Hiring Online? 5 Tips for Maximum Reach

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 10:30pm by Site Administrator

Maybe I’m old school but personally, I can’t stand looking for work online. Let me revise that. I didn’t enjoy looking for programming and technical writing work online in the early part of this decade. On the other hand, looking for blogging gigs is infinitely easier online. I’m not sure I can explain why, but Ben Yoskovitz does in 9 Signs the Online Job Market is Broken.

I will say that online jobs are easier to find online. Offline jobs are easier to find in the newspaper. Or were. The Human resources departments of some companies have stopped publishing their ads in the weekend editions of big city papers in favor of jobsites. If I were still looking for offline work, I would much rather grab a newspaper and a red pen and circle or strike out listings.

The primary problem of searching online for work is that there are so many more people to compete with, and you simply cannot filter job listings in the same way as with a newspaper. This might be detracting jobseekers from looking for work online. (Statistics I collected from headhunters suggested that people 40 and over might be having this problem. However, things may have changed in the 5 years since.)

So how does all this fare for companies advertising jobs? This is simply my opinion based on my experiences of hiring or seeking work myself: used a mixed strategy.

  1. Don’t shun newspapers altogether.
  2. Post information on suitable job sites. (See Ben’s article.)
  3. Include a line in your email signature: “Company X now hiring. See our website, http://companyx.com/.”
  4. List information in social networking sites such as LinkedIn.
  5. Utilize your company blog to list jobs or at least link to your main site’s careers section.

When it comes time for you to hire people so that you can delegate work, don’t rely on a single channel for listing your jobs.

Tips for Digital Entrepreneurs – Sun Sep 30, 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 10:00pm by Site Administrator

Web Metrics: Mean vs Median
For those blogger entrepreneurs that don’t relish the thought of browsing web statistics, there may be confusion about the value of various web metrics. Two such metrics are Mean vs Median, which can be applied to number of visitors, number of pageviews, etc. There is a distinct difference between the two, especially on websites that have signficant variance in day to day statistics. In particular, averages are deceptive. Seth Godin explains the difference between Mean and Median.

Building a Blog With Legacy Websites
If you’re one of those entrepreneurs who started their business a few years back, it’s possible that you’ve already moved part of your business online. So you might have a website but not a blog. And if you haven’t already heard, the value of a blog for your business can be immeasurable.

Fortunately, many blog platforms can be integrated with your existing website’s CMS (Content Management System). AimClear provides an explanation of how to add WordPress to your legacy website.

Go Click Yourself
Ben Yoskovitz gives away what I thought was a big secret amongst pro bloggers… When you write an article linking to other blogs, after publishing, click the links yourself. Doing so will show your linking in most other blogs’ control panels or web analytics packages. That of course brings your blog to the attention of the bloggers you linked to. If you don’t do this, your link might still get noticed, but it’s less likely.

Moving Averages: Don’t Focus on Daily Web Metrics

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 7:00pm by Site Administrator

Bloggers and entrepreneurs who run/ own a website get obsessed with watching the day’s web metrics – especially if the website earns revenue. I’m no different. But what twelve years of working online has taught me is that you cannot get worried over a single’s days visitor metrics (unique visitors, pageviews, conversions, etc.). Else it’s too easy to not see the forest for the trees. Some tips:

  1. Expect daily fluctuations. Daily metrics will fluctuate for very human reasons. People may be impressed with your site’s offerings and will intend to come back “tomorrow” but might actually take a few days to return.

  2. Be patient, to a degree. If you’re selling something, don’t expect everyone that wants to buy to do so immediately. Buying products and services online is still a relatively new activity. You have to establish authority (such as through blogging) and trust, thus wooing buyers. But you do have to watch trends – you can’t be patient forever.
  3. See the forest for the trees. Focus on trended averages over time. These smooth out spikes and anomalies, and are a much better indicator of progress or decline

If you’ve got a bit of the geek in you, you can read up on Moving Averages, a measure that shows trended averages and can be calculated in a spreadsheet. The 30-second synopsis is that you calculating moving (sliding) averages over different windows of time (30, 60, 90 days, etc.) and plot them all simutaneously on a graph. The result will help you determine if the traffic/ pageviews/ sales in a given month was a random spike or if there’s a trend.

Web-Based Project Management Tools: Mercury Grove Web Groups

Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 6:30pm by Site Administrator

Thanks to a comment dropped elsewhere on Bootstrapper, I came across a collaborative web application from Mercury Grove called Web Groups.

This tool pushes the concept of “web groups” and virtual teams and offers, amongst other features, a “blog-like discussion board with 2-way comments” that allows you to post text and images. Other features:

  • Unlimited users and groups.
  • Team and personal calendars and task lists.
  • Customizable modules and branding.
  • Email notification and alerts.
  • Contact management.
  • News feed reader.
  • Project tracking.
  • File sharing.

So it’s very similar to Basecamp and other web PM tools, but unlike Copper Project it does not have Gantt charts. However, it’s apparently completely free. After spending a half hour trying it out, I have to say it’s also very easy to use, invite team members, set up web groups, projects and tasklists.

So if you’re a bootstrapping entrepreneur that collaborates online, do check out Mercury Grove’s Web Groups.

Web-Based Project Management Tools: Copper Project

Saturday, September 29, 2007 at 11:00pm by Site Administrator

Gantt charts

Could it be? Real Gantt charts in a web-based project management tool? That’s just one feature that Copper Project offers, but if you’ve been lamenting this absence in other project management tools, it’s an exciting prospect.

Why? Because Gantt charts are a convenient visual way of getting an overview of one or more projects and their component tasks. You can “see” bottlenecks far more easily, in relation to a timeline. They beat a plain list of tasks and even a mindmap any time. (Though some mindmapping applications allow export to desktop PM tools.)

Since my time as an assistant PM (Project Manager), I’ve been using real PM software (such as MS Project) for about a decade. Without Gantt charts, it just ain’t proper PM software in my opinion. So it always gets in my craw when a number of web-based packages call themselves PM applications, but lacking said feature.

Copper Project has Gantt charts, but you pay a hefty price for the software. Although it is collaborative software, which none of the desktop PM applications can claim. You also have the option of hosted or self-hosted – such as on a company Intranet. Hosted plans range from US$29-$199/mth. If you want to download and install Copper on your internal servers, prices ranging from $499-$2999, depending on expected number of users.

I’m focusing in this article on only the Gantt charts feature of Copper Project, not the rest of their features. If this is something you need, Copper has a free 14-day private trial in three modes: Standard 2007, Corporate 2008, and Enterprise 2008. All three allow unlimited projects, but have user limits 15, 50, 100 respectively. You do have to sign up for the trial.

If Copper’s prices are too rich for you, you have a few other options for producing Gantt charts, but you lose web-based collaboration capabilities. This is not an extensive list:

  1. Microsoft Project, with a site license. This is not a cheap package, and site licensing increases the cost. Mindjet‘s MindManager mindmapping software can export to MS Project.
  2. Gantt Project – Free, Java-based, Windows. At the time of this writing, Gantt Project does not handle tasks that are less than a day in duration (i.e., X hours or minutes). This is a serious drawback, but hey it’s free. Ideal for the proponent of bootstrapping principles.
  3. ConceptDraw Project – This package integrates tightly with their Mindmap application, too.
  4. SmartDraw – The new version 8 offers Gantt charts, but is more of an illustration tool (used for diagrams in some of Bootstrapper’s archives).
  5. Fake them in a spreadsheet such as MS Excel.

If on the other hand Copper is something you’ve “got to have” and you feel you can justify the price, you could always get yourself a business credit card and use that for payment.

5 Signs of Burnout: The Negative Side of Bootstrapping

Friday, September 28, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

Bootstrapping, for the right person, affords incredible freedom to experiment however you like, since your only cost is time. If you’re following the principles of bootstrapping, you’re spending minimal capital. The drawback is that you can get caught up in all that “free effort” and forget what’s important: keeping the business going while you experiment.

It’s easy to tell yourself that it’s just time and if you find something worthwhile in your experiments, it may pay off big. But if you’re constantly getting distracted, your necessary efforts suffer, and you might approach burnout without realizing it. Here are a few signs of impending or actual burnout.

  1. Getting fatigued from work activities you used to enjoy.
  2. Dragging your heels on learning a skill that you know you need.
  3. Getting less work done in the same amount of time.
  4. Getting the “thousand yard stare” where you’re trying to work but finding your’re staring at walls, windows or even your computer screen.
  5. Little desire to get up in the morning.

These are just some of the signs that I find to be most common, and it means any or all of the following:

  1. You need a break.
  2. You need to reevaluate your priorities.
  3. You need to value your time and limit experimental, non-revenue producing activities.

If you’ve confined your entrepreneurial activities to online businesses, particularly blogging, check out Performancing’s 23 Simple Health Tips for Bloggers. Keep in mind, of course, that the flipside is that you’re doing too much work yourself instead of delegating tasks.

7 Skills of a Digital Entrepreneur

Friday, September 28, 2007 at 3:00pm by Site Administrator

Few entrepreneurs possess all of the skills themselves that they need to build a successful business. However, a digital entrepreneur is a new breed that needs to be at least aware of some of the skills necessary for online business success. And they have to at least be capable of the basics before the inevitably delegate these tasks. These skills are especially critical for entrepreneurs whose websites will be their sole source of income – that is, who have no offline income for the business. This applies whether you’re selling products or services online.

  1. Communication skills. This is important more than ever, especially if you need to communicate online with potential customers, whether by blog, through comments, or even ebooks. All of these are becoming crucial – if they aren’t already a necessity – for online businesses to draw targeted web traffic. And with communications skills, you also need diplomacy skills.

  2. Web analytics and data mining. If you choose to blog your business, you’ll quickly learn that if you build it, they will not necessarily come. Understand the value of tracking visitor behavior through web analytics, and then mine the data to detect trends (search terms, etc.) and improve  your content accordingly.
  3. Design understanding. No, you don’t need to be a designer per se, but should have a sense for at least effective website navigation, information architecture and even the need for a good site or blog logo.
  4. Website optimization. You do not need to be a full-blow SEO/ SEM (Search Engine Optimization/ Search Engine Marketing) guru, but knowing the rudiments of website optimization means you don’t get hosed if you do decide to hire outside talent. (As with any industry, there are honest SEOs and dishonest ones – don’t believe the hype that they’re all bad.)
  5. Networking skills. SMM (Social Media Marketing), from where I sit, is absolutely essential these days, to promote your website/ blog. Either that or viral marketing – preferably both. Successful social media promotion requires excellent networking skills with “online friends”.
  6. Forecasting. All these skills are useless if you can’t at least come up with a rough idea of what your online business might earn from your efforts. Of course, it’s infinitely harder to predict revenue for online businesses, and you may have to revise your figures as you learn, and as you determine what brings in at least a low watermark of revenue.
  7. Public speaking. If you succeed in your forecasting, public speaking will come in handy when you’ve reached a modicum of success. People will want you to give lectures. The lectures might later turn into paid workshops, which could be a very lucrative opportunity.

Notice that if you utilize the right tools for the above skills that you don’t have to spend a dime. That is, you can utilize the rules of bootstrapping to build your skills as a digital entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur and Productivity Roundup – Sep 27, 2007

Thursday, September 27, 2007 at 5:30pm by Site Administrator

When Dropping Your Prices is Bad
Even most fans of Apple products will admit that these are often higher priced than competitive products. I could be wrong but I can’t recall a single time when Apple reduce prices on any of their products. Thus, in the eyes of some, they’ve maintained the persona of a company for elitist consumers.

Well whether or not they took to heart these sentiments, they dropped the price of the iPhone by $200 not long after many loyal fans had already paid big money – even bidding online. That made some customers happy and others quite unhappy. And their decision to offer a $100 credit on additional Apple products to previous customers wasn’t that well received either.

Read Delighting Your Customers, which reflects upon what Seth Godin suggested that Apple should have done.

Speak Now
Not every entrepeneur has to deal with giving a presentation, but those that do naturally might feel a bit of anxiety. Public speaking isn’t really that well-taught, and most of us probably feel we can’t do it. Mind Petals suggests seven ways to calm your nerves before an important presentation.

Treedolist: A Structured To-Do List Tool
Treedolist is a To-Do list tool that allows for hierarchical, tree-format notes and subnotes. There’s not much for me to say other than that the response time seems fairly quick. However, for whatever reason they felt it necessary, it’s a tool that you can only use if you have an OpenID – something I don’t use and don’t plan to. But if you want to check it out, keep in mind that it’s in beta testing.

5 Steps to Launching a Revenue-Producing Membership Website

Friday, September 21, 2007 at 6:15pm by Site Administrator

The average digital entrepreneur likely constantly looks for startup opportunities online. One type of opportunity with a great deal of potential financially is to set up a subscription site. Do the numbers: 200 members per month at $50/mth per subscriber = $10K/mth. If you offer a service or product that only has one-time or low monthly overhead, that’s not a bad side business.

However, there’s far more to building a successful subscription site than just setting it up. Yaro Starak of Entrepreneur’s Journey recently launched his own membership site earlier this year – Blog Mastermind. Now he’s done the unthinkable: he’s showing you how to do your own. He’s on part 8 of a long-term series, and he’s revealed quite a lot of valuable information.

Premise

The pessimist might think this is a nice ploy, because now hundreds of people are going to try, and they’ll flood the market with services – obscuring the few truly good subscription services that might follow Yaro’s Blog Mastermind. The optimist will note the one clue Yaro gave that will clear all the competitors away: establishing your presence online, which is the first step, and takes the blogger “with potential” six months to two years.

My own opinion on the matter is that if you haven’t built at least one PR (Google PageRank) 6 site on your own (or are not associated with having done so), you haven’t established enough presence for a subscription service to succeed. PR is a much reviled measure of a website/ blog’s success, but it’s a ballpark measure of how much linkage you’re getting from elsewhere and thus recognition.

Strategy

Being the mad entrepreneur, a few people and I are exploring the possibility of a subscription service at some point in the next year. It caters to our skills, which is the best approach. This is the nutshell strategy that I’m following with a group of people, separate but related to the partners in my online bootstrapping experiment.

  1. Pick the product. Determine what service/ products you intend to build a subscription offer around. This is just the overview stage.

  2. Show yoursef. Build your presence in suitable channels.
    1. Build a visible blog/ site.
    2. Establish your name or brand.
    3. Guest blog to make yourself more visible. There are tons of great blogs that want quality articles. Some might be in your niche, and you’ll get a link in the byline.
  3. Stealth mode. Build your promotional channels in stealth mode, before you build your subscription service. This includes any or all of the following:
    1. Plan the infrastructure for an affiliate program.
    2. Make lots of online friends who might become affiliates.
    3. Build social media accounts.
    4. Set up the early stage of a private forum with those online friends, who’ll later “tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on and so on.”
  4. Scope things out. While your promo channels are being built out, clearly define the parameters:
    1. The service’s feature set. What can you offer that is unique and thus worth buying.
    2. What market are you targetting. It’s always best to go with a niche you know and are passionate about.
    3. The number of subscribers you are aiming for.
    4. What infrastucture needs you’ll have if  you reach your goal (i.e, domain names, websites, hosting costs) or surpass it.
    5. Whether the infrastructure needs to be scalable and whether it can be.
    6. Whether to have phased membership.
    7. Whether to offer early-adopter discounts, and how to do it.
    8. Whether to offer one subscription package or several.
    9. How to price the packages.
    10. How to collect recurring payment.
    11. How to reimburse unsatisfied subscribers.
    12. How to pre-promote the service.
    13. When to launch it.
    14. How to promote it.
    15. Whether you can bootstrap the early incoming funds to support any necessary expansion and promotion.
    16. Whether to stop promoting, depending on phases.
    17. How to maintain a brand and presence to keep the subscribers you have and/or entice new members – since there’ll always be some attrition.
  5. Start building. This takes a fine sense of timing. Nothing’s ever new online for long, and you don’t want to have spent money building an infrastructure if it’s not scalable, if you can’t change the product/ service you’re offering, or if you can’t otherwise reuse it.

Summary

There’s a lot more to know than just these five steps, and I urge you to read Yaro’s series. Exactly how you approach such a project depends on your time frame, since you want what you’re offering to be timely. By the time you have enough presence to launch your service, someone else might have already done so. That’s why so many online professionals go with a “product” that reflects their skills and knowledge, which is likely an unique package.

If you’re successful, the payoff can be huge. Some of the membership sites I subscribe to or have subscribed to are rumored to make US$40-100K/month. Can you build enough presence and authority online, and offer enough of a unique or valuable service to “deserve” such returns? Because despite the unwillingness of people to pay subscription fees to newspaper websites, there are many online professionals willing to part with up to $250/month. That’s if you give them something they need, something they can’t get elsewhere, which makes their professional life easier, earns them money, or simply just educates them in their chosen field. I spend anywhere from $40-$150/month on such services at any given time, and might actually be closer to $300/mth in the future.

The opportunities are there. Just remember that if you are essentially a new presence in the blogosphere, you’ve got a bit of a journey ahead of you before you become a successful digital entrepreneur. Don’t be dissuaded, just plan well and get started.

Entrepreneur and Productivity Roundup – Sep 20, 2007

Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

Part-time Bootstrappers
For those of you straddling the domain between salaried employee and full-time entrepreneur, Shawn Hessinger has a great article about being a part-time bootstrapper. He offers ten very interesting rules of the road. To wit, rule 1: don’t forget to change your shorts.

Reboot Your Business Strategy
It might surprise you to know that not every entrepreneur produces a business plan before they launch their business. And a key component of a business plan is a competitive strategy, which you need if you’re not breaking into a new niche. To this end, Business Mouth offers 6 steps for a competitive strategy. If you don’t have one, now’s a good time to produce your strategy.

Launching a Business Blog
Thinking of bootstrapping your business with a blog? Easton Ellsworth at Business Blogwire has an ongoing series offering advice on defining your business blog and how to launch it. He’s at part 3, as of this writing.

Distraction-Busting for Work at Home Types
Running a business from home has many advantages but also many distractions. Career Ramblings offers some tips for deflecting work-at-home distractions. They’re easy to follow tips, but might work for some and not for others.

Deflecting Entrepreneurial Bankruptcy
If you’re at the extreme end of a fruitless entrepreneurial endeavor, you might not only be fighting debt but considering bankruptcy. If so, check out GreatFX’s advice on when to consider bankruptcy. Speaking from what I’ve learned from others, it’s not an option you want to pursue unless there’s no other way. Talk to an accountant or attorney. Some firms offer a free consultation.

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