By Michelle Rebecca
Some people are under the impression that starting a business requires risking it all by going out on a limb and trying to conquer a huge market. They also assume they’re going to have to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. While ambition is a good thing, the reality is if you’re a solopreneur who’s looking for a reliable way to start generating additional income, you can give yourself a big advantage by starting with what you already know.
For example, if you have a law enforcement or military background, you may be an ideal candidate for starting a private investigator company. Or, if you want to run a business that’s completely online, you could create a site that makes it easy for people to find the best security company in their area by connecting them with companies that have already been verified.
As that example shows, regardless of your background, there will be multiple ways for you to utilize your existing knowledge and apply it towards starting your own business. What’s great about the strategy we’re about to discuss is if you come up with several ideas but don’t know which one is best, you can let potential customers answer that question for you.
Take it for a Test Drive
Thanks to the Internet, it’s easier than ever to test a business idea before fully committing to it. While isolated research can be very useful, there’s no substitute for actually knowing if people will be willing to pay for the products or services that you plan to offer.
If you want to use the same strategy that people like bestselling author Tim Ferriss have utilized to test the viability of their ideas, all you need to get started is a website. While creating a website may seem like a daunting task, you really only need one page to run this type of test. As a result, you can use any free service that makes it easy to create a page online.
The goal of this page is collect contact information from visitors who want to be your customers. The beginning of the page should be focused on your sales pitch, followed by a simple form where visitors can submit their name, phone number and email address. Once someone submits their information, you can display a message that explains you’re still getting off the ground but truly appreciate their interest in your new business.
By driving some traffic to your site through avenues like social media or PPC, you’ll be able to see what kind of interest your idea actually generates. If you’re happy with the results, you’ll know that this is a business you should pursue!
By Tiffany Matthews
There will come a time when you find yourself unable to write, not just for hours at end, but days and weeks. The worst is when those weeks stretch into months. By then, the screen’s cursor constant blinking would become a taunting reminder that you have yet to type words, not even one word. If you’re suffering from a serious case of writer’s block, simple tips to beat blank page syndrome will no longer suffice. Badly burned out and drained of every last drop of creative juice? It’s time to call in the big guns.
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
When a writer friend suddenly announced on Facebook that she was going to unplug and go away for awhile, I was concerned. I wondered what she could possibly be going through. I had my answer when she resurfaced online three long months later. Apparently, she had been dutifully following a 12-week program based on Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. Judging from her relaxed and happier mood, the long break has been helpful in restoring her creativity as well as productivity. The program also helped her get over her major case of writer’s block and gave her more insight on the artistic process.
Some people will not like everything about The Artist’s Way. The long period required to complete the program will not appeal to active writers–who are trying to survive daily life and–who can’t afford to break off from work just for the sake of creativity. There are a couple of things in this book, however, that they can can still do–morning pages and artist dates.
Every day for the next 12 weeks, you have to pen three handwritten pages, all done first thing in the morning during a stream of consciousness, which means you can’t look back at the previous pages you have written. If you’re not a morning person, you might think twice about waking up early for this exercise. You’ll probably wonder how you can write when you’re still drowsy. Once you get started, however, you’ll be surprised to discover clarity and how easily you can fill up 3 pages. When you write, don’t think, just let the words flow. Ramble if you must. When you read the sheets, you’ll find out that your true thoughts–some repressed–and find a way to resolve some of the issues that have been in your mind for a long time. This practice of morning pages also helps transform writing into more of a daily habit and makes the words flow easier.
“Artist Dates are assigned play.” Once a week, you must embark on an expedition alone in order to explore what is of interest to you. It doesn’t have to be overly artistic, but it should fire up your imagination. An artist date should be fun and whimsical, something that encourages play. Art is all about the play of ideas, so open yourself to fun things that you want to try. When we experience something new or something that we enjoy, it helps fuel our creativity and build up another reservoir of inspiration that we can draw from. Artist dates replenish our creative juices, adding new ideas and images that bring us closer to our inner artist and craft new masterpieces.
Sometimes people dread spring, not because they are not looking forward to warmer weather but because it’s time for spring cleaning. Cleaning your house from top to bottom until you drop can be therapeutic for writers and artists, not to mention productive. Just remember to invest in a good vacuum cleaner. The no-handles type can help you get rid of every speck of dust, even in those hidden corners under beds and furniture that you can’t reach. Who knows, you just might get some great ideas while you’re cleaning. Having a sparkly clean house also feels very rewarding especially after all the hard work you’ve put in. The actual spring cleaning helps relax your mental state and makes you feel refreshed. The more relaxed you are, the more your ideas will flow so you can now get back to work.
Spring cleaning isn’t just for the house. Sometimes, we need to apply it to ourselves so we can recharge and welcome new changes that will help us grow as writers and artists.
By Rob James
A few years ago, it was common practice for businesses and Search Engine Optimisation marketers to use automated link building to increase links to their sites, with the aim of boosting a websiteâ€™s PageRank in Google. However, with Google clamping down on â€˜black hatâ€™ SEO strategies in their Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, automated link building isnâ€™t going to do your business many favours; instead, itâ€™s better to focus on â€˜white hatâ€™ and organic SEO to get the most out of search.
Primarily, automated link building is all about quantity, whereby you run software and join directories to multiply the number of backlinks to your page – blog comments, and filling blogs with low quality repeated content could also enable a single website to generate large numbers of links. However, while this might be an effective method for building up a pageâ€™s ranking, automated link building is less invested in getting good quality links from relevant sites, and has been increasingly punished by Google.
The main problem that Google has with automated link building is that it can effectively represent a form of spam – multiple links from low quality sites, or spamming comments boards with links, and posting content with awkwardly placed content distorts the actual relevancy of a page for users. In this context, your business may have a high search ranking, but not one thatâ€™s necessarily made up of the right kinds of associations.
Googleâ€™s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates were consequently designed to prevent PageRank, the main Google algorithm, from being manipulated. Panda has received 24 updates since February 2011, and crawls pages for low quality features and links to duplicate content – the emphasis with Panda is on duplicated and â€˜thinâ€™ content, where the use of links isnâ€™t contextually motivated, and closer to spam.
By comparison, Google Penguin, introduced in April 2012, comes down even harder on automated link building through directories – if you have a portfolio of links that are mostly from link farms and other low quality sites, then Penguin will ignore or rank these links as less relevant. Itâ€™s not perfect, but it means that Penguin is going to punish your ranking if you have too many links from low quality pages.
So, what kind of actions can you take to improve your SEO without automated link building? The most straightforward method is to focus on creating original content, and on getting high quality guest posts on blogs and pages that arenâ€™t going to get singled out by Penguin – while there are ongoing questions about how effective Google can be at identifying the right pages to disregard, itâ€™s clear that businesses will have to spend more time on creating great content.
Itâ€™s also important to optimise existing content and pages, and to ensure that your HTML and CSS on pages is clearly set up to ensure that they can be picked up by search engines; moreover, businesses can do their SEO a big favour by investing in social media content, which can be easily shared and recommended via social toolbars and buttons. The more organic links that you get from high ranking, trusted sites, the higher the chance will be that Google will increase the value of your own website.« go back — keep looking »