Reviewing Your Website

Reviewing Your Website

Any successful business should have a clear and current website for their customers, in addition to potential customers, to visit to learn more about your business and what you do or sell. There is nothing more repelling than a business with a website that looks like it was made in 2000! Times have changed, and so should your website.

A great way to begin your website review is to ask a few select people, maybe friends, family or customers, to look over your site and write down what they think is working and what is not. This can give you insight into your site that you may not have been able to recognize on your own. After receiving input from your peers, you may want to do some research on other business’ that provide similar services to you. What do their sites look like? What kind of information do they provide?

Before and after reworking and revising your site, you can use this checklist to ensure that you have all of your bases covered.

 

Reviewing Your Website Checklist:

  • Company mission is clear and consistent.
  • Every page (including blog posts) is totally free of spelling and grammatical errors.
  • Information on services and products is up-to-date.
  • Contact information is available and easy to find.
  • Color scheme, images, and page format are current and pleasing to look at.
  • Social networking connections are integrated throughout the site (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
  • Blog posts are frequent with appropriate and quality imagery to accompany information.
  • Mobile optimization is available for all pages.
  • Domain name is renewed before expiration date.
  • Domain name is clear and pertinent to your business.
  • All content (e.g. images, music, graphics) is legally used, meaning copyright has been taken into consideration.
  • Customer checkout is easy and secure.
  • Security measures are in place to protect you and your customers.

With the help of this checklist, you will find your website optimized for peak performance, which will ultimately help you and your business grow!

 

Apps I Use: Google Drive

This blog post was written and published by our Summer 2017 Intern, Mallory Corbin, a student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

If there has ever been an application or program that you absolutely need to use, regardless of who you are or what you do, it is Google Drive. Google Drive is a cloud-based storage system connected to your Google account that acts as a home base for all of your Google apps; including Sheets, Docs, Photos, Forms, and Slides, among many others.

Through Google Drive you can:

  • Store documents, photos, and other files in a number of formats such as Docx, JPG, PDF, and many more.
  • Share your files with friends, family, and coworkers.
  • Easily collaborate with others and edit files as a group from separate computers.
  • Create and organize folders to store your documents.
  • Use any device with an internet connection. Yes, even your cell phone through the Google Drive app that is available on most devices. As long as you can log into Google, you can access your files.

Google Drive supplies free and easy to use versions of office software for all of your needs.

Google Docs is a classic word editing program that is easy to maneuver, even easier I would argue than its counterpart Microsoft Word.

Google Sheets is a spreadsheets program that can be used to organize and record data. This program is much more user-friendly than most other spreadsheets programs I have experienced.

Google Slides, which is very similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, creates easily designable presentations. You can either start from a blank slate or use one of their many predesigned presentation options with beautiful color schemes and fonts.

Google Forms can be used to quickly gather responses from clients, friends, and family. Anything from a survey to a party invitation can be created using Google Forms.

Google Photos stores your uploaded photos on a cloud in order to optimize space on all of your devices. This is ideal for conserving all of those photos you’ve got stuffed in that box in your basement – or is that just me?

Everything you could possibly need at home or at work is kept together using Drive. It can be as organized or as cluttered as you’d like. I for one am guilty of using excessive folders, and folders within folders, as well as of color-coding.

A newly added “Quick Access” feature makes it easy to find files you’ve recently worked on, so you won’t have to go digging through your folders to find them.

Google Drive saves space on all of your devices by making all of your files and programs cloud based. This ultimately helps your computer run faster and saves you from the ever-impending and terrifying day when your computer crashes and you lose all of your files!

Apps I Use: Scannable and Camscanner

This blog post was written and published by our Summer 2017 Intern, Mallory Corbin, a student at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

As I’ve said before, because we have so many international and remote clients, most all of our business transactions occur online and in a digital format. This is meant to make life easier, as everything we could ever need is in the cloud, and we don’t have to worry about losing any pesky loose sheets of paper. However, on the off chance that we do receive a loose item; such as a business card, contract, photos, or notes; we are quickly able to cleanly scan these items to the cloud with the press of a button. There is no need for an “old fashioned” scanner. Each day something new seems to come out in the world of technology and replace whatever came the day before, soon my iPhone 6S Plus will be “old-fashioned” and out of date! All of this is thanks to two very easy to use apps:

Scannable is an app that is accessible through Apple devices (sorry, Android and PC users!), and makes it possible to scan clean copies of all of your photos, documents, receipts, business cards, and other loose paper items. With Scannable you are able to:

◦ Quickly convert images into scanned documents that are cropped and enhanced.

◦ Edit, share, and print scanned images. I’ve found this is incredibly helpful when I need to share a document with a client that I only have a single hard copy of.

◦ Turn business cards directly into contacts. All you have to do is scan the card and like magic you can create contacts from the image.

◦ Upload scanned images straight to your Evernote cloud or other online server. For my fellow die-hard Evernote fans, this is amazing for us!

Scannable is free to download and use for anyone with an applicable device. This factor makes it an ideal app to use with clients, who may not wish to purchase any apps during our time working together.

Camscanner is another scanning app that is available on Apple, Android, and Windows devices. Camscanner does a similar job to that which Scannable does, but is more widely available. With Camscanner you are able to:

◦ Take an image with your phone to create a cleanly scanned image

◦ Use OCR (optical character recognition) to convert your scanned images into editable text documents.

◦ Export your images in JPG or PDF format.

◦ Share scanned images via text or email.

◦ Access scanned files online at camscanner.com or in the app.

A basic account with Camscanner is free, and allows for 200 MB of cloud space, this is good for those who would be using Camscanner for personal scanning. However, this may not be enough space for businesses that may have hundreds of scanned images coming in each day. A premium account costs 4.99/month or 49.99/year. This premium account allows 10 G of space, unlimited folders, and is totally ad-free.

It is apps like these that help companies go paperless! As you know, we are huge advocates for sustainability at Writing It Right For You, so when we discovered these useful apps we were ecstatic.

Scannable and Camscanner have saved me unmeasurable time and money. These apps may even convince you to ditch your heavy, space consuming scanner and use what you’ve got in the palm of your hand. I would highly recommend trying out both of these apps and utilizing them in your everyday routine.

Photo Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profilebloomua’>bloomua / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Revise Your Business Plan Before Year’s End

At Writing It Right For You, we work primarily with small businesses or the marketing departments of larger businesses. We realize that the recommendations of this post may not be relevant to large enterprise operations.

It’s almost the end of the year. It’s the holiday season. You’re busier than usual. We get it, we really do. But before the clock strikes 12 on December 31, you should add one more important task to your end-of-the-year list: revising your business plan: what happened in the previous and what needs to change in the next year.

rsz_bigstock-business-meeting-flat-illustra-62780707-728x350

Your business plan was never meant to be a static, one-time document. Instead your business plan is a road map that you should use continuously to ensure that your business stays on track with your goals and objectives. Ideally, you should review your business plan at least quarterly—especially the marketing plan and financial forecasts. But at the end of the year, it is important to review and revise your entire business plan because things have definitely happened in the current year that will impact what you do in the upcoming year.

Set aside several hours before you close down for the year to do a comprehensive review of your business plan so that by the time the new year rolls around, you will be refocused, have new and/or revised priorities, and success plans and metrics in place.

  • Begin with your “wins.” What went well this year? What goals did you meet? What new initiatives actually worked? What a physical and psychological list of all of the positives first, and then you’ll be better able to deal with the inevitable elements that didn’t go so well.
  • Revisit your SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Be honest. It’s better to know that not know what challenges you may face in the new year and the tools and processes you already have or need to have in place.
  • Revise your cash flow projections month-by-month. Look back at the current year, check with your accountant, gather your figures, and complete an in-depth analysis.
  • What were your key marketing initiatives? Do you have an ROI estimate. Which can be changed or replaced?
  • Review your pricing structure? Is it time to adjust or even raise your prices? What products or service offerings were the “best sellers” in the past year?
  • Is it time to upgrade and update your hardware and software? Technology changes so quickly; during your business plan review, make sure to look at your office setup to make sure that it will meet your needs for the upcoming year.
  • Lastly, look at your human resources. Do you have employees or contractors? Are all contracts and payments up to date? Are any changes or adjustments necessary?

By reviewing the current year and preparing for the upcoming year before the end of December, you can really celebrate the holidays knowing that you and your company will be ready for business on the first day of the new year.

Apps I Use: HelloSign

stories_hellosign_logo

I remember years ago when fax machines were new and how I watched in awe as a fax came out of the machine! “Amazing technology!” I thought then…now I don’t even have a fax machine. I do everything digitally online from all of my devices using apps. Here’s one I use regularly:

HelloSign is an application that allows businesses to easily create professional looking documents and e-sign them. In today’s globalized world, ink signatures can’t always be affixed into a contract as fast as it is sometimes required. This can mean losing sales in some cases, which makes Hello Sign app an excellent tool for you to close more deals, faster. These are some of the features that it offers:

  • Embedded signing: Usually, when using an e-signature app, users are redirected to another website to sign the documents. They are often required to sign up for an account before being able to enter their signature. With Hello Sign App, you have two choices. You can either embed documents directly on your website so that the other party can sign right there without even having to sign up for a Hello Sign account or you can use their website to collect the signature in which case the other party will get an email notification requesting their e-signature.
  • Legally binding and secure: Most of the countries around the world deem electronic signatures as legally binding and valid. The contracts signed through Hello Sign fall under such category since they comply with the most important e-signature laws such as the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), the U.S. Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act of 2000 (ESIGN) as well as the European Union eIDAS (EU No. 910/2014). It can also provide you with a court-admissible transaction log in case you need it in a trial or arbitration process.

To make sure that documents containing sensitive information are secure, access is over HTTPS. Also, 256-bit SSL encryption is used on all documents while at rest and the owner of the document is provided with a report containing IP addresses that accessed it and at what time. The app also offers signature authentication. To make sure the right person is signing the contract, the signer must create and enter login information for Hello Sign app or receive a request for signature via email.

  • Easy to implement: Users can get started in just minutes with a simple code to embed on their websites. HelloSign app has an application programming interface or API that is easy to understand and provides software development kits in Python, PHP, Java, NodeJS and Ruby.
  • Easy to sign-up: the app allows you to test it to see if it suits your needs without entering a credit card. Packages start at $99 per month when paid annually.
  • Easy to setup: you can design your document to have as many boxes as you need and any type of them as well, such as text boxes, boxes to enter initials, signature boxes, checkboxes, etc.

For more tips, don’t forget to join our newsletter! Just go to the bottom of the page and look for the “Subscribe to Our Mailing List” section, enter your email address, and click on “Subscribe.”

 

Working with Independent Contractors

In today’s globalized world, freelance work has become an important part of small businesses. Freelancers don’t join the company’s workforce and in most cases don’t even work at the same location as the other employees. Usually the relationship they constitute with businesses is that of an independent contractor.

An independent contractor can provide diverse services such as web design, programming, copywriting, consulting services, basically any kind of work. However, managing this type of business relationship has its own particularities since you won’t have direct supervision over the person providing the service nor will you be able to tell him how he should perform it. When hiring an independent contractor you will be able to determine what you want to get done but the contractor will be the one to determine how he will get it done. There’s always a negotiation part, but in the end, the final agreement and conditions will mostly depend on the flexibility of the contractor to adapt to your requirements.

One of the first things that happen after selecting an independent contractor to do the tasks or projects you need is entering into a written agreement. This document should contain the obligations that both parties will have throughout the length of the relationship. This agreement should state and be labeled as an “Independent Contractor Agreement”, making clear that it doesn’t intend to create an employee-employer relationship. Some of the basic fields it should contain are the services the contractor will provide, due dates for specific projects or tasks, how and when the payment should happen, if you will be billed hourly or will pay a flat rate, among other things.

Lets briefly discuss what some of the main differences between working with an independent contractor and an employee are:

  • How you pay and report taxes to the IRS: According to the IRS, a person is an independent contractor if the payer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. These individuals are subject to Self-Employment Tax. Self-employed individuals are subject of income tax as well as self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare tax). Taxes are paid quarterly and an annual return has to be filed as well, however, no payroll taxes will be deducted from the money you get paid. On the other hand, employers have to deposit and report employment taxes and report at the end of the year wages and other compensations paid to the employee. Also, employers have the obligation to withhold from employee’s wages federal income tax and a part of social security and Medicare taxes (the employer pays a matching amount) and deposit it.
  • Working hours: While employees usually go to work at set hours, contractors set their own hours and make their own schedule.
  • Payment: Employees receive their wages on specific dates and in regular amounts. They are entitled to be reimbursed for business expenses or get paid for extra hours. Contractors need to determine how they’ll get paid, when and if expenses are part of the contract, or if the company will pay them separately. However, once the payment terms (as part of the final contract) are mutually agreed upon, contractors expect that the company will also pay them on time, so that they can pay their bills and expenses–including insurance, etc.–on time.
  • Employee benefits: Independent contractors usually don’t receive benefits that employees do, such as pension plans, paid vacations, insurance and sick days. They pay for their own benefits and their own payroll taxes, so those costs are usually figured into their published and agreed upon rates.

Do you need an independent contractor to help you with copywriting, editing, publishing, social media, web design? Let the experts at the Writing It Right For You Companies help you manage those areas of your business more effectively and efficiently. Check out our services page and contact us here. We would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

What is a CRM?

Many of us have heard the term “CRM.” This has become a buzzword that is commonly used in the IT world. However, for many people, it is still something they don’t fully understand.

CRM-iconLet’s begin by defining what it is. The acronym CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. A CRM is basically an application that helps a person or company manage their relationships with their customers. It is much more than a simple address book since it organizes and puts together all the relationships and interactions with each customer. You can easily track every interaction with a specific customer to make future engagements more agile and accurate.

If you are a freelancer or solo professional, keeping track of your customers and clients may be easy at first with a simple spreadsheet or notebook. But as your business grows you may start finding this task more challenging. This is where a CRM can play a crucial role for you. There are many options out there that are cost-effective or even offer a free basic plan. But with so many options, how do we choose the “best” one? All of them seek to help manage and understand your customers and clients better to make better decisions when needed. In order to choose the one that will work best for your needs, it all comes down to your preferences and needs.

As we usually do, we wanted to help you and that’s why we present three options for you to consider as a freelancer. If you want to find out my favorite ones, you’ll find them near the end of the post.

60564We know that as a freelancer or solo professional, you want to achieve as much as possible with as little investment as possible. This CRM is a great option if that’s your case.

It offers a free version that allows up to ten free users and offers basic functionalities, such as contact management, gathering leads, analytics, social collaboration, mobile access and workflow automation. It also provides you with a large number of third-party apps with which it can easily integrate. Some of these integrations include Google Apps, Office 365 and Zoho Apps, among others.

Paid plans start at $12 per user per month if billed annually and all plans offer a 15-day free trial without having to enter your credit card. There is no contract and you can change or cancel your plan whenever you want.

salesforce_logo_detailThis is one of the most popular CRM solutions in the market. The company has a branch for small businesses called Salesforce Small Business Solutions.

One of the main advantages of Salesforce is that it is very user-friendly. Some of the features it offers are contact management, opportunity management, lead generation, collaboration, reports, automated workflow and mobile access. It integrates with a broad number of third-party apps such as Gmail, Docusign, Mailchimp, Office 365, among many others.

Pricing starts at $25 per user per month if billed annually for their SalesforceIQ Starter plan and the minimum length of the contract is one year. You can get a free 14-day trial.

Insightly-Marketing-AutomationThis is another cost-effective option that is very easy to use and provides freelancers and solo professionals with a wide variety of CRM software features. Some of these features include contact management, business management, project management and mobile access.

It easily integrates with Google Apps, Dropbox, Box, Outlook and Office 365 and Quickbooks, among others. It also has a great customer service that proves very appealing to new CRM users.

It offers a free plan for up to two users and paid plans start at $12 per user per month. You can also try it for free for 14 days and you’ll experience the benefits of their Professional plan (which is $49 per user per month) but you’re not obligated to choose such plan if you decide to move forward with them.

What do I use? Since I work with all kind of clients and my needs require more than one, I use several applications. To learn more about some of the CRMs I use and love, you have to check my previous posts about Basecamp and Cloze. I’m sure you will end up loving them as much as I do. And don’t forget to keep checking my blog page for more posts about my favorite apps.

Still need more help? Let the experts at the Writing It Right For You Companies help you manage those areas of your company more effectively and efficiently. Check out our services page and contact us here. We would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

 

Is It Monday Already? How to Make Mondays Work for You

180287282-couchhatemondaypsychiatrist-40ffb4aafcbdd158848d0faa11e2bc3f_h1Monday is the start of the workweek for many people, and therefore is often the most dreaded day of the week. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. With a little pre-planning and re-organizing, you can truly enjoy your weekend and have a fresh start on Mondays that will lead to a truly productive week. It all boils down to the decisions and action that you take on Friday…

Work hard on Fridays. It’s often hard to work really hard on Fridays, because you are already getting into a weekend mindset.

However, if you work as hard on Friday as you do on the other days, especially to finish up any unfinished projects, you will find that your mind is much clearer over the weekend and you’ll have more energy when Monday does come around. Make sure to clean off your desk and straighten out your workspace, too, before you leave for the weekend. Coming into a clean and organized workspace will go a long way towards having a positive outlook on a Monday morning.

Plan out your next workweek on Friday afternoons. Make a non-negotiable appointment with yourself to spend the last 60-90 minutes on Friday planning out your upcoming workweek. Confirm and prepare for all appointments. Delegate, close, or migrate any unfinished tasks to an appropriate upcoming day and time. Decide on your (3) MITs (“Most Important Tasks”) for each day Monday-Friday and ensure that you have enough time set aside on your schedule to actually complete your MITs.

Eliminate Monday Meetings—or at least meetings on Monday mornings. In the traditional workplace, it seems logical that the workweek start with a team or staff meeting first thing Monday morning: a great time to set goals and make announcements, and so on. Actually, holding meetings when most people have the most energy and can be the most productive seems to be backwards. Meeting on Friday afternoon ((how about a staff lunch meeting) to discuss the results of the previous week and prepare for the next week would seem to be more desirable.

Decide that this Monday, and every Monday is going to be the best day of the week. It is true that “what you think about you bring about.” Focus on why you go to work everyday—especially on Mondays, take time to prepare for the week ahead during the week before, and make definite appointments for yourself to actually get your work done, and watch your perception of Mondays turn from “sad blue” to “sunny yellow!”

Let the experts at the Writing It Right For You Companies help you manage your company and time more effectively and efficiently. Check out our services page and contact us here. We would love to discuss the possibilities with you.

Apps I Use: Focus@Will

Logo-horiz-smAh, “Focus”. For several reasons, many people have a lot of trouble with focus, especially when working on long or complicated project elements. In their quest to have greater focus, people try turning off all online notifications, closing down unneeded tabs on their browsers, moving to another (hopefully quieter) location, closing their office door, setting alarms, and so on. A lot of people find that playing music in the background is quite helpful, as long as the music isn’t something they can “sing along” with…

Because listening to music is a choice many people make to help them to focus, of course “there’s an app for that.” Focus@Will is an app, that according to their website, that offers the user music that is “scientifically optimized to boost concentration and focus.” Instead of listening to one of the many music streaming services available, users of Focus@Will can customize the genre of music, set the intensity and mood of the music, time their work sessions, and track their focus to find the type and levels of music that helps keep them energized and focused.

unnamedUnlike other music streaming services, the tracks on Focus@Will are unique and have been scientifically remastered to engage the brain, increase attention span, and enhance concentration. The developers of Focus@Will actually completed trials and studies with neuroscientists to design the features of the app.

The studies and their results are detailed on the Focus@Will website. Many other productivity systems, like the Pomodoro Technique, recommend that you work on one task at a time in 25-minute or 55-minute blocks to improve your productivity. By utilizing the science behind their novel music choice and concentration elements, users of the Focus@Will app may find that their focus improves greatly. After a free trial, if you decide that Focus@Will is a good choice, you will be charged $39 annually to use the app.

For more tips, don’t forget to join our newsletter! Just go to the bottom of the page, enter your email address, and click on “Subscribe.”

Apps I Use: Basecamp

Those of you who have been following me for a while know that I have tried just about every app out there. Many productivity or project management apps are for the enterprise, and if they are targeted to freelancers and/or very small business owners at all, they are just scaled down versions of the main enterprise application. When I am looking at apps to run my businesses, I look for apps that are especially designed for us “little guys”, or that at the very least can be used by just one or two people with no reduction in effectiveness. My executive assistant and I manage a lot of projects for ourselves and for our clients, and we have found an app that not only works for just the two of us, but also allows our clients to be part of the project if they desire: Basecamp. Yes, Basecamp, the #1 project management app is a perfect choice for us “little guys”. Why, you ask?

img-iconmap2

1) Basecamp works online on all of your Macs or PCs, is available 24/7, and has dedicated iOS and Android apps that update in real time.
2) There is a monthly subscription cost for Basecamp, but there are several levels of subscriptions depending on the number of projects you have going at any one time. You get one project for free if you’re a REALLY small business! It doesn’t cost anything extra to add as many people to a project as you want.
3) It’s easy for clients to log in and use, if they are anywhere near computer-literate. We can “chat” back and forth with our clients, upload relevant files, make and keep tracks of events, tasks, task lists, deadlines, etc.—all in the same place. My assistant and I can also chat just with each other without involving the client in the discussions just between the two of us. I am a very early morning person. I can check Basecamp and leave comments, tasks, etc. before most people are even awake. I also have clients all over the world in several time zones. Doesn’t matter. They can log in and participate on their own time and we’ll all catch up when we log in.
4) Basecamp has a task and event calendar that integrates with your GCal or iCal seamlessly. I love being able to open my GCal every morning and seeing everything I need to do from Basecamp right there on top.
5) You can break down large projects into task lists with due dates for the tasks and deadlines for the entire project or just parts of it, and everything’s adjustable as needed.
6) You can see what everyone’s doing, has done, and still needs to do individually, and make a report if necessary.

Basecamp is made for the new way many people work these days, especially those who work virtually with remote teams, clients everywhere, and ready for mobile devices (phones and tablets). It works very well, and the support (by Twitter or email) is excellent. I think you’ll really like Basecamp for your project management needs.

Do you have questions? Need help with your project? You can always visit our contact page and tell us all about it. To receive all our newest posts don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter by entering your email address in the bottom right corner of this post.