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Mary Wu, Social Media Consultant

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Category Archives: Solopreneur

How to “Social” your Media

Memorable_Jaunts_Indian_Women_Entrepreneurs_Feb_2014Karthika Gupta, a photographer I know, recently did a blog post titled “Entrepreneurial Lessons From The Field.” She shares some lessons that she learned from three female entrepreneurs living in India. Karthika pointed out that these women are running businesses without some of the tools that most businesses take for granted, like business cards and websites. However, even without the use of a computer I feel we have lessons to learn from their “social” media.

 

Know your customers. While these three women business owners in India have gotten to know their customers through frequent personal interactions, that might not be an option for people in virtual industries. However, even in our technology driven world, we can understand our customers by trying to understand their needs. We can engage with our clients (and potential clients) on their social media pages. We can subscribe to their newsletters and know what promotions they are offering (and even share those promotions).

If some of your clients live near you, you can get to know them better, perhaps over a cup of tea.  (more…)

Work/Work Balance

IMG_5364There are a myriad of articles about work/life balance. Evie Burke, my productivity coach at One Insight Closer, wrote one; six months ago I wrote one, and if you do a Google search for “work life balance,” you’ll find over 300 million results. Obviously this is a fairly popular topic.

But sometime entrepreneurs may run across an issue with work/work balance. You might be doing work for 2 or 3 clients and working on your own business. It’s wonderful to be busy and doing work for multiple people, but you can’t bring home the bacon without finding time to do invoicing, and the IRS wants you to do your taxes in a timely manner. So how does an entrepreneur achieve a work/work balance?

(more…)

Outsourcing: Letting Go

Outsource Definition Closeup Showing SubcontractingLETTING IT GO

The other day I was in the waiting area at the tire shop. I was sitting and relaxing with my coffee and reading a book on social media on my Kindle. I was using the time available to work on my business. Another customer was in the waiting area. He was staring through the big picture window into the shop. He was asking the tire shop employee endless questions about the process. Some people have a natural curiosity about things and a desire to learn, but this gentleman was coming across as very concerned with the fact that he had to let go of the control over his vehicle maintenance and let someone else do the work for him. I’m guessing he’s a micro manager in life and in his work.

So how do you avoid being a micro manager? Use referrals, use a vetting process, (which we talked about last week) and be comfortable with the people that you hire. Test people out. Give (more…)

Outsourcing: Finding the right partners

Outsource Definition Closeup Showing SubcontractingFINDING THE RIGHT PARTNERS

Whether you’re working with someone on a temporary basis (such as the graphic artist I hired for my logo design), a seasonal basis (like a tax preparer), or a regular basis (your VA that does your weekly blog post and your monthly newsletter), remember that this person is a partner in your business. The first place to look for service providers is in your own networks. Ask people in your networking groups or ask other business owners if they can recommend someone. If that doesn’t net any results, ask your Facebook friends or ask around at church or other places you frequent. Often someone you know will know a service provider. Having a personal recommendation is your best option. (more…)

Building Your Business Through Networking Part 4

ID-10066404Part 4 – After an Event

You’ve gone out, you’ve met some new contacts, you’ve collected some business cards. Now what?

Business Card Organization

One of the first things I do is organize any business cards I’ve received. I have an earlier post that goes into business card organization in detail. It’s worth your time to read it.

Follow Up

If you said you were going to get back to someone, do so within a day or two*. If someone expressed interest in your business, send them some more information or a link to your website, (LinkedIn, Facebook page). Last week I talked about keeping notes when you’re meeting people or when people are giving their introductions. This would be a good time to review your notes and contact people.

I have a basic rule in that if I can figure something out in 10 minutes, I’ll gladly send information to someone. Once I was at a networking event and one of the people was commenting on how they were overwhelmed with how to handle business cards. I came home and wrote up an email with links to my two business card organization postings. I’ve also sent e-introductions to people who that I thought could have a mutually beneficial relationship. Don’t ever be afraid to help people out.

Sometimes it’s hard to call someone because you don’t know exactly what to say. There is an article from Freelance Switch that gives some scripts for particular situations. To give credit where credit is due, I did not find this article myself but found out about it in a blog post from Evie Burke at One Insight Closer.

Meet Up

Sometimes you’ll meet people and you’ll want to know more about them or their business. Talk to someone or call or email them to set up a one-on-one. This is a good chance to get to know more about them and their business and for them to get to know more about you and your business.

This is not a time for “selling” but a time to build a relationship. I’m sure most people have stories about meeting with someone who spent 30 minutes trying to “sell” them something that they were not interested in buying. Don’t be that person (please).

As I mentioned last week, listening is one of your most useful networking tools. You might not be a client or a customer for every person that you meet, but you might know a good contact for that person. Every person you meet is not a potential client. But every person you meet might know someone that does need your services. Be professional, polite, and a good resource. And then …

MEET, GREET, REPEAT

Related Articles

*Sometimes you don’t get back to a person right away. If not, contact them later. This is less awkward if you pass along an article or idea that relates to your conversation.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Building Your Business Through Networking Part 3

ID-10066404Part 3 – During an Event

Okay, you’ve got your business cards in hand, you’ve got your (what a friend of mine calls) “happy to meet you” clothes on, and you’re in a room full of people that are not yet associates. So what’s your next step.

Relax

If it’s your first time out, you’re around people that either are just as new and nervous as you are, or people that have been exactly where you are at some point in time. Most people really want to see you succeed. The more healthy businesses there are in a community, the healthier the community is overall. I’ve seen people that I know who are strong and confident but have that “deer in headlights” look when walking into a room of strangers, and I’m sure if there was a mirror around, I’d even see that look on my face. We all have times that we are less confident and assured. Take a moment, take a deep breath, and relax.

Introducing YOU

During the introduction portion, don’t get too nervous. State your name and business, say a little bit about your business, state your name and business again, and sit down (and relax). Make sure you state your name and business at the open and close of your introduction. If there’s time, before the official start of the event, make sure to walk around and say “Hello” to some people that are new to you.

If you’re at an event that you often attend and you see someone new walk in, go to them, say “Hello,” and ask about their business. Introduce them to one or two people they might need to know.

It’s not about selling yourself

Well, it is, but it really isn’t. It’s about getting to know other people and letting them get to know you. Epictetus was a first century Green philosopher who was the first to point out that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. There are a few good reasons to do this when networking

  1. Listening, especially to people that are regularly attendees of the group, will help you understand the town and expectations of any group.
  2. Listening will help you better understand the business and the needs of the individuals in the group.
  3. People love to feel heard.

Take notes

I have been to networking groups with as many as 80 people. Very few people could remember all those names at the end of an event. One thing that I do at any event is to make sure to have a piece of paper and a pen. I take notes on every person that I meet. I also have “secret” notations for people that I want to have a one-on-one with (more on those next week) or people that I want to touch base with for another reason. Sometimes when I receive a business card I may put a notation on the card (e.g., send this person information on Google hangouts).

Determine your description

At almost all networking events, you will be expected to introduce yourself. Sometimes you’ll have 30 seconds, sometimes you’ll have a minute. I’ve even been to one group that allows you to have introductory time without a stopwatch (but they expect you to keep things reasonable). You don’t need to worry about the time limits if you practice a 30-second and 60-second introduction in advance. Personally, I typically run about 5-10 seconds short but I do know a few people that suggest using all of your time. If you visit the same groups regularly, you can talk about a different aspect of your business at each meeting to give people a feeling for the different services you offer.

Mingle

Sometimes you might share a ride with a friend or colleague to an event. Sometimes you might run into someone that you know. While it’s great to catch up with old colleagues, when you’re at a networking event, you’re there to make new contacts.

Have your contact information handy 

Order business cards. You can do this online or from a local vendor (and if you’re in the Naperville area, I have some recommendations).

I’ll confess though, i cheated on this the first time out. I had ordered some business cards but I had also decided to go to a networking event. The cards did not arrive in time, so I went to Office Depot or Staples and purchased some blank business cards. My cards arrived later that weekend.

The first few times you go out you might be stammering over your 30-second introduction. There might be times you forget your business cards. You may get nervous or flustered or forget some points you wanted to make. But the important thing is that you go out and you meet people.

MEET, GREET, REPEAT

We will continue this topic next week and talk about follow up.

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Building Your Business Through Networking Part 2

ID-10066404Part 2 – Before an Event

Determine your brand

How do you want to come across? What impression do you want to give customers and colleagues? This is both easier and more difficult than it sounds. Sometimes you figure out your brand easily and sometimes it comes with a bit more difficulty. Two people I worked with before opening my (virtual) doors were a business coach and a graphic artist. Once you know what image you want to project, the rest comes along naturally.

This can be changed As an example, Yahoo recently made a change to their logo. I’m not suggesting changing things willy-nilly, but don’t keep from starting because you can’t decide on your brand. Start with your basic idea, but remember, things can change so don’t be afraid to get started.

Determine your landing sites

Whether you want people to find you on a website or on a Facebook business page or a simple email address, before you go out to meet people, determine how they will find you when they want your services. As before, these can be changed. You should have some kind of interaction with your website on a regular basis to keep it fresh in the search engines (and you should be interacting with your clients or associates if you have a Facebook page). You should also have a profile on LinkedIn with some contacts in your network. (After you get started and meet more people, you can add to your network).

Determine your description

At almost all networking events, you will be expected to introduce yourself. Sometimes you’ll have 30 seconds, sometimes you’ll have a minute. I’ve even been to one group that allows you to have introductory time without a stopwatch (but they expect you to keep things reasonable). You don’t need to worry about the time limits if practice a 30-second and 60-second introduction in advance. If you visit the same groups regularly, you can talk about a different aspect of your business at each meeting to give people a feeling for the different services you offer.

Have your contact information handy 

Order business cards. You can do this online or from a local vendor (and if you’re in the Naperville area, I have some recommendations).

I’ll confess though, i cheated on this the first time out. I had ordered some business cards but I had also decided to go to a networking event. The cards did not arrive in time, so I went to Office Depot or Staples and purchased some blank business cards. My cards arrived later that day.

The first few times you go out you might be stammering over your 30 second introduction. There might be times you forget your business cards. You may get nervous or flustered or forget some points you wanted to make. But the important thing is that you go out and you meet people. After that, it’s like the label on the shampoo bottle says:

MEET, GREET, REPEAT

We will continue this topic in the coming weeks, and talk about the meeting, the greeting, and the repeating.

Related articles

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Help is always given to those who ask

ID-10069211This week I’ve celebrated National Small Business Week by writing about 5 different entrepreneurs. They are all wonderful people and I’m glad to have them in my corner.

But you may ask, “What if I want to hang my own shingle, who can help me out?” You may also ask, “I’ve already got my business but I need some extra help.” Well I’d like to share a well-kept secret for you.

The US Government – you know, those folks in Washington that tend to waste our time and our money – every now and then they manage to get something right. One of the things they’ve managed to get right is to have two different groups under the umbrella of the U.S. Small Business Administration. One is SCORE (which used to be Service Core of Retired Executives but they changed the name after they determined it makes the advisors sound too old) and the Small Business Development Centers.

Both services offer volunteer mentors, both services offer business counseling and both offer free or inexpensive workshops or webinars. SCORE seems to have a website that’s easier to navigate.

One thing to remember about both of these services is since they are under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration, part of the funding comes out of your tax dollars. So if you’re a tax paying citizen, you’ve ALREADY paid for them.

Remember, when you’re staring at the blank business plan or you’re down to your last cup of coffee, call the Small Business Development Center or SCORE. They’re from the government and they’re here to help you.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

What is a Mensch

1-liseThis week I’m celebrating National Small Business Week. I’m going to take the 5 “work” days of the week and give 5 “shout outs” to local small businesses. John Donne said that “No Man is an Island,” and this is more than true in business. Even a solopreneur (an entrepreneur who works alone) needs a support team; collaborators, brainstorming partners, or someone to tell them to keep on keeping on when they’re staring at an empty cup of coffee and a blank idea sheet.

Today we’ll meet Lisé Schleicher, owner of Basketworks.

Back in 1997, with one in diapers (and one close to on the way), Lisé left corporate America and started up a gift basket company. This was a natural fit for Lisé because she was always the person that knew all the “crafty” stuff, cross-stitch … crochet … no baby was without a blanket if Lisé was around (and why yes, she could crochet AND square dance at the same time).

Lisé makes AWESOME gift baskets for any occasion, new moms, sports fans, she’ll even have stuff for Stanley Cup Champ items. (I wonder if she has something special for someone suffering from caffeine withdrawal??)

But more important that her business is how she conducts her business. Lisé has always given a some of her income back to the community (whether it be her Shul (Shir Hadash) or the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation or …) and she is a fabulous mentor to other businesses. Before there was such a thing as small business coaches Lisé was (and is) always willing to help other business people in her community.

When you help a small business, you are helping that business, but you are also helping the community around that business.

An “Insightful” Partner

This week I’m celebrating National Small Business Week. I’m going to take the 5 “work” days of the week and give 5 “shout outs” to local small businesses. John Donne said that “No Man is an Island,” and this is more than true in business. Even a solopreneur (an entrepreneur who works alone) needs a support team; collaborators, brainstorming partners, or someone to tell them to keep on keeping on when they’re staring at an empty cup of coffee and a blank idea sheet.

Evie

Today we’ll meet Evie Burke, productivity coach at One Insight Closer.

Through a bit of coach training, and a few lessons learned in the school of life, Evie has developed into “The Entrepreneur’s Productivity Coach.” She offers one on one coaching for you and your business, and she also has a very informative newsletter, website and a blog that covers topics from managing tasks to preparing for vacation to becoming unstuck (HOW many of us get stuck at times).

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been hit with an insight as I’m looking over her weekly newsletter, either thinking “WHY didn’t *I* think of that” or “I USED to know that, when did I forget it.” So a SHOUT OUT to Solopreneur Evie Burke of One Insight Closer, for keeping me on track and increasing my productivity, one insight at a time.