7 Reasons CMWorld Is Like Coming Home

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There are no shortages of conferences throughout the year. There are small ones. There are huge ones. There are super specialized ones.

Hell, I even cofounded a specialized conference with three amazing people.

Not every conference is created equal.

Good news: The industries and internet are big enough for all of us. Local conferences are great for those with small budgets who don’t have the luxury of traveling on a company/client account.

Bad news: More often than not, quantity sacrifices quality.

As a freelancer-turned-solopreneur, I haven’t had the luxury of having a large conference budget. I’ve been lucky enough to have clients who saw the value proposition in covering my expenses, and other times, I’ve volunteered in exchange for attendance.

For me, the CMWorld conference was like coming home. I was surrounded by like-minded individuals who were passionate about content marketing, making a difference, and genuinely helping their clients/customers. I fell in love with the color orange. I walked away inspired and exhilarated.

After volunteering at this conference last year, even though I had introvert fatigue, I was also exhilarated. I felt connected to every single person there because we all shared the same passion, in varying degrees. Different industries, different backgrounds, but all with a common passion: content and content marketing.

Here are the 7 ways attending CMWorld felt like coming home.
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What do the new Twitter changes mean for you?

Our favorite platform Twitter just announced a few upcoming changes that have me pretty excited. It’s no secret that I love Twitter as a platform. When used correctly, it’s one of the best tools to #AmplifyYourBiz. So what are these Twitter changes and what does it mean for you? They all have to do with doing more with the 140-character limit that makes the platform special (at least it does to me.) (more…)

Harnessing the Power of Online Reviews for Your Small Business

When my brother’s car broke down last month, and the dealership quoted him a ridiculous price for fixing it, we turned to the internet to find a local mechanic. He’s new to this city, and I’ve never actually needed to get my car fixed – so we went down the list of small businesses that came up.

There was the specialty shop where I had gotten my oil changed. We went there first without looking at any reviews. His quote was lower than the dealership, but we didn’t want to commit before shopping around a bit more. There was a little muffler shop with 55 reviews on Yelp – and what’s more, they were all POSITIVE reviews. I looked up the address for the muffler shop. It was located on a street I’ve driven down hundreds of times in the past two years, but had no idea it was there.

We drove up – I actually passed it the first go. The location itself is hidden by trees, and even walking by it on the sidewalk, I would never notice it. The little garage looked run down – and the lot is tiny. We walked in to a tiny room with just a desk, two chairs, and the owner at the computer. He was on the phone when we walked in. He asked us how he could help, we told him our predicament, and he said he would call us in 15 minutes with a quote after doing some research.

If we had walked in without seeing those positive reviews, I would’ve told my brother we should move along and find another option. He called my brother with a quote, and we decided we would have his car towed there. When we went back in with the car, he asked us how we had found him. When we told him he had great reviews online, he was genuinely surprised. As an unassuming small business owner, he had gotten two new customers simply because of word-of-mouth.

My brother and I were part of the 90% of consumers who read online reviews before visiting a business. According to a survey from business2community, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in a business’ revenue, and a negative review can cost you 30 customers.

There’s no longer any doubt when it comes to the power of online reviews. So, how can a small business owner encourage their customers to leave those reviews?  (more…)

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting A Small Business

Starting your own business and defining your own path is literally the “American Dream”. In the digital age, it’s easier than ever to throw up a website and say you’re now running your own business.

But let’s not get too hasty.

Even though it’s technically easier to START your own business, and you could literally start it from your living room, the questions you need to ask yourself remain the same as if you’re opening up a physical small business on Main Street.

I’ve already told you that you shouldn’t start your own business – but if you’re going to ignore that advice, then keep reading.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Small Business

  • Why am I doing this? Understanding your motivation is the key to starting a business. Is it because you love what you do but no longer want to do it for another company? Do you want to expand existing freelance work you’ve been doing (because there’s a definite difference between being a freelancer and a small business owner) ? Are you hoping to shake up the landscape and make a difference? 
  • Who are my customers? If understanding your motivation is the KEY, identifying your customers is the FOUNDATION to starting your own business. Who are the people you want to connect with your product or service? What are their needs? Why would they care, and more importantly, who would actually buy what you’re selling?
  • Who will help me? The reality is that you won’t be able to do everything yourself. We’ve briefly discussed the importance of a support system – but this goes beyond your friends and family. Who are your mentors? Who are the people you’ll turn to for legal and financial advice? How will you connect with other small business owners in your industry to build a network?
  • How much money do I need to get started? If you’re taking the dive and leaving your full time job, be sure to factor in living costs in addition to the expenses you’ll most definitely incur when getting your small business off the ground. Don’t forget about hidden costs such as licensing fees, rental deposits, equipment, and taxes. Experts suggest having at least 12 months worth of living expenses saved up before you start your own business. The Small Business Administration has a plethora of great resources to help you plan and figure out potential costs as you’re starting out.
  • How will I handle setbacks? This could be the most important question to ask. There are lots of ups and downs (I mean, LOTS), and your days could be filled with more disappointments than successes in the beginning. Are you the kind of person that gets discouraged easily? Are you prepared to heard the word “No” more often than your favorite song? Be brutally honest with yourself. Ask family and close friends if you have to – truly understand yourself in order to anticipate your behavior as an entrepreneur. 

I know, it got really existential all of a sudden, didn’t it?

What advice would you give to someone at the start of their entrepreneurial journey? Tell us on Twitter and use the hashtag #AmplifyYourBiz.

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Don’t Start Your Own Business

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My entrepreneurial dream began over a decade ago. I came up with the name for my company, took on a couple of small projects as a side-hustle, but it wasn’t until I was ready after freelancing that I had the guts to incorporate and say “This is what I’m going to do.”

There isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not filled with fear because that’s what starting your own business entails: fear, uncertainty and unstable cash flow.

It’s certainly not all unicorns and rainbows.

You’re potentially up shit creek without a paddle because no matter how much you build your network (don’t even talk to me about starting your own business without a personal brand and a helluva network), you have to consider these factors:

You have to be in love with your idea.

Your business?  Your idea?  You better be in love with it. I mean, potentially more than you love your family because you will have to make yourself get out of bed every morning to devote possibly 16 hours of your day to your business. It’ll be with you in the shower. It will wake you up in the middle of the night (if it wasn’t already keeping you up) and it will make you want to bang your head into the wall. Repeatedly. So if you’re not ready to devote your heart, soul and quite literally your blood, sweat, and tears – don’t start a business.

You better be ready to hear “No” repeatedly – or even worse, radio silence.

If you’re not used to rejection, then don’t start your business.  You’ll get a lot of radio silence from potential clients.  You’ll hear a lot of “no”s. After the 4th or 5th one in a day, you may get discouraged.  That’s normal.  What you have to know is when to step away to recollect your thoughts and sometimes, when to give it a rest for the day.  Don’t burn yourself out. Give yourself enough of a rest to be able to get up the next morning and do it all over again.

Have a good support system.

This goes without saying but let me say it again. Have a good support system. At least one or two people you can count on who will let you vent. Be warned: Starting your own business will put a restrain on your relationship.  On top of all the other growing pains of a regular relationship, you may have to deal with them asking you how your day went when you justdon’tevenwanttodealwithitanymore. This is where the support system comes into place.

Don’t get easily discouraged.

Look. I’ll be honest. I have days when I don’t even want to go online because there are people younger than me doing these amazing things and it’s like a slap in the face. Once you start comparing yourself to others, you may not get anything done.

Collaboration is different than comparison. You have an idea. You have the passion and you bring something new to the game? Then you have to be willing to work your ass off and remember that those young entrepreneurs doing big things got where they are because they took the first step. And the second. And the third. They had setbacks too. Just like you will (Oh. You will.)

The key is to not get easily discouraged and if you’re having an off day where the world is crushing you?

Breathe. Walk away. Take the time you need to deal with it and shake it off. Your dream is still out there, waiting for you to get off your ass and work for it.

Sleep? What sleep?

Do I even need to explain?

Say Good-Bye to a Social Life (Kind of)

Raise your hand if at one point or another, you’ve thought that being a business owner meant you can make your own hours and grab drinks with friends whenever you can.

Now excuse me while I go into a corner and laugh.

And laugh.

And cry.

Having your own business means you are in charge, which means you are liable to make sure all the things are done. I mean, all the things.  This means you have to make sure that your client projects are completed, be on call, and when you’re between projects? You’ll be doing paperwork, research, and maintenance on your business. Depending on your business, a new client means new research because they’re potentially in an industry you are not familiar with (This is more common to the social media consultants, and copywriters).

There will be some days you will look up from your computer screen with your headphones in and notice that the sun has gone down, you forgot to turn on the light, your stomach is yelling at you in the dark, and your Pandora hasn’t been playing music for at least the last hour.

Oh, did you forget the unstable cash flow? That just might mean that you’ll have to forego the happy hours and brunches so you can pay rent and cable. Groceries are important too. Of course.

So why do it?

Because entrepreneurship is in your blood.

Because you can’t think of doing anything else.

Because you make yourself get up every morning even if the day before was shit.

Because the stress is worth it.

Because you are working for a dream, not a paycheck.

Because you’re ready to fail and get up again.

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I hope you’ll subscribe to receive updates from the Amplify Your Biz blog. That can be via RSS or by signing up for Mailchimp over there on the right. Of course, you can always follow me on Twitter & the page on Facebook.