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

How Successful Small Businesses Use Twitter – Part 2

May 28th, 2013 Comments off

blog_twitter-for-small-business-3In the part one of this Twitter marketing for small business series, we covered how to choose a username, how to write your bio and the one tip that will guarantee your success. In part two, we’re getting more in-depth with eight suggestions for tweets, how to gain more followers, how to handle customer complaints, and how to measure success.

What to tweet
The most important strategy for Twitter content is to vary your content. Avoid too much self-promotion to the exclusion of being helpful to your customers. Also, keep in mind that tweets under 120 characters are the most effective (they allow for retweets and comments).

Here are eight suggested topics:

  • A coupon code or special discount for your followers
  • A look behind the scenes of your operation
  • Tips for your customers (drawing on your subject matter expertise)
  • Positive press or news stories
  • The human side of your team/employees
  • Customer spotlights
  • Industry news
  • Best practices for your industry

How to gain more followers
Remember that Twitter is not all about you – it’s about community. The Twitter accounts with the most followers commit to a regular schedule and post at least once a day. Think about what you’re tweeting and ask yourself if it’s “share worthy.” Consider when your customers are most likely to be online as you time your posts. Finally, don’t forget to follow your customers, your employees, and industry leaders. Following often (but not always) means that users will follow you back.


Troubleshooting: How to handle complaints
Businesses can use Twitter as a customer retention tool, spotting unhappy customers and solving their problems. Sometimes customers take to Twitter to complain about a negative customer service experience. You’ll want to respond to those people. Think of it as an opportunity. When responding, express concern and offer a solution. Most customers just want to be heard, and may even tweet about how you rectified the problem (which is good press for you).

How to measure success
A good way to start is by using social media tools like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to help with tracking, engagement, and marketing on Twitter. Then, decide what your goals are. If your goal is to increase brand awareness and build buzz about your offerings, you’ll want to pay attention to your interaction count (@ replies and retweets). If your goal is to drive traffic to your website or store, you’ll want to pay attention to click-thru rates.

Consider these metrics to measure your success:

  • Number of quality interactions (retweets, favorites, @ mentions, lists)
  • Number of clicks (and clicks that convert to customers)
  • Tracking your hashtag

There’s never been a better time to integrate Twitter into your marketing strategy for your small business. Now that you have the tools, start brainstorming potential tweets, following your customers, resolving customer complaints, and tracking your Twitter success!

How Successful Small Businesses Use Twitter – Part 1

May 17th, 2013 Comments off

blog_twitter-for-small-business-2Twitter is a powerful communication tool for growing a small business. The service provides a great way to communicate with your customers and get instant feedback regarding how your product or service is perceived in the customer’s eyes.  It also provides an easy and free method to promote special events, new products or special promotions that your business is running.

If you haven’t used Twitter yet, we’ve created this two-part article series for you to get started.   Part one covers the Twitter basics including how to choose a username, how to write your bio, the one tip that will guarantee your success, and a bonus glossary.

How to choose a username
Prepare yourself for the likelihood that your first username choice is unavailable. If your business name is available, go with that option. If your business name is not available, try an abbreviated version of your name, adding an underscore, including your location, including your motto or mascot, or a new word combination.

How to write your bio
Think of your Twitter bio as an elevator pitch. There is a 140-character limit (just like tweets). Make sure to include who you are and what you offer. In your bio, describe your business in a compelling way and give people a reason to follow you. One or two hashtags (example: #postage) is appropriate. Don’t forget to add your website and location in the designated space, and to upload a simple photo for your avatar.

Listen first
If you remember only one tip from this post, make it this: listen first (and often). The purpose of marketing is to provide value to potential and current customers, and nowhere is this more relevant than Twitter. Use Twitter as an extra set of eyes looking out for what your customers care about (and when they’re upset). Before you start sending out tweets, spend a couple weeks following businesses that are similar to yours and observing their behavior. Notice who they follow, the frequency and content of their tweets, and their engagement levels (look at @ replies and retweets).

BONUS: Glossary
The basics, to get you started with Twitter lexicon.

  • @ Sign – Used to indicate a username. When you put an @ before a username, it links to that Twitter profile.
  • Direct Message (DM) – These are private tweets between the sender and recipient.
  • Hashtag (#) – This symbol is used for keywords or topics in a tweet.
  • Mention – A mention is including another user in a tweet by using the @ sign followed by the username.
  • Modified Tweet (MT) – Use this symbol before someone else’s tweet that you’ve changed.
  • Retweet (RT) – This forwards a copy of someone else’s tweet to your followers.
  • Tweet – A message posted on Twitter that is 140 characters or less.

Be sure to watch for part two of this series where we’ll be sharing ideas for what to tweet and how to handle customer complaints.

Now that you understand the basic methods for using Twitter, start today by visiting Twitter and signing up!

Best Practices: 6 Tips to Keep Your Passwords Safe

April 29th, 2013 Comments off
With the rise in identity theft and online security breaches, good password management has never been more important. Strong passwords ensure your information is kept private.
Here are 6 tips to keep your online passwords secure:
1. Include a combination of upper and lowercase alphabetic characters, symbols, and numbers.
2. Make sure the password is more than six characters (the longer, the better).
3. Avoid using all or part of your name in your password.
4. Stay away from using an all-numbers password or a single, repeated letter.
5. Steer clear of reusing or recycling passwords.
6. Rotate your passwords every three months.
Does your Stamps.com password meet these standards? Click here to change yours.

blog_password-lockWith the rise in identity theft and online security breaches, good password management has never been more important. Strong passwords ensure your information is kept private.

Here are 6 tips to keep your online passwords secure:

Tip #1 Include a combination of upper and lowercase alphabetic characters, symbols, and numbers.

Tip #2 Make sure the password is more than six characters (the longer, the better).

Tip #3 Avoid using all or part of your name in your password.

Tip #4 Stay away from using an all-numbers password or a single, repeated letter.

Tip #5 Steer clear of reusing or recycling passwords.

Tip #6 Rotate your passwords every three months.

Does your Stamps.com password meet these standards? Click here to change yours.

Categories: Small Business Marketing Tags:

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

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