Don't Be a Spammer

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to promote your business. Spamming your subscribers–even accidentally–however is an unfortunate way to loose valuable subscribers. Worse, spamming can get you black listed by your ISP and/or Web host. Follow these important guides to make sure you comply with email laws and best practices.

Email marketing is a cost-effective way of staying top of mind for prospects and clients. You can send subscribers monthly promotions, inform them of any upcoming events, or say hello at an opportune time. And then at some later date, when you’re prospect is ready to sign up for that yoga class, or have their property landscaped, or hire a personal trainer, if they have been receiving regular emails from you, then you will be the one come to mind rather than your competition.

It’s important in launching an email campaign that you respect people’s time, intelligence and privacy. The best way to respect your subscribers time and intelligence is to make sure that the content of your email truly is valuable. If you are unsure if your email content is valuable have a look at Seth Godin’s famous Email Checklist.  In addition, make sure your emails comply with these important laws below.


This law, known as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires that all commercial email senders uphold compliances relating to unsubscribing, content and sending.

  • Email messages, sent to a list of subscribers, must contain a visible unsubscribe link that will in-turn remove the subscriber from the send-to list.
  • With respect to content, the subject lines must be relevant to the content contained in the email body and cannot be deceptive.
  • –The sender must disclose a legitimate physical address if the message is their own, or that of their advertiser.
  • –The sender must provide an accurate “From” email address.
  • –Lastly, emails cannot be sent to email addresses that have been ‘harvested’ or illegally taken from other sources (websites, long ‘joke’ emails that have been forward many, many times). The emails must have been obtained with the expressed purpose of being marketed to.

This anti-spam law is also upheld by many email system providers that block more than 20 emails from being sent simultaneously, to prevent spammers from using their system to spam, which may result in the service being tagged for suspicious email activity by the FTC.

With all these rules how does one even go about marketing via email? Fortunately, there are many online services that enable solo practitioners and affordable, marketing solution that complies with the anti-spamming law. You may have heard of some of these services: Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp.

Across all of these services, many offer the same basic functionality including:

  • –Ways to upload a large number of email contacts as well as one at a time
  • –The ability to send a plain text email message as well as an HTML message
  • –Allowing a recipient to easily unsubscribe from future mailings (very important)
  • –A way of allowing the sender to see how many people opened the message (also very important in order to monitor and improve your emailing strategy)

As a subscriber to the service, your  monthly fee is often based on usage which combines the size of your email list and the frequency you send emails to this entire list. Despite the monthly or usage fee, the time savings, the compliance with anti-spam laws and the ability to see how many people opened the message make it worth it.


Five Ways to Improve Your Cash Flow

It’s been said that more sales fixes a lot of problems in a business. Yet, counter to common sense, cash flow isn’t necessarily one of them.

As many business owners know, in addition to sales, there are many variables that affect how cash comes in and goes out of a business. Here some of the most effective steps you can take to improve your business’s cash flow.

  • Reduce overhead. While it may seem obvious, it’s worth stating. If you’re trying to improve your cash flow, look first at your expenses. Make cuts. Fixed expenses such as rent, phone bills, staff and technology support all affect the bottom line. Though these may be essential to operating your business, the amount that you spend on them should be easily supported by your monthly revenue. If not, then you will easily get into cash flow problems with any small hiccup in sales.
  • Invoice quickly. To  avoid cash flow crunches, invoice as soon as you are permitted to. Even if the client may take up to 60 days to pay, there should be no reason why you wait more than a day to send that invoice. There are numerous ways of sending an invoice. Online invoicing software makes billing easy with features that free you from the hassle of printing and mailing invoices, while streamlining your billing process. Here, from the small business experts at American Express Open, are some additional ideas for improving your invoicing process.
  • Make collections calls. Don’t let your accounts receivable get out of control. If someone is late paying, call them without wasting time. Be friendly, tactful and polite when asking to get paid, but do not be shy about asking for money. Your customer agreed to your payment terms, it’s your job to make sure they pay you on time. When you call to collect a late bill, make sure to mutually determine a date when you can expect the payment. If you feel that collecting late payments could harm your relationships with your clients, then have someone else make those calls for you.
  • Take credit cards. Doing this will help expedite the process of receiving money by eliminating snail mail and paper checks. It also allows your customers to gain reward points when they buy your service or product. It’s a convenience for both parties and certainly helps with cash flow and saves  you time.
  • Calendar everything. In order to achieve this level of managing cash flow, attention to daily deadlines is essential. Using your calendar system, make it a habit to indicate in the future what is due and when. From bills to jobs in progress. To increase your sales and afford you the time to get everything done, proper time management will be key.

These tips are just a few of the many tweaks that can be done to optimize your company’s cash flow.  With more money in a company comes even more opportunity. It can mean more investment into the company’s staff, technology and services. It can mean more money for marketing and advertising. It usually also means a happy business owner.

To learn more about SimplifyThis Easy-Bill, an online tool that lets you electronically invoice customers and accept online payments – with a couple of mouse clicks – visit

Branding Made Simple

Branding as a term connotes all kinds of secrets that you need to master in order to appear as big and bold as possible when in reality it is all much simpler than that.

As a business owner, you should be able to communicate clearly and precisely the aim of your business—no catch. Of course, doing so is not as simple as all that, but by laying out several ground rules you’ll be well on your way to effectively branding your goods and/or services.

  • Keep it simple. According to the American Marketing Association (AMA) a brand is a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers.”  Firstly it is important to look at your enterprise very closely and determine what is essential and what is secondary. What is the narrowest definition you can find for your outfit. Start by describing yourself in eight words or less (We…).
  • Make it credible. Once you have a clear message, you need to make sure that it’s convincing. Make your mission or brand statement bold and declarative, but also not too bold to the point where it looks like you need to sell yourself out of an insecurity in your abilities and products. Trying to win over potential clients with ambitious promises and guarantees comes off a bit desperate in my opinion, as if you had to rely more on the promises and guarantees than your product or service.
  • Make it personal. Although we are all living in the digital age—both people and companies—there is still a nostalgic longing to “know” and trust those who you are doing business with, to interact with a human face instead of an “interface.” There are many ways to accomplish this, such as using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to reach out to customers, but don’t underestimate the power of old-fashioned friendliness and cordiality either. It will go a long way.
  • Make it inspiring. Everyone wants to be able to get excited about where their time and money is going. Allow your customers to think of “investing” in you and engaging in an active partnership. You might support certain philanthropic efforts with your business and encourage your customers to do the same, maybe set aside a portion of every purchase to a good cause that your customers would identify with.

I have not laid out a formula for fail-proof branding, but more written up a couple ideas to get the ball rolling. Good branding has just as much to do with your outward appearance as it does with your awareness of yourself as a business. If you don’t know who you are first, you will not be able to tell others who you are.

Ultimately, your “brand” is something that lies in your audience’s mind. As the adage goes, perception is reality. How people perceive you, IS your brand. See how SimplifyThis helps small business owners to project a professional brand with online appointment scheduling software. and online invoicing software.

Staying on Track with Planning

Since you, as your own boss, have no one looking over your shoulders making sure you are staying on task, it is imperative to create plans that will do so for you. Trying to run your business without planning is like going to the grocery store without a grocery list; you don’t even know where you should start. You can make great strides in managing your time better by following these five pieces of advice, allowing you to run your business with clarity of purpose and vision.

Daily Planning for Entrepreneurs

  1. To help keep your business on track, plan out your own work schedule in a way that fits everything in and prioritizes your tasks. Once you have a visual of when you will be doing what, all that is left is to do it—the easy part.
  2. In planning, start with the big picture—say the agenda for the year or the month—and then plan the details—your days and weeks. Always keep in mind when you are planning your days where you want to be at the end of the year.
  3. As you flesh out your plan, prioritize your tasks. Inevitably you will find yourself stretched for time and behind on projects. If you determine beforehand which projects should take precedence ov

    er others, you won’t find yourself at a total loss, but will have an idea of what’s most important to get done and can start chipping away at that. See point 4 of a previous post where I discuss prioritization in more detail.

  4. Space and time don’t only have a unique interrelationship in physics, but also in your life. By organizing your workspace according to categories of your business—keep all of your marketing materials, your financial paperwork, and your schemes and ideas in another—you will be able to divide your time according to your duties and save valuable hours in the meantime.
  5. Take fifteen to thirty minutes every day to re-organize your organization. This might sound a bit silly, but experience tells us that order inevitably leads to chaos, and all of your well structured calendars and offices will start to get messy with the workday. Make sure you are keeping  things in line as you are working and  not when you are knee deep in your own disarray when untended bills are scattered across your desk and you are not sure if you had or hadn’t rescheduled that sales call.

Learn more about  SimplifyThis’s appointment scheduling software, an online tool that helps entrepreneurs, and freelancers stay on top of their billing and appointments.


Your Professional Image

Projecting a good professional image is a necessity for any business owner. At its core, your image relies on your ability to conduct your everyday business with a level of professionalism. Business that treat their customers right all the time, by being timely and cordial, develop a sense of trust. This is the ultimate secret for success. That said, appearances are important too. While they can be deceiving, appearance is the basis for most of our decisions, especially when it comes to doing business. Who has the cleaner website, better Yelp reviews, is more affordable, inspires a sense of confidence?

Especially if you are starting your business venture at the grassroots level and operating out of your home, you might find yourself struggling with a Napoleon complex, believing that there is little you can do about your “stature”—truth is, you can polish your professional image by choosing to implement several logistical services.

Five Easy Ways to Polish Your Professional Image

Maintaining a professional appearance can feel like keeping up with the Joneses, but by following several of the steps we’ve laid out for you you’ll be able to shine in no time.

Office Address

  • If you are currently using your home address as your business address, you’re giving off the impression that you haven’t gotten off your own feet yet—as if you were still living with your parents after graduating from college. Even if you do run your business out of your home there are many options for sidestepping this issue. Many services exist out there that allow you to rent an address and achieve an office image, without a an office price tag. To find a virtual office in your area, check out Regus Virtual Offices, Your Office, or google “Virtual Offices” to research solutions in your area.

Separate Phone Line

  • When I was in high school my father ran a computer consulting small business called Larson Computers. Unfortunately we never got a separate phone line and were trained to answer the phone with an ambiguous “Larsons” that could either have referred to the business or the family. Most of the time prospective customers were jus

    t confused when we picked up the phone. As kids, we were not trained secretaries. It’s very easy and affordable nowadays to either get a second phone line or  a business cell phone.

Email and Website

  • Since a lot of industries are no longer using phones as the main form of communication, it is important to get a professional email account that preferably includes your company name. By using a free account such as gmail or hotmail, you’re sending your clients the message that you run your business somewhat inadvertently and don’t care to go the extra mile. As far as this may be from the truth, it’s what it looks like. Along with your email account, you will want to be sure to set up a clean and well designed website that is both professional and fitting to you r line of business. If you are a massage therapist for example, you will want your website to convey a sense of tranquility. Many sites such as these automatically play soothing world music when the site appears—a function that affects me contrarily since any sort of pop-up gives me a tinge of anxiety.


  • If you have printed out business cards or brochures, it is important that you are using high grade paper and printers, otherwise it is a lost cause and will paint your business in a negative light. It is easy to find high end laser printers for affordable prices online and even at thrift stores if you are vigilant. I reiterate—ensure that every image attached to your business suggests a high degree of professionalism and competency.

Payment and Scheduling Options

  • You can show that you are serious about your business by allowing your customers the freedom to pay in different forms. Particularly well-suited to a small business are services such as SimplifyThis’s EasyBook online invoicing software that accepts payments from both PayPal accounts and major credit cards. Also, this service integrates quite deftly with your email account. And the cost of this service starts at only $9 a month—well worth its long term benefit.

These are all steps you can take today to improve your image. In the end, these steps will only be effective if you truly do conduct yourself in a professional manner. Assuming that you do, these steps could help communicate exactly how professional and serious you are.

See how you can use SimplifyThis’s invoicing and scheduling services to inspire confidence in your clients.


Managing your Accounts Receivable

Learning how to best manage your Accounts Receivable is essential in the business world where the name of the game is often cash flow.   These simple steps will help you streamline the invoicing procedure, making the money transfer from your clients’ account to yours as simple as a couple of mouse clicks.

Better Cash Flow through Accounts Receivable Management

Here are several suggestions to get the ball rolling and to save you valuable time and resources with your invoicing duties.

  1. In order to make sure you are getting paid—your main objective—send your invoices out as soon as possible, especially since payments usually aren’t due for 30 or 45 days.
  2. As previously discussed in the Effective Time Management post, when you set aside a certain time of week to for specific tasks such as sending out invoices, these tasks will eventually become part of your work routine.  If you stay consistent with your invoicing practices, you will be less likely to forget to send your invoices out. Late Friday afternoons would be a great time to do so (assuming your business follows the traditional work week) since you can send out all of your invoices for the week at once, eliminating any oversights.
  3. Use an invoicing app

    lication like QuickBooks, or our own online EasyBill invoicing service to get you on the fast track to managing accounts receivable. This also leaves you more time and energy to dedicate to the ins and outs of running your business. Before the days of the Personal Computer it was a very arduous full time job just to track one’s clients bills and to organize them in the books. Nowadays there are tools available that facilitate the bookkeeping in ways that make the paper chase appear practically medieval.

  4. Be upfront, polite, and clear about how you will bill your clients and what terms you expect. As easy as online invoicing makes the transaction for all parties concerned, it is important to walk first time clients through the process of payment.
  5. Regardless of how you bill your clients, the more professional the process, the more trust you will inspire in your business. Personalize your invoices by attaching your business logo to them and provide authenticated credit card transactions for your clients.

SimplifyThis offers an EasyBill invoicing service that’s as easy as pie and allows you to send online invoices in PDF format, receive online payments via PayPal and credit cards, integrate your invoices with your Iphone and Android, automatically send out payment reminder emails, among a host of other funcitons that will simplify your life and business. Sign up for a free-trial today!


Effective Time Management

Good time management is crucial for any citizen of the 21st century for whom a typical day involves responding to countless emails, phone calls, and text messages, on top of all the other daily interruptions one encounters in running a business. Most of time you are being interrupted from tasks that are essential to growing your business. Poor time management can make work feel like a leaky boat. As soon as you plug one hole, you’ve got the next leak to cover until you run out of limbs. If you can start with a dedicated plan to fix your holes, you’ll be better off in the long run.

Five Tips for Better Time Management

As we all know, when it rains it pours.  How do you stay on top of all you have to do? By creating a time management game plan. Here some of our favorite strategies that help you to better manage your time.

1)      Set blocks of time aside for specific tasks.  Maybe you will spend an hour in the morning and in the late afternoon responding to email, dedicate the hours right after lunch to meetings and take care of your accounting needs before lunch. If you establish a rhythm that your mind can get used to, staying on top of your tasks will become second nature.

2)      Use the proper scheduling/planning tools. If you structure your vague sense of time and deadlines using a calendar you will have a much better idea of what needs to be done and when you need to do it. Using an online appointment scheduler offers the added benefit of cutting down on phone time.

3)      Work in a dist

raction free zone. When you are working are you tempted by a million other things that you could be doing instead? Try as best you can to discern what diversions take you away from your work, and eliminate them. Since I am a writer, I found that whenever I reached the end of a sentence and struggled to begin the next I would choose to forego that mental strain and open up Firefox instead, killing time by browsing. To address my lack of discipline, I bought a typewriter that  has no other intended purpose but to allow me to write. It’s just black ink on white pages.

4)      Determine and prioritize your objectives. If you can start each day by determining both your primary objectives and your secondary objectives and then prioritize your efforts accordingly, you will begin on top. Make sure to establish a time frame in which you accomplish high priority goals, and then stick to that plan. If you can plot your day out in theory, you’ll be able to do it in practice as well.

5)      Give yourself appropriate deadlines.  As Parkinson’s Law states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” In other words, the amount of time you will allow for the completion of your work will be consumed. The more ruthless your deadline, the sooner your work gets done. When you decide to spend a week on a project that could be completed in a day, it’s going to take a week minimum to complete it.

Mastering time management techniques changes your life for the better, allowing you more time to do the things that matter most. See how our appointment scheduling software can help bring your time back under your control.


Work and Time

I know many of my entries have been dedicated to the workplace 3.0 and its implications for the structure of our day to day lives, but I return to writing one again because it seems one of the more pertinent issues of our day. With more and more work being managable from the ubiquitous reach of the internet, our traditional divisions of job and leisure have begun to bleed into each other. The 9-5 that is more often a Monday through Saturday in the corporate scheme is slowly being replaced for a more elastic schedule that allows workers to take into consideration their own preferred schedules.

The conditions we have gotten used to in the business world are summarized well by Nigel Marsh, a renowned speaker and best selling writer on matters relating to the structure of the modern day work life, in his Ted Talks performance: “The reality of the society that we are in is that there are thousands upon thousands of people leading lives of quiet screaming desperation, where they work long hard hours at jobs they hate to enable them to buy things they don’t need to impress people they don’t like.” According to Marsh, the working conditions we operate within in the corpo

rate world, regardless of whether it be one of the big bad McCorporations or a “good company,” are intended to draw as much work from its employees as is efficient. Whereas I believe the rise of the internet is allowing employers and employees to establish a more congruous working arrangement and a more organic schedule, the basic pressures do remain: work will be work as bosses will be bosses as time will be time. Regardless of whether or not you are able to determine your own work schedule and place, one is always responsible for one’s own quality of life. Even if you determine when you eat and when you sleep, when you walk your dog and when you play with the kids, no one else will be making sure that you are enjoying your life. Here Mr. Marsh advises affirms inserting simple but life-giving projects in one’s day, not by trying to balance a strenuous day in the office with a strenuous workout in the gym, but redefining success by how enjoyable one has constituted one’s life. If we begin preferring simple pleasures and leisure versus maximizing one’s time in the office, at school, at home, we will be able to slowly redefine what sucess and happiness looks like.


IBM's big 100

When I was looking at notebooks for college, my father, who ran a small computer consulting business at the time, encourage me to buy a Lenovo Thinkpad. Six years later, I still write many of my blog entries from the Lenovo 3000 N100 that has since traveled to three continents and absorbed many scrapes and bruises. It was the legacy of IBM that led my father to encourage me to buy the computer, a legacy of computer engineering that spans one hundred years almost exactly to this very day. IBM has a particularly fascinating, and not totally conflict-free, history in which they have re-invented themselves time and time again in order to not only provide the solutions to problems arising in our global information age, but to contribute largely in the framing of those very problems themselves so as to position themselves in such a way that their solutions remain ahead of the curve.  Originally IBM, or what was then known as C-T-R, engineered tabulating machines for various information processing needs (punch cards serving as the primary mode of information storing), fostering a corporate culture and pride that largely involved their drive to create new cutting-edge technologies. Retrospectively, IBM's groundbreaking strategies to instill corporate culture  that included singing the IBM rally song ( in the workplace and insisting on a corporate uniform, leave a somewhat unappealing taste in my mouth, if only for former IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson's ambiguous role in making it possible for the National Socialist regime to systematically target Jews using IBM's tabulation machines.

Regardless of how dark a chapter of IBM&#0

39;s business dealings with Hitler really were, their commitment to R & D–always investing their profits back into the company–drawing on their punch card system, IBM invented calculators, electronic typewriters, and magnetic disks for data storage, all before introducing the System/360 ( in 1964, a multifunctional computer that supported several applications at the same time. From then on IBM invented the magnetic strips featured in all credit cards, bar codes, floppy drives, and in 1981 the first personal computer. During the eighties however, IBM's clean-cut, blue suit business ethic took a nosedive when more free-thinking Silicon Valley companies such as Apple Macintosh and Microsoft picked up steam, and they had to cut out 100,000 jobs. According to many analysts, IBM's fall can be attributed to their spreading themselves too thin, an issue they have since addressed by dedicating themselves to developing new information architecture and infrastructure, having sold off their Thinkpad computer line to Lenovo in 2005. One of the largest investors in Open Source technology, IBM has maybe made its biggest headlines by providing two prototypes whose intelligence has outmatched its greatest human competitor: in 1997 Gary Kasparov, the reigning chess champion, was defeated by Deep Blue, an IBM chess-playing computer, and then, in 2011, Watson, a supercomputer constructed by IBM engineers, took down two previous champions in Jeopardy. All in all, IBM's active engagement with their markets and consumers, along with the range of flexibility they have demonstrated in taking on new challenges, has brought them the one hundred years of success we now attribute to them.


Integration with Google Calendar

Simplifythis provides bi-directional integration with Google calendar.  Using the Google calendar sync capability, the Simplifythis calendar of each staff can be synced with their Google calendar.  Follow these steps to enable sync for a staff:

  1. Select the staff whose calendar you want to sync.
  2. Select the first icon to start sync with Google calendar.
  3. Select one of the options to authenticate with Google.
  4. You'll see a list of all the calendars that this staff has.  Select the calendar you would want to sync with, and save.

From here on, Simplifythis will automatically create an event for all the new appointments that are created for this staff.  A few things to note about this integration:

1.  Appointments that were created before establishing sync will not sync with Google calendar.

2. All appointments created for this staff after establishing sync will also be created on Google calendar.

3. While showing availability of the staff to clients during booking process, Simplifythis will check with both Google calendar as well as Simplifythis calendar, and only show those slots that are available on both calendars.

4.  If you create an event directly on Google calendar, it will not show up on Simplifythis calendar. However, it will still block staff availability when a client looks for slots during the booking process.  In other words, a client will not be able to book an appointment for the time that is blocked on Google calendar.

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