Web Success On the Cheap: The $5 Start-Up

Got $5.00?

You can start a business. Hey, you lose more than five bucks in the couch each month. Skip one fast food meal and start a business.

For 12 years, Susan had been an office manager for a service provider in an affluent, Connecticut community. She WAS the office for this sole proprietorship so Susan had developed an enviable skill set.

She did order capture, kept the books, maintained the client d-base and she was the only one who ever figured out how to use the dusty old copy machine. She was indispensable to the company, or so she thought.

In 2011, with the U.S. economy in the tank, Susan was laid off in a last-ditch effort by the company owner to stay afloat. So, at the age of 54, Susan got her pink slip and left a career that had helped support the family since 1997. Stunned, she wasn’t worried. Like most of us, she figured another job was just a classified ad away.

Didn’t happen. Susan updated her resume and cover letter and undertook a methodical campaign to find a new job. But even with an enviable list of office skills, Susan couldn’t even get an interview, much less a job. No one was hiring and living off unemployment didn’t cover the bills.

She spent months trying to find another office job. ANY office job, but companies weren’t hiring. Every small business owner was laying off, not hiring. Then, one day, Susan got an idea.

She spent some time on line, did a little research and started her own business on the world wide web. She became a virtual assistant with an on-line presence that cost her $5 and took a day in front of the computer to construct.

Susan built a web site. She created an on-site blog, she signed up with the big freelance connections like Elance, oDesk and Findafreelance, she posted her virtual assistant resume on Craigslist and optimized her digital classified to the geo-specific region of Connecticut where she lived.

Success in 14 Days

Really. Once Susan launched her on-line presence through a variety of low-cost and no-cost means, within two weeks she was making more money than she’d ever hoped to make working as the office manager for the past 12 years.

Here’s what happened. Her first client was a local cell phone B2B who worked out of his car and, so, he was on the road all day. He needed someone to capture incoming calls and short message them to his cell each business day. A simple assignment and one Susan could easily handle, though the client was only willing to pay $9.00 an hour, way below what she’d been earning. But it was a start so she took the long-term assignment.

A few days later, Susan gets another call from a small overseas company looking for call capture services in the U.S. Pay? $10 an hour. Now Susan was making $19 an hour, about what she was making as an office manager.

Next, she received a request for virtual assistant services, including bookkeeping, from a small plumbing company. Pay? $12 an hour. In less than 14 days, Susan had landed three regular clients – one from the European Union – and was earning $31 an hour working in her slippers.

In 14 days, Susan had created a successful on line business – one that she controls. She cherry picks requests for work, she’s gradually raised her hourly rates, she’s in a position to say ‘no’ to prospects to best manage her workload and, best of all, Susan started her on-line business for $5.

Just $5.

Here’s How She Did It

Okay, she had a set of skills. You do, too. What have employers paid you to do in the past? There are people reaching out via the world wide web for those skills. You just need to connect up.

Make a list of the things you do that people will pay you to do. Hand stitching? Babysitting? Bookkeeping? House cleaning? All of us can do something that others will pay to have done. Make your list.

Once you’ve decided what you want to do (Susan chose to use her office skills to become a virtual assistant), choose a web hosting company. A web host will place your web site on line so visitors can find it.

Choose a host that offers lots of freebies:

  • 24/7, real-time tech support
  • 100% uptime (when your web host is “down,” so’s your business)
  • web site templates (you don’t have to be a programmer. Create your site using good old cut and paste. And change your web site as often as you like.)
  • free software like a free checkout, a free payment gateway, free blog, free content management software, free web site creation software (if you want to get fancy), free everything
  • free customer support. Building your first web site may require some hand holding, though it really is easy. Look for a web host that delivers hand holding tech-heads who will walk you through the web site creation process.
  • no advertising. You might be tempted to go with free web hosting. DON’T! These companies make money placing advertising on your web site, and you have no control over who or what’s going to appear on your site hosted free.
  • low monthly cost. Here’s where the $5.00 comes in. You should be able to find a web host that delivers all the tools and information required to design, build and run a web site for five bucks a month.
  • a 30-day guarantee. Any web host that doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee is more concerned with its own success than in the success of its clients, a skewed corporate value that reveals a great deal about a company that, in actually, will be your business partner providing access to the W3.
  • no long-term contracts. You may change your mind down the road or have built a stable client base and want to eliminate maintaining a web site. If you’re locked in you could be spending money you shouldn’t have to spend – again, the sign of a company that recognizes the importance of client success to its own, long-term growth and profitability.

Choose a domain name that is keyword dense

Your domain name is your on-line business name. You’ll have to register your domain name so someone else can’t use it. Look for a web host that offers free domain registration. It’ll save you a few bucks and it’s further demonstration of a web host that wants you to succeed on line.

Choose a domain name that says what you do: XYZdrycleaning.com, XYZvirtualservices.com, XYZhandsewingservices.com. These domain names are keyword dense – they say what the web site is about. A domain name like johnsmith.com, cookiecoocoo or some other “made-up” name, i.e. advetcoworldenterprisesinc.com won’t mean bubkus to search engine spiders that will crawl your web site, or to prospects.

Choose a domain name that tells search engine bots and prospects exactly what you do at XYZcardetailing.com.

Use Free Media to Advertise

Open accounts on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Plurk, Technorati and all of the other social media web sites and start creating a web “presence.”

All of your social media activities should focus on driving traffic to your web site – the place you tell your story. Don’t just hawk your services on these social networking web sites. Provide helpful tips and suggestions on your Facebook wall, start networking and get linked in on LinkedIn.

Join associations on LinkedIn to build your credibility. Display the logos of these groups on your web site to demonstrate your expertise and involvement in your particular business sphere.

Build a Blog

A blog is an easy way to communicate with your prospective clients and existing client base. Post useful informative articles that add value to associating with your business. It’s called a value-added feature, or more generally, a soft incentive to prospective clients to engage your services.

Susan maintains an on-site blog using a simple blogging platform provided by her web host – a free blog module. Keep your blog up to date, adding content two-three times a week – even if it’s just a few words. Blogs build a site community, site stickiness (visitors return over and over) and it’s a simple means to interact with your clients and prospects.

This one is a no-brainer.

Go Geo-Specific

In Susan’s case, she localized her on-line, social media advertising, emphasizing that she was in Connecticut, serving Connecticut businesses. Even though Susan offers virtual assistant services, her CriagsList.com listing is posted under Connecticut service providers.

Lots of prospects prefer doing business locally, even though in today’s on-line business realm, any outsource can be located anywhere through the use of on-line collaboration software – another freebie your web host should offer.

Susan’s first European client wanted a U.S. presence and, with Susan answering the phone in Connecticut, USA, the small European company had a U.S. presence for a few bucks an hour.

Tell clients where you are. Provide numerous means to contact you to engage your services including:

  • complete company name
  • address (this is only appropriate if it’s a brick-and-mortar business or a PO box. Leave your personal address unlisted.)
  • email user name
  • web URL
  • telephone number
  • Skype user name (Skype is a VoIP – voice over internet protocol service that allows you to talk to clients half-way round the world free)
  • fax number
  • social media user names

List this information on your profile pages of all your social media accounts to integrate your marketing channels. List it on business cards, post card mailers, brochures, print media advertisements and other marketing collateral. This market channel integration creates a bigger impact as you build your presence in a highly-competitive market.

The world wide web is the last, best chance to start a business on the cheap – for just $5.00 a month. Pocket change. Just choose a good web host, use all of the free resources you can, tweak your business model as you go and shoot for the stars.

Today, Susan controls her work schedule. She even turns down business if she needs to focus on other things.

Like Susan, you can start small, and on the cheap, and see business success in a matter of days. The tools to build and operate a web business should be provided free. Use free social media to your advantage and wait for the calls and emails to start coming in.

It worked for a 54-year-old, laid off, long-time office manager. What skills can you sell?

There’s a buyer looking for you right now.

Web-Based Project Management and Communication

The use of web-based project management has been trending upward over the last few years among small businesses and large corporations alike. Although the business world is having to redefine its efforts in many ways, those using this technology have accelerated the efficiency of their work drastically.

When web-based project management (and cloud computing in general) was first introduced several years ago, it received a lot of negative reviews, and even today, many find it problematic. Some business owners have expressed concern for the security of personal information, for example. However, while problems still exist, I wish to direct my focus to the positive effects of web-based project management in terms of communication. To show this, I will use the example of a small retailer in which I played a minor role as night manager in my early college years. From this, I hope to convey what NOT to do in a business.

If web-based project management was considered the epitome of efficient management practices today, then the retailer I worked for would be just the opposite. Things were so disordered that every mode of communication seemed to fail, down to the menial tasks of cleaning the bathroom up to establishing new store locations. I recall a time when my manager wanted over a thousand dollars of certain incoming product set aside for a customer. The manager wrote it on a sticky note. Because the memo was posted on the wall behind the computer among hundreds of other notes. The customer, having encountered similar problems with the company before, decided to buy somewhere else.

This is not to say a sticky note is an enviable option (after all, it still works at times), but with web-based project management, this situation could have been avoided very easily. Starting with the very first step, the memo would have been sent directly to me, avoiding sticky notes altogether. I would even be able to access the task on my phone before I came into work.

Additional failures in communication for this retailer came from paperwork, phone calls, and faxes, all of which could have been avoided with web-based project management. Inventory was tracked via paper, paper which had been passed around so often and with such a variety of employees’ handwriting that it could hardly be said that the inventory was tracked at all. Phone calls to the store went straight to the cashiers, who were already occupied with the registers. If corporate needed to issue a new project, then it was usually left to the memory of the cashiers to notify someone. If the fax machine was running, it would block credit card transactions, or vice versa.

For the companies that use web-based project management today, those extra costs and deficiencies of poor communication are reduced, and in many cases eliminated. When such problems are out of the way, other things can be focused on, and the strength of a business will most assuredly increase. Proper communication among employees and customers alike is one of the keys to a successful business – and today, with web-based project management, communication has never been easier.

Is Managed Web Hosting Suitable For You?

There are many types of hosting plans available on the Internet to fit the various types of requirements demanded by the millions of websites. Unmanaged hosting and managed hosting are among the plans available. This will focus more on managed hosting and how it works. There are various degrees of managed hosting available in the market. Basically, this means you can choose how much control the web host will have over your site.

If you were to use a managed hosting plan, you would be passing most of the control of the web operation to the web host. Depending on your agreement, some of them will only manage the hardware side of things while the others will manage your software as well. This means that you would have very limited control on how these things are managed and how often it is managed. Although it may not seem very appealing to not have complete control over everything, but it can also mean that you have more time to focus on the other parts of your website. This way, you can spend more time sorting out the contents of your site and manage that without having to worry too much about the management of the software or hardware. Also, you will be able to enjoy better security measures if you were to use a managed hosting plan.

However, if you are still adamant on having more control and freedom with your hosting plan, you could opt for a managed dedicated hosting plan. This plan will give you more freedom as well as security that you might face when you use a shared server. As you would be using the entire server on your own, you will not need to worry about the other threats that may attack the other sites which could cause your server to malfunction. Nevertheless, the hosting fees will be slightly steeper compared to an unmanaged hosting plan. So unless the traffic or revenue from the site is high enough to justify the price tag, perhaps you could try starting with another type of hosting plan. The reason for the higher hosting fees when you use a managed server compared to an unmanaged server is because the unmanaged hosting plans usually only provide the basic things that you will need to run your site. After that, the maintenance and management of the contents, security, and updates will be done by you. So in short, the increased fee you pay in manager hosting plan is the fee you pay for their service in managing your server.

Regardless of the type of hosting plan that you choose, be sure to do sufficient research of the market to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the company you are interested in. Also, find out if they provide the minimum expected standards such as 99.9% of uptime and 24 hours customer support. These features will bring you a long way to ensure that your experience with web hosting is as smooth as possible.

Advantages Of Web Project Management

Computer-based project management software is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Gone are the days when managers had to take the time to install disks or download updates, only to be left with a limited management solution.

Today, Web-based apps have taken project management to a whole new level, with real-time solutions that keep every team member on the same page, at the same time. These solutions are managed by a third party provider who keeps all aspects of the application updated, plus works to add more options that will better help project managers and their teams.

These providers essentially host the web project apps by supporting them with computer language (such as HTML). This makes them accessible to their clients from any web browser. Not only does this mean your team members can access the project from their work computers, but they can also access the project from home, when traveling, or even from their mobile or tablet device.

One thing to consider when looking into a Web-based project management app is that any internet-based application will only be as fast as the provided internet speed. This means that access via mobile, tablet, or other wireless device could be slower than a home computer, for example. At work, it’s particularly important that all team members have a good internet connection with fast speeds. Of course, this is a disadvantage related to your internet provider, not the Web-based application itself.

Accessing a Web-based project management solution is as easy as clicking a link. In order for team members to get on board, simply send them emails with the online app information. They can load the program instantly and have access to any area of the project to which you have granted them.

Since team members generally have individual responsibilities and don’t always need to see the entire project, you can easily restrict or grant access as needed. Everyone will have their own password and user information, making it easier for individuals to stay on task. What’s more, you can designate managers, team leaders, and staff by simply making a title selection.

Web project management applications make it easy to run more than one project at a time, since the best apps will support multiple projects at once. When it comes to keeping everyone on track and ensuring the project’s goals are met effectively and on time, there is no better solution.

Why Should We Choose Managed Web Hosting Service?

There are many different types of web hosting services available on the market nowadays, such as dedicated website hosting, shared hosting, reseller hosting and many others. In this article I would like to talk about managed website hosting.

What is managed hosting?
Generally speaking, managed hosting can be considered as a type of dedicated hosting and it refers to the hosting services that are administered by the website hosting service providers. With managed hosting service, customers will have more time to focus on other things because the server administration work can be completely handled by web hosts. The hosting providers will take care of their customers’ needs, configure the servers and install software for their customers.

What kind of people need managed hosting?
Managed web hosting is a type of dedicated hosting which can give you much control and flexibility, so you do not need to share the same server with other websites. Besides, if you choose managed web hosting, you do not have to worry about website issues because the web hosts will satisfy all your needs so you can spend your time growing your website or company. Therefore, this kind of hosting service is fit for the people who have limited IT knowledge and limited time.

Advantages of managed website hosting

  1. Choosing managed hosting service can save you a lot of time.
  2. As I have mentioned above, managed website hosting services always include monitoring, server updates, technical support, software installation and many others. So you do not need to worry about website building and website maintenance.
  3. It can also save you much money.
  4. Hiring a team of dedicated IT professionals to manage your website is very costly. However, if you choose managed hosting, the provider will handle all your daily needs. So this kind of service is suitable for small and medium-sized enterprises because it can help them save a lot of money.
  5. It can give you a high quality website.
  6. We know that managed web hosting belongs to dedicated hosting where the server is not shared with other websites, so it can provide customers with greater security and increased performance. Besides, your websites will be much more stable and can sustain heavy traffic if you choose this kind of service.
  7. It can provide you with excellent technical support.
  8. Your server and website will be monitored by your service provider all-day and he is able to deal with any possible issues that may arise.