Staying Present While Being Productive: 3 Tips for Spiritual Entrepreneurs

For many entrepreneurs, the choice to start their own business was as much about quality of life as it was about financial empowerment.  Being personally fulfilled—particularly where spirituality is concerned—is just as important to some entrepreneurs as the amount of money they earn each week or month.

Paperless OfficeFor those entrepreneurs, let’s call them Spiritual Entrepreneurs, it’s not enough to exist and do well; they want more. They want to feel:

  • connected to their work
  • present in each moment
  • that they are not just going though the required steps to attain an outside definition of success

Are spiritual entrepreneurs disillusioned about the prospect of being present in their work instead of presenting their work?  I offer up a resolute NO to that question, and in addition, offer these “3 C’s of Spiritual Entrepreneurship” to help chart the course from presenting to being present; those 3 C’s are clarity, confidence, and compassion.

Clarity

Many entrepreneurs start out following formulaic approaches to success.  These approaches, though helpful to some, will not work for everyone.

Spiritual entrepreneurs need to adapt a philosophy that combines basic business knowledge with personal clarity. Getting clear on what you offer, how that offer lends value to your ideal client and what it takes to consistently convey that value is a more spiritually centered approach to business.

Instead of following the crowd, it’s often better to find the tribe.  But first, spiritual entrepreneurs need to be able to discern between that crowd and their tribe.

Confidence

The crowd consists of a massive Facebook friend list, plenty of Twitter followers, and the myriad other social media outlets used to promote business services. But if we assessed the conversion rates from friends and followers to paying customers, it’s easy to see that a crowd doesn’t equal customers.

Instead of constantly promoting their work, spiritual entrepreneurs need to build up the confidence to approach their tribe and ask questions.  They should adopt a listening approach, meaning they listen more than they talk, and connect more than they call on people to buy what they sell.

Most people don’t recognize that it takes confidence to built authentic rapport.  That confidence shows up in the willingness to be one’s self and to be willing to forego the thousands of hard-to-convert followers and risk expression among the ones who represent the people that your product or service was designed to serve.

Compassion

The listening approach helps to create authentic community through shared interests, thereby offering the opportunity to bring followers and friends into a sales funnel where it’s much easier to convey what is being offered, with minimal noise and a higher chance of converting them to a paying client.

Right in line with the listening approach, and the clarity and confidence it takes to use it, comes the need for compassion.  It may seem an odd addition to an article about entrepreneurship, but spiritual entrepreneurs need to be familiar with the power of compassionate business practices.  Compassion includes:

  • putting yourself in the shoes of your tribe, and committing to a more personalized approach to business.
  • getting on the phone and calling a client to see how they’re enjoying your product.
  • being willing to promote the products and services of your clients, instead of just nudging them to promote yours.

It takes great commitment to endure the emotional and financial rigors of entrepreneurship.  But, for spiritual entrepreneurs, those confidence muscles need to be extended way past the initial commitment.  With clarity, confidence, and compassion at the forefront, it becomes far easier to stay present, to address feelings, flow, and finances, and to create a body of work this is as personally fulfilling during the process, as it is when the end results are assessed.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components, while her husband, co-founder and Creative Brander, Kris Richards, offers branding packages to helps businesses express their brand’s message, with clarity, confidence, and creativity.

Why Multitasking Might Be Hurting Your Business

Hustle harder.  Be more productive.  Stay on the grind.

Those phrases are common sayings among circles of ambitious entrepreneurs who set out to turn ideas and opportunities into lucrative businesses.  The generally accepted mindset is to outwork most of the competition, and go toe-to-toe with the rest.  But if the formula is as simple as more work, more often, how come more entrepreneurs aren’t earning more income and having a greater impact through their work?

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It’s common knowledge that the more time and effort you put into your business, the more chances you have to gain income and impact.  But is that actually the case?  Does more effort equal greater results?  Perhaps that is the case in physical fitness, but not necessarily in business.  In some cases, perhaps many, the chances of the coveted income and impact accomplishments may be linked to doing less, not more.

A February 2014 Forbes article called out the multitasking myth, labeling the practice as more like “multi-switching”, where the end result is not more work done better, but more projects addressed, but very few successfully executed.  It may be time for small business owners to shift their mindsets from hustle and grind to focus and flow.

It may be tough for some multitaskers to shift to a different mindset.  The hurdles are many, ranging from having too many tabs open while working on a computer, to constantly checking email, to trying to power through tasks that need to be broken up into smaller, more manageable tasks.  There is one particular hurdle that most entrepreneurs face, and it presents a great opportunity to dip a toe in the waters of simplifying their work process: The to-do list.

It’s hard to dispute this reality: The all-important to-do list rarely ever gets done.  And incomplete to-do lists often lead to diminished confidence in a business owner’s ability to manage or survive their day, let alone thrive.

Confidence is an important aspect of business ownership.  If a business owner feels that she can accomplish what she sets out to do, she is more inclined to take the necessary risks to succeed.  She can count on herself to manage her time, talent, and tasks in ways that lead to success.  It’s difficult to build confidence in one’s self, if there is always a list of things to catch up on. This constant race toward completion includes multiple finish lines (read multiple projects happening simultaneously) it is difficult to experience the sense of fulfillment and confidence that comes with completing an important task.

The Alternative to Multitasking

Make a to-do list.  Then, go through the list and decide which tasks are vital to the accomplishment of the biggest goals.  For example, if an ambitious young graphic designer has 12 items on his to-do list, and his goal this week is to gain 2 new clients through social media outreach, here’s what he can do to avoid the trap of plenty action and very little accomplishment:

  1. He should remove the things from his To-Do Today list that are not in direct alignment with his goal.  He should be vigilant about task-pruning, and be willing to be honest about how his tasks connect directly with his primary goal.
  1. He should create a date by which he will revisit the tasks he removed from the list.  This is a great way to ease his mind about not addressing the goals he removed from his list.  He is not dismissing the other goals, but instead giving himself the opportunity to focus on each set of goals during different days.
  1. After that, he should see which of the remaining tasks can be further simplified.  The less complicated his lists and tasks are, the more likely he is to accomplish them.  The more he accomplishes, the more confidence he gains in his ability to realize the goals necessary for his success.

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that focused effort, not a combination of frenzied touch-and-go task-touching is a more direct way to success.  Perhaps two weeks of focused flow is a great way to test the idea of less work, more focus.  Simplifying the workday by focusing on one or two primary tasks, can lead to incremental success through small tasks that build upon themselves to complete larger tasks.  More tasks completed leads to a more confident entrepreneur.  After all, it’s accomplishment, and not mere action that offers a clear path to success.

About the author:  Akilah S. Richards co-founded The Life Design Agency to help entrepreneurs discover, design and express their unique products and services.  Akilah works primarily with women on the emotional and spiritual life components, while her husband, co-founder and Creative Brander, Kris Richards, offers branding packages to helps businesses express their brand’s message, with clarity, confidence, and creativity.

Small business owners, save time on social media marketing by scheduling your posts

Social media marketing and your website go hand in hand. It’s a symbiotic relationship. Posting content from your website to your social media profiles helps to drive traffic to your website. At the same time, posting content to your social media networks helps you attract new fans and followers to your social media profile. All in all, posting original content from your blog or website is good for business. The trouble is, with everything else you have to do on a daily basis, who has the time?

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Posting your blog and website content to social media

As you know, social media is in part a distribution point for the content you publish to your website. But that’s just part of the equation, successful marketing on social media also rests on good old fashion socializing. On social media this translates into reading, Liking (or favoriting), commenting on and sharing others on other  people’s posts. Online relationships after all are involve a fair amount of reciprocity.

As far as what you say, or share content-wise, this should be a combination of articles, blog posts, videos and images that you find online, and also original content—also in the form of articles, white papers, blog posts, videos, podcasts or pictures—that you yourself create.

The benefits of posting your original content include:

  • Driving referral traffic back to your website
  • Increasing your reputation with search engines, therefore improving your chances of showing up in search engine result pages
  • Further positioning yourself as a thought leader within your community

The question then becomes, not why should you post your content to your social networks, but how do you find time to do all this posting.

Scheduling your social media content in advance

While maybe you’ll need to sign on daily to keep up with your online communities, you can at the least, get the task of posting your own content out of the way by scheduling your posts in advance. Here’s how:

Scheduling posts on social media

For Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, you’ll want to use a social media management tool. Hootsuite is a management tool for businesses that allows you—among other things—to schedule your posts in advance across multiple social media sites. (Note, while Hootsuite will let you schedule Facebook posts, they are known to get more views when you post directly in Facebook. Therefore, try to post directly to Facebook, while using Hootsuite for Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.) Here’s a video that will show you how. There is a free version, or paid versions starting at $9.99 a month.

When you start posting content, remember you can dip back into your archives and post some of your older stuff too – as long as it is evergreen.  Bonust tip: check out Hootsuite’s bulk scheduling functionality!

For Facebook, you’ll want to schedule your posts directly in Facebook and skip using a management tool – these posts have been shown to be given more preference from Facebook (that means more visibility for you). This is also easy, just follow these simple instructions!

One of the great uses of social media for your business is to drive traffic to your website by posting your content to your social media sites. If you fine you’re having some trouble keeping up with your social media marketing program for your small business, try scheduling them in advance so you can get on with all the other things you need to do!

Tips for Marketing Your New Business on Social Media

If you have some familiarity with social media, and are just starting to use it for your business as well, here are some tips to follow as you get started.

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Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

You may be on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites all day, personally. But when it comes time to start pages for your business, you’ll need to be a little more conscientious.

Take time to decide who you are talking to

This sometimes seems obvious, so obvious that you don’t have to do it. You might be surprised to realize that you don’t actually know who you’re talking to, who you’re trying to reach on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or whatever other social network you may be using. At the same time, knowing specifically who you are talking to is the very first step to saying anything that is even remotely meaningful.

One thing to keep in mind is that there is an incredible amount of noise online; you’ve heard the stats, people receive a thousand marketing messages a day. The only way to cut through the noise is to deliver meaningful messages, and that starts and ends with an understanding of who you are talking to.

Are you talking to other professionals and sharing industry insights? Are you talking to your local community, prospective customers, people you work with, partners? What community will you be joining online? You will need to really think this part through before attempting to post content.

Understand the difference between selling and networking

Though you may start a Facaebook page, Twitter account, or Google+ page for the sake of marketing your business, there’s a certain way to go about it, and it’s not terribly direct. If it was as easy as signing up for a free account and then advertising your product or service through free posts, well, we’d all be very successful online.

Instead social media marketing is all about networking, truly finding your place in a community. Keep in mind, it is basically uncouth to only sell your products on your social media profiles, you need to also converse with and engage your followers.

In terms of what to post, follow the 80/10/10 rule; this means 80 percent of your posts should be educational, 10 percent should be about you, personally and the remaining 10 percent can actually be dedicated to selling your product. Get some more guidance on what to post to Facebook.

In order to communicate effectively on your small business social media page, start out by listening to what other people in your community are saying. Don’t just dive in guns drawn. Go in gently, have a listen and then begin to jump in when the time is right. Very similar to offline networking.

Marketing Your Small Business: Three Tips for Cutting Through the Noise

People receive thousands of marketing messages daily through TV, radio and of course the ever-on internet now available on desktops, iPads and smart phones. Every time you glance at Facebook, you likely absorb a marketing message. How then, as a small business, can you cut through the noise and reach prospective customers with a meaningful message. Here are three tips to keep in mind when you create your marketing materials, or draft your unique value proposition.

Getting New Clients

Focus on benefits

To write the best marketing messages, you have to step out of your own shoes and into your customer’s. This can be hard sometimes, when you’re intensely involved in a project, seeing things from someone else’s eyes can be hard. Still, your marketing messages need to focus on the benefits you offer. Be careful not to confuse benefits with features.

Features describe the product or service, in terms of what it does. Benefits are the end result that the customer experiences by using the product or service. In other words, explain how it solves their problem and makes their life better.

What’s in it for me? is the main question that we either consciously or subconsciously ask ourselves when we encounter a marketing message. If we don’t receive the answer quickly and satisfactorily, we quickly move on.

Narrow your niche

To have more meaningful conversations with prospective clients, choose a more specific sub-set of the market. For example, if your products appeal to an age group that stretches from twenty-somethings to over fifty, focus on one small part of that spectrum, such as customers in their early twenties. Though it is counter-intuitive sometimes, limiting who you market to actually usually leads to an increase in business – this is because you can actually speak directly to your audience this way. You can speak to them in their language and your message will be impactful, and therefore they will be more likely to actually listen.

Knowing your customers inside and out

Knowing your customers well (who they are, what they need, what they buy, how they buy and how they feel) is one of the most important success factors in your business. This you’ve heard hundreds of times. Knowing your audience well is the foundation for growth. It takes time, patience and some internet savvy to properly research your market, but it is the very first and most important step to building a business.

How to Determine Your Value Proposition

The first step to finding your unique value proposition in the market place, is doing the legwork to understand your target market—the people who will buy your product or service. At the same time, you have to understand your competition—the companies whom your potential customers can turn to for the same service or product.

apples-and-orangesMaybe you arrived at your business idea by spotting an actual gap in the market, a real need that was going unmet. In design thinking, this is known as sensing the gap. If this is the case, then for you, finding your unique value proposition won’t be difficult; you already have a sense of what it is.

But for those of us who came to our businesses through a desire to build upon our own skill set, it could be trickier. For you, you will need to look carefully at your potential customer’s needs, and then look for how your competition is failing to meet those needs, and from there you can carve out your unique place.

Step one: Understanding your target market

First, you’ll need to understand who it is that will be buying your product or service. Be careful here; it’s tempting to say that anyone can use your product or service. For instance, if you are a hairdresser you may say anyone who has hair is your target market, but this is never the case.

Target market isn’t anybody who can possibly use your service, it’s the people who are most likely to use it and whom you therefore decide to sell to. You will target them by speaking directly to them on their terms. To be able to do this, you will need to understand who they are. This includes demographics: age, gender, household income, marital status, and just as importantly, psychographics. In other words, what makes them tick?

As a small business owner, chances are you won’t undertake doing an expensive focus group to learn information about your market. But you can still observe your target market online and off. Speak to someone who represents your target market, ask them if they’ve ever used a product or service like yours, ask them how they used it, what they liked and what they didn’t like. Ask them what would have made the product better.  Similarly, find out where your market hangs out online, forums and social media sites might be a good place to see what people are saying about their experiences.

In the end, what you want to do is get to know the people in your target market as individuals, think of them as real people, so that you can best understand how to serve their needs. Next, you will look at your competition to see how they are failing to meet their needs, and this information will become the basis for your business – you unique value proposition.

What is a Unique Value Proposition and Why Do You Need One for Your Small Business?

You may of heard that to effectively sell your product or service—to the degree you’d like —you need a unique selling proposition. A unique value proposition is exactly that, it is a statement that expresses how your business is different from your competitors. That statement is a road map for how you conduct your business.

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Yet many entrepreneurs and small business owners chose to skip this early step to launching a business, considering a unique selling proposition—or, UVP—a nice to have rather than a must have. A UVP may seem like a little luxury, something to do when you’re not busy answering calls, fulfilling orders or drumming up new business, but in reality it is the foundation for all of those activities.

Understanding the Buying and Selling Process

Before diving into understanding what a unique value proposition is, and how having one impacts on sales, it’s good to first understand the buying and selling process.

As you may well realize, people don’t randomly buy things, instead when we buy something–be it a service or product–we follow a process like this:

  • We realize our need for a product or services
  • We identify and evaluate the different options
  • And then, finally, we make a purchase

 As sellers, we:

  • Establish a rapport with the buyer
  • Qualify her needs
  • Show how the product meets those needs
  • Handle her objections
  • Close the sale

Having a well defined UVP is important step toward showing prospective buyers how your offering meets their needs.

Understanding Unique Value Proposition

Your unique value proposition describes to others how your product or service is different from any others out there. When potential buyers are evaluating your offering, your UVP tells them why they should buy from you instead of your competitors.  Yet, many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to define their unique value proposition, either because they:

  • Don’t know how their product is different
  • Don’t have the time
  • Don’t know how to begin, or
  • Don’t believe their customers really care

This fact gives you an advantage. Whether you realize it or not, you do have competition, and if you want your customers to specifically think if you when they are looking to buy the service or product that you offer, then you’ll need to stand out. While it does take time to create a UVP, it is time well spent. Next up, how to get started creating a unique value proposition.

About SimplifyThis

Take appointments directly through your website. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business with SimplifyThis–two-in-one appointment scheduling and invoicing software for small businesses.

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Doing SEO for Your Small Business by Yourself (DIY SEO)

As a small business owner, you’ve heard plenty about SEO, or search engine marketing, and the concept of getting your website to show up on Google. You’ve heard the stats (93% of online experiences begin with a search engine!) and you’ve probably come across an SEO company or two. Some charging lots of money, and some charging just a little bit.

seo-image-optimizationChances are are you’ve probably also asked yourself, can I do my own SEO? The answer it turns out is yes, and to help you accomplish this, SimplifyThis customer, SEO Maidsa local SEO company that helps residential house cleaning companies get found onlinereleased their 64 page ebook called SEO to GO. You can download it here. In it they provide all you need to know to be able to launch and manage your own small business SEO campaign. Topics discussed include:

  • What SEO means: What you do online to increase the visibility of your website in Google’s search result pages.
  • How Google works: Collecting and organizing all of the content on the internet, then presenting that information to usthe searchersin a way that is useful.
  • Anatomy of a SERP: Search engine result pageswhat Google returns when you search a topic. Will you show up in the organic listings, local listings or paid listings.
  • Organic vs. paid search: What it takes to show up in Google’s search result pages without paying for ad space and how Google decides who shows up on page one.
  • Keywords: What a keyword is and what the difference is between a short tail and longtail keyword.
  • Google no, nos: What black hat SEO means, and how it can hurt you.
  • And much, much, much more.

It’s a handy book, and if you have a businesswhether you plan to do your own SEO, or if you plan to hire someone to your SEO for yoit lays out the basics of what you should know in a straightforward, easy-to-digest format.

We particularly liked these tips for local businesses:

Four Must-Do’s for Local SEO

  1. Create your Google Places listing. Do that here. Fill out your profile completely and be sure that your local listing links to your website.
  2. Fill out your NAP information. NAP stands for name, address and phone number. Make sure your NAP information is correct and consistent across the internet. The resource section of SEO on the GO offers a list of NAP sites.
  3. Add local signals to your website. Make sure you have you NAP information throughout your site as well, not just directory sites.
  4. Garner Google Places reviews for your business. Reviews are arguably one of the most important aspects of marketing a local business online. There are a number of ways you can get authentic reviews for your business. The ebook covers this as well.

About SimplifyThis

SimplifyThis, two-in-one appointment scheduling and invoicing software, was  built with small businesses in mind. Take appointments directly through your website. Automate and streamline administrative tasks and focus your energy on growing your business with SimplifyThis.

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How to wear many hats without losing your mind

For better or worse being in the position of someone who wears many hats is a reality of entrepreneurship. As chef, cook and bottle cleaner, you need to fill many roles in your business. This is difficult, not just because of the time involved in doing each task, but also because of the time involved in switching between tasks.

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Image by Steve Snodgrass

Different jobs require different types thinking. Some tasks require deep thinking, others require quick thinking. Some require strategic thinking, others creativity. The list goes on, people skills, organizational skills, analytical skills, leadership skills — these are all skills that you may need to rely on at different times depending on the task you’re working on. All this switching from type of task to type of task can be exhausting and result in a loss of productivity.  Here are some tips for how to wear many hats without loosing your head.

Only wear one hat at a time

No matter how many different responsibilities you have, it’s important to try to keep your focus on the one you’re working on at any given time. More and more, it’s becoming understood that multitasking is a myth.  Multitasking may waste more time than it saves, all while killing your creativity. For this reason, while you may wear many hats, it’s prudent to wear only one at a time.

Keep like tasks together

It’s an old time management trick to group like tasks together. Meaning when you finish one task and it’s time to switch to another, switch to one that is similar to the one that came before rather than switching to a radically different type of job. Switching gears entirely takes mental energy, and  you can lessen the impact by lumping similar types of jobs together.

Eliminate distractions

Along the lines of keeping multitasking to a minimum, you should do your best to eliminate distractions. Common distractions, these days include email, social media, and texts. To cut down on these time sucks, try scheduling time for email and social media, and the rest of the time, turn it off. Learn more tips for cutting down on daily distractions and annoyances.

Learn to delegate

For many small business owners, delegating is harder than it sounds. Finding people you can trust to pass work over to, especially when resources are tight, is always a challenge. Often times it seems easier to simply do the task yourself. Yet, doing it all yourself, isn’t always the solution. If you’re new to delegating, read these tips. If you’re bad at delegating, read up and practice.

Organize yourself

Good solid organization is essential for anyone who is in the position of wearing multiple hats. Organizing yourself can take some time, but int he end, following a method of organization will save you time. Start by picking a method. You may want to consider the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. Here’s how to get started with GTD.

Common mistakes local business owners make on Facebook (and how to avoid them)

Whether you’re just getting started on Facebook or you’ve been at it for a while, make sure you’re not making these common mistakes many small businesses make!

Getting overly focused on Likes

Many small business owners get overly-focused on the task of getting people to Like their Facebook page. Some have even gone over the deep edge, and “bought” Likes on sites like Fiverr.com. If Likes can be bought for low sums of money, doesn’t it stand to reason that Likes in and of themselves aren’t that valuable?

public-speaking

Sure, you need people to Like your page in order to communicate with them via Facebook, but today more than ever, the quality of those Likes is far more important than the quantity.

The name of the game on Facebook is engagement, and even if thousands of people Like your page, if they’re not truly engaged with your business, they’re likely not even seeing your posts. Facebook is a place — a clubhouse, if you will — for your fans and advocates. A place where you can share a bit of your business with the people who admire you most, so that they in turn can introduce you to their network by Liking, commenting on and sharing your posts. Filling the room with extras hardly will help you to accomplish your goals. In fact, it could even hurt, if it results in having fans who never engage with your brand at all. So with that, you can loosen up about getting Likes.

Not capturing local flavor

Facebook isn’t just about content, it’s also about context. As a local business, people should be able to see who you are  in your community. Where you are located is a big part of your identity. Be sure to infuse a bit of local flavor into your posts.

Only posting your own content

Remember don’t only post pictures of your business and links to your own blog posts. Also post links to stories that other people publish, share posts that your community have published to their pages. The goal is to truly create value for your community. Share things you think they’d like to read, not just content about things you’d like to sell. For more ideas about they type of content you can share read about the 80/10/10 rule.

Not Socializing

This one relates to the two points above. Facebook isn’t just about advertising your products. In fact it’s not at all about advertising. It is about socializing. Networking. Start with the people in your community, the people you know in the real world. Follow them, acknowledge their comments and posts. Stay in communication with the intention of genuinely building the relationship. Facebook isn’t about broadcasting. It’s the world’s largest social networking platform, not the world’s largest radio station.

Trying to be everywhere

With a bevvy of social media tools available, and all of them free, small business owners are always eager to use all the web has to offer. Owners want to use Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and all the rest. The truth is all of these platforms while free, take an investment of time and attention. Until you master one — whether it be Facebook or another — don’t move on to another. Otherwise you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin, and not thereby missing the opportunity that each platform provides. If you’re just starting with social media and Facebook is your first stop, stick with it until you really get the swing of it. Once you are doing your very best, you can move on to another.

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