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Women Entrepreneurs and Wealth Creation

After six years of being self-employed, I am still not yet fortunate enough to be in a position to socialise with any women entrepreneurs, other than online. As yet, two or three clients are the only ‘wealthy women’ and self-made women entrepreneurs that I know personally.

In my experience, successful women business owners tend to come from an entrepreneurial family back-ground. Nevertheless, I do know the statistics that prove that this is changing, perhaps in part due to the financial crisis in recent years, from which we are still emerging.

Whilst I am not in a position to afford membership of any yet, I also understand the importance of women’s business networks for empowering women. Often the business experiences of other women are stories I and other solopreneurs can relate to and they can inspire me in different ways to how some male business leaders can. So as opportunities are currently still limited for me, due to restricted finances and where I am based geographically, I regularly tune into videos on YouTube websites hosted by the likes of thought leaders like Dr. Ellie Drake of Braveheartwomen.com.

I like to specifically seek out websites created by women for women, because I feel that I can relate to their specific experiences more easily and with less scepticism about my own ability to emulate them. I do not rule out male tutelage and business leadership, but find that with a few exceptions such as Tony Robbins, Darren Hardy, Ed Ludbrook and Eban Pagan, there is just too much male ego at play for my tastes.

I figure that women will more than likely have something extra to say to me as a woman, that can help me fill in the jig-saw pieces missing from pictures painted about owning a business by men, who too often assume an equality of psychological attitude and material circumstances for women, which just is too often not yet the case. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a ‘victim’ of womanhood, wracked by insecurities and lack of self-confidence, but as yet, this is still a male-dominated entrepreneurial world and although the online marketing industry I work in is increasingly populated by women, when I visit marketing forums, I find women like me still calling to hear the voices of other women, because there are so few of us.

Women Entrepreneurs in The Spotlight

Personally, I find there’s something particularly fulfilling and rewarding about seeing women sharing their specific experiences and in such diverse ways, which really inspires me. We need these female entrepreneurs as role models, so we can learn how to emulate what they do. I am eternally grateful to those women out there like Ellie Drake for having the commitment to share her good fortune and the good fortune of other successful women with those of us still hungry for their success.

Ellie Drake hosted a show where Kim Kiyosaki, one of the most successful women entrepreneurs in real estate today was sharing the stage with other successful women. Ellie introduced her with the acknowledgement that we can have spiritual riches in our life – in fact as women, we generally tend to integrate spirituality into our lives at some level. But, in actuality, we often do not have richness in our practical financial life to match; in fact we may even associate material wealth as the antithesis of spiritual riches.

Material Wealth and Spirituality

In reality, your material circumstances effects everything else in your life: your education, that of your children, health care, retirement as well as your standard of living. I have learnt the hard way that poverty is not particularly edifying! As a rebellious hippy, I actively spurned the idea of money being in any way important other than to pay bills! I made excuses to stay poor and paved the way for a downfall by making out I was not the materialistic type. To some degree this is true, but it is only half of the picture.

Kim Kiyosaki is an author, business coach and is committed to educating women on the importance of wealth creation. Her favourite words, she says, are “cash flow”. Kim explained that unfortunately what happens with a lot of women is that they do not make their financial life a priority until a crisis happens, which acts as a wake-up call. So, it takes the loss of a job, a divorce, illness, death of a spouse for women to take control of their financial lives. When I heard this, I nodded my head at the truth of it, being one of those women who has experienced just such a rude awakening in my middle years!

The ‘Rich Woman Philosophy’ Kim espouses is for women to take charge of their financial life, so you do not have to depend upon: a husband, a boss, a family member, or the government. It’s about continuing to gain independence. You are your best asset in this pursuit.

Mariel Hemingway was amongst Ellie’s guests and spoke about her divorce and how frightening it was until she took charge of her financial life. Mariel is known for her commitment to ethical and ecological causes, rather than her financial acumen, but she said that this taking control balanced her spiritually and was “incredibly empowering”.

One of the baby boomers in the group echoed my old attitude to money; this age group had the same lack of female role models as when I grew up. She commented that for women especially who grew up in the 60s, money was a dirty word. As a result, many women of this generation, have gone through financial crisis and the inevitable spiritual crisis that can run alongside struggling to put food on the table.

The Truth About Money and Wealth Creation For Women

Money represents so many things for women. Fortunately, wealth creation increasingly represents freedom and independence. What women need to learn still, is that they are also much better at it than they give themselves credit for. Knowing this and having the proof from seeing other successful women who have trodden the path already is very empowering.

One of the group commented about the recent financial crisis for banks in Iceland. The only bank which had survived unscathed, had all women on the board! This is a great example of how well women can manage wealth and protect assets when others are losing theirs.

Kim Kiyosaki went on to explain that it comes down to education. Sadly, women tend to expect to be able to depend on someone else more than men do, because they are still caught up in believing that having kids will offer the fulfillment they crave. Young women are more likely to be asked if they want kids in the future than if they care about creating financial stability for themselves. Financial education takes time and effort; it takes commitment of consistent action which may even go against the grain. But Kim explained that more women are becoming secure and independent and they are loving it.

What is interesting about women who are pursuing wealth creation is that they are also enjoying the process differently to men; it is not their sole aim in life, but is an adjunct to other priorities. Women’s wealth is not tied up with “that thing ‘ego”, she laughs.

Although there is still a lag in success amongst women compared to men, times are changing; these days, they can have power and control without always being seen as a ‘bitch’ or being embarrassed about it – except perhaps amongst the die-hard witch burner types who cling to their dwindling power or victim lifestyles.

As Mariel Hemingway put it in the BraveHeart Women interview: “This is who I am, this is what I want and I am not embarrassed to tell you what I need”.

Asking for what we need is still a barrier in mnay women’s minds, but when you cross that barrier you continue to grow. In terms of the current economic climate, Kim believes that although the situation is likely to “get a lot worse”, there is still opportunity for women.

Having recently returned from a Tony Robbins seminar, she quotes his belief that we have until 2016 before there is a dramatic change. So we cannot depend on external variables, we must rely on ourselves and with that goes entrepreneurialism.

Kim shares her advice on what do women need to do for themselves:
1 Forget myths that women are not good with money
2 Attitude: we have to decide we are going to do this
3 Then take action.

Women And Money Management

For the woman who wants to take action in creating wealth in the form of making investments, a woman has to trust her tendancy to caution with money. We all have to be careful who we take financial advice from. We have to learn who is out there to merely sell you something. Those worth paying attention to are those people who will invest their time to educate you. A sure fire way to know the difference is to find stock brokers who not only know what they are talking about, but they walk their talk. People who are investing in what they are recommending have a stake in your success.

Of course, some women are not even at that point of being able to invest and are still concerned with day to day survival. For those of us not yet anywhere near being a rich woman with investment cash to spare, education is key, so when that when you are ready financially, you are ready in terms of our knowledge and confidence to take appropriate action. Successful women entrepreneurs are committed to lifelong learning, this is what guarantees continued success.

So you are doing the right thing in spending time learning now, even if you cannot yet apply what you learn. Kim even went so far as to comment in this 2009 interview that, during times of difficulty is often the best time to start your education and take action because.

Wealth Creation – How To Create Wealth and Invest Wisely

Kim Kiyosaki breaks down wealth creation into four types on of investments:
1. Business,
2. Real estate,
3. Assets: (Stocks, bonds, mutual funds) and
4. Commodities e.g. gold, silver, oil, gas, minerals, etc.

To make a practical start to investment, in addition to investing your time in your financial education, one thing any woman can do today would be to make their first small investment. Kim recommends women to buy a one ounce silver dollar at a minimum cost, given low market prices. The logic of this is that because you have put a little money on the line, you will start to notice how the value of it changes and start to pay attention to what happens in the markets. Over time, you will pick up knowledge and become an quasi expert. The point is to start – however small, you will want to build assets as you learn their value.

For those women considering investing in a business in which they have an interest, Kim offers three key points to consider. Firstly, find the investment that interests you. If you are passionate, you have interest in its growth and development and will pay attention to how the business operates. Investing close to home is smart, because you will more likely get to know more about it. Fear is very common amongst first time investors in business; knowledge of local businesses takes away some of that fear. Finally, combine your business with your passion. This is very smart because becoming an expert will be second nature.

Mindset is a crucial factor in your business start up decision. Commitment and passion are key to investing successfully, because investment takes time and effort. Interest in a subject guarantees you will put in time to stay up to date with innovations in your chosen sector.

For those women who are considering starting a business, but do not know where to start, there are sales every day now of businesses. Opportunities to take over businesses are increasing.

Even the Economist Magazine recently claimed that the next big growth boom will be empowering women. Andrea Jung, boss of Avon, was interviewed in May 2009 for the Economist. The article begins by setting the scene for entrepreneurial women with a picture: On the wall behind the desk of Andrea Jung, hangs a plaque labelled “The Evolution of Leadership”. It displays four footprints: that of an ape, then a barefoot man, then a man’s shoe and finally a high-heeled shoe. It’s all about women entrepreneurship.

Avon was the first network marketing business in the beauty products industry. Since then, more women have grown the network marketing industry and today it is up there in terms of career choices for women who are balancing home and work responsibilities as one of THE ways to become a rich woman. Oprah Winfrey is involved in this sector, aware of its growth potential and current growth trends. Kim’s entrepreneur and fellow wealth educator husband Robert was interviewed by Oprah where they talked about the power of the industry for leveraging income and wealth, especially for the ordinary person who may not have much capital to risk.

Kim recommends that if a woman has business skills and wants to apply them, they should “keep their day job, but start part time”. If you choose a good company to become a distributer for, they will train you so you can learn as you earn.

In terms of whether there are any differences between women entrepreneurs and their male counterparts, Kim believes that women are more intuitive and nurturing. She says she “screwed up” when she did not trust her intuition. Men are “more bottom line”, she says. Women are nurturers e.g. of their staff and teams. This is good news for women considering a network marketing business, which is essentially all about people management.

What I love about what Kim has to say is that she said exactly what I used to say to people as a community leader. She says that her role is to nurture her staff to “get them out of here”, i.e. so they are empowered enough to leave and start their own business or their own network marketing team and so the cycle carries on.

The message of hope for all women, whatever their circumstances that Kim left Ellie Drake’s audience with, was that even in the most dire of financial circumstances, it is possible to set goals towards turning things around towards economic empowerment. It “starts with mindset and not taking no for an answer”, she says. As many women appreciate, if you get through the challenges, you will be tougher and stronger.

This woman has a lot to teach other women. Personally, I cannot wait to read her book, ‘Rich Woman‘ and invest in the game of ‘Cash Flow’. If you have a birthday coming up, asking for either of these could be life-changing and help you move towards one of the four pillars of wealth creation and out of ‘Just Over Broke’ your job leaves you with for ever.

Women Entrepreneurs – The Latest News

In pootling around the internet looking for the latest news on women as entrepreneurs, I came across this report from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor on Women entrepreneurs for 2012. I hope you find it useful as a resource and it inspires you to keep going if you are struggling with being a new business owner or makes you think about taking action and starting the business you have been thinking about for too long…

Brand Marketing Everywhere Does Not Make It Right For Your Business!

Brand Marketing Goal

The God of Brand Marketing

‘Brand Marketing’ is a slightly nauseating phrase that gets bandied about by marketing agency types as the primary goal of any business marketing strategy.   Nevertheless I confess that even I have ambivalent feelings about this, as I am always conscious to a lesser or greater degree of my client’s branding as I make recommendations for their next priorities, but know that for the small businesses I work with, branding is secondary to other types of marketing.

Nevertheless, this marketing agency fixation means that small business owners can get quite anxious about getting their brand “out there”, or generating the right “feel” about their brand.  They can invest a lot of time, energy and money in the pursuit of “building brand awareness” and get hung up on issues that are not as relevant to them as immediate sales growth and cash-flow.

As a strategy for increasing sales for small businesses, brand marketing is not really  very effective.

The purpose of branding is to have people in your market  recognise your brand.  But let’s think about this for a minute… Even if someone is familiar with your logo or company slogan, does that mean that your potential customers or clients really understand what you do, or that they you are the best person to go to in order to buy?

Sorting out your logo might give you some warm fuzzies, but of itself, this is not ‘revenue producing activity’ i.e. it does not generate cash-flow.  If you are a small businesses owner, you want to prioritise your marketing spend where you will get results.  Don’t sweat the small stuff…

Of course brand marketing is significant, but this is more about protecting an well-established strong-selling brand. Think of the bigger companies who already have huge sales and want to protect their ‘territory’. They want to stay abreast of their competitors in the mind of their target markets; simple logos and catch phrases serve these purposes.

Where To Start Marketing As A Small Business

“The general rule of thumb is that unless you have $1,000,000 per year to spend on marketing, you should be marketing for response, not recognition.” — Eben Pagan

For the purposes of achieving return on investment in marketing, it is crucial for small and medium sized businesses to focus their budget, time and effort in the right place: brand follows sales.   Think of any of the big boys in business out there; their logo and tag line would be meaningless to people in the market if millions of people were not already buying their products.

When people see the Nike logo, for instance, they recognise it immediately and know what it represents because so many people own Nike footwear and probably have owned their products at some point.

Direct Response Marketing and Direct Sales

Rather than focussing on brand marketing, I recommend direct response marketing, be that through website copy, blogs, social media, or other marketing materials.  The difference between ‘Direct Response Marketing’ and ‘Brand Marketing’ is that a direct response marketing campaigns are geared specifically to elicit a response from your ideal audience.

The results, be they from offline or online efforts will be measurable.  Direct response marketing is designed to increase sales, be they from increased enquiries over the phone, visitors to your website or orders.

The beauty of direct response marketing is that you can test different offers and track your response, perhaps through ‘discount codes’, coupons or asking how the buyer came to you.  Being able to measure your results is important if you want to get the most from your investment in your business.

The irony here is that you will automatically build your brand identity and awareness as you sell more products. 

How To Generate Greater Response Rates And Sales

You need to be always focussed on how you solve others’ problems with your products and services.  Secondly, think about where you will find the people who want to buy what you have to sell.  From here, you can begin to craft your marketing messages to catch the attention of your ideal customer and compel them to take action, i.e. visit your business online or on the high street before your competition.

As more people buy from you, awareness of your brand will increase naturally as they share their buying stories with others. Then you can start to employ brand marketing techniques to consolidate your already influential position in your market niche.  Meantime, exposure can be everything… Making the connections with those who would be your advocates… trade magazines, business networks, interest group forums, etc.

It is natural to be concerned with copying what the big guys are doing in terms of their marketing campaigns, but one size does not fit all.   Protecting niche sales via fostering “brand loyalty” is not the same as growing sales amongst your buying market. 

One step at a time… Different strokes for different folks. For the small business owner and medium sized businesses, cashflow is king, which comes from direct response marketing.

Selling Might Always Be A Dirty Word But I Am Proud To Market For My Customers

It never ceases to disappoint me that people I care about still have negative attitudes and opinions about sales and marketing.  (No more is this so than in the niche of telemarketing, which is seriously under-rated and indeed sales people are seen as second class citizens.)

Unfortunately, selling can still be dominated by overtly aggressive, pushy, manipulative and even dishonest practitioners, who are so concerned with the fast buck, it is at the expense of earning long term loyal customers.  It is not really surprising that marketing and sales has such a bad reputation.

The reality is that competitive business environments create a pressured backdrop where salespeople are systematically encouraged to believe that they have to behave in ways that they would not ordinarily do in order to ‘close the deal’.   In fact there is a tenet of sales which says: “Always be closing”.  It is no surprise then that ‘sales opportunity’ is treated as some kind of mental combat, or adversarial contest between the seller and the customer, where there can only be one winner.

Pressurised selling, emotional blackmail and manipulation or even tripping prospects into signing on the dotted line is common where commissions make all the difference to the monthly salary of the sales person.  There is a conflict of interest to some degree here.  Whilst honing one’s sales skills mean the product or service is more likely to get sold, the question is whether the deal really does suit the customer and even if they will feel ‘buyer’s remorse’ later when they have time to think through their buying decision.

Who really wins from this deal?  Last night I watched some of the film ‘The Holy Man’, with Jeff Goldblum.  I switched off at the point where he got the holy man to sign away his integrity through subterfuge… (Hey I was not really up for schmaltzy rom com at that moment anyway!) But it was significant how uncomfortable Jeff Goldblum’s character was in tricking the Holy Man and I was also left feeling somewhat disgusted…

It is a real pity that sales is such a dirty word because of the shameful shenanigans that can go on on the sales floor.   In the best sales and marketing transactions none of that high pressure, sales focussed quibbling is necessary.  In fact the beauty of the best kind of sales is that both sides go away really happy. The buyer feels like they got more than what they paid for and the seller knows they have a returning customer in the making.

The truth about successful salesmanship is beautifully simple that makes the professional marketers who understand the essence of the relationship and practise ethical marketing values often wealthy and leaves those they serve happy.

The ‘Trick’ is to know that if you know how to find out what your prospect wants and can help them to get it, everyone wins.

Marketing is Relationship Building.

I spend a good hour or two every day merely seeking to understand what my prospects need when they approach me for help with their marketing.  This building up of a mutually beneficial relationship takes time.  In order to know what is appropriate to offer your prospect, you have to discover your prospect’s motivation and appeal to this by showing them how you can help solve their problem.

A sales person’s job is not to ‘convince’ people, but to help people realise that you can help them get their needs met.   Your job as a professional marketer is to match up your profit motives with products and services that your audience needs.  But here is a lesser understood secret of sales:

The sales person cannot profit unless they make it possible for the buyer to profit too i.e. this has to be a win-win relationship.

A common misunderstanding about effective sales is that the salesman needs to control the transaction.  In reality, the relationship is dual control.  In fact the buyer makes the decision and so ultimately, the buyer controls the outcome. The seller merely seeks to influence the outcome by making sure that what is being offered is beneficial or valuable to the prospective buyer.

Questions Maketh The Cashflow

The beauty of good marketing is that the only way you can find out what a prospect needs is by getting to understand what their problem is by asking them.  I often ask my prospects what it is they think they need, even if they are not entirely clear.  It is my job to give them clarity and options.

Assuming you know what motivates someone to come to you to buy is a big mistake and even when they think they know what will help them, it is worth taking the time to really explore their issues and challenges, because marketing solutions can be a complex business and if you sell the wrong thing, then later they will regret money possibly wasted.  This will make them wary of coming to you for repeat business and remember repeat business is the best kind of business there is.

Second guessing what another person wants can only lead to your buyer being put off and going cool on you.  This is often where the less experienced sales person resorts to ‘tricks of the trade’ which are not necessarily geared towards ethical and mutually satisfying outcomes.

It is this simple. Grow your compassion to grow your commission!  This is not a competition between you and your customer; this is about co-operation too, which means you do not have to focus on the goal of the eventual sale.  Being present and authentic with your customer or client will bring you success in marketing and sales.  You need to cultivate a genuine interest in your prospect’s needs and their motivations for buying in order to secure the deal.

Sales Is Two Way Communication and Mutual Benefits

Listen to what prospects have to say, then you will be able to match up the benefits of your products to their specific ‘hot buttons’.  Your prospect is only interested in what benefits them, no matter how great you think your gadget is and how wonderful your business is.  They don’t care too much about what you think of your product or service.

This way of working is refreshingly simple.  It is about being genuine, honest and ethical and learning to let go of the outcome at the point of ‘your pitch’.  If you are a solo-preneur and service provider, this is even more crucial, because this is also about spending your time with the kind of customers you seek.

Being yourself and allowing your prospect to be themselves is the secret to selling anything to anyone.  This way, selling is not a dirty word… It is the beginning of a lasting and beautiful relationship.  I am proud of my marketing efforts, because I am confident that I will always get the sale with the right kind of customer for me and they will tell their friends…

Social Bookmarking 101

Online marketers have been using social bookmarking to increase traffic to their website for several years, some without not fully understanding what they are doing, how it works, or even whether it works.  Increasingly aware of the option to help some of my clients boost their online marketing, I thought it was time I brushed up again and offer my own 101 to re-teach myself… So with no further ado…

WHAT IS SOCIAL BOOKMARKING?

Social bookmarks are similar to the bookmarks we save on our personal computer, perhaps in folders on our browser. They are ways to keep our information in places we can find them again.  The difference with social bookmarks is that these are saved to the web where they can be shared by other people.

So social bookmarking is an easy way for us to remember webpages we find useful on the internet.  It is like favouriting them, but also adding some additional information to describe the content there.  It helps in finding content that we are looking for faster either next time around or even new content; we already know the place where our favourite material is located.

Social bookmarking also enables us to collaborate with other internet users across the web. We can share our bookmarks of websites with people we want to help share information about a subject we are both interested in pursuing.

It also allows us to save numerous bookmarks to any website by tagging them with keywords that are descriptive and meaningful to us and other people.

HOW IT WORKS

Tagging a blog or web page that has useful, fun or interesting content helps the person doing the tagging and other internet users who are looking online for pages on that subject. The tags indicate what the page is about, so help it get indexed and found more easily, which is good for publishers and readers alike.  It helps the publisher, as more people are able to easily find a tagged website or webpage with the help of good descriptive keywords that have SEO value.

One link to an article can quickly multiply as one user shares it with others, so bookmarking helps your content go viral.  As those users do the same, online content can quickly spread around the net. Because social bookmarks can be passed on virally, they not only potentially reach a much wider audience, they generate significantly more traffic than other online marketing methods.

To employ social bookmarking for your SEO strategy, you will generally have to register an account. Signing up with sites with higher PR is recommended.  The process is generally simple; just provide your email address and an email will be sent to you for you to verify you are who you say you are by clicking a link in the confirmation email before you can sign in.

Sign up with as many of them as possible for Social Bookmarking SEO purposes.  It is after all one of the easiest ways to promote your web pages with content that you of value for others to read. It just takes time to submit content and assess which bookmarks are going to be helpful to other users. (Checkout Socialmarker to make this process easier.)

Stick to giving value and avoid over-marketing your content.  Creating social bookmarks for every single page on your website is a mistake and can be counterproductive, especially on social bookmarking sites which allow for content to be voted down. Your aim is to have your content shared to the max, so make it valuable for people.

Target the right niche or group for your particular content; this helps ease of indexing and being found.  Social bookmarking contain any content on any subject you can think of, so categorizing content is vital.  From a marketing standpoint, you want to promote your article, blog or page to the types of people who are the most likely to engage with and even respond to it.

Always check the rules of any site you sign up with. Be sure to follow the rules of a site or you risk losing your account.  Spamming for instance can get you kicked off, so it’s pointless trying to cheat the system.  Take care too to describe your links and categorise them appropriately.

Lastly, but by no means least, choosing the best keywords to describe any website or article that you bookmark on these social bookmarking sites is crucial to getting the most from social sharing. Social bookmarking newbies often overlook this vital SEO step, but it can mean the difference between people actually finding your bookmarks and their being lost in the wilderness.

Use quality keywords that are relevant to the content you are posting and your website as a whole, but keep them varied.  Search engines can identify repetitive keywords and phrases which can result in your links being classed as spam.

WHAT DOES SOCIAL BOOKMARKING DO?

Social bookmarking enables users to search for websites by using keywords that will show websites ranking well for any given keyword.  It can also help people stay updated on the latest trends and news.

Some social bookmarking websites generate links to sites and articles and also allow their users or visitors to post their comments on the articles.

WHY USE SOCIAL BOOKMARKING?

Social bookmarking helps you drive traffic to your webpages when your site is optimised and your links well tagged. When you submit your site to some social bookmarking sites, people can vote on your page quality; the more people voting on it, the more visitors you will have to your website.

Social bookmarking also helps people store webpages or websites that contain topics of interest to them which potentially enriches one’s knowledge of a subject. We can therefore, arrange, search and present any information easily.

OK, so now I have told you all why it is a good idea to get stuck in, I am going to make an effort this year to use social bookmarking again, after a few years lapsed activity and perhaps write about my results.

Watch out for my post of links and information… Meantime, here is a few of the best bookmarking sites to sign up to:

Google Bookmarks
Facebook.com
Twitter
Delicious.com
Digg.com
Slashdot.org
Technorati.com
Stumbleupon.com
Pinterest.com
Reddit.com
Citeulike.org
Plurk.com
Fark.com
Bibsonomy.org
Newsvine.com
Diigo.com
Buzznet.com
Blinklist.com
Folkd.com

Finding Our Entrepreneurial Story in the Stories of Our Leaders

We all love a good story and most of all, we all love a triumph over adversity type story, or a tale of our heroine or hero who beats the odds to make the big time.  I have lots of heroines and heroes… But as it is easy to get side-tracked into so many great stories, these days I tend to look out for the women who have pushed through against the odds for inspiration, because I can relate more to their situations as a rule.

We all do this: look for ourselves in others to light our way and so maybe we can follow behind.  We all need a helping hand or a winning team and so it is natural that we follow the stories of those who have achieved the things we would like to.

Dan Kennedy, one of my favourite marketers says that everyone is “searching for a wizard“.  There is truth in these words.  As leaders make up only a small minority of people, maybe as little as five per cent, that means 95% are looking for leaders that they can trust and look up to for inspiration.

This means that as an entrepreneur, the secret to success is to give people what they want; a quality product or service AND leadership.  THIS is the foundation to business success, as leaders are those people who have developed expertise and a reputation for their breadth of knowledge.  In order for us as business owners, this means we too must step up to the plate and continually develop ourselves and make the necessary sacrifices to be able to offer to others the gifts we have honed as we pursue our craft.

It is so easy to see those we admire as way beyond our league and to believe it impossible to ever make it to that kind of status.  However, the only difference between a leader’s story and our own is that they have put the time and effort in consistently, perhaps to the tune of the magical ten thousand hours formula.  Well any thousand or ten thousand mile journey begins with the first step.

In the life of the entrepreneur, the first step and a step they must remember daily is finding your reason why.   Knowing our ‘why’ we are putting ourselves through our paces is a must.   Your  reason means digging deep to discover and follow one’s passion, be that: physical, emotional, psychological, relational, spiritual or any combination of these.

We have to ask ourselves:  ”Who do you want to be?”  Then commit to doing what we have to in order to become the person we aspire to be.   For many people this can be difficult if we do not come from a family of entrepreneurs with  stories to light our way and offer guidance.

Story marketing is one of the greatest skills of industry leaders.  It means that they can tell their personal story in a way which we can relate to, which makes us warm to them as people, as well as admiring them as professionals.  It is really easy, therefore, to do your own market research on top earners.   Check out YouTube and play videos of interviews with them whilst you are busy doing something humdrum, which requires no thinking.  But don’t stop there…

Write out their characteristics.  You have to KNOW and UNDERSTAND why they do what they do, how they do it and how you might begin to emulate them.  Choose ten leaders you admire and take time to identify what it is that shines out to you.  Think about what you have in common and where the differences lie.  Therein lies your path…

For the past several years, I have pottered about online, writing a blog for several years, gradually honing my abilities and learning new skills.  Now I am starting to see some results from my efforts, I am spurred on to achieve even more… Each month I am exceeding my own earnings limits and moving up in rankings on the site where I offer my copy-writing skills and marketing expertise.  Now it is time to up my game, so I am retracing some of my steps that brought me here, some of which have been trodden by the business gurus I spent time following and learning from since 2009, when I began my entrepreneurial story.

As a writer, I thought I would share some of my analysis of my heroes in order to review my own story and compare where I am now to where I need to be moving if I am to achieve greater success and I recommend you do the same.

Here’s My Top Ten Professional Icons and what I appreciate about them (in no particular order):

  1. Dan Kennedy – a funny, irreverent, cheeky, smart writer and successful marketer and teacher, published
  2. Mike Dillard –  a serious man with a mission; student of psychology, marketing expert, prolific entrepreneur and teacher, published
  3. Mike Koenig: CEO of Traffic Geyser, video marketing expert, teacher, fun
  4. Craig Garber – ‘King of Copy’: Funny, down to earth, copywriter, entrepreneur, teacher, published
  5. Katie Freiling: smart social media marketer, teacher, writer
  6. Ellie Drake – Inspirational founder of BraveHeartWomen.com to empower visionary, entrepreneurial women
  7. JK Rowling – children’s writer, novelist, philanthropist and first ever UK female billionaire and first ever UK billionaire writer
  8. Eban Pagan and Tony Robbins: Inspirational speakers business and life coaches – also two very hot guys!
  9.  Alessio Rastani – Independent trader, entrepreneur and teacher, all round good guy.
  10. PeoplePerHour.com Copywriters in the Top Ten – more research to follow on these, as I have committed to joining them by the end of this year if at all possible, at least in terms of earnings, if not in PPH Top Ten Freelancer status!

Now take some time to pick ten of your own successful entrepreneurs and think about what it is they do that you admire… That’s your own compelling entrepreneurial story in the making… Then get out there and share your story in your marketing activities to illuminate the path for others following behind you and attract those people with whom you resonate.

 

Freelancing Good Practice

Since deciding to go alone, working for myself, I have tried a few different businesses, with greater or lesser success,  but none have given me the personal satisfaction that copy-writing for businesses has given me.  Not only that, since cottoning onto the idea that I have to keep growing what I do and trying new things, I have seen my earnings grow steadily, alongside my ranking on the main site I still use to find new clients, whilst I am not generating traffic here on my blog and do not have my email list and machine hooked together.

Copy-writing as my main source of income  continues to be a learning experience for me, which I am increasingly taking an entrepreneurial approach to.  Learning new tools and how to apply them for the range of businesses I work with is both rewarding and challenging. 

Whilst no two days are the same most weeks, consistent efforts at good practice are essential in order to continue to be commissioned for marketing projects and more importantly, have customers trust in you, so that they come back and even make referrals.

I thought I would share some of the issues common to all freelancers in terms of achieving greater success and increasing earnings.  

1. Be Transparent:  Any client likes to be clear what they can expect from you, how you intend to approach their marketing and what they are getting for their money.   Before beginning any new project, agree on what outcomes are needed or desirable.  Where there is any lack of clarity, allow for some flexibility and offer potential options, then advise that you may test alternatives to see what fits best.   Over time, objectives may evolve as a project progresses or as budget becomes available.

Freelancers who are new to their industry often tell a client what they think the client wants to hear  in order to get the contract.  It is worth remembering that any smarty-pants can make a first sale, but the real art is in keeping a client longer term.

A lack of experience or juggling too many contracts can mean you may not be able to deliver on time.   Business owners and clients prefer honesty, because they have their own timetables to juggle in which you may be playing a significant part.  We each have potentially linked schedules and activities and as freelancers, we have an obligation to manage expectations accordingly.  Setting unrealistic delivarables can lead to disappointment;  this runs the risk of your reputation being damaged by bad reviews which impacts your earnings and undermines a reputation you may have worked many months or years to build.

2. Good Communication: Try to keep in regular communication with your clients, making them aware of milestones achieved or checking you are on track.   When a client is aware of where you are up to in their project, it can generate good will and also allows for any last minute changes if needed.   Timely communication smooths the process of collaboration, builds a trusting relationship and helps you produce the best possible results for your client and you.

3. Meeting Deadlines:  Marketing deadlines can be crucial in terms of sales cycles in a business, something you may not fully appreciate when the products or services are not ones you fully understand.  Negotiating deadlines and meeting them is crucial for your client’s sales processes, as well as building confidence in your reliability.  Remember, your work may be part of a wider picture on which others depend.  Late delivery can have a knock-on effect.

Happy clients may not always be singing your praises immediately to other business partners or colleagues, but you can be sure that if you let a customer down, they will tell others, because business owners have high standards of themselves and if you do not perform, that can make them look bad.  Keeping to deadlines generates trust in your competence and professionalism and when the opportunity arises, they will be more likely to recommend you to other businesses.

4.  Update Your Public Profiles:  Set aside time for marketing yourself; schedule this into your operations, either daily, weekly or monthly, as appropriate.  If you need prompting,  note review periods in your calendar for updating information about achievements on your website or social media.  Freelancers are often registered in directories or with agencies, this information will need bringing up to date too in order to reflect your current portfolio.

5. Selectivity and Specialising:  When you start a new freelancing business, it is so tempting to accept all requests for work, even lower paid contracts.   Businesses will whittle down your prices regularly, citing cheaper prices of other freelancers.  When you start out, a lack of confidence can mean that you still want to build a portfolio to prove your value, so will compromise yourself financially.  Many business coaches will tell you that you need to set out your stall as a quality service and charge accordingly.  This argument has its merit, but your primary purpose is cash-flow when starting.  Whilst it can be difficult to up your prices, if you set out explicitly telling clients that your prices are low whilst you gain experience, this can act as an incentive for them to grab you whilst you are cheap and you have warned them of your intentions to review, paving the way for incremental price rises.

You can afford to get more selective if you implement bulked packages for specific sectors with which you have more experience.  This allows you to also offer discounts, making juicy offers they cannot resist.

Just be aware that low paid projects can undermine your confidence in your own ability to earn more.  Worse still, whilst you are pre-occupied on a low budget contract, the juicier job is passing you by…    Figure out where you want to build experience, what your niche interests are and build your profile accordingly.   Being a specialist means you can ask a premium.  By the same token, decide what compromises you are prepared to make at the outset, whilst remaining clear about the direction you are seeking.   Ask yourself if you can dedicate yourself totally and if the answer is “no”, then focus on a quality service to the niche clients you want to work with.

6. Your USP:  Offering completely unique services or products to potential clients alongside the general offers of your competitors gives you an edge in the market.   For instance, demonstrating expertise and advice along with services delivered means that you will be recognised as a professional and your efforts will be appreciated.   This not only adds value for your clients, getting their feedback about how this works for them builds your expertise further.

Time limited incentives, freebies and bonus services or products are another way to sweeten a deal.   I am a huge fan of Eban Pagan, the business  development coach who refers to this as ‘Pushing the Free Line’.  Businesses like to feel they are getting a good deal and great deals are absolutely good business practice.

The more you learn about your industry and develop your expertise, you are building your own value.  There is a principle – the Pareto Principle – which says that 20% of your time spent improving yourself, boosts your earning capacity by 80%.  Having been keeping a record for the last several months of my own development of services, I can absolutely say I have proof that this works, as I see my freelancing earnings continue to break new records and my ranking on PeoplePerHour get consistently higher month on month.

 

Page Rank

Ranking of 244/600,000 on People Per Hour For Copywriting

Finding Your Writer’s Voice

Writing_QuoteWriting does not come naturally, nor is everybody comfortable sitting down to write their guts out.  For me, as an avid bookworm, whilst growing up, it is like second nature to me. For the most part it is fairly easy to express myself, even with topics I am still learning about, because I have the confidence to write as I speak.  In adulthood, I have spent a good number of years as a community leader and an activist, which has helped me hone my ability to speak succinctly and clearly; it is only the odd bout of ADHD, that makes me stray off  the point and rattle on beyond others’ attention spans.

When I was suddenly approached for help with writing, what was amazing that these were intelligent and gifted people, one of whom was a retired English teacher!  As I had lost all my original material on the subject, with the hacking of my blog, I had to go back to basics once more to work out what people needed to do, to set their keypads rattling into action.

BE YOURSELF

So what do you need to do when you are trying to find your writing voice?  First of all get in your comfort zone if writing is not that place.  Begin with writing down your thoughts as if you were talking to family or a trusted friend, who has no idea what you are talking about.  This does two things:  it removes any voices in your head saying that you are ‘doing it wrong’, or that what you have to say is not good enough. You then will feel relaxed enough to be yourself and speak your mind and take the time necessary to fully explain what you mean.

READ ALOUD

Next read aloud what you have written. Take your time doing this; it is the most important part of any writing exercise.  The reason why is that you hear where you have either chosen words that do not make sense, where words are missing or even whole parts of your argument have been skipped, meaning you are jumping ahead and will not take your listener with you in your line of thinking.

If you have somebody you trust to read out aloud to, even better, because they will ask you WHY you say so-and-so means ‘such and such’. The thing is not to be offended or overly sensitive to questions, but to view their feedback as a gift which will improve your work.  The chances are if they have spotted a hole in your argument, so will somebody else.

The other benefit of reading aloud, is that it helps show where you need to take natural breaths when talking; this is why you need to take your time.  If you have long-sentences, with no grammar, or missing grammar, being short of breath is a sure sign, this needs to be considered.

BITE SIZED CHUNKS

This is another benefit of reading aloud. When you need to take breaths and write in your grammar and punctuation, you will be breaking down longer threads of argument or lines of thinking into steps which take you to your ultimate goal.  If somebody is hearing what you have to say for the first time, it helps them digest what you are feeding them.

There are lots of tricks and tips and hints to creating ‘digestible’ writing, which I will write about elsewhere. Meantime, if grammar is not your strong point, take a look here and sign up for Jane Strauss’s enewsletter offering help on grammar and punctuation. This website has some great information on the difference between : and ;   – nope it isn’t to do with smiley faces whatsoever, albeit they do help you express yourself better!

PROOF-READ

This brings me to my own personal area of challenge… I have ADHD and am arrogant about my writing abilities sometimes; it is a dangerous combination as a professional copywriter, because it means that no sooner have I written something, I am bored already and itching to move to the next subject or task.  This means that I occasionally do not proof-read before I submit drafts to clients.

It doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing, if there is a mistake, be sure someone will zoom in on that.  I have a client who is perfectionist about what he does and aside from that, measurement in millimetres is what he does everyday for a living as a designer. I swear, I produced an otherwise perfect piece of work for his website one day, only for him to ask me to remove a space between two sentences, as he had spotted that the gap was just a few pixels bigger than it should have been i.e. ONE character space!

I have no doubt that even as I therefore, advise you all to proof-read, I am also reminding myself to always do the same too. There is no substitute for going over a piece of written work more than once, to iron out the wrinkles. The first proof-read will generally pick up the glaring mistakes and gaps, the second, will be just ‘dotting the ‘i‘s and crossing the ‘t‘s’.

(If somebody can tell me the exact grammatical writing of that last statement, I will be much obliged, as on this rare occasion, I too am having an apostrophe crisis of confidence).

PRACTICE

This brings me nicely to the final element of finding your voice in your writing efforts.  The more you write, the more confident you become; the more confident, the easier to write it becomes.  You will find yourself ‘writing as you speak’, which is ultimately your goal.  Whilst your written words may be you at your most polished, it will still be your voice in the words and arguments.  You are merely learning to write in such a way as to make yourself understood to the widest audience of readers, or listeners, if you intend ultimately to deliver any kind of speech.

Practice does make perfect and also helps you pick up speed.  It is natural for anybody to begin any new ‘art’ haltingly, but as you learn the basic requirements to string your words together coherently, you will remember how you bridged gaps before, making the journey second time round much simpler.

GET HELP

If you intend to earn from your craft, then at some point, every professional requires help and support.  There are many experts online, but you want to really go with the best and get the best bang for your book with any online creative writing courses .

Joining a local creative writing group will also help you hone your skills. These groups are established as supportive forum for you to share what you write and get positive criticism of your work, to help you get the most out of it.  Do a search online and see what is happening locally with fellow writers.  They will help you raise the bar and up your earning capacity as a result of writing a higher quality of material.

If you are stalling, the best thing you can do is make yourself accountable. My favourite trick here is to have that chat with a friend who is driving you nuts because they are not doing something to help themselves. Phone them up and make a deal with them.  Agree that if they finally do that thing they are avoiding, you will stop putting off sitting down and writing what you have been intending to write for too long already.

JUST DO IT!

Wherever you are at in your writing career, be you a first timer, or a regular hack, the two biggest obstacles to getting anything down on paper, or onto a computer are fear of failure and fear of success.  Both of these things will make you procrastinate, until another day passes and you still have not got going.  So it is only yourself you have to conquer… so stop tidying your office, making another cup of coffee, calling a friend who needs you, or tinkering with the car… and just DO IT.

Too many people spend too much time getting ready to get ready or thinking they have to get it perfect… This is a process, but ultimately, it requires you to set the time aside and value the work enough to get stuck in… So, now you know some of the main stumbling blocks to finding your voice online or anywhere else, you are better equipped to get on with the job.

If you are writing a book, allocate the time and remove the obstacles in your head… if you do not use your voice, you may ‘lose it’. Those flashes of inspiration could be lost forever.

ENJOY!

Finally, for those of you who are freaking out the most at finally doing the deed and speaking your mind, know this: writing is like any other job… When you have finished, you will wonder why you did not do the job sooner.  During the process, you may even find yourself feeling better and even enjoy the task.  In all liklihood the whole reason this has been built up as such a huge mountain to climb in your mind is because the task is important enough for you to consider doing something that you might not ordinarily do, i.e. write! The sheer fact you are finally getting it done will be an immense relief of pressure and once you are in your flow, you will even find yourself enjoying the process, no matter how tough the subject matter.

REWARD

When you are finally done, remember to reward yourself, even if it is only patting yourself on the back.  If you are likely to be rewarded financially for finding your voice, then why not treat yourself accordingly..?

 

Cash Flow Concerns

I attended my first Robert Kiyosaki event a little while back. It was a taster evening for those looking to get out of the rat race and learn how to invest in real estate and property like the professionals in order to generate residual earnings and steady, predictable cash-flow.

It was enlightening, exciting and great to have the confirmation that I am on the right road in at least stepping out of the 9-5 world to work for myself, even if I was not walking out of that event having made the very reasonable down payment on Rich Dad’s weekend training weekend intensive on how to generate wealth via this vehicle.

If I had have had the cash ready, I may well have invested, just for some of the priceless information regarding raising capital that would have been part of the deal.  However, I chose another option… Focus on goals already crystallising in my mind and heart to study investing in trading the Forex markets.  Macro-economics and politics is a passion, so it makes sense for me to go with my strengths and interests.

Nevertheless, it was fascinating to hear just how effectively you can turn around your cash-flow with the buying and selling property game, unlike my mother, that game does in fact scare me… Not least in finding the right building works co-ordinators… That might just be a ‘master-minding’ / ‘net-working issue’ to be ironed out later. Perhaps it is even an excuse not to act, but I don’t think so.

I have been rediscovering old passions for understanding how the bigger system works. How governments and markets interact and more importantly, how market speculators interact with those market behaviours.

At the end of the meeting a penny, or perhaps a golden coin dropped. As I sat there working out how I could afford it, I realised that my conclusion of selling the car, which I never use, would also fund my training in Forex sooner than I had been anticipating…

I was so distracted by all the cash-flow thought process, that I got off the train one stop too early late last night and walked in the rain for over half an hour with only a packet of onion rings and a few biscuits and an apple in my bag to fortify me… having foregone my evening meal to get to this Kiyosaki conference in time.

But as there was only a fine rain and my head was crammed with problem-solving by then, I was grateful for the excuse to walk and think. I came to the conclusion that at some time I may have to move on from the freelancing to make a living. Self-employment just means you are ruled by your job, having to do everything from licking stamps to accounts and operations…

I am not complaining for working hard since being a freelancer, as here I am in productive time sacking off from commitments to the guy I contract for to write this blog! I certainly could not get that freedom in a job!!!

But it’s time to get back on track in planning towards making money work for me instead of me for it!!!  So I am moving over to the “investment quadrant” from the self-employed quadrant at the earliest opportunity.  Whereas property investment will not be my thing for cash flow, forex trading will be and that is the goal that keeps me focussed these days.

So for any of you out there feeling the same way, like the hamster in the wheel, this is your wake up call… Learn from the wake up call indirectly from Robert Kiyosaki, the original Rich Dad!  What are you thinking will get you leveraged earning? Do you work for someone else and are thinking it is not helping you get the kind of lifestyle you want? Check out Kiyosaki’s Cash Flow Quadrant on You Tube then have a think about how you might break the cycle of working for someone else by checking out my article on One Chic Mom on working for yourself as your first step to boosting your cash flow.