Starting a Home Business – 5 Things You Must Do Before You Start

I’m the first person to just “jump in” to something without preparing properly. Like when I joined the gym after months of being sedentary. I marched right in to an hour long class of nonstop weight-lifting followed by an intense abdominal routine. Not smart! I completed the class, and could barely walk out. My legs were buckling beneath me, and for the next several days I could barely move. Every single fiber of my being screamed in pain. Well, maybe some of us are just risk-takers, but sometimes not preparing is just plain stupid and counterproductive, and can produce major consequences. This article will tell you a few vitally important things to do before you officially “jump in” to a new online business.

1. Set up an office space – Even if the space is small (mine started out with a laptop on an end table and a portable file box!), have a designated area just for your computer, a printer, and some file folders. You will be accumulating a LOT of information (especially if this is a new venture for you), so while it doesn’t have to be perfect, it should be organized in a way that you can find what you need quickly.

2. Computer backup – Learn how to back up your system and do it regularly, especially once you start accumulating and creating material. If you have a computer with a CD-RW drive, you can copy folders and documents from your computer onto a CD. Over time, you will accumulate hundreds of important documents and emails, so I highly recommend creating a backup CD once a week. If you use Outlook for email, you can export all your Personal Folders to a single file (usually “outlookbackup.pst”), which you can then copy onto a CD or somewhere else on your hard-drive. There are also secure online backup programs, such as Mozy.com, which offers a free account to backup your system. The program runs automatically, and setup is a piece of cake.

3. Organize your computer files – As you start your online business, you may get overwhelmed at the amount of information that will come at you. Before this happens, start setting up file folders on your computer to organize it. You will learn quickly about eBooks, and will no doubt receive many offers for free material that will help you in building your business. Wherever you keep documents on your computer (typically “My Documents” in Windows), set up a folder system to organize everything that you save on your computer related to your business. For instance, create a folder called “EBOOKS”, and within that folder, create subfolders to organize your eBooks and title them with the author’s name or the topic of the eBook. Other folder ideas are “Articles,” “Website Projects,” “Keyword Research,” “Blogs,” etc.

4. Organize your Email – As you start your online business, emails will come pouring in. Whether it’s for an affiliate program you sign up for or from various accounts you’ll need such as your webhost, you’ll need to have a system to organize them all. If you use Outlook, set up accounts not only for your personal email, but also for email accounts you will create for your website. That streamlines all accounts into one program for easy access. For your business email, set up a separate folder called “Business” under “Personal Folders,” NOT the Inbox. That way, emails you get from your website go directly into that folder and never get mixed up with your personal emails. Also, set up subfolders within your Inbox like “Receipts,” “Website,” and “Affiliate Programs,” to help keep things separate and easy to find. If you don’t know how to add folders, the simple way is to first open up Outlook. Under “Mail Folders” click once on “Inbox,” then right-click, and scroll down to “New Folder.” It’s that easy, and you’ll be so glad you did it. (You can also set those subfolders up in your Business folder.)

5. Organize your time – Starting a new business is a time-stealer. You will find yourself saturated with new information that you may or may not be eager to learn, but it will take TIME to learn, nonetheless. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and initially overlook other responsibilities. It is hard to balance, so you must make a plan before you start. Remember your responsibilities with family, your work (if you have another job), home, etc. Make sure you have the support of friends and family in starting your new business because you will no doubt see a decrease in the time you spend with them. If they are supporting you, they will be more understanding when you can’t devote the time they’re used to. Set aside slots of time just to study or work on the computer, etc. It will be better for you and your friends and family if they know what to expect.

And one other crucial thing to remember is to take breaks. If you’re starting an online business out of desperation to make more money, this is especially important. An unhealthy drive to “hurry and get it done” can cause you to overwork yourself, which will lead to stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and ineffectiveness in your work. Step away from your work every hour or two and breathe, stretch, grab a glass of water or a snack. Take care of yourself!

Taking a little extra time to prepare for the start of your business may seem unimportant at first; but in the long run it will save you hours of work, the headache of lost files and information, give you instant gain in efficiency, plus a major advantage towards the success of your business!

Perk Up Your Business With Marketing Collateral

If your business is in need of a boost, try revamping your marketing collateral to enhance your brand. Marketing collateral consists of any printed material used to help your business advertise or correspond with business associates, potential customers or clients. Printed business collateral may include; presentation folders, document holders, brochures, direct mail items, banners, letterheads and more. Custom printed collateral items really are an important building block of any effective marketing campaign.

Collateral materials are the most important element of an effective business strategy. They are perfect for maintaining a cohesive brand identity and will ensure consistency in a campaign. Here is a list of popular business collateral items:

1. Business Cards Personalized business cards are a widely used and highly effective tool for any business or individual. Business cards are affordable, easily distributed and an important way to introduce yourself while providing all of the necessary contact information. They are excellent for networking and promotion and should contain all essential contact info, including name, address, services, website, telephone number and email address. Business cards can be customized to be cohesive with your other marketing materials or bold and eye-catching to help stand out in a crowd. Business cards are as crucial for a large corporation as they are for a small business or individual.

2. Business Folders Custom printed folders are one of the most popular collateral items. They can be customized to any specifications and make a professional impact every time they are used. Pocket folders are not only used to promote while helping recipients stay organized, they are also fantastic for educational campaigns, business presentations, sales materials, real estate papers and a whole lot more. Depending on how extravagantly you design your custom folders, prices can be very affordable, even for those companies and businesses on a limited budget. Folders can be personalized with company logos, artwork, slogans and messages.

3. Brochures & Flyers It is a competitive market out there and it is important to take steps in order to stand out from the competition. Advertising is one of the most significant ways to help grow your business. All companies require some form of advertising to publicize services, products and events. Custom printed brochures and flyers are a smart and effective way to advertise. They are inexpensive, effective, easily distributed and will put your information right into recipient’s hands. Flyers and brochures are the perfect tool for grabbing the attention of a set target audience. Knowing your target audience and building marketing materials around their needs is the way to excel when promoting.

As you can see, there are many ways to help advertise your business, service or events, and you don’t have to spend a fortune. A little research to find the ideal marketing collateral for your project is a great place to start. So, start perking up your promotional plan with the help of custom business collateral.

Designing The Perfect Business Folder

Everyone knows the saying that first impressions really count, but this does not just mean a client or customer’s first contact with a receptionist or sales person. Often a customer’s impressions are formed from the minute they are handed any business literature – this includes material picked up at a trade show and ‘filed for later’, to much-requested information that is sent via post. As a result, folders can act as a beneficial tool to manage all business literature and can be given out at trade events, consumer exhibitions, conferences and any other business event.

Designing a folder is fairly straightforward compared to other more complicated types of business literature, nevertheless there are still a few hints and tips that should be considered first.

The most common sizes are either A4 or A5 but if you are a quirky company or want to stand out from the crowd then you may prefer a completely alternative size. However do bear in mind, what the folder will contain: if all your other literature is a different size and you have to fold letters, or cram in brochures it will detract from the professional look you were aiming for. It is also advisable to not skimp on the quality of paper or card: a thicker more robust folder also says a lot about a company – aim for 350gsm or more.

Think about whether you only need one pocket to keep the items safely inside or whether you would like to secure materials on both of the inside pages.

Most businesses choose to have slots for business cards too. It is worth considering whether you want customers to have just one point of contact within your company or if you have several different departments/members of staff handing out cards at an event, then give your clients room to store more than one card. Also make sure the spine of the folder is deep enough for the folder to close easily.

In terms of design – one overriding principle is important – keep it simple. A logo and a telephone number are sometimes just enough. A complicated design is more expensive to print and may need updating more frequently – which is such a waste of resources if the previous batch have not been used. Even a company address can need updating, as can the date. It is much more effective to use high quality stickers to update a folder for a particular event or for a particular date if necessary.

Also think about how many different departments may be able to use the folder – PR, Sales, Internal Communications, Operations etc. – if too much information is printed on the folder, it could limit its uses.

There are no hard and fast rules here but ‘less is more’ is by far the best approach.