Saturday, November 29, 2014

title pic How to Turn Your Hobby into a Business | Guest Post

Posted by Joanne Dewberry on November 27, 2014

There has been a rising demand for handmade and bespoke items since the internet has made specialist buying so much easier, and if you excel at crafts or sewing, then you might want to consider selling them. However, there are a few critical things you need to consider before starting up a home business, and we’ve written a checklist of things for you to investigate before you take the leap.

Is there a market for your product?
Getting paid for something you love is the dream goal for a lot of people however, it’s important to evaluate whether the things you love to craft have a target market. Doing a little research is essential, check to see if what you make is filling a gap in the market. Sewing a few prototypes of different items and getting friends and family to test your products is a good way to start. Also, offering local businesses a few free samples of your items to sell is another great way to get feedback.

A minimal start-up investment
Your time, materials and equipment will be your initial investments, and for a small business this means a small financial outlay. For example, if you are wanting to make bespoke curtains, or pretty pillow covers, you could simply be upgrading your sewing machine to a professional construction model such as the Singer 2250 Electronic Sewing Machine. The first year of any start-up is mostly trial and error, so it’s important to keep your stock of materials to a minimum until you can gauge what your regular output/demand will be.

Where to sell
For selling, the internet should be your first port-of-call. There are craft auction sites and handmade and bespoke online retailer venues; most of these virtual stores are free to use although some will take a percentage of each sale. There are always plenty of craft fairs running throughout the year in towns and cities, and this can provide an additional income source as well as allowing you to advertise your online venues.

Research your competitors
A little competitor research can go a long way. Online marketplaces such as Etsy, are a good place to begin your search and from here you will be able to find information on products that are similar to your own. See if they offer any introductory discounts or bonuses on their business pages or social networking sites, maybe you can improve the offer without damaging the cost to your overhead.

What you may have only considered a hobby can easily become the start of a flourishing business if you have the drive and the put in the time. We hope this guide has helped, now it’s up to you!

This guest post complies with my Disclosure Policy.

For further information on turning your hobby into a small business do check out my book Crafting a Successful Small Business.

Crafting a Successful Small Business

title pic How banks are missing out on the power of social media

Posted by Joanne Dewberry on November 25, 2014

You don’t need to be a genius to work out that the way we manage our lives is changing at a rapid pace. With always-on Internet and a slew of new devices constantly hitting the market, no sooner have we figured out one new way to do something than a whole new one crops up and changes everything.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to our finances. Just when most of us had finally gotten used to sitting down at our home computers to tackle online banking, along came the rise of smartphones and mobile apps, and we’re back to learning a brand new process over.

Yet it seems that for some, managing money on the move isn’t enough.

According to the 2014 World Banking Report as little as just 41.7 percent of 18-34 were happy with the service they received from their bank. With 89% active on at least one social media platform, a large proportion of those surveyed were clamouring for a more social experience in handling their finances.

Not that the banks themselves are always eager to please on this front. A report carried out by The Financial Brand suggests that as many as 67% of banking institutions who once experimented with microblogging platform Twitter have since abandoned the service entirely.

This is especially baffling when you consider that most banks are actually becoming a lot more tech-savvy, investing in financial software services to connect with their customers on the move.

Whatever the reason, these non-social organisations are missing out on a huge opportunity to compete in a marketplace that has come to rely more and more on web platforms.

Customer Service
Having experienced rapid response service from online giants like Amazon, Google and eBay, customers expect to receive the same level of support wherever they turn and whatever they do online.

If one bank fails to provide this kind of quick-fire, same-day customer service, the likelihood grows that those customers will abscond to one that does.

The evidence speaks for itself. According The Guardian, Halifax came out tops in the 2014 Battle of the Banks, with over 65,000 customers switching their current accounts to the Lloyds subsidiary. A quick peek at their Twitter profile, with over 9,000 followers, reveals a strong commitment to answering customer enquiries via social media.

By the same token, Clydesdale Bank – which The Guardian reports gained just over a thousand new customers but lost as much as 8,000 plus – could claim only 194 followers on a Twitter account predominantly used for self-promotion.

Sure, other factors must come into play here, but is it really a coincidence that those banks using social media effectively are enjoying greater levels of success than those who aren’t?

Hardly. Consider just about any brand using platforms like Twitter and Facebook to their full potential, then compare them to a leading competitor lacking a solid social media presence. Throughout any number of industries, the results are the same: Those companies who use social media as a customer service tool generally do better than those who don’t.

Reputation Management
All that being said, providing an alternative to traditional customer service approaches isn’t the only reason banks can gain by plugging into the social climate.

It’s often said that one of the greatest things about the Internet is that it gives everybody a voice. For better or worse, scores of people are choosing to use that voice to discuss their experiences in dealing with brands of all shapes and sizes.

For banks, this is especially true.

Consider our poor friends at Clydesdale for example. Searching for their Twitter account whilst researching this article, the top search engine result was not the company’s official account, but one created by a disgruntled user, and dedicated to tweeting about Clydesdale’s poor service.

How have the bank responded? Apparently they haven’t. Again, this is baffling when you consider that they have all the tools at their disposal to check what customers are saying about them and work to restore their reputation in the eyes of the online masses.

If a customer has anything to say about your service, there’s a strong chance they’ll say it online. Thanks to social media, your brand can join in that conversation, thanking customers for kind feedback and responding appropriately when things aren’t going quite so smoothly. That is, until the next development comes along and changes everything again.

 

This guest post complies with my Disclosure Policy.