Tips on Hiring an Outsourcer

Businesspeople can maximise their output by hiring cost-effective external service providers to help them turn over more work. These opportunities exist on online marketplaces such as Elance, where businesses and entrepreneurs can outsource a huge variety of contracts. There are a few tips to follow if you are hiring such help for the first time.

Where to advertise

Decide on the best place to advertise for external service providers by researching various methods and getting a feel for what is available.

Clear brief

When advertising a contract, be clear about exactly what the project involves and the deadline. This way, you will avoid time wasters and receive applications from service providers who understand the information needed and the duration they have to complete it, thus allowing them to quote realistic costs to you. Discard anybody who does not apply according to your brief.

Review

Read each application and shortlist as you would with any job vacancy. Don’t be afraid to follow-up applications by asking questions or requesting an example of their previous work. Look for as specific an experience fit as possible – you want the best person for your job. Ensure that the applicant has followed the brief provided and can provide references and/or samples of their work. It can be tempting to choose somebody based purely on price, but experience and a good proposal is key.

Agreements

There are a number of work legal templates available on the Internet and it can be wise to get a simple one drawn up to be signed/agreed. Ensure that you negotiate ownership of the work in advance and if necessary, include this in the agreement proposal. Be clear how the work will be used and who owns the copyright. When hiring through a website, there are often exchanges made via email and it is wise to save copies of all of these in case any problems occur at a later date. Always ask the person you hire to respect confidentiality and discretion.

Trial

Hire a client on a test basis at first, rather than committing to a long-term project. The best plan is to start small and evaluate success or problems along the way, before hiring for a longer period of time.

Payment

Paypal is the safest and easiest way to work payment. Make sure that you agree payment in advance and have a copy of such agreements and tie payment to clearly defined project milestones. If you are advertising a large or ongoing project, you may work with weekly invoices or if it is a shorter contract, a payment in a lump sum could be made at the end.

The key to hiring the best outsourcer is to be clear and honest about your expectations and define good work ethics from the start. Ensure that your communication is clear and polite and allow time with your deadline for any problems or questions which might arise. Outsourcing work can have major advantages over hiring full-time staff and is simple enough to do.

Email Marketing Tips

Despite the rise in social media sites, email is still the most popular.  As such, email marketing is a key tool, not to be missed. It can be a cost-effective way of reaching your audience, build and maintain customer relations, promote new business ventures and inform people. Here are some tips for successful email marketing:

Good database management

Keeping an organised database of clients/contacts is extremely important. A database is a place to store information about your contacts, which can be used to send mass emails (or even target more specific groups of people). As well as the task of creating a database, it is crucial to keep it updated over time. When people decide to unsubscribe from your emails or emails do not deliver, delete and amend your database to ensure that you respect their wishes do not harm customer relations. Ensure customer confidentiality and ask for permission from people before you add them to your mailing list. When using classic emailing (as opposed to an email management system), add contacts to the BCC field, so that others will not see the email addresses. I have played around with many methods and tools to manage my email lists, my recommendation is to use Aweber.

Topical

Once you have your mailing list ready, do not bombard them with emails too often. Make your emails specific. The best way to do this is to target particular events. Plan your email campaign thoroughly before clicking send, which means deciding what the purpose of the email is, who to target and how to monitor the success. Send a test before the real thing.

Email design

For smaller mailing lists or small budgets, using an email package such as Outlook is fine for email marketing. However, it does not allow certain opportunities for graphics and can make monitoring success or allowing people to unsubscribe quickly, a little restrictive. If you are able to invest some money in to the campaign, get an email marketing software package. This helps with the email design and mail-out and can work on a monthly or annual subscription basis. It also allows you to check statistics about the success of your campaign and download data.

Mobile-friendly

The number of people checking their emails on their mobile phone is huge and ever-increasing. As such, it is important to adapt the email visuals and formatting to be easily readable on a mobile phone. This usually means to limit the number of images and to keep it simple.

Measure your success

It is helpful to have a way of measuring the success of your email marketing campaign, either to justify time spent on it for your boss or to define whether or not to continue in future if you own your own business. An email marketing package has a number of tools in which to see how successfully the campaign met its objectives. It can indicate how many of the emails were received and how many were opened, for example.

Emailing your message to your customers, old and new, is a quick, simple and relatively cheap way in which to communicate and market what you do. Don’t forget to remind customers to add your email address to their contacts list (to avoid them ending up in the spam queue) and always listen to feedback. Over time, you will be able to determine how often to send emails and which are the most effective.

How to Research a Topic or Niche

One of the key decisions to make when starting up a blog or website is the topic or niche and this decision should never be rushed. In the first instance, choose a topic you are passionate about, experienced in (to some extent) and want to learn and write about. There are a number of ways to help you research your chosen topic or niche and make your blog or website stand out from the crowd.

Competition

Some topics and niches are extremely competitive, possibly even over-subscribed, while others have little competition. Often with competition comes interest and is a key to what people want to read. The decision on which topic to choose tends to fall with what interests you, but if you are torn between two topics, you may want to have a look at examples of similar blogs or websites and research the market. Can you offer something new in a crowded market? Do other similar sites make money? What domain names are left for you to use?

Potential Earnings

When considering and researching your niche, you should look at the opportunities for monetizing your website/blog. Researching similar sites is important here to see their scope for advertising etc.

Audience

Having a good quality blog/website with interesting content and design is one thing, but its success is limited without an engaged audience. Having followers who re-visit and help spread the word about your site on your behalf is an asset. When it comes to audience, look beyond visitor numbers and aim to find a niche that will attract a passionate audience who will really get involved and become a fan of what you offer.

Future plans

If you are looking to sustain a website for many years to come, choose a topic/niche that can grow and develop with you and ensure that there is plenty to write about. Here, you will need to find a balance between finding something that is current and popular and also has longevity.

Marketing

Part of the research process when choosing a niche or topic, is to see how others spread the word about their website/blog and how you can emulate this. There are a number of web communities, social media sites and forums available on a whole host of topics and it is worth having a look at what is available, prior to launching your site.

News

To ensure that your site ranks high on Google, it needs fresh content. There are a number of ways to be kept updated on news about your particularly topic of choice. Researching in the 21st century is a relatively quick and easy task, and does not take hours of reading through books and copying notes. Online tools can help you. Google has a number of useful tools, including Google search (one of the most obvious search engines), Google Blog Search (blog specific), Google News (up-to-date news), Google Trends (which shows you the level of interest in a topic and the hottest trends) and Google Alerts (alerts you when there is new content about your topic). Other research tools include Yahoo Buzz Index (similar to Google Trends), PR distribution websites such as PRWeb and PR Buzz and Technorati (similar to Google Blog Search).

How to Start Blogging

Many people choose a blog over a traditional website, for a variety of reasons and there are increasingly more registered blogs and bloggers every single year, either as a hobby or business-related. This article explains how to get started in what can first seem a complicated market.

Reason

First of all, ask yourself why you want to start a blog. Do you have a business and would like to increase sales? Would you like to raise awareness of a cause close to your heart? Do you want to share stories about your favourite hobby with the world? Whatever the reason, be clear about your blogging objectives in the short-term and long-term and have a plan to stick to along the journey.

Topic

Write about a topic that interests you. Over time, you will need to be passionate about the subject of your blog as this will keep you returning to write, keep it updated and marketing it. If you want to gain credibility from your blog, pick a subject you are experienced in. Entertainment, health and fashion are among the most popular blog topics.

Hosting

A big decision to make with a blog is whether you want to host it yourself, or use a free blogging service that is hosted for you. The free blogging services will save you money, but will leave you with a less-than-catchy domain name and little control. A cheap method of hosting the blog yourself is to install free WordPress blog software, which allows you a great deal more freedom and flexibility. You can then find a web host for your blog – I recommend Bluehost. If you choose a hosting provider, please ensure they offer unlimited websites to host and use the Cpanel.

Domain Name

The next task is to find a domain name that has not already been taken and is memorable and relevant. This is more difficult than it seems but many people find the process of choosing a name for your blog exciting.

Design and Content

Once you have your blog ready to go, you can get to work on make it the best it can be. This will involve some tender loving care, by designing, uploading pictures and interesting, relevant copy. At first, it is likely that you will be doing all of the work yourself, but you could look in to outsourcing the workload at a later date.

Monetizing your blog

If you have chosen to make money from your blog, you will need fresh new content, regularly. The key to a good blog is the content. Once you build up a readership, you will earn respect and see the money come in. Ways to earn money from your blog is to use Google’s Adsense or write product reviews with redirect affiliate links.

Marketing

As with any product, marketing is important in raising awareness or increasing sales. Spread the word about your new blog in as many different places as possible, from word of mouth to social media.

Literally anybody can be a blogger, but having a good quality blog to be proud of, that lasts the length of time, takes effort and patience.

How to Write a Compelling eBook

There are two main parts to becoming an author: the writing and the publishing. Indeed, the publishing is no easy task, but without the finished product, there would be nothing to get published and to market. So here are some tips on how to write a book.

Be Realistic

Writing a book takes more than just a desire to see your work in print. It takes a huge amount of discipline, sacrifices and effort. Being a creative person or having natural writing flair is only the start of a very long and often daunting process. Once you realise how difficult it is, you can realistically get started!

Be Original

In content and voice, be original and have something unique to write about and sell. Be clear on your story and characters. Read lots of other books for inspiration when it comes to writing style, tense etc but do not copy them!

Be Taught

New writers can benefit hugely from the wisdom of other, more experienced, writers. There are also tools and techniques to learn from books, the Internet or writing clubs. Of course, writing a book needs freedom and creativity, as opposed to rigid rules, but a happy balance can exist to help you learn from others and avoid writer’s block. Having a ‘mentor’ or joining a writing club is an excellent way to receive feedback. The key to writing a good book is to learn to accept constructive criticism, learn from your mistakes early on and develop a thick skin to accept rejection and failure along the way.

Be Organised

The best way to approach book writing is to give yourself ‘milestones’ and be organised in your approach. Start small, with perhaps 300 words a day. Small steps all add up and this means you can fit it around other paid employment and still maintain a social life, while also achieving your book dreams. You will need to have a word count in mind, which could be approximately 5-10,000 for a decent sized nonfiction book and up to 100,000 for a typical novel length. Have an outline to follow and work in a way that suits your style to meet this word count – whether that is weekly deadlines (such as word count or a percentage of progress). This could mean a structured plan or a rough idea of the beginning, middle and end of your book.

Be Disciplined

As a book writer, you become your own boss. This means setting aside working hours and a working space. It also means giving yourself deadlines, holding yourself accountable and being tough on yourself in meeting them on time and to a high standard.

Be Resilient

Even if writing comes easily to you, the process of writing a book can be difficult. Add that to the ‘selling’ process, and you need to be prepared to bounce back from the challenges you hit along the way. Often, a first book isn’t your finest piece of work, but the key is to keep writing and perfecting your craft.