These days, membership sites are getting a lot of attention, thanks to the recurring revenue that it can generate for any savvy businessperson. Searching the Internet, it seems as though membership sites are popping up everywhere and many businesses or are looking to get one started. But what exactly is a membership site, and how will it benefit you?

A membership site is nothing more than a website that has a restricted-access part of your online business where only those members who subscribe, either paid or not, are capable of accessing the content that you’ve placed behind closed doors.

Membership sites provide several benefits for businesses that are looking to generate recurring revenue. You can use your membership site to grow your loyal followers and customer base, or you can use a membership site to support your current clients with how-to videos and other information that is only available to those who are members.

Either way, a membership site can prove to be an incredible asset for your business.

Once you’ve decided to build a membership site, the next thing that you need to do is decide on what kind of membership site you want to start.

Membership websites are an excellent way for you and your business to earn recurring income. However, deciding on what kind of membership site you should start can get a little tricky. This means that you will need to brainstorm for possible membership site ideas.

Your membership site needs to revolve around one central idea, which is solving your members’ problems. This means that you have to have a deep understanding of the challenges and difficulties that your members struggle with and provide them with a practical solution.

Once you’ve determined two to three possible membership site ideas, you have to go through the process of validating the ideas to ensure you won’t end up investing too much time and money in an idea that won’t be profitable. You have to know if your idea is going to work before you start the process of creating your membership site.

If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to brainstorming and validating a membership site idea, here are five membership site ideas that have proven to be profitable and that can jump-start the process of starting a membership site.

Online Courses

One way to build a profitable membership site is by offering online courses to your members. You can create educational content that can only be accessed by paying members. Online courses are common because they are in high demand in just about every niche.

You can think of a random thing that can be taught, and the chances are high that there is already an online course tackling the subject. Online courses are also great revenue-building sites because you can tailor the course so that the mode of delivery, content, and frequency of payment fits with the subject matter and target audience.

For example, you can create a substantial online course, upload all of the content, and then charge a fee to those who want to access the material. Once they’ve finished reading through the material, the members can cancel their membership.

You can also apply a fixed-term model to your membership site where students pay upfront for a set number of months to access the site. Then, their membership to the site is automatically canceled at the end of the fixed period. If you want to establish more long-term members, you can drip feed new content to members every month.

With this kind of membership site, you can also include a message board for students so they can interact with one another and share notes, inspiration, and resources. The most popular format for an online course membership site is video. However, you can include any kind of related content like checklists, eBooks, self-assessment tests, and worksheets.

If you have the time, you might also want to consider offering a higher membership tier, with a higher fee that provides perks to your members like a dedicated support line or email, additional expert guidance, coaching sessions, or one-on-one mentoring.

Library

If your particular niche is an entire industry, or if you are looking to cater to a broad target audience, you might want to consider setting up a library of premium resources, like industry reports from prominent research companies, published eBooks, expert interviews, and more.

A drip-fed model is the best fit if you want to start this type of membership site. A drip-feed provides members with a regularly updated resource.

With a library membership site, you can even add a VIP membership tier that provides members with special privileges, like giving them access to premium content or allowing them to upload their own content.

Like with other kinds of membership sites, you can also set up a member forum so members can discuss and compare notes regarding particular material.

Job Board

Another membership idea that can generate recurring revenue for your business is to run a community-based membership job site that focuses on helping people get hired for jobs in a certain industry or niche and providing them with the tools and resources to do the jobs well.

You can create a membership site that becomes a link to those companies that are looking for hard-working and experienced employees and the applicants that are looking for jobs.

Along with providing a job board for your members, you can also host forums for your paying members to interact with others and exchange useful industry information. You can even provide resources on how to be the perfect candidate for certain positions and how to do the jobs better.

Additionally, you can provide a frequently updated company directory that lists companies, associations, training facilities, and other relevant industry organizations for your members to utilize.

Society or Club

Establishing a membership site for the genuine enthusiasts in your niche can end up being a thriving site with a potential for substantial profits. With a society or club membership site, you can provide your members with training and resources for beginners, a forum for them to get into productive and educational discussions, and the latest news surrounding the niche.

Since this is another community-driven membership site, you can promote members to forum moderators instead of tackling everything yourself or delegating the tasks to a third party. This results in your members having the impression that you trust them enough to do the job, which then increases their trust in you.

The most challenging part of this kind of membership site is making sure that everyone is participating and regularly contributing so that everyone gets value from the membership.

This can be accomplished by setting up forums and subforums that help to promote regular interaction. These can be anything from progress logs where members check-in and provide a progress report, to daily inspirations.

Dating Site

Before you begin to laugh you should know that sites like eHarmony have more than 750,000 paying members and have seen more than 600,000 of their members get married since first setting up shop. Online dating isn’t an easy prospect for many, which is where a membership site comes in.

The last thing that you want to do is become the next eHarmony because it is going to be an uphill battle. The key to creating a successful membership site for online dating is to be extremely specific with the types of members you accept. You will need to narrow down your ideal member. You can accomplish this by choosing specific hobbies, religion, or other various affinities and interests that your potential members might have.

For example, you might decide to start a site that only allows Harry Potter fans as qualified members. Or you might choose to start a website that is solely for gamers. The possibilities are endless.

Conclusion

Setting up a profitable membership site isn’t at all difficult; the challenge lies in deciding on a niche that will continue to generate recurring revenue for you and your business. Before you get started, make sure you do your due diligence and brainstorm a few ideas and make sure that you go through the proper steps to validate your idea.

These five membership ideas are sure to be successful and should take you no more than two hours to create your first content, especially if you are already familiar with the niche.

Membership websites and the recurring revenue that they generate can be incredibly stable, scalable, and rewarding. While they involve a lot of work, it is extremely rewarding and allows you to serve a broader audience than you will with your other products and services. Once you’ve settled on the kind of membership site that you want to start, the real work begins.

You’ll need to create content, determine your membership fees, build your website, and attract members. Once the word gets out about your membership site, you can sit back and watch the recurring revenue come in.

If you have an idea for a membership website or if you are interested in seeing if one would be a fit for your business or brand, get in touch, we’d be happy to talk with you about it. Contact Us Here 

Not decided if a membership website is for your business or brand? Check out our Your Membership Site Ebook Guide And Video Series

Your brand represents a unique promise that you make to every single one of your customers and potential customers. It is the consistency of this promise and the overall quality of the delivery of this promise that will encourage your customers to be loyal to your brand. Getting your customers to become loyal to your brand is the only real way to make your brand successful.

But in order for your promise to be effective, it must be distinct and clearly distinguishable from the many other promises your potential clients will encounter.

What kind of promise is your brand making?

Who is your brand making this promise to?

Why is your brand’s promise different from everyone else’s?

Why should anyone believe your promise?

At a glance, the task of defining your brand may appear quite simple but please do not be fooled. The golden arches of McDonald’s and the Nike swoosh did not become what they are in a day. These and other successful brands are the product of careful research, distinctly defined boundaries and a comprehensive Marketing strategy.

The result of all this hard work is that each customer and potential customer knows exactly what these brands represent. Have you ever walked into McDonald’s to order to purchase a Pepperoni pizza? Will anyone in their right minds drive to Nike to pick up a pair of ruby red stilettos?

Of course not! That is as a result of these brands being so carefully defined that we know exactly what to expect and what these brands can deliver. Customers are far more likely to be loyal to a brand that sends a clear message or has a distinct voice.

The first step to defining your brand is thinking carefully about and documenting what your business is good at. You can make use of S.W.A.T analysis to outline the major strengths and weakness of your business. It goes without saying that your brand should represent the strengths or core functions of your business. This will require some amount of honest self-evaluation.

Some Entrepreneurs fall into the trap of aiming to be good at everything or doing too many things at the same time. Even worse is trying to make a ‘universal’ product or service that has no specific target audience. The result of this kind of strategy would be a brand that is not well defined and will not encourage brand loyalty.

Trying to target everybody and doing everything will force you to spread your resources too thin. The easiest way to get nothing done is to try and do everything at the same time. Once you have a clearly defined message in mind, the next step is to choose the right tools.The Marketing tools that you choose to make use of should then emphasize the core focus of your business.

In doing so, your Marketing strategy should also emphasize what your business is not and thus make your clients see that your focus is not on ripping them off. This is an easy way to highlight the difference between you and the competition. A memorable brand is not worth the effort if you are not earning any money and the easiest way to make money is to take out the competition.

After assessing the strength of your business, find three simple words that represent what your business does well. Think of it this way, which three words would you want your clients to use to describe your brand if your brand was a person? This will require that you and your executive team carefully define the mission and vision statement of your business as well.

Your next move should be figuring out how to communicate these attributes to your target audience with the utmost simplicity. A complicated commercial or website is a major turn off to potential clients and will not be very effective at generating sales. Keep your message simple if your aim is to make your brand memorable and profitable.

There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.”― Leo Tolstoy

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ― Clare Boothe Luce

“To be simple is to be great.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Defining your brand and the identity of your brand will require much more than a fancy logo. It must instantly bring to mind what your business does and what your brand represents. One core principle that never fails is to focus on quality and convenience.

The identity of your brand should be carefully tied to adding value. Make your clients think of your product or service as being of the best quality, the easiest to use, the most affordable or even the most durable. Selling hype will not get you very far.

Always remember that your aim is to give your brand a pleasant voice and a distinct identity. The ultimate aim is to get the voice of your brand off the printed page or website into the mind of your target audience.

Your message should make such a deep impression on your target audience that purchasing your product or service should seem like the only sensible choice.You should not have to clutter your website or commercials to get potential clients to remember what your brand represents. This will prove to be a waste of time since your brand may become easily confused with another.

Is your business short on help? Good help, that is? Did the best administrative assistant you ever had leave because her husband was relocated to Timbuktu? Now what? You’ve been through countless resumes and none of the candidates seem to measure up. Maybe you need extra help once in a while, just to keep your regular assistant’s head above water. Are you a small business owner who can’t afford, or don’t have enough work, for a full-time secretary?

Why not hire a virtual assistant or VA? Gaining in popularity among large and small businesses alike, VA’s can help bail you out of a rough spot on a temporary basis or even work long-term just like a regular employee.

In today’s soft economy and world of corporate scandals, failures, and layoffs, many a good employee has been ousted from his or her job. The ambitious ones are out there daily trying to find a new position. Trouble for them is the help wanted section of most newspapers has become extremely thin. Most people can’t go very long without some sort of income. So, the most ambitious and resourceful are making their way back into the working world any way they can. For many, this means starting a business of their own.

What does a person do when what they know is secretarial? What do they do when they need to feed their family and pay the mortgage? Many create their own business and several are opting to become virtual assistants.

What does a virtual assistant do?

In short, a VA can do just about anything a regular employee can do. You just won’t see his or her face every day. Many virtual assistants are Jack’s or Jill’s of all trades, some are more specialized, but here’s a list of some of the things a virtual can do:

• Bookkeeping
• Human resources
• Concierge services
• Collections
• Sales
• Marketing
• Travel arrangements
• Research
• Word processing
• Appointment setting
• Meeting arrangements
• Event planning
• Letter preparation
• Transcription
• Reports
• Proof reading
• Manuals
• Newsletters
• Flyers
• Mailings
• Data entry
• Data processing
• Document scanning
• E-mail processing
• Answering phone calls
• Procedure documentation
• Customer support

Virtual assistants are typically a very intelligent bunch as well. Many are college educated and even more have countless years of excellent business experience to draw upon. This comes in very handy when you’re looking for ideas.

How does a virtual assistant work?

Virtual assistants come in all shapes and sizes, just as any business does. Typically, however, VA’s work from home-based offices. They’re the savviest of the savvy when it comes to operating on a low budget and using technology to their advantage. Most are equipped with the latest software (and lots of it), multiple phone lines, Internet, e-mail, fax machine, cellular phone, copy machines, scanners, and a great attitude. Many even come with a cat or dog! He or she will use all of the latest technology to communicate with the client and get the work done as quickly as possible. And, possibly best of all, they only “clock in” when they’re on your project, not while they’re sitting at your desk, using your electricity, playing solitaire!

What’s all this going to cost?
All well and good, right? But aren’t virtual assistants more expensive than regular employees? Absolutely not! Actually, a virtual assistant is far more cost effective than a regular employee. You may pay more per hour than a regular employee, but leave out the FICA, state unemployment taxes, Social Security, health insurance, vacation time, sick time, 401(k), profit sharing, Christmas bonus, holiday pay, and other benefits you need to offer a regular employee, and a virtual assistant’s wage comes out far lower than that of a regular employee.

A virtual assistant can save money in other areas as well. How much does it cost you to maintain office footage, a computer, a phone line or two, a refrigerator, a microwave, a desk, electricity, heat, air conditioning, and parking for your regular employees? With a virtual, you don’t need any of those things either – he or she supplies his or her own.

The fee for a virtual assistant usually depends upon the area of the country where he or she is located and their area(s) of expertise. Virtual assistants charge between $15 and $75 per hour. But, you only pay for the time he or she actually spends working on your tasks. Some will ask that you pay for a “minimum guaranteed usage” each week or month. Many will also agree to work for varying hourly rates depending on the task. For example, if they’re to perform basic word processing, the fee might be $18 per hour, but if they’re expected to research the legalities of transforming your LLC into a Corporation, they may charge $45 per hour. Yet, others may agree to a flat fee based upon individual project requirements. Either way, you come out ahead.

Why should I trust someone I’ve never met?

VA’s are as concerned with your business success as they are with their own. In fact, their success depends on your success. So, a virtual assistant can become one of the best assistants and business partners you’ve ever had. Just like you, they are business owners and very interested in helping their clients.

Virtual versus temp or temp agency

Virtual assistants tend to work harder than the average person issued to you by a temporary agency. Keep in mind that the temp agency is charging you as much as 20% more than the worker is actually getting paid. This practice often leads to the use of unskilled or unacceptable laborers. Hiring a virtual assistant allows you to choose who works with you. You’ll also need to provide all of the temp’s supplies like paper, toner, pens, computer, electricity, etc, whereas, the VA comes with his or her own supplies.

How many times have you hired a temp who you spent time training, only to have her stick around for three weeks, then you had to train yet another temp? A virtual assistant, as we mentioned, is in this to succeed and help you succeed. You’ll have to train him or her too, but only once!

Oh, yes, and you still need to pay the temp while she sits there and waits for another assignment from you. Not with a virtual assistant. While she’s waiting for the next assignment from you, you can bet she’ll be working on something for another client.

Choosing a virtual assistant

Now that you’ve decided to hire a virtual assistant, how do you go about choosing one? There are several things you need to know before you start looking:

• What exactly do I need help with?
• What expertise does the VA need?
• How much do I have to spend?
• How quickly do I need this project done?
• How long will I need virtual assistance?
• How often will I need my VA to work?
• What hours should he or she be available?
• What days of the week?
• Is there any specific software he or she needs to have?
• Is what I need accomplished so specific that I’ll need to incorporate some training time?
• How will I pay him or her? Visa, MasterCard, Check, Paypal?
• How do I want to communicate with my VA? Phone, e-mail, snail mail, or a combination?
• Does my VA really need to be located in a particular time zone, country, part of the country, city?
• Any other particular qualities you’d like your virtual assistant to have?

Just as you would screen someone who would apply to work in your office, you’ll still need to spend a little time screening your virtual assistant. You’ll need to tell him or her what you need and want, and what is and isn’t acceptable. You’ll also need to negotiate pricing and terms with the virtual.

The best thing you can do to ensure you receive the help you need, is behave as though you’re choosing a new car. Push the buttons, turn on the stereo, kick the tires, and ask, ask, ask. Listen to what the potential VA has to offer you as well. He or she may even be able to do several other tasks, which you hadn’t counted on, or even offer some very sound business advice.

Who benefits by using a virtual assistant?

• Large corporations
• Small businesses
• Home based businesses
• Busy executives or managers
• Entrepreneurs
• Students
• Even individuals who just need a little extra help

What happens if I don’t like the VA I’ve hired, or s/he doesn’t work out?
Unless you’ve signed a contract guaranteeing a particular amount of time or pay, the answer is rather simple: you just don’t offer any more assignments.

If you do happen to have a bad experience with one virtual assistant, however, don’t let is sour you from finding another. Treat it as though you simply had a bad date. Bad dates do happen and some people just aren’t compatible. Get back out there and look for another VA that better suits your needs or personality.

A win-win for everyone

The use of virtual assistants truly is a win-win for everyone involved. For the employee-challenged business, VA’s dramatically increase your labor pool. And, for the cash-strapped entrepreneur, virtual assistants save money – lots of money. What’s more, it’s better for the environment to hire a virtual assistant. Just think of all the vehicle emissions you’ll be saving by having one or two workers telecommute. As for the VA, they typically enjoy a better quality of life, as they are also able to be home and raise their children in between working on your projects.

If your looking into hiring a virtual assistant and need assistance in finding one we can assist you in this, contact us for more information.

With all the different social media platforms available today, it’s easy to focus your marketing time here because it’s generally less time consuming to engage from your computer than it is to attend real-life functions and talk to people in your community. However, if you depend solely on social media for your marketing, you’re missing a vast opportunity to market your business to locals right in your own backyard.

Your marketing goal should always be to build relationships with people you can help with your products or services. Even though you may be tempted, don’t push the hard sell on people you’ve just met. They don’t know you, so they likely won’t spend their hard-earned cash on your product. However, by interacting with them at networking events, in addition to engaging them on social media, you have built a foundation upon which to build a stronger relationship, which may ultimately lead to them buying from you.

How to Get Started Networking Offline

The idea of walking into a room without knowing a single soul can no doubt be daunting. But the alternative of not sharing your story and your mission to those who may be seeking this exact answer to their problems is equally troubling. No matter how you want to start networking in real life, put on your brave face and tackle your social fears head on.

1 – Join a Relevant Business Networking Group

Very often there are dozens of business networking groups and chambers of commerce spread across the country in every locale, so you really can pick and choose which group is best for you. Yes, you want to reap a reward for being a part of the group, but your acceptance into any business group will depend on what you can contribute. After all, it’s all about building relationships. Some groups are more formal and have standard meeting rules, while others may be much more casual and usually smaller in scale. Ask to visit a meeting or two before submitting an application and never be afraid to ask questions about the other members or when the group was formed.

2 – Hold Live Workshops

What better way to showcase your authority and expertise than to speak to your local community! Turn an online webinar into a live presentation or create a presentation customized to your community’s needs. Contact your local library, business association or community college with your ideas and very often if the presentation is unique and relevant to the community, you will get a booking.

Even if live events are not your forte, choose a topic you are passionate about and that you could speak about for hours. Your passion will carry through and you’ll be less likely to be nervous or get tongue-tied. Make sure to collect business cards or to have attendees sign in so you can connect with them on social media and continue the relationship building.

3 – Volunteer in the Community

Look for groups or charities that are relevant to your experience, but don’t go in thinking you need to change everything. Building relationships should be a positive experience, so offer your guidance and input when asked. Otherwise, enjoy conversing with other volunteers, board members, and administrative personnel, all of whom hold the possibility of referring you to their family, friends, or other networking contacts.

Who doesn’t love automation? Shopping carts and membership sites automate your sales and content delivery. Email autoresponders automate relationship building. And calendar apps automate your schedule, putting an end to the frustrating back and forth of setting appointments.

Not only does automation save you time, but it helps ensure quality and consistency as well. Just imagine how confusing it would be to your customers if you didn’t have a shopping cart, but instead sent them an invoice for every purchase, and each invoice was a different cost. Or what if your 16-week group coaching course sometimes arrived by email, and sometimes in your Facebook group, and sometimes not at all?

Now these might seem like silly, over-the-top examples, but this is why automation tools exist—to keep everything running smoothly and as expected.

Can you automate everything? No. But you can implement this same level of efficiency and consistency by creating systems and workflows.

Document Everything

What would happen if your project manager or executive VA were no longer able to work? Could you easily (and quickly) train someone else to take over? For too many small business owners, the answer to that question is a definitive NO.

When all the instructions for completing a task reside only in one person’s head, you’ve set yourself up for catastrophe. Sure, in the event that someone becomes ill or wins the lottery, you would probably recover, but how long would that take?

Rather than risk struggling with logins and procedures, make it a point to document every task in your business, from how you manage your email to how a new product is launched. That way, if your best VA decides to elope with her Prince Charming, another team member can step in and cover for her.

Seek Out More Efficient Systems

Just because grandma always kneaded her bread by hand doesn’t mean that’s still the best way to do things today. Now that new stand mixer takes all the work out of bread making, while still keeping the flavor in.

Where can you make your business more efficient, while still keeping the personality and brand your clients love and trust?

Consider:

  • A hosted help desk solution with “canned responses” to the most common questions. Click a button and answer in seconds instead of typing out a 3-paragraph response.
  • Document templates ensure everything is formatted in a way that matches your brand, and will save you hours on every worksheet, resource guide, and even sales pages and blog posts.
  • Duplicate your repeatable projects inside your project management system, change the dates and key details, and instead of spending 30 minutes assigning tasks to your team, you’ll spend 30 seconds.

It might also be time to upgrade your tools, if what you’re using is no longer as efficient as it could be. For example, if your autoresponder can’t move customers from one email funnel to another based on their behavior, you’re missing out on sales. Consider upgrading to Active Campaign, Ontraport or even Infusionsoft to make your sales process more automated.

Take a look at your business and the tasks you and your team perform every day. Where can you be more efficient? What tools would help you maximize your time? Making changes in these areas will add hours to your day, and greatly reduce your overwhelm and stress levels as well.

It’s inevitable. As a small business owner, you will wear many, many hats.

Marketing manager.

Bookkeeper.

Content developer.

Coach.

Technical support staff.

But while this type of task juggling is to be expected, you have to be aware that not all of your hats are created equal. Marketing outweighs bookkeeping, for example, because without marketing, there will be no cash to manage.

Not only that, but you have to consider how much time you’re spending in each area as well. If you spend all day tweaking the design on your website and put off sending an email to your list, what have you gained?

Sure, you might have a prettier website, but you lost an opportunity to drive traffic to your offer.

In an ideal world, you’d simply put on your CEO hat and delegate the rest, but here in the real world, we don’t always have that option. Instead, we have to work smarter, and take care how we’re spending our time.

Prioritize Your Daily Tasks

We all have different skills and sweet spots when it comes to the tasks we want and need to do. You might love customer support and hate bookkeeping, while someone else enjoys the numbers game and doesn’t like dealing with the help desk. But regardless of your personal preferences, one thing is certain: money-making tasks should be at the very top of your to-do list.

That might mean product creation, email marketing, client outreach, webinar development, or something entirely different. Identify those money-making tasks in your business and be sure to prioritize them every single day.

Know the Difference Between Important and Urgent

In his classic book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey recommends prioritizing tasks based on a time-management grid. Every task is assigned to a quadrant of the grid, based on whether it is urgent, important, both, or neither.

Once you know where a task falls on the grid, you’ll immediately know what you should be working on. For example, marketing and planning are important but not urgent. A ringing phone is urgent, but not important. The sales page for your new program, which is launching tomorrow, is both urgent AND important.

So before you prioritize your daily to-do list, think about where each of your tasks falls in the quadrant, and schedule them accordingly.

Will you always be working on the best task for right now? Probably not. Nor will you always use your time as wisely as you could. But by making a conscious effort to organize and prioritize your days, you’ll find it’s a lot less stressful and overwhelming to manage your small business.

I get it. Youu2019re a solopreneur.

Youu2019re proud of the fact that youu2019ve bootstrapped your business from the ground up, tackling every task that comes your way. You built your first website, dove in and learned how to edit and upload videos to YouTube, figured out how to format your email newsletter, and even wrestled your shopping cart into submission.

But that feeling of pride that comes from doing the work yourself comes with a price. Too many small business owners are working too many hours, suffering from burnout and frustrationu2014not because theyu2019re not good at what they do, but simply because theyu2019re unwilling to truly invest in their business.

Theyu2019re letting a scarcity mindset prevent them from taking the stepsu2014and making the investmentsu2014that will have a massive impact on their business. And maybe you are, too.

1. Outsourcing

By far the biggest objection to outsourcing youu2019ll hear is u201cI canu2019t afford it.u201d Perhaps youu2019ve heardu2014or even said it. But the fact is, if youu2019re a serious business owner, you canu2019t afford not to outsource.

The time you free up by not doing those mundane, everyday tasks is time youu2019ll spend more profitably, by:

  • Creating new coaching programs.
  • Upping your content marketing game.
  • Recording video and audio content.
  • Connecting with your audience through email and blogging.
  • Working with clients either one on one or in a group setting.
  • Or just enjoying your life!

Outsourcing should never be looked at as an expense. In fact, if youu2019re not getting a return on your outsourcing investment, take a hard look at what youu2019re outsourcing and to whom, because there is likely plenty of room for improvement.

2. Automation

Most online business owners start out using low-cost tools with limited features. For example, you might be using PayPal exclusively for product sales, and manually adding buyers to your mailing list each time you receive a payment. While thatu2019s an acceptable solution when time is easier to come by than money, youu2019ll quickly outgrow it. The problem is, too many entrepreneurs fail to recognize the benefits of true automation.

Not only is trying to u201cmake dou201d with a pieced-together system costing you sales, but it costs actual dollars, too. You (or your VA) will spend extra time simply getting it all to work, rather than letting the tools do the heavy lifting.

Recognize when itu2019s time to uplevel your marketing tools to include true funnel automation, and watch your income increase dramatically!

3. Coaching

It is possible to build your business solely on your own. You can pay attention to what others are doing and reverse engineer their systems. You can read books and blogs and maybe invest in a few carefully chosen training programs.

But there will come a time when your growth will flat line, and youu2019ll struggle to reach that next level. Thatu2019s when itu2019s time to invest in coaching. And yes, even coaches have (and need) coaches. A coach can help you see past your own blind spots, work through the blocks that are holding you back, and build a business you loveu2014on your own terms.

Donu2019t be afraid to invest in your business. Wise investments such as coaching, automation, and outsourcing will pay for themselves many times over.

It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur—in the last decade, technology has leveled the playing field and propelled an entrepreneurial revolution. As an entrepreneur, you now have more access to information that enables you to make more intelligent choices more quickly. You have an advantage over big businesses in that you’re lighter, more flexible, and faster on your feet. You can target new markets more quickly, and you can turn on a dime.

But being a successful entrepreneur requires that you look at the big picture and follow a plan through from beginning to end. Rieva Lesonsky, editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur Magazine gives some practical guidelines that can help you when beginning your enterprise:

1 –  Don’t Quit Your Day Job
Consider starting your business part-time, especially if it’s online, while you’re working and have a steady income. It usually takes six months to a year to get a business going, and you don’t want your ability to make your house payment to hinge upon your company being an overnight success. Start with what you can manage, financially and time-wise, and scale up as your business grows.

2 –  Find Your Niche
The days of general stores are over. Particularly online, consumers are looking for stores that specialize. You have to find a need—something a specific group of people want but can’t get at the big chain stores—and fill it. Advises Lesonsky, “You can’t compete with the big guys, so you have to find where the big guys aren’t and go into your niches.”

3 – Have an Online Presence
Even if you’re not planning to start an online retail business, consider that the internet can still play a valuable role in your company. Having an online presence eliminates the limitations of physical location and broadens your customer base by, literally, millions. It’s also an excellent tool for promoting yourself and letting people, even in your area, know that you’re there, and what you’re doing.

4 – Refuse to Quit
Successful entrepreneurship requires creativity, energy, and a drive to keep going when you fail. Few people realize that before Bill Gates created the hugely successful Microsoft 3.0, he created a Microsoft 1.0 and 2.0, both of which flopped—but he kept at it. And that determination and refusal to give up is what will separate successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones. Says Lesonsky, “Arm yourself with optimism to get beyond the ‘No’ or the trouble. There’s nothing wrong in failure— don’t repeat the same mistake!”

The simple answer to the seemingly complex question of “Who needs a business advisor?” is … everyone responsible for operating a business. That’s right. The Fortune 50 CEO to the one-person show needs an advisor.

The CEO of a public company has mentors as well as a board of directors. They often don’t have a choice of who their advisors are, but small business owners do. Unfortunately, with this choice of advisors comes another option that is not to get any help at all.

Not getting any help at all is very often the cause of business failure. The small business owner will usually think there’s not enough time or money for an advisor. Think about that comment.

How can you not have the money to get help from someone that can potentially save or make you more money since you are not getting it done on your own? Or how about that time you are lacking? Maybe if that owner sat down for an hour with an advisor, they would be able to see why they don’t have time and do something about it with the help of someone who has already been in those shoes.

A coach or advisor gives to small business owners something most of them don’t have; a sounding board and a board of directors to turn to for advice. These are two great resources to use when trying to avoid “trial and error” decisions and processes.

I’m not knocking trial and error as the way to learn things. I’ve personally used that method and fared well in many cases. But that is a case-by-case basis, not for on-going daily concerns. Don’t forget that this method is also very costly and time-consuming. Why not ask someone who has probably already faced the problem?

What many business owners do not realize is that they rarely go through many trials and tribulations that someone else has never dealt with and 70-75% of their business is the same as every other business including HR, finances, sales, marketing, and funding. The other 25-30% is industry specific.

Small to mid-sized business owners take away much more from an advisor than big businesses. Because the owners wear a lot of hats, many of those hats take time away from the things the owner needs to make a priority to see their company succeed.

These are the things they should be doing and don’t have the time or things they are taking care of and have no experience. These situations take away from them doing what they do best. That’s a problem.

The question now is how to find an advisor. There are many types of business advisors out there. Some are pure “coaches,” and others are true developers and implementers that will roll up their sleeves with you when asked. It’s up to you to pick the type of person you want or need. Here are a few things to think about:

– Do they click with your personality? There are many good advisors out there but if they don’t click with you as a “business friend,” don’t bother with them because you will end up fighting them even when you agree on the advice.

– Have they owned a small business before? Gray hair does not equal business ownership knowledge. I promise you that the ex-CEO or Senior manager from a large company knows very little about successfully operating a small business. These are two significantly different worlds.

– Don’t worry if a potential advisor doesn’t know your specific industry. Remember that a lot of your troubles have nothing to do with your industry. It would help if the advisor had contacts/resources in your industry for you when specific problems arise.

– Look for flexibility. A potential advisor that pushes for more than 20 hours a month of your time from day one is probably out for money. Until they start working with you, there is no way of knowing that they need that much time per month to meet your goals and timelines. A good advisor will understand that you have committed to getting back on track just by the fact that you are talking to them. They shouldn’t need to try and get a ridiculous time/money commitment from you if they want to help.

– Make it a local thing. This suggestion is a two-part issue. First, the advisor would agree that when you need face time that they come to you. Second, there is entirely no reason why a small business with locations in one state needs a business advisor that must fly in or travel more than 2 hours to see them. These companies somehow find suckers to take their common advice and huge reports full of fluff and pay for travel costs. There are plenty of advisors local to every company in this country. Yes, even in Hawaii.

Once you made the well-informed decision of getting help in making your business a success, keep a few things in mind. You should commit to working with your advisor for a good six months. Nothing gets fixed overnight. Also, since you are paying for it, please do yourself a favor and be open to suggestions, bring important things to your advisor for help in deciding and make the use of your time with the advisor a priority. Don’t forget that an advisor or coach should never choose for you. It’s your company; they are there to make suggestions and guide you.

Working with an advisor can be a very enlightening experience. You will start to see the forest from the trees and not feel like you are the only person on the planet going through tough times as a business owner.

All business owners eventually need help. The successful ones put aside their pride and desire to be at the center of all aspects of the company and get the help. Do yourself and your company a favor and be one of the truly successful business owners. Get an advisor and get all you can out of them. If your advisor loves what he/she does for a living as such as you love what you do, you can’t go wrong.

One of the hardest presentations to make is the entrepreneurial pitch. You have a great idea for a business, and you want someone to give you money to make it happen. The problem is getting over the predisposition against you by venture capitalists, angel investors, and even rich uncles. Why? Because 99% of the pitches they hear sound like sure-fire prescriptions to lose money!

If you are pitching investors to give you money for a new venture, you should subscribe to the following rules:

  1. Explain within 30 seconds precisely what your business is. Many entrepreneurs waste valuable time giving loads of data, background and other info—all the while investors are left scratching their heads thinking “What does this business DO?”
  2. Tell your audience who your customers will be. Paint a vivid, specific picture of these people.
  3. Explain why your customers are going to give you their hard-earned money.
  4. Explain who your competitors are. (And if you say you have no competitors, that is a sure sign you are unsophisticated and deserve no investment money!)
  5. Explain why you are the ONE to make this happen.
  6. Give your presentation with confidence and enthusiasm. Investors want a founder/CEO to be a chief salesperson; they want to see that you can convince the world of your dream—not just them.
  7. Hitch a ride to the moon, and you may land among the stars. Has Best Buy or Radio Shack agreed to distribute your new product? Investors feel much more comfortable knowing you have an established player willing to spread your wares.
  8. Ask for a specific amount of money. If all you do is ask for money, then you can’t complain if an investor gives you $3.25 for a cup of Starbucks coffee.
  9. Be specific when you tell prospects what you are going to spend the money on (hint: a trip to Maui for you and your friends will not impress)
  10. Dress well, act confident, and put on the air that you don’t need their money, but would be willing to accept it if they bring enough to the table to be a strategic partner for you. Sad but true regarding human nature, but people are much more likely to give you money if they feel you don’t need it.

Finally, make each pitch performance serve as a focus group for your next presentation. When one group of investors asks you a series of questions after you pitch, write down all those questions and make sure most of them are answered in your next pitch so that the next group doesn’t have to ask them. Keep pitching and keep improving your presentation and eventually, you may get funded.