5 Ways to Make Your Freelance Business Look More Professional

July 9th, 2013 Comments off

blog_freelancerIf you have a specific, marketable skill, you can build a business by doing freelance work for businesses and individuals. Getting your freelance business off the ground takes a lot of networking, personal marketing, and chutzpah. You can increase your credibility to potential clients by adding these professional elements to your business communications.

#1 Upgrade Your Phone System

Your clients need several different ways to get in contact with you. Even if you complete your work entirely online, clients will want to contact you by telephone. Instead of directing them to your home phone line, install a separate line specifically for your business. Having a business phone number that differs from your mobile and home phone lines gives your business an air of professionalism that can be difficult to attain as a freelance worker.

  • VoIP small business phone systems can be very affordable while offering you big-business features like caller ID and directories, conference and multiparty calls, and call parking, transfer, forwarding, and hold.

#2 Hire a Virtual Assistant

Companies may outsource projects to your consulting business – and you, in turn, can outsource some of your own administrative functions. Hire a virtual assistant to handle your business calls, take messages, and divert calls to your mobile phone as needed.

  • Since your virtual assistant may work for several clients at once, you only pay for the work they do for you – a much cheaper option than having an in-house receptionist to handle your low volume of incoming calls.

#3 Use Your Website Email Address

Are you emailing your customers and business associates from a free email client? Don’t. For just a few dollars, purchase a domain for your business and set up an email address and website. Not only is this more professional, but it also is good preparation for the future, as many free email clients begin to shut down their services.

If you run your freelance business from home, consider renting a PO Box for your business  instead of using your residential address. Or, you can take advantage of new mail services that enable you to use an actual street address (“105 Main Street,” for example) in place of a PO Box number.

#4 Change How You Send Your Postal Mail

Speaking of mail – how many pieces of mail do you send out per day, week, or month? If you find yourself repeatedly running to the post office, hand-addressing envelopes until you get a cramp, or using the latest novelty stamps plastered with images of characters from “The Simpsons,” you may benefit from using custom online postage instead.

  • Print your postage online or order custom stamps to be delivered straight to your door.

#5 Your Website & Social Profiles

The first thing a potential client or customer will do when looking for your business is search for your online presence. Fill your website and social media profiles with relevant content, company information, and, most importantly, contact information. They don’t have to be fancy – but they have to be current, functional, and informative.

When you run a freelance business, the most important thing you do is communicate. If your communications – online, over the phone, and through the mail – are unprofessional, that will have a negative effect on your ability to attract and keep clients. Make your communications more professional, and watch your business grow.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Social Technology Your Business Can’t Miss

April 17th, 2013 Comments off

blog_social-media-technologyMaintaining your company’s Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and other social accounts in tandem can be a labor-intensive undertaking. However, social technology tools exist that make posting content, monitoring mentions, and providing service an easy, innovative, streamlined process. From your improving your online marketing efforts, to empowering your sales team – read on to see how social can make your business better in every way.

Social Automation
The companies who have the most followers and online engagement on Twitter tend to send approximately 22 tweets over the course of each day. Since it’s considered poor conduct to send all 22 tweets at once, you need to find a way to space them out.

Marketing automation software makes it easy to post content to all of your social profiles in a consistent, timely manner. You pre-populate the software with content and schedule it to post to your accounts at a rate and time of your choosing. Social automation software can also:

  • Send a pre-written direct message to your new followers
  • Post a link to your profiles every time your blog has a new post
  • Schedule updates for all of your accounts or only for specific profiles.

Remember that in order to produce effective and engaging marketing, consistently adding content to your social profiles is only half the battle. It’s up to you and your marketing team to make sure that your posts are interesting to your audience, appropriate for your company, and effective in turning followers into customers.

Social Customer Service
A recent Oracle report found that more than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting a complaint, but 58% of users who tweet about a bad experience will never receive a response from the company (Bluewolf). When you monitor mentions of your company over social media, you have the opportunity to respond to customer service issues immediately – just as you would with a customer calling on the phone.

  • Much like call center software, social media monitoring software transfers every social media comment or mention into a helpdesk ticketing system. Your customer service agents can assess whether each mention merits a response, and immediately send appropriate responses through the portal.
  • Software that uses this ticketing system makes for responsive, accurate, and consistent customer interactions that benefit both your marketing and your customer satisfaction.

Social Monitoring
Social media isn’t only about output. Just as it’s important for your company to produce and post content to your social profiles, it’s integral that you monitor what is being said about you in the social sphere.

Posts about your company can be opportunities for positive marketing and customer service; but if left unaddressed, they can damage your company’s reputation. Social monitoring software listens for mentions of your company and alerts you to instances that need to be directly addressed by your company.

  • Social listening software monitors conversations, analyzes the content for relevance, and helps you take the appropriate action to provide a positive customer experience.
  • Most software will automatically search for and collate @ mentions of your company. However, many times customers don’t use the @ when speaking about your company. You should program your software to listen for mentions of your company with and without the @ mention, as well as #brandname. You should also listen for common misspellings of your company name.

According to the Bain & Co. report “Putting Social Media to Work,” when companies engage with customers and provide responses to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more money with the company. Look into social media automation and monitoring technology to streamline and optimize your company’s social media presence.

blog_272x77_resource-nationMegan Webb-Morgan is a business blogger, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from social technology to online marketing. She writes for ResourceNation.com, a B2B lead generation company. Follow them on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

3 Shipping Tips to Help Make this Holiday Season your Best Ever!

November 28th, 2012 Comments off
3 Shipping Tips to Help Make this Holiday Season your Best Ever!
As the holidays approach, most e-commerce businesses are getting prepared for their busiest season of the year.  Getting orders faster than you can ship them may seem like a problem most businesses would like to have, but your response can be the difference between growing through repeat customers and losing their future orders to a competitor in the fast paced world of e-commerce.  We hear from many businesses that have added more people to the warehouse to help with fulfillment during the holidays, but changing the way that you print your shipping labels can make a big difference to your efficiency and scalability this season.
Tip #1: Print Packing Slips & Labels Together
The first tip to creating a more manageable holiday season is printing your packing list/invoice and shipping label together on a professional all in one form.  This option presents some immediate advantages over a 4×6 shipping label.  You will see an immediate improvement in overall efficiency when you remove the need to match up a packing list from one system and a shipping label from another.  Many businesses have people assigned to only this task during their busiest season to keep up with demand.  With the packing list/invoice attached to the shipping label, your shipping department will be able to focus on packing up your shipments as fast as possible without fear of sending the wrong item to the wrong person.  The improved accuracy of the all in one form is an added bonus that saves everyone time by eliminating the need to correct mistakes down the line.
Tip #2:  Use Flat Rate Boxes for Simple Shipping
Our second tip is to utilize the many new Flat Rate boxes and Cubic pricing options from the USPS to streamline your shipping this holiday season.  “If it fits, it ships” gives you an immediate idea how these unique options can save your shipping department time and energy this season.  If you have not considered any of the many Flat Rate boxes or Cubic pricing options, it is time to give them another look.  There are so many available shapes and sizes for Flat Rate pricing with the Post Office now that most items sold online today can probably fit in one of them.
USPS Priority Mail and Express Mail Flat Rate Boxes offer big discounts for heavier packages going to residential customers.  They also offer huge potential time savings.  With Flat Rate boxes and Cubic pricing, there is no need to weigh your shipments one by one anymore.  In TrueShip, you can assign a default box weight or attach standard weights to your items and run large batches of shipments without worrying about the exact weight.  If the package is less than 70 pounds, it is the same price every time with the Flat Rate options from the Post Office.
Tip #3:  Multi-Carrier Software Can Save Time
Our last tip relates to sellers using multiple carriers to ship their packages. If you are using different platforms for each carrier, then a multi-carrier system like TrueShip’s ReadyShipper can save your business lots of time and energy.  TrueShip’s ReadyShipper gives you one system for all your UPS, FedEx and USPS shipping labels.  It’s quick and easy to set up ReadyShipper with your preferred carriers, including your Stamps.com account, and you can start printing labels for each carrier from one interface.  TrueShip even built in the ability to set up basic rules for all your imported orders to default to the correct carrier and shipping method automatically.  This opens up the possibility for batch processing your shipments in one large run, instead of having to run them one by one.
TrueShip’s ReadyShipper works seamlessly with Stamps.com and the company offers a free 14 day trial.
Contact TrueShip directly for more information at 877-818-7447 or trueship.sales@trueship.com.

As the holidays approach, most e-commerce businesses are getting prepared for their busiest season of the year.  Getting orders faster than you can ship them may seem like a problem most businesses would like to have, but your response can be the difference between growing through repeat customers and losing their future orders to a competitor in the fast paced world of e-commerce.  We hear from many businesses that have added more people to the warehouse to help with fulfillment during the holidays, but changing the way that you print your shipping labels can make a big difference to your efficiency and scalability this season.

Tip #1: Print Packing Slips & Labels Together
The first tip to creating a more manageable holiday season is printing your packing list/invoice and shipping label together on a professional all in one form.  This option presents some immediate advantages over a 4 x 6 shipping label.  You will see an immediate improvement in overall efficiency when you remove the need to match up a packing list from one system and a shipping label from another.  Many businesses have people assigned to only this task during their busiest season to keep up with demand.  With the packing list/invoice attached to the shipping label, your shipping department will be able to focus on packing up your shipments as fast as possible without fear of sending the wrong item to the wrong person.  The improved accuracy of the all in one form is an added bonus that saves everyone time by eliminating the need to correct mistakes down the line.

trueship_label-form

TrueShip's Label Form combines a shipping label, packing list and message card on a single 8.5" x 11" sheet

Tip #2:  Use USPS Flat Rate Boxes for Simple Shipping
Our second tip is to utilize the many new Flat Rate boxes and Cubic pricing options from the U.S. Postal Service to streamline your shipping this holiday season.  “If it fits, it ships” gives you an immediate idea how these unique options can save your shipping department time and energy this season.  If you have not considered any of the many Flat Rate boxes or Cubic pricing options, it is time to give them another look.  There are so many available shapes and sizes for Flat Rate pricing with the Post Office now that most items sold online today can probably fit in one of them.

USPS Priority Mail and Express Mail Flat Rate Boxes offer big discounts for heavier packages going to residential customers.  They also offer huge potential time savings.  With Flat Rate boxes and Cubic pricing, there is no need to weigh your shipments one by one anymore.  In TrueShip, you can assign a default box weight or attach standard weights to your items and run large batches of shipments without worrying about the exact weight.  If the package is less than 70 pounds, it is the same price every time with the Flat Rate options from the Post Office.

Tip #3:  Multi-Carrier Software Can Save Time for High Volume Shippers
Our last tip relates to sellers using multiple carriers to ship their packages. If you are using different platforms for each carrier, then a multi-carrier system like TrueShip’s ReadyShipper can save your business lots of time and energy.  TrueShip’s ReadyShipper gives you one system for all your UPS, FedEx and USPS shipping labels.  It’s quick and easy to set up ReadyShipper with your preferred carriers, including your Stamps.com account, and you can start printing labels for each carrier from one interface.  TrueShip even built in the ability to set up basic rules for all your imported orders to default to the correct carrier and shipping method automatically.  This opens up the possibility for batch processing your shipments in one large run, instead of having to run them one by one.

trueship-logoTrueShip’s ReadyShipper works seamlessly with Stamps.com and the company offers a free 14 day trial.

Contact TrueShip directly for more information at 877-818-7447 or trueship.sales@trueship.com.

Categories: Ecommerce Shipping, Shipping Tags:

4 Tips to Buy a Domain Name and Build a Website

November 13th, 2012 Comments off
As the world becomes more technologically savvy with each passing year, the importance of having a website continues to increase. And while creating a website is becoming easier and more accessible through hosting companies like Domain.com, it is establishing the online presence needed to make that website powerful that can seem more complicated. How can you make sure your business website is found? How can you drive more traffic to your site? Here are some important tips to consider:
Tip #1 – First Things First. Get Your Domain.
The best method of establishing an online presence begins with owning your own domain. Don’t just rely on social media to spread the word. Here’s why…Unless you’re lucky enough to have a completely unique name or organization name, you’ve got competition online whether you know it or not. If you’re a “Joe Smith” or other common name, there are many other Joe Smiths out there that also want to be found online, and they’ll beat you in search engine rankings if they’ve got a domain name and you don’t. So first things first, find and buy your domain name or your business domain name. If www.yourname.com or www.yourbusiness.com are available, snatch them up! If the .COM isn’t available, you’ve got many other solid choices such as .NET, .ORG, or .ME.
Tip #2 – You’ve Got Your Domain. Now What?
Owning your personal domain name is a big step towards being visible online. However, the driving force behind being found online is content. If you have a domain name but it isn’t associated with a website, you won’t get very far. Search engines and social networks alike both value new and fresh content and quality links to that content. A static website is a good start, but depending on your needs, a continuously updated blog might be a better choice. With the growing number of social networks and websites that your business can have a presence on, it is important to have a home-base to link back to. Think of a solid website with ever-changing content like the backbone of your online nervous system.
Tip #3 – Now It’s Time To Draw Others In!
The reality is social media networks are taking over the internet. And with the explosion of these networks has come the ability to be mentioned in many places at once online. The downside, however, is that only being mentioned in one place online is becoming increasingly ineffective. Creating a profile on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and including your website name within that profile is a great start to generating traffic to your site. These are some of the biggest social networks, and they’re all great for connecting, sharing information and content and getting more visible online. If you’re already on the major social networks, consider some others that may be relevant to your interests:
Flickr – A social network for sharing photos
Dopplr – Share your travels online
Yelp – Food buff? Review your favorite restaurants
Youtube or Vimeo – Share your videos
Tip #4 – Finally, Get Searched!
Search engines are still the driving force for the majority of online traffic, so appearing within search rankings for the major search engines is key to getting noticed. This is where owning a unique domain name (like your own) comes in. Having www.yourname.com, among other factors, will help you rank high in search engines. Plus, those social networking profiles you’ve set up? They can also be a great way to increase the rankings for your name. The more places your name exists, the better. For example, twitter.com/yourname will rank well organically and you just might see your Twitter account jump up in the search rankings. If you’ve got a rare name, we challenge you to dominate the search rankings for your name!
Sign up with Domain.com to begin building your site and online presence. You can try it free for 30 days and it only costs $2.99 per month thereafter. Plus you’ll get a free 12-month domain name and a free JumpStart to your website.  TRY IT TODAY!

As the world becomes more technologically savvy with each passing year, the importance of having a website continues to increase. And while creating a website is becoming easier and more accessible through hosting companies like Domain.com, it is establishing the online presence needed to make that website powerful that can seem more complicated. How can you make sure your business website is found? How can you drive more traffic to your site? Here are some important tips to consider:

Tip #1 – First Things First. Get Your Domain
The best method of establishing an online presence begins with owning your own domain. Don’t just rely on social media to spread the word. Here’s why…Unless you’re lucky enough to have a completely unique name or organization name, you’ve got competition online whether you know it or not. If you’re a “Joe Smith” or other common name, there are many other Joe Smiths out there that also want to be found online, and they’ll beat you in search engine rankings if they’ve got a domain name and you don’t. So first things first, find and buy your domain name or your business domain name. If www.yourname.com or www.yourbusiness.com are available, snatch them up! If the .COM isn’t available, you’ve got many other solid choices such as .NET, .ORG, or .ME.

Tip #2 – You’ve Got Your Domain. Now What?
Owning your personal domain name is a big step towards being visible online. However, the driving force behind being found online is content. If you have a domain name but it isn’t associated with a website, you won’t get very far. Search engines and social networks alike both value new and fresh content and quality links to that content. A static website is a good start, but depending on your needs, a continuously updated blog might be a better choice. With the growing number of social networks and websites that your business can have a presence on, it is important to have a home-base to link back to. Think of a solid website with ever-changing content like the backbone of your online nervous system.

Tip #3 – Now It’s Time To Draw Others In!
The reality is social media networks are taking over the internet. And with the explosion of these networks has come the ability to be mentioned in many places at once online. The downside, however, is that only being mentioned in one place online is becoming increasingly ineffective. Creating a profile on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn and including your website name within that profile is a great start to generating traffic to your site. These are some of the biggest social networks, and they’re all great for connecting, sharing information and content and getting more visible online. If you’re already on the major social networks, consider some others that may be relevant to your interests:

  • Flickr – A social network for sharing photos
  • Dopplr – Share your travels online
  • Yelp – Food buff? Review your favorite restaurants
  • Youtube or Vimeo – Share your videos

Tip #4 – Finally, Get Searched!
Search engines are still the driving force for the majority of online traffic, so appearing within search rankings for the major search engines is key to getting noticed. This is where owning a unique domain name (like your own) comes in. Having www.yourname.com, among other factors, will help you rank high in search engines. Plus, those social networking profiles you’ve set up? They can also be a great way to increase the rankings for your name. The more places your name exists, the better. For example, twitter.com/yourname will rank well organically and you just might see your Twitter account jump up in the search rankings. If you’ve got a rare name, we challenge you to dominate the search rankings for your name!

blog_domaincomSign up with Domain.com to begin building your site and online presence. You can try it free for 30 days and it only costs $2.99 per month thereafter. Plus you’ll get a free 12-month domain name and a free JumpStart to your website.  TRY IT TODAY!

Why Small Businesses Outsource Payroll

August 14th, 2012 Comments off

blog_payroll-image Outsourcing payroll is an excellent alternative to in-house payroll processing for today’s small businesses. Through a relationship with a professional payroll services provider, an employer can expect to realize several benefits, including consistency and reliability, a reduction in cost and workload, reduced risk, expanded offerings for their employees and peace of mind.

Payroll can be a time-consuming headache for many small businesses as keeping track of benefit accruals, garnishments, new hires and terminations, not to mention federal and state payroll tax changes, are often daunting tasks. And at the end of each year, small businesses spend a significant amount of time on W-2 and 1099 preparation, all the time rushing to ensure that they are sent out on time. Outsourcing payroll can reduce stress and free up many hours of time that can be spent on tasks that impact the health of the business and the bottom line.

Keeping abreast of state, federal, local and industry-specific regulation changes can be a significant challenge for most employers, small or large. A reputable outsourced payroll provider has a staff dedicated to keeping up-to-date on all of the changes that could affect payroll, ensuring that their clients are in compliance.

Payroll companies also have a full staff on hand to process payroll. This is a huge advantage for small businesses because payroll will be processed on schedule even if the owner or payroll manager is on vacation or has an unexpected absence. Outsourcing payroll functions increases consistency and reliability because payroll will be accurate and processed on time each pay period. It also ensures that the company’s payroll expertise does not leave if the payroll manager does.

Payroll can be a time-consuming headache for many small businesses as keeping track of benefit accruals, garnishments, new hires and terminations, not to mention federal and state payroll tax changes, are often daunting tasks. And at the end of each year, small businesses spend a significant amount of time on W-2 and 1099 preparation, all the time rushing to ensure that they are sent out on time. Outsourcing payroll can reduce stress and free up many hours of time that can be spent on tasks that impact the health of the business and the bottom line.
Keeping abreast of state, federal, local and industry-specific regulation changes can be a significant challenge for most employers, small or large. A reputable outsourced payroll provider has a staff dedicated to keeping up-to-date on all of the changes that could affect payroll, ensuring that their clients are in compliance.
Payroll companies also have a full staff on hand to process payroll. This is a huge advantage for small businesses because payroll will be processed on schedule even if the owner or payroll manager is on vacation or has an unexpected absence. Outsourcing payroll functions increases consistency and reliability because payroll will be accurate and processed on time each pay period. It also ensures that the company’s payroll expertise does not leave if the payroll manager does

When comparing the cost of an outsourced payroll provider to in-house payroll expenses, consider the amount of time spent on payroll-related activities as well as the costs of printing and distributing or mailing checks, computer software, training and support. Because most payroll providers handle all of these, outsourcing payroll functions is usually a big cost saver. And outsourcing does not have to be expensive; many professional payroll providers offer packages for small employers as low as $50.00 per month.

And then there are the costs involved in penalties for errors, omissions or late payroll tax filings. The IRS reported assessing 7.7 million civil penalties for employment taxes alone in 2011, totaling $5.3 billion in assessments. Businesses who outsource payroll and payroll tax functions can dramatically reduce the risk of incurring payroll tax penalties; most outsourced payroll providers will calculate payroll taxes, manage filings and payments and will assume the cost of penalties incurred due to incorrect calculations or late payments, as long as the necessary information and funds are provided on time.

In addition to printing and shipping checks directly to your door, most payroll companies also offer the convenience and security of direct deposit services. Because pay is deposited directly into employees’ accounts, having to put a stop payment on a lost paycheck and reissue it becomes a thing of the past. Many payroll providers also offer a paycard service for unbanked employees, usually at little or no cost to the employer. Both provide the security and convenience of paperless payrolls.

Many small companies find it difficult to dedicate the proper resources to knowing all the ins-and-outs of payroll. Outsourcing with a reputable payroll firm offers employers access to some of the leading experts on payroll and payroll taxes in the country. And with guarantees of error-free payroll, accurate tax filings and timely payments, the worry that many experience when it comes to the business of paying employees is eliminated, providing just the peace of mind every small business owner needs.

120x60_Compupay Terri Tennant is the senior director of business development for CompuPay Inc., one of the top-five payroll providers in the United States. Since 1980, CompuPay has worked with businesses with one to over 5,000 employees to streamline their business processes, improve productivity and save money through their offerings of easy, flexible payroll solutions.

Image: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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