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Female Entrepreneurs: If You Think You’re At A Disadvantage In Starting A Business, Read This

Here’s a sad fact, taken from Forbes. Women own 40% of businesses in the US but only make up 10% of venture-backed businesses. So do you feel like your gender might put you at a disadvantage in the world of entrepreneurship? Of course it shouldn’t. Women actually have a number of strengths that put us at an advantage, and I’ll go through some specific examples for you:

Interpersonal skills: There have been numerous studies looking at the differences between women and men in the workplace and those studies have demonstrated that women place more value on relationships, and typically have stronger interpersonal skills than their male counterparts. So this is something we need to really take advantage of when starting up a new business. There are many great networking opportunities for women (I’ve written about it in this blog post) and this plays to our strengths. Where men may see each other as competition, we’ve learned the power and the value in working together and creating strength in numbers. So remember to take advantage of this. Use your interpersonal skills to strengthen your startup and build your business network from day one.

Persuasiveness: Studies have also shown that women have better persuasion skills. So it should be fairly obvious how this becomes a strength in a startup business. Whatever your business is about, you are going to have to do some form of selling. Having the talent to persuade your customers that your product or service is something they can’t live without is an art form. So its great to think that women may have a bit of an advantage in this area.

Risk taking: There was a study into gender differences between male and female bankers and they found that women bankers actually take more risks than their male colleagues. So if you ever thought risk- taking was a macho behaviour, think again. Intelligent, calculated, strategic risk taking in business can be a huge advantage in a startup and it’s really important for the growth that a new business needs to thrive. So contrary to public perception, we women really do have an advantage there.

Greater empathy: There have been studies to demonstrate that, even as young children, there is a demonstrable difference in the amount of empathy exhibited by males and females. Studies suggest women are biologically programmed to be more empathetic. And what does empathy do? It makes you understand people better. More specifically, it makes you understand your customers better. And what happens when you can really empathise with your customers? They love you. They will buy from you, and they will return to buy from you time and time again.

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Why keeping your startup idea a secret might be a smart marketing ploy

Common advice about launching a startup is to spread the word as much as you possibly can prior to the big day. But what I’m going to explain in this blog post is why that approach could be a mistake, and I’m going to suggest a pretty strange alternative strategy but one that can be very effective.

I’ve spent years working with big companies on major website launches, and client launches have typically fallen into two categories: The first category is the big high profile launch: fixed date, press releases, big launch team. The second is the quiet soft launch: Imperfect website, no press releases, small launch team.

Which launch strategy do you think has typically been more effective?

Without fail, the soft launch is more effective, and it has always been the strategy I recommend to clients. Now I’ll explain why.

No product is perfect from the outset, and no website is perfect from the outset. Sure, it can be technically perfect. You can spend plenty of time and money testing it with real users, but it is only feedback from your customers that will really allow you to fine tune it and perfect it. By doing a soft launch, you can do just that. You can slow-drip the release to your customers, and start to listen to their feedback. You can look at what your customers are doing on your website, whether or not they are buying, and what is preventing them from buying. You can then use this information to fine tune your offering so it is better designed to your customers needs. Then, and only then, can you consider your ‘big’ launch, because you will have a much better product to launch and you are going to get a much high conversion rate because of it.

So how to friends come into this? Well, when many of us start a new business we get pretty excited telling our friends about our fantastic ideas, don’t we? But the thing is, friends can actually be some of the most valuable assets to you in this early stage before you have a large number of customers to give you feedback. Friends can give you their own feedback. But if you “sell” the idea to your friends before the launched, their opinion is going to be biased. A much better strategy is to keep your ideas to yourself, show your product or service to your friends during your soft launch, and get their honest reaction. What is their immediate reaction? Do they get it? Does anything confuse them? What would stop them from buying? This feedback will be pure gold.

So a little note here before I finish: You need to use close friends who will be 100% honest with you. So by “friends” I mean your real friends. The ones who’ll take you to one side and whisper to you that you’ve got your skirt tucked in to your knickers. Yep, those ones.

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Doubting your ability to start your own business? This post is going to challenge you to think again

The fact you are on my website means that, on some conscious or subconscious level, you do have a desire to start your own business. Perhaps you are unhappy in your job. Perhaps you want something more rewarding in your life. Perhaps you want success. Perhaps you want a better balance between work and family life. Perhaps you are due to go on maternity leave and you are worried that your employment isn’t going to cover the cost of childcare when you return. Perhaps you are just bored and frustrated at the 9-5 commute and you want freedom.

You see, I really don’t need to write an article about what motivates you to start a business. You already have that motivation within you, whether you realise it or not. You have the desire and drive to make that change. But for some reason, you haven’t quite taken that step yet to making it happen. Here’s why. You are faced with fears. Starting a business is a scary thing. It’s natural to have fears. Here are some of the most common fears people having about starting their own business. If you identify with these, then you are not alone. But you can overcome these fears, and I will explain how.

I don’t have enough time

Even if you are genuinely time-poor, here’s a fact: you do have enough time to start a business. What you need to focus on is quality over quantity. Keep a task list of priorities and set aside dedicated hours to get things done. You’ll need to minimise time spent on social media and internet research and all the other things that we can use to procrastinate when starting a business, and focus specifically on things that are going to push your business a little bit further forward.

I don’t have enough money

You don’t need huge funds to start a web business. Start small and use free tools like WordPress to get your site up and running.

I’ll be giving up a well-paid job

You really need to re-frame your thinking. Are you giving up a well-paid job where you might get a 5% payrise next year if you are lucky? Or are you opening yourself up to the opportunity of a job where your opportunity for amazing financial security is only limited by your imagination and your ability to work hard?

I’ll be giving up job security

What is job security in today’s market? Are you really confident that your employers won’t be making redundancies in the future? What if you had a business that made money and made profit, even if you broke your leg and couldn’t work for several weeks? With a web based business, that is completely possible. So what does job security really mean?

I don’t have the expertise

The beauty of the internet is that there is an answer to everything. If you believe in yourself, invest in yourself. Do some training. Learn your craft. Learn how to market and learn how to sell. Most successful entrepreneurs started their businesses with very little expertise, but by believing in themselves and investing in themselves they’ve succeeded.

There are other companies doing it better than I can

If you haven’t watched Simon Senek’s wonderful TED talk, do so now. It will completely re-think your idea on competition.

I’m scared of failure

Do you know what’s worse than failure? Regret.

Ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen? Be honest. A web based business takes little financial investment. It just takes a bit of time and determination. So what have you got to lose?

So address those fears head-on. And never forget to think about everything you have to gain by doing something brave. This is your life. Live it with passion.

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Three Fantastic Skills For Running A Business (That You Probably Don’t Realize You Possess)

If you are a mom, do you ever feel like you are at a disadvantage in starting up a business because you are trying to balance your work with family life? Many times I’ve had that same feeling. Sometimes I’ve wondered if it might have been easier to start a business when I was in my 20s and had all that time to myself. But now I’ve been running my business for a while, I’ve realised that I actually launched at the perfect time. More importantly, I’ve realised that my dual role as business owner and a mother gives me a unique competitive advantage that many startups just don’t have. Here’s why:

Quality creative time: If you’ve read some of my other posts, you’ll know how important I think it is to have some small amounts of quality quiet time for your business. This is when you’ll be at your most creative, and when you will come up with solutions and ideas that will make your business stand out. Of course, anyone starting a business has the opportunity to give themselves creative time – short periods of quiet time when they can work really hard at thinking through ideas. But does everyone use that time well?

In economics, there is a very simple principle. People place a higher value on things that are scarce.  So if creative time is freely available, then people don’t necessarily value it or make good use of it. But what if you are a mother and you only get an hour a day of free time? Are you going to value that time highly? Are you going to use that time well? I’m going to take a bet that you will.

Highly efficient working: There is a beautiful viral video that appeared on Facebook, and if you haven’t seen it yet, you can view it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HB3xM93rXbY Here’s one quote from it: “[The] Responsibilities and requirements [for this job] are really quite extensive”. Can you relate to this? I can. As mothers, we often have to do five different things at once, and do each of them well. Even if you haven’t realised it, you’ve become a master at working efficiently. And efficient working is what is going to allow you to become really effective in your business. In a startup, you often have to wear many hats, and you have to juggle a lot of balls in the air. Well, a mother has more experience in that than anyone else I know.

A first-class problem solving mindset: You don’t get a manual when you become a mother. No one tells you what to do and there are no easy solutions when you come across challenges. Giving up isn’t an option, and “no” is never a satisfactory answer (unless you are dealing with a toddler of course!). As a mother, you need to be persistent in large quantities, and you need to have a super-advanced problem solving mindset. So can you see how easily those qualities can work for you in a startup business? If you come across a challenge, then you know that challenge is NEVER beyond your abilities and you can ALWAYS find a solution. For example, even if you don’t know how to create a website without any money, you’ll figure it out. Because when you couldn’t get your child sleeping at 2am, what did you do? You figured it out!

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Practical Tips For Running An Online Business When You’re A Full Time Mom

practical tips for how to run an online business when you're also a full time mom

Spoiler alert: running an online business and being a full time mom isn’t easy, and there is no easy answer in this blog post.

However, I know I have a lot of readers on this blog who are women thinking of starting a business but who are also raising a young family. If you’ve read my About section you’ll know that I have a young daughter (later edit: now I have three children!), and that I launched the business when she was just a baby.

What I will try and do is keep this short and sweet (I get it: you’re busy!) and give you a few helpful hints and practical tips that have helped me over the years.

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If you think SEO can be overwhelming, this article might be the one for you

One of the most effective ways to get people finding your website on Google is to create a blog, because high quality content is what will help Google determine if you are a site to direct people towards.

Now, SEO can be a complex subject if you want it to be, and if I were to walk you through everything I know on SEO there would be far too much to cover in one blog post, so in this post I’m simply going to look at one of the most basic aspects of SEO: your page title (or more specifically, your blog post title).

Titles are a major factor in helping Google determine if your page is relevant

When someone puts a search phrase into Google, one of the biggest factors Google examines to determine if your page is relevant is to look at a match between the search phrase and the title of your blog post. If someone searches for “villas for rent in spain” then your post will probably get a better ranking if it has a title of “villas for rent in Spain” rather than “Spanish villas”.

Knowing whether people are more likely to search for Villas for rent in Spain rather than “Spanish Villas” is a subject for another post in the future. What I want to concentrate on for this post is whether or not “villas for rent in Spain” is a good title for a blog post. Because you need to remember than not everyone reading your blog will have found you via Google. They may have found you via social media, from a recommendation, or from browsing another part of your website. If that is the case, “villas for rent in Spain” isn’t a very catchy, appealing title and it isn’t going to tempt many people to click on that post and read on.

So we have a bit of a dilemma. Should you create a title for your post that will be great for SEO? Or should you create a title that’s catchy and appealing to a human being?

The answer is actually pretty straightforward: you can, and should, do both. Here’s why.

Let’s go back to the example “villas for rent in Spain”. Now, imagine you’ve typed this into Google and you are on page 1 of the results. The fourth result is a blog post called “villas for rent in Spain”. Fantastic. That’s exactly what you were looking for. Ah – but what’s this? The seventh result is a post called “Why these 10 villas to rent offer the BEST value for money in Spain”. Which one of these posts would entice you into reading further?

So remember, behind every Google ranking is a human looking to find something interesting, intriguing and relevant to their search efforts. You need to make a good attempt to match your title with what they are likely to be searching for, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because equally, you also need to play around with those titles until you find one that really sounds appealing and makes you stand out from the competition. Always remember the golden rule for great SEO:

Write for a human, not a machine

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A Simple Guide To A Stress-Free Website Launch For Your New Business

a simple guide to a stress free website launch for your new business

One of the best strategies for succeeding in the world of online startups is by starting small (or lean, which is the fashionable team at the moment. But I use the word small. It’s straightforward and it doesn’t remind me of dieting).

When it comes to launching your website, small is the way to go. In this post, I’ll outline my top tips for helping you do that, and help you to avoid the stress that comes from trying to launch any new website.
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Inspiring women series – Ellie

315380_10151003421656067_2142316614_nIn the second of my series interviewing female entrepreneurs who’ve taken that big step of starting their own business, I spoke to Ellie, Director of http://www.exhibitionplinths.co.uk. Ellie also has a blog at http://www.ellieentrepreneur.com talking about her journey to self-employment. You can also find Ellie on twitter as @EllieExhibition, and she has a list on there (inspiration) outlining the seminars and workshops she attends.

Ellie. What inspired you to start your own business? 

What made me decide to start my own business was, in total honesty, the fact that I could not cope with a 9-5 job! After over 30 jobs between the age of 20 and 24 (!) I felt the strong urge to be able to create my own path rather than living on someone else’s. My background is Dentistry and there was something about the job that just never sat with me straight. A very difficult concept to put into words but I’m sure many others unhappy at work will feel the same.

What do you think has been your biggest breakthrough so far?

My key breakthrough in business was getting Rachel Elnaugh on board as a business mentor. I realise that all the business and marketing advice in the whole world will not work on your business if you are not in the right mindset for success. I expanded my mindset greatly with Rachel and also by attending the Millionaire Mind Intensive Seminar where I was able to – over 3 days – expand my mindset and energy to the place it needed to be. From small thinking to big thinking! It’s really key (I find) to learn from someone else who has done it already, because you can sail past most of the pitfalls because they have already fallen in them often not once, but many times before.

What advice would you give to other aspiring female entrepreneurs? 

I would advise you to use social media and network, network, network. The networking hours on twitter are great for making valuable contacts and friends! Remember your customer is king or in my case probably Queen! I pride myself in giving an outstanding service, working with my customers to achieve the results they want. Nothing is too big an ask. Be positive – you need to believe that you are the best in your industry. If you don’t believe it no one else will!

The advice I would give to other women would be: firstly, to believe in yourself and try to steer away from an either/or mindset. We tend to think we can either have our own business, or go to work and earn money. We can either have a business, or a happy marriage. I’d advise getting used to thinking that you can have it all! For those who say you can’t have your cake and eat it, I truly believe you absolutely can both have your cake, eat it and most of all enjoy it.

Do you have a story worth sharing? Want to be featured in the next interview? If so, contact me by email – lauren @ fromcorporatetocareerfreedom.com and tell me a little bit about yourself. 

Why beauty isn’t everything in advertising

If you are thinking about doing paid advertising, you are probably considering how to design your ad. So let me ask you a question: are you designing it to look beautiful? Or are you designing it to work for you?

I love fashion and lifestyle magazines. Whenever I travel, I’ll buy two or three at the station or airport to keep me occupied for the journey. And if you flip through any of these magazines you’ll see some stunning ads full of beautiful models, gorgeous locations and elegant typeface.

So it is tempting to create ads that showcase beautiful design, your stunning logo, and inspiring images. But before you do so, read this article. I will explain why beauty isn’t everything when it comes to advertising online.

First, have a look at this excellent infographic from Kissmetrics:


How Colors Affect Conversions
Source: How Colors Affect Conversions – Infographic

The statistic I think is most interesting is the one from Performable. They changed a button from green to red, and it resulted in a 21% increase in conversions. So have a think about that statistic and what that would mean to your business. If you spend $100 on advertising, you could achieve a 21% increase in sales just from changing the colour of a button. That’s a huge number!

I can guess what you are thinking now. You’re thinking: “but I’ve seen those ads with the big red buttons. They’re ugly and annoying. There is no way I will allow that to reflect my brand!”.

Whilst I would be inclined to agree, you do have to take note of these pieces of research if you really want to get the best ROI from your advertising. The fact is, people to respond well to some colours over others, and often it is the uglier, brighter, gaudy looking designs that draw attention from visitors over the more beautiful but muted brands. However, you don’t need to go down the path of bright red and yellow, giant font, flashing ads that we’ve all seen and hated. There is a middle ground. What you do need to do is draw the attention of the visitor away from the rest of the page they are currently looking at. So you do need to make a statement.

So does this mean you should make all the buttons on your ads red?

Absolutely not. Red is not necessarily the color that is going to work most effectively for your target customer. But you do need to do some research into colour psychology for your target market, and more importantly you need to try out some different ads to see which ones get the best response. That is exactly what these businesses in the infographic did. They experimented and they looked at the results. By doing the same thing, you could really transform the effectiveness of advertising for your business.

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The most important action you can take today if you want to succeed as a solo entrepreneur

One of the best things you can do to grow your business is to form a network online with other business women. I’m part of one, and it’s probably helped to grow my business more than anything else. On top of that, having peers to talk to about your fears, hopes and dreams is something that is invaluable during moments in your business where things do seem difficult or challenging.

So how do you go about finding a good network? Well, I’ve listed several excellent business networks below. But before I go into that, first let me outline what I think is important to look for in a network:

  • Don’t necessarily focus on finding women in exactly the same industry. Instead, look at similar and complimentary industries. There may be some cross over between your companies that will be of great value to you all.
  • Look at finding women in a similar stage of their startup to you. If you are just launching, it will be great to speak to people who are having similar frustrations and revelations as you, whereas if you are in a growth stage of your business the conversation may be very different.
  • Be clear about what you want to get from the group. Do you want to learn new things? Or do you just want some moral support? This will help you to find the right people.
  • Some online groups tend to link people up based on geographical location too, so if you would like to meet people in person as well as chat online, make sure you consider this.

So here is a list of some great networks out there to consider joining:

When you join a network, make sure you take the time to introduce yourself to people and how you started in business. It will give other women a chance to see what they have in common with you, or they may relate to your story. Also, make sure you give as much as you take in a network. Actually, give more than you take. Help out others as much as you can and you will be remembered for all the right reasons.

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