alike routinely note that overcoming self-doubt, fear and procrastination are three of the greatest challenges they face.”

They have very real effects on your business, including crushing your drive and compromising your ability to play it big, or even at all, for that matter.

Here are some tips to help you push through:

Feel the fear, act anyway. Almost all business owners experience fear. Fear of making mistakes, fear of rejection, fear of failure – the list goes on. What separates those who are successful from those who allow fear to hold them back is willingness to feel the fear and to act in spite of it. The best way to get over fear is to face it head-on – it’s never as bad as you think.

Failed again? Forgive yourself and fail forward. We’ve all been there; it’s not uncommon to screw up a project or to fail repeatedly until you find your way in business, however, you have to be able to let it go and move on to what does works Being able to forgive yourself and failing forward is crucial to your success. I’ve personally experienced the awful feeling of realizing that I’ve taken a misstep with a project that I’m working on; it’s painful and can be immobilizing. When that happens, I quickly focus on what is working and shift back into that direction. Which leads me to the next tip…

• Move into your momentum. One of the best ways to overcome fear of failure is to remember past successes. If you’re fixated on failing, put that energy into revisiting past successes and accomplishments. How did it feel? If you can tap into your past successes and relive how you felt in that moment, you’ll feel more confident facing new challenges. This will also help you to get past failures.

• Break through your comfort zones. Most people tend to avoid uncomfortable situations. If you want to succeed, learn to be comfortable even when you’re outside your comfort zone. It can be scary, but it won’t kill you. Really, it won’t

• Find what motivates you. It’s important to remember your “why.” Passion trumps fear and when you focus on your dreams (and not your fears), you’ll shift your momentum and eliminate procrastination.

• You’ve just got to BELIEVE. Having self-confidence and belief in yourself and your business is hands down the most important aspect of achieving success. Boost your self-confidence and belief by having a solid foundation and staying current on best practices in your industry.

• Focus on relationships you have. Fear shrinks your perspective. Participating in small business groups or meet-ups gives you access to ideas and experiences beyond your own and can help you focus on the big picture. Also, surrounding yourself with like-minded business professionals will remind you that you’re not alone, which in itself can go a long way toward conquering your fears.

April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO of April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. April is also a guest contributor to NBC Chicago’s Inc. Well Blog where a version of these tips first appeared.

Gain Trust and Attract Business with Education-Based Marketing

Gain Trust and Attract Business with Education-Based Marketing

Marketing signThere is a common misconception amongst small businesses that your marketing’s most important function is to promote your products and services to prospects ready to buy. In fact, the most important function of your marketing strategy should be to establish that you’re an expert in your industry, that you have knowledge to share, and that you can be trusted.

It’s a given that consumers like to do business with people and brands they trust. That said, even if you have the lowest prices, if you’re not perceived to be trustworthy, it might be difficult to attract customers. This is the basis for Education-Based Marketing.

A powerful marketing strategy that establishes trust and credibility using strategic educational messaging, Education-Based Marketing is the direct opposite of traditional marketing, which leverages selling-based messaging.

People are tired of being bombarded with sales pitches. Alarm bells go off the moment you launch into your spiel. In comparison, consumers are more likely to listen when you offer value by sharing expert information and helpful tips and facts that not only help them live better but also help them make better buying decisions. And even if they are not ready to buy, you’re planting seeds and gaining consumer trust that will likely pay off when they are ready to purchase your product or service.

Stay tuned for our next post that will delve deeper into how to craft your educational message.

April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO at April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. You can find April on Twitter and also connect with April Neill PR on Facebook.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call 312.772.3832 for more information.

7 Tips for Optimizing your Small Businesses’ Reputation Online

Building perfect reputation

A reputation can take years to build, and in today’s digital age, only seconds to tarnish. As a small business owner, your company’s brand reputation is one of its most important assets and keeping your brand’s profile spotless is important to your success. Try the following tactics to optimize your brand reputation online.

  1. You are your Brand. Online reputation management for small business owners involves maintaining a good name with your personal profile as well as your business profile so it’s important to note that you are your brand. As a business owner, your personal digital profile is more than likely linked to your business so it’s important to remember to think before you post. What are you saying about yourself that may reflect on your business image? Also be mindful of what your friends post on your social sites as well. You’ll want to monitor comments to make sure they don’t put you, or your business, in a bad light. If they do, hit delete. Your friends will understand.
  2. Monitor your search results at least once a week. Google your business at least once a week and keep an eye out for any negative content that needs addressed. And be sure to search past the first page on Google. It’s also a good idea to track what you find including the URL, the page title, your relationship to the page, (is it a social site that you have ownership or control/influence over?) and whether the comment is positive, negative or somewhere in between. You may want to keep a spreadsheet if there are numerous results and chart what action, if any, is needed.
  3. Be Authentic. It’s important to always be authentic in your responses to negativity online. If you made a mistake, be upfront about it and don’t try to “spin” the situation. Acknowledge what happened, apologize when/if appropriate, and outline your plan to make amends. Sincerity and humility speak volumes online and you will more than likely defuse the situation quickly by being upfront about it.
  4. Know when to Stand Up or Stand Down. It’s always okay to delete a comment that is abusive or one that uses offensive language and it’s important to know when to stand up to an online bully or when to stand down. If you have an unhappy customer who posts a negative comment online, your best bet is to immediately contact the person who wrote the comment and ask them if there is anything you can do to address their concerns and to give them a more positive customer experience. If that fails, if possible, leave a comment to explain what you’re doing to rectify the situation or your side of the story if there is nothing you can do to turn the situation around.
  5. Write to Boost Your Google Ranking. Writing a company blog helps connect your brand with your audience and can go a long way in boosting your page ranking on google. Using a blog can also be a great way to position yourself as a leader in your industry and to sway public opinion about your brand and create a positive fan base. That said, if a negative comment pops up on a search engine, you’ll have a better chance of dominating your ranking with positive content about your company.
  6. Diversify your Web Presence. In addition to writing a company blog, it’s important to establish a presence on social media sites. If you only have time for one, LinkedIn may be your best bet. Profiles on LinkedIn tend to rank higher on search engines and many business people search on LinkedIn for professional services. Once you establish your presence, be active. Providing new content on a regular basis and becoming interactive with your clients and prospective clients will boost your rankings and generate overall goodwill for your company.
  7. Boost Your Online Presence with PR. Sending out search-optimized press releases on a regular basis, on topics that interest your audience, can be very useful in boosting your online presence. Pay close attention to relevant keywords and phrases and infuse them into your press releases for the best results.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about working with small businesses to increase their brand awareness and help them find their voice. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com. Follow ANPR on Facebook at Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.