Monday, March 30, 2009

Ideas for Starting a Home Based Business

One of the largest collection of home business articles available on the internet. Lots of ideas for starting your own home based business, plus methods for successfully managing, organizing, promoting and growing your own business from the the comfort of your home.

The articles on this page are all authored by Elena Fawkner and are freely available for reprint provided the copyright notice and resource box at the end of the article is left intact.

15 Rules for Success In Your Home Business

Someone sent me an email the other day. Supposedly General Colin Powell's Rules for Success. Now, I don't know whether they really are or not, but as I read them, I thought they really should be called "15 Rules For Success In Your Home Business". So, here they are:

Rule 1 - It ain't as bad as you think, it will look better in the morning

If there's one experience universal to ALL home-business owners, particularly those running a business on the internet, it's the occasional feeling that you're just spinning your wheels, and not getting anywhere. The number of people who give up on their businesses just as they approach the brink of success is staggering. So hang in there and remind yourself, when things look bleak, that tomorrow is another day, things really aren't as bad as they seem and things really WILL look better in the morning.

Rule 2 - Get mad, then get over it

OK, I concede this is more general advice than home-business advice but it applies in your home business just as it does anywhere else. Resentment and unexpressed anger really don't hurt anyone but the person feeling resentful and angry. Have you ever noticed how completely unproductive you are when burdened by resentment and anger? So feel it, express it (constructively) and then move on. As the man said, "get over it".

Rule 3 - Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls your ego goes with it

Over the course of my career I have, from time to time, met people whose identity and sense of self-worth is so enmeshed in what they do for a living that they literally don't have an identity outside of their work. Because they rely on an external source for their self-esteem and confidence, they find it necessary to continually and relentlessly bolster their personal positions, often at the expense of others, often resorting to political maneuvring in the workplace to maintain and improve their supposed 'status'.

These people are the 'empire builders' you sometimes find in organizations. They jealously guard their power base all the while gathering unto themselves more and more responsibility, beyond the point of being able to do everything they take on.

Because their identity and sense of self-worth depends upon their position within their organization, what happens when their position disappears, such as in a corporate downsizing? It freefalls.

Don't let this happen to you. Remember that you are something separate and distinct from your business. Sure, you can be proud and pleased with your accomplishments but don't define yourself through them. Your self-worth is something that comes from inside your human self, not your business.

Ironically, keeping a professional detachment is more likely to secure the ultimate success of your business. Detachment brings perspective, objectivity and clarity, which helps you make better quality decisions.

Rule 4 - It can be done

Don't allow self-imposed limitations to restrict what you can and will do. You can do anything if you set your mind to it. Well, of course, it must be something that is within your power - you can't just set your mind on growing a third arm, for example.

But for anything that is within human power and capability, the saying "where there's a will is a way" is so true.

Get into the discipline of planning your life and where you want it to go. By setting goals and planning the steps that will help you reach them, you can achieve literally anything your heart desires.

Rule 5 - Be careful what you choose, you may get it

Following on from this, it should go without saying that what you set for your goals is something you truly want because if you do practice the discipline of goal setting you will surely get it.

Rule 6 - Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision

Keep your eye on the prize and don't be distracted by what's happening on the sidelines. Sure, you may not have entered the marathon had you known there were going to be 1,000 other runners but does that mean entering the marathon was a bad idea? No.

Make your decisions based on quality information and what's in the best interests of your business. If someone else comes along who represents competition for your business, don't be put off your game. Just run your own race. There's ALWAYS a way to distinguish yourself from your competition.

Rule 7 - You can't make someone else's choices. You shouldn't let someone else make yours

IGNORE your mother when she tells you you're crazy for chucking in your nice SAFE secure little job to start your own business. Follow your dream, no-one else's.

Rule 8 - Check small things

Like the fine print in contracts. Like the URL in that sales letter you've just put the finishing touches on. Like your spelling and punctuation. In other words, pay attention to detail.

Rule 9 - Share credit

You've heard the saying, "no man is an island". No woman is either. Remember and acknowledge the people who have helped and continue to help you get where you want to go. Acknowledge the achievements of others.

Rule 10 - Remain calm, be careful

Frenzy and recklessness are hardly the prescription for long-term success in your business. In the face of unexpected challenges, unexplained downturns in business or failure to achieve the results expected, recognize that these are just part of the thrust and parry of business life and use a calm, methodical approach to the problem.

Don't just react blindly or chuck away all your hard work and try something completely different unless a thorough, calm and careful investigation convinces you that you are completely off-beam.

Calmly analyze your situation and use your intelligence to correct the situation. Sometimes a one degree turn of the wheel is all that is required to get back on course, not a completely new rudder.

Rule 11 - Have a vision, be demanding

This rule goes hand in hand with rules 4 and 5. In order to set goals and plan ways to achieve them you must first set your vision. Think big, be brave. There is nothing you can't achieve so make sure your efforts are going to be for something truly worthwhile.

Rule 12 - Don't take counsel of your fears or naysayers

All of us have moments of self-doubt or even fear when embarking on a journey to an unknown destination. If what you have planned for yourself brings with it feelings of anxiety, nervousness, even fear, pay attention to them but don't take their counsel.

They are symptoms of grand thinking, of stretching beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. As the book says, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Rule 13 - Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier

This rule is closely related to rule 1. Believe that things will work out, that they will look better in the morning, that everything's going to be OK. Repeat the words to yourself as a mantra if you must but instill a spirit of indomitable optimism in your outlook and you will attract success into your life.

Rule 14 - Sometimes being responsible means pissing people off

You can't please all of the people all of the time so don't waste your time or energy even trying. You have a responsibility to the ultimate success of your business and to your own personal success. If that means you occasionally have to say no to people to stay true to your objectives, do it. If it means you have to alienate some people because they don't personally agree with what you are doing, that's their problem.

In other words, stay focused on your plan. If others don't like it or agree with it, too bad.

Rule 15 - You never know what you can get away with unless you try

If you don't ask you don't get. And if you don't take you don't get. Leave nothing on the table. If an opportunity comes along, take it. It may not come again. And remember, in chaos there is opportunity. While everyone else is running around like chooks with their heads cut off, you just bring up the rear and clean up on all the opportunities that are just lying there for the taking among the chicken scratch.

Hindsight truly is 20/20, no doubt about it. Perhaps, like me, you're thinking that if you'd known then what you know now, you would have gone a lot further a lot faster. But as with any form of progress, it's the journey, not the destination, that provides the education and creates the experience and, through it, wisdom. And that's something no book can teach you and money can't buy.

Beyond Startup Are You Stunting the Growth of Your Home-Based Business

If you’ve left the corporate world to strike out on your own in
your own home-based business, you'll be acutely aware that
your financial success is up to you and you alone, perhaps
for the first time in your life. For obvious reasons, therefore,
your home-based business is probably run on a shoestring.

This means, of course, that you do everything. Although you
are now CEO, you are also secretary, marketing director,
receptionist and gopher. But hey, that’s the way you like it,
right?! And when you’re just starting out, let’s face it, you
don’t have much of a choice anyway.

But sooner or later, if you keep doing everything yourself you’ll
necessarily curtail the growth of your business. It will grow to
a certain point but no further because you’re only one person
and there are, after all, only 24 hours in a day. Now, if you’re
satisfied with making a little money on the side, that’s fine.
But if your business is your only source of income, you must
move beyond start-up if you are to become financially
successful and avoid stunting the growth of your business.

This article looks at the growth stages of a typical one-person
home-based business and how to gradually grow your business
without being run over in the process.


=> One-(Wo)Man Band

As already stated, when you first start out, you do everything
yourself. You’re both chief cook and bottle-washer. And you
can continue like this for quite some time because, initially,
you are unlikely to be fully stretched. This is exactly what
you should be doing.

This is NOT the time to go out and spend money with
advertising agencies and hiring employees. For so long as
you CAN do everything yourself and everything that needs to
be done is getting done, this is the most efficient use of your
current resources.

=> Don’t Overcommit Yourself

During this stage, however, it is important to be careful not
to overcommit yourself. You are a fledgling. You must learn
to fly like a sparrow before you can soar like an eagle. So,
when you first start out, underpromise and overdeliver.

Also, don’t embark on an aggressive marketing campaign
until you have the business resources to satisfy the demand
you will create. Let your advertising grow in line with the
growth of your business, the addition of employees and
increased financial capacity.

=> Pay Yourself

Be extremely careful of your pricing during this stage also.
Make sure you include a wage for yourself in your overhead
costs and add a realistic profit margin (say 15-20%).
Remember, price equals costs plus profit margin. Costs
include direct, indirect and overhead costs. For a more
detailed treatment on pricing, read “Pricing Yourself to Get,
and Stay In, Business” (* link below).

=> Profits Belong to Your Business

Plough your profit back into your business. This is most
important. This is where your funds for expansion during
the next growth phase of your business come from. NEVER
use your business’s profits to pay personal expenses. This
is what you pay yourself a wage for. Your business’s profit
does not belong to you. It belongs to your business. There
IS a difference!

=> Avoid Premature Expenditure

During your shoestring days, look for lower-cost substitutes
before incurring substantial expenditure. For example, don’t
go out and buy a new fax machine, a new answering machine,
a new photocopier. Get one of those three in one jobs that
sits on your desktop and only costs a few hundred dollars.

Use a good accounting software program rather than hiring
an accountant and hire from your family first if you need
temporary help. Another good idea is to negotiate with family
members to take over some household chores you would
normally do yourself to free your time to work on your business.
This works especially well with pocket-money age children
and teenagers.

During times of temporary overload, hire temporary staff from
a staffing agency if no family members or members of your
social circle can do the job.

=> The Glass Ceiling

After a while, somewhere between the one year and three
year mark, you will notice that your business is beginning to
stagnate. At this point, you have stretched yourself and your
resources as far as they can go. You have hit the glass

At this point, if you want your business to grow further, you
will have to grow it. It will not happen as part of an evolutionary
process beyond this point.


=> Hire Permanent Employees

The time to hire permanent employees is when you reach the
point where you can’t complete all tasks alone (or with the help
of family members) and/or your time is worth more than it would
cost to hire someone to complete your less complicated tasks.

Before adding employees, carry out an inventory of the
necessary tasks required to operate your business. Once
you’ve identified all necessary tasks, assign primary
responsibility for each task to one person. Although one
person will be assigned more than one task, make sure no two
people are assigned the same tasks.

Also, make sure at least one other person knows how to do
each task to cover yourself during times of staff shortages,
whether due to temporary absence due to illness, or when an
employee resigns and it takes you a while to find a replacement.

Finally, and most importantly, when assigning tasks, assign
yourself the tasks you do best.

=> Capital

To grow beyond the start-up and initial growth phases, you will
need capital to inject into your business. Now this,
unfortunately, is easier said than done. Banks can be leery of
entrepreneurial ventures and venture capital is not easy to
obtain. But, although obtaining borrowed capital is difficult, it
is by no means impossible. Here are the main sources of funds:

* Banks

Cultivate a good relationship with your banker. The more he or
she understands your business and knows you, the more
likely it is that your application will be approved. And this means
more than just fronting up when you need money. Keep your
banker informed of all significant developments in your business
and routinely provide copies of your annual business plans.

Be prepared to demonstrate that your business is capable of
generating cashflow and think about what collateral you have
available to put up if necessary.

* Venture Capital

In addition to a solid business plan and track record, venture
capital providers want to see that you understand your
customers and how your business is a good fit with their
needs. So arm yourself with competitive intelligence and
satisified customers as references. Also, be prepared to
show you have access to experienced management staff.
These individuals need not be on your payroll but you should
expect to show that you have a depth of experience and
talent available to you at least in an advisory capacity.

* Revenue Stream

Instead of selling equity to raise capital, consider selling part
of the revenue of the business. In other words, investors
advance loan capital and get repaid by way of a percentage
of the sales of the business. This preserves your equity in
the business and is attractive to investors because they
receive an immediate cash return.

This method has the considerable advantage of avoiding
securities laws (it is a loan rather than a sale of securities)
but it is only viable for businesses with high margins and
strong sales.

* Angel Capital Electronic Network

ACE-Net brings companies looking for capital together
with angel investors. You can find links to ACE-Net at

* Direct Public Offering

If your business has a strong relationship with its constituents
(employees, customers, vendors and community), consider
selling stock via a direct public offering.

Other miscellaneous sources of funding include 401(k) plans
and provision of loan guarantees by family members or friends.

=> Work On the Business, Not In the Business

The third and final point to note about breaking through the
glass ceiling is that you must make the mental transition from
working IN the business, to working ON the business.

Until your business hit the glass ceiling, you were effectively
working in the business, much as an employee would. In this
sense, the business was your job, a place to go to work. But
beyond the glass ceiling, your business becomes an entity
unto itself. It is no longer your “job” to work at the tasks that
make up the business’s operation. Instead, your role is to
work “on” the business as a separate entity, leaving the tasks
to your paid employees.

Hopefully you can see that shifting your perspective in this
way is the key to the long-term growth of your business and
the difference between true autonomy and indentured servitude.

Branding Your Business

If you think only big corporate names need to think about things
like brand names, think again. Your brand says a lot about you
and your business, and that's as true for a one person home-
based operation as it is for a multinational conglomerate. In this
article we look at how creating a strong brand for your business
can help you set yourself apart from the pack and lay the right
foundation for the future growth of your business.


Your brand is more than just the logo on your letterhead and
business cards or your business name. It is your corporate
identity. An effective brand tells the world who you are, what
you do and how you do it, while at the same time establishing
your relevance to and credibility with your prospective customers.

Your brand is also something more ethereal. It is how your
business is perceived by its customers. If your brand has a high
perceived value, you enjoy many advantages over your
competition, especially when it comes to pricing. Why do you
think people are prepared to pay stupid money for items of clothing
with the initials "CK" on them? Perceived value. Perceived value
as a result of very effective brand promotion resulting in very high
brand awareness.

Now, I'm not saying we all need to rush out and start creating
brands that are going to be recognized the world over. Most of us
simply don't have the time or other resources necessary. What I
am suggesting, however, is that it is possible for your brand to
dominate your niche.


=> Differentiation

We touched on this in the previous section when we looked at
what a brand is and how it can be used to increase the perceived
value of your products and services. The main reason for creating
your own brand is to differentiate yourself from your competition.
New websites are a dime a dozen. So are home-based
businesses. You need to constantly be looking for ways to set
yourself apart from your competition. Your brand can do that for

=> More Effective, Efficient Marketing

Another good reason for creating your own brand is to make your
sales force (even if that's a sales force of one - you) more effective
and efficient.

Imagine if you didn't have to spend the first 50% of your time with
a new prospect explaining who you are, what you do and how you
do it. What if your brand had already communicated that for you?
You can spend 100% of your time focusing on sales rather than
educating your prospects about your business

Another benefit of branding is that the efforts you expend increasing
your brand awareness through promoting and marketing your brand
to your target market automatically transfers to your products and
services. So, even when you're advertising your brand, you're
indirectly also marketing your products and services.


OK, so you're convinced you need to create your own brand.
Where on earth do you start?We saw earlier that your brand needs to say who you are, whatyou do and how you do it.It needs to do all these things at the
same time as establishing your relevance to and building credibilty
with your prospective customers. Needless to say, it is absolutely
essential, if you are to build your own brand, that *you yourself*
have a firm grasp of who you are, what you do and how you do it.
If not, you're going to have the devil's own time getting that
message across to anyone else, let alone establishing your
relevance and credibility.

=> Write A Mission Statement

So, let's start by creating a mission statement. What is the
mission of your business? Obviously you're in business to make
a profit. But making a profit is a byproduct of a successful
business. Focus instead on how you choose to achieve that profit.
What are your core values?

A good place to begin thinking about your mission is to put
yourself in the shoes of your customers. Put yourself in their
target market. Let's say your business is web hosting. If you're
in the market for a web host, what things are important to you?
Different people will be looking for different benefits but you can
bet that they want their website to be accessible to site visitors so
reliability will be high on their list. Price is also likely to be high
on the list as is 24/7 technical support. What about add-on features
such as unlimited email aliases, cgi support and what-not?
These things will be highly important to some and less important
to others. So focus on the benefits that are likely to be highly
relevant to the majority of your target market. Let's settle for our
purposes on reliability, price and technical support.

Your mission statement might read something like this: "I strive
to earn a fair return on my investment of time and money by
providing affordable webhosting with guaranteed 99% uptime and
24/7 telephone technical support". That's a pretty general
statement and if you decide to focus on a particular niche of the
webhosting market, such as small business, you may want to
more narrowly focus on that group in your mission statement.

Now that you've written your mission statement, you can begin
thinking about creating a brand that reinforces and supports your
mission. So, getting back to the fundamental questions of who
you are, what you do and how you do it, you can now begin to
think of your business in these terms. You're a webhosting
provider, you host websites of small businesses and you do that
by offering cost-effective webhosting solutions, guaranteed 99%
uptime and 24/7 telephone technical support.

When you create your brand, you need to keep the who, what
and how firmly in mind but also use the brand to establish your
relevance to your target market and build credibility with that

Let's turn now to the nuts and bolts of creating your brand.

=> Describe What You Are Branding

List out your business's key features and characteristics, your
competitive advantages and anything else that sets you apart
from your competition.

Using our webhosting example, you'll focus primarily on the
objectives from your mission statement namely, reliable, cost-
effective webhosting solutions supported by 24/7 technical

=> Identify and Describe Your Target Market

Decide whether you want to target lthe entire webhosting
community or only a segment of it such as small business
websites.Describe your market.

=> List Names that Suggest the Key Elements from Your

Mission Statement

The key elements from your mission statement were reliability,
cost-effectiveness and customer service. List names that are
suggestive of these elements. Let's use Reliable Webhosting
for our example. (I don't claim to be a creative genius.)

Don't limit yourself to real words, though. A coined name with no
obvious meaning is a perfectly legitimate name provided it conveys
something about your business. You will find coined names easier
to trademark and secure domain names for too - a definite plus!

=> List Tag Lines that Reinforce Your Mission Statement

We'll use: "Outstanding reliability and technical support at a
price your small business can afford". I know, I know. You can
do much better, I'm sure.


=> Create a Logo for Your Brand

Your logo is NOT your brand but your logo should allow your
brand to be instantly recognized by those familiar with it. To
this extent, your logo helps create and reinforce brand

The logo you create should be able to be used consistently in a
variety of different media. It should be suitable for corporate
letterhead and business cards, as well as for your website and
corporate signage (if any). You do NOT want a confusing
mishmash of logos and banners and heaven knows what else.
Everything you produce needs to use the same, consistent
style of logo so that, over time, your logo becomes synonymous
with your brand. Instant recognition is what you're going for here,
so don't dilute it by using several different logos for different

=> Consistent Usage of Company Name, Logo and Tag Line

Going back to our webhosting example, putting the brand name
and tagline together, the physical manifestation of your brand
will be:

Outstanding reliability and technical support at a price
your small business can afford.

To establish brand awareness, this branding needs to be used
consistently and frequently in everything your produce, whether
that be letters to clients, business cards, brochures, quotations,
invoices, advertising, promotion, on your website, on the front
door of your principal place of business and on your products.
And don't forget to be consistent in your use of color schemes.
These can be powerful brand reinforcers.

=> Marketing and Promotion of Your Brand

Once you've created your brand, you need to market and
promote it, in addition to your products and services. This is
how you establish your credibility and relevance to your target
market. You can hopefully see why your brand needs to be
suggestive of your mission statement. If, at the same time as
you're selling your products and services you also push your
brand, your brand becomes synonymous with your products
and services. And vice versa.

A properly descriptive brand and high brand awareness amongst
your target market will allow you to more easily introduce a wider
range of products and services when they're developed without
having to start by again selling who you are, what you do and
how you do it first. Your brand has already presold YOU. Your
job then is to sell your products and services.

Can A Network Marketing Business REALLY Be Run Exclusively Online?

For many people, the words “network marketing” or “MLM”
(multi-level marketing) conjure up images of hitting up your
so-called “warm market” (those two or three hundred people
near and dear to you as well as those unfortunate enough
to have crossed your path at some time in the distant past)
and pleading, cajoling, persuading, arguing and plain
pressuring them to join your program. Or organizing house
parties and presentations to make your pitch to a captive
audience. Or having to approach complete strangers while
standing in line at the supermarket.

Any or all of these options may be unpalatable to you, and
for good reason. They certainly were to me. But what if
you didn’t have to do any of that? What if there was a way
to have people approach YOU to join your business rather
than the other way around? What if you didn’t have to hold
face-to-face meetings at ALL? What if you didn’t have to
make a single approach to someone you know? Or to
someone you don’t? Would you think differently about
network marketing then?

Well, there is such a way. Running a network marketing
business using the Internet.

I’ve heard many people say that it’s just not possible to run
a network marketing business exclusively online. Well, I’m
here to tell you different. Because I’m doing it and if I can
do it, so can you.

Before I tell you a bit more about how a network marketing
business can be run exclusively online, let me clear up a
couple of possible misconceptions. First, running an online
business does NOT mean creating a website and then sitting
back expecting the business to run itself. You will work every
bit as hard in an online network marketing business as you will
in an offline network marketing business. This is just a
different method, that’s all.

Secondly, when I say “exclusively” online, I mean that’s where
your lead generation and prequalification work happens, it does
NOT mean you will never have to pick up a telephone and speak
to a real, live person at the other end.

OK, so what’s involved in running a network marketing business
online then?

The first thing to understand is that network marketing, just
like Internet marketing, is a numbers game. It is for this precise
reason that network marketing is IDEALLY suited to being run
online. Why? Because ANY Internet business is a numbers
game. Just ask anyone with a web site what their focus is when
their web site is up and running. It’s traffic. It’s getting as
many people to their web site as they can because somewhere
in the range of 2% - 4% of site visitors will click on a link that,
in some fashion or another, can generate revenue for the web
site owner. Of those 2% - 4% of visitors who click on the link,
however, only 1% or so of THEM will go on to buy after clicking
on the link. Ergo, with such tiny response rates, high traffic is
the name of the game. The same principle holds true for your
network marketing business.

At its core, network marketing is a simple business. It’s all
about generating leads, qualifying those leads and then
following up with those qualified leads until they take the action
you want them to take (or tell you to stop) - either purchasing
product from you or joining your downline as a productive


How do you generate leads? This depends on your starting
position. If you already have an established web site and
your network marketing business is a natural fit with that
existing site, then you will not need to do too much in the
way of additional lead generation for your network marketing
business other than including a link to your network marketing
company’s web site from your existing site.

But if you don’t have an existing web site, you’re going to
have to start from scratch. You’re going to need to create
a web site (on a subject matter of interest to people who
would also be interested in your network marketing business
opportunity or products), link to your network marketing
company’s site from that web site, submit your site to the
search engines (and employ all the myriad other ways of
driving traffic to it) and you’re going to have to start
publishing an ezine (electronic newsletter) on a relevant
subject and on a regular basis and build a sizeable subscriber
list (again using a variety of different methods).

To generate significant traffic to your site and subscribers to
your ezine is going to take time. Lots of it. Months, in fact.
You should probably allow a year before it’s at a size that will
make much of a difference.

In the meantime, you’re going to have to generate leads in
other ways. The two primary effective methods are paid
advertising (both for your network marketing business
opportunity and the products your business promotes) and
you can pay for leads.


Unlike the traditional, offline ways of generating leads for a
network marketing business, by definition, the leads you
generate online are prequalified. For example, if you’re trying
to generate leads offline, you’re talking to everyone you can
at every opportunity. You may be speaking with someone
ahead of you in line at the bank or supermarket, a young
mother you run into when picking up your kids from school,
and any other number of people you come across in your day
to day activities.

The problem is, as you have no idea whether these people
are even remotely candidates for your opportunity, you can
waste a LOT of time talking with people who are poor prospects
for your business.

On the other hand, if you’ve created a web site on a topic
of relevance and interest to the people who would also be
interested in your network marketing opportunity, by definition
your web site visitors are prequalified as, because they have
sought you out, they are likely to be interested in at least
learning more about your opportunity.

Placing paid advertising and paying for leads are other ways
of qualifying leads. What these methods all have in common,
however, is that the lead COMES TO YOU, you don’t go after
them. If someone makes contact with you wanting to know
more about your opportunity, it’s all of a sudden a LOT easier
to pick up a phone and call them isn’t it? Or to send them
information via email if that’s what you and they prefer.


The other big, big advantage running a network marketing
business online offers is the ability to automate your follow-ups.
Every time someone contacts you for information about your
opportunity, add that person’s email address to your list of
prospects and then periodically send follow-up messages to
that list. By employing autoresponders (software that allows
you to send prewritten follow-up email messages to defined
email addresses on a periodic basis), this process can be
completely automated, leaving you free to spend your time
on generating leads rather than administrative tasks.

As you can see, running a network marketing business exclusively
online is not an overnight project and it requires a LOT of work,
consistency, persistence and commitment. But it most certainly
can be done. If you’re serious about making serious money from
an Internet-based business, network marketing is the way to go.
It’s where the big, secure money is. But to earn big, secure
money, you need to invest big too. You need to invest time,
money and sweat equity into building your business.

Fortunately, however, network marketing online offers one other
HUGE advantage over starting any other sort of online business.
An upline. If you join a network marketing program that’s suited
to being run online (and some aren’t, by the way), AND you join
up under a sponsor who is part of a team that specializes in
running the business exclusively (or near enough exclusively)
online, you will have at your disposal a wealth of experience,
expertise and tools you will be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

So, think about it. If you’re looking for a way to make money
from your computer and you had, until now, thought network
marketing wasn’t for you, maybe you should think again.
Network marketing coupled with Internet technology and an
upline who knows what they’re doing when it comes to running
a business online could very well be the answer to the financial
independence riddle you’ve been looking for. Just don’t expect
it to happen overnight. There are no magic wands in this
business just as there aren’t anywhere else.

Checklist For The New Home-Based Business

So, you've decided to take the plunge and start your own
home-based business. Congratulations! You're on your way
to true financial independence. Protect your business and
your livelihood by making sure you have paid proper
attention to the following:

1. Cash Flow

Do you have adequate working capital to support your
business (to support you!)during its early stages? Have you
started your business part-time while continuing to work
full-time to make sure it is a viable income producer for
you and that income is adequate for your needs? DON'T give
up your day job until you can give an unequivocal YES to
these questions.

2. Business Licensing

Have you obtained all necessary licenses and registrations
for your business? Do you comply with your local zoning
regulations? This is especially important for both legal and
insurance reasons if you expect to have clients visit your
home office.

3. Insurance

If you expect to have clients visit your home office, have
you taken out insurance in case they are injured on your
premises? Your normal homeowner's insurance will NOT cover
business visitors unless you notify your insurance company
that you are operating a business from home and the insurance
company endorses your policy to include this risk.

In all other cases you should take out a separate policy
to cover your business visitors. In this regard, whether
you comply with local zoning regulations may be important.
Your insurance company may refuse to cover you if you are
conducting your business illegally. For these reasons it
is imperative that you obtain all proper registrations and
licenses for your business.

Another type of insurance you should take out is public
risk insurance. No matter the nature of your business,
if you are dealing with other people (and what business
isn't?), you should have public risk insurance to cover you
in case of a claim for negligence.

A third type of insurance to consider is income protection
insurance. If you have made the transition from paid
employment to self-employment, you no longer have the
benefits that went along with your paid job which may have
included disability or income protection insurance. You will
need to purchase this cover for yourself.

4. Benefits

Once you have left the paid workforce, you may find that you
have also left behind your medical, dental and optical
benefits. You need to make sure you purchase adequate
insurance for these expenses.

5. Accounting and Tax Advice

The best time to seek accounting and tax advice is before
you start your new business. Your accountant will be able
to advise you about things such as the most tax-effective
structure for your particular business and what types of
expenses you can claim against your business income. It is
important to obtain this advice at the beginning of your
business venture so you know exactly what records you should
be keeping and whether it is best for you to purchase or
rent capital equipment such as your computer.

6. Time Management

Make sure you have thought through how you will deal with
the day to day distractions that will come up when you work
from home and plan accordingly. For example, if you know
you will not be working from 3:00 pm until 8:00 pm because
this is the time between when your children return from
school and when they go to bed, try to schedule as many
non-business activities for this time period as possible
rather than taking breaks during your business hours. Need
milk? Get it when you're out picking the kids up from
school, not at 11:00 am because it's easier than starting
that new webpage. Remember, self-discipline is your best
friend and vital when working from home. Procrastination,
on the other hand, is your greatest enemy.

Working from home is the dream of many. Don't let that
dream turn to ashes by overlooking the "basics" of sound
business and risk management.

Choosing the Right Home Business For You

Pay any attention at all to your email inbox and you'd be
forgiven for thinking that the only way to run a business
from home is on the Internet. Sure, many people are
running spectacularly successful Internet-based home
businesses. Many, many more are doing so even more
spectacularly unsuccessfully.

But what if you're not interested in running an Internet
business? What if you want to start and run a home
business the old-fashioned way? Where do you start?

Actually starting any home business is the easy part.
The hard part's deciding what that business should be.

So how do you even start the process of deciding on the
right home business for you? The key is to be methodical,
realistic, objective and patient.

Step 1 : Personal Inventory

The first place to start is to inventory your skills,
experience, interests, and personality characteristics.
These are what you have to work with - your raw
ingredients, so to speak.

Make a list of personal qualities and factors that you can
throw into the mix. Include things like:

=> your personal background;
=> training and education;
=> work and volunteer experience;
=> special interests and hobbies;
=> leisure activities;
=> your personality and temperament.

All of these qualities and factors make up what you know
and what you're good at.

Step 2 : Identify What You Like

It's one thing to know a lot about something or be good at
it. It's quite another to enjoy it enough to want to make it
your life's work. So, remove from the list you created in
Step 1 anything that you don't really, really like doing or
which plain doesn't interest you. No matter how good you
are at it. If you're lucky enough to like what you're good at,
as a general rule, stick with what you know.

Step 3 : Match Your Likes With Marketable Activities

If Steps 1 and 2 still haven't suggested feasible home
business ideas, review the following activities that have
proven marketable for others and weigh them against
your "likes" from Step 2:

Crafts - pottery, ceramics, leadlighting
Health and Fitness - aerobics instructor, network marketing
for a health products company, home health care
Household Services - cleaning, gardening, shopping
Professional Services - attorney, architect, interior
Personal Services - make-up artist, hairdresser
Business Services - business plan writer, meeting planner
Wholesale Sales - antique dealer, dropshipper
Retail Sales - children's clothing, widgets
Computers - web design, internet training.

You get the idea. This is not an exhaustive list, obviously.
You can visit the AHBBO Ideas Page for a list of over 500
home business ideas at .

Step 4 : Make a List of Business Ideas That Fit With Your
Likes From Step 2

By the time you're done, you'll have a hitlist of possible
matches between your skills and interests on the one
hand and home business ideas utilizing those skills and
interests on the other.

Step 5 : Research

Armed with your list from Step 4, identify those ideas that
you think have marketable potential and then research
whether that belief is accurate. In order to have
marketable potential, the idea must satisfy the following

=> It must satisfy or create a need in the market. The
golden rule for any business is to either find or create a
need and then fill it.

=> It must have longevity. If your idea is trendy or faddish,
it doesn't have longevity. Go for substance over form in
all things.

=> It must be unique. This doesn't mean you have to invent
something completely new but it does mean that there has
to be some *aspect* of your product or service that sets it
apart from the competition. This is easy if you go for the
niche, rather than mass, market. Don't try to be all things
to all people. You'll only end up being too little to too many.

=> It must not be an oversaturated market. The more
competition you have, the harder it will be to make your mark.
It's unrealistic to expect no competition, of course. In fact,
too little competition is a warning sign either that your business
idea has no market or that the market is controlled by a few
big players. What you want is healthy competition where
it's possible to differentiate yourself from competing

This all gets back to uniqueness. If you can't compete on
uniqueness, you must compete on price (or convenience).
If you're forced to compete on price alone, that just drives
down your profit margin. Not smart business.

=> You must be able to price competitively yet profitably.
The price you set for your product or service must allow
you to compete effectively with other businesses in your
market, it must be acceptable to consumers and it must
return you a fair profit. If any one of these three is off,
move on.

=> Your business must fit with your lifestyle. If you're
a parent of young children and you primarily want to start
a business from home so you can stay home with them,
a real estate brokerage business that requires you to be
out and about meeting with prospective clients is obviously
not going to work.

You'll instead need to choose a business that can be
conducted entirely (or near enough entirely) from within the
four walls of your home office. Similarly, if your business idea
would involve having clients come to your home, you're not
going to want an unruly 3 year old underfoot as you're trying
to conduct business.

=> Your financial resources must be sufficient to launch and
carry the business until it becomes profitable. No business is
profitable from day one, of course. But some are quicker to
break even than others. If your business requires a
considerable initial capital outlay to start - computer, printer
and software for a web design business, for example - it will
take you longer to break even than if the only prerequisite
was the knowledge inside your own head, such as working
from home as an attorney.

If your financial situation is such that you can't afford to quit
your day job until your business is paying its way, this, too,
will mean it will take longer to break even than if you're able
to devote every waking hour to your business. Just do what
you have to do. That's all any of us can do.

Step 6 : Business Plan

Once you've gone through the above process and identified
what appears to be the right business for you, the final "gut
check" is to write a business plan for your business, much as
you would for a presentation to a bank for financing. Include
sections for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats,
and set goals for what your business needs to achieve for
you, by when, and how you are going to get there.

There are plenty of good resources online about how to
prepare a thorough business plan. A great place to start is
at ( Just type "business
plans" into the search box.

Although it may seem like a waste of time and effort to
complete a business plan if you don't intend to seek outside
financing, taking the time and exercising the discipline needed
to really focus your mind on the important issues facing your
business, you will be forced to take a long hard look at your
idea through very objective and realistic eyes.

If your idea passes the business plan test, then you can be
reasonably confident that this is the right business for you.
If you come away from this exercise feeling hesitant,
uncertain and unsure, either do more research (if the reason
for your hesitancy and uncertainty is lack of information) or
discard the idea (if it's because you don't think your idea is
going to fly). If this happens, just keep repeating Steps 5
and 6 until you end up with an idea and a business plan that
you're confident is going to work!

Although it's frustrating to wait once you've made up your
mind to start a business from home, this really is one situation
where the tortoise wins the race. By taking a methodical,
systematic and disciplined approach to identifying the right
home business for you, you give your business the best
possible chance for long-term survival, hopefully avoiding
some very expensive mistakes along the way.

Creating A Professional Image For Your Home-Based Business

Like it or not, there is still a segment of the population who
will erroneously conclude that you and your business are
less than professional and competent just because you run
your business out of your home.

Dumb? Obviously. Narrow-minded? Yes. Wrong? Absolutely.
Unfair? No question. Want their business? Well ... yes. OK,
then you're going to have to play the game and beat them at it.
Here's how to do it. It's a little sneaky, but hey, all's fair in love
and home-based business.


The name of the game is creating the right image ... employing
a few harmless fictions, in other words. First off, incorporate
or register a fictitious business name. Nothing screams
"PROFESSIONAL!" to Potential Client as an honest-to-
goodness corporate or business name on your letterhead and
business cards. Never mind that anyone can spend ten bucks
and register a DBA, it at least *looks* professional, and that's
what counts.


The next problem you have with Potential Client is that
you don't want your home address to give you away.

What do you think looks more professional in Potential
Client's eyes: 123 Cherryblossom Way, Apt. 103, Suburbia
or 123 Major Blvd, Level 37, Big City?

The answer is a serviced office. These don't have to cost a lot
of money if you use them pretty much as a post office but they
CAN give your business all the big-city prestige your potential
client is looking for. You can also use a post office box for
this purpose but many a Potential Client will be on to you in a
flash. They didn't just fall off the turnip truck, you know. (Right.)

An additional advantage is that you can use your serviced
office to meet with Potential Client. After all, the last thing
you want is to have him coming to your REAL office. Heaven
forbid! Most serviced offices will make meeting rooms available
for a flat fee.


This is probably the trickiest part of all. How do you know
it's safe to answer the phone in your home office even though
the sounds of your young children playing just outside your
office door will be heard by the caller? You simply don't.

There is a simple way of dealing with this. Only give your
home office number to existing clients. They already know
you are professional and competent and should therefore
have no issue with the fact that you work from home.

For anyone else, give out the number of an answering service
that will answer the call in your business name and can tell
callers that you're in a meeting with another client and take
a message. Your serviced office will offer this service as well.
You can then return the call at a time when you know
tell-tale background noise won't give you away.

In fact, a trick some people who work from home use when
returning calls is to run a tape of office background noise.
This both gives the impression you are working in a large
office AND it masks any slight tell-tale household noises that
may, despite your best efforts, give you away.

Once Potential Client becomes an actual client and you've
proved to his satisfaction that you are professional and
competent, you can tell him that you've decided to start
working out of your home to reduce unnecessary overheads
and give him your direct phone number.

No matter how enlightened your client-base is as a general
rule, it is imperative that the telephone be answered in
a businesslike manner. I don't care how sympathetic,
supportive and admiring your clients are of your decision to
balance your work and family commitments by running a
successful business from home, there is nothing cute
about a five year old answering your business line. It's
unprofessional, not to mention downright annoying.

So have a separate phone line for your business and
lay down the law to your household that no-one, NO-ONE,
is to answer it but you (unless, of course, you're employing
your teenage children in your business in which case they
should be instructed on how to answer the telephone in a
professional manner). If you're away from your office,
divert your calls to your answering service.


Something else to think about is the image of your email
address. Which is Potential Client to consider more
corporate/professional: or

It's worth spending $35 a year on your own domain name
just for the professional email address, even if you never
intend to create a website. Mind you if you're going to have
your own domain why NOT create your own website? But
that's another article ...


It goes without saying that your stationery, business cards
and other promotional materials should reflect a professional
image. If you have incorporated your business or registered
a fictitious business name as recommended earlier, this is
a good start. A company or business name on letterhead and
business cards can't fail to convey a professional image
provided they are professionally printed on quality stationery


There's no point having quality stationery if you're going
to use a cheap and cheerful inkjet printer for your
correspondence. Invest in a medium quality laser printer
instead. They don't cost a lot of money these days and
you can get a unit that triples as a fax machine and
photocopier for only a few hundred dollars.

So, what do you think? You may be thinking "I wonder
whether it's really worth the effort to try and please just a small
number of potential clients". Is it worth it? Well, look at it this
way. Are these suggestions really anything more than basic,
common sense, professional business practices? Regardless
of what your potential and existing clients may think about
the concept of businesses run out of their owners' homes,
first impressions DO count.

Financing Your Home Business

So, you have a great idea for a business and, more importantly,
the know-how to bring it into creation. The only thing you’re
missing is the cold hard cash to get started. What are your

Assuming you don’t have a ready line of credit, an expansive
bank manager, wealthy relatives or a substantial stash of
retirement savings you’re willing to risk, you’re going to have to
do some serious homework and legwork. Fortunately, there
are a number of sources of finance for the fledgling small business
entrepreneur, at least one of which may be right for you.


Available only to U.S.-based businesses (but look for similar
programs in your own country if you’re outside the U.S.), the SBA
(the U.S. Small Business Administration) has assisted thousands
of entrepreneurs start their own small businesses. The SBA
doesn’t issue grants (money you don’t have to pay back) or make
loans directly, rather, it guarantees loans made by private lenders
thereby reducing or eliminating the risk inherent in new business
ventures and making lenders more willing to lend.

The primary consideration for the SBA is repayment ability from the
cashflow of the business as well as “good character, management
capability, collateral and owner’s equity”. You will be expected to
personally guarantee your loan. This means your personal assets
are at risk.

As for the types of businesses eligible for SBA loans, the SBA
imposes the following criteria: the business must be “for-profit” (all
that means is that your business has a profit motive, not that it
has actually generated a profit yet), be engaged in business in the
United States, there must be “reasonable” owner equity (what’s
reasonable will depend on the circumstances) and you are expected
to use alternative financial resources first, including your own assets
where practicable.

The SBA also imposes limitations on the use of loan proceeds.
For example, although the proceeds can be used for most business
purposes (the examples given by the SBA include “the purchase of
real estate to house the business operations; construction,
renovation or leasehold improvements; acquisition of furniture,
fixtures, machinery and equipment; purchase of inventory; and
working capital”), you can’t use the loan proceeds for financing
floor plan needs, to pay existing debt, to make payments to the
business owners or to pay delinquent taxes etc.

As a general rule, loans for working capital must be repaid within
seven years and loans for fixed assets must be paid for by the
end of the economic life of the assets (but not to exceed 25

Interest rates are negotiated between the borrower and the lender
but the SBA imposes maxima which are pegged to the Prime

Finally, the SBA charges lenders a guaranty and servicing fee for
each loan approved, and there is nothing preventing the lender
oncharging these fees to the borrower. The guaranty fee for a loan
of $150,000 or less is 2% of the guaranteed amount; over $150,000
but below $700,000, it’s 3% and above $700,000 it’s 3.5%. The
annual servicing fee is 0.5% which is calculated on the then-current
loan balance.

Where the borrower meets the SBA’s credit and eligibility
requirements, it will guarantee up to $85% of loans $150,000 and
less and up to 75% of loans above that amount (up to a maximum
of $1,000,000).

For more information about the various SBA loan programs, visit
the SBA website at


At present, there are no U.S. government grants offered for small
business. If you're outside the U.S. check with your own
government about the availability of small business grants. You
never know!

Various corporate grantmakers make grants available for small
business though. For more information, visit .


Angel investors are good souls with a healthy sense of self-interest.
Figuring they can get a higher return if they’re prepared to take a
bit of a risk, they’re also often successful entrepreneurs themselves
and want to give their fellow travellers a hand up.

Think of funding from an angel investor as a bridge or gap-filler
between being a start-up and qualifying for venture capital. The
kinds of dollars we’re talking about here are between about
$150,000 and $1.5 million. Beyond that point you’re in low
venture-capital territory.

The SBA estimates that there are around 250,000 angels in the
U.S., funding about 30,000 companies a year. So, how do you
hook up with one? Not an easy task, unfortunately. It comes
down to networking. Start by talking to professional and business
associates - they will often know someone who knows someone
etc.. Also, check out ACE-net if you’re prepared to sell a security
interest in your company. It’s an internet-based listing service for
securities offerings of small, growing companies. The website is


You’re in the big leagues now. Generally you’re in the ballpark
of millions (of dollars that is) rather than thousands. Venture
capital firms look for their return on investment from capital
appreciation rather than interest (unlike banks, for example).
They’re generally looking for a return of 500-1,000% on exit.

It won’t surprise you to learn that venture capitalists are particularly
leery of internet-based businesses right about now and not
surprising. It also serves them right. But if you have a solid
business plan and strong growth potential, this could be an option
for you longer term.

One of the common concerns about this form of financing, however,
is that you may have to part with an unacceptable amount of
control over your own business. In return for their risk, venture
capital firms will usually want some control over how the business
is run and a say in business decisions. A venture capitalist will
expect a seat on the board, for example.

It’s important to remember, though, that it’s in the venture
capitalist’s best interests for your business to succeed, so giving
up some control in exchange for outside expertise may well be
something worth thinking about.

To find venture capitalists, get a hold of “Pratt’s Guide to Venture
Capital Sources” for a listing of 1,500 or so including names,
contact details and areas of interest. Of course, you'll find no
shortage of information online as well.

For most readers of this article, your best bet would be to start
out by investigating the various loan programs offered via the SBA
(or your country’s local equivalent). But don’t overlook more
obvious, close to home sources first. If you have family funds at
your disposal (for example) and you’re confident that your
business will succeed (and unless you're confident about that, don't
get into debt with *anyone*, let alone family members), better to
start out slow and ease into outside sources of financing as your
business (and, more importantly, your business’s cashflow) can
support it. After all, Uncle Jack is much more likely to be
understanding about the occasional cashflow crunch than Uncle

Flipping the Switch ... How to Turn Off Your
Business and Turn On Your Life

So, you work from home. Good for you! No boss looking over
your shoulder, no wasting time commuting to and from the office,
no-one setting your hours for you or telling you what to do. No
one to care if you're wearing your rattiest clothes or don't take a
shower before 10:00 am. And how about no life and no time for
yourself while we're on the subject of what you don't have any
more? Sound familiar? If so, read on.

Escaping the regimented structure imposed upon you by the
corporate world may have been one of the driving forces that
prompted you to seek a way to work from home. One of the
often-overlooked advantages of such a structure, though, is that
it IS a structure. It has limits, it places you at a certain place at
a certain time, and it dictates what you will spend your time on.
In other words, it establishes boundaries in your life. The
boundary between work and home, work and play, on duty and
off duty, company time and your time. You could leave work at
the end of the day and your time was your own.

Sure, you may have had other obligations but at least your work
was confined within the boundaries of a workplace and a workday.

Working from home, for all its advantages, can sometimes have
the disadvantage of removing the boundaries between work and
home, work and play, work time and your time. For some, the
problem may manifest itself as a tendency to procrastinate when it
comes to work activities or a lack of personal self-discipline may
become unavoidably obvious. For such people, the formalized
structure of a workplace separate from the home may suit them
better than the independence and autonomy of a home business.

This article, though, is concerned with those at the other end of the
spectrum. Those who have absolutely no difficulty at all in motivating
and disciplining themselves to work from home. So much so that
their home business literally takes over their entire lives.

In my time online, I've heard many people say that they sit at their
computers for 18 hours a day working on their businesses.
Oftentimes, they will still be working at 3:00 am and go to bed at
7:00 am for a few hours before getting back in the saddle. They say
this as if it is something to be proud of. I don't know about you,
but working from home, when and if I am finally able to achieve it on
a full-time basis, will be first and foremost a lifestyle choice.

By that I mean I expect my decision to work from home will result
in an enhancement of my lifestyle in that I won't have to commute
for over an hour to get to and from work each day, if I want to start
at 5:00 am and finish for the day at noon I can do that. If I want to
work all weekend and take two days off during the week I can do
that too. I can choose the projects I want to work on, I can retain
the rewards of my own efforts and I am answerable to no-one but
myself. Although I understand that I will work as hard or harder
at home than I do at the office, I certainly have no intention of
merely exchanging one form of prison for another.

So, it perplexes me that some people seem to think it is a Good
Thing to shackle themselves to a desk for 18 hours straight and
break only to snatch a few hours sleep before starting all over again.
But, if that's how they want to live their lives, that's entirely their

But what of those who want more balance in their lives but find
they simply can't 'flip the switch' on their home business so that
home becomes a retreat again once the workday is over? If this
is you, here are six suggestions to help you turn off your business
and turn on your life.

1. Confine business activities to an exclusively "work" room

If possible, confine your business activities to a certain area of the
house, preferably a room that is exclusively used by you as your
place of work. The advantage of a room as opposed to an unused
corner of the living room is that when work is done for the day you
can literally and symbolically shut the door on it. Out of sight, out
of mind. If you don't cordon off your work area in this way, you
will be reminded of work whenever you enter the living room. Even
though you may not be physically engaged in work, you will still
be mentally engaged and that's the same thing.

2. Separate communications systems

Have separate communications systems for home and work. That
is, you have one telephone for home and one for work. The same
for fax machines and any other forms of communication. When
you are working, you should have your home answering machine
on. When you are home, you should have your work answering
machine on.

3. Establish a routine and structure similar to the workplace

As stated earlier, the structure and routine of an external workplace
has the advantage of allowing you to leave work behind at the end
of the day. By establishing a routine and structure similar to a place
of work, you can still benefit from this advantage. Now obviously you
don't have to be as regimented as you would be if you worked in a
corporate office.

You don't have to start at 9:00 am, work till noon, take a one hour
lunch break and then work through until 5:00 pm. You can set
whatever routine and structure you like. The important thing is to be
disciplined in sticking to your routine, whatever you decide it is. If
you prefer to work from 5:00 am through 10:00 am and then from
2:00 pm through 4:00 pm that's fine. This structure allows you to
enjoy the hours from 10:00 am through 2:00 and after 4:00 pm as
your own. There is room for flexibility here. Work however is most
productive for you but stop once you get to the end of your allotted
work time. If you haven't finished what you started, then pick it up
again in work time. Don't allow 'your' time to be encroached on by

4. Minimize distractions and interruptions

By implementing suggestions 1., 2. and 3., you will also be
establishing an environment where distractions and interruptions are
minimized. For example, if you have school-age children, by scheduling
your work time to coincide with their school time, you will minimize the
distractions and interruptions you will inevitably face if you try and work
while they're at home. By having separate communications systems,
you won't be interrupted with calls on your home phone while working
(your answering machine should be getting these calls so you can
return them on "your" time). By having an exclusively "work" area
in your home, and making sure that other members of your household
respect this space for what it is, you can help others remember that
when you're in your room you're working and are not to be interrupted
for things that can wait until you're "home" again.

5. Rituals

Rituals can play a useful role in flipping the switch at the end of the
workday. For example, you may already have a routine that sees you
working until 6:00 pm, the time your partner returns home from work.
Perhaps you share a glass of wine together at that time. Why not
think of your shared glass of wine as an "end of workday" ritual. By
making a habit of doing this, your mind will soon learn to associate that
glass of wine with the end of the workday and flip the switch on work
in automatic response.

Another idea is to wear a certain item of clothing while working so that,
when you take it off at the end of the work day, you mind makes the
connection between its removal and the end of work time. A baseball
cap, a particular pair of shoes, whatever it is doesn't matter.

6. Plan to take days off and vacations

Finally, when establishing your routine and work schedule, don't
forget to schedule days off and vacations. And make sure you take
them. You may decide to take Saturdays and Sundays off, or your
"weekends" might be Tuesdays and Wednesdays or Mondays and
Fridays. Whatever works in best with your lifestyle, do it.

The same goes for vacations. Don't underestimate the rejuvenating
effect of taking a week off entirely. Not only is it good for your overall
health and mental wellbeing, you will probably find that you are that
much more productive when it comes to getting back to work for having
taken a true time out.

Hopefully you can see that working from home does not have to
mean turning your home into a place of work. Working from home
as a lifestyle choice should mean that the quality of your life is
enhanced as a result of your decision, not diminished. By practising
these simple disciplines day-in and day-out you can be sure that
even though you are taking care of business, you are also taking care
of something even more important in your Life.

Growing Your List

So, you're ready to launch your own newsletter. You've heard that
a newsletter (or ezine) is a great way to stay in touch with site
visitors and to develop an opt-in list of your own to promote your
products and services.

OK, so far so good. And you have your first issue ready to go.
"Go where?" , I hear you ask. Good question. Who are you going
to send it to?

Which leads us to the topic of this article. Subscriber generation.
We're going to look at how to get the message out that your
newsletter exists and how interested readers can ask to receive it
(how subscribers can subscribe).

Fortunately, there are many ways and places to publicize your


Announcement lists are, in theory at least, email lists that people
subscribe to who want to know about new lists (whether they be
discussion lists or newsletters). Why "in theory"? Quite simply
because a lot of people wanting to generate new subscribers to
THEIR lists subscribe because you have to be a subscriber
yourself in order to announce your list. Nonetheless, you will
still generate a steady trickle of new subscribers from these lists.

You will find these lists will bring in quite a lot of subscribers initially
but gradually the rate of new subscribers from these sources will fall
away so you can't rely on them alone. Most of these lists allow
repeat postings, usually once per week but check the rules for each

Here's the list of announcement lists AHBBO is regularly
submitted to. Before being able to submit your newsletter to
these lists you'll need to subscribe first. Just go to Yahoo
( or Topica (
to sign up for the lists you want to be able to submit to. (Onelist
and Egroups are now under Yahoo):


The next place to list your newsletter is in the myriad of
directories devoted to exactly that. These will bring in fewer
subscribers initially but will be important to the longer-term
growth of your subscriber database as they represent a source
for a slow but steady subscriber influx.

First, make sure your newsletter is listed with New-List.

This is the famous Internet Scout Project and will commonly
generate a major flood of new subscribers. An initial haul of over
200 is not uncommon for some lists. You may only announce
your list once to this list but your announcement is archived on
the New-List site and you are permitted to announce changes to
your newsletter. Purely "business opportunity" list announcements
are likely to be rejected but the moderator seems to have a
somewhat inconsistent approach to what constitutes a bizopp list
so give it a try anyway.

Next, go to JimWorld's Top 1000 Submission Sites Directory
and submit your newsletter to as many
of the places listed there that apply to the subject matter of your
newsletter. Although the site refers to site announcements, most
are also good places to list your newsletter as well. Obviously it
will take you quite a time to get your site listed at all these places
but it will pay off over time in the form of a steady stream of
subscribers in the longer term.

Then, for good measure, make sure you are listed in the following
directories (where applicable). Some of these may already be
included in the Top 1000 Submission Sites Directory but are
mentioned here again for the sake of completeness. Not all of the
sites listed below are "directories" as such. Some are just
outstanding resources that will assist you with subscriber


An often-overlooked method for initial subscriber generation is
offering a free ads for new subscribers. You will not start accepting
paid advertising until such time as your subscriber numbers support
it (certainly not fewer than 1,000 subscribers). There is no reason
though why your subscribers should not get used to seeing ads in
your newsletter and by offering free ads for new subscribers (for a
limited time), you will find you can generate quite a few subscribers
this way.

My initial batch of subscribers came from those wanting to place
a free ad in AHBBO. I listed my newsletter with Ruth Townsend's
Directory of Ezines and immediately
started receiving free ad requests. By including a free ad reference
in your announcements (see Announcement Lists), you may find this
helps you generate more initial subscribers.

It is NOT recommended that you make any reference to free ads
in the submissions you make to Directories (see Directories)
because these are a more permanent listing of your newsletter and
you don't want people asking for free ads in six months' time after
you have stopped accepting them.


In addition to making use of Announcement lists and Directories,
there are a few other forms of free publicity that will help you
generate subscribers both initially and over the longer term.

=> Article submissions

By writing articles and submitting them regularly with a resource
box that refers to your newsletter, you will generate subscribers
when other publishers run your article in their newsletter.

Each article you submit must contain a resource box that tells the
reader who you are, what your newsletter is about and how to

On a number of occasions publishers of newsletters with extremely
high subscriber numbers (over 250,000 in one case) have run my
articles. It is not uncommon to receive over 200 subscribe requests
immediately following an article appearing in one of these
high volume newsletters. So, the point is, writing and submitting
articles for use by other publishers is an excellent way of generating
new subscribers.

There are plenty of places to submit your articles. To find them,
just pretend you're a publisher looking for content for your newsletter.
Use search terms such as "free content" etc. and you'll turn them

=> Signature files

Another way to generate a steady trickle of new subscribers is
to include a blurb about your newsletter and how to subscribe
in your signature file and include it at the end of every email you
send to anyone about anything. These can be particularly useful
if you regularly contribute to discussion lists or newsgroup
discussions provided the lists and newsgroups have some general
relevance to the subject matter of your newsletter.

=> Ad swaps

Swapping newsletter ads with other newsletter publishers is a
good way of generating new subscribers provided your target
audiences are complementary. You can generate ad swaps by
including a notice in your newsletter that you welcome them
or by actively seeking out other publishers who accept ad swaps.
There are a number ad swap lists around specifically for this

=> Publicizing Your Newsletter

Once you have an established newsletter with several hundred
subscribers you should publicize your newsletter in as many
places as you can, whenever you get the opportunity.

One way is to try and get your newsletter reviewed. A good place
to get reviewed is at There are many
others too so look around. Many of the directories you list your
ezine with have a rating system and if you can get yourself rated
highly you will usually merit a higher ranking in the directory. So,
invite your subscribers to rate your ezine. Another good way to
publicize your newsletter is to submit your original articles to some
of the many websites that collect articles available for reprint by
other publishers. It seems that there is no shortage of publishers
who prefer not to create any original content for their newsletters
so, if you do create original content, there's a ready-made market
for it! By ensuring that your resource box contains a blurb and
subscribe info for your ezine, every time another publisher runs
your articles, they are also running an ad for your newsletter. Do
this consistently and you will become known in your field of
expertise and this in turn will attract subscribers (not to mention
advertisers and website visitors).

=> Joint Ventures/Co-Ops

Joint ventures or co-ops with other publishers are perhaps THE
best way to generate new subscribers over the longer term. The
trick is to team up with another publisher who publishes an ezine
to a target audience complementary to your own.

Under this type of joint venture arrangement, you provide a
mechanism for subscribers to your ezine to subscribe to your joint
venture partner's ezine at the same time. And your joint venture
partner does the same for you.

This is not the only way to run a joint venture though. For example,
you may choose instead to recommend your joint venture partner's
ezine in your welcome message to new subscribers. Or to have a
link to your joint venture partner's sign-up page at your website.
Whatever works for you is fine.

Co-ops can extend beyond a simple reciprocal subscribe arrangement
too. Contests are a great way to generate new subscribers. In
principle, it works like this. Several ezine publishers get together and
put together a package of prizes. One may offer a free copy of an
e-book, another may offer free advertising in their ezine, another may
offer a free web design consultation.

Each participating publisher lets their subscribers know about the
contest in their welcome message as well as publicizing it in their
ezines. Interested subscribers can then go off and register for the
contest at one of the publisher's websites. It is a condition of entering
the contest that the subscriber signs up for the other publishers'
newsletters, the other publishers thereby gaining an additional

Every month (or whatever frequency is specified in the contest rules),
each of the publishers draws one winner. Each subscriber has x
number of chances to win each month with x representing the
number of publishers participating in the contest.

=> Remind Your Subscribers to Recommend You

Once you generate sufficient subscribers, you will find that a lot of
new subscribers sign up as a result of a word of mouth
recommendation from one of your existing subscribers. Although
this kind of traffic will be kind of slow to start with (it's a numbers game,
after all), beyond a certain point, say 2-3,000 subscribers, you will find
that this becomes an increasingly frequent way for new subscribers to
find you. So be sure to remind your existing subscribers to recommend
you to their friends, family and associates!

=> Pay Per Subscriber Services

There are several excellent pay-per-subscriber services available
now. Expect to pay between 10 and 20 cents per subscriber
depending on whether it's single or double opt-in. A good service
is WorldWideLists (

By implementing these strategies, you will have laid the foundation
for a constant and steady flow of subscribers to your newsletter.
Once you get to that point, all you have to do is concentrate on
keeping them. And that simply means producing a quality
newsletter, week in and week out.

How Do I Start A Home Business?

From time to time (at least once a day actually) I'll get an
impossible-to-respond-to email that says something like,
"How can I work from home?", or "I want to start my own
home business. Please send info." or even, "Please send
free info.". Naturally such vague, generalized requests are
not, for reasons of time (among others), going to elicit a
particularly helpful response but it does exemplify the
mindset of a proportion of my site visitors - they think they
want to start a home business but where on earth do they


The best advice I can give to someone who asks a question
as vague as this is that they're asking the wrong question.
The first question they should be asking themselves is:
"SHOULD I start a home business?", not HOW do they do so.

The person who asks how to start a home business has not
given much, if any, thought to what they might do as such
a business (otherwise, their question would be "How do I start
an errand service home business?" or "How do I start a gourmet
gift basket home business?").

So, first things first. Why do you want to start a home
business? What are the advantages as you see them?
What are the disadvantages? What entrepreneurial qualities
do you bring to the table that make you think you could
make a success of your own business? What is your plan?
What product or service will you market? Who are your
customers? When will you give up your day job? Are you
thinking about this because you just LOST your day job
(if so, warning bells should be ringing very loudly!)? A home
business is most definitely NOT for everyone and it's
certainly not a solution to unemployment per se.

There are financial considerations too, obviously. How will
you support yourself until you generate a profit? Where will
you obtain financing?

For more thought starters, read "Look Before You Leap ...
Is a Home-Based Business REALLY For You?" in the AHBBO
Articles Library at .

Assuming you work your way through the above considerations
and conclude that you do, indeed, want to start your own
home business, then, and only then, should you ask "HOW do I
start a home business?"

There are as many answers to this question as there are
individuals who ask it. There is no one answer that fits all
sizes. Generally speaking, however, the process of starting
one's own home business can be broken down into seven
broad steps.


If you're truly starting at ground zero and you don't already
do something on the side that you'd kind of like to see if
you could make fly, your first step is to decide what it is
you'd like to do as your business.

I'm a firm believer in following your passion, whether that
be for gardening (start a herb and spice business or
cultivate cuttings for distribution via mail order), lead-
lighting (design and create stained glass lampshades),
accounting (run a home-based small business accountancy
service) or website design. It doesn't matter whether
other people are equally as passionate about what
you're passionate about. It's YOUR passion that counts
and it's YOUR passion that will propel you towards
success. Do something you love to do in other words.
Make your work your joy and you won't be able to help
but succeed.


Now, it's one thing to know what you're passionate
about, it's quite another to identify an unmet need in
that field. But that's what you must do if you want to
turn your passion into a truly profitable business venture.

Identifying your niche is a pretty straightforward

1. Identify your general category and sub-category

Let's say your general passion is gardening. Gardening is
your general category. Let's also say that you're
particularly interested in growing herbs and how they
can be used for cooking and medicinal purposes. Herb
growing is your sub-category.

2. Hang out with people interested in your sub-category

In order to identify unmet needs in your sub-category
(step 3.), you must find out from people interested in
your sub-category what they're looking for that they
can't find. A good way to find out is to hang out where
they hang out - offline and on. Offline, you may belong
to a local gardening club or cooking class at which you
hear that so-and-so has been looking high and low for
a certain type of specialty herb that isn't commonly
grown in your country. Online, you may sign up for
mailing lists and hang out in newsgroups to listen to
what people are asking time and again.

3. Identify unmet or under-met needs in your sub-category

If you follow step 2, chances are, if you hear the same
things repeatedly, you've found potential unmet needs
or needs that aren't being adequately serviced by your
competition. After all, if the need is being met, it won't be
the subject of repeated questions.

4. Inventory your experience, interests and competencies

In order to decide what to focus on in particular out of
a group of potential unmet or under-met needs, take account
of your experience, interests and competencies. People are
generally good at what they enjoy and are interested in,
after all.

5. Fill the unmet or under-met need

Once you've identified the unmet need(s) in your
sub-category, you can start thinking about how your
business can fill that unmet need.


At this stage, you need to take your business idea
and survey your niche market and your competition.
If you have competition, can you be better? If your
market is dominated by a few large, well-established
players and you really don't bring anything new or
different to the table, then the competition is probably
going to be too stiff. On the other hand, if that
competition is focused on the high end of the market
leaving the lower end largely uncatered for, then this
could well be an excellent niche for you.

The bottom line is to identify your best competition in
your niche and decide whether you can be better.
Only if you believe you can be the best in your
niche should you proceed. If not, keep looking until
you find a niche perfectly suited to your particular
blend of experience, interests and competencies in
which you can be the absolute best.


Once you've identified your niche and surveyed your
market and competition and are reasonably confident
you can be at least as good as your best competitor,
it's time to get down to brass tacks.

This is where you take your business idea and shape
it into a battle plan. Formulating a business plan is
goal-setting for your business. For a more detailed
treatment of writing a business plan, read
"Putting the Plan Back Into Your Business Plan"
at .

Once you've thought through and recorded your
business plan you should have an extremely
thorough understanding of your industry and the
challenges you must overcome to make a success
of your business. Take your business plan and
establish objectives, goals (which support attainment
of the objectives) and tasks (which support attainment
of the goals).

Put your tasks and goals into action to achieve
your objectives. Decide where you want your business
to be in five years time and work backwards until
you have 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 year objectives and goals
to support them and tasks to support the goals. The
end result should be a daily to-do list of things that
will directly lead you closer to the achievement of
your goals and objectives.


Once you have your daily to-do list, DO IT! The best laid
plans of mice and men are useless if not translated into
action. It's action that will propel you and your business
towards success. Mere thoughts and plans are necessary
but insufficient. They must be translated into activity.


If possible, transition from whatever you're doing now
into your business. Test the waters, in other words.
If you're currently in a paid job, stay there and run
your business part-time, taking the risk on someone
else's nickel until you can be confident this thing's
going to float. Know when you're better off devoting
your full time and attention to your business (i.e.,
know when an hour of your time is worth more when
spent invested in your business than your job) for
that is the time to shift into full-time entrepreneurship.


Finally, make the leap with faith and courage. Sure,
you'll have moments of self-doubt, thoughts of
"can I do this?" when you're wondering where the next
order's going to come from and you think back to the
nice, safe, secure paycheck you used to be able to
count on in your job. But recognize these insecurities
for what they are. They are your mind playing tricks
on you. You can do anything you set your mind to.
You just have to want it badly enough. So, when the
time comes to make the leap, do it and hold nothing
back. Your success or failure is up to you alone.
There are no excuses.

So, in answer to the question "how do I start my own
home business?", it's quite simple really. You do what it

The 10 Most Popular Myths About Running A Home-Based Business Online

Several weeks ago I finally took the plunge into the world
of network marketing. I had been running an online business
for almost three years by then but knew that I would
have to make the leap to network marketing at some point
since it was such an obvious fit with Internet marketing.
And I haven't been disappointed.

One thing did surprise me though -- the number of people
who approached me about my network marketing business,
interested in running their businesses exclusively online, but
with the mistaken belief that it would be somehow easier
and less expensive than establishing and running a home-
based business offline.

Well, let me tell you, there's nothing easy or inexpensive
about running a home-based business - online or off. The
Internet is just a different way of going about it. And that's

Here's my top 10 myths about running an online business
(and in answer to the missing Myth#11, NO, you CANNOT
run a serious online business with WebTV - get a REAL
computer already).

MYTH#1 - It's Easy, Anyone Can Do It

FACT - It's not easy, by any stretch of the imagination,
and no, you may not be able to do it.

Reality is, establishing an Internet business is a long, slow,
frustrating process. Your first attempt at creating your
own web site will be an abomination. You'll look back
at it in 12 months and shudder. I know I did.

You'll feel utterly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of
information you need to absorb. And the fact that six
different "experts" each tell you six different things
doesn't help. (There are no "experts", by the way, just a
lot of people with a lot of opinions. Bottom line? Do what
works. For you.)

The only way to learn is by trial and error. Some days you'll
feel like you're on a roll, the next you'll feel like you're
backsliding and FAST. No sooner do you manage a
respectable ranking on Altavista, than your Yahoo listing
disappears altogether, and where the hell did that number 5
listing with Google go?

After spending an ENTIRE DAY trying to work out what's
going on with your search engine listings, giving up, going
searching for yet another "expert" to tell you what you're
doing wrong, finally realizing there is no such expert and
you're going to have to learn how to do it all yourself after
all (dammit to hell!) you suddenly realize that you've done
absolutely nothing all day to promote your business and you
still have to write the article for this week's ezine which has
to go out tomorrow but you can't work your business
tomorrow because you have to go work at your J.O.B. ....

Many, many people, give it up. Most, probably. It's hard
work and it's frustrating. At the end of the day, most are
just not prepared to do what it takes.

MYTH#2 - I Can Get Wealthy Overnight

FACT - The only way to get wealthy overnight in this world
is to win the Lotto. Period. It will NOT happen on the
Internet. Not these days, anyway.

MYTH#3 - Once I Build My Website I Can Relax And
Let It Do the Work For Me

FACT - Hah. See Myth #4.

MYTH#4 - Once I Build My Website The World Will Beat
A Path To My Door

FACT - No. It won't.

Merely creating a web site and uploading it to your host's
server means that your web site is available for viewing by
*those who know it exists*. Only problem is, you and your
web host are the only ones who know. And even your web
host doesn't care (at least as long as you pay your monthly
hosting fees).

You now need to submit your site to the search engines
(no, they will not just find it automatically and no, your
web site is not just automatically added to some great
universal Index once it's uploaded). Then you have to wait
several weeks or months to find out whether it's been
indexed. And if by some miracle it has, where and for what
keywords. And then fix it.

In the meantime, you have to drive traffic to your site via
other means. You'll need to submit it to directories,
negotiate reciprocal links with other complementary web
sites, start publishing a weekly ezine (electronic newsletter)
and start promoting that to start developing your own
opt-in list, start writing articles and submitting them wherever
you can (including a link to your site in the resource box at
the end is good free advertising) and, shudder, advertising.
And not in the FFAs and free classifieds either. In other
people's ezines. On other people's websites. In the
classifieds section of newspapers (yes, the kind that leaves
black stuff on your fingers when you read it). All of this
costs money. Plenty of it. If you're running a network
marketing business, you're also going to need to pay for leads
during this period as well.

MYTH#5 - I Don't Have To Spend Money To Market My

FACT - Yes, you do.

You wouldn't expect to be able to market an offline business
without financial outlay. Well, guess what? It's just the same
in your online business. See Myth #4.

Oh, and by the way, when you're re-reading Myth #4, keep
this in mind. You haven't made a dime yet.

MYTH#6 - I Can Put the Whole Thing On Autopilot And
Make Money While I Sleep (Or Vacation)

FACT - True. To a point.

By automating as many of your tasks as possible you
necessarily free up time to do other things. You COULD
use that time to sleep or vacation and you MAY make money
while you're sleeping or vacationing. THIS time. But you
must sow before you can reap and if you're not continually
planting and growing your business, the time will come in the
not too distant future when you have nothing left to
harvest. You'll wake up one morning and find that, far from
filling your inbox with overnight orders, your business has
bitten the dust.

So, instead of taking that freed up time and spending it
sleeping or vacationing, spend it working your business.

In other words, you'll get out of your business precisely
what you put into it. Just like anything else in this world.
Funny about that.

MYTH#7 - I Don't Have To Deal With People, I Can Do
Everything Via Email

FACT - Email is what you use to handle routine administrative
issues and a tool to get prospective customers or networking
partners to contact you. Once that happens, you take the
relationship OFFLINE. You get on the phone and actually
TALK to these people. The Internet is not an iron curtain
that protects you from having to have real life conversations
and relationships with people. It's just a tool that brings you
together so that the real work of establishing relationships
can begin. Offline.

MYTH#8 - I Will Be Able to Fire My Boss And Work Where
I Want, When I Want ... In Six Months Or Less

FACT - Don't give up your day job just yet.

MYTH#9 - When I'm Working For Myself From Home In
My Online Business I Will Be Able To Spend As Much Time
With My Children As I Want

FACT - When you're running a business you're running a
business. It's not a pleasant little hobby that you fit in
between the stuff of your REAL life. If you're not going
to run your business as a business, forggeddabouddit.

MYTH#10 - The Internet Is A Magic Wand

FACT - See Myths#1 through #9.

When Do I Start Making Money and Where Does It Come From?

I received an email during the week from a reader of a
recent article "The 10 Most Popular Myths About Running
A Home-Based Business Online"
( That article was,
I admit, something of a vent which was long overdue and
it struck a chord with many readers who wrote in to let
me know that it described their experiences to a T.

One Internet-experienced reader wrote: "People ask the
most amazing questions, such as 'I put up a web site.
When do I start getting money and where does it come

Amazing but true. I kid you not, I get emails like this all
the time. They're what prompted the article in the first
place. So, in this article, rather than venting, I'll be a little
more constructive and actually answer the question: Just
how exactly DO you make money on the Internet?

1. The simplest - join an affiliate program (hell, join LOTS
of affiliate programs) and spend your time and money
advertising and promoting it to drive traffic to the you-beaut
self-replicating website every other affiliate gets. A la

This is a VERY inefficient way of trying to make money
online. And it will cost you a fortune before it yields a
return. If it ever really does. If you're VERY lucky, you
MIGHT just cover your costs.

(If you don't know what an affiliate program is, read
"Affiliate Programs ... A Not THAT Easy Start To Your Own
Online Business" at

2. Create a content-based website, get traffic to it and use
it to promote your affiliate programs. The trick here is to sign
up for affiliate programs related to the subject matter you
choose for your website. The idea is that, by creating
a content-based website, you will attract targeted REPEAT
traffic, thereby increasing the odds that someone will buy
one of your affiliate program products. This is a MUCH better
option than #1. and will save you a fortune on advertising.

3. Create a content-based website, get traffic to it and use
it to sell your own products. Anything that can be
delivered digitally is a good bet - software, e-books etc.

4. Do #3. above and establish your OWN affiliate program so
other people can also sell your product in exchange for a

Be sure to give them a you-beaut self-replicating website in
case they're following plan #1. Hey - just because it won't
pan out for them doesn't mean you still can't get the benefit
of their hard work. After all, if you have several hundred
affiliates, that's several hundred sales for you if each of them
only makes one sale. And best of all, your army of affiliates
is each spending a fortune on advertising so YOU don't have
to! And just think what a valuable learning experience all of
this is for them. You went through it so why not them, right?
In fact, they'll probably end up THANKING you one day!

(OK, I'm getting a LITTLE facetious here, I admit. Back to
being constructive ...)

5. Create a content-based website, get traffic to it and
make your site visitors pay for access. You have to give
them SOMETHING for free, of course, but keep the goodies
on the top shelf.

6. Publish an ezine (electronic newsletter) and when you
get 1,000 subscribers, start charging for advertising.

7. Do #6. above and create a website "home" for your ezine
and include links to your affiliate programs/own products.

8. Do #7. above but make it a content-based site with
stand-alone value with the intention of converting website
visitors to ezine subscribers. Then revisit #6. Increase
your advertising prices as your subscriber numbers increase.

9. If you have some special skill or training that you are
employing in an existing business, create a website as a
brochure for your services and attract business.

10. Do #9. above but make it a content-based website
with the intention of converting site visitors into clients.

11. Join a network marketing company, create a content-
based website to attract qualified leads and then link to
your network marketing company's website.

12. Do #2. through #6., #8. and #11.. ALL of them. At
the same time.

These are several of the main ways of making money on the
Internet. I'm sure I'll receive mail letting me know of other
obvious methods that I've overlooked. But you get the idea.
Note that not a one of them involves slapping up a website
and then sitting back waiting for $20 bills to spew forth
from the CD-ROM drive. ALL of them require hard work in
order to yield a return so, if you're one of the growing
army determined to "make money with your computer",
decide how you're going to go about it, roll up your sleeves
and prepare to work.

Writing for the Web

When researching this week’s article, I went looking for
resources related to “writing for the web”. I found a great
deal of useful information, which I’m going to share with you
in a minute. But in my travels, I came across this little gem
from the website of a professional writer, no less, trying to
sell me on why I should use his services if I want to make a
good impression on my website visitors:


“Today's readers and Web browsers demand frankness and
verisimilitude, so your written communications require exacting
professional integrity with accurate and adequate research.

"For concrete, colorful and dynamic written material that willfully
attracts customers, Bob Tony* will work with you to develop
unrivaled written communications for your marketing materials,
grants, newsletters, Web site, or other publications and articles.
To ensure your writing tasks with pacesetting presentation and
unparalleled, consistent editorial power, give your deadlines to
Bob Tony*.”

* Name changed to protect the ostentatious and largiloquent.

Good grief. “Verisimilitude”? I had to look it up. I’m sure you
all know what it means but in case there’s another ignoramus out
there besides me, it means “the quality of appearing to be true or
real”. How ironic. “Willfully” attracting customers? And does
that last sentence even make sense?

Consider that a shining example of how it’s NOT done (writing for
the web, that is).

Before we get to *how* to write well for the web, a brief pause
to consider *why* it’s important to do so at all. The reason is
that the Internet is an information medium. As a general rule,
people are looking for information about something when they
come online. You have to supply some of the information sought
by part of that market (i.e., your target market) if you want your
share of traffic to your website. You do that by creating quality
content. In order to create quality content, you need to be able
to write for the web. Is writing for the web really all that
different from writing generally? Yes. And here’s why.


The first thing you need to understand is how users read on the
web. Unlike reading a book, online readers scan, or skim, the
page, looking for particular keywords relevant to the subject
about which they are interested. They don’t start at the top of
the page and work their way down, reading every sentence.

Some other things you need to know about your typical site
visitor (let’s just call him Sam to make it easier): Sam detests
hyperbole. Nothing turns him off faster. So keep the marketing
hype to a minimum and instead make your content objective
and somewhat restrained.

Sam is also an impatient sod. He’s going to quickly scan the
page (as we've seen) and he’s going to rely on your headings
and subheadings to orient himself. And he doesn’t want to have
to hunt for your point. Give it to him upfront. Also, because
Sam really hates this, avoid lengthy webpages that make him
have to scroll to keep reading. And keep the whole thing short
and to the point besides. If you don’t, he’s out of there in five
seconds flat.

So, now that we understand a little bit about Sam, what can
we do to capture his attention and keep it long enough to give
him what he wants?


To help Sam scan your text and find what he’s looking for quickly,
highlight keywords and phrases (either by bolding, using color, a
different font effect, whatever will catch his attention). Make
sure you use meaningful subheadings, i.e. ensure your subheading
makes sense without having to read the text below to put it into

Avoid lengthy paragraphs and make sure each paragraph deals
with only one idea. Instead of long paragraphs, use bulleted lists
containing short, high-impact sentences.

Another crucial point is to use the “inverted pyramid” principle.
This just means that you state your conclusion or most important
information up front, and then use the rest of the body of your
text to elaborate and explain. Kind of like a newspaper story.

And because Sam hates to scroll, break your text into logical
stand-alone sub-parts of no longer than a single page (or
screen) and then link (with a meaningfully-worded link) to the
next section which starts on a new page.


Make sure your writing is not woolly. You need to write with the
precision of a surgeon wielding a scalpel. No superfluous words
allowed. Write for effect, by all means, but get to the point and
fast! In other words, be succinct.


Nothing gets that mouse finger itchier than the perception that
the author of the work lacks credibility. The top three culprits
are hyperbole (avoid marketing hype at all costs and go for
restrained objectivity instead), typos and grammatical errors.

Sam likes to think you’ve done your homework too so make sure
you include links to reputable sources elsewhere on the web (but
not too many or you risk losing him for good).


One of the major differences in writing for the web compared to
other forms of writing is the inherently impersonal nature of the
medium. Instead of holding a comfortably reassuring book in
his hands, or getting black smudge on his fingers from the
newspaper, Sam’s only contact with you is your words on a
computer screen. You need to overcome the impersonal nature
of the medium if you expect to reach Sam with your words. It
is for this reason that “write as you speak” is so much the norm
on the Internet.

Be informal and conversational in your writing (note, this is NOT
a license to churn out shoddy, unprofessional work- writing
conversationally and informally is every bit as demanding as
writing formally, if not more so) and be personal while you’re at
it (use “you” and “your” a lot). Most importantly, allow your
personality to come through. You need to connect with Sam
before he will invest in you so make sure you reach him with
your writing.


Finally, just because it’s less comfortable to read from a computer
screen than a book or newspaper doesn’t mean you can’t make it
less uncomfortable. Choose the font you use with care. Times is
a common default font for a lot of web pages but it doesn’t
“pixellate” well. Better choices are Arial or Verdana.

Consider your choice of color and contrast carefully too. A dark
font on a light background is best for lengthy reading sessions but
a light font on a dark background can be effective if used

So there you have it. Some relatively quick and easy steps
you can take today to make it more likely Sam will get your
message. And come back for more.

Year In Review

Here we are at the start of another month, the final month
of this year and, so some say, the final month of the
millennium. (Not to be pedantic but this in fact is not true.
The final month of the millennium is December, 2000 but I

Traditionally, the first of the new year brings with it
resolutions for the coming year. Do you even remember
your resolutions for this year? Even if you do, did you
keep them?

I am not a particular fan of new year's resolutions. I
believe we should be constantly taking stock of where we
are in our lives and continuously looking for ways to
make improvements. This should most definitely not be
a once-a-year activity, to be forgotten about by the
end of January.

But there is something about the end of a year and the
promise of a new one that lends itself particularly well
to stocktaking. So, as we enter the final month of 1999,
take a moment to look back at all you have accomplished
during the course of the year.

Think about all aspects of your life: work/career, business,
family, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, financial,
material, educational and any other aspect that has meaning
for you. What accomplishments have you achieved in each of
these areas? Write them down. Did you launch your own
business this year, even if part-time after your day job?
Congratulations! That was a big step and an even bigger
commitment. Or perhaps you've been in business for a while
but this year you made a profit. What about family? Did
you set aside regular time for yourself and your partner?
Did you maintain a regular exercise routine and nourish your
body with nutritious food as a general rule? Did you
invest your money wisely, obtain another qualification or
start a course of study? Write it all down, no matter
how small or insignificant it may seem to you at this

Now look back over your list of accomplishments for the
year. I'll bet there are quite a few. Take a moment to
reflect on all you have achieved and give yourself a big
pat on the back. It's so easy to forget all of the things
you have achieved unless you consciously stop and take
stock of them.

Now how do you feel about the year just gone? Did you make
the most of your opportunities? Do you feel proud of all
you have accomplished? If so, consider this. You did all
of that without regular stocktakes during the year. Just
imagine what you could achieve next year if you built on
your accomplishments this year AND took regular stocktakes
on your progress each month.

Here's how to do that. Take your list of accomplishments
for this year. These will form the basis of your lifeplan
for the coming year. Where do you want to be in all areas
of your life at this time next year? What do you need to do
in JANUARY in each of those areas to take a step along that
road? Write it down. Plan to do that in January. Then,
towards the end of January, do the same thing for February.
Towards the end of February, do the same thing for March,
and so on. As you carry out these monthly review/planning
sessions, also measure your progress against your yearly
objective to make sure you're on track to achieve your
longer-term goals in each area of your life.

By adopting this practice, you bring a conscious awareness
and discipline to every area of your life. No longer
following a random path, you have determined your destination
AND a route to get you there.

Once that is clear in your mind, all you have to do to
attain the life you want is to follow your lifeplan and keep
your eyes and ears open. After all, you never know when an
opportunity is going to present itself to you. Just make
sure you can recognize it when it does.

Your Online Business's Greatest Asset

One of the most common questions I get asked goes
something like this: "I've just signed up for your xyz program
and it's great. But now I want to start making money by
selling it to others. How do I find people to sell it to?"

The stock-standard reply goes like this (regular readers
of AHBBO will recognize the following words from last
week's Q&A segment):

"First off, what everyone needs to understand is that this
business is a numbers game. Something like 2-3%
(estimates vary) of all people who read your ad will respond
to it. Of these respondents, a similar percentage will
actually buy from you. So, as you can see, the name of the
game is to get your ad in front of as many pairs of eyes as

"It is for this reason that spamming is such a problem.
People come to the realization that this is a numbers game
and, when they do, the uninformed conclude that all they
have to do is bombard their message to as many people as
possible and 2-3% of 2-3% will yield sales in sufficient
numbers to make it worthwhile. This approach does have some
superficial logic to it, of course, which is why it seems to
appeal to so many.

"What the rest of us understand, however, is that this
approach simply doesn't work. Most people will not only not
even open your message (we all develop a spam radar very
early on) but won't deal with you in any shape, manner or
form because these tactics paint you as a charlatan. In
addition, of course, spamming is downright illegal in many
countries and parts of countries.

"So, how do you, legitimately, get your ad in front of the
numbers of eyes you need to generate a fair return on your
investment? One approach, certainly, is to post your ads in
the free classified sites. Superficial logic dictates that
it's sensible to see whether your free ad generates a
response before spending money for paid advertising. Well,
your free ad WILL generate a response. Unfortunately, it
probably won't be the kind of response you're hoping for.
Usually, you'll just wind up on some spammer's mailing list
or find your autoresponder bombarded with other people's
advertising messages.

"The reason for this is simple. Who do you know who goes to
the free classified sites when they're looking for a
business opportunity such as the one you're promoting? Not
many. The reality is that the vast majority of people who
frequent the free classified sites are those who are placing
their OWN free classified ads!

"So, what's the answer? It's threefold. The first is
something to get going with right now. The second and third
are longer term investments in your business that will yield
results over the longer term.

"Firstly, when you're just starting out, you're going to have
to rely on paid advertising to generate all your enquiry.
This means spending money on paid ads in ezines that target
your target market. You need to write a few different
classified ads and monitor the results, tweaking your ads,
one element at a time, until you have one ad (or a few) that
consistently generates good enquiry for you.

"Once you're at that point, you can begin to start
advertising aggressively, confident that your ad "pulls".
Be prepared, also, to reinvest your profits back into
advertising. This is how to build a serious business.

"Secondly, and longer-term, create your own website. The
traffic to your website is a rich source of prospects since
these people are already obviously highly interested in what
you have to offer since they've sought you out.

"Thirdly, develop your own list. This means capturing the
email addresses of your site visitors. You do this by
inviting them to leave their email address with you so you
can stay in contact with them about developments at your
site of interest to them.

"Also, supplement your website with a newsletter that people
can sign up for at your site. By establishing and developing
relationships with your site visitors and newsletter subscribers,
you are investing in your own highly targeted list of people
who are likely to be very interested in the programs you are
promoting not only now but in the future.

"This is the basic approach to running a business online.
Don't be concerned if you're not generating quick sales at
this stage. As you can see it takes a LOT of time, effort
and commitment. The good news is that your investment will
pay off over time."

The focus of this article is the third step of that process:
developing your own list. As suggested above, there are two
main ways to go about doing this. The first requires that you
have your own website. The second doesn't.


If you have your own website, you need a way to capture the
email addresses of your site visitors. Now, "capture" doesn't
mean using some devious means of tracking email addresses
without the knowledge of your hapless site visitor, if such a
thing is even possible. What it means is directly inviting your
website visitors to provide you their email address so you can stay
in contact with them, let them know about changes to your
site and let them know about new products and services that may
be of interest to them.

Your likelihood of success or otherwise in getting people to give
you their email address is directly related to one thing and one
thing only: the content value of your site. If your site is barely
more than a sales page for all of your various affiliate programs,
don't expect people to give you their email address. Why should
they? What have you given them of real value that would make
them think that you may have something of even more value to
talk to them about in the future?

To the contrary, your visitors are likely to be disappointed and
annoyed to find that, despite the promising description in your
search engine listing, your site is nothing more than a collection
of affiliate programs they could have found from any one of a
thousand or more sites they've been to this week.

So get the foundation right before you start to build your house
and way before you start inviting people over. Take the time
to create a website that is unique, that has REAL content
and which offers visitors something of genuine value. This
takes REAL work and REAL effort and REAL time. That's
because you're creating a REAL business!

Once you have created a real website with real content,
then, and only then, should you invite visitors to leave you
their email address for future contact purposes. You will, of
course, establish and adhere to a privacy policy for your
site to govern the uses to which any email addresses will
be put. In particular, you must keep those addresses secure
and confidential and never EVER reveal or otherwise make
them available to any third parties.

Over time you are going to amass a significant number
of email addresses. These addresses are your "list".
Once you have a "list", you have a ready-made group of
qualified prospects to whom to market your existing and
future product range.


Publishing your own ezine is the other main way of
cultivating your own list. This option doesn't require that
you have a website (although it is recommended you do

Although you may not have a website, the same comments
about quality of content that were made in the context of
websites apply equally in the case of an ezine.

It is only if you publish an ezine with quality content (and
this means a LOT more than publishing a couple of
articles written by other people with a few ads thrown in
for good measure) that you will attract and, more importantly,
retain, subscribers.

Your ezine then becomes the vehicle to communicate
any offers you want to make to your list. Because you
have been communicating with your readers week in, week
out, because you deliver consistent quality content, and
because you've been around for a while and seem to know
what you're talking about, your subscribers get to know you
and trust you. And that makes any purchasing decision
much easier.

Some publishers add anyone to their subscriber list who
makes contact with them. Others only add subscribers who
specifically request to be subscribed to the ezine. It is this
latter group who will cultivate the better quality list because
the average interest level of subscribers will be much higher.

If you intend to accept paid advertising in your ezine, you
should definitely stick to the strictly opt-in version. Advertisers
will only pay for highly targeted lists that get results. Sure,
you may make the first sale but what you want is repeat
advertising and this depends on your advertisers getting good
returns from the ads they place with you.

There are many ways to make a decent income from an
online business but none of them come with shortcuts.
Because online marketing is a numbers game, you must
somehow find a legitimate way to get your message before as
many pairs of eyes as possible. But as we've all heard
many, many times before, it takes an average of seven
exposures to your message before someone will make a
purchase decision.

Sure, if you spend sufficient money you can generate enough
exposures to make the sale. THAT sale that is. But then you
have to start all over again to make the next one. You lose your
investment of time, money and energy as soon as that one ad
campaign is over.

The point to take away with you is that, as well as being a
numbers game, internet marketing is as much a relationship
game. By cultivating your own opt-in list you have created an
established bank of pre-qualified, targeted, interested prospects
who know you and trust you. You'll find that your response rate
will be much higher than from a cold-start ad campaign in someone
else's ezine. But it's not easy. It takes a lot of work, time and
effort to create a quality list. And so it should. You're building a
business, after all.

So treat your list like gold. It's your online business's greatest
asset. Besides you, that is.

Elena Fawkner is editor of A Home-Based Business Online ... practical ideas, resources and strategies for your home-based or online business.

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