Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Deal With Freelance Employee Contracts

Today, every online business has the potential for global reach. On top of selling products to customers around the world, we can also hire people to work for us, regardless of their location!

Freelance employees can fill the gaps needed by a company who require to have temporary or short contract work completed within a specified timeframe. Even though a freelancer can work for your company for several years, it doesn't make them a full-time employee that gets all the perks. The freelance worker is typically someone who might be working offsite and easily reachable online. That means the company doesn't have to expand their office space to assimilate more workers.

It's a win/win all around.

Types of Freelance Workers

Before you consider hiring a freelance employee, you'll need to understand the different types of workers and the contracts required. The different categories of freelancers are:

Independent Contractors: The United States Internal Revenue Service describes independent contractors as someone that you as the employer, "have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result." In other words, you assign an independent contractor a task and how they accomplish that task it up to them. They could work on it at midnight or 3:00 p.m.

On-Call Workers: These types of freelancers are called upon only as needed. When a company has an overflow of work that won't require a lot of training, they will use an on-call worker.

Temporary Help Agency Workers: These would be workers hired and paid by a temp agency. As the employer you would pay the temp agency to handle all the screening and interviewing. Basically, you tell the temp agency what you need and they send the employee to you.

Contract Firm Workers: These are workers who are provided by a company contracted specifically for that task. For instance, there could be contract workers as SEO contractors, customer service agents or even social media consultants. For the most part these workers will already be trained in the job. Often contract workers are hired in groups as opposed to the single temp agency worker.

Contract Stipulations

It is vitally important that every type of freelance worker you hire sign a contract. Included in this contract are the specific duties you will require from them, their compensation and deadlines.

Most importantly, you also have to spell out ownership of the actual work. If you hire a freelance graphic designer to rebuild your website, you will own what they create. It can't be used by another company. There are also confidentiality agreements and delivery terms that should be spelled out in the contract. No work should begin without a contract being signed by that freelancer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

5 Steps to Hiring Inexperienced Candidates

There is a first time for everything. That includes hiring someone to do a job.

If you're lucky, you can find an employee who is well versed with whatever type of task you want them to perform. However, there is often the opportunity to hire an exceptional employee who doesn't have any experience related to your business.

But is it crazy to hire someone without experience?

You might discover that training a new employee from "the ground up" is the best way to get what you want out of that worker. In other words, they're not going to be approaching the job with any bad habits or preconceptions. They are a blank slate. And that can certainly work to your advantage.

Here are five steps to consider when hiring an employee without relevant experience:

Spell out what is expected.

Depending on the job, there might be a training manual or "to do list" approach to the job. This should spell out specifically what is required of that employee. If you need to, create a guide for an employee. It's always better to travel with a map as opposed to just a destination.

Enhance the skillsets.

There is a reason that you're considering hiring a person without experience. They've impressed you with their attitude, prior successes and possibly related skillsets. It has often been said that a good sales person can sell anything. Just because you're selling cars, but are hiring a top vacuum cleaner sales person, doesn't mean you won't come out on top. Play to that person's strengths and build on that.

Consider their complete resume.

Someone without a lot of experience on their resume could have other areas where they have excelled. These unique experiences can indicate how they'll perform on your team. For instance, a person who has spent a lot of time doing charity work could be a natural fit for customer service. Someone who was in the military will understand how to follow orders and have discipline. When it comes to resumes, go deep!

Put them to the test.

Captain Kirk was famous for reprogramming a "no-win" scenario test. He got a commendation for original thinking. You should try to find a way to put your prospective hire to the same kind of test. This doesn't mean building a starship simulator, but you can probably come up with a challenging test to see how they might problem solve. The best result would have them asking for help instead of trying to do something on their own and failing.

Put them on probation.

You're taking a risk by hiring a new employee without experience. They should know that up front. There is nothing wrong with putting that employee on a probationary period. Just don't make it a double-secret probation. They should know they are being watched and their job is on the line. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Changing the Online Advertising Business Model

The recent flameout of Facebook's introduction to the stock market should be a cautionary tale to any online
business. One the main reasons that the Facebook stock tanked was that days before they went public, GM pulled its advertising because they weren't getting a return on their investment.

This sent a shock wave throughout all corners of e-commerce cyberspace. How can you not benefit from having access to over a billion Facebook users?

The answer is simple: The online advertising business model doesn't always work... and it shouldn't be the main business model for your startup.

The Big Fail

On many levels, the fail of online advertising is paralleling the fail of traditional television advertising. Thanks to DVRs, viewers are able to zap through commercials with ease. There are even devices being specifically marketed that will "hop" over commercials.

Naturally, this has the broadcast networks in an uproar. How can they justify ad rates if no one is watching the ads?

The same thing is happening online.

When a user logs on they're on a mission. They have a specific activity they are engaging in whether that's sending an email, playing a game or checking their friend’s newsfeed. More than anything, the internet is becoming a social networking site that is equal parts global and local community based.

Anyone who is spending their free time on the internet doesn't want to be advertised to.

A New Way to Brand

Foisting a message onto an internet user who hasn't asked for that message is destined to fail.


Because we don't need a message we can find for ourselves. A company brand can no longer be built by specific messaging alone.

It will be built by the number of "likes" on a Facebook page or amount of Twitter followers. Now that everyone gets to share their opinions on places like Yelp, a good review is often more important than a traditional ad.

We share what we like and that's how the popularity of a product, a movie, a book or a restaurant grows.

Finding Information in the Cyber Age

The greatest tool on the internet is also the great undoing of the advertising model. That would be the search engine. Whether you are a fan of Google, Bing, Chrome or any other search engine, we know how to get information.

If you want to shop for a new car, a pair of shoes, an appliance or just about anything else, the first stop will always be a search engine. The next stop could be one of the many review sites such as Yelp or Consumer Reports.

Nowhere in that search is advertising needed or wanted. We're becoming a society of information gatherers. That's good for the consumer but not so good for the business, unless they find a way to improve their search engine rankings.

We're also becoming very sophisticated when it comes to blocking or ignoring ads. Don't want a re-targeting pop-up ad? No problem... just delete your cookie history.

The more advertisers try to insert their messages the more the Internet user will find a way to block the ads.

Build Out the Social Network

So, what is a hapless company supposed to do to find new customers? Don't fight the internet but put it to work for your brand. If this is a social medium then find a way to engage your customer base by starting a conversation.

Suppose you're selling a cleaning product. Perhaps you can start a conversation by asking folks "What's the worst mess you've ever had to clean up?" That's not selling your product directly but allowing folks to join in on a conversation.

Once they are engaged they can be invited to try the product. In other words, think less about reaching the masses with a single message and instead redirecting that message as part of a two-way conversation. That's the power of social media networking. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What Customers Want... But Won't Tell You

We all know the "customer is always right." But did you also know that the "customer is always lying?" Maybe not so much as lying as not telling you what they're really thinking. Yes, you can put out the occasional survey to get impressions of your business but by then it might be too late to fix things.

What a customer won't tell you might end up hurting your business especially if it is keeping that customer from coming back for repeat business. Here are five things that customers wants but won't tell you up front.

They want your staff to look good.

This doesn't mean you have to hire runway models as your sales staff. However, appearances do matter. How your employees dress and groom themselves sets the tone for your business. If you're running a sports bar then tattoos, piercings and wild hair will fit right in. However, if you're selling carpet you don't want a motley crew being the face of your business. Set the dress code that is appropriate for your business and make your new hires aware of those codes before they agree to the job.

They want to matter.

When a customer walks into a store they should be greeted by a friendly staff member and asked, "How can I help you?" This lets them know that their business is appreciated. That same kind of relationship can be built through an online store. If a customer sends an email query, try to answer that right away. Hopefully, it will be a personal answer. Whenever possible, provide your customers with the opportunity to comment on your business. This can happen through social media, email survey or even directly on your website. When they feel that their business is appreciated, they'll come back for more.

They want contact.

Like it or not, we're living in a 24/7/365 type of society. Our news is around the clock. Same for our TV watching. Many big grocery and convenience stores are open 24 hours. The same can be said for gas stations, diners and doughnut shops. In other words, we're getting used to getting what we want whenever we want it. Your business needs to make the effort to appeal to that same desire of immediate satisfaction. This doesn't mean you need to keep your doors open around the clock. However, having a voice mail system where a customer can leave a message will go a long way towards providing that feeling of being open 24/7.

They want consistency.

It's difficult to image a business that won't have some level of staff turnaround. From a customer's perspective, they might have grown accustomed to working with a specific salesperson or staff member. They've built up a relationship. That's important for a loyal customer. When a change in staff occurs, try to reach out to your loyal customers and let them know what is going on and assure them they're needs will continue to be met. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Finding Suppliers in China

If you're making a product for sale, then the specific cost of manufacturing of that product will make all the difference to your bottom line. It's no secret that Chinese manufacturing can deliver a wide variety of products are very competitive rates.

If this is your first foray into the world of outsourcing manufacturing to China, you need a smart approach. Sourcing from China comes with its own set of challenges that need to be overcome. Here's how to not make it a problem.

Determine Your Needs
Sure, you know what you want to make but in China there are different approaches to each manufacturing contract. Basically there are big corporations that will take on the job or farm it out to a 3rd party vendor. As a small business owner, you might want to seek out the smaller family owned business for the startup. This type of company will probably be in a better position to provide you with direct access and support. You will avoid the markup when a larger manufacturer subcontracts out your job.

Research All Angles

Before you book your first flight to China, you'll want to do a lot of research. Build up a database of potential manufacturers by searching trade directories, chamber of commerce listings in China, Export Development Corporations or business associations. This can happen when you research comparable products to yours online. You'll start seeing some of the same company names popping up. Clearly these are the dependable factories. They should be your first stop.

Pick Your Top 15 Suppliers

Once you've put a list together, start making calls or sending out emails to set up relationships. You'll want to find out all the costs associated in hiring this company from raw materials to transportation. Make a list of questions that you'll be asking of all of your suppliers and then you'll be able to narrow down the list to your top 15. These you might want to visit in person to make sure they can handle the job. It's going to take time to find the best fit for your company's needs but you're better off exhausting all the possibilities before firing up the assembly lines. Do not put your entire manufacturing assembly line on one company. Spread the work between two or three companies depending on your volume of work.

Get a Local Guide

If you are traveling to China you'll definitely want to find a local business representative to help show you around. Hopefully, this will be someone who comes highly recommended and who you've set up arrangements with before landing. The best guides are usually the government trade representatives between your country and China. You don't want to ask around at the airport for a guide!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

3 Lessons Every New Manager Needs to Learn

There is a first time for everything. Your first bike ride. Your first report card. Your first car. Your first time
as manager.

For those first three, you probably had a lot of help from a parent, a teacher or an instructor. When it comes to taking over the reins of management, you probably learned as much from the bad managers as with the good managers you've had to work with.

Hopefully, those lessons will prove valuable as you move into this next chapter of your career. After unpacking your office and making sure they spelled your name right on the door, you'll want to consider these top three lessons every new manager needs to learn:

Not Every Employee Will Stick Around

As a manager you are taking responsibility for your team. You want them all to shine and live up to their potential. But guess what? For some they may decide that they will grow better at another company. There is nothing wrong with hiring personnel that you know might only stick around for a few years.
As long as they get the job done, they don't have to aspire to the lofty heights of the corporate tower. This means that you should embrace employee turnover. Mixing up the staff can be a good thing and keep everyone on their toes. However, for those team members who do excel you want to keep them around. It doesn't make sense to get rid of your heavy hitters.

Be the Boss in the Decision Making Process

A good manager will listen to their staff. Keeping those lines of communication open is vital to maintaining a productive work atmosphere. Yet, when it is time to make a final decision you need to become the ultimate "decider." It won't be uncommon for you to look around your conference room and find that the majority of your staff disagrees with a particular decision. If the workplace was a democracy this would matter. It's not and that's why you have to step up and pull the trigger on the decision. Sink or swim, this is what a manager does.

Be Friendly but Don't Be a Friend

Many companies are proud to boast that their workers are like one big family. While it is true that this can create big returns in terms of productivity it can also become a major hindrance. If tough choices have to be made about the direction of your company you're going to have an extremely hard time letting down "your family."

This doesn't mean you can't be friendly with your staff. In fact, you should. However, there is a vast difference between going out for the occasional lunch or happy hour and becoming so immersed with all the ups and downs of their private lives. It's always best to keep it professional. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Should You Hire for Experience or Personality?

If all hiring was conducted strictly by reviewing resumes it would be very easy to make the best staff picks. You can quickly size up a potential employee's education and real world job experience by scanning their CV.

However, that won't necessarily provide you with the full portrait of that worker. That's why the in-person interview is a vital step in the hiring process. It's through the one-on-one interview that you can access the individual's personality and whether or not they'll be a "good fit" for your company.

All of this begs the question: Should you hire for experience or personality?

Building a Better Staff

If an employee doesn't have a specific skill set they can always be trained. That approach works best when the skills required have more to do with operating equipment or computer programs. When the requirement is something like sales or marketing, those skills might be harder to come by because they are personality based. Building a strong staff for your company means assessing your specific needs beyond the "I want to work with good people" idea.

A valuable employee needs to be equal parts dependable and a team player. The majority of folks who quit a job do so because they can't get along with a co-worker.

Is it their fault or the fault of the co-worker? How much of a role does personality play into that type of decision?

There is no guarantee that everyone you hire is going to get along and become the best of friends. They just have to work well together. However, there might be a slight edge when it comes to hiring personality over experience.

Putting Personality First

There are a few reasons why hiring an employee for their personality might be a benefit for your company. A staff member that gets along with others could mean they'll be sticking around.

A lower employee turnover rate helps increase productivity. If you don't have to take time out to retrain workers than you'll be able to focus on the tasks at hand. This idea of a productive team comes into play when there is room for advancement. Allowing for promotions within your company keeps the "family together."

The goal is to stick with the good hires and toss out the bad hires.

Every new hire means you're making an investment in that employee. Do you want your return on that investment to come back in the form of a good team member or someone who causes friction?

A person with an abrasive personality can still get the job done, but at what cost to company morale? You also have to consider your company's relationship with your clients and customers. Simply put, do you want the face of your company to be smiling or frowning? 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Create Your Own Videos to Help Your Customers

Can creating an online video help your business? Consider the facts: ComScore released a study that found a whopping 82.5% of American Internet users viewed a video online. Another report found that in 2010, 30% of Internet traffic was video content.

By this year, that number can go up to 90%. Next to Google, YouTube is the biggest search engine on the net. There are over 60 hours of video uploaded every single minute for a total of around 4 billion videos being posted every day.

About 800 million users stop by YouTube every month. That's an amazing range of audience to try and tap into and that is just YouTube.

In the business arena, consumers spend more time at a website watching a video as opposed to a site without that type of content. More folks would rather watch a video than read text so how can you tap into potential customer base?

That's easy: You have to create your own videos. If you're not convinced yet, consider these other factors:

Videos can be the best way to convey a lot of information.

A video can deliver a lot of messages in a short amount of time. This is especially important when it comes to company branding. Writing blog posts will only take you so far. With a video, you can reinforce the positive attributes of your company's product in a memorable way.

Make videos with humor and you'll go even further in terms of brand retention. You'll also be able to form your company's personality through your video presentations. That's going to be extremely valuable.

Videos can have multiple uses.

A video docked on your website can be a terrific asset, but a good video has a broad range of uses. It can be purposed on YouTube and other sites to bring traffic back to your site. The video can also be embedded in an email newsletter or used in a sales presentation.  

Videos are what your customers want.

Consider the tale of two websites. One has fun videos and the other just copy. Which one will get more engagement? The one with videos. If you want to keep your customers engaged give them what they want and that would be video content. In other words, if you're not making videos your competitor will.

Videos will continually be useful.

There are some studies that declare by 2014, the vast majority of mobile data traffic will be video. Every Smartphone and pad device has the capability to watch videos. By creating this type of content you'll be positioning your company to be "on the go" wherever your customers are headed. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

How To Use a Virtual Assistant in Your Business

We still might be a few years away from robot butlers, but that doesn't mean we can't put technology to work to help our businesses. We're talking about virtual assistants. These are outsourced contractors who, through the magic of the internet, can perform tasks from research, making appointments and even customer service without having to be local.

They mostly work from their own home, which can help you cut down on office overhead. They are freelancers with a specific skill set that is needed by your company. Whether it is a virtual content writer or virtual administrative assistant, many business owners are discovering the benefits of working across the internet.

Here are the advantages to think of when hiring a virtual assistant.


A virtual assistant makes a perfect bookkeeper. If you have set up an online bookkeeping system for your business, then there is no reason why you can't share that with a remote accountant. Not only can a virtual assistant maintain your financial records but they can also follow up on unpaid invoices or outstanding bills. You obviously need to work with a reputable person if you're going to turn over your financial information - this is not someone you should find on Craigslist. Instead, look for a professional company who handles this type of work.

Competitive and Customer Research:

You know how easy it is to get lost in online research. One minute you're looking up relevant information about your competitor and the next you're watching YouTube videos of baby pandas. Why not let a virtual assistant handle your online research chores? You can task them with an assignment and set them loose across the Internet. This type of research can cover everything from finding your next blog topic to seeing what new products are coming onto the market that relate to your business. They could also research other businesses or investors to help prep you for a meeting.

Database Management:

Hopefully your business will grow by leaps and bounds very quickly. If so, then your customer relationship database will also be expanding. Not only will you need an easy to access contact list of vendors and business associates but you'll also have a customer email database to manage. With access to your servers, a virtual assistant trained in this type of work can make sure your lists are up to date and error free.


If traveling is part of your business then you'll certainly want to keep an eye on your travel expenses. There are plenty of amazing deals on hotels, flights and rental cars to be had out there in cyberland. Do you have the time to sort through it all? A virtual assistant can make all the arrangements and find you the best deals.

Once you've used a virtual assistant for even the simplest of tasks, you'll find that you have more time to focus on building your business instead of running it.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Keeping Your Startup Passion Alive

Do you hate getting out of bed for work each day?

We've all been there.

But what if that job you're dreading is one of your own creation? You might have started your own business with plenty of passion but that doesn't mean that passion can't diminish especially when all the "headaches" of running a business rear up.

Here's how to continue to keep your passion alive for your startup:

Don't settle for failure.

Just because you've "lost that loving feeling" for your business doesn't mean you can't get it back. Failure is not an option. That should become your new mantra. Simply put, the work needs to go on because you've invested so much in building up your company already. If you're on your own, then take a day off doing something you love to reinvigorate yourself. If you've got a staff then it's even more important for you to "snap out of it!" Those folks are depending on your leadership. Don't let them or yourself down.

Ask for help.  

In the business world and in life we could all benefit from an objective perspective. A business coach or a mentor would be a sensible investment to help you get back on track and fire up your passion. This is someone who can hold you accountable with regard to your goals. They'll also be able to provide motivation and the necessary "kick in the pants" when needed.  Setting up a weekly phone call can get you back on track.

Reaffirm your goals.

Do you remember why you started your business in the first place? Was it to retire at the age of 40 with a million dollars in the bank? Was it to have a company you can share with your family? Was it simply to be your own boss? Whatever those initial reasons were for your startup you need to get back in touch with them. Maybe a properly placed photo to remind you of what you're fighting for will do the trick. Even the greatest ideas for a business will meet with obstacles. When you commit yourself to your goals then jumping over those obstacles shouldn't be a burden.

Reset your priorities.

It's amazing what a simple to-do list can do for resetting your priorities. Write out all the things that need to be accomplished around your business. Then set a specific deadline for the completion of those items. As you move down the list and accomplish the tasks, scratch them off the list and celebrate. This will help you focus on your business and, in a roundabout way, reignite your passion.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lessons Learned From Retargeting Customers

Just because a customer goes searching on a specific website doesn't mean they can't be "approached" again at a later date with the same product. This concept of online marketing is referred to as retargeting or remarketing.

You've probably experienced this as a casual internet surfer without even realizing that you've been retargeted. If you go to a site like Amazon and search for T-shirts a banner ad from Amazon for that product could pop up on another website you visit later in the day.

With the use of tracking cookies, advertisers can follow you around multiple websites and target specific advertisements.

And guess what? It works.

Retargeting customers has been known to drive conversion rates up by 70%. Here are the best ways to create a retargeting campaign.

Pick the right platform.

As you approach retargeting, you'll have two options with regard to the type of programming platform you can utilize. A managed platform will have you partnering up with a retargeting provider that will help you set up your campaign using specific metrics. The self-service platform gives you more control over the targeting of audience segmentation and customer tracking.  The provider can walk you through the process. A few examples of the kinds of online retargeting providers to look at are Google Adwords, ReTargeter, AdRoll and FetchBack.

Pick the right campaign settings.

Once you settled on which provider will be helping you launch your retargeting effort, you'll need to determine your targeting parameters. In other words, how will you find the customers you're looking for?
For instance, will you be selling your product overseas? Many retargeting vendors offer default settings to advertise to international consumers. If that's not a market you're ready for, make sure they "click off" that option. The same goes for setting up the specific time and day when you run your retargeting ads. If you're a site like Amazon then you're a 24/7 business.

However, if you have a sales forces that needs to deal with customers during specific hours than those are the hours when your retargeting should be running. There are other factors like cookie duration and offer rotation which need to be taken into account. Once again, your provider should be able to walk you through these factors.

Pick the right segmented audience profile.

Retargeting lets you get specific with your customer base. For instance, you might sell products to men and women but they aren't necessarily the same products. You want to be able to segment your audience profile so the right ads reach the right customer. It might help you divide your website into those specific areas of interest that will appeal to various demographics.

Pick the right tests.

The strength of a successful retargeting campaign will be based on which ads work. You need to test your campaigns for optimal results. You should test variables such as ad headline, ad copy, background colors, images and calls to action. Using analytic testing will help you find out which is the most effective approach to your retargeting. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

4 Tips for Startup Founders

The best business advice often comes from those entrepreneurs who have "been there and done that." Here are 4 tips for startup founders from startup founders:

Don't rush your product to market.

"It’s natural to be in a hurry to get product out the door, but take a breath first and really gauge where you are. Slow down when it comes to key decisions, said Dan Belcher, co-founder of Boston-based Stackdriver. Sometimes doing things too early is just as bad than doing them too late.

Do all the jobs first.

Think of this as the "Undercover Boss" paradigm. On that popular reality show, a CEO puts on a disguise and goes down to join the workers to get their perspective on things. Perhaps you should give this a try. "Founders should do every role first before hiring someone to take it over. This helps me understand who I’m hiring, what they should be good at, what they should be doing and how to measure their success,” said David Mytton, founder of Server Density which is a London-based provider of server monitoring services.

Be smart with your hiring.

This is solid advice because hiring before there is a demand for your product is a good way to run through all your working capital. That doesn't mean you shouldn't always be on the prowl for new talent. “You should always be interviewing and always be hiring regardless of your headcount plan,” says Stackdriver co-founder Izzy Azeri. “It’s so hard to find good people and the founder is always the best recruiter.”

Brace yourself for failure.

This doesn't mean you should expect that your company is going to go under but there will be times when things aren't going to work out like that should. That applies to whether you're selling shoes or developing mobile phone apps. Dan Foody is the co-founder of Cloze. They have created an app merges a user’s mail and social media messages. "Apple restricts developers to at most 100 beta test devices for any app. In today’s world that’s not nearly a large enough audience to refine an app (especially a consumer-focused one),” Foody said. “You need hundreds to thousands of beta testers. How can you avoid this pitfall? Build a web app first so you can learn the hard lessons up front with a wide audience without being restricted by platform and store limitations.”