Can you donate your services?-One of the most loaded questions in the entrepreneurial debate right now, Especially in the music industry.
Pro Bono work can come in many forms. "Exposure", "Sampling", "Consultations" and more. Here, I'll discuss when it is OK to offer your time for pro bono and when it's acceptable to say "no thanks".
What's your favorite part of going to costco? The samples, right? Sampling your work is not a terrible beast looking to slash your profit margin- if you do it right.
Here are 6 simple questions to ask yourself the next time you are asked to provide your talent, service, product or expertise "on the house" - as well as some essential "no-no's" and pro bono best practices.
1. Do you *truly* have the time/resources/energy to provide pro bono work with the unreduced excellence you'd provide a paying customer?
(hint: If you're closing in on deadlines, feel overwhelmed or are experiencing work/life balance guilt, the answer to this question is a resounding NO)
2.Will providing work for free to this project provide me with any of the following:
A. Experience in my field I may not receive elsewhere
B. An opportunity to become an influencer in my genre
C. A way to meet future clients that pay
D.Worthy testimonials that will bring you paying clients in the future
E. Community building opportunities
F. Charitable deduction/write-off and/or heart warming karma points
(hint: a pro bono project should provide you with at least 2 of the aforementioned items)
3. Is this project in line with my business model and the goals I've outlined for my business?
(hint: often times it is, however, if your gut feeling is that this particular opportunity is not right for you- listen to your instincts)
4. Have you offered pro bono work to this person/organization/fill in the blank before? Was it a worthwhile experience?
(hint: if the answer is YES and YES consider this particular project a staple for your yearly business plan, if your answer is YES and NO, ask the organizer what will be different for you this year and how have they improved since the last time you volunteered your time. In my personal experiences... if I didn't enjoy it the first go-round, I didn't enjoy it in the second either)
5. Is your business profitable yet?
(hint: If the answer is no, and your time isn't spent working with clients who are paying you, it may be worth your while to offer up a few pro bono services to keep your entrepreneurial momentum thriving and your accountability in check).
6. Are you bombarded with local requests for free work?
(hint: if the answer is yes, you're offering your pro bono services too often and in too condensed of an area). If you're known as the guy/girl to ask, you're doing it too much).
I'll share with you the #1 rule I tell all of my clients and it's super simple.
****One per Q & DONE****- SERIOUSLY!
What this means:
If your schedule allows, your yearly business plan should carve out enough time to donate your services/product/fill-in-the-blank, once per quarter. That means 4 times per year- AT MAX! Pending your own personal schedule you could allow for 1 every 2 quarters, 1 per year-the choice is yours. Scheduling this internal policy not only keeps you in check when you are asked for pro bono services but also gives you an incredibly professional (and easy) way out.
(Hint: I'm so sorry I've already utilized my quarterly/yearly/etc pro bono outreach initiative but I love what you're doing and will keep you in mind next year/quarter/etc)
PS: A leopard (usually) doesn't change it's spots.
Volunteering for that same event year in and year out and getting no results? Stop doing it.
I'm assuming here that you ALWAYS ask a new client how they found you, if you aren't - we need to have a talk STAT.
PSS: Personal Story: An ex colleague of mine continuously complained about the lack of promotion for an event she'd donate her time and services to every year. "I literally received ZERO exposure and no future prospects" she'd say. I'd always answer with "Then why are you doing it". Sadly enough her answer was always "Because it's expected of me and I don't want anyone else getting to do it in my place".
Here's why this philosophy will drive you bananas: If it's not working for your business or your SANITY, it's not worth the emotional OR financial price of giving away your services. If you love the organization and have fun doing it, you wouldn't be complaining. If you love the organization and you are complaining (weird) then do something else to change it besides work for free. Offer to volunteer on the organizing team, help with PR, do something, ANYTHING else to build it and then offer your business services when it's closer to what you'd hope to expect from an organization you love.
If it's not a good event for your brand, why wouldn't you want to give someone else a turn? Be comfortable in your abilities or work to improve them.
PSSS: Gift-cards are your friend:
Providing an immediate service or product to a non-profit organization can be great exposure and a way to get after those warm-fuzzies, but often times can create unnecessary pressure for you AND the receiver. By offering services/products in the form of a gift card you create a stress-free environment where the receiver can utilize your services at their convenience (and yours if your guidelines are written properly)
PSSSSSSSSSSSSS (last one, promise!) Spoil the customers that appreciate you and your work:
In my region, "referral programs" are used in almost every micro business model and I hate it. You should know the clients who refer their friends/family/customers to you (because you ask right? ehem). Haven't seen the referring client in a while? Offer them something on the house for being such a great supporter. You don't need to incentivize referrals if your work is good and your customer service is on point, they will happen naturally.
That's it... Go forth and be the best #entreprenuer you can be.
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Thanks to google, and the internet in general, everyone is an "expert". Managing a start-up, being an entrepreneur or owning a localized small business is challenging enough without the extra burden of poorly executed marketing and bad advice.
So how do you know if you are contracting a wannabe or a pro?
This is written specifically for the branding, marketing and PR field of industry but can be put towards so much more, coding and development, IT, photography- You name it.
Often times, I am contacted by a potential client because they've already hired someone else and it didn't work out in their favor. It may have been a word of mouth referral or a consultant with a cheaper rate. The small business owner at this time is now hurried, frantic and their needs are expedited making the creative process of co-planning a rock solid marketing strategy that much more difficult.
A bad referral can wreck havoc on your budget. Not only do you feel obligated to continue the relationship based on the relationship in which you were referred, people also tend to be more flexible when they feel they are already in trusted hands. On the other hand, referrals can be an incredible community building experience, so how do you know if the referral is right for you?
Before You Take That referral Try This:
Thank you so much for sending me that information on that consultant you know. How you personally hired them to work for your own company/brand/etc? If so, what was your experience with them? Did you see a clear and concise return on your investment? Was the project a success? Would you hire them again?
Here are the 5 questions you NEED to ask a potential marketing, branding or PR consultant that will not only deepen your return on investment but also catapult your start up into a thriving company.
1. What are your go-to operations for creating a brand, PR platform or strategy for your existing client base.
(HINT: Their answer should not be solely reliant on"social media" and "Facebook")
2. What information do you need from me in order to make the most of our time together?
(HINT: This is where you should be asked a vast amount of questions about your business goals, methods you've used in the past and other genre related inquiries).
3. What results should I expect to see after during and after our contract?
(HINT: A consultant may be reluctant to make promises but they should state what they hope to see from their expertise in terms of ROI and brand recognition).
4. Will I be working mostly with you or will you be outsourcing any parts of this arrangement?
(HINT: It's perfectly normal for consultants to hire out pieces of a project, but this information should be upfront and transparent)
5. Outside of our contract terms, should I anticipate any other related costs associated with XYZ?
(HINT: E-Commerce, Launch parties, SMM, advertisements, branding materials, etc- are all additional costs that are to be expected with any large scale strategy, but your consult should be able to give you basic expense range with each project).
Consultants are most often times hard working, driven entrepreneurs who WANT to see each and every client succeed far beyond their expectations. As a business owner, researching your team of experts is an integral part of creating a lasting business model. Some questions you should ask yourself before making a final decision should be:
1. Was I impressed with their understanding of my goals and expectations (and how to get there)
2. Did I feel as if I was being heard
3. Do I like/appreciate their personal marketing strategies IE: Their personal branding, logos, websites, social media accounts, etc.
4. Do I trust that they are able to speak on behalf of my business.
Go forth, incredible entrepreneurs <3
Rarely do I offer a free online workshop, but after some incredible inspiration, I'd love to create an open dialog and share my expertise on creating wealth and revenue by utilizing a market that is NOT your perfect customer. <3 Follow this link to sign up. https://docs.google.com/…/1J3ag_899swgPC6s8LfUBSnn…/viewform
Some days I feel like superwoman. Meetings with clients, CHECK. Kids are fed, happy and laundry is in the dryer, CHECK. Project finished ahead of deadline DOUBLE CHECK!
Then there are days like today. Days when, no matter what you do, your sweet mama voice is just not getting through to those two little devils, I mean sweet peas. While I don't always bring along my 3 & 5 year old to business functions, occasionally it's unavoidable.
These are the days where that little bug of self doubt creeps up inside me. Did I do the right thing by my kiddos today, my clients, my husband? If every obligation gets only 10% focus, are you really getting things done?
Yes, probably. Efficiently, probably not. Does efficiency always mean success, and furthermore does inefficiency always mean failure. Working parents struggle with this dilemma on a daily basis and for our family, day care just wasn't a fit. So how do you juggle making sure you are raising two grounded, patient (sometimes) and happy children while growing your brand as effectively as possible.
1. Build Relationships
During consultations I often talk a little about my background, my qualifications and how I ended up working for myself. This very summarized version of my life story also eludes to the present reality that A. I have my hands in many projects B. My children are young, and C. My husband and I balance our family and our businesses simultaneously. This builds trust between myself and my client as well as gives enough background that makes the rare reschedule or child-assistant-in-tow a little less unexpected.
2. Be Honest
Life happens. This is when you let your client/boss/collaborator/fill-in-the-blank be the decision maker. Try something similar to this:
YOU: " A small hiccup appeared in my schedule for our meeting, I'd love to give you undivided attention so if there is another time in the next few days you are available I'd love to reschedule. If this is the only time that works for you though, would you be comfortable if my daughter/son/etc accompanied us during our appointment?
3. You Aren't Above Bribery
Good old fashioned bribery is highly debated topic in today's crunchy parenting universe. But a momma (or daddy) occasionally has to use the tools that are available to them. Always have a small stash of Target clearance bin finds ready to rock and roll. Coloring books, activity sheets, small puzzles, whatever works. Just make sure it's something interesting that they usually don't get to play with at home.
4. Say NO
You don't have to take on every client and every project that comes your way. Saying no is a skill that some of the most successful people have nailed down. Try this: " While I love your business model, and feel like working with you would be beneficial for us both, I don't think this is the right fit for me at this time. I'd love to keep in contact and check in with one another in the next few weeks/month/quarter and see if there is something we could work out/collaborate on". This emphasizes that you value their time and their project enough to understand it may not be in THEIR best interest to sandwich in-between your other obligations, without eliminating the possibility of a future opportunity.
5. TIME OUT
Often times those working hours away feel like a break, but they aren't. Your mind and your body are working and the pressure is still there, only in place of motherhood (or fatherhood) responsibilities, its work related tasks at hand. Find time to do NOTHING or something that you find enjoyable OUTSIDE of family and career.
Without my husband and business partner's support, the balancing act would be much more difficult. We share all the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, parenthood, life, oh and google calendars. Our schedules are mapped out and color coded. And when that pressure is looming, I let him know exactly whats going on and how he can help. If you don't ask, you definitely won't receive.
7. Your Kids Love You
They are watching you kick ass right now. You're taking names during the day(and night) and cooking organic veggies for dinner. Remember that, children work best around a routine, and being a business owner can be random. Use that randomness in your favor by making it normal. Give lots of hugs, kisses and reassurance. Treasure the time you can devote to only them, and maybe, just maybe, they'll thank you in speech one day for inspiring them to start that multimillion dollar start up ;)
The modern consumer demands more from brands than ever before. The days of captive media audiences are over. Social media has become the premiere method of information exchange and with that, the buying behaviors have changed. Success is based on developing strategies that address the modern consumer's expanding expectations. The Modern buyer appreciates the history and significance of what they are buying.
1. Create an experience that exceeds brand standards and expectations:
Try adopting a social media persona that relinquishes control to the consumer by providing them a sense of brand ownership. This could be as simple as offering a controlled contest in which popular vote chooses the next color of your new design. Or the ever popular "name our new flavor" campaign.
2.Devote resources to expand social media marketing:
Modern consumers appreciate two-way conversations, with platforms such as Facebook & Twitter. Consumers can feel closer and more involved with the brands they purchase from.
3. Engage and influence the conversation:
Brands must deliver an experience to their audience by proving equity, quality and functionality by identifying the qualities that define your brand and showcasing why the consumer may be "missing out".
4. Stand behind your ideals:
Every brand should have a mission statement that becomes the cornerstone of the customer experience. Ranging anywhere from out of this world customer service, or a commitment to sustainability- show your customer you live by this method and why they should to.
5. Offer exclusivity:
Creating marketing opportunities to small groups of a target audience can be much more beneficial over spreading a thin campaign to a large number of unmotivated consumers. Identifying small groups with large buying power interested in your brand will be a better, more targeted use of efforts.
6. Empower Consumers:
Deepen your relationship with consumers by allowing them to become a part of brand identity. Encourage consumers to upload content, images and comments about your brand. Humanize the goods or services provided by replying to individual consumers by name.
This graph represents consumer purchases based on necessities, basic needs, wants and luxury items. Categorizing where your product or service falls within this graph will help you in targeting your niche. <3 Power on entrepreneurs <3 Power ON!
I soon realized I had a product that did not belong to a saturated market, and started to take things a little more seriously. At the time the only options nursing mom's had were lactation cookies made using basic, low quality ingredients & gmo sugars.
Nursing mommy's needed more choices and I wanted to give it to them.
My focus was on quality, health and taste. I wanted these cookies to be all inclusive. Organic, non-gmo, grain free, packed with nutrition for both mama & baby. That message must have resonated with nursing mothers because House of J grew into a budding local foods company almost over night. I had orders going from NY to Australia, and it was awesome.
I hit the ground running and started mailing free cookies to bloggers to get the word out and worked hard to give plenty of samples to new mothers with the age old, bait and hook method of local marketing.
While rebuilding a local presence through events and farmers markets after moving to a new city, I had decided that I wanted to expand. Along came granola bars, granola, brownies and other confections all with the same goal, proving that organic and healthy can also mean delicious.
I went wholesale and started dealing in invoicing and all the ups and downs of pitching to retail. On came new, more professional packaging design and intricate details that were both exciting and extremely consuming of time and money.
The costs associated with bringing a small, niche foods business to market is almost unconscionable. You've got:
#2. Commercial Kitchen Rental Fees
#3. Ingredients ( and ORGANIC!)
#4. Packaging & Labels
#5. Display boxes
#6. Credit Card processing
#7. Shipping and/or self delivery
#8. No-sell buyback
This list is the cost just for doing it all on your own, and NOT including the options of hiring employees or paying a distributor to package for you. This of course is also before you factor in cost of business like office supplies, advertising, PR, and everything else that goes into any small business.
Before I knew it, I was burnt out. I had too many product variations for any one single person to handle, retail stores with long overdue invoices and minimal working capital to keep investing. I knew a change had to be made, I put House of J's wholesale accounts on hiatus and took a few months to reconsider my passions. I was not a professionally trained chef by any means, my background is in marketing & sales (which was my favorite part of the business). The baking was and is my least favorite part.
When I asked myself the purpose of my business, my short answer was all marketing and sales related and not about the baking. It became obvious that I was forcing a business model that I wasn't passionate about on every level. While I will always LOVE the breastfeeding community, and care deeply about maintaining a healthy, nutritious and gmo- free lifestyle, I do not need to be the one providing this on a bulk distribution level. For me, the baking allowed me to market and sell my brand, which was why I kept it going at such an intense level.
Maintaining passion for your business is incredibly hard work. When you realize what your passions and purpose are, your business has a better chance of long term survival.
The lesson learned?
Just because you do something great doesn't mean you'll be happy doing it as a business.
By finding your business' purpose, you will be able to create a clear and concise plan of action to take your business to its growing potential.
Here's a great article from Forbes, explaining why success and finding your purpose go hand in hand. http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertamatuson/2013/11/12/purpose-the-secret-ingredient-that-drives-business-success/
At least not for the entrepreneur.
This mysterious concept is posted everywhere and I'm guilty of using the term often. But I'm calling an end to the fascination with "work-life balance" for 2015. Who's ready to join me?
What is work-life balance exactly? It's the concept that with proper prioritizing between your "work" and your "lifestyle" (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development). That one can maintain the zen harmony of fulfilling both of these "cups" equally.
I call bullshit.
Am I allowed to say that on a "mommy-blog"? I just did. Many parenting columns believe that by focusing solely on one or the other at a time is one way of achieving this. This may work for some, but not for me, and probably not for you.
I've 2 small children, one who is still nursing (albeit infrequently) and one who is incredibly inquisitive, often times whiney and needs attention almost constantly. If I had to carve out time to focus on work alone, I'd have two very unhappy kids and a very guilty conscience waiting for me.
Sometimes work is your lifestyle, and sometimes your lifestyle is only as satisfying as your business is successful. 2015's new concept: your work and your life are one in the same. An internal collaboration of vision, love, drive, success, encouragement, networking and support for all of the above.
No more do we struggle to find time to work, or find time to snuggle. Women, especially mothers are categorized as being frazzled and easily overwhelmed "Oh My, you MUST be exhausted" or my favorite "How do you do it all?" My best work is when my kiddos are laying beside me while I finish up that financial summary, or as I plan my next ten social media marketing tactics. While on a conference call, I sometimes change a diaper! What??! I have meetings at coffee shops I know are kid friendly and during some of these meetings, the IPAD is my saving grace.
My social circle consists of a few very understanding friends who love me even though I may be noncommittal and other entrepreneurs who understand the plight. This has happened organically, and through honesty I can still remain a friend, a mother and a multi-business owner.
I essentially hit the lottery when I met my husband, who also happens to be a serial entrepreneur. This comes in handy when the laundry piles up and when we need to we roll up those sleeve, unplug and focus. We focus on our business, raising two kind and well adjusted children to the best of our abilities and yes, focus on that damn laundry together.
I've stopped during the writing of this blog post to fix my daughter two separate post lunch pre dinner snacks, kiss a booboo, talk to my husband about a prospective client and to take a vitamin, and that's ok. That is what it means to WORK and to LIVE, in harmony.
Take a look at the synonyms for the word "WORK". Every one of them with a negative connotation. And then take a gander at the word "LIFE". ALL positive. This is the reason why the work-life balance concept was created, to deal with the "drudgery" of one, and the "zest" of another. They can both be zesty, you know.
The movement: PROJECT ZEST
1. Forget the guilt-You are a great person and your intentions are to be the best *fill in the blank* wife, mother, friend, brother, sister, father, business owner, marketing exec, corporate fat cat, whatever.
2. Write it down-All of it. Business goals, family goals, timelines, cleaning schedules, if you do it, write it.
3. Skip Around-You are writing a book and your editor needs a draft by Tuesday and you're only half way through. But Monday is your cleaning day and today is Sunday, and the kids have soccer practice.BREATHE. Sorry laundry, dishes, vacuuming, you've been pushed to Tuesday, I've got business to do.
4. Be Honest-Being a business owner means getting down to business. Sometimes this means missing that girls night out or skipping the kiddie parade for St Patty's Day. Explain why you can't commit, be transparent in your aspirations and ask for understanding.
5. Give Love-Wether you're a mother, a wife, a brother, or a friend. Small acts of compassion go a long way. you'll always be "busy"with something. Take a second to renew your energy and your focus. Send a text to a sick friend, give your munchkin a big unexpected hug while they're playing patiently. Tell your husband how much you appreciate him. It's a hard task to keep yourself accountable for follow-through. So many times we see our child as an excuse to postpone our business goals when they should be the driving force behind your ambition.
Join the PROJECT ZEST community on Facebook for support, advice and support in keeping ZEST in all you do. https://www.facebook.com/groups/PROJECTZEST/