Monthly Archives: March 2017

Some Ways to Finance a Start-Up Business

If you have been in the market recently seeking some type of financing for a new, start-up business, you are probably a little frustrated by now.

The thing is: Banks and most other non-bank or private lenders just do not lend money to start-up businesses. That is just the way it is.

They claim that the risk is just too high and their regulators or investors agree with them.
In fact, very few businesses last more than three to five years – the typical loan term for a standard business loan.

But, just like many businesses before you, there are ways to finance your new start-up:

First – always look to personal assets or personal means. Now, I know that you don’t want to hear this but if you don’t have any other choice and you truly believe in your business – then why not use your own assets or cash to get that business off the ground and making money?

You want a bank or lender to take a risk on you but you won’t take a risk on yourself – just does not seem fair.

Plus, I can guarantee you this: If you have your own assets at risk you will work harder and longer to make sure your business does succeed (which is the end goal anyways).

Second – other bootstrapping means. There are many ways to bootstrap your business besides using your own personal funds or assets. You might look into:

Crowd funding – while this might not provide a huge amount of money, it might provide enough to get started. Once started, other financing avenues will begin to open up.

Friends and family loans – your friends and family know you best and if you can’t sell your business concept and benefits to them then you will never be able to sell it to paying consumers. Even if your friends and family can’t or won’t invest in you, they may know of others who will – you just have to ask.

Micro credit lenders – backed by the SBA, these lenders provide more than just small amounts of capital – usually up to $35,000 with the average loan being around $13,500 – they also provide advice and guidance to help you better manage and grow your operation.

Third – Look to partners or investors. If your business concept is not in a huge market, has high and quick growth potential or has a lot of proprietary assets, then you will have to look locally. Get out and network in your community for other business owners or local investors.

You would be surprised at how many local or retired business owners just want to give back to their community and can provide more than just capital but can open up many other doors to you and your business. You just have to get out there and talk to everyone who will listen. And, don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask, you will never get what you want!

While you might hear of others business owners landing some type of bank debt or professional investment to get their business started; also know that there had to be some outstanding circumstance or reason for it – like their uncle being the president of a national bank or as a favor to a well known family member or just simply that they have other sources of outside income that qualifies them for the loan.

The bottom line is that banks and other lenders just do not lend to start-up businesses.

In your early days, you really do have to go it alone. But, make it a challenge. Make it one of your goals to eventually qualify for that coveted business loan. This not only will help you financially manage your new business better (keeping items like cash flow, collateral, credit and debt ratios in mind) but, when you do get approved for your business loan, it will really let you know that your business has made it to that next level and on the right path to further success.

A true entrepreneur does not look at a failure to secure outside financing as a fatal obstacle to starting their new business but, in focusing on the long-term potential gains that business could provide, would easily utilizes these three steps and other self-funding means to get up and running as soon as possible.

The Affect Of Bad Customer Service Mistakes

Your company could be riding on innovative ideas with the likes of Steve Jobs, but none of it will ever matter if your brand’s customer services skills are lacking. Today’s businesses need every possible leg up over their competition, and customer service is proving to be a booming key factor. Unfortunately, most business owners today have little to no strategy when it comes to their customer support system, and unknowingly they end up shepherding new customers right into the arms of their competitors.

Bad Customer Service Mistakes to Avoid

For the business owner hoping to avoid a bad customer service disaster, here are three mistakes to avoid:

Not Training Your Staff Properly, Or Not Training Your Staff At All

Whether your employees contains an employee count of five or five hundred, the art of customer service training cannot be glossed over for anyone. Failing to train employees of every tier and department on proper customer service behavior is a huge mistake made by too many businesses, big or small. It’s a huge oversight that often ends up hurting sales because there’s no telling when a worker at your company will come face to face with a customer.

Customer service is an area of your business that should be held with equal importance throughout every position at your company. To ensure your employees have an understanding of what qualifies as an acceptable and unacceptable interaction with a customer, be sure to address customer service during employee training specifically. Sit down with your team and take some time to outline the standard of excellence at your business. Be sure to define customer service rules and expectations, doing so thoroughly will also arm your employees with a way of addressing the various unforeseen issues customers might hurdle their way.

Attempting to Win an Argument with a Customer

It’s always worth it for brands to remember that it takes five times more effort and cost to onboard a new customer than it takes to maintain a loyal one. Of course, as a business owner, you’re probably well aware that the customer isn’t “always right.” Still, the sentiment that they should be treated as if they are is essential. Remember, when a client feels agitated or like they’ve been wronged, they’re at a point where they’re not really interested in having someone else prove how they could be right. Avoid efforts to “gain back power” over a situation with a customer by remembering your end goal: ensuring your client’s return.

Make sure that you maintain a positive interaction with your clients by practicing empathy towards their situation. One of the best ways to make a customer feel better about a faulty product or thwarted expectations is to relate to their frustration. Naturally, some interactions might not always motivate you to keep the relationship you have with your customer. In these scenarios, be sure to work to solve a problem with a customer with as much as respect as possible and then help them see their way out the door. Keep in mind that anything that could dissuade a customer from coming back; they will likely hurt you in the form of negative Yelp reviews or a bombardment of social media mentions.

Being Inaccessible

Customers who fail to get into contact with a customer service department will not return to try again. Be sure to secure repeat business for your brand by maintaining a presence that is consistently reachable by customers on multiple platforms. Today’s consumers have an expectation of being able to reach their brands on social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook. They also expect to receive a prompt response: 72 percent of Twitter users expect a response to a customer complaint with the hour.

Avoid making your customers feel as if they are being kept at arm’s-length by training your customer support team to be equipped to address complaints that occur online. Craft an outline for employees that details how to properly address customers via email, and on popular social media platforms. A solid understanding of how to conduct themselves in these interactions will empower your employees to represent the voice and tone of your brand adequately.

Freelancers to Beat Fatigue

When you’re a freelancer everything about work comes down on your shoulders. You do the creating, the bookkeeping, the press, the marketing and the cleaning up. It’s a heavy load to bear and it can lead to freelance fatigue.

Freelance fatigue is exactly what it sounds like: exhaustion from the need to wear so many hats at once. The pressure to find clients, produce for them, track finances and promote your work can wear you down.

You can beat freelance fatigue with a few changes to your routine. Incorporating systems that work for you and finding time for self-care is the way to recharge yourself. When you’re a freelancer, you need to keep working to keep making money. Don’t let fatigue get in the way of your money!

Tips to Beat Fatigue for Freelancers

Self-care

You have to take care of yourself before you can offer your services or expertise to anyone else. Eating right, sleeping enough, and getting at least some exercise and fresh air are just as critical as pitching new clients. After all, what is the point of work if not to create the life you love?

I like to use my lunch break to listen to music I love or to take a walk outside. I live in the American south, so it’s warm pretty much year round here. Getting outside and getting some sun on my face is easy to do. If you’re somewhere that’s dark and cold, think about getting a sunlamp. Take a 15-minute break and stretch.

When you feel your best you do your best work. Scarfing down unhealthy food and sitting all day in front of a screen isn’t the best thing for you. Incorporate real time for self-care and you’ll beat freelance fatigue sooner.

Automation

Automating is the best way to make sure that things get done and you don’t have to be the one doing them. You can set up automated things in your personal and business life. Setting your student loans to autopay is a way to ensure you pay them and you’ll probably catch a small break on your interest rate.

Automate everything that you can to take some pressure off. Your payment systems, your email lists, and subscription renewals are great places to start.

Outsourcing

This is a tip you’ll hear time and time again from other freelancers. There simply comes a point when you can’t do it all by yourself. It can be hard to reach this point, especially if you think you can’t afford to hire help.

By piling everything on your own plate, you’re only hurting yourself. Your productivity suffers, your burnout rate increases and you’re probably not earning as much as you actually could be.

If you’re putting off outsourcing, take a step back. You can make it work for you. You can outsource the necessary evils in your life (like bookkeeping or accountant work) or you can outsource the minutia, like social media management or virtual assistant work.

Taking at least one time-consuming task off your plate will change your life. I like to think it’s how people felt when the microwave came out: no more sweating over the oven or stove? Just zap this in minutes? Yes, please!

Take On Work You Want to Do

I used to offer social media management as a part of my freelancing packages. It paid well, and there’s always someone who needs help with their social media. I have a steadily growing social media following, and I knew I could put my money where my mouth is.

The only problem was that I hate social media management. Being good at something and enjoying something are two very different things. Spending my time managing other people’s social media left me frustrated and annoyed.

Even though it was work that paid, it wasn’t worth the paycheck. I procrastinated doing the work because I disliked it, and I resented my clients each time they added a new account or referred someone my way to bring me more business.

I eliminated my social media management offerings a few months ago and referred my clients on to someone else. It was a huge load off my shoulders and helped me to feel energized about my freelancing all over again. I remembered why I enjoyed being my own boss, and I focused on finding more work that I actually enjoy. By eliminating the work I didn’t want to do, I had more time to cultivate the work I did want to do.

Freelance fatigue comes for us all at some point, but we don’t have to let it beat us down. We can create the job of our dreams and stay sane at the same time. I’m writing this from my small porch, where I’m getting some sun on my face as I check things off my to-do list. Two points for beating fatigue for me! What do you do when work has you feeling down?