The Home-based Business Phenomenon

Present-day American dreams

Present-day American families have the same dreams shared by families a few decades ago; buy a home, provide for the health and welfare of their children, and send those children to college. But the price tag for fulfilling these dreams climbs higher and higher every day, making it much more difficult to achieve the same standard of living that families enjoyed in past decades.

It used to be that a husband went off to work in the morning and the wife stayed home doing household chores and taking care of the kids; but the days of one-income households are long gone and both parents must now go out to work – when they can find it.

However, as the old familiar adage suggests, “necessity is the mother of invention” and accordingly, many enterprising single moms & dads, and even husband & wife teams are finding ways to stay home, and still earn a living via opportunities that are springing up all over the country as a result of the tremendous growth of an industry that makes work at home possible.

The Home-Based Business (HBB) industry has made it possible for anyone with some basic skills, a computer and Internet access to start a business at home. For example, an individual with a background in word processing can create his/her own in-home word processing business.

Getting started

Before you begin your Home-Based Business however, it is important to do your research. Find out what kind of software program will be most suitable for the type of business you intend on doing. You will also want your computer system to be compatible with your clients and customers.

Next, look at the make-up of your industrial area. An arts community, or a thriving business area? By checking out the demographics of your area, you can make a decision regarding the type of advertising you want to use.

In the beginning, you will want to try all sorts of advertising. Neighborhood newspapers are an inexpensive way to advertise, but they usually only published on a weekly basis and that may not be enough to keep the clients rolling in. You can put your name on the bulletin board at your local supermarket and pass out flyers door-to-door in large office buildings or other business complexes.

Although it may be more expensive than neighborhood newspapers, you may want to run an ad in your local daily newspaper (in the business services section). Church bulletins and university newspapers that sell advertising may also be a relatively inexpensive way to go. You should also get your business cards printed up right away; and don’t let a client walk out the door without one or two business cards. Repeat business and word-of-mouth may well be your best advertising tool.

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Whatever methods you choose to employ in your advertising, do yourself a favor and track the responses. Put a check list next to your telephone and whenever a call comes in (whether you get hired or not) ask the prospective client where s/he found out about you. It won’t take long for you to discover where your most cost-effective advertising comes from and when you know that, you can punch it up and drop the ones that aren’t doing anything for you.

Do your homework!

One telephone call will be the only opportunity you have to sell your service. If you hesitate when asked a price for a particular project, you will probably lose the job so do your homework. Call the competition and ask what they are charging. If the competition is out of your immediate geographic area (and you are therefore not a threat to their livelihood), you may want to be straight with them and tell them you are starting a home-based business in their field and ask for their input. You may be surprised to find them willing to help out with important information.

Keep in mind that there are myriad of tasks that need to be undertaken in order to establish the fundamental operations of your new home-based business. Whether you expect to get clients from the Internet or not, it is necessary to set up your business in a manner that will accommodate local clients/customers. So business letter heads, envelopes, forms, business cards, invoices and other paraphernalia will be necessary.

It will also become necessary to establish your pricing policies and have them available upon inquiry. Depending on your business, you could set a basic rate which can be a flat rate or a percentage.

For example…

…Using the business of word processing for a pricing example, a prospective client may call asking what you charge for 4 single-spaced pages. Your answer might be $45.00 per page straight text and then when the client comes, you discover that what s/he has is 4 pages of extremely complicated tables – definitely NOT STRAIGHT TEXT.

By not making firm pricing commitments over the phone, you will have the flexibility to charge a more accurate price when a client brings you something other than what you were expecting.

Elaborating further on the word processing example, to some clients a resume may be a single spaced page, but it takes a lot longer to type than a business letter and you will want to charge more for resumes. You will want to establish an hourly rate for tables, transcription and other more time-consuming jobs.

Always keep in mind that your pricing will change as you become more familiar with what your clients demand, and you may find yourself doing a lot of list maintenance and merge letters, or you may be doing work primarily for doctors, or attorneys; so you need to have a good basis for your pricing… but be flexible.

There are several home-based business models you can choose from, each one giving you the same flexibility to create your own USP (Unique Selling Proposition), as well as your own operational balance sheet. After all, the income & expense aspect of any business is usually an excellent indicator of that business’ prospects for success or failure; and truth be told, no business – new or old – start out with failure as an aspirational milestone. Therefore, it is success to which they aspire and choosing the type of home-based business to launch could make all the difference.

Choice of business types

The two business types that came to mind – based on my own – experiences are: Promotion and Distribution. You can choose to be a promoter or a distributor in addition to all the other choices that are available; but I have provided a glimpse of each vocation with the help of two other publishers whose knowledge of the topics is unquestioned.

According to a What is Promotion? article published to the Slide Player website, “Promotion is any form of communication a business or organization uses to inform, persuade, or remind people about its products and improve its public image. Product Promotion: 1) Explains the major features and benefits of its products (especially in relation to competitors), 2) tells where the products are sold, 3) advertises sales on those products, 4) answers customer questions, and 5) introduces new products…”

…And Distribution is described in the following manner: After a product is fully developed and offered at a competitive price, it must be delivered to an identified target audience. The place element of the marketing mix is where product production and distribution channels are decided and planned. The decisions made in this step directly affect the types of communication that are used to tell the target audience about a product.” This description is provided in the article, What Is the Difference Between Place & Promotion in the Marketing Mix? Written by Tim Burris for the Chron website. And there are so many more!

Seven Swiping Secrets

Meet the guest writer

Today’s post is brought to you by our esteemed friend at the Copywriter’s Rountable. So without further ado, here are the words of Copywriter, John Forde…

I guess first I should define terms…

“A swipe file is a collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters. Keeping a swipe file (templates) is a common practice used by advertising copywriters and creative directors as a ready reference of ideas for projects.
“Copywriters are not the only ones who can benefit from having a swipe file. As book publishing coach Diane Eble points out, authors and publishers can benefit from creating a swipe file of best-selling titles to give them ideas for their own titles.

“Publicists can create a swipe file of great press release headlines. Swipe files are a great jumping-off point for anybody who needs to come up with lots of ideas. Swipe files are also commonly used by Internet Marketers who need to gather a lot of resources not only about products but also about marketing methods and strategies.”
Well, that clarifies things a little, yes? Try this, too…

“There is nothing better or more productive a copywriter can do – and this applies to experienced copywriters as well as novices – than to read (almost to the point of memorizing) the best work of their fellow writers.” The first is just from Wikipedia, and not so much swiped but copied and pasted. The second from my old friend and mentor, as well as master copywriter, Michael Masterson.

Okay, now it’s my turn to try my hand at an original thought…

A swipe file defined

A swipe file is that place where you store those dazzling promo pieces that not only worked… but that are so good they make you sick with envy. Because you wish you’d written them yourself. In other terms, it’s the stack of stuff you go through, to help jump-start your creative engine… because you know that most everything you’re looking at, in those “swiped” samples, is something that worked.

Back in my earliest days, my swipe file filled a green milk grate. And then another. And then seven or eight more, until somebody made me get a filing cabinet. And then a second filing cabinet.

These days, thank merciful God for the Internet. Because now my swipe file — and yes, I still keep one — is a folder on my desktop labeled “Promos to Study.” In it lands links to VSLs, PDFs of magalogs somebody else has generously scanned, black and white ad clips the ‘70s and ‘60s, even back to the 1920s (thanks to the excellent InfoMarketingBlog.com), covers and screen captures I’ve used in presentations, and more. 
Thanks, merciful Zeus as much or more for the iPad, which I also use every morning to markup whatever promo I’ve set aside to review.

The way it goes, most mornings, is that I load up any oft-seen sales letter that comes with a transcript. Then I “print” it to a PDF that gets stored on my iCloud account. From there, I open an app called “Goodnotes” and import the file, where it gets circled, scribbled upon, and partitioned into what seem the best bits. And yes, I do try to do that daily. More so now than before. And yes, it’s eye-opening. Every time.

But the real reason I’m writing this… or rather, updating this old CR classic… is because I recently got a question from a CR reader about where and how to swipe from other sales letters. So I thought I would go ahead and provide some answers. And away we go, starting with… 

Reach wide. No easy answers

1) Reach wide – Before you can “read” the secrets buried in a swipe file, you need to fill it. And when you do, naturally you’ll want to start with the kinds of ads you expect to write most yourself. But don’t stop there. Reach way back to the classics. You’ll be surprised what Claude Hopkins and John Caples ads, Ogilvy, Schwartz and others still have to teach.

If you’re lucky enough to have the courier typed sales letters of the ‘70s and ‘80s… or magalogs and bookalogs of the ‘90s… read them too. Almost everything we know works now, they knew then times ten. And then, yes, do keep it current with the working VSLs. Just make sure you click and get the “transcript” where it’s offered too. Print it to a PDF. Some of the copywriters today do some of the most enviably good stuff I’ve seen yet, anywhere.

2) Don’t expect easy answers – What’s the right question to ask for any piece of copy you’re about to study? Assuming you’re only studying stuff that worked, the right opener — obviously — is “Why?” Unfortunately, it’s also the most unanswerable question. You won’t know, for sure, why anything worked. Because it will always remain a guess.

3) Look past the copy – That is, remember that it’s not so much that the copywriter sold something well… as that there were lots of readers out there that wanted to receive the message he used to sell it. What’s the distinction?

The twist & style

When you look at swipes, especially the most current ones in your market, what you’re looking for first is every clue you can get about the prospect, not so much the product. If there’s a promise that you see working everywhere, it’s because it promises to fix a problem that’s keeping target readers everywhere up at night. Isolate the single biggest promise the copy makes and flip it — what problem is it solving?

4) Find the twist – More and more, we see copy make a promise or throw out a solution-demanding premise… and then up the ante with an extra “twist” to the message. That is, a kind of early “but it gets [an] even better” or “gets [an] even worse” turn in the message, just at the moment the reader was thinking “I’m kinda hooked already…”

Of course, this is classic storytelling. Our hero struggles. And just at the moment you thought it couldn’t get any worse… or better… the drama dial clicks up another notch. Just about any sales message could benefit from a twist, both in the lead and the close. Look to your swipes to see how it’s done.

5) Soak up the style – All writers in all genres pick up a style. Dense. Lean. Even. Excitable. Some copy drips with adjectives but works in spite of itself. Other copy undersells, yet manages — somehow — to hit hard. This is one of those things you can absorb best by just copying out a good piece of copy a few times until the secrets of style sneak into your subconscious.

Structure & closings

Even now, I keep a piece of the latest, greatest copy open on my screen or a second desktop (on the Mac, at least, you can move between multiple desktops). When I’m stuck, I swipe over to it and read for a little, then come back and try to trot out my message in the same mindset. Be careful here, because you’re not stealing words. At least, not mindlessly so. You’re trying to get a “feel” you can transfer back to your writing.

6) Study the structure – This is something else that writing out a full promo — by hand — can help you do. If not that, at least try to re-outline a finished copy control. You want to see how long they took to get through the lead, where they first started laying out the benefits or naming the offer, how they packaged up the testimonials and how long they spent on proof.

Build your own library of promo outlines and use them as templates, next time you’re getting started. This isn’t stealing. It’s just good sense.
Also, look for the segments that seem to show up across several different samples. Just about every sales piece, for instance, is going to have testimonials and a close and some freebies with the offer.

But do all promotions have “Imagine this outcome” sections, transcendent mission statements, a personal story, show-me-the-money examples, etc.? Probably.

7) Collect closes – Copywriters sure do love to talk about headlines and leads. And with good reason, of course. It’s where we put flame to powder. Still, if the lead is what sparks prospect interest, the close is where we pile up the dynamite. And you’ve got to pile it up just so if you want the right result.

Let the swiping begin!

It’s worth pulling closes from a lot of working promos and studying just those, one next to the other. A little tweak to your guarantee, your price rationalization, your push for urgency, can make a huge difference in your results.

Hope that helps… now get swiping!

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To Write or Not to Write Articles

One of the most important requirements for owning, running and maintaining an internet-based business or a website is the ability to write and publish articles. Plain and simple, everyone who has a website knows this. Even those who don’t have a website or blog but are frequent internet users are aware of this requirement. Articles are to information and knowledge seekers as cold, clear water is to thirsty people. Plus, the articles provide many other benefits for your website.

One of the benefits provided by articles is putting a website high in ranking on the SERPs (search engine results pages) for keywords and keyword phrases that pertain, or are relevant to, his or her website. They also provide an attraction to website visitors who appreciat them and are linked to your website from another website or newsletter. Articles have been proven to increase the confidence and trust levels of users who visit your website and online business page.

Benefits of articles

Articles have also been considered as beneficial to both the business via increased traffic. When readers like your articles, they would are usually inclined to tell more of their friends, family and peers in an effort to recommend your website to them which, in turn, provides a larger volume of traffic. You derive a bigger sales volume if traffic to your trusts and believes in you; and your product and/or service would be much easier to sell when your website viitors (traffic) know you, know what you are doing, and what is discussed on your website.

So, it is reasonable to assume that we have established the importance of articles to a website and/or business page; but it is also necessary to point out that articles play a crucial role in helping you, the website or business owner, keep ahead in the Internet marketing (IM) game. Said differently, since a website must have traffic to be considered relavent, and a well-written and compelling article is, more often than not, a traffic magnet, the article is therefore deemed imperative. That having been said, there is one dilemma: Not many people like writing articles.

Many website owners would rather spend their time on something other than writing articles, and unless you’re a big time company, you don’t have the necessary resources to use on a pool of article writers. Plagiarism or copying of other articles is frowned upon (illegal) and could easily get you into trouble, the kind of trouble that often results in a hefty fine and/or jail time. So what are your other options?

Public domain articles

Well, for starters if you hate writing articles and you can’t afford to hire people to write for you then it seems that your only other choice is to get free articles; but you might ask, from where? And the most credible answer to that question is, the public domain which is the first most website/blog owner look at for free articles. With public domain articles you won’t have problems with copyright infringement and the possible penalties and fines if you get caught committing plagiarism.

Public domain articles are articles freely given to the public for public use and once they are given you can do whatever you want with them. You can publish them to your site, claim them as yours, place them in a newsletter, or any other use you deem suitable for your own purposes. It’s you decision! Always remember, however, that you will have to choose articles that are very relevant to your site’s topic.

The downside to public domain articles is that since they are free for everybody, many of your competitors may have access to them as well; and since every site needs to feature original and unique content even though they may have the same niche, this could present a predicament to you and the other site owners utilizing public domain articles. To eliminate such a predicament it will be necessary for you to edit the articles a bit and even place more keywords and keyword phrases in them to improve the quality, uniqueness and originality of such articles.

Sites with similar topics

Another way to get free articles is to allow other sites which has the same subject or topic as yours to submit articles to your site. This would be only to augment your existing content or else all your articles would be leading to other sites since resource boxes containing redirect links would be placed at the bottom of these articles and therefore direct your readers to their sites. That’s why it is important to have your own articles which you could use to link your site to other sites in a similar fashion.

But, to truly feel the impact of what a good article can help you accomplish, it is best to get original ones. There are many article writers who do part time and freelance article writing jobs for which they charge only minimal fees. You can have good (if not great) articles written that contain all the keywords and keyword phrases you need to attract the people are looking for them.

The investment you make for these articles would be worthwhile because you could use them to promote all the benefits you have to offer. You hold copyrights to them and you will be able to use them anyway you want. As your articles help you in building your business and your website, you will have more articles to write and maybe then you won’t be forced to entertain second thoughts about articles.

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