Archives for making money

How Free is Too Free?

A cardboard sign that says "will work for free"

If you make your living by giving advice and opinions to your clients, where is the line with your friends?

When you are a consultant, or someone who makes their living by providing information, free becomes a big issue. It can be hard to draw the line between free and paid. How do you know when free should stop being free?

I have people asking for my opinions and advice all the time. Friends, family, friends of family, acquaintances, people I just met at a party, that guy who friended me on Facebook, business clients…well, you get the idea. I have no shortage of people who ask me how to manage their social media.

I had a conversation in the not-too-distant past with a potential client who was also a consultant. It’s driving her nuts that everyone requests advice on their industry. She said, “this is what I get paid to do, why should I give it to you for free?” THEN she started asking me for opinions, and reviews that went above and beyond the casual “Do you like Twitter better than Facebook?” kind of question. I was flabbergasted by the irony.

But the obvious overstepping of bounds really made me think about the question, how free is too free?

What is the balance between being generous with information and just simply being taken advantage of?

I had to find an answer to this question that was simple and easy to follow:

If I am willing to blog about it then I am willing to talk about it.

Simple as that.

If you ask me about a topic that I am willing to blog about, that means I am willing to give the information away for free. It doesn’t mean I have written about it, or am even planning to, it just means that I would honestly consider writing about the answer to your question. If I am not sure, or know that it is something I would not consider blogging about, then I do not answer the question.

So how do you tell someone that you will not answer their question? Tune into tomorrow’s post to find out.

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Project Junkie Pt. 3: Brilliant! now what?

Once I get through first four questions on the Project Junkie Checklist I move on to the next phase of the check list:

5. Is it worth my time? meaning, will it turn into something useful and productive?

6. Is it really as brilliant as I think?  I come up with some GREAT ideas that often are not quite as great as I initially thought.  So after my excitement, I try to take a step back and look to see if my idea of belly button gardening is really as amazing as it was when I first thought it up.

7. Is it something that needs prioritizing? sometimes we really do have brilliant ideas, but we need to evaluate where they stand in relation to all our other brilliant ideas.  Is this something that will require a lot of time, energy and focus?  If so, is it so important that you need to do it now or can it be put on the back burner while you finish some other things first?

Often when we have brilliant ideas they occupy all our mental energy.  So after the initial burst of excitement over your brilliance is done, step back and evaluate all facets of this new project.  Make sure that you are not spreading your mental energy too thin.  All of your projects will benefit if you can focus on each of them individually.

So give yourself some room to develop your brilliance and your brilliant ideas and give each of your projects the focus and attention they deserve.

Project Junkie Detox – Adding Focus Without a Lobotomy

Project Junkie

I gotta’ admit, I’m a project Junkie.

I love thinking up new ideas. I love starting things. I seem to be wired to follow each new opportunity like a magpie spotting a sparkly new thing and each time it happens, I am filled with renewed energy and excitement.

Being a project junkie is addictive; that’s why it contains the word, “Junkie”.

New projects are fun. New projects are cool. New projects make me shiver inside and I am drawn to explore and learn. New projects bring out my passion!

New projects can be distractions and keep you from ever finishing your current project, but they can also lead to really great opportunities.

How can you tell which new project will end well and which will never end?

Here’s a story:

My partner and I started a business about one-and-a-half years ago. We had lots of ideas; we had lots of opportunities. To many.

We flitted around from idea to idea, many of which had no common core. We were business coaches. We wrote ebooks. We created web sites. We coached individuals.

Our partnership was great because we drove each other to get projects done; but none of those projects led to anything. Most were abandoned before they were given a chance to thrive. Many were not even completed because our drive for success was predicated upon speed, a real rush for project junkies – got to move on to the next thing soon!

We were project junkies and we had it bad.

Last June, we decided to change what we were doing. He was going to focus on his projects and me on mine. We are still friends and partners, but we realized that, before we can be successful together, we needed to learn the one thing that project junkies avoid like the plague.

We needed to focus.

And focus we did. Each of us rededicated our energy to our own sites and businesses. We defined for ourselves and the world what it was that we do; one focused and clear project. Mine?

I want to help people get things done online because it’s better than doing those things offline.
Wow. One thing. One project.

But as I focused and focused on that one thing, a really cool thing started to happen.
Lots of little projects started coming my way – guest postings and speaking at conferences and courses to create.

Yes, lots of projects and THEY ALL FOCUSED ON THE SAME THING:

Helping people get things done online because it’s better than doing those things offline.

My project junkie is happy because I get to do many projects and take advantages of new opportunities. My business-side is happy because all of those projects fall under my main project and contribute to building my brand – what people know I stand for and what they can find when they look for me.

Yes, focus was the answer and I did not have to cut out my passion to make it work.

Matt Mansfield blogs at

At his core, he loves teaching both individuals and businesses how to get things done online.

Visit Matt on his Site:
Follow Matt on Twitter: @LeverageTheWeb
or find him on LinkedIn

You have no control over your brand, embrace it!

Every company wants to have complete control over their brand. You want to be able to control what is said about your brand, whether it is you or someone else saying it. This is precisely why some businesses are nervous about going into social media, because they do not have that control. However, social media is happening whether you are a part of it or not.

This lack of control is not actually new with social media, it is just bringing it to a new level. Word of mouth reputation always existed. News publications would write product or business articles either in support of, or against, a brand. Then there is the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Reports. Once the Internet became popular along came service and product reviews, website reviews, blog reviews. The big difference now is that social networks like Facebook and Twitter are potentially increasing the conversation about your brand. People can write about you to their friends, on your page, or just generally comment.

Recommendations from someone you know are the most influential. So just as a good report from a friend about your brand can boost sales and referrals, a bad report can potentially damage them. However, this is where it is not necessarily cut and dried. Usually:

Good recommendation =  more business, sales, referrals, increase in reputation

Bad recommendation =  less business, loss of sales, damage to reputation, no control over impact of bad publicity.

On Social Media:

Good recommendation = more business, sales, referrals, increase in reputation, plus increased sales leads, fostering of relationships, demonstrating an interest in your clients, client interaction becomes a resource

Bad recommendation=  you have the ability to communicate with the person who wrote the bad review, an opportunity to resolve the issue and increase customer service and client relations, talk about issue publicly, communicate, dismiss rumors, respond to bad press and turn it into something good.

Essentially the conversation is happening whether you are part of it or not.  So it is time to accept that you have no true control over your brand.  What you do have control over, though, is your brand’s ability to communicate and engage.

Grow your buiness slowly: Patience is a Virtue

I want to be patient NOW
How virtuous do I need to be?

When you are growing your business, you receive tons of advice. One of my favorite pieces of advice is “Be patient”. I know that if I am working hard and putting my efforts into developing my business that it will grow. The more people I interact with the more connections I will make and the more opportunities will come my way. I get it.

However, when they tell you that patience is a virtue my immediate response is:

How virtuous do I need to be?

Intellectually we can all know that apparent over night successes are not actually overnight. They are the result of a lot of hard work. Often when we see someone who starts a business and then 3 months later they are making hundreds of thousands of dollars, it is natural to compare our 8 months or a year or 2 years of business and wonder why we didn’t experience this level of success. What did I do wrong? The answer could be really simple. You did nothing wrong.

When you see someone’s overnight success, what you don’t see is all the other businesses that came before that. The months and years that they put into other ventures that were not as successful. Internalizing that previous experience allowed them to be successful now. But their history plays as important a role as the significance of their current venture.

It is hard not to get impatient, but sometimes we have to take the advice we give others. Learn from our mistakes. Learn from our successes. Take the time to focus your energies and do what you need to do. Know that nothing happens over night, it only seems that way when you are on the outside looking in.

When you ask yourself “How virtuous do you need to be?” Only as long as it takes to be the next overnight success.

To-Do/To-Don’t: Tackling the To-do list

Lately I have been feeling overwhelmed with all the projects I am giving myself.  I say giving myself because they are not anything that I am being hired to do. These are things that I need to do for my business development, for myself, or to just organize my mind.  I tend to over commit.  For instance, I am reading about 6 book right now and taking two classes. One class is for web design and the other is Spanish.  Do I really need to be reading all these books? No, probably not. But I enjoy it. I have my books organized by situation. I have my bathtub books. My waiting for people book. My business book and my brain candy fun fiction. I have books in different parts of the house, so if I am waiting I can read something different upstairs than downstairs.  Of course this means that it takes me a lot longer to finish any one book, but I enjoy the variations in stimulation.

As much fun as this is with my literature, this does not work so well in business. In business we would call that spreading yourself too thin. This is when you have to prioritize, reorganize, outsource, insource and drop.

First: Prioritize

Figure out what is the most pressing. What do you NEED to get done. The best way to do that is do what makes you money first.  Always take care of your clients before anything else. Then move onto your business development.  What needs to be done to grow your business or meet your professional goals?

Second: Reorganize

So now you know what needs to be done, it is time to organize it effectively.  For instance, I have a big project that I need to get started on. It will be very important to my business development.  However, I have a bit of project block.  Every time I try to sit down and work on the project I find myself doing other things on my to-to list instead.  My mind is being pulled in too many directions.  So here is where I reorganize. I have tried to focus and not think about these other things, but it is not working.  So I make a decision to just get them done and out of my head.  So I decided to work ahead, banking blog posts so I would have a bunch ready to publish.  That way I could stop worrying about what my next blog would be, I can write something new or post one that I have already written. By doing this I am freeing my mind to work on the big project that I truly need to focus on.

So what is keeping you from doing what needs to be done?

Third: Outsource

Sometimes we thwart our own efforts by trying to do too much. Just because you can do something does not mean that you should.  You have to look at what you need to do yourself and what you can give to someone else.  Do you have to do your own proofreading?  Web design? Accounting?

I find myself doing things that I am not great at because I have convinced myself that it is better to do it myself.  WRONG!  If someone else is better at it, let them do it.  A lot of times spending $25 having someone proof your writing, or inputting those 10 invoices you have, will save you hours of time.  If they cost $35/hr, but it only takes them an hour to do what would have taken you 5, then you are saving yourself money. More importantly you are saving yourself time.

What if you can’t afford to pay anyone?  Try trading services.  What are you really good at?  What do you need done.  There are a lot of people out there that need service and are willing to barter.  This will not only free you up to do what you are best at, but can help you develop some really great business relationships.

Fourth: Insource

I have had people helping me that honestly did an ok job, but took forever to get it done. I would find myself emailing or calling to find out when it was done. They would tell me I would have it by 10 and then I would get it by 4.  For me, this caused me more stress than it relieved.  I would base my day around receiving certain projects and then have my day disrupted because I did not get it when promised.  Do not be afraid to fire your vendors.  Outsourcing will relieve a lot of your stress and free up time, but if it is not then maybe it is better to do it yourself.

Evaluate your business relationships and make sure that they are actually helping.

Fifth: Drop

A lot of times we commit ourselves to projects that really do not need to be done.  Do you really have to go through all of your files and create a whole new filing system? Do you really have to answer every email the second it comes to your inbox?  It is important to look at your work load and evaluate what you have to do.  I get ideas and then I add them to my to-do list.  Sure they seem great at the time, and maybe if I did reorganize my entire filing system it would be easier to navigate.  But with everything else I have to do, is it really necessary?  Is it going to grow my business? Is it going to make me money?  It is going to give me better peace of mind? or free up so much time that I have substantially increased my efficiency?  No! then get rid of it!

If you are feeling overwhelmed than take a moment and figure out what is a to-do or a to-don’t.

Hiring Consultants is Good for Your Sanity

Most of us will feel overwhelmed with our business at some point. Balancing work, home, personal life, relationships, and finances can be too much to deal with.  Then add in to that being a business owner. Not only are you working, but you are strategic planning, financial planning, creating and implementing marketing strategies, managing admin, networking, sales, and on and on and on.  You are wearing so many hats that you don’t have a hat rack big enough to hold them all.

When we are growing our business ROI (return on investment) is extremely important.  This is not to say that ROI is not always important and relevant, but when you are starting up often funds are limited. Your money needs to be able to pay your business expenses, your personal bills, hopefully a salary, and then your business development expenses.  Though this should be the most important in that list, it is usually the one item that gets pushed to the last. But sometimes investing in your business development will give you ROI that goes well beyond a dollar per dollar scale.

Consultants are an excellent way to solve many of your business problems.  As a Social Media consultant, not only do I facilitate the creation of an online marketing strategy, but I implement that strategy.  I also monitor and manage your social networking accounts. I can write your blogs, post your tweets and send your DM’s and Facebook emails.  I create online events, and then manage and promote those events.  I provide you with tutorials on how to use the technologies that will facilitate your business development, or ease of use of for your management needs. When you have a tech question, or a social media question, or a business question, or a relationship development question, or just need to vent about your business and being overwhelmed, I am there to help, advise or just listen.  As a consultant, I do more than just A+B=C, I deliver A+B=Zcubed.  I solve many of your business and work life problems, from the mundane day to day admin tasks to outlining your business development and helping you get back to whatever it is that you love to do, and that you do best. What I do best is help you to be your best.

Sometimes taking off some of your hats and giving them to other people will give you more help than the direct ROI.  Some of the unmeasured ROI is your sanity and peace of mind.

Build it and the still may not come: It’s been a week, why am I not making money?

It’s been a week, why am I not making money?

Ah, immediate gratification.  Who doesn’t want it?  Who doesn’t want success and money and love and a fit body and that dream vacation NOW?  I want it now.  I don’t want to wait. I am tired of ……waiting.

I recently had someone say to me, well my page has been up for a while and it just isn’t paying for itself.  I said, well, it has only been up for one week. It might take a little longer than that.

In the age of immediate gratification a week can seem like a while.

The perception was that the page was not successful because it was not making money and didn’t have 10,000 fans after what seemed to be a long time.  The reality was that after 1 week the page had 200 fans that were interested and ready to engage. From a social media standpoint, the page was doing well. But from an instant gratification point-of-view, the page was failing miserably.

The problem with instant gratification is just that, instant.  The joy is short lived.  You just started a twitter account?  Sure you can have 5,000 followers by the end of the week.  How elated do you feel?  How exciting to have so many people interested in you.  But wait, are they interested in you or are they just numbers?  Artificially inflating your numbers might be exciting at first, but when you realize that they mean nothing the excitement quickly becomes disappointment.

The disappointment will continue to grow because after the first instant gratification, you want another one, then another. Hoping that the next will the one to really give you what you are wanting, a relevant content driven page/site that has high interaction and is nicely monetized. It is the date that promises a kiss at the end of the night and delivers a wave from the car.

When we build a website, blog, twitter or Facebook page, we all want to see thousands of people flocking to it.  We all think that our content is incredible, our graphics inspiring and our message revolutionary.  Ok, even if you do not have delusions of grander, you obviously believe that you are offering something of value that people ought to be rushing to see.

The truth is, overnight success if never overnight.  What seems like an instant to an outside observer is often months, or years, of hard work.  Thankfully, through social media, years can be shortened to months and months can be shortened to weeks.  But the truth remains that overnight success is never actually overnight.  You have spent the time to develop your idea and your content, now you need to invest the same energy in developing your relationships.  To use more catch phrases, if you want to host the conversation you have to join the conversation.

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