Friday, October 03, 2008

Saving money in your home-based business

Here are some tips for saving money in starting and operating your home-based business

1. Any tips/advice for saving a services (e.g. Internet)? Are "unlimited" capabilities for things like long distance a good idea? How about "bundled" services (such as cable TV, Internet and long distance on one bill)?

Having unlimited capabilities is very beneficial for entrepreneurs. For example, with unlimited phone services, you can talk freely and don't have to worry about being on the phone too long with potential clients and even your regular clients. Plus when you have unlimited services you find you have more ways to use your services, such as offering coaching. Unlimited Internet is almost always a necessity. Not only do you need the Internet for connecting with clients, but you also do research, marketing, networking, etc. You want to be able to have access to this freely.

You can often save money by getting services bundled. For example check to see if you can get a lower rate on combining services such as long distance phone service, Internet service, etc. It's important though to check your bill monthly and make sure that you are getting what you signed up for and nothing additional. Also, if you are unsure if you have a package added, call and find out before you utilize the service to make sure you are covered. For example, if you aren't sure if your calls to Canada are covered, call and find out. Don't just assume they are and make a call. You don’t want one large unexpected phone bill to negate the savings you receive.

One point that Kelly Poelker, my co-author of VA the Series points out is when bundling have a back-up plan in place as one down side to bundled services is if one service goes down, typically they all do. Use caution in selecting a provider and get the most reliable one.

#2 – Any tips/advice for saving on regularly purchased office supplies, such as toner and paper? Are generic versions usually acceptable quality? Where can home business owners find wholesalers or suppliers at wholesale prices?

Always buy in bulk whenever you can and shop until you find the best prices. Also shopping at wholesale or non-office supply stores can save you money. Today, I purchase most of my office supplies, including toners, at Walmart. I also find places such as Costco or Sams Club can save a bundle. However, I will still look to the sale ads at places such as Office Depot to see their sales. Once in a while their sale price will be cheaper. Also, Office Depot and many places offer Rewards cards. By using your rewards card, at the end of the quarter you can get a gift card back that you can use for purchases. The amount is dependent on how much you spend. Shop online as well. Often you will then get email notices of sales.

Generic versions do work for some products, but I’ve found for toners, etc for quality I want to go with name brand. What you can do is try out one to see if it works for you. It’s worth the experiment if it works and you save monthly from then on. And it’s not a large investment if it doesn’t. But always keep in mind, professional image for entrepreneurs is the most important factor in determining price.

3. Any tips/advice for determine which services are necessary and which can be cut?

Focus on your particular business and what needs relate directly to that keeping in mind that your business is unique. Even though some businesses might need some services, you might not.
Now consider what services you used in the past year and how often you used that service.

4. Any tips/advice for comparison shopping and/or negotiating?

There are times of the year that certain items routinely go on sale. Take note of these times and plan accordingly. Also, be aggressive and ask sales personnel when they routinely have discounts. For example, when new computer models come out, you can get cheaper prices on the older models.

Buy bulk and go for volume discounts with vendors you purchase from routinely. Also check into a commercial accounts for contract pricing. Share the costs with your colleagues and save even more.

Any other tips/advice

Write out a budget for your business and prioritize what your needs are. This is invaluable. Many add this to their business plan when starting a business, but a separate budget can be a real asset. It helps to see things in black and white.

Also, stick with products that you trust and look for the best prices on them. For example, I normally purchase Hewlett Packard computers. I keep an eye on their products and always look for the best prices before I need to make a purchase.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marketing Success Begins with a New Business Image

Many of you are already established in business with your website in place, your business cards tucked away securely awaiting the next networking opportunity, and your promotional materials printed and filed away. You are set -- Or are you?

Think back, when was the last time you revisited this area? When was the last time you recreated your promotional materials and added a new image? Have you actually read your website lately from the prospective of a potential client? If so, did it portray you in the best light and did it convince you to utilize your services? Did it have all your latest PR successes and latest services? If not, it’s time to jumpstart your marketing. The results, more clients and a new and improved you.

Here are just a few ideas:

Your Web Site

When doing your website or reviewing your website, take your time. This isn’t a race to the finish. Take it a page at a time and give it your all. Ask yourself:

Would it hold their interest? You need to make sure they aren’t bored with long paragraphs or unnecessary long wordy descriptions. They want to find what they came for quickly.

Is it personalized? When people come to your site, do they get to know you and your business or do they hear the same ole’ same ole’ that’s on all the websites in your Industry. It’s important to have you in there.

Get to the point. Go back and cut out unnecessary words, paragraphs, graphics, anything that just isn’t essential to the bottom line of providing the benefits of what you provide.

Is it understandable? Sounds simple, right? Go back over your site and make sure that you’ve clearly spelled out what you do. You know you’re the best, but have you adequately described this to your potential clients?

Can you add a few new graphics or colors or something to jazz it up? A change of your website’s theme colors can make a big difference in adding to a fresh new look.

Press Releases & Articles

How often do you write a press release and submit it out? Or better yet, when was the last time you did send one out? Ouch-that long. If you want to fine tune and bump up your marketing, then you absolutely need to write a good press release and get it out there. The main point in that sentence is -- write a good one. How do you do that? Easy, make it something that informs and inspires. Make it newsworthy. Tie it into what is happening in today’s times and then connect your business to how you can make a difference. Did you remember the “call to action” paragraph, where you are telling them what you want them to do? And finally, just having a release isn’t enough. You need to actively submit it out and post it on your website, blogs, social networking sites, etc. Email us at for our free PR informational package for tips and places you can submit your press release for free.

Social Networking

You need to do this. Actually you will want to do this. Once you get started you’ll love it too. So go ahead and do it. Most businesses will tell you that doing this makes a considerable difference in their business. Don’t have time to, hire a virtual assistant to do it for you.

Now, find the sites that interest you and get active and involved. Remember to succeed you need to be committed. You can’t just show up once every few months and expect it to work.

Your Promotional Materials

Just think how impressed your clients or even more important, those potential new clients, will be when they receive a letter on your new letterhead, with your new business card, a matching brochure, and maybe even a matching magnet with your business information on it. It’s time to jazz it up a bit and recreate a new image. You have so many more years experience in your business, let it show with your new promotions.

How about changing your slogan? When you think about it, it goes out with every e-mail, it’s on your website, all your marketing, etc. My slogan has always been “Virtual Assisting At Its Best.” I recently changed it to, “Our Commitment to Excellence is Our Finest Achievement.” My clients noticed the difference right away.

Your clients have probably seen your slogan over and over and over—Give Them Something New.

You’ll see how great you’ll feel with your new marketing image. Make it a goal to do this often. You and your pocketbook will be glad you did.

Diana Ennen specializes in publicity and marketing and helping businesses get the most out of their publicity efforts. She’s the President of Virtual Word Publishing, and author of numerous books including Virtual Assistant the Series: Become a Highly Successful, Sought After VA. Stop by for free information on starting a virtual assistant business and our free PR Informational package. Article is free to be reprinted as long as bio remains intact.