Secrets of Thinking Outside the Box: 27 Ways Digital Entrepreneurs Can Use Mindmapping

Tuesday, October 16, 2007 at 11:45am by Site Administrator

One of the most efficient and powerful methods for thinking outside of the box is mindmapping. Mindmaps, when done manually on paper, often look like a neural map – a radial network of connected ideas. In digital form, they’re even more powerful, allowing for "hyperlinks" between maps, to other applications and content, and to web pages. This is an ideal method for many business uses, but is often neglected by entrepreneurs. If you’re famliar with mindmapping, you can skip down to the list of suggested entrepreneurial uses. Else browse through the next few sections first.

Overview

Mindmapping stimulates both the creative and logical sides of the brain. The mindmapping process is easy: start with a central idea and think radially, adding nodes that might in turn have additional branches and nodes. In fact, this method is taught to school kids in some places, but often neglected by adults. Mindmapping is sometimes called radiant thinking. It frees up the mind from linear thought processes that a sheet of lined paper often imposes. A mindmap lets you branch off with many subtopics and variants. It promotes outside-the-box thinking – whether you do it on paper or with mindmapping software. Note: the term "mind-map" is trademarked by Tony Buzan, who did most of the early research on this method as well as wrote most of the books. Some references: Use Both Sides of Your Brain: New Mindmapping Techniques (originally published in 1974) and The Mind Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential.

Mindmap Examples, Tools and Resources

You can see an example at Top 100 Foods for Productivity: Mindmap and several at Tubetorial. A mindmap outlining the article you’re reading is shown below. Also check out Mind-mapping.org, MindMap Search, and College Degree’s 99 Mind Mapping Resources, Tools and Tips. Note that I have a personal bias towards using Mindjet‘s MindManager Pro 7, but there are many great mindmapping tools. Look for a big review, coming soon, at Lifehack.org.

Mindmapping - radiant thinking for entrepreneurs

 

Suggested Entrepreneurial Uses

The uses below can be accomplished with most mindmapping packages, even most free software. So they’re ideal uses for bootstrapping entrepreneurs. Please note that for most instances, I’m referring to software-based mindmaps and mindmapping, unless indicated as a paper-based use.
Information Organization

  1. General organization. Because mindmaps allow both lists (linear) and radial organization of ideas – that is, offer flexible data containers – they’re an ideal way of organizing large blocks of ideas into clusters of related ideas.
  2. Knowledgebases. Prior to building a knowledgebase for your business, accumulate ideas in a mindmap, in a non-structured way. This allows you to change clusters without "physical restraint", until you’re ready to finalize the concepts you’ve recorded.

Design and Planning

  1. Structured brainstorming. One of the problems of regular brainstorming methods is that people often "think inside the box". Since mindmapping frees up both sides of the brain, it often tends to be a better way of brainstorming. Record all ideas as they come, then later drag and move ideas into suitable clusters. If you’re working with someone remotely, try Comapping, which is is an easy to use, real-time, web-based collaborative mindmapping tool.
  2. Business plan design. See the big picture of your business more easily. Use mindmaps to record a dynamic outline first.
  3. Products and services planning. One of the big problems with planning a new offering to your customers is that you cannot always find the capital to offer all features. Use mindmaps to implement your plan for continuous improvement.
  4. Website architecting. Whether you have one or more websites, the natural hierarchical structure of a mindmap can help you design your site architecture.
  5. Editorial calendar. If you plan to have an active blog for your business, an editorial calendar helps organize your plan for future articles. Using a mindmap to develop the calendar makes it easier to revise before final draft.
  6. Create presentations. As with other text and visual content, use a mindmap to help organize and create presentations – whether just for your team or for venture capitalists. If you’re targeting the latter, you can use mindmaps to pull together resumes for team members, which is often a requirement for getting venture capital and sometimes business loans. (Or if that doesn’t work out, redo your own resume.)
  7. Create web resource maps. Because most mindmapping software allows hyperlinks from a map node to a website (not to mention, to other maps and applications), it’s easy to create a web resource. See a clickable example at Case Study: Bootstrapping an Online Information Business.
  8. Daily planning. Mindmaps are ideal for any sort of general planning you need to do, either for business or personal matters.

General Management Use

  1. Project planning. Mindmaps are an ideal way to break down a project prior to applying full-blown Project Management (PM) techniques. What’s more, some mindmapping packages can export a map to PM software. For example, Mindjet’s MindManager Pro exports to MS-Project and ConceptDraw’s Mindmap software exports to their Project software. Still more, you can link map nodes to web resources, documents on your desktop, or other desktop applications.
  2. Team management – hiearchies. Startup companies sometimes have very little in the way of management hierarchies. But as a bit of experience will show, functional hierarchies based on skillsets are a necessity. Map out your teams skills and explore some possible functional hierarchies.
  3. Task Management. A look around the blogosphere shows that a lot of people are becoming interested in David Allen‘s GTD (Get Things Done) principles. Mindmaps can help you to organize your to-do lists, manage and prioritize tasks. You can also manage/track teammates’ tasks
  4. Meeting management. Depending on the mindmapping software you use, you might have the option of an event reminder servic. A mindmap can provide a nice visual way to plan meetings with all sorts of players: team members, hiring candidates, suppliers, venture capitalists, etc. Mindjet’s MindManager Pro, for example, is tightly integrated with Microsoft Office products, and has a event reminder desktop popup service. You can also use mindmaps in a meeting, to present ideas or take notes.
  5. Information management. Generally speaking, mindmaps are ideal for organizing and managing structured information. A hard example: if you have an active weblog and multiple writers, use a mindmap to keep a daily list of draft article URLs that need to be edited then pushed live.

Problem Solving, Decision Making, Goal Setting

  1. Goal setting/ time management. With advanced mindmapping tools, you can specify node times – where a node represents a task/ milestone. Thus a mindmap can be used for goal setting (by mapping out subgoals) and time management (by tracking time taken).
  2. Problem breakdown. Imposing problems are more easily solved if broken down into manageable chunks. Fortunately, most of the better mindmapping software allows you to interconnect maps. So you can start with a broad-view map and attach detail maps to various nodes. Click on a node, and you’ll be taken to the corresponding detail map. This is ideal for what software developers usually call top-down development (general progresses to specific). This also allows you to focus on a specific sub-task, without clouding your thought process.
  3. Explore alternate options. Because mindmaps are so dynamic in nature, you can easily map out alternate solutions to a problem. You get a broad view, then can explored each option. This is useful in TRIZ problem solving. TRIZ is the Russian acronym for a technique that takes a specific problem, turns it into a general problem, finds a general solution, then finds a specific solution. With a mindmap, you can apply TRIZ but explore options.
  4. Spark creativity. Sometimes you’re looking to produce something creative that’s lurking just beyond mental reach. Start by accumulating a map of ideas until something creative sparks. Including not just text in your map nodes but also icons, pictures, screenshots, URLs.
  5. Planning aid for selling. Want to improve your sales effectiveness? Use mindmaps to map your territories and opportunities, and to catalog your action items.
  6. Thank you lists. Have a list of people to thank during the Dec-Jan holiday season? track them with a mindmap. Have a map with two nodes: sent and not sent. Moving names between, and have name nodes attached to an email address. Clicking on a name will fire up whichever desktop email client you have configured.

Research, Writing, Learning, Teaching

  1. Research. In a mindmap, maintain a sublist of web URLs that you need to review or otherwise research. In most mindmapping packages, you can doubleclick a node or its associated icon to cause the web page to display in your default browser. (For example, DeliciousMind is a hybrid application that converts your del.icio.us URL bookmarks into a XML format, which can then be imported into FreeMind.)
  2. Note-taking. In addition to accumulating ideas – as mentioned earlier – the more advanced mindmapping packages also allow you to attach text blocks to any map node. This ideal for note-taking during research, before you’re ready to produce an outline for a document you’re working on.
  3. Outlining. Once you’ve done your research and note-taking – whether it’s for documents, manuals, company policies, reports, or presentations – a mindmap allows you to very quickly and easily outline chapters, sections, etc.
  4. Writing. A mindmap can help spark the writing process – especially for your company blog – from a list of keywords, even aid in producing an editorial calendar (mentioned earlier). Or you can tweak the outline you’ve already produced and pull together and expand on the notes you’ve taken during research. It’s far easier to reorganize content visually, in a mindmap, than in a word processing document.
  5. Learning. When you’re learning a subject – which some entrepreneurs find themselves doing – a mindmap helps you to map out what you’ve learned and what you’ll be learning. If you’re a nomadic entrepreneur, you might want to even use a mindmap to learn a foreign language.
  6. Teaching/ workshops/ lesson plans. If you join the workshop circuit like many successful entrepreneurs, use mind maps to help produce your learning materials and to pace your lessons.

 

Summary

Sometimes, all you need is a list. But if you get into the habit of daily use of mindmaps for managing your entrepreneurial tasks, you’ll no doubt discover other uses of mindmaps than those listed above.

The 100 Tools Freelancers Can’t Live Without

Monday, October 15, 2007 at 1:25pm by Site Administrator

Everyone has their go-to bag of tricks that they can’t imagine functioning without. This list represents exactly that, but on a much larger scale. Clearly, there’s no way you’re going to have 100 different tools you can’t live without, but you can use this collection to find solutions that you’re sure to get hooked on.

Powerhouses

Many of the tools on this list address a few specific needs. The tools in this section are far too ambitious for that.

  1. Panthius: This ebusiness suite is a a headache eraser for freelancers. Use it to manage customers, sales orders, purchases, information and lots more.
  2. Netvibes: Bring everything together in one place with Netvibes. You can get your email, feeds, gig boards, messaging and lots more on this start page.
  3. Help Me Work: Take the headache out of the up-and-down life of a freelancer with Help Me Work’s service. They look after your taxes, billing, benefits, and a lot more.
  4. FreelancerPanel: What can’t you do with FreelancerPanel? Keep track of invoicing, communicate with clients, manage your website, and stay on top of your time with this awesome tool.
  5. Firefox: As a busy freelancer, you don’t have time to mess around with anything less than Firefox. This ultra-handy tool saves you the trouble of worrying excessively about browser security, and more importantly, lays the foundation for what seems like unlimited add-ons designed to make your life easier.

Gigs

Without work, your livelihood ceases to exist–you can’t get more essential than that. These resources will help you find work to keep going.

  1. JibberJobber: This tool does job seeking, and it does it well, but it goes even farther, offering a way to manage relationships with customers, prospects, and more. Be sure to take advantage of its available integration with Skype, Gmail, LinkedIn, and other popular services.
  2. Contracted Work: Find loads of projects in different industries on this site, and use their escrow service to make sure you get paid.
  3. Guru: Find work in a wide variety of different job categories on Guru, one of the most popular freelance job sites online.
  4. Professional On The Web: If you’re a professional web designer, put your portfolio up on this site to get connected with people who need your services.
  5. All Freelance Work: Get independent jobs on this site, then use their system to get rated, manage your projects, and more.
  6. Get A Freelancer: Find customers all over the world that are looking for your service on this site.
  7. Web Pro Jobs: Whether you’re a designer, copywriter, or marketer, you can find lots of jobs for web profressionals on this board.
  8. Freelance Switch Jobs: Freelancers in the fields of writing, designing, and programming can find gigs on this job board.
  9. Job Pile: Get an aggregated list of freelance posts from popular job boards on Job Pile.
  10. GoFreelance: Browse freelance jobs in loads of different fields on this site. You’ll have thousands to choose from.
  11. Sologig: Get connected with freelance, consulting, and contract jobs on Sologig.
  12. Freelance Job Search: Bid on projects in your area and price range on this site.
  13. iFreelance: Bid on thousands of projects and get advertisement on this site.
  14. Writerlance: With Writerlance, you can browse and bid on hundreds of projects.
  15. Elance: Post yourself as a professional on this job board, and you’ll get connected with jobs for the web, writing, support, and more.
  16. Craigslist: Craigslist will give you access to a wide variety of gigs in your area.

Organization & Task Management

Does staying on top of everything leave you feeling frazzled and helpless? Take control with these tools.

  1. Spongecell: Use this intuitive online calendar app to schedule your time and get reminders via text message.
  2. Priorganizer: For most people, online to-do lists get gunked up with stuff that you intended to do, but just never felt were important enough to actually devote time to. With Priorganizer, the tasks that fall by the wayside don’t get in the way, because you can structure it based on priority.
  3. TimeXchange: Although primarily designed for businesses that need to keep track of timesheets for employees, TimeXchange can help you identify clients that suck time and which ones need more of your attention.
  4. Toodledo: Toodledo makes the list for one simple reason: because you can add it as a sidebar in Firefox. For anyone whose work is primarily browser based, this extension is a lifesaver.
  5. Tweeto: Organize and stay on top of your tasks and projects, even offline, with Tweeto.
  6. TodoBot: If you chat with clients on AIM frequently, you probably find yourself constantly switching back and forth between your IM and to-do list. Use this tool to send yourself to-do items straight from AIM.
  7. Stikkit: If you’re not the to-do list type, use Stikkit’s virtual post-it notes to keep track of tasks and ideas.
  8. SantexQ: Use SantexQ to manage projects, keep track of time, stay on top of tasks, and more.
  9. Online Alarm Clock: It’s so simple, yet so effective. Give yourself a certain time in which to finish a task, and set your alarm on this site to back it up.
  10. Remember The Milk: Remember The Milk is great for freelancers that are spread out in lots of different directions. With this simple tool, you can create separate lists for each of your clients and prioritize tasks by color.
  11. Jott: Need to remember to do something, but you’re nowhere near your online to-do list? Leave yourself a transcribed message that’s sent to your email, and you’ll be able to add it when you get back online.

Communication & Sharing

If you can’t connect with your clients in some form or fashion, your business does not exist. Get with them over the phone, online, and more with these essentials.

  1. Gmail: Of course–Gmail. This perennial favorite is organized and really good at banishing spam. Plus, you can always use it with email from your own domain.
  2. eFax: You may loathe the old fashioned fax machine, but there’s a pretty good chance your corporate clients are still living in the past with this dinosaur. Make sure you can accept and send facsimilie communications by using this web-based fax tool.
  3. WordFast: If you’re working with international clients, a translation tool is essential. Check out this one that’s compatible with any language supported by Word.
  4. ClearContext: Use ClearContext to wade through the muck and get to the good stuff in your inbox. This system organizes email, identifying important senders and color coding everything.
  5. Box: Share files online with your clients using this simple tool.
  6. CoreBlox: Anyone who provides technical support will find CoreBlox essential. With this tool, you can provide case management, downloads, a searchable knowledgebase, and lots more.
  7. FlyUpload: For easy, simple file sharing, check out FlyUpload. You can send up to 2GB and share links, too.
  8. Salesforce: Get this platform for CRM success. Use it to increase sales, customer service, relationships, marketing, and other essentials.
  9. SpamSieve: Spam is a mess. Clean it up with this junk mail zapper.
  10. Senduit: So what happens when you have a file that’s too big to email? Unless you’re willing to hop in your car with a CD, you’re stuck with a pretty frustrating situation, but a file sending service like Senduit can save you. This tool lets you send files of up to 100MB at a time.
  11. Skype: If you have long-distance clients, colleagues, or suppliers, your phone bills can rack up huge charges pretty quickly. Skype takes a load off, making these calls significantly cheaper, or even free, plus you don’t have to be tied to a land line.
  12. Highrise: Manage your contact with "cases" that organize everything you’ve got going on for that particular case in emails, to-dos, files and more.
  13. Copernic Summarizer: If when reading client emails you find yourself thinking, "blah, blah, blah…Can we get to the point?," Copernic Summarizer is for you. Cut to the chase and use this program to highlight the key points in any message.

Mind Mapping

If you’re like most freelancers, you’ve probably got what seems like a million ideas and thoughts about your business floating around in your mind. Get those brainstorms out of your head and into something concrete with these mind mapping tools.

  1. FreeMind: Create mind maps with lots of functionality using this tool. It works great with Word, web links, and Outlook.
  2. CMap: Go beyond mind mapping and get into concept mapping with CMap. It lets you draw a line between relationships and ideas and label them.
  3. NovaMind: NovaMind’s mind mapping software uses graphic text, link lines, branches, and bright colors to create an attractive map of your thoughts.
  4. Skrbl: For low-tech mind maps that you can draw on your own, use Skrbl to-you guessed it-scribble out your thoughts online.
  5. MindManager: Visually capture and organize your ideas with MindManager.
  6. Bubbl.us: Put your ideas into bubbles in order to create an attractive and clean brainstorm.
  7. Thinkature: Banish the multitudes of sticky notes full of thoughts from your desk, and put your brainstorming online with this useful mind mapping tool.
  8. iMindMap: Put your ideas out on branches that replicate the non-linear way your brain thinks.

Money & Legal

Financial and legal issues are perhaps every freelancer’s least favorite things to work on. These tools will help you get paid, save on accounting fees, and best of all, keep you from burying yourself in paperwork.

  1. Mint: This new tool is really easy to use and set up, and it’s a great way to put all of your accounts together. You can use it to see where exactly your money goes and plan what to do with it in the future.
  2. Quickbooks: Unless you’re some sort of accounting geek, you probably get a little nervous about all of the financial documentation that’s involved in business transactions. Employ Quickbooks, and you’ll have one handy place to corral everything in.
  3. Less Accounting: Get paid, and do it easier with Less Accounting. This app offers a simple way to send, track and manage invoices, plus conduct simple CRM tasks.
  4. Nolo: Need some quick legal advice for your business but don’t really want to spare the time or the money to get in touch with a lawyer? Find answers to your common legal questions on Nolo.
  5. Creative Commons: For creative freelancers, copyright protection is a must. Set how much or how few restrictions you want on your work.
  6. Blinksale: Send invoices online with this handy tool. You can also use it to create recurring templates and keep track of your invoices and purchases.
  7. XE: Freelancers with overseas clients know that a good currency converter is a must-have. This tool does just that with accurate calculations and up-to-the-minute rates.
  8. Business Credit Card: Whether you’re waiting on clients to stop dragging their feet on payments or could use a little extra capital, a good business credit card is essential when you’re in a pinch.
  9. Escrow: Save yourself from non-paying clients by requiring that they place funds in escrow.
  10. Freelance Switch Rates Calculator: Trying to figure out how much to charge for a job? Give this calculator a whirl.
  11. MoneyManager: Track transactions that you make away from your computer with this reporting tool.
  12. PayPal: PayPal goes beyond eBay by allowing you to accept electronic payments from anyone, even using credit cards.
  13. CCH Calculators: If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty numbers of taking on a new venture, or figure out the profitability of working with a certain client, take these calculators for a spin.
  14. Freshbooks: Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of freelancing is invoicing and getting your clients to pay. Freshbooks promises to make billing "painless," and offers a way to track both invoices and time easily.

Travel

Hitting the road to meet with clients may leave you feeling a little harried and out of your element. Get back to good with these tools.

  1. TripIt: Email TripIt your travel plans, and they’ll build a master itinerary with your plans that’s printable and shareable from anywhere.
  2. Bear Trap Guide: If you’re visiting clients on the road, the last thing you need is to rack up a speeding ticket on the way. Avoid speed traps with this guide.
  3. FlightStats: Use FlightStats to get up to date information on your flight, so you’ll always be able to let your clients know if you’ll be running a little late.
  4. AirPower Wiki: So you’ve gotten hooked up with some airport WiFi. Great, but what happens when you drain your laptop’s battery? Locate an outlet in loads of major airports with this wiki.
  5. PublicRoutes: When you’re visiting clients in a big city, public transportation is often the best way to get around. This tool maps out routes for public transportation, so you can get there quick without taking a cab.
  6. Travel Rewards Credit Card: Travel gets expensive, so a good travel rewards program is essential if you want to save a little money on getting from point A to point B.
  7. Points.com: If you’re going to earn travel rewards, keep track of them in a handy tool like this one.
  8. AboutAirportParking: Find the best airport parking lots on this site, plus delay and security times for the airport at the same time.
  9. TripWiser: Micromanage your travel time using this tool.
  10. Google Transit: Plan public transit trips in 20 popular regions with this cool Google tool.
  11. Farecast: Save yourself some travel cash by using Farecast to find the right time to buy your airfare.
  12. Trippish: On a road trip, weather can make a big difference. Use this app that studies the weather forecast to let you know when it’s a good time to leave.

Learning

Even if you think you’re a genius, chances are you could stand to learn something from others. Get ideas for streamlining business, attracting clients, and more with these blogs and news outlets. We’ve also include a couple tools that make reading these resources a little more handy.

  1. Freelance Switch: Freelance Switch keeps readers up to date on the latest resources and developments for people who work freelance.
  2. FreelanceVenue: Get advice, tips, and a heads up on available jobs on this blog.
  3. RSS2PDF: Your online time is valuable, so turn your RSS feeds into PDFs and read them later when you’re offline.
  4. All Freelance: Get helpful tips on taxes, finances, working at home, and more on this blog.
  5. Web Worker Daily: This blog is aimed at freelancers whose work is web-based, like bloggers and developers.
  6. Chief Home Officer: If you’re in a home office, read Chief Home Officer for tips on how to stay sane and improve the way you work.
  7. Entrepreneur.com: Visit Entrepreneur to get hooked up with some awesome resources and some of the best small business articles online.
  8. Freelance Parent: Learn how to handle freelancing and parenting at the same time on this blog.
  9. Ninja Freelance: Stay on the "cutting edge" of freelance news and articles with this blog.
  10. Coroflot’s Creative Seeds: Learn how to find creative work and get advice on freelancing on Creative Seeds.
  11. Working Solo: Working Solo is a great information source for freelancers, and it’s chock full of resources.
  12. WorkHappy: Stay on top of the latest apps and other resources for freelancers on this site.
  13. Contract Worker: Contract Worker has some great ideas for making work better, highlighting interviews and useful tools online.

Documents

Whether you’re sharing your writing or giving a presentation, these document tools are essential.

  1. Qlipboard: Create online slide presentations in which you can record your own voice with this free tool.
  2. CutePDF: Print nearly any Windows application to PDF with this app that can be installed as a printer.
  3. CZ Document Converter: If you’ve got a bunch of documents in Word that need to get converted to PDF before you send them off, use this batch document converter to automate the process and make it easier.
  4. RapidoWrite: Freelance writers can cut down on repetitive text with this tool.
  5. NoteSake: Put an end to scribbled meeting notes with this app. Put them online, and make them searchable, printable, and organized.
  6. SlideRocket: For presentation software in a slick, beautiful package, consider using SlideRocket. In addition to its presentation capabilities, it has built-in web meeting tools.
  7. Skim: Take notes directly on a PDF file as you read it with Skim.
  8. Google Documents: Word and Excel are pretty much one-user programs. You enter information, send it, and there’s not a lot of back and forth. With Google Documents, your documents take on a whole new collaborative life, which clients are sure to love.

10 Businesses Facing Extinction and 9 Options for Coping

Friday, October 5, 2007 at 8:00pm by Site Administrator

Entrepreneur magazine had an eye-opening article last month about 10 businesses facing extinction. The writer, Geoff Williams, suggested that the following ten businesses are facing extinction within 10 years:

  1. Record stores.
  2. Camera film manufacturing.
  3. Crop dusters.
  4. Gay bars.
  5. Newspapers.
  6. Pay phones.
  7. Used bookstores.
  8. Piggy banks.
  9. Telemarketing.
  10. Coin-operated arcades.


Premise

If I’m reading between the lines correctly, Williams is not saying these businesses will all go, but the odds are not good for any of them.

Now, I happen to know business owners that fall into some of these categories, or some in peripherally-related niches and they have been hugely affected. With some, because they didn’t roll with the proverbial punches, they are in situations where they’re miserable. One guy won’t talk to his wife nor one of his best friends of 20+ years. Another guy’s used bookstore was kaput a few years back. My mother’s business makes very little on newspapers and calling cards, but they bring in customers for other items. She’s on the verge of selling her business.

The Game Plan

Are you in this extinction boat? What do you do about this impending doom? What are your plans? Here are the options, as I see them.

1. Cry about it.
But expect defeat. You have to take a pragmatic approach and do it yesterday. Emotional attachment is no justification for not doing anything. Still, some people prefer to cope in this way. Maybe someone will take pity on you and give you business for a while.

2. Fight the good fight.
You might succeed, but if your business’ odds of survival are low, there is no “good fight”. You’ll be KOd if you don’t get proactive now.

3. Pour money in.
This is similar to the last option. You’ve heard the saying “throwing good money in after bad”? If your niche is going towards extinction, that’s exactly what’ll happen if you borrow money to pour in. Put that money into either adapting or investing in competitve technology – both discussed below.

4. Sell.
Instead of struggling you could sell your business – just be aware of the tax issues. However, with articles like the one in Entrepreneur magazine pointing that you’re in a dying niche, it may not be so easy. Whatever you get for it might not be enough to retire on.

5. Retire.
You could retire from your business – if you have saved enough, sold for a nice price and/or have a sufficient pension. Few small business owners do. Factor in your age and health. If you expect to live a long time, will your money hold out?

6. Change careers.
If you can’t/won’t favor any of the above options and there’s no easy way to adapt (such as for a variety store owner), then there’s little choice but to change your career. Maybe there’s something you’ve enjoyed doing for a long time and didn’t realize until now how much you know about it. For more information, also see Career Journal and Career [email protected].

7. Invest in your competitor.
That is, invest in the reason/ technology that will be putting you out of business. It’s probably a far easier transition than changing careers.

8. Adapt.
There’s somre future hope of adaptation for, for example, newspapers. There’s ongoing research by Philips, Sony and others to produce paper thin, flexible electronic displays of various sizes. Mos of these displays have data ports so news and data can be downloaded and displayed.

After these are tested in smaller markets, they’ll likely become commonplace. The problem is, can a paid model for news survive? Probably not for news but for niche information, yes. In the meantime, newspapers can go online and try for ad revenue.

9. Go online.
Start moving your business online before you start to go under, so that you still have some branding power. Set up an ecommerce website (if your market research proves this worthwhile), print up small flyers and display them in your store. Tell everyone about the site. Don’t be shy; be shameless about promoting your new venture. Your livelihood depends on it.

Obviously, this won’t work for cropdusters but it will for, say, record store owners. There is still a market for vinyl, and it’s much easier to target it online than from some nondescript storefront in a small town. Ditto for used books. There are still people who prefer print over digital content. (I’m one such dinosaur, despite my technical background.)

On the other hand, you also have to deal with the new business model of free music from the likes of popular acts such as Radiohead, Prince and Nine Inch Nails.

Conclusion

These are not your only options, but they’re the key ones. Likewise, there are more than those ten businesses facing extinction. If you feel that yours is in this category and you don’t know what to do, check out our  100 Daily Must-Reads for Entrepreneurs resource list. The sites and blogs listed there might just spark some ideas. If you want an easy way to monitor new articles from that set of websites check out the Monster Mashup feed. Tell me, did I miss anything? Do you have some other options that I missed?

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.

Top 100 HR Bloggers

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 2:53pm by Site Administrator

As your small business grows you will undoubtedly find that one of your biggest challenges is finding smart talented people to comprise your staff. Even if you’re lucky enough to land great employees, however, there are a whole host of other human resources challenges that startups and small companies must overcome. In this article we highlight what we believe to be the top 100 HR bloggers, listed in alphabetical order by category. These industry insiders will provide you with the information and expertise you need to take on the legal, interpersonal, management and other challenges associated with human resources. Corporate

The following bloggers are familiar with the HR industry as it pertains to the corporate world.

  1. Beyond HR: On this blog, a professional HR talent researcher shares his secrets.
  2. Boston.com HR Blog: Read articles about hiring trends and employee management on this popular blog.
  3. Breakout Performance: Breakout Performance is a blog that shares its author’s innovative approach to analyzing human management and balancing social and business strategies in the workplace.
  4. Corporate Rockstar: Read about the goings on in the corporate office of Rodger Roeser, the president of his own company who deals with everything from employee troubles to client successes.
  5. Dr. John Sullivan & Associates: This corporate advisor publishes articles about everything related to HR: college recruiting, employee screening and assessment tests, training, and new hire orientation.
  6. Evil HR Lady: This humorous blog is all about one woman’s experiences as the "Evil HR Lady" in a corporate office.
  7. …from the trenches: This blogger chronicles the ongoing battle between companies to recruit the best professionals in their industry.
  8. Hire Calling: The CEO of the recruiting Web site ERE.net shares news and analysis on recruitment trends.
  9. HR and Strategies: This grad student combines human resources philosophies with hard news.
  10. HR Daily Advisor: This is a fantastic resource for any HR professional. Find entries about HR policy and ethics, as well as payroll and religious issues.
  11. HR Metrics: HR Metrics is an organization that helps companies maximize their HR potential. Learn new tricks and tips on their informative blog.
  12. HR Web Cafe: This is an excellent blog devoted to all things HR. Here, you can read articles about benefits, office politics, employment trends, and more.
  13. JimStroud.com: Jim Stroud is the go-to recruiting guru on the Web. Check out his blog for the latest news and trends in human resources.
  14. NowHiring.com.au Blog: Read about the latest in recruiting technology and job boards to get ahead of your competition in the recruitment race.
  15. PayScale Blog: Catch up on the latest HR news and trends, from profit sharing to technology advances.

For HR Eyes Only

These blogs provide content that HR professionals will appreciate. You’ll find basic how-to guides, HR news sites and other fundamentals.

  1. baselinr: Catch up on employment news that’s important for HR professionals.
  2. Breaking Human Resource News: This blog tracks the latest news from product and supply companies who work with HR companies, as well as recruitment and staffing agencies.
  3. Charlotte Recruiting: This blog is based in Charlotte, NC, but it offers excellent advice on interviewing, recruiting, and other HR issues that anyone can use.
  4. Green and White: Check out Green and White to find articles on leadership, management, and more.
  5. HR-Ambience: This tribute to all things HR credits human resource professionals as the peace keepers in the workplace.
  6. HR Coal: A Renewable Resource: Get the most important HR news here.
  7. HR Dictionary: This blog cleverly organizes posts by picking a word from the dictionary and defining it as it relates to human resources.
  8. HR Dude’s Forum: This fun blog explores "the fascinating and exotic world of Human Resources Management, Recruiting and Training."
  9. HR Expert Help: Get tips on all aspects of your human resources job. Don’t miss the jokes category to get a laugh!
  10. HR Horizons: Learn about training programs, the interview process, and other pertinent HR topics.
  11. HR Resource for HR Professionals: This site is an excellent blog geared towards HR professionals. Find answers to your toughest work questions, and learn how to advance your own career.
  12. HR Thoughts: This blog channels the thoughts of one HR professional. Read about daily duties, lessons learned, and more.
  13. HR View: This blog has lots of basic information about the human resources industry.
  14. Human Reources at About.com: Learn all the basics of pursuing a career in HR.

For Job Seekers and Employees

If you’re a job seeker or employee wanting the inside scoop on HR professionals, check out these informative blogs.

  1. Bio Job Blog: The Bio Job Blog is a terrific resource for anyone interested in pursuing a career in the bioscience or biotech industries. You’ll love its "ask the recruiter" section, great training tips, and more.
  2. Blog for Jobs: This site serves as a directory for blogs written by job seekers and offers a way for people to become their own recruiting managers.
  3. Bold Career: This blog is full of inspiring advice for those interested in starting a new career. Learn resume tips, HR secrets, and more.
  4. But Less About Me: This lighthearted blog provides lots of great advice and tools for job seekers who want to improve their skill set.
  5. Career Cowboy: Learn how to manage your career and job search with these inside tips.
  6. CollegeRecruiter.com Blog: Learn how to negotiate your salary, woo the hiring manager, and master the overall job searching process.
  7. Cube Management: Recruiting Bytes: This blog, sponsored by parent company Cube Management, offers several clever tips for learning how to make the most of your interview.
  8. Degreedjobs.net: Read articles about personal branding and other smart secrets HR managers are looking for.
  9. Eccentric Employment: Hiring managers use this lowkey blog as a job board to post interesting job opportunities.
  10. Frontline Source Group: This blog, run by a staffing agency, posts new jobs often.
  11. Good to Know: This blog is a must-read for any job seeker. Learn interview tips and search jobs posted on this blog, as well as the other sites it offers links to.
  12. Guerilla HR: Understand your HR directors better after reading this blog about "capitalizing on a better relationship with Human Resources, Personnel Management [and] Human Capital Management."
  13. Hiring Exchange: This blog is powered by the Hot Gigs company. Get into the minds of hiring managers and vendors to equip yourself with the confidence and tools you’ll need to master the job search.
  14. Job Hunter’s Journal: On Job Hunter’s Journal, a professional recruiter guides job seekers through the frustrating process of finding a career.
  15. WirelessJobs.com: Find jobs on this blog while learning about new trends in the wireless job industry.

HR for Entrepreneurs

Read these blogs for a better understanding of what it’s like to work in HR at the small-business level.

  1. Chief Happiness Officer: This blog is a must-read for any HR director or manager, but it is especially valuable for entrepreneurs who are looking for ways to better organize their offices. Reading this blog will teach you how to "love your job, love Your life, and kick butt at work."
  2. Consultant’s Desk: If you want to get expert advice without spending a fortune, check out this blog by Yvonne Larose. LaRose is a professional consultant who shares information and advice on career and employee management, among other things.
  3. Diversity Advantage: On this blog, you’ll find articles that will help you understand how bringing diversity into your workplace will better your business.
  4. Dr. Mercer’s Human Resources Management and Leadership Expert Blog: Learn the basics in employee management and promoting a team-oriented office.
  5. For Employers and Recruiters: Learn how to attract the best job candidates to your HR department by learning recruiting techniques and business branding strategies.
  6. Inc.com: This site stakes its righful claim as "the daily resource for entrepreneurs." Here, you’ll find informative artcles about HR policy and general business news.
  7. Generations At Work: If you’re just starting out, your office space may be a little tight, even without tension among your employees. This blog will help you bridge the generation gap among Baby Boomers, Generation X’ers and Gen Y newbies.
  8. Good Recruits: Now that you’ve got your new business off the ground, you’re going to need great employees to help you run it. This blog will help you figure out where to find the best candidates, and how to evaluate them in interviews.
  9. Hiring Revolution: The recruitment landscape has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Learn how to custom design your company’s recruitment and HR department to take advantage of new networking opportunities and software trends.
  10. HR Basics: Learn how to write and implement new policies, as well as develop effective recruitment campaigns.
  11. HR Forum: Post your questions in the forum or browse through other visitors’ comments and suggestions to improve your employee management skills.
  12. HR Point: Learn how to gauge your employee’s potential and satisfaction with the tools available on this blog.
  13. HR Software and Solutions: Does your office need an upgrade? Read reviews about the newest software designed for HR professionals.
  14. Human Resources 101: Get tips on managing your company’s employees, from dress code to payroll and more.
  15. Human Resources Advice for the Real World: HR consultant Irene Koehler brings up basic topics like hiring and managing interns as well as sexual harrassment issues.

Miscellaneous

These blogs shed light on the various types of HR trends, situations, and environments. From software updates to foreign recruiting techniques, you’ll find it all here.

  1. America’s HR Answer Man: Post all your work life questions on this blog, and the Answer Man will help you sort them out.
  2. BlogERP: Jim Holicheck’s HCM Software Blog: This specialized blog follows the author’s research on human capital management, from sales and marketing trends to technology and recruitment.
  3. Blogging Outside the Box: This blog features HR issues such as telecommuting, recruiting, and bridging the generation gap.
  4. BRANDEblogThis well-written blog analyzes recruiting issues in relation to advertising and marketing strategies.
  5. Cenek Report: This blog brands itself as an "uncommon commentary on the world of work." HR professionals will love the witty posts on news and trivia in the business world.
  6. Central and Eastern European Recruitment Blog: Read about the recruiting trends affecting Central and Eastern Europe, and how or if they’ll eventually become relevant in the U.S.
  7. Compensation Force: Author and professional compensation consultant Ann Bares offers up tips and news about employee management and compensation issues.
  8. Connecting HR Professionals in Ministry: This blog is designed especially for human resource professionals working with religious-affiliated organizations.
  9. Groundswell: While this blog isn’t exclusively limited to HR topics, its clever discussion on the changing landscape of social and business networking is worth a look. You’ll learn a lot about your newest generation of applicants and can read up on the latest software your office just might need.
  10. HR Blogger: Learn which new software products will help your day to day duties and which ones are simply a waste of your time and money.
  11. HR FUNDA: Read personal anecdotes, jokes, news, and other articles all relating to the human resources industry.
  12. HR Tests: This blog serves as a valuable resource for any hiring manager. Use the tests as they are or rework them to fit your company’s guidelines and expectations.
  13. Human Resources Executive Search: Read interesting articles like "Job Seekers Revenge" on this informative blog.
  14. Know HR Blog: These posts cover business world trivia, news, and more.
  15. Past Five: According to this blog, "your job may end at 5:00 P.M., but your career doesn’t." Get great tips on managing your career, finding a job, and more, all from an HR pro’s perspective.
  16. Perfect Labor Storm: Browse titles like "All About Workplace Stress" and "Understanding Business Values and Motivators" on Perfect Labor Storm.

Policy, Legal Information and Ethics

Make sure your company’s office politics, payroll, and general rules are in accordance with the government’s current labor laws. Check out these blogs to stay on top of legal and ethical rulings.

  1. Charles A. Krugel, Labor and Employment Law, HR Law: Charles A. Krugel is an attorney and HR counselor. Check out his blog for insight into labor law and news.
  2. EASI-HR Blog: This blog is an excellent resource for finding official ethical and legal documents related to HR.
  3. Employment Law blog: The Mullison Law Office helps HR professionals better understand employment law in the state of Colorado.
  4. ELinfonet.com: The Employment Law Information Network is a great tool for checking on HR policy, downloading forms, and brushing up on your employees’ rights.
  5. George’s Employment Blawg: Stay current on important labor and employment laws with George’s Employment Blawg.
  6. Gruntled Employees: Learn the causes and consequences of gruntled American employees. Author Jay Shepherd is an employment lawyer whose mission is to champion the rights of U.S. employees in the workplace.
  7. Joe Recruiter — THE Legal Recruiter: Read irreverant posts about the legal recruiting industry.
  8. Legal Jobs and Recruitment: Find out how to legally recruit for UK government jobs. This is a great resource whether you’re a job seeker or an HR exec.
  9. Ross’ Arbitration Blog: According to the site, Ross Runkel’s Law Memo is the "first in employment law."
  10. The HR Lawyer’s Blog: Learn about your rights as an employee or stay on top of the latest employment rulings to make sure your office stays scandal-free.

Recruitment

This section is dedicated to the recruiting side of human resources.

  1. Amitai Givertz’s Recruitomatic Blog: This recruiting professional reveals some of her best tools for attracting talent.
  2. AmyBeth Hale: Research Goddess!: This fun to read blog is a great resource for connecting you with other HR sites and blogs across the Web.
  3. A Recruiter Diary: Author Joe Neitham shares "the ups and downs, lessons learnt, success stories," and more in his recruiting blog.
  4. Ask the Recruiter: Post your questions or just browse through other readers’ inquiries to learn more about the recruiting industry.
  5. Cheezhead: Cheezhead is an attractive, popular blog about recruitment trends, with special attention paid to issues unique to working on the Internet.
  6. Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter: Even if you’re not in the restaurant business, you’ll have a good time reading this blog, which is full of recruiting tales and tips that will leave you hungry for more.
  7. Confessions of a Recruiting Newbie: Follow the author’s journey through a career in HR recruiting.
  8. Cyber Sleuthing: Use this blog to learn the sneakiest tips for using the Web as your main recuritment tool.
  9. Director of Recruiting: Catch up on all the latest "news and views" you need to know as a recruiter.
  10. ERE Expo Blog: The ERE Expo is the principle convention held each year for recruiting professionals. Sign up to attend, check out their blog entries, or preview the event’s schedule.
  11. Expert Recruiter Resource: Don’t miss this blog. Use it to discover a wealth of advice and tips that will help boost your career.
  12. Hire Strategies: Learn about the power of e-recruitment, especially within the retail industry.
  13. IT Recruiting Diary: On this blog, you can read inspirational stories and valuable tips about recruiting.
  14. IT Toolbox Recruitment Blog: The IT Toolbox Recruitment Blog features short but thorough postings with expert advice on the newest recruitment ideas and trends.
  15. The Asia Pacific Headhunter: This blog discusses trends in recruiting, and is a great resource for professionals and job searchers alike.

Bootstrapper Cracks Technorati 10,000 – Assistant Entrepreneur Blogger Needed

Wednesday, September 19, 2007 at 10:30am by Site Administrator

Many of you reading this might have noticed all the great list articles on Bootstrapper the past couple of months. Some of the smaller ones are mine (w/ my name on them) but the bigger ones aren’t. The traffic that’s been generated by both these big lists and by the regular posts as well as resulted in pushing Bootstrapper well into the Technorati Top 10,000 blogs. That’s no small feat when you consider that the Bootstrapper blog was added to the Business Credit Cards website around May 2007.

There’s a great team at work behind the promotion and all the writing that I don’t do, and now I need an assistant business blogger to help me with regular posts and some smaller feature articles/ lists. For clarity, I’m contracted to Bootstrapper; it’s not my site/ blog. I’m the defacto Editor as well, and I need a hand with the blogging. Here are the details. Please read carefully before applying.

  1. You must have some experience blogging, and understand the value of deep linking as well as referencing other materials.

  2. You must have some relevant business experience or the equivalent knowledge of business concepts. A degree in business is not necessary.
  3. The focus is on entrepreneurship, startups, and especially bootstrapping. This is especially important, as all the articles you will be doing relate to these and related topics.
  4. 20 posts/mth (mostly 1 post per weekday, with a little bit of flexibility in schedule).
  5. 350+ words per post, original content. The occasional summary article is okay.
  6. Those who show suitable skills will be trained by me to also write 2 features per month for an extra fee, to be discussed.
  7. Rates negotiable depending on relevant skills/ experience – minimum $150/mth for 20 posts.
  8. One week trial or shorter, commencing Mon Sep 24th or as soon before Oct 1st as possible.
  9. Full duration unspecified – for later discussion. Minimum two months.
  10. I will be copyediting your work during the trial, though you should otherwise be capable of working on your own, with minimum supervision.
  11. Your location irrelevant, though a excellent grasp of English is a must.
  12. Payment is by PayPal only – no exceptions – and made early in each subsequent month.
  13. Reply in the comments of this post. For your sake, do not put your email address in the body of your comment.
  14. Only those under consideration will be contacted.
  15. When the position is filled, I’ll indicate that by updating this post.

11 Principles of Entrepreneurial Leadership

Monday, September 17, 2007 at 11:30pm by Site Administrator

With the number of tools available on the Internet, it’s quite possible that entrepreneurs can build a successful business online – even a media empire. However, if you expect to expand, you will need to delegate tasks at some point. You simply can’t do everything yourself and also expect to grow.

That means you need to hire people and inevitably deal with “normal” work situations. Forget about traditional leadership. I’ve only ever had a very few bosses who were good leaders, but they taught me something because they were forward-thinking. Here’s some of their wisdom, distilled by my perspectives and my experience in the workforce.

  1. Never blame. At least, don’t blame an employee in front of another. If you have to reprimand, do it in private. This sets a bad tone, and you lose respect with all employees, as such things will get around like bad gossip.

  2. Don’t create adversarial situations. Don’t pit employees against each other or ask them to snitch. Healthy competition is fine. Back-stabbing is like a smile, but only in that it carries a long way through the company morale, and not in a good way.
  3. Understand the work. Be a constant learner. Have at least a fundamental understanding of the work you’re expecting your employees to do. It makes it easier on everyone when the try to tell you why something can’t be done, or that it will cost more.
  4. Don’t put square pegs in round holes. Basically, assign the right work to the right people, to allow them to work optimally. Don’t be like those companies that shall remain nameless that give you a job you can’t do and beat down your spirit. You wouldn’t want that and neither would your employees.
  5. Lead by example. If the company approaches a problem that covers new ground, don’t expect your employees to know how to solve it. If you know how, give them a crash course and let them take it from there. And by leading, I don’t mean leading employees like a puppy.
  6. Brainstorm. If they still have trouble solving a new problem, brainstorm with them. Proper brainstorming requires that at least the moderator of the meeting does some legwork beforehand. Record all ideas without censorship, or you might miss the best solution, which might be unfamiliar and thus seem odd.
  7. Ask, don’t tell. Communicate well and clearly. In a startup company with a positive environment and healthy competitive spirit, most people want to be asked, want to be challenged. Offer up the day’s or week’s “assignments” and let people pick. That is, if you’re not such a big company yet that you need to structure everyone’s roles. Don’t count anyone out. You might be suprised about who’s capable of what. Challenges also weed out the lazybones.
  8. Be decisive. Have a strategy ready. If business problems crop up and employees are aware of them, they’ll be thinking abou their bills, their mortgages, etc., not yours. (Possibly unless you’re giving them incentives.) So be the decision-maker, indicate what needs to be done, then ask for volunteers or assign tasks if necessary.
  9. Consider profit-sharing. Bonuses go a long way towards employee loyalty, passion and creativity. Sure, there’ll still be stragglers, but a creative bonus “matrix” weeds them out. If your company is young, there’s only so far you can go with bonuses, so also consider profit-sharing/ private shares. Talk to a good accountant about the best way to implement these incentives.
  10. Be sympathetic. Or at least courteous. It’s only human to not always be in top form, even with incentives. Talk to your employees, understand them and give them some leeway when possible. Have some redunancy in job descriptions, right from the beginning, to allow someone to temporarily take up the slack.
  11. Be firm. Being sympathetic is all well and good, but you do have a business to run. Be firm when it’s necessary.

These are by no means all you need to know or be, though they are amongst the important leadership traits.

10 Popular Ways Entrepreneurs Can Make Money in Second Life

Monday, September 10, 2007 at 1:51pm by Site Administrator

While the idea of owning and operating a successful business in a purely virtual world might sound extremely futuristic, the reality is that virtual worlds are a growing market full of possibilities for entrepreneurs who know how to take advantage. Artists, designers, landowners and even currency speculators are turning the virtual environment of Second Life into a real-world profit center.

Second Life has become so profitable that it has an annual GDP of $64 million, with over 3,000 business owners earning more than $20,000 a year on their virtual wares. There are many ways that you can become part of this growing trend. Here are a few ideas for starting your own business in Second Life.

  1. Design avatars. As an absolute essential in the Second Life world, there is no shortage of demand for avatars. Because of this demand, selling avatars can be an extremely profitable business for entrepreneurs with a little technical know-how and creativity. Some businesses cater to the general crowd, while others profit from focusing on specific sub groups or parts of the body. Whatever you decide to do, no matter how bizarre, you’re bound to find customers as long as your products are well-designed.
  2. Be a real estate mogul. In Second Life, land is bought and sold just like it is in real life. Entrepreneurs can purchase it from Second Life or from other businesspeople in the game. It can then be developed with businesses, rented out, or sold off in smaller parcels at a markup. Don’t see how you could become the Donald Trump of the virtual world? It can be done, just ask Anshe Chung. Chung is a real estate tycoon in the game, just last year becoming the first virtual world millionaire. While it might take you a while to match that kind of earning power, there is definitely money to be made in the virtual real estate industry.
  3. Make virtual objects for real businesses. The line between real-world businesses and virtual world businesses is getting thinner by the moment. Many Second Life entrepreneurs make their money creating in-game objects that can help out real-life businesses. Some are used for medical and emergency training, others for builders and universities. It’s an area where there is a lot of room to grow as well. The next version of Second Life will be directly integrated with the web, making it easier for business owners to bring their tangible goods into the virtual world.
  4. Set up a currency exchange. Second Life has its own currency, Linden Dollars, and as such, residents must exchange dollars for in-game cash. The official exchange site for the game, LindeX, charges a small fee for the transactions, much like if you were to exchange dollars for any other currency. Of course, entrepreneurs who are good with economics could stand to make a tidy profit off setting up their own currency exchange, buying and selling as the market fluctuates. Some business owners have even gone so far as to add investments like stocks to their banking empire. With the constant evolution of the in-game economy, the idea may not be that far-fetched.
  5. Embrace fashion design. If you’ve always wanted to design clothes but lack the necessary sewing skills, you might be able to live out your dream through Second Life. Entrepreneurs adept with texture design and 3-D modeling can design clothing and accessories. Designer Jennifer Grinnell was able to quit her day job and live solely off the profits from her cyber clothing store, Mischief. And with a little business savvy you could do the same. Put your clothes on the right residents, and you could start a trend, earning you a handsome profit and a cyber celebrity status to boot.
  6. Be an architect. Real estate is a big market in Second Life, and it’s not just about the land. Well-designed buildings are in demand, but the customers aren’t just residents who want help developing beachfront property. Businesses are increasingly using the game as a means of keeping in touch with far flung employees, and need appropriately designed office space for meetings and work with these employees, often requesting replicas of their real-life conference rooms. As Second Life grows in popularity with businesses and casual users, opportunities for making money from designing buildings will only increase.
  7. Teach classes. Second Life isn’t all just fun and games, you can also use it to bring together residents to teach classes and provide learning opportunities. Several universities already use the program for teaching classes online. While the medium might be better suited for conceptual rather than hands-on topics, it is possible to offer classes that would be of interest to users. Provided you have the expertise, you could turn you a profit without ever having to leave your home.
  8. Design games. There are many interactive games available for Second Life residents to play, and because at heart it is a game, these can be a good way to make money. The most successful of these games, Tringo, sells within the virtual universe at $50 bucks a pop, but has also scored a much more valuable deal: a contract with a real-life video game company to market the game for Nintendo. Come up with the next big thing and you could find yourself in a similar situation.
  9. Create animations. Every interaction between Second Life characters has to be programmed, and many residents are willing to pony up hard-earned Linden Dollars for specialized interactions. While they may be time-consuming to create, they can be a very profitable business. Interaction designer Chris Mead sells about 300 of his custom interactions a day. Even at only $1 each, that figure is nothing to scoff at. Program your own interactions, and you could see a similar return on your time investment.
  10. Open a retail shop. Just like the real world, Second Life residents need more than clothes and a place to live to be happy– they need stuff and lots of it. That’s where you can come in. You can set up a shop specializing in selling everything from toasters to sports cars. Or if you’re especially design-savvy, open your own line of department stores for virtual one-stop shopping.

The 10 ways listed in this article are simply a taste of the entrepreneurial diversity that Second Life has to offer. To date there are hundreds of different varieties of businesses all fighting and thriving amid competition at least as fierce as in the "real world." In fact, the parallels between the Second Life economy and any other entrepreneurial endeavor are so similar that even if you don’t plan on opening up your own shop in Second Life, taking a stroll down the virtual street can be a learning experience on how to improve any small business.

Profiling 10 Successful Anime Entrepreneurs

Thursday, September 6, 2007 at 3:17pm by Site Administrator

When anime finally exploded onto the scene in the United States in the late 1990s along with Pikachu and friends, an entirely new pop subculture was formed. Everyone young and old welcomed the TV show and videos and embraced the funny little characters as a revolution in art, design and cinema, at least as we Americans knew it. Since then anime has managed to gain popularity, and even though new shows and stories aren’t as mainstream as Pokemon was, anime has solidly established itself in the American pop culture world, alongside Britney Spears, Finding Nemo, and Spiderman.

Anime entrepreneurs are continuing to make their mark in Japan, Korea, and rest of the Western world. According to Business Week magazine, they are only maximizing a fraction of their potential. Still regarded as a fresh take on traditional Western animation, anime, with the help of its designers, business managers and technology consultants, could one day compete with Hollywood. Critics argue that the bulk of the anime industry is still to disorganized to become a cinematic heavyweight, but we’ve compiled a list of 10 anime entrepreneurs who have overcome challenges like lack of funding or too-small audiences to rise to the top of their game and challenge even the biggest mainstream Hollywood companies.

  1. John Ledford Houston, TX, native John Ledford "is America’s leading licensor and distributor of Japanese animation," according to Forbes magazine. A college dropout, Ledford started his own video game distribution company in 1990. It became so wildly successful that just a few years later he began licensing and distributing anime films. Soon afterward, he founded ADV Films, the company under which he still operates today. Ledford, 38, has now branched into the cable television market developing shows for his diehard fans.
  2. Tatsunori Konno As President of Bandai Visual USA, Inc., Tatsunori Konno heads the American division the Japanese film company Bandai Visual Co., Ltd. By distancing himself, however far, from his parent company, Konno will surely end up being ultimately responsible for the growing successes of anime film in the United States. A distributor for the most "sophisticated" and hardcore anime fans, Konno strives to bring his customers the highest quality DVDs, designs, and experiences. Click here to read about an interview with Konno.
  3. Stu Levy After founding the popular manga novel and guidebook company Tokyopop in 1996, Stu Levy’s profile has reached international audiences. As a guest lecturer at colleges and conventions around the world Levy manages, creates, and publishes the entertainment produced at Tokyopop as well as collaborates with other companies in the anime industry.
  4. Matt Greenfield Matt Greenfield is another influential member of America’s anime business. He is a founding partner and current Vice President of John Ledford’s ADV Films. Helping to start ADV Films in 1992, Greenfield launched the company into the highest levels of American anime consumerism while managing to compete with traditional Hollywood. He also occasionally does voice overs for some films.
  5. Tateo Mataki As CEO for Dentsu, often regarded as one of the largest and most powerful advertising agencies in the entire world, Tateo Mataki is quite involved with the global successes of anime. Mataki began working for Dentsu in 1962, making his way up to different managerial and executive level offices until he reached the position of CEO in 2004. Among a list of other high profile clients in the sports and entertainment industries, Dentsu is also responsible for the advertising and promotion of anime worldwide.
  6. John Oppliger John Oppliger’s professional beginnings were far from the flash and fame of anime. Starting out, he briefly taught English at St. Petersburg College — he is now widely regarded as an expert of anime culture and trivia. As Web master for AnimeNation.com, Oppliger was made famous by his "Ask John" column, in which he answers fans’ questions about anything anime related.
  7. Satoshi Yamaguchi Yamaguchi’s Yumeta Co. adequately represents the quiet, humble nature behind the origins of anime. Despite its immense popularity, the Yumeta Co. has "no sign on the door. Inside the cramped, nearly windowless building, the company’s 30 or so jeans-clad staffers busily draw by hand" each design, according to "The Anime Biz," article published in Business Week. A direct contrast of Hollywood egoism, Yamaguchi’s anime business recalls a purist’s style, in which all the work centers around the perfection of the trade.
  8. Hayao Miyazaki As one of the leading directors in the Asian culture and perhaps the most prolific and successful director in the anime industry, Haya Miyazaki has come as close as he can get to achieving mainstream popularity. His film "Princess Mononoke," backed by the American company Miramax, became the highest-grossing film EVER in Japan, until two years later when another of his films, "Spirited Away," took over the title. Miyazaki is also co-founder of the prominent Studio Ghibli, which produces anime films.
  9. Mitsuhisa Ishikawa As President of the Production IG Studio, Ishikawa has developed numerous TV shows, films, and video games for anime fans all over the world. Ishikawa started Production IG in 1987 and since then has become known as "one of the forerunners of digital animation techniques," making him one of the leaders in bringing anime into the future.
  10. Osamu Tezuka Osamu Tezuka is warmly considered Japan’s Walt Disney. He revolutionized anime through his design techniques and is responsible for popularizing the unique artform. His most famous stories are Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Tezuka died in 1989 but is still revered as "the God of Manga."

The ever-growing anime industry may not be the mainstream in the United States yet but it’s certainly hold its own. With ambitious, talented entrepreneurs like the leaders listed above spreading the word through their designs, advertising campaigns, Web sites, and profitable distribution companies, it’s only a matter of time before the quirky animated art is as much a part of our pop culture as it is Japan’s.

50 Practical Home Office Feng Shui Tips

Wednesday, August 29, 2007 at 2:48pm by Site Administrator

If you’re lucky enough to work from home, you’re probably the envy of everyone in the working world. Sleeping in, foregoing any sort of dress code, and being able to run your errands in the middle of the day are just a few of the perks of being able to earn your paycheck in the comfort of your very own home. On the down side, maintaining an organized work space in the middle of your home can be frustrating, as bill paying, laundry, and other household chores can find themselves in the middle of your office files. Below are 50 simple ways you can maintain a happy, clean, and organized office area at home by practicing the fundamentals of Feng Shui. By including the key elements fire, water, earth, and wood, you’ll have a work space that maximizes your productivity and energy while nurturing a calm, soothing balance.

Furniture

  1. Don’t obstruct the doorway. Keep shoes, umbrellas, books, and other items put away. Keeping the entrance way clear will allow positive energy, or chi, to flow freely in and out of the room, uncontrained. You will be able to improve your mood as soon as you enter the room since your eyes won’timmediately jump to the clutter and disorganization and you won’t be tripping over mismatched shoes and the raincoat from last month.
  2. Rearrange furniture frequently. You don’t have to totally redo the setup of the whole room, but shifting your furniture frequently will maintain a healthy level of energy. You will subconsciously notice the changes, keeping you alert and on you toes. Try moving the desk a few inches closer to the window or switching the placement of two chairs. It may not seem like a big change aesthetically, but you’ll be able to feel the results instantly.
  3. Move the TV to another room. Keeping the television in your home office will be a constant distraction. You can find all the news, stocktrading information, and other work-related updates you need on the Internet anyway. Move the TV out of your office and leave room for healthier, more natural workspace.
  4. Don’t lose sight of the door. Make sure all of your chairs and sofas are situated so that anyone sitting in your office will always be able to see the door. Having a way out and keeping track of who or what comes in is a traditional measure of good Feng Shui.
  5. Leave at least 3 feet between furniture. A standard Feng Shui tip for arranging your furniture is to leave at least 3 feet between all the pieces in the room. For instance, leave 3 feet between your desk and the computer chair when unoccupied. Allow 3 feet between your 2 lounge chairs or between a chair and sofa. You can find other similar tips by clicking here.
  6. Make sure your furniture represents the elements. You obviously won’t be able to have a desk made of fire, but try to incorporate the wood and metal elements into your furniture constitutions as much as possible. Most of your furniture will undoubtedly be made of wood, but see if you can find an end table made of aluminum or one that features a metallic finish.
  7. Add pillows and blankets. Buy a couple of throw pillows and a comfy blanket to give your office a cozy appeal. Let them lie easily on your chairs or couch, but only indulge in wrapping yourself up in the blanket if it’s really chilly. You want to promote an easygoing atmosphere, but you don’t want to fall asleep at your desk! Try PotteryBarn.com for ideas.
  8. Don’t overcrowd the room. Putting too much furniture or accessories in your office will lead to overcrowding. Overcrowding leads to a tense, nervous energy. Keep the amount of items in the room to a minimum, including only the furniture and electronics you need to conduct your business and host clients in a basic, but comfortable, way.
  9. Give yourself a choice of places to sit. If you limit yourself to the one desk chair you use while on the computer, you’ll end up feeling cramped and panicky. Have at least one other sofa or chair for you to sit in while taking a break from the computer once in a while. Visit JCPenney.com for ideas. Changing your physical placement will keep you focused longer.
  10. Be comfortable.
  11. Make sure all the furniture in the room is comfortable to you. Since it’s your office, you will be the one spending most (if not all) of your time there. Being comfortable will keep your mind off your external circumstances and allow you to work.

Light and Color

  1. Windows When selecting a room for your home office, you should pick the one that has at least one window. Enveloping yourself in natural light helps keep you on track with the progression of day and night, keeping you in sync with the environment around you. Make sure the window has blinds or curtains, though, in case the sun is too bright or causes an irritating glare on your desk.
  2. Lamps Putting lamps on your desk or end tables will allow you to control the amount of light you receive more pointedly. If the overhead light is too harsh for example turning it off and relying on lamps and the natural light from the window will keep you more relaxed and your eyes less strained. If the main light isn’t bright enough however, a lamp will help you see better and concentrate on your work, as your eyes will naturally be drawn to where the light is focused.
  3. Light bulbs Choosing the right light bulbs for your home office is extremely important. You will want bulbs that radiate feelings of warmth. Avoid buying fluorescent lights altogether. Click here to read more about the benefits of lighting when creating a Feng Shui environment.
  4. Blue Incorporating the color blue into your home office helps include an association with the element "water." Blue is a soothing color and is best used in the East and Southeast areas of the room. According to Feng Shui expert Rodika Tchi, painting the ceiling blue is a great way to not only add color to your office, but to improve productivity and promote good energy.
  5. Green According to Viewzone.com, green "is considered to be a color of freshness, growth, and peace," so try adding cushions or pillows in light, subtle shades to give your office soothing energy with a punch of personality.
  6. Red Bold reds are thought to introduce feelings wealth and happiness into a person’s life. Supplementing your otherwise subdued room with red accents will brighten your mood and perhaps even bring you luck. Don’t go overboard with strong reds or you may end up creating a negative energy infused with anger and agitation.
  7. Metal Metallic accents will brighten up your room in a subtle way. Use a bronze paperweight or hang copper windchimes near the window to represent key Feng Shui element while allowing natural light to reflect off the metallic surfaces.
  8. Earth tones Earth tones are known to be soothing shades of yellow, brown, and green. They generally make people feel comfortable and at ease because of their relationship to nature, so stick to these shades when designing your home office. A deep yellow rug or tan curtains will create a simplified atmosphere perfect for work.
  9. Balance As with any Feng Shui practices, you must maintain a balance of color in your room. Adding too much blue and not enough red will leave your office vulnerable to the water element, for example. Keeping the elements in check through color is a fun, inspiring approach to Feng Shui interior design because of the choices you have to accessorize each area.
  10. Mirrors Mirrors help positive energy dart about the room by letting in more light and allowing you to keep your eye on what normally wouldn’t be seen. Hang a mirror over your computer to watch the wall behind you and open up the space around you. Mirrors maximize your space by making rooms appear much larger than they actually are, making the office feel roomy and uncramped.

Decorations and Plants

  1. Put up family photos To make your home office more inviting, hang up or display photos of you with family and friends. You’ll make yourself more comfortable by seeing familiar faces and recalling fun memories. Use a variety both wood and metal frames to incorporate the two elements.
  2. Paintings Paintings are also positive additions to your home office. Choose ones that feature garden scenes, landscapes, and other natural designs to invite earth tones and keep you in touch with the environment.
  3. Crystals Certain crystals like quartz, amethyst, and malachite increase the power of Feng Shui. Click here to read more about where to place crystals in your room and to find out which ones will benefit you the most.
  4. Flowers Introducing plant life into your home office will boost your spirits and help balance out the elements. Plants, even flowers, represent wood. Put a potted plant on the windowsill or situate a larger fern or hibiscus plant in a corner to brighten up the room. Click here for specific tips and ideas for bringing in the right flowers for your space.
  5. Bamboo Bamboo also represents the element wood and is considered to be extremely lucky. Read Diane Kern’s ideas for selecting and maintaining bamboo to ensure that the plant brings you the best luck possible.
  6. Fountain Having a small water fountain in your home office is good for many reasons. The sound of the running water will soothe your senses, the water element will be fully represented, and according to the Target Woman, the fountain will "attract and trap the chi."
  7. Caring for a plant. Having a plant in your home office will do no good if you can’t keep it alive. Dying or dead plants will increase the amount of negative energy, making you feel depressed and frustrated. Refer to the Garden Guide Web site to learn tips about container gardening.
  8. Place wall decorations at eye level. Hanging up pictures any old way is a direct infringement of Feng Shui practice. Let all your wall decorations hang at eye level, creating a consistent, organized aesthetic.
  9. Avoid sharp-cornered objects. Sharp-cornered objects are not only potentially harmful, they are also believed to obstruct the pathway of chi. Your desk will most likely have sharp corners, but as long as you are not sitting where they point directly at you, the chi will still be able to flow around you easily.
  10. If it doesn’t have a function, you don’t need it. If your end table doesn’t hold up a lamp or represent any of the key elements, you probably don’t need it. Get rid of any decor that doesn’t serve some sort of Feng Shui function by balancing out the elements, and you’ll free up space and feel better about everything that does belong.

Sound and Scent

  1. Music Play soothing music throughout the day to alleviate stress, calm nerves, and keep you relaxed. Try a Norah Jones CD or listen to something purely instrumental so you won’t get caught up in the lyrics.
  2. Eliminate distractions. Close the door if others are at home with you so that you don’t have to listen to distracting noises. Eliminating unnatural, exterior noise will keep you focused on your work and will allow the chi to move around your room with minimal disruptions.
  3. Evaluate your reactions to certain noises. Does the sound of birds chirping keep you relaxed? Does the rumbling dishwasher make you stressed? Evaluate your reactions to everyday noises and then try to accommodate accordingly. Crack the window a little to let in natural noises and drown out that dishwasher. Or, turn up your music to keep out the bothersome weed eater outside.
  4. Pick a room located far away from loud noises. When selecting the perfect room for your home office, pick one that is located far away from loud, distracting noises. For example, if your neighbors are always out on their front lawn playing or visiting, go to a room that’s located at the back of your house. If the neighbor on your left has a dog that barks all day long, choose a room on the other side of the house. Eliminating as much extra noise as possible will help you concentrate.
  5. Candles Light candles to welcome scent and give your office a relaxed atmosphere. The warm flame is a soft, natural representation of fire that also helps you feel cozy. Visit the Yankee Candle Comapny Web site to find your favorite scents and special seasonal deals.
  6. Incense Lighting incense is another way to bring scent into the room. Many incense smells like the ones found here are believed to promote healthy chi.
  7. Garbage Take out the garbage often to get rid of bad smells that will interrupt your room’s chi. Mildew, garbage, and other noisome scents will also distract you until they are eliminated. Empty out your trash several times each week to keep bad smells from developing in the first place.
  8. Citrus Citrusy scents like tangerine and mandarin increase the amount of energy in the room, keeping you awake and alert even after hours of work.
  9. Geranium and Lavender These soothing scents will calm nerves and help you keep things in perspective. Click here to read more about which scents are good for promoting your room’s chi.
  10. Burning oil Burning tiny amounts of oil will cause your room to smell better in seconds. Try out one of these oil burners from The Body Shop to improve your room’s fragrance.

Eliminate Clutter

  1. Don’t use your workspace for any other chores. Clutter will immediately destroy any good energy that was present in your home office before. To help eliminate mess, don’t use your workspace for any other purpose other than business. Don’t fold laundry, pay bills, or let your kids play on the computer in the room that you’ve specially designed for work.
  2. Organize your desk.Invest in a collection of wire baskets that stack on the top of your desk to eliminate floating papers and general clutter. Office Depot carries a large stock of desk accessories that will minimize the amount of roaming items and keep you from losing important items. Clean up the inside of your desk by sliding in dividers or small containers that will hold paperclips, rubberbands, and extra staples.
  3. File papers. It might seem old-fashioned, but every office needs a filing system. Buy a simple filing cabinet and start filling it up. To make sure you can find your papers easily, make a folder for almost everything. Divide topics into subtopics, and divide those further. It might take a little extra work in the beginning, but when you’re trying to find a specific document, you’ll be glad you did. Choose multicolored folders and use separate colors for different projects, clients, or months.
  4. Clean up before ending each workday. As a part of your daily routine, straighten up your desk and office before leaving each day. This practice will help keep you organized and ready for the following day, and when you begin work in the morning, you won’t be walking into a messy room. Instead of seeing stacks of papers and clutter, your eyes will settle on the calm organization you’ve worked so hard to preserve.
  5. Hide unruly cords and cables. Even though you’ve taken the TV out of your office, your computer and radio and/or CD player have lots of messy cords ruining your simplistic mood. Having to look at a tangle of wires will stress you out and distract you from your work. Use a surge protector to safely plug in all those wires to your wall, and use hefty twist ties to prevent tangling. Try investing in a cable kit, like this one from cable-safe.com.
  6. Bring in as little food as possible. Being able to work from home means that you can eat in the kitchen. Try not to bring food into your office, as it will only add to the clutter and garbage. If you do decide to have a snack, make sure you clean it up as soon as possible.
  7. Hide your magazines and manuals. Old magazines, guidebooks, and manuals can stack up quickly, leaving your home office looking more like a dusty library than a Feng Shui refuge. If you’re not ready to throw everything out, hide items in a basket underneath a side table or stash them inside hollowed out ottomans. You’ll never know there’s a messy collection of Reader’s Digest underneath you feet!
  8. Buy a bookshelf. Use a bookshelf for books and manuals that you refer to frequently. Put taller items at the end of each shelf and shorter ones in the middle. This organization idea will make your books look better and stand straighter.
  9. Separate your mail. Sort your mail as soon as you come from the mailbox, and separate your personal items from business-related envelopes and packages. Take with you to your office the mail that is for work only, and keep it in a basket or on a shelf designated for mail. Each week, file or throw away old bills and envelopes to keep the stack small.
  10. Make to-do lists to keep your mind clutter-free. Breathe deeply. Don’t get overwhelmed, you’ll be able to finish it all. To avoid panic attacks at work, make yourself several "to do" lists throughout the day. Whether they’re involved outlines on the computer or a simple note dashed on a post it, keeping track of what you need to accomplish will ease your mind and keep you organized. Re-prioritize after lunch, and make a new list for the afternoon or following morning.

Following the practices of Feng Shui will help organize the movement and energy in your home office, essentially increasing your productivity and improving your mood. By balancing out the elements of fire, water, wood, and earth as you arrange furniture, maximize the benefits and focus of light and color, decorate in an organized manner, realize the potential of sound and scent, and eliminate clutter, your home office will not only be a productive environment for work, it will also be your own personal refuge.

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