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Most Successful Online Advertising Campaigns

Let's face it, we are in a technological age and the internet is the mother ship. Despite your gadget, without the internet, you feel like a fish out of water.

Almost all modern media and communication devices, with a few exceptions, have internet portals installed.

Some of these technological devices include
  • The PC - the most basic is used to browse the net
  • Laptops and notebooks - are made with built in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, networking and all internet or wireless communicable resources.
  • Tablets - Specifically made to browse the internet
  • Media players are now equipped to browse for and download music, videos and movies
  • The cell phone - virtually all of them have become so smart that one can check their emails, purchase stuff online and even create web pages.
Internet User Statistics

According World Internet User Stats, of the 7 billion plus people across the globe, 2,405,518,376 uses the internet.

Think of the scenario for your business if you could reach 1% of all internet users applying the data above. Your business would reach 24,055,183.8 internet users across the globe. Now, what if only 1% of these people are interested in what your business has to offer? That would bring in 240,551.4 potential clients. Of that number your business only serves 1% of these potential clients. Then you would have served 2,405 customers. This is only a scenario and actual numbers may vary.

Of course there are variables to consider such as:
  • The type of business you are offering: Is your business very popular and offered by a zillion people? Or, is your service in demand?
The type of business will also depend on the product or service. Is your service or product designed to suite only a particular locale, such as real estate, a movie theater for concerts, a football stadium for sporting events? Advertising online can be beneficial but your global outreach is limited.
  • How far can your business extend, or, are you prepared for dealing with global customers? It's one thing to market yourself online but if the type of business you are offering only caters to people who are within a 20 mile radius of your location or office then you have a problem.
  • Your target audience: This deals with age, location and need. What age group is your business targeted at? Where is your target audience or how wide can your business reach? Is what you are offering what people in your target age group or location looking for?
Other questions you need to answer......
  • What is your customer support like? Have you implemented resources to deal with your customers from different cultures and backgrounds?
  • What are your policies regarding international trade?
  • Can you compete with other businesses just like yours?
  • Are you willing to do whatever is necessary to build your online presence? Within guidelines of course.
  • Ways to advertise online


There are several ways to go about marketing or advertising on the World Wide Web. These methods include:
  • Having a website. A website is a group or collection of webpages offering information to people who need it.
  • Placing advertisements on websites for people to see your business, much like a print ad.
  • Social media networking
  • Online business directories and yellow pages.
  • Email marketing and newsletters.
Social Media Marketing

One of the fastest growing methods of advertising your business on the internet is using social networks. There are several social networks that allow users to post alerts about their services, create pages just for their business and even place ads.

Facebook is by far the number one social network with has over 800 million active users with over 400 million logging in every day. Can you imagine the exposure your business will get as you advertise to your targeted age group, location and need? Remember we spoke about that earlier? Creating an account is free and placing adverts are low cost and the great thing about FB is that you don't pay unless someone clicks your ad. If you are on a budget think about creating an account for the business and posting free status updates.

Twitter is another fast paced social network which has more than a hundred million users and 230 million tweets each day. This network was actually created for businesses to connect to people who need a particular service. Tweets were invented to send business information, much like a memo, to people searching.

Creating an account is free and you can upgrade to a promoted account at any time. The promoted account allows you to send promoted tweets which are targeted to specific customers. This allows for a greater turn around ratio. These tweets are visible via search engines and not only reach twitter users but any one searching the internet as well.


Other networks to consider are Yahoo, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Conclusion

It is important to market your business online because
  • You get more exposure, reaching more people and places
  • It ends up being more convenient to the client using the internet, everything is in one space
  • You can serve thousands, even millions of people from one location in cyberspace
  • Advertising on the internet is less costly than radio and print ads, yet it reaches more people, being on a global level.
  • Anyone who wants to expand their business locally, regionally, internationally and globally must advertise their business online in order to grow. The internet is the fastest growing business marketing tool and needs to be utilized to its fullest. Some things are free to use while others may cost a minimal fee, but one thing is for sure, is that it is definitely worth the time and effort.

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How to Satisfy Customers Needs and Wants

No firm or company, even a small one, can have complete control on products and services it offers. In these days of mass communication, the public you deal with grows larger and larger, which is, in itself good for your business. Large numbers foster growth, and that means you get more good customers . . . . .and also more of the difficult ones as well.

Some customers can, if unhappy with your service, create much time-consuming drama, and bad publicity.

You, as the top Customer Service Officer [CSO] need the skills and the creativity to ensure smooth handling of an unhappy customer. Your task is to find the win/win solution; to greet an unhappy customer, and with skill and empathy say goodbye to the same customer knowing s/he will be back. A tough call? Yes. It can be done, and it is done every day all over the globe.

Peter Kriss is a Senior Research Scientist at Medallia and the Director of Research for Vision Prize. In Harvard Business Review he sets out the value of good Customer Services in clear, diagram fashion.

How to start off at an advantage

You, as the CSO, needs to be fast, and of keen eye. The quicker you get to an unhappy customer, the easier it is going to be able to [mentally] congratulate yourself with “Yup! Another win/win”.

Keep an eye out on the shop, on your phone messages, tweets, emails and other form of contact that you provide. Be quick to get back to that customer, and you have earned many brownie points already.

How to recognize an angry customer.

How would you spot such a customer ?

Escalation in voice, posture, frowning when dealing face to face. On paper, you see many exclamation marks, writing in capitals or larger writing, sometimes being rude and abusive etc. ..

This person might start off by speaking / writing in the normal fashion, but you will notice that soon, the voice will escalate, the words become clipped, and the angry words will ‘sound’ angrier and louder, the words on paper may now be all in capital letters – LARGE capitals! There is no mistaking the intention of the customer. S/he is angry and they want you to know it.


Dealing with an angry customer.

You may feel like you’d rather crawl under a rock. You’ve had enough to handle in that one day, so you think you can just send a polite email to your angry customer, and surely that should be ok!

It might be. But you will get scant satisfaction from that exercise and the company will still have likely lost a customer.

Emails are fine, after the problem is solved. Then it is time to put the important points on paper for you and the customer to remember.

What to say to an angry customer.

Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. How else are you going to bring your company to the No 1 ranking, if you do not know what problems you need to resolve? So there is genuine cause for thanks.

Apologize to the customer for the problem s/he has encountered AND assure her/him that you will do your utmost to help her/him.

After that, listen to what the customer has to say with both ears and with your mind focused squarely on what is being said. Only interrupt your customer, if absolutely essential.

When your customer takes a long pause, ask whether there is more to tell, and if not, then and only then, ask any question/s you may have.

Mentally check the When, Where, What & How. If necessary ask questions to clarify the situation before you attempt to resolve it. Group your questions in a categorized fashion so that you avoid confusion in your customer’s mind. Be very wary how you couch questions, and sometimes it might be savvy to make a statement – instead of a direct question - and wait for a reaction, to avoid giving your customer the feeling of an interrogation.

Find out WHAT your customer is expecting you to do. Do they want a refund, an exchange, an apology, a token gift? What would send that customer home happy, or at the very least, mollified?


Win/Win is possible.

  • Rem: You are not the target of the customer's anger, so brush that aside.
  • Focus on the message, on the reason your customer is angry. If necessary you may need to work at unraveling the core issue.
  • Tell your customer that you will do all possible to help him/her.
  • Do all in the power of your role to resolve the issue.
  • Confirm with your Customer whether s/he is happy with the resolution.
  • Remember to end the conversation with saying that you hope s/he will do business with you again in future.
  • Mentally pat your back for a job well done. As well as was possible.

No one can ask for more of you - not even you!


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How to Make Money From Mining Bitcoins

Investing in Bitcoin, a new peer to peer, decentralized digital currency, made a lot of people a hell of a lot of money in 2013. The price of a the coins rocketed from $60 to over $1000 in just a few months, although it has now fallen back down into the $900-range. Some of the people in these overnight success-stories didn't even need to buy their Bitcoins, because the coins can be 'mined' using the processing power of their own computers.

The days of becoming a Bitcoin millionaire virtually overnight with little-to-no investment have certainly passed, but that doesn't mean there isn't still money to be made.

Investing in Bitcoin is a pretty risky business, so you should only use a relatively small amount of capital that you can afford to lose entirely if things go badly. But these high risks could also come with high rewards.

You can still make money from mining coins, from buying and holding them, or from trading them on the financial markets.

Challenges Facing Bitcoin Markets

In 2014, Mt. Gox, the most popular Bitcoin exchange, filed for bankruptcy after being hacked, losing around 850,000 coins. Since then, the market has more or less recovered, but the future of Bitcoin will depend on ensuring investors' trust and security.

Cryptocurrency is still largely unregulated. If governments or regulatory bodies change this, they could make a big dent in the current values. We've seen this happen before, when the price dropped overnight after the Chinese government introduced trading restrictions in 2013, and could easily happen again, multiple times or on a larger scale.

Although it has been enthusiastically adopted by geeks and speculators, the general public is yet to buy into cryptocurrency on a large scale. The ecosystem of apps and services surrounding the currency will have to demonstrate some movement towards making it more user-friendly for the not-so-technically-adept to justify its valuation.

There is now a wide range of alternative digital currencies that compete with Bitcoin. None have proved to be a major challenge so far, but it could be in the future.

A lot of hackers are interested in Bitcoin. Wallet-stealing is already something of a threat for owners of the currency, and the possibility of something called a '51% attack' in which members of powerful mining pool successfully 'double-spend' their coins cannot be totally discounted. A major security breach or widespread virus targeting people's digital wallets would dent confidence and send the price tumbling.
Opporutunities and Potential in 2015

In order to engage the general public and transition from niche interest to mass usage, there needs to be a killer app. A user-friendly means of trading coins would increase demand and send the price of the coins rocketing, potentially increasing their value even more dramatically than we saw in 2013.

Mainstream investors have shown a lot of interest in Bitcoin, but most have held back due to the market's high volatility. Any stabilization of the price, if combined with continued incremental improvements in services, could trigger an increase in investors buying into the currency, driving up the price.

If major Internet retailers were to start accepting the currency as payments, they would drive increased adoption and investor confidence. We could easily see some dramatic overnight price surges on the back of such retailer announcements. Overstock started accepting Bitcoin in 2014, and there was indeed a small surge as a result. Bigger retailers like eBay are now considering it as a payment option, which would have a much more dramatic effect.


Emerging markets such as India, Turkey and others are feeling the pinch as the US cuts its stimulus measures, leading to capital outflows from emerging markets as banks have less to invest, especially as home markets are starting to look more profitable. One of the major risks to emerging economies as a result is inflation (currency devaluation). This is already happening, and if it continues, those countries' wealthy citizens will want to unload local currency. For them, the deflationary nature of Bitcoin may make it seem like an attractive alternative.

Cloud Mining and Hashing

Although buying and running your own mining hardware for coins is both expensive and fraught with technical difficulties, it is still possible for ordinary people to make money by mining.

One easy way to mine is to hire space on a specialist mining computer—or a whole machine—in the same way that you would hire a server for website hosting. By doing this, you can estimate your profits using one of the many mining-profit calculators available online. Some firms claim, based on past results, that you can break even on your initial investment in three months using this method.

A slightly different take on the cloud mining concept is provided by CEX, which is basically a trading platform for miners and investors to buy and sell shares in mining hardware. In addition to generating income from the computing power that you control, you can also choose to offer your shares for sale at any time. This is a good option if you want to invest in Bitcoin mining but would like to retain the possibility of liquidating your assets whenever you like.

While there is a good chance you can make a profit over the cost of the hosting, success is not guaranteed. Your profits will depend on both the value of the coins themselves and on the changes in mining difficulty over time.

Algorithmic Trading

Like any currency, stock or other financial product, money can be made by judiciously buying and selling bitcoins. You can try doing this yourself, but you need to have incredible insight into the market to have any success. Just like those other financial products, however, some traders have created automated systems to buy and sell bitcoins based on a mathematical algorithm.

Buy and Hold Bitcoin

Many people who owned bitcoins made a large profit last year simply by holding coins in their wallets. This is still the easiest way to invest in the cryptocurrency phenomenon.

As I mentioned in the first section, there are many opportunities for growth and price surges in the coming year. This means that there's still a possibility that the coins will keep in increasing in value as fast as they have been up until now, if not faster. If that happens, then simply buying and holding would prove to be a very profitable investment opportunity. Of course, there is also a very real possibility that the price could crash and you could lose most of your money.

If you don't mind holding your money on an exchange rather than in a wallet on your own computer, then hold your coins in an account on a site such as Bter, which pays a small amount of interest on all deposits.

Bitcoin Exchanges and Arbitrage Funds

In my opinion, one of the most promising opportunities Bitcoin this year is arbitrage. The concept is simple. Arbitrage is when you take advantage of a disparity in prices between different markets to buy at one price and instantly sell at a profit in another market.

As Bitcoin's popularity grows, so to does the number of exchanges. Prior to February 2014, when it suspended trading following a possible hack and insolvency, Mt. Gox in Tokyo had a near-monopoly on Bitcoin exchange. The market has more or less recovered, and the new exchanges that emerged in Mt. Gox's wake have had to prioritize investor trust and security.

Some popular exchanges are:

Bitstamp
Bitfinex
Coinbase
Cryptsy
BTC-e
Kraken
BTCChina
Bitcoin Source
The divergence of prices between different exchanges means that you can get involved in arbitrage yourself just by having accounts on multiple platforms, with a balance in multiple currencies in each one. When the opportunity—a difference in prices—arises you can simple buy and sell immediately without having to transfer funds between accounts.

The risk in doing this, of course, is that the price will change between when you buy and when you sell. This makes arbitrage highly dependent on the speed at which you are able to make transactions. This type of trading also requires you to sit in front of a screen watching price feeds constantly, waiting for the right moment.


Short Selling

Most currency investments are made in the hope that the value will increase over time. However, if you are one of the substantial number of people who believe that Bitcoin is over-valued and pumped up by speculators, then you can try your hand at short selling Bitcoins. Short selling allows you to profit from drops in the value of a commodity in the same way that you would profit from rising prices if you bought it.

The mechanisms of short selling vary somewhat by marketplace and local regulations, but it's normally conducted the same way. Usually, the speculator borrows stock or currency from a broker and sells it on the market with the hope that the price will go down after he or she sells the borrowed shares. If the price does go down after a certain amount of time, the investor buys the amount of shares owed to the broker at the lower price and returns them. The investor's profit is the difference between the amount the borrowed shares sold for and the price of buying them at the diminished price point.

Some Bitcoin platforms allow short selling, usually by allowing you to "borrow" the currency from other clients on a peer-to-peer network or to borrow against the platform itself. These include:

Bitfinex
BTC-e
Fxopen
Some traditional trading platforms, such as Plus500, have a short selling mechanism. If you own bitcoins then you can also use this platform to hedge against loss during times of particular risk.

Bitcoin Trading

Bitcoin is ideally suited for the 'retail trader' trading on their own at home, rather than professionally for a major financial institution. A decentralized system does't bear an advantage for institutions who can use their money and influence to get closest to the center of power in a centralized system.

If you are clever then you can make money buying and selling Bitcoin depending on whether you think the price will rise or fall. You can also trade Bitcoin against other cryptocurrencies. Popular alternatives to Bitcoin include:

Darkcoin
Litecoin
Dogecoin
Peercoin
Ripple
Namecoin


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How much does an escrow assistant make in texas

Wielding my literature degree as I dove into an uncertain ocean of job applications and interviews, I never expected my attempts to escape retail I would land me working in escrow. In fact, I'd never actually heard of escrow until I applied for the job on a whim. Almost two years into my desperate search for a career, I was making frantic Google searches and choosing the best outfit for an interview for a chance to start a career I knew nothing about.

Lucky for me, getting started as an escrow assistant didn't require anything more than a degree just for the sake of having a degree. For those, like me, with degrees that don't have the best reputation out there for being "useful" in the job world, escrow can be a great start. In fact, the person I am working as assistant for doesn't even have a high school diploma. Not all escrow companies are the same, however, so they may require a degree or licensing in a related field, such as banking or real estate in order to become an escrow assistant. They may also require experience in those related fields for those who don't have the educational background.

If you are considering becoming an escrow assistant, I have provided a brief overview of what the job entails here, as well as a description of escrow for those who may never have heard of it before. Remember, every escrow company is different and requirements for escrow vary by state. What I have listed here is based on my own experience becoming an escrow assistant so the company you may choose to apply for may have somewhat different expectations for the job duties of an escrow assistant.

What is Escrow?

If you have no idea what escrow is, that's okay. Most people who come through the office I work for have no idea who we are or what we do either, even on the day of closing. What escrow does and how they do it differs from state to state and company to company. Basically, escrow is the impartial middle man (or woman) between two parties (the buyer and seller, borrower and lender, etc). Escrow officers and escrow assistants act only under instructions to deliver papers, complete and record documents, and receive and disburse funds.

Job Description for an Escrow Assistant

As an escrow assistant, the most basic element of the job description for this position is that you act as a detective alongside an escrow officer, piecing together everything into one neat package that is ready to go come the day of closing for a transaction. There are a few basic pieces of information that an escrow officer needs in order to open a transaction, most of which an escrow assistant must piece together for them as soon as possible:

Street address and parcel number (if available)
Sales price
Full names of all buyers and sellers
Marital status of all buyers and sellers
Contact information for all buyers and sellers (mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses)
Existing lender name, loan number, and contact information
New lender contact information (if applicable)
Homeowners Association information (such as address, management company information, and dues)
Commission amounts
Being detail oriented is one key aspect to the job description of an escrow assistant. As I already mentioned, escrow works only under instructions, which usually comes in the form of a purchase and sale agreement, an order form, etc. You do not need to read everything word for word, just make sure to look for the key parts of each document that are essential to keep the transaction moving forward. Did the seller provide all of his/her contact information? Are the buyers single or married? These are just two of many questions you want to ask yourself when first opening up a new transaction.

As an escrow assistant, you will most likely be the one to send out letters and checks and make any necessary phone calls for various files at different stages in the transaction. Be prepared for a lot of multitasking, with plenty of time on the phone and typing up emails while preparing and/or shipping out documents.


The third most essential component of the job description for an escrow assistant is that you must have great customer service skills. Don't be surprised if people call you a little anxious or stressed out about deadlines or other aspects of a transaction that may become a little more difficult than anticipated. The best advice that I received from the escrow assistant who retired just after I was hired on was that you can only do so much at a time. She said to remember to take things one step at a time and never rush because you may make a mistake and just make things worse.

In addition, you must remember to never make a promise to a customer for something that is more than you can do or provide advice for something you know nothing about. Escrow officers and escrow assistants should never give legal advice. When in doubt, refer the customer to someone related to the question or concern they have such as their real estate agent, attorney, or lender, rather than try to answer something yourself.

For example, one of the most common questions I get once a sale has closed is "okay, where are my keys?" This is a question that the real estate agent would be able to answer, considering that they are the ones who have the keys to the property. Usually, they provide the keys on the same day, which I let the customer know, but it's always best for the customer to still ask the real estate agent just to be sure.

Duties of an Escrow Assistant

As I have already mentioned, an escrow assistant does a lot of detective work, locating documents, gathering information, and sending out the right information to the right people to keep the transaction moving forward. Every company is different, but there are some basic duties you may expect to have as an escrow assistant, which are as follows:

Mailing letters
Gathering contact information
Gathering financial information
Sending out and/or delivering documents
Inputting information into a computer system
Writing up documents
Answering phones and emails
Disbursing funds
Setting up appointments
Responding to information requests
Conduct signings
Order title reports
As an escrow assistant, it is important to become familiar with the different types of documents as well as laws and regulations concerning real estate transactions. For those, like me, who are able to acquire this job without experience or related education, this can seem daunting, but, reading through documents as you get them will help familiarize yourself with them fast.

Escrow assistants must be quick multi-taskers, able to handle multiple tight deadlines and still keep that smile on their face for the customers who come in to sign. The description and job duties and of an escrow assistant may seem somewhat daunting, but, it can be a really fun job, especially when you get to help people achieve their dream of buying their first home.



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Tips to Make a Good Business Presentation

Good Presentation Skills are Essential in Today's Competitive World

Today, it’s not just what you know that counts but how you present your knowledge to the world. In this guide, we'll look at how to deliver a professional presentation to an audience that differentiates you from the crowd.

Delivering accomplished presentations is a vital skill in anyone's armoury whether you're a student just starting out or the head of a large organisation. So, if you want your presentations to be impressive and persuasive then read on!

Here are lots of tips and techniques for preparing successful presentations and how to get your points across. We'll also consider presentation skills training.

Even if you don’t normally give presentations as part of your day-job, one day you'll need to address a hobby group or a community organisation so it pays to prepare and develop those skills now.

These days, public speaking and business presentations are also often a key part of the recruitment and selection process, particularly in education, consultancy or marketing.

What Do We Mean By a Presentation?

Here are a few examples:

A design review
A project brief to colleagues (peer review)
A pitch to potential customers or senior executives
A business presentation
A paper at an international conference or exhibition
Sharing a few tips with fellow hobbyists - for example, other pet owners
How Do I Begin?

First decide what you want to say and how much time is available to do it. If it is a conference or seminar then you will probably be allocated a fixed period of time; typically 15-30 minutes, plus time for questions.

Technical people, in particular, often need to focus on a great deal of detail in their everyday work, so the most common mistake when giving a presentation is to include too much information.

The golden rule is, ‘Keep It Simple’. Think of a presentation as designing an advertisement. You should focus on a few key themes and benefits. You don't fill an advert or a presentation with detail such as circuit diagrams or technical data sheets.

How often have you sat through a presentation where there was so much information on the screen you just couldn't read it all before the slide disappeared from the screen? Remember how it made you feel?

A Good Presentation

A good presentation needs an introduction, followed by the main body and an ending with some conclusions. It is also helpful if the main body breaks into about three key themes. You can leave the detail either for inclusion in your written paper or to be dealt with during question time.

Once you've mapped out what you want to say, you will need some visual material and, if appropriate, a formal paper or maybe a brief the audience can read beforehand. For an informal peer review a whiteboard or a flip-chart is fine. For a more formal occasion, the use of a PC presentation package such as PowerPoint (Power Point) may be more suitable.

How Many Slides?

As a general rule, have about one slide or less for each minute of elapsed time. Most people, when first attempting a 10-minute talk, will find themselves speaking for well over 20 minutes. Remember you are talking about something that is of great personal interest so you will find you have far more to say than you expect.

If you’re doing a marketing-type presentation, remember to present benefits rather than features. For example, the user of the latest mobile phone probably isn’t interested in bandwidths or frequencies, but he or she is interested in how quickly and easily a snapshot or movie taken in London with the new toy will be transmitted to a friend in New York.


Useful Technology

If you don’t know if a projector will be available, lightweight, Portable Projectors are becoming more affordable. Ideally take the presentation on your own laptop. If this isn’t possible, PC presentation packages like PowerPoint allow you to create a self-contained presentation with a built-in viewer. Load this onto a USB Memory Stick or a CD then you will avoid any software compatibility problems. Another useful gadget is a Wireless Laser Pointer which enables you to control the presentation remotely without having your hand on the mouse.

What Should Go on the Slides?

Select a large, readable font. Make sure the colours you choose work well on a big screen. White on a blue background is a safe choice. Even if your company have a designated template it may be worth the risk of using a different one for an internal presentation so you stand out from the crowd.

Keep the number of words to a minimum. If you do use bullet points then keep the number of bullets to a minimum. Avoid 'Death By Powerpoint' (presentations where the audience switches off because of page after page of bulleted text).

Try to introduce visual information - A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words. For example, if you are talking about a lovable pet then a photo can say far more than words ever can.

If you’re referring to software tools then one or more simple screen dumps included in the presentation might help. Simple block diagrams are good. If the diagram is more complicated then animate the presentation so it builds gradually (controlled by mouse clicks) as you describe it.

You might also consider a short video clip. Even a 'sound bite' is a possibility to make your presentation different. Why not consider a relevant piece of music to start with?

Finally, avoid simply writing on the slide what you want to say and avoid too much detail. The slide should simply act as a visual cue to help you get your ideas across. It's not a script!

Sense of Humour Helps

Try to add a little humour or even a little drama. If you're pitching green solutions to a smaller audience then throw some newspapers around with global warming headlines. Generally having something simple to pass around, like a fabric, a component or a sample product, is good.

Paint a bleak picture and look gloomy then break into a broad smile as you pitch your solution. Don't be afraid to sell. If you're passionate about something let it show, There is no substitute for real enthusiasm in getting your ideas across.

What About the Day Itself?

Make sure you are familiar with the venue and your material. Take advantage of any opportunity to rehearse with the equipment you will be using. Don't be afraid to adjust things to suit your needs. Jot down what you want to say over each slide on a printout but don't try to write a script - just a few key words for each point will do.

In practice, by the time you give the presentation, you won't need your notes. But if you do dry up, then the notes are your safety net. Even if you are petrified and feel totally inadequate, make yourself feel confident. Think positive. Try to smile. Dressing up can help. A smart suit or dress can make you to feel more confident (Why not use the presentation as excuse to improve your wardrobe!)


Presentation Skills Training

Presentation skills courses or workshops can be a helpful tool in developing these skills. It is really beneficial to present to a small group of people, in a ‘safe’ learning situation, and share with one another what works and what doesn’t.

Presentation training works particularly well when augmented with a video camera so the presenter can get some idea of how their presentation actually looked to the audience. This enables the trainer to help the presenter to spot any annoying mannerisms, awkward body language or hesitations and hopefully eliminate them.

Presentation Guide - Final Thoughts

People often feel they are selling out when they simplify complex ideas and designs for a presentation. However, the ability to make advanced technology and science accessible and understandable to a wider audience is a vital asset in this increasingly technology-based world.

Delivering successful, effective presentations is an essential skill in increasingly competitive business and career markets.

Public speaking skills and the ability to produce and deliver winning, persuasive presentations helps secure a new job or progress in your current post.

If you're not confident in putting together a presentation or unfamiliar with tools like PowerPoint then either teach yourself, find a colleague to coach and mentor you or look for a suitable course or some training material. You'll find a flair for presentations really pays dividends, particularly in these times of rapid change when even continuing to hold down a job can be a real challenge!


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Tips for public speaking and presentation skills

Have you ever given thought to the importance of public speaking? Do you see areas it can benefit you in the seemingly ‘ordinary’ activities of your daily life? Have you ever considered how effective public speaking could boost your career and help you in your family, school, workplace and social gatherings?

I bet, you might not even have thought of how public speaking could help you during job interview sessions!

Ironically, so many people simply give the importance of public speaking a passing thought. They might even dismiss the thought before it ever sprang up! They reason…

“What the heck is my business with the importance of public speaking? I’m not a professional public speaker and I don’t intend to be the next Martin Luther King… So, why bother my head over the importance of public speaking?!”

BIG mistake!

I’m glad you are not like this set of people. Otherwise you wouldn't have read this far!

Really, like I explained in The Art of Public Speaking, public speaking does not necessarily have to take place in a structured, formal setting as in a hall filled with people listening to a speaker on a podium.

Bottom line? Simple…

You don’t have to be a professional speaker to be interested in the benefits of public speaking. Reason being that public speaking takes place daily even during those things we perceive as ‘ordinary’ activities of life… It’s simply a part of life!

OK, enough of this ‘blah, blah, blah’. Let’s get right into the discussion.

Ready? Then follow me…

The Benefits of Public Speaking

The importance of public speaking to you as an individual and to the society at large is numerous. However, I have come up with the very important ones. Here they are…

It Boosts Confidence and Helps Overcome Fear

Surveys have shown that the number one fear in the world is the fear of public speaking. This means that most people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death!

Alarming! Isn't it? But that is the truth!

However, if you gather enough knowledge about your topic and practice well before you deliver (even your first) speech, it can help you reduce anxiety greatly. Then as you consistently engage in art of public speaking you will horn your skills, build your confidence and gradually take control of your fear.

My personal experience has proved this to be true. Naturally, I was a very shy person. I found it hard to make new friends and keep old ones. Public speaking? Nah! Nah! Nah! Don’t even go there… it was one of my greatest fears!

But the story has changed now. Today, I can confidently stand in front of thousands of people and give a captivating speech!

You ask me how? Hmm…One of the things that helped me was consistently engaging in public speaking. I got better and better with every speech I delivered.

The moral of the story is…

One of the importance of public speaking is that it can help boost your confidence and help you reduce anxiety when you have to face a group of people.

It Improves Communication Skills

You must have heard statements such as: “the error was as a result of breakdown in communication” or “it was due to communication gap”. At times, the consequences of such ‘communication gaps’ could be very, very costly!

Nothing is more frustrating than trying hard to pass across valuable information and the recipient doesn't seem to ‘get it’. Surprisingly, the problem might lie with you and not the recipient!


Why? You are not communicating effectively!

Public speaking is a form of communication. The more you engage in public speaking, the more you sharpen your communication skills. Such good communication skills you develop can help you connect with people’s emotions and pass your message across in a way that is easy to understand.

It Improves Interpersonal Skills and Relationships

Imagine you at a party or any other gathering. And there is this person who relates well with people— even those she is meeting for the first time. she is able to easily start conversations, carry people along and make new friends. (Don’t get me wrong… I’m not taking about the irritating, lousy ‘show offs’)

How do you see such a person? No doubt, you will almost form a liking for her instantly.

Such skills and confidence can be developed through public speaking. And such interpersonal skills will help you maintain good relationship with your family, friends, classmates or workmates.

It Leads to Better Image and Perception

Why do you think people respect great personalities like Martin Luther King, Jesse Jackson, Bill Clinton, Barrack Obama, Dale Carnegie and others? It is because of their public speaking abilities. It’s as simple as that!

So, what’s my point?

Mastering the art of public speaking helps you to make a good impression on other people. Your friends, classmates, teachers, workmates, bosses and others will come to respect you. And this will positively affect their perception of you.

It Fosters Feelings of Self-Worthiness and Self-Esteem

Have you ever given a successful speech or made a nice presentation before? How did you feel after such exciting occasions?

I can confidently say that you had a strong feeling of satisfaction and inner joy that words could hardly describe! Such moments in life give you a sense of self-worthiness. This boost to your self-esteem will make you successful in other endeavors of life.

It Serves As A Career Booster

The communication skills, confidence and improved self-esteem you develop through public speaking can help you excel at job interviews. It can also aid in getting deserved promotions at work.

Talking about job interviews, the interviewer looks beyond your qualifications. Otherwise, your resume is enough to do the job. You won’t need any interview! But it doesn't work that way…

Your ability to communicate effectively, your interpersonal skills, confidence and comportment play a very important role in the decision making process. Thus, the importance of public speaking to your career cannot be over-emphasized.


It Makes You More Knowledgeable

Public speaking increases your knowledge base. One of the key success factors in public speaking is to know your subject inside out. That makes the delivery flow naturally and makes you relax. Often times this calls for doing extensive research on the subject. Such research adds to your reservoir of knowledge.

For example, when I wanted to write the page on the history of public speaking I had to do more research to add to my knowledge of the subject. I now know more about the history of public speaking than I did before. That’s exactly what I’m saying!

It is a Way of Giving Back to the Society

How? You may wonder. Through public speaking you share your knowledge with others. You can inspire people, lifting up their dampened spirit. You can motivate people to take certain ‘profitable’ action that impact positively on their lives or the society. By so doing you are giving back to the society.

For example, the world today boasts of great names that changed the world with their public speaking abilities. Even though many of them have died, the world still finds it hard to forget them.

It Helps Improve Academic Performance

The discipline plus the knowledge you acquire through public speaking can help improve your performance in school.

As you can see, the importance of public speaking cuts across all walks of life. There is hardly any area of life it cannot be applied. And to think that it is only meant for certain set of people is one of the worst mistakes one can ever make on the surface of the earth!

I am very sure that if you think hard you can come up with more benefits of public speaking. The points I discussed above are not all inclusive.

So dear, my candid advice (as usual) is…

Whenever you have the opportunity to develop your public speaking skills, please don’t throw it away… Grab it with both hands! Read all the ‘read-ables’, watch all the ‘watch-ables’. Practice, practice and practice!

Then someday I strongly hope to have the privilege to listen to you as you confidently and masterfully make a powerful, captivating delivery!

Did I hear you say “really?’’



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How to be a successful freelance makeup artist?

As a freelance makeup artist, you're the core of your business. Therefore, it is up to you, and only you, to ensure that each aspect of your business is functioning as it should. This includes bookkeeping, invoicing, collecting testimonials, working on clients and marketing your makeup business. One of the most tedious tasks that most makeup artists dread is marketing their businesses. You market your business by using various methods of promotion to spread the word about your business in a positive manner to get clients on a consistent basis. This is quite possibly one of the most important aspects of your business, as without clients there is no business to speak of.

If you're a full-time freelance makeup artist, your livelihood depends on your ability to successfully attract clients. Even if you're a part-time freelance makeup artist, the more diligent you are in marketing your business right now, the sooner you will be able to make the leap to becoming a full-time makeup artist. Therefore, implementing some of the following tips just may be the key to developing a steady stream of income as a freelance makeup artist. Of course, there's no need to stop just at this list. Marketing requires consistent efforts. Implement additional promotional ideas into your marketing plan. It's always better to over-promote, than to under-promote.

Makeup Artistry Business

Business Bookmarks. Rather than simply creating an ordinary business card, create a business bookmark and use it to insert into relevant books in the library. On this business bookmark, include your business information and a photo of one of your best portfolio shots. Then, head out to the library and insert your business bookmarks into random pages of relevant books. For example, a bridal makeup artist would insert her bookmarks into wedding planning books, bridal makeup, wedding craft books, books about prom, modeling, photography, etc.

Film YouTube Videos. Millions of people head to YouTube for beauty advice, makeup reviews and makeup tutorials. Develop a following for yourself as a professional makeup artist by creating high quality makeup tutorials, reviews and giving tips to combat common issues, such as concealing under-eye circles, acne, and making small lips look plumper. When creating your videos use good lighting, speak clearly and opt for a true video camera rather than using one that may be built into your computer. In addition, if you make partner on YouTube (your videos must be quite popular), it'll be an effective way to supplement your income while still following your passion in makeup.

Join ModelMayhem.com. Model Mayhem is a website where creative professionals, such as photographers, models, and of course, makeup artists, can connect with one another. You can network with talented professionals in your area and work together to develop all of your portfolios simultaneously. And, photographers, models and interested clients can contact you for paid work through your profile. It's necessary to add value to the Model Mayhem community. Spend time creating a professionally written bio and uploading quality pictures. Also, take the initiative by reaching out to local talent to proactively network your way to success.

Create a website. Most prospective clients research makeup artists before deciding to hire them. If your portfolio isn't online, you very well may lose potential clients to the competition. Create a website to showcase your portfolio, and also add pages that display your bio, and rates. Many makeup artists choose to quote on a case by case basis, therefore you may choose to simply implement a contact form and ask prospective clients to contact you for a quote.

Write a blog. Writing a blog in addition to your website is one of the most effective ways to promote your business. Write blog posts about previous work you've done including photos of the process/client if possible, post tutorials and reviews. Readers generally like list-based blog posts, such as “Top 10 NYX Products” or “My 5 Favorite Lipsticks of all time. As always, write your blog posts in a professional voice as this is an avenue in which you promote your business, rather than rant about your everyday life.


Wear your work. Each time you leave the house, do your makeup in a professional, interesting and awe-inspiring manner. Soon enough, people at the grocery store, mall, school or wherever you seem to be, will begin to approach you to complement you on your makeup. Take this opportunity to inform your admirers that you're a makeup artist, and hand them a business card.

Network with other makeup artist. Networking with other makeup artists opens the door to you receiving their overflow, and vice a versa. When your makeup artist acquaintance has too many clients contacting her for work, she may refer them to you rather than turning them away altogether. This is an I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch mine type of agreement. When you have overflow, send it her way, and when she has overflow she just may send it your way. To truly maximize the potential of this technique network often with a large number of other makeup artists to hopefully receive regular overflow.

Car Decals. Use car decals to promote your makeup artistry business. Car decals are valuable forms of advertisement for your makeup artist business as everyone that sees your car on the road will become aware of your services. Everyone on the road is a potential customer or knows someone that may need your services. Therefore, drivers that are stopped at red lights and spot your car decal may take down your number to contact you or to pass onto someone that they know that may be in need of your services. In order to enhance the visibility you receive through your car decals, have additional car decals made and ask your spouse, parents and best friends to place one on their vehicles. By doing so, you'll have four or more cars on the road simultaneously promoting your business rather than just one.

Participate in social media. Social networking is one of the most effective ways to spread the word about your freelance makeup artist business. Promote your business on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and any other social networking websites you're active on. The best way to promote your business is by offering a discount, sending a link to a blog post or YouTube video or updating your fans on the current happenings of your makeup artist business.

Form local alliances. Teaming up with local bridal businesses (if that's the niche of makeup artistry you're in) can be highly profitable for your business. You can simply ask local bridal shops, accessories shops, bakeries and wedding planners to pass out your business' information if they have a bride that is yet to hire a makeup artist. In exchange, you can hand out their information to your clients as well to reach a mutually beneficial partnership. Or, you can offer them a commission for every bride that they refer to you and becomes a client. Both options are equally attractive to complementary businesses as they both result in additional revenue for the shop.

Join local business associations. Though it is unlikely that you'll land clients on-the-spot at local networking events, becoming a part of your local business associations can prove to be an effective way of getting clients as a makeup artist in the long-run. Being an active member of such associations will cause word of mouth promotion of your business on a local level, and this is one of the purest forms of advertising your business can receive. A real estate agent or lawyer may contact you down the road to do their makeup for their head shots. Or, a daughter of one of the members may be getting married or attending prom in the upcoming months. This is an especially effective tactic if you're in a small town, as you'll likely have very little competition from other makeup artists.

Post an ad in the newspaper. Posting ads in the newspaper is a severely underrated method of marketing your business. Brides often look through the newspaper to find advertisements for local businesses, such as wedding venues and makeup artists while planning their wedding. Therefore, it's up to you to ensure that your ad appears in the paper. Contact your local newspapers to inquire about their rates.


Ask your current customers for referrals. Offer your customers a 5% to 25% off coupon for every new client that they refer to your business. To sweeten the deal, you can also offer a discount to the client that is referred to you. This offers a greater incentive to spread the word about your business. If you feel as if you're losing money by offering such a discount, you can choose to totally skip this tip or alter it to your liking.

Advertise on blogs. Find relatively popular blogs that are tailored towards your demographic and purchase advertising. Nowadays, most independently owned blogs will offer their sponsors an introductory post which tells their readers about your business in addition to placing a button to your website or blog on their sidebar. The cost of this form of advertising is unpredictable. A new blog may charge $10 to $35 per month. While a more established blog may charge $50 to $300 per month, or even $700 in some cases. You'll likely be able to get more bang for your buck by choosing to advertise on a blog that is tailored towards your local audience or a location you're willing to travel to.


Host a giveaway. Contact a local blog or business and offer a prize to every reader or customer that enters your giveaway. In exchange for the prize you're giving away, collect e-mail addresses from those that enter the giveaway so you can update them on the happenings of your business through an e-mail newsletter. This is also an effective way of increasing your YouTube subscriber count in order to help your makeup channel increase in popularity and make partner.

Finding clients as a makeup artist can be done by using rather frugal methods that are indeed effective. It is better to slowly build up a following for your business by implementing proven methods than to take out loans or spend thousands of your own dollars on methods that may or may not positively impact your makeup artist business. Remember, you're running a business – it's up to you, and only you, to ensure that you receive a steady stream of clients in order to make your business a success.



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How to increase your client base as a personal trainer?

Everyone knows that WORD of MOUTH is the best form of advertising. A genuinely satisfied client will tell their friends. BUT, have you ever been told about a specific business only to forget it's name. You still remember that a friend had a recommendation, just not specifically what it was. That is often the case with word of mouth. It holds weight because it is from a trusted friend, but it lacks staying power because it is usually verbal. While the samples and examples provided are specific to the salon/spa industry, the basic principles can be used in many business types and models. In today's economy this is a crucial way to grow your business and your businesses profits.

Referral Cards are WRITTEN word of mouth. It give the potential new client a tangible reminder of the exact business that was recommended. Now, even weeks or months later they will be able to remember YOUR business. Your business goes with them after the initial recommendation.

The other key factor that a referral card program offers is the INCENTIVE. It offers an incentive for the new client to come into your business AND an incentive for your existing client to "tell a friend". For most businesses a $20 discount offers the most bang for your buck. It is a high enough dollar amount to increase the rate of return and yet not so high as to lose money. I have had clients go as high as a 50% discount, but that is a decision that you need to determine based on your individual business. Most of the programs I set up and cards I design, utilize the $20 value.

HOW does it work?

The best referral card systems are easy and cost effective. They rely on business card sized cards that are printed on both sides for optimal return. (see samples below)

Side One : The name of your business (preferably your Custom Logo) and the OFFFER. The offer should read something like this "Save $20 OFF Your First Visit". The "$20" should be bold and stand out. On the bottom of the card it should say "see back of card for details"

Side Two : This side should also include name and offer (offer somewhat smaller), address, phone number, one line that states stylist with a blank line, one line with Referred by and a blank line and at the bottom of card "cannot be combined with any other offer. Under the offer it should state "bring this card in to receive discount"

HOW do I use them?

Before your existing client leaves uses this script (tried and true) "I'm going to show you how you can save 20% off your next visit. Hand these out to friends, family, co-workers. When ever I get a new client from these cards you will get $20 off your next visit. Be sure to put your name on the Referred by line, so I make sure you get credit" You will notice that you have explained the program to your client from the "what's in it for him/her" perspective, as this generates the most interest.

Be sure to put your name in the Stylist line to ensure that the new clients that are being referred are going to ask for you. Hand 5 to EVERY client (also tried and true). Do NOT pre-judge who you think will or will not hand them out. You will always be surprised at the outcome. Also, keep some cards with you at all times so you can hand them out in line at the grocery store, when you get your morning coffee or to add one to your tip when you go out for lunch or dinner. They can also be added to gift baskets or other promotional pieces that are given out at community events. Every opportunity should be utilized to grow your business.


HOW does giving $20 OFF make me more money?

Example without Referral Cards : Sue comes in every 4 weeks and spends $40 per visit on services. This equates to approximately 13 visits per year. This means $520 in services per year from Sue.

Example WITH Referral Cards : Sue sends in Jill who saves $20 OFF her FIRST visit and then Sue receives $20 OFF her NEXT visit. Sue then spends $500 for the year ($20 less than without the program) and Jill (assuming the same 4 week cycle and $40 per visit) spends $500 for the year (all new money). This put the year for the two clients at $1000 versus the $520 for only the one client. Now multiply this by every new client gained from this easy to use program. This does not even factor in the increased sales in retail to your new clients.

The key factors to remember are to hand 5 to every customer every time. It is a numbers game. Remember to use the script above to clearly convey how the program works and "what's in it for them". Keep enough cards filled out with your name at all times.


When having your referral cards designed remember to include your logo and make it a two-sided FULL COLOR card. This will ensure that your card is seen and remembered. I have always designed these cards with as much "WOW" factor as possible, while making sure they are easy to read and understand. Utilizing a local graphic designer to help with the design and printing can help insure a good, clean eye-catching design. This can also help avoid the "generic" look offered by many online printing companies. You can still use an online printer for cost factors, but the original and unique design is worth a few extra dollars. Branding your business is important and will be discussed in a future article.

Happy Business Building!


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What are the six competing concepts of marketing management?

What is Marketing?

"Marketing consists of all the activities of individuals and organizations designed to identify, anticipate, and mutually satisfy the needs of all parties involved in the exchange."

Marketing cannot take place unless some sort of exchange occurs. One party must exchange a product or service with another party for some form of payment. This is the exchange process and is the central focus for all marketing activities.

Marketing Utilities

Four marketing utilities, which are the capacities of the product offering to satisfy the needs of a customer, are enhanced when exchange occurs.

These include:

Form Utility - The product is produced, or modified for the customer. An example of this might be a car manufacturer designing their car so that a driver will be able to plug in his I-pod or other devices.
Time Utility - The consumers ability to buy the product when he or she wants to buy the product. A grocer may store certain amounts of certain foods until the prime season they are bought. It is ensuring customers will have access to the food when they most desire them.

Place Utility - This describes when a consumer is able to buy the product at a location that is convenient to him or her. The best example of this is online sales. Home is the most convenient location for a consumer.
Possession Utility - Ownership of the product is transferred from the marketer to the buyer. An example is a getting a loan and then buying a car. This is concerned with the ease of transferability for the consumer.
The Marketing Management Concepts

There are four marketing management concepts that companies will utilize in their marketing objectives. All of these aim to achieve profits and objectives, but the focus and means by which they do so will differ. They will typically follow one of these four major concepts:

Product Concept - This management orientation says that if you build a quality product and set a reasonable price, very little marketing effort is needed to sell it. The product generates the demand "build it, and they will come"

Selling Concept - This management orientation says that consumers will not normally buy enough of a product unless it is aggressively promoted to them.

Marketing Concept - This management orientation says the major purpose of an organization is to identify consumer needs and then adapt the organization in a way that will satisfy the customers needs more effectively and efficiently than competition. (i.e. Chain restaurants may alter their menu in different countries)

Societal Concept - This management orientation focuses on satisfying consumers needs and demonstrating long run concern for societal welfare in order to achieve company objectives and attend to its responsibilities for society. The idea is to find a balance between social welfare, consumer needs, and company profits.

Traditional vs. Integrated Marketing

To understand the fundamentals of marketing, it is important to understand two different approaches used when a company chooses to introduce a new product. Here we see traditional and integrated marketing.

There are typically 5 different departments directly involved with the product during creation and launch: Development, Engineering, Production, Marketing, and Distribution.

If a company opts to use a traditional approach, all of these departments work as separate entities. For example, development will draw up a product and then pass it along to engineering to create it. Engineering will then pass it along to production mass produce it. They will afterwards pass it to marketing, who will eventually move the product to distribution for a product launch.

If a firm opts to utilize an integrated marketing approach, all of the departments work together as a single unit. Engineering will not begin a product without ensuring that production has the capabilities to produce it. Development will check with marketing to ensure the product is line with the company image and approach. Basically, every department will at some point integrate their work with all other departments in the process.

Clearly, integrated marketing is the better approach. While it may take longer to launch a product, the likelihood of success is greater. The traditional approach leaves much room for interdepartmental conflicting interest and is therefore regarded as an outdated approach in marketing. It all too often ignores the consumers needs. The integrated marketing approach helps a business work collectively as one unit.


Perceived Value and Satisfaction

A customers perceived value is equal to the benefits derived divided by the costs.

Value = Benefits/Costs

Further, benefits can include functional and emotional benefits. Costs may include monetary costs, time costs, energy costs, and psychic costs.

So, Value = Functional benefits + emotional benefits / monetary cost + time cost + energy cost + psychic costs

Satisfaction is a person's feelings of pleasure or disappointment resulting from comparing a products performance in relation to the person's expectations of performance.

Most expectations are derived from past buying experiences, friends, the marketer, peers, competitors, and promises of performance.

It is also important to keep in mind that a person is twice as likely to tell others about a negative product or experience than they are about a good product or positive experience. Dissatisfied customers can also have a negative impact on employee morale.

The Marketing Mix - The Four P's

There are four marketing mix variables that are associated with a product. These must be taken into consideration when making any decisions regarding marketing activities. These are often known as the "Four P's" in marketing. Note that these should only be identified after a target market is selected. All marketing mix variables are controllable, internal factors. These include:

Product - This variable described all factors relating to the actual product visible to the consumer. These may include things such as quality, features, options, style, packaging, brand, sizes, labels, variety, and warranties.
Price - The price variable includes not only the list price, but all other pricing factors associated with a product. These may include discounts, allowances, payment options and periods, and credit terms. All of these are related to the final, whole price of the product.

Place - Place deals with all distribution and location aspects of a product. How and what are the products available to consumers? These may include assortments, channels, coverage areas, locations, and inventories.

Promotion - Promotion is any and all efforts by a company to make publicize a product and make the consumer aware of it. Efforts might include advertising, personal selling, sales, public relations, or internet activities.


The marketing mix should only be determined after a target market is determined.

Target market = The group or groups of customers for which the marketer will direct attention. This group is determined after thorough segmentation and analysis of the market. (more on segmentation in part 2)

External Factors

While the marketing mix consists of factors that are controllable by a company, there are numerous external factors that must be taken into consideration when scanning the environment the product or service is marketed in. The company can do nothing about these in the long run, but can react to them in the short run. They will certainly impact what the marketer can do.

External Factors (Uncontrollable)

Demographic environment - The features of a country that can be statistically described
Economic environment - The financial and economic conditions in a country will determine demand for any and all products.

Competitive environment - The intensity of competition in the market the business is in cannot be controlled.
Physical environment - Availability, use, and disposal of natural resources Technological environment - Determines how the marketing should be done. What medium should be used?
Political and legal environment - Laws and restrictions may be set by various government agencies in regard to competition, consumer protection, or societal welfare.

Social/Cultural environment - What is acceptable in what culture may not be acceptable in another.
Company related environment - Goals and objectives of top Gethsemane and company as a whole.



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How to start photography business from home?

If you are like most people who are drawn to this hub by the title, you are starting a photography business because you already love taking photographs. Chances are that you have spent countless hours photographing people, places and things for the sheer enjoyment of it. You might have even photographed a wedding or two.

The next natural, logical step must be to take the plunge and market yourself as a "real" photographer; magnetic sticker on the car and everything.

And you are right! Unless you are wrong. What do I mean? Read on.

A quick reality check...

Photography is fun. I will say that without pause. If you have ever felt the thrill of taking a digital or film-loaded device and bringing a visual idea or to life, you know that there are few feelings like that in the world. But when you offer photography as a professional service, the dynamic changes, it can be a very challenging job, in every meaning of the word..

Is it rewarding? Yes.

Is it difficult? Very.

The obvious question: Are you good?

There is a marked difference between "pretty pictures" and "professional photography." By calling yourself a professional, you officially leave the zone where colorful snapshots of flowers, sunsets, kisses and kids are sufficient for your portfolio. You're not looking for compliments any more, you're looking for money. This is especially true if you are seeking to be a successful wedding photographer with a good chance of magazine exposure.

You have to be objective about your work. An entire web site is devoted to mercilessly roasting photographers who failed to be objective about their portfolio and created vast online galleries of "fauxtography."

You do not want to be in this category.

If you want to make photography your sole source of income, you will not succeed unless you consciously work to make your photographs stand out from the crowd. As I wrote in another hub, you have have to offer something that no one else can give. Your portfolio, be it a physical book or an album on your iPad, is the heart and soul of your business. It is your product. Anyone with the gift of gab can sell themselves to a client, but you can't win on personality alone, you have to back your words up with a stellar product.

Obviously, the first step to success is simply being good at what you do. An expensive camera does not a good photographer make. If you assume that you are as good as you need to be and consistently ignore criticism with the lofty assumption that your critics "just don't get it," that will be your downfall.

However, from this point on, I'm going to proceed in this article with the impression that you are good at what you do. So, enough of the amateur hour, let's talk branding.

Treat your work as your brand.

The ideal situation would be to have the look and feel of your photography to be as identifiable as your favorite snack. Very few photographers reach that level of recognition, (Trey Ratcliff and Chase Jarvis being two very notable and current exceptions), but that is the goal you want to have in the back of your mind.

You need your work to stand out. For that reason, you must focus intently on what gets the most positive response from clients, and develop that part of your body of work. Just for argument's sake, you may hate the job of taking family portraits (even if you love kids and families), but if the family portraits you have taken in the past are the portfolio shots that are getting you the referral work you have now, consider focusing on them and making them objects d'art.

Another huge part of branding is to have a good business name, website and business card that integrates with your portfolio in both tone and design.

If you choose to name your business instead of working under your own name, think long and hard about what that name is going to be. Don't take the easy way out and say "Photos by [Name]" or a cheesy name like "Dazzling Images."

On a personal note, I will always recommend that you work under your own name, because I trust people who are unafraid to publicly claim their work instead of taking shelter behind a catch slogan.

Build your website and make it pretty. Buy a good domain name. Learn SEO marketing, register for Google Analytics so you can track user response, and integrate your site with a Facebook page. If you can't design a web site, find a good designer to do it for you. Paying for good work is the same courtesy that you want people to extend to you, and it is an investment in your business.

The same thing goes for your business card. Don't settle for VistaPrint's famous free card offer, pay for good paper and design something original to give a strong first impression. Tie the design of the card in with the design of your website.

What all of this does is create an identity for you as a photographer. Some of my local friends who have done this extremely well include the always awesome David and Jessica Marshall of David and Jess Wedding Photography and my old boss (and all-around fun guy) Jeremy Cook of Cook Images.

Just what is a "licensed photographer?"

A common question I get asked is whether or not a photographer needs to get a license first. I usually reply "a license for what?" A driver's license? Might come in handy. A license to kill? Not necessary on most jobs. A license to thrill? Baby, I got that in spades...

Oh wait, did you mean a "photography license?" If so, the answer is a flat no.

Some photographers will pad their reputation by calling themselves "licensed," grouping the term in with their oh-so-many years of experience and town faire accolades. That is a certain kind of bull that is utilized by the insecure.

On the flip side, like any other professional service, you do need a business license.

A business license is necessary because you will be accepting money for your services. You will also be building a brand, and most likely selling work online. If this work yields sufficient income, the exact amount of which varies from state to state, you need to have the source of your income on file for tax purposes.


Sole Proprietorship or LLC?

This is common question for any entrepreneur about to launch a small business. What is the difference, and how does it affect you? The actual explanation in photography terms is actually pretty simple, and you can judge for yourself which one would suit your business best.

As a sole proprietor, there is very little delineation between personal assets and those of the business. You provide a service, people pay you for it and the money is deposited in your bank account. If you hire an assistant for one or two jobs and not as a regular employee, you can pay them and mark it off as a business expense. The downside of this very easy and personal system is that since the business is small (you and your equipment), all liability rests on you if something goes wrong on a job.

Example: You have photographed a wedding, and something happened to cause your equipment to malfunction erase all of your memory cards. The job was a total loss, and you realize that the circumstances that caused the malfunction were not covered in your contract. When the bride takes you to court for damages, and wins, everything you own will be fair game for renumeration. Whether it is marked as a business or personal account, a sole proprietorship means that you, the individual, are totally liable.

In contrast, a limited liability corporation (LLC) means that there is a sharp divide between business and personal property. If there was ever an issue in which you were culpable, your personal assets would be protected.

There are some exceptions in which you (or a corporation partner) would be held personally liable in the event that you were actively responsible for a major snafu, but the function of an LLC is to keep your assets separate from business assets, for everyone's protection.

You can file as an LLC simply as a pass-through to have the LLC protection and function as a sole proprietor, or you can file an LLC so as to make your business an actual corporation with multiple partners.

A sole proprietorship is fast and cheap; you can get a business license for it at your local tax collector's office for a small annual fee. An LLC takes more paperwork to file and is more expensive, but might be worth it if you have a long term plan to enlarge your business and include partners in the business. That is where it becomes your call.

For more information on sole proprietorships and LLCs, LegalZoom has a very informative education center.

Networking, it never ends!

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, Google+, Tumblr, email, newsletters.

Those are just a few of the many, many options available to the modern photographer in their business networking. It almost takes more time to share your work than to actually create it these days.

For active, one-on-one client communication, email needs to be your top priority. That's where first contact is usually made. You must be prompt in your replies, and stay in touch with clients after the job is complete. The personal touch will be appreciated, and when when your clients need more work in the future, you will want to be the name they see in their inbox.

Facebook is very important for fast networking and marketing. If you have a thousand likes on your page, and you regularly post a special offer or photo post in the morning or mid-day, you will receive much more of a response than if you update it "just now and again" with an inspirational quote or old photo. Timing is important. You want to post when people are checking their social outlets and have the energy to respond positively, such as mornings and lunch breaks.

A blog is important too, but only effective if you update it regularly, make it easily accessible from your main site, and have the updates sent automatically to the rest of your social networks. WordPress is probably the best blog to have right now, and its templates are very easy to upgrade and make into your main website, if you so choose.

These are the best options for revenue. Google+ is coming into its own, but unless you already have a substantial following, you aren't going to see the same returns there as you would in more familiar environs like Facebook. Same thing with Twitter. Don't just think about the possibility of "hits" (unless you are running AdSense or something similar to earn revenue) think about which ones are going to get you the most possible returns.


Competition (there's a lot of it!)

If none of this has scared you off, and if the idea of filing the paperwork and making the commitments has actually gotten you excited, awesome!

Now, just bear in mind that enthusiasm does not dismiss what has been discussed in the above paragraphs. The same accessibility to gear and software that allowed you to become a photographer can and will give the same opportunity to many others. Tthere are is an amazing number of people who confuse accessibility with talent.

Most of these people are easy to dismiss from a critical point of view, but not everyone knows photography like you and I, and the idea of saving a thousand dollars is often enough for a bride to simply call her "friend with a camera" instead of hiring a true professional.

You might have been that "friend" at one point, but you are now taking steps to go the extra mile and make yourself a legitimate player in your city's photography scene. That sets you apart, and you should feel proud.

Many others will never come this far, and you have to be ready for the consequences. Like dozens of photographic Ralph Naders, "friends with cameras" will siphon away work that might otherwise have gone to you. Don't let it make you embittered, it's not worth the time to be angry at them.

The saddest part of that is actually that it makes relationships between "real" photographers a bit testy sometimes, because good work is getting harder to get. It can be a tooth and claw battle to get clients in this economy. Just remember that the better your work is, the more respect you will have. Never be complacent in your work, always be trying to make your portfolio better.

Criticism

Photography as an art has a few basic rules that dictate what is commonly thought of as good and bad work. But like all the arts, judgment of photography is subjective. What you like, what your clients like, and what other photographers will positively critique are rarely going to play well together. But you don't want to let that fact intimidate you or dissuade you from trying new things with your work. Take criticism from people you respect and use it to make your work better. It doesn't make it any less yours, it simply gives you another perspective.

Give yourself permission to think outside the box and be experimental. Just remember to refine new techniques or Photoshop actions on your personal work before springing it on clients, because that mother of five who really liked the black and whites on your site might not appreciate a sudden barrage of selenium-toned images in her proof gallery.

Just be creative. You have to be.

A final word.

I hope that this article was helpful. It was gathered from first-hand experience from my own misadventures as a starting photographer, a job which I am trying to take full time myself this year.

I've seen the strain this kind of work can put on individuals and relationships, but if you have your priorities straight, aren't afraid of the commitment and can be a self starter, there is no reason that you can't be successful as a photographer. To quote an old but favorite phrase:

Do what you love, and you'll never work a day in your life.




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