Friday, December 10, 2010

Hard to Believe

If you aren’t on the Internet these days as a business, it's almost like you don’t exist.

So how is it possible that so many small businesses are still missing the technology boat?

According to the Network Solutions Small Business Success Index, only 50% of small businesses have a website, their online advertising activity has declined by 5% from a year ago and their search engine optimization strategies have declined by 6%.

Why do small businesses have an online presence at all? The survey says that the main reason for one-third of the respondents is to provide customer service. Two in 10 use online technology to get customer leads and 30% say they are trying to build their business’ reputation.

Small business owners who are scratching their heads about why their cash flow is poor or it costs them so much to find new leads should take a look at this data and see if they have some major catching up to do.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Updating Your Website?

Check out this great post, with terrific visuals, from the small business folks at American Express OPEN.

I agree with the commenters: Not only is it a big expense and aesthetic hurdle for many small companies to host a fantastic website, but the bigger problem comes in updating it and keeping it fresh.

If you don't have someone in-house, it usually has to be done under contract and becomes a low priority for the busy entrepreneur.

h/t to my web guru, Paula Johnson, for the link.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Escape the City

It's not just in the United States that frustrated cubicle dwellers dream of owning their own businesses, but it's probably easier to start a viable business here than it is almost anywhere else in the world.

Other countries are following suit, however, and encouraging their citizens toward entrepreneurship.

One online movement I heard about recently is called Escape The City. Started by two ex-city workers, the movement has been encouraging corporate professionals to follow their dreams since their London launch last March.

A recent survey of their 17,500 members showed that 70% aren’t genuinely interested in their jobs and 62% want to start their own businesses. The numbers are roughly similar in the U.S., but in the U.K., 74% of those who wanted to start a business felt that they didn’t have the necessary skills, knowledge or experience to do so.

American entrepreneurs - at least those who write me - are often blissfully ignorant about their own lack of skills and experience. But in some ways, this isn't as bad a state of affairs as it sounds.

Nearly every successful entrepreneur I've interviewed has said that if they'd known what they were in for - the long hours, the steep learning curve, the risk levels - they would never have gotten started. So, in a sense, ignorance and a little foolhardy Yankee confidence may be just what the U.K. needs.

Dom Jackman, co-founder of Escape the City, looks to entrepreneurship to turn around the economic woes of the U.K.:

Our position is that liberating unhappy people from corporate jobs to start their own businesses not only increases the UK’s net happiness levels but will also contribute towards the growth needed to power our economic recovery.

Best of luck to them.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Feast or Famine

This is the rhythm of the freelance life.

After 21 years of self-employment, I've learned that work begets work and vice-versa. One on-hold project turns into another and the downward slide begins. Suddenly, you think about using all your free time to tackle that book you always wanted to write.

And then, assignments start trickling in, the snowball starts rolling, and suddenly, you're piled on two weeks before a busy holiday season.

You learn to roll with it, and be thankful. The upswing always feels better than the downturn.

If, as I've always contended, my work load is something of an early indicator of the economy, things are definitely looking up for 2011.

That book will just have to move over to the back burner yet again. One of these years.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Follow Your Bliss

When my kids were going through the college application/acceptance process, I rejected the idea that they had to get into certain premier institutions or their futures were doomed.

Now that they are both in excellent schools, I stick by my guns on that one.

But how much does your college major truly matter?

Not much, according to an article from the Online Education Database. Check out their “9 Brilliant Business Minds and Their Totally Irrelevant College Majors.”

My brother is a mover and shaker in the apparel industry in New York City these days. But he went through school as an English major and only got into business through a summer job at Macy's when he was in high school.

So, while I tend to think it helps to study something related to what you want to do, it's probably true that dedicated, innovated people will rise to the top of whatever industry they wind up working in.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Your Mug Shot

Have you posted a picture of yourself on LinkedIn and Facebook?

If not, you should. So says a savvy woman and long-time source of mine, PR consultant Linda Hamburger.

Linda wrote me this:

No one cares if you’re a pretty face or not. But I’m starting to hear that people feel non-picture-posters aren’t as “trustworthy” as picture posters. Or, they wonder whether someone who puts up a cute surrogate is immature or has a reason to hide behind a fa├žade.

You may feel a cute surrogate says something about who you are, but these on-line presences create our professional persona to the world. ... In truth, I like to know who is on the other end of the line. We don’t get a voice anymore, some people have terrible typos, why not at least give some sort of hint at what you look like?

Linda's advice echoes some I heard a couple of weeks ago from a Facebook expert. So get that picture uploaded! And make sure it's a professional portrait that puts you in your best light. (I've gotten some absolutely hideous head shots that I can't believe people actually want me to publish!)