5 Popular Business Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read

Intro by Eb: Guest post by my hubby Philip Looney, who is an ACE Fitness Personal Trainer and fitness blogger at PhilipLooneyFit.com. In this guest post, he shares 5 popular business books that every entrepreneur should read. This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Having a summer reading list shouldn’t just be for the kids.  If you’re  an entrepreneur, you should especially buy out time for reading, because it gives you knowledge and insight that can help you grow your business.  Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerburg, and hundreds of other successful business leaders devote dedicated time, usually one hour or more, to reading each day.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “that sounds great, but I’m already super busy!  Where will I find the time???”   Stop and reflect on when you have a few down moments, and ask yourself what you end up doing.  Is it surfing social media on your phone?  Could that time be better spent reading a book?

There are lots of tips on how to read more out there, but here is what has helped me read more this year:

  • I’ve made it a habit to carry a book with me wherever I go.  The time you find yourself waiting in line, waiting in the dentists office, etc. you have something to read.
  • Read during a meal.
  • Block out time on your calendar to step away and read.  You’ll find you come back refreshed from the reading break, and maybe even with an immediate insight that you can apply to a project.
  • Go to bed earlier and wind down with a few minutes of reading.  This means maybe one less episode of your latest binge-show, but so what.

So what should you be reading?  Here are top 5 books that I either gift or recommend to budding entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with:

4-hour workweek

The 4 Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss – While the promise in the title seems to be about working less, this book is really about time management.  Specifically, the tips and tools in this book will help you make the best use of your time and learn how to avoid things that swallow up your precious time.  This book out of all the others has had the greatest impact on improving my professional life.

the 100 dollar startup

The $100 Start Up by Chris Guillebeau – This book is one of the best I’ve read that simply explains product management concepts like value, pricing, and identifying your market.  It has dozens of simple, actionable worksheets that you can use to define and document your business practices.  It also contains dozens of case studies of successful small businesses that you’ll find inspirational.

show your work

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon – This is the best book on social media that I’ve ever read, and it’s not even really about social media.  It’s a reminder of the need to share with people something that is useful, interesting, or entertaining so that you don’t just get “followers” but actual people that are interested in you and your business.

poke the box

Poke the Box by Seth Godin – This short manifesto on doing work could be summed up in three words – Do, Start, Ship.  It’s an inspirational reminder that all the planning in the world won’t make your business successful if you don’t actually produce something and share it with people.

brains on fire

Brains on Fire by Robbin Phillips, Greg Cordell, Geno Church, and Spike Jones – This changed book changed the way I viewed marketing, focusing less on military terms like “campaign” and “tactics”, and instead taught me how to think about really talking to people and seeing what they want.  Worth the read just for the story of how this agency helped Fiskars scissors double their profits through growing an online community.

In Conclusion

So which book would you read? Do you have a personal favorite that you would like to share, please let us know about it below.

If you have found that this list helpful, please share it with your friends who are looking to start or grow their business.

Tech Talk – Creating a Wix Website

I wasn’t a fan of WIX until I tried it.

I can’t knock their hustle. Their product isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. There is a lesson in there for us creating products and services.

In the short (3 minutes, 26 seconds) video tutorial below, I show you how easy it is to create your website using WIX.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? Will you try WIX for your next website project?

6 Simple Ways to Make Tax Season Easier

Tax season might be one of the most stressful times of the year. However, there is a way to make it less stressful.

With a little bit of planning and having the right tools, you can get thru another tax season. Here are a few steps I like to take to ease the overwhelm of tax season.

In full disclosure, this post will include some affiliate links, which means that, in no extra cost to you, I will will earn a compensation if you click through and make a purchase.

1. Use an accounting program

I like using Freshbooks, an online small business accounting software program. The program is easy to use, is fast and secure and my accountant loves it, too. With Freshbooks, you can record expenses, link to your preferred bank account, create invoices and estimates for clients, run profit and loss reports and provide access for your accountant… All from the app, desktop or tablet.

2. Keep your previous year’s return in an easily accessible file cabinet.

You will most likely need your previous year’s Adjusted Gross Income to include on the current tax year form. Unless you save it digitally, it helps to have the previous year’s return handy.

3. Create a tax return file folder clearly labeled

Whether you’re filing single, joint or married, having all your paperwork in one place will be a time saver. If some of your documents are sent digitally, I recommend creating a folder on your computer or in a file sharing dropbox labeled something like “20xx Tax Documents”.

4. Create a checklist

I like to print the list from IRS.gov (for US residents) and tap it on the front of my tax file return folder. As I add items to the folder, I check off the list. This helps me stay organized.

5. Save a little money just in case you need to pay.

We all would like a tax refund, however, there are times when you might have to pay. So to prepare for this, put a little money away in an interest-bearing savings account. I recommend talking to a professional certified public accountant to get advice on what amount is good to save.

6. Get an accountant

Unless you were a math whiz in school or understand all the new tax laws, I recommend working with a certified public accountant. I used to do our family taxes for years, but I realized that paying someone else gave me peace of mind. Accounting wasn’t my favorite subject in school, and it isn’t now. Having a professional on my team helps ease the pressure of feeling like I need to do it all.

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In conclusion.

Being able to plan ahead and use an easy accounting program has helped me not dread tax season (as much as I used to). I hope you use these tips and breeze thru this tax season, too.

Supercharge Your Business Growth – 5 Ways to Get Organized

It’s a new year and we all know what that means. Resolutions, good intentions, and hopefully a ton of growth in 2018!

If you’re planning on growing your business, though, you need to have a solid plan of organization.

I’m not going to lie. It’s tough to stay organized and on task, all the while looking at your bottom line. Over the years, though, I’ve learned that cutting corners to “save time,” in the end only causes more stress, and eventually the loss of revenue.

You know what I’m talking about.

It’s when you decide that you’ll move that client file to right digital spot when you have time. Or, that you’ll sit down and make your weekly to-do list later, but right now you have to get to work because someone has to pay the bills!

Ultimately, you just end up spending more time (hence, money) later on when you’re trying to find that missing file or when you have that sneaking suspicion you’ve forgotten to do something (like a client project).

Let’s let 2018 be the year we all kick the bad habit of organization neglect. Here are a few of my tried and true tips and tools for easing the overwhelm and getting organized.

5 Ways to Beat Organization Neglect

Take a few minutes each morning to plan. It can be tempting to roll with the punches and tackle every project or issue that happens to confront you during the day. It’s also exhausting! So take a few minutes each morning to think about what you want to accomplish this week. Then think about what you want or need to accomplish that day. Tie up any loose ends from the day before and then work methodically through your task list.

Use project management apps. A few of my favorites include ToDoist and Trello. I’ve used ToDoist when working with clients and I use Trello as a tool to plan my blog posts, content, and my goals. It integrates with many other apps, and it’s free!

Set a timer. How many times have you thought to yourself,“Oh that takes about five minutes to do,” and an hour and a half later, you’re still at it. Setting a timer helps to keep you aware of how you spend your time. Also, if you have clients that you bill by the project, it will help you to provide a more accurate estimate as well as keep you on task so you don’t lose money. Toggl is a great tool for keeping track of your time — both for solopreneurs and for teams.

Don’t let your inbox get overwhelmed. Alright, this is definitely easier said than done. However, it’s totally possible to get to inbox zero (I admit I’m still working on this!). Make it your goal to address your email every day at a fixed time. Reply to any emails that warrant a response, and if they involve a to-do item, put it on your Trello list. Delete any emails that you don’t need. Email extensions like Sortd can help you to organize your emails and even integrate tasks, put snooze timers on emails, and sort them into lists that you’ve created.

Name your files and/or label them. If you’ve noticed that “wheel of death” (for Mac users) or the timer that just won’t go away (for PC lovers), it’s probably time to do some digital cleanup. However, when looking at your thousands of files, it can be overwhelming to try and sort through them all. So, this year, make it your resolve to clearly label all of your files. For instance, if you have client image files, name them all something consistent, like “[Client Name] — [Images] — [Image Name].” When you have to delete old files, it will be so much easier to do so!

I hope these simple tips help you to get ready for an amazing new year with lots of growth, and of course, an incredibly organized business!

5 Reasons You Should Take Online Payments

Getting payment in cash is always good, however, taking online payments should be your preferred method of payment for your clients.

Here are a few questions to consider when deciding how your business will receive payment:

  1. Is your office or home within 25 miles (or 25 minutes) from your client?
  2. Do you want to take the time to travel to pick up a check from your client?
  3. Do you have a dedicated work mailing address?
  4. Do you want to have the flexibility of traveling with your business?
  5. Do you have an accounts payable system in place?
  6. Do you have a business account set up at a bank?

Your business must be equipped to handle multiple payment options.

  • Cash is great for taking payments, however, the transaction must always occur in person
  • Checks can be mailed or taken electronically (if you have a your client’s routing and account number number and their permission for the transaction)
  • Electronic Debit/Credit works well in person, over the internet on your website or through a link sent directly to your client

Here are 5 reasons you should consider online payments

  1. People are not carrying as much cash. Studies show that “forty percent of consumers hold less than $20 in cash at a given time” (Source: BankRate)
  2. Increase your reach. Taking payments online expands your business beyond where you live or operate your business. If someone from another state or even country wants your services and products, why not make it easier for them to pay you.
  3. Adds credibility to your business. Nearly all major business players are accepting payments online. With the recent sale of Whole Foods to Amazon, the retail online ecommerce game is definitely changing. Who would have thought just a few years ago that we could buy groceries online?
  4. Save time and make bookkeeping simpler. With just click of a button, you can send an invoice through the many online accounting solutions such as Freshbooks or Paypal. This is a time saver and your accountant will love you for it. With all payments recorded digitally and balance sheets updated, all you need to do is print a report.
  5. Improve cash flow. You receive your money quicker with online payments.

Things to consider before accepting online payments.

  • How much money do you receive in a month of payments
  • Who will integrate your payment option on your website
  • How you will let your clients know.

Options to add online payments to your website

  • Add a Paypal button on your website. Paypal lets users create custom buttons (with code) on the Paypal website that a user can embed onto most website platform.
  • Add a store such as Woocommerce to sell products and services. This is for WordPress self-hosted websites.

In Conclusion

Taking payments online on your website can help increase sales, save you time, make bookkeeping simpler, improve cash flow and add credibility to your business.

*  Please note this post contains affiliate links. Image credit is Shuttershock)

How to Spring Clean Your Website & Hosting

Spring cleaning your business website is definitely NOT the FUN part of what you do. It will be easier to just forget it, but that isn’t the smart choice.

However, it has to be done either by you or someone who know how to do it. Either way, I believe you can handle it with ease and grace.

So let’s do a little Spring Cleaning of our website domain and hosting stuff, shall we?

Here’s what you’ll want to do in five SIMPLE steps.

1. Check on your contact details for your website domain and hosting

Even if someone set it up for you, it’s always good to go in periodically and update any email and mailing addresses that might have changed. Your website hosting company will send you periodic emails about your account, when it’s due or expired. You can update your contact details in your host provider.

For example:  If you purchased your domain and hosting through Godaddy, they have a helpful guide on how and where to change your domain.

If you’re not sure where your host company is, you can check thru the WhoIS directory.

2. Be sure your information is updated in the WhoIS directory > https://whois.icann.org/en/using-whois>>>

What is the Whois Directory? The Whois database is an online repository of information associated with registered domain names. It stores and publicly displays domain name information, such creation and expiration dates, the registrar of record, and its various contacts (registrant, billing, administrative, and technical). This information is generally controlled where you purchased the domain. If you forgot where you purchased your domain, you can go to whois.icann.org to find out.

3. Keep your payment details updated with your website domain and website hosting provider.

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This ensures that your website hosting doesn’t get interrupted with your host provider. Sometimes host companies will charge a fee to re-install any deleted hosting information. However, some may not keep your website files after your hosting is discontinued.

4. Review your current hosting plan

I’ve been with the same hosting company for 7 years, however, over time, I’ve updated my plan according to the needs of my business. So do you need more online space? Do you need more emails? Do you want to pay less? Do you want to add another website to your account? Do you want to close your account? These are good questions to ask.

5. Back up all your website information at least once a month or weekly (depending on how often you update your website)

WordPress users have options for website backup plugins. Choose the one that works best for you.

Check with your host company to see what their policy is for auto backups of your website data.

In conclusion

Spring cleaning isn’t always fun, however, it must be done to ensure that the digital side of your business doesn’t fall apart. If you don’t have the time or energy to work on it yourself, consider outsourcing it to a local tech person or someone you trust.

And you can do it all with ease and grace.

How to Make Over Your Resume

Resumes need makeovers, too! It’s important to makeover or update your resume when you are looking to apply for a job. It’s not a fun task to do, but when you are wanting to change jobs or careers, it’s a necessary evil. Your resume is your way of showing your value to a potential employer. I’ve recently updated my resume, and have researched a few tips that have helped me to do so.

There are various formats that you can use for your resume, however, most will require the following updates:

1. Update the Your Contact information. Include your current contact information such as your mailing address, phone number, and email address. If you don’t feel comfortable including your home address, use a PO Box.

2. Update your profile summary to reflect the position you are applying for. This section might be the hardest to write because it is a summary of who you are. It is your PITCH statement to prospective employers as to WHO you are. Make it shine with powerful keywords that speak to what you want to do. For example, if you are applying for a marketing position, you can say, “I am a personable marketing consultant with experience in web development, graphic design and account management.”

3. Update your job description with the latest job position. Use powerful key words describing your duties in your position, and list any accomplishments while on the job. For example, did you increase sales by 50% or mange X number of employees or increased website traffic by 30%? Putting a number on what you did can add value to your job description.

4. Update your list of skills. Today’s resumes are all about using key words that reference the skills needed for the position you are applying for. If you are looking for a web developer position, list the programming software that you use to develop websites. If you are seeking an administrative position, list the programs (such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Sharepoint, etc.) that you are experienced in using as administrator. Employers use computer programs to quickly search resumes for the skills they are looking for. Basically, if you don’t have the skills, your resume will be discarded and overlooked.

resume-template-traditional-2

Traditional Resume Template from LiveCareer.com

If you need help with updating your resume, consider using the free templates available in Google Docs, Microsoft Word, UptoWork, or Canva.

Canva Resume Template

Online job search companies such as Career Builder or LiveCareer.com, also have features that allow you to upload your current resume and make adjustments to it. By the way, also consider posting your work history on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the social networking site that is all about making business connections. Your past and current employers and job mates can recommend you by providing testimonials about how you work. Testimonials add value to your expertise. Also, employers are using LinkedIn to post job listings. This is an excellent resource if you are looking to relocate.

So, is it time for you to makeover your resume? Are you looking for a career change? Did you find this post helpful? Let me know in the comments below.

Creating a Social Media Content Plan and Schedule

What can you do to ease the overwhelm of creating content for your social media sites?  Managing multiple social media accounts for yourself can get a little be overwhelming, however, breathe easy because there is a better way.  In today’s post, I’ll share my tips on how you can  ease the overwhelm in creating your content and scheduling it.

Clarify your “why”. Write it down. What is the reason you are doing all of this anyway. What will working on your business or posting to your Facebook page mean for you?

Clarify who you are selling to? Write it down. Knowing who you are wanting to reach will help you define your message. The needs of teens are different from the needs of mothers, fathers and grandparents.

Clarify how your services are helping to solve a problem for others? Write it down. Getting clarity on how your services help solve a problem, will help you promote it better.

Clarify your message. Write it down. What are you really trying to say? If someone asked you today, what would you say? Is it clear? Does it make sense to you? Don’t be afraid to get help putting your message into words that appeals to those you are trying to serve.

On paper create a schedule for the next week that speaks to your audience, inspires them and helps them using your services. Your posts can be photos, text or both.

Use Canva.com to create your graphics. (How to Create Flyers and Graphics Using Canva.com– Instead of recreating the wheel, use templates that work.

Use a scheduler tool like the Buffer app to schedule your posts. Batching your posts for the week can save you hours of time. Having your core posts scheduled will give you time to work on other areas of your business. If you want to jump in “live” on certain days, schedule that time, too.

As you create a system for marketing your business online, you will start to feel more productive. Being productive helps you stay organized and focused on what’s important. Good systems in your business will come in handy when you need to bring on additional help.

So, what systems do you have in place for your online marketing?

The Best Social Media Management Tools That Save You Time

The best way to save time on social media and use it productively is to schedule  your posts ahead of time. Scheduling your posts helps ease the overwhelm of knowing what you are going to post. This is especially essential when you are a solopreneur or have a limited staff.
Please note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase anything thru the links I will receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
At some point, we’ve all been trapped into looking at the cutest of kitten videos. However, this doesn’t do much for my productivity during normal working time. Sure we can kid ourselves and say that we are going to ONLY post a few updates to our Facebook business page, but how can anyone resist the CUTEST puppy video that comes across the screen.

Source: http://kitten-gif.tumblr.com/post/120529437045

Or panda videos.

Why should you create a schedule? Why not live in the moment?

  • Scheduling your posts helps you keep focus on your company’s branding message. Since you’ve thought out your post ahead of time, you are more organized and on message.
  • Scheduling your posts frees up your time to focus on other daily essentials of your business such as calling customers.
  • Scheduling your posts allows for a consistent stream of content on your social media accounts.

Tip: There will be times when you want to have a spontaneous tweet during a tv show, game or event. Use these posts as extra content.

My recommendation: There are many social media schedulers available on the market. My preference has been to use Buffer and Hootsuite because of ease of use (and I’m used to using them). Other social media scheduling tools you might want to check out are IFTT or Sprout Social.

Buffer

The Buffer app allows a user to post the same social media content across multiple site at various ‘buffered’ optimal times based on your time zone. Pricing starts at zero for individuals then rises to about $399 /month for teams and agencies.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite allows users to do bulk-posting. The side-by-side dashboard allows you to see all your social posts, view a feed based on keywords from other accounts, and analyze your posts across the board. There are free plans for individuals with up to 3 social media accounts.  However, the pricing goes up to $99.99/month for agencies and teams who manage up to 50 social profiles.

IFTTT

IFTTT helps you do more with the services you love. Connect Amazon Alexa, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Fitbit, Slack, Skype, and hundreds more. If you create a post in Facebook and would like to Tweet that same post, IFTTT allows you to do that. If you wan to save all your Instagram photos to your Dropbox account, IFTTT lets you do that.

Sprout Social

This is for those who manage a lot of social media accounts for clients.  Manage all your social media platforms from one website.

Final Thoughts

If you’re just starting out your business and want to manage a few social profiles, Buffer will work for you.

 

How to Boost Bookings Using the Bookly Plugin on Your website

 

Using a scheduling calendar on my website has saved me time and headache from booking clients. I can use the scheduler to make appointments, take payments, send out email and text reminders to clients, and the calendar syncs with my Google calendar. I absolutely LOVE using it!

In this post I will share with you how using the Bookly Booking Plugin – Responsive Appointment Booking and Scheduling plugin on your WordPress website will help boost bookings for you.  Please note there are affiliate links in this post and I am paid a commission when you click and purchase using the links.

Bookly Booking Plugin

The Bookly Booking Plugin – Responsive Appointment Booking and Scheduling for WordPress has several features that help ease the overwhelm of scheduling appointments on your website.

Why I like it:

  • It’s easy to install
  • It integrates with my Google calendar
  • I can charge for services booked
  • It looks great on a phone, tablet or desktop computer
  • I can customize my messages to clients about their appointments
  • It can be customized with your brand colors and your logo.
  • There is a one-time fee costs $59 (but I tried it for free first with a limited version)

How having a calendar boosts bookings

All that sounds great, but how does having an appointment scheduler on your website boost bookings? Well, before I had the plugin, I would need to call everyone. If anyone came to the website, I only had a simple contact form. Contact forms are great especially when used to build your email list. However, adding the ideal next step of a booking calendar is like adding a call center to your business (sort of).  Also, I can now include a booking calendar link in my emails and on my social media posts.

  1. If a prospect wants to work with you, they will want to know HOW and WHEN. The booking calendar will show your availability and let them decide based on their schedule.
  2. Clients can book multiple appointments with you at one time.
  3. It acts as your virtual assistant when you are not able to answer the phone.
  4. You can pre-qualify serious inquiries by adding a payment (either the full amount or a deposit) to book exclusive appointments with you.
 
Where should the booking calendar go on the website?
I like to have it on every page that I’d like to get a booking from. So I have the calendar in multiple places on the my website, such as my CONTACT page and the 15-minute consult page.

Who is the booking plugin ideal for?

  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Dentists
  • Hair Stylists
  • Solopreneurs
  • Consultants
  • Fitness Coaches

How Customers Use the Plugin

Costs
There is a free (lite) version available thru the WordPress plugin directory and a premium version available thru Codecanyon.
Final Thoughts
I used to get overwhelmed with scheduling appointments with clients for tech support or consultations. However, since creating a ‘work flow’ system and implementing a booking calendar on my website, the overwhelm is eased. When I work with clients on their website, I highly recommend they add this feature to their contact page.
So did you find this information helpful? Do you currently use a booking calendar on your website? Do you have another version that you prefer? I’d like to know. Leave a comment below.