This is my final week providing my services for Blog Tech Guy.
It’s bittersweet as I am starting a fantastic new job for a company I admire greatly, but more about that in another post.
BTG was started in 2007 as a way to provide low-cost custom work for WordPress.org users who didn’t necessarily have a big budget or need a lot of work, but needed someone reliable. It was a one man band, and still is today.
There were only a couple of us doing this kind of work back then, and even though it’s now a crowded marketplace I’ve been fortunate enough to work off referrals only with no promotion or advertising needed.
I’ve helped over 500 clients/customers/friends in the six and a half years I’ve been going, and I will sorely miss working with them.
I’ve been working a little on the site to make it easier for you to use and also sort out some long standing issues. The old saying “The cobbler’s kids have no shoes” comes to mind, so to prevent that and get my site up to date I’ve spent some time on it.
1) Added a shopping cart (WooCommerce). This free plugin (with paid addon extensions – a few I’m using) doesn’t actually work well with Headway at the moment, but with some coding and template tweaks you can get it working and looking great within an hour or so. If there is any interest I might post a tutorial or two once WooCommerce 2.0 is launched – let me know in the comments if so.
2) This allowed me to sell my first premium child theme for Headway – HeadTube. This theme has a full screen video background and color options to make your site really stand out. Currently it’s free for a very short time.
3) I’ve also added free eBooks there and external links to other products that I have created.
4) There is a Shop menu item with dropdowns to the different categories of products, plus a Cart section in the header which will update.
7) Changed the site background. It’s now a nice wooden panel but I’ll be changing it more often as the mood takes me 🙂
8) The Blog page now has infinite scroll. When you hit the bottom of the page, the next set of posts will load and so on so you don’t have to browse to Old/Previous Posts anymore. It reduces page views so on sites where page views matter then I wouldn’t recommend using it, but otherwise it’s an awesome plugin called Infinite Scroll.
9) the site is now “responsive” meaning it looks great on different mobile devices automatically. A future post will go into more detail.
So now that’s done, what can you expect from me in 2013?
– Moving the Services in the shopping cart to allow me to use coupons and offer discounts (oooohh, exciting!).
– More premium child themes.
– EBooks, guides and training materials.
– More videos. Yes I know, I said that last year, but this year….
Is there anything else you want to see from me this year?
What are your plans for 2013? I’m always interested so let me know below what you’re planning to achieve this year.
Express Accounts highly professional accounting application is a great freeware product that can help you run a number of small businesses together. It tracks and reports on incoming and outgoing cash flow including payments, sales, receipts and purchases. It also allows you to create multiple journal entries for all your monetary transactions. Its default reports are fairly comprehensive and can easily cover the basic requirements of any small business. The main standard reports, including profit & loss and overall balance, are fairly intuitive and easy to generate accurately.
I borrowed the appalling tag-line from a mate who doubled-up as my accountant, who being an extremely thrifty fellow, claimed that he always liked to think about Rhino Accounting’s uniquely free double-entry bookkeeping to console himself any time he took a girl out on an expensive date. Yes, he is a little strange, but he has saved me a lot of money and blushes over the course of my business career, all for the price of unlimited booze. How he managed to keep track of all those numbers when he could barely stand, I have no idea, but then again he did always claim accountants need to be creative.
Having had a stab at it myself, there is no question that it gets the job done, but it is a no-frills piece of software and unless you are serious about your accounting, then you might want to opt for something with better support in the long term. But as my friend still maintains, “if it’s free, don’t fix it”.
Invoices don’t need to be so complicated. If your business is at an early stage it is likely that you don’t really need something too fancy like QuickBooks Premier Edition or FreshBooks, so save yourself a few bob and pick up Billing Boss free instead. There is no limit on usage and it is even easy enough for me to use – even after a night in with my accountant friend. Of course, he turns his nose up at it, but secretly he’s happy that it is so straightforward that he can leave me alone with it for an hour or two without having to check up on me or have me nag him for heIp. Yes, he also likes it because “if there is nothing to mend and you don’t have to spend, then it’s the perfect blend.”
For those business owners that don’t have a big budget or an accountant that can be easily bribed with a plenitude of alcohol, then Invoicera will usher in a new age of easy accounting for your business. It has a lot of features for a free billing app and a very accessible interface. It offers a highly comprehensive service, and it works particularly well if you are web-based business dealing with clients all over the world as it supports a vast number of gateway payments. It is a little limited as a free app, but as a premium app it works well as a general business management tool thanks to features such as Time Tracking (very useful for lawyers keeping track of billable hours), and Expense Tracking, which can help keep tabs on your employees’ and other business expenses.
An all-rounder accountancy app, Kashflow is great for the beginner entrepreneur and for start-ups. A handy 14-day trial is worth experimenting with. The, fairly rarely offered, 24-hour email support is a pretty good bonus as well.
Jimmy Wentz is a budding freelance tech writer, gadget and gaming enthusiast, and social media junkie. He writes regularly about O2 and the latest news in the tech, gaming, and the social media world. Connect with Jimmy on Google+
Do you even know how to backup your WordPress website?
Do you remember to keep up to date with new versions of WordPress?
Do you have time to upgrade/update all your plugins?
Do you ever wish you could restore your site to an earlier version?
Do you wish someone could take care of this all for you?
If so, you’re not alone. Introducing….
The BTG Backup and Update Service
The BTG Backup and Update Service, or “BTG BUS” is a service that keeps regular backups of your WordPress powered websites, keeps WordPress, plugins and themes up to date, and provides the opportunity to restore your sites to an earlier version if there are any problems. With no hassle for you, just set up and forget!
Which of the following two scenarios best describe you?
1) I have an awesome bunch of friends, they are really supportive in everything I do. When I am down they pick me up and encourage me, when I am up they congratulate and celebrate with me, when I need advice they question and challenge me so I can help make up my own informed decision.
2) I have some good friends I guess. Sure, we talk about work a bit but they have a totally different view on things to me, they don’t really understand and sometimes don’t really seem interested. I have asked for their advice before but they don’t seem to get where I am coming from and don’t seem able to help me at all, but hey, they are my friends after all.
In the quest for personal or business success have you ever felt like you’ve outgrown some of your friends?
If the second scenario is you then unfortunately you probably already have. Ever heard the phrase ‘success breeds success’? Well, this is very true in the friends and company you keep.
There are people who are on the same wavelength as you who you feel great being around, the stories you share are enlightening and engaging.
Questions you ask or help you require are greeted with real, sincere interest and you come away from the conversation with real benefit and sense of relief and pride you can talk to these people about things that are important to you.
Our friends are there to help us, support us, encourage us and stimulate us but there comes a time when those people who have been there to do that for you before are suddenly not capable of providing that assistance anymore.
It is not your fault, it is not their fault, it is just that life moves at such a pace that sometimes you outgrow your current batch of friends and your needs become greater than they can give you.
Whatever success path you are currently on here are a few tips to make sure you are making friends and associates in the right circles:
Who do you most admire?
Whether you are striving for business or personal success, who is the person or people you most look up to and admire? Once you have the person in your mind, ask yourself where does he or she hang out?
Where do they go to meet their friends? Is it a leisure club, a sporting club, a business club? Wherever it is if they go then there will be people of similar stature and mind… go join them.
Try a training course
Is there anyone else out in the world on the same success journey as you? The answer to that question is YES, you just have to find them. In your pursuit of success have you ever thought about enrolling on a training or development course in an area that you feel would progress you forward in either business or personally?
On that course there will be people like you, looking for people like you. It is an awesome place to meet like-minded people and begin new friendships that will be mutually beneficial.
They say that you can ‘choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’ and that is a very good thing because as you go along your success journey you need to have the people in your life that will positively influence you to continue your path so take time out to think about what your friends and associates say about you now, and what you are going to do about it!
Part 1 of the planning trap covered why it is essential to plan, why taking a day out to focus on planning is important, what looking backwards before looking forwards can do for you and why it is great to start with a big goal.
Dividing a big goal into manageable chunks
Once you have your big goal you can divide it into more manageable periods of time. A three year goal can seem a long time away and it can often be a struggle to associate day-to-day activities now to what will happen in three years time.
In order to make it more real it needs to be chunked into 90 day segments. A quarterly plan allows periodic activity towards the major goal with enough flexibility and control to move in different directions and react to circumstances along that road to the big goal. 90 days in turn can be chunked down further into a weekly plan. 90 days is 13 weeks therefore 13 individual weekly plans will meet the 90 day objectives which will in turn be directly related to hitting the three year goal.
The major advantage to going to the level of creating a weekly plan is you can neurologically associate day-to-day activities moving you closer and closer to the big goal. Suddenly that goal which seemed so far away is getting closer by everything you do each and every day. You can see it, feel it and taste it! Remember that three years is just 12 quarters and approximately 156 weeks, not long when you chunk it down.
Plan the next dates in advance
The key to ensuring one quarterly plan turns into 12 quarterly plans is setting the dates in advance. It would be very easy to do one plan, give yourself a round of applause, get back in to day-to-day life and forget planning ever happened.
Continued success comes from regular planning sessions and creating the habit of taking that day out every quarter. It is only one day every 13 weeks and it can provide such a great buzz of excitement and energy afterwards it’s an absolute must for all successful businesses.
Once you have it, share it
As soon as you have the plan in written format, then the next most important step to make it a reality is to share it with people. If you keep your plan to yourself then it is you versus the plan, if you share it then many people can help you achieve it. They can offer help by providing you with accountability by asking you how you are getting on and the more people you have on your side versus the plan the more likely you are to achieve it.
This isn’t something you must do by yourself. Share it with fellow directors, employees, family, friends, the next door neighbour, anyone who you think can help you in whatever way to make it happen. Taken seriously, the planning trap can be overcome and it is a critical ingredient to making your business a sustained success.
Ever heard the phrase ‘if you fail to plan you plan to fail’?
That is one of many clichés that people use when describing the importance of planning in business. Planning is the most logical and forward thinking activity anyone in business, whether an owner or employee, can do to achieve success, however it is often one of the activities that gets over looked. Planning is often replaced by ‘just getting on with it’ and very often the results can show that ‘just getting on with it’ can be a very expensive mistake.
The successful people see planning as defining the road to success. By taking the time out of day-to-day life and focusing on what needs to be put in place to create that road to success provides vitality, energy, enthusiasm and direction to achieve the goal. Look at sports teams as an example.
Before each season begins the coaches and key personnel will get together, discuss the aims for the season, decide on who needs to be recruited to achieve success, which positions require strengthening and what they are going to do during the season to give themselves the best possible chance of success.
During the season they measure their success against their season goals and adjust anything that needs to be adjusted along the way. The planning at the starts creates the road to success. Here are some awesome tips to make planning easier for you, whether you are a business owner, an employee or a new sports coach…
Begin by taking a day out
First and most important step is to plan the day you are going to plan. Take a day totally out of your usual working environment so you avoid distractions, interruptions and anything that might take you off task. A new venue will help to give the freedom and clarity to think clearly about what you want to lie ahead without worrying about what you are missing in the office.
It will take a whole day so make sure you give it thought. A hotel out of town, a meeting room in a neutral office you could hire, a friend’s house would be great too. It needs to be neutral and can give you thinking time.
Look back before looking forward
The start of every good planning day begins with a look behind at what just happened. If it is your first planning day then the looking back should be over the last 12 months minimum. What did you do well? What did you do not so well? How many of the things you wanted to happen happened? How did you deal with the things that you weren’t expecting to happen? Where were you expecting to be by now? How close to that point are you?
Those questions are vitally important to learn from the past and make the future even better. It can sometimes be very difficult to look into the past but it can be the difference between success and failure moving forward.
Start with the big goal
In order to define your road to success you need to first identify what is at the end of the road. It is essential to have big, long term to be heading towards. At this stage you don’t need to be able to fully define how to get there but you need to know where you are going.
Thinking back to the sports team, they would target a certain position to achieve at the end of the season. Where is it to be number 1 team in their respective league or simply to consolidate their place in the league above the demotion line, it is a goal and a focus.
If you are in business, what do you want your business to look like in three years time? Do you have a goal you want to achieve? Do you want to only work part time in three years time? That’s where your planning day needs to start, defining a long term goal. If you have never planned before then let this be the main focus of the day.
Whether you’ve been in business 20 days or 20 years it’s never too late to set a big, long term goal. Every major successful business in the world today started out with a big goal.
Microsoft, Ford, Apple all had a day when in their infancy a goal was made and a plan was hatched. Use their great examples to do it for yourself.
Any of you who have had a look around my site may have noticed that I am fortunate enough to have a lot of work on at the moment. I currently work with a number of awesome clients who are keeping me busy, and almost all of these projects have originated from recommendations from previous satisfied customers. It is a process that has taken a lot of time to achieve and it certainly hasn’t always been this way, so I thought I’d share some tips on how to get and sustain a viable referral-based business…
Provide great customer service… always
The best way to keep your customers is to provide them with exceptional customer service. When they interact with your business for the first time make a point of making them feel special, and show that you appreciate them. You only get one chance to make a first impression – use it well. Do you have a plan or system in your business for providing awesome customer service every single time a customer interacts with you? It could be the most important system you ever create in your business. If it works and they keep coming back, then keep repeating the process for truly fantastic service. Good reputations spread, but not as quick as bad reputations. Strong referrals come from good reputations.
I do have standard (“canned”) responses to help speed up emails but I always personalize them and address any specific questions the potential client has asked.
Give customers a reason to keep coming back
How often do your customers have a reason to come back and use you again? Is it as long as once or twice a year? Or once or twice a week or even a day? The more they have the chance to use you the quicker your reputation will grow. If your sales are only once or twice a year then keeping in touch with customers via Birthday cards, Christmas cards, regular blogs or newsletters subscriptions keeps you in the forefront of their mind. If they can use your products or services more regularly then give them an incentive to come back through a voucher off their next purchase or a free gift as a loyal customer. Whatever you think will build that all important reputation.
After a while of your customers receiving great service from you the best possible thing you can do is to ask them to describe how they’ve been treated whilst dealing with your company. Customers love to tell other customers about the great decision they made using your company, a testimonial gives them the chance to say that in writing. It is an awesome reputation builder and will give new potential customers the confidence to use you as well.
I love my testimonials page, it’s my favorite page on my website. You should read it, it makes me proud!
Once you have created a great reputation for providing customers with awesome service and they are regulars in your business the final part of gaining referrals is to ASK for them. Many business owners can find this a tough thing to do but it is an opportunity for your customers to validate that they made a great choice in choosing your business by recommending you to other people. You can wait and wait expecting the referrals to come without asking and it may happen but it will be much quicker if you start by asking them.
Offer an incentive
How about giving them a reason to refer you to their friends by offering them an incentive to do so? It becomes a win:win:win scenario, you win as you get more business, they win as they get a gift for recommending and the new client wins because they get to experience what a great business you have and they can receive awesome customer service too.
Keep it up
Once you establish a referral-based cycle like the one described above, the way to keep it is to continue to do what you say you will do, really, really well. Remember that reputations can be trashed much quicker than they can be built, so keep sharp, stay focused and asking for referrals will lead to the holy grail of a referral based business and remove the need for expensive, untried marketing.
If you’ve ever been exposed to any sort of life coaching, then you’ll know that de-cluttering is the order of the day for people that want to make more time for themselves, achieve their ambitions and get enough space to relax. However, how often do we apply the principles of de-cluttering to our work lives? Running a blogging business is a time-consuming job, and the platform we work on, keeping up with our online community and generally keeping ahead of our things to do list can all give rise to a large amount of clutter.
When I talk about clutter in a business sense, I’m not thinking so much of physical mess (although that’s a part of it), as the various things that seem to drag on and on – the jobs that never get quite finished, the colleagues you are forever trying to keep up communications with, the comments that don’t ever get responded to, and the constant feeling that every day you are fighting to stay ahead of what needs to be done. These kinds of feelings leave us stressed and unproductive, floundering about in a sea of confusion while other people seem to manage to run their blogging businesses neatly, to a tight schedule.
If you’re one of those people who are struggling to keep on top of everything, follow these tips to de-clutter your business and get to a happy place in the blogosphere.
Tackle the physical mess first
If you work from home with an online business, it’s easy to get immersed in your job from morning to night, leaving your environment messy and disorganized. It’s important to keep your work space clear – even if that space happens to be in a corner of your kitchen or on the sofa in the living room. A space which is full of toys, empty mugs, laundry or papers is not going to help you when you need to run a tight ship. At the end of every work day, as you shut down your laptop or PC for the evening, make sure you spend a few minutes clearing up the mess ready for the next morning’s work. You’ll become more efficient and feel much more relaxed when you find your space is completely geared towards concentrating on your business.
Write a list of things which sap your time
Every day at work, I notice I have different categories of job to do. Some are fundamental – such as answering blog posts, speaking with customers or providing support for blogs. Others, such as wading through my e-mails, getting sidetracked by colleagues or checking up on the latest blogs for my competitors are not so critical and yet seem to take up the most time. I write a list every morning and prioritize what needs to be done, so I can tackle the big stuff first. It’s only if I have time that I can then move on to the other things that aren’t as important for my business. Keeping track of what you need to do each day doesn’t just leave you more organized – it also lets you review which aspects of your daily job you can reduce, outsource or get help with to up your productivity and declutter your task list.
Refer back to your strategy
If you find yourself getting sidetracked by an overwhelming amount of work, try revisiting your strategy for business to make sure that everything you do is always working towards achieving your aims as a blogging entrepreneur. If your activities each day don’t help you to achieve your goals (financially or otherwise), then it could be a good way of going through your activities and establishing if you are on the right track. It’s amazing how many activities you can get rid of, once you sit down and analyze whether they are working towards you achieving business success or not!
How’s your business going? Are you really happy with it, or are you always wondering if there could be a little more you could do, to maximise effectiveness and enhance the time you spend on it?
As bloggers, there is always something new to learn, and new software, platforms and ideas coming along that we could do with keeping up with. Add this in to the everyday needs of our blog, and we soon realize that things can get pretty complicated if we aren’t running a tight ship and keeping on top of everything. Sometimes, though, we can be left struggling for inspiration, and find it tough to work out exactly where we are at with our blogging business, and where we should be headed to get more money, more customers, and more time.
This is where a business mentor can really transform the way you work, and the direction of your business. A savvy mentor can look at your blog objectively, helping you to draft out where you are now and where you want to be. They can usually tell you a simple plan to get the most out of your existing assets, and help you develop a strong strategy which has been proven to work, to get your business to the best possible place to make more money and optimize your products or services.
You don’t need to choose a mentor like Donald Trump or Alan Sugar to set up a great ongoing partnership. Your mentor should have the following characteristics to bring you the best possible support:
A strong understanding of you and your business
Knowledge of the industry you are operating in
Patience to support you without being critical
An ability to support you to develop a long-term strategy to shape the future of your business.
A great mentor can be found in every industry – they are the people who lead your field of interest, anticipating customer requirements and proactively meeting them. Your ideal mentor will be someone with whom you already have a good relationship, but don’t be wary of approaching leaders in your field and asking them to support you in this role.
Most outstanding people have an equally outstanding person who has acted as their mentor, spurring them on to business success. It’s never too late to learn more, develop your business, and see what else you can achieve!