Archive for the ‘Books’ Category
Do you keep a journal? I don’t mean a scheduling of upcoming events and appointments, I mean a historical diary – as in the things that teenage girls are normally associated with (that may seem slightly sexist, but it’s generally accepted that boys don’t keep diaries).
Diaries and Journals can be life savers for contractors, freelancers and small business owners when you need to refer back about when things happened, who said what, when and the timeline of problems. Somebody who can say in a meeting “Phil confirmed to switch off the server at 4:15pm on Tuesday 12th” is going to be believed more than somebody who responds with “yes, but somebody, I think it was Tony, said not to – he may have said this on the Monday or the Wednesday – I think it may have been Wednesday”.
Diaries and journals don’t have to be big. Business journals don’t have to be war and peace on everything that happened at every point in a day, but can be very useful to record key points as they occur.
I keep an electronic journal and quick but important events I like to record include:
- Go ahead’s during phone calls
- Key decisions (during a meeting or a chat, somebody says to go with option A or delay the project)
- When people promise to get back to me
- Dates when I send out documents, contracts or invoices
- Notes about disagreements, who was involved and how it was resolved
There are plenty of ways of keeping a journal. For some, paper will work, but for me Electronic is best. I keep an electronic journal on my Android Tablet (always with me during the working day). Having an electronic journal means I can very quickly add a note, categorize it (normally by customer/prospect) and then quickly search for the key information.
Electronic journals are available on PCs (one is already available in Outlook), for iPhones/iPADS and of course Android (I use Orange Diary for android which I can recommend).
Making an entry during a phone conversation or meeting takes me just 10 or 20 seconds, but it has saved my bacon on a number of occasions.
I have just finished reading the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book by Dee Blick. Actually, that’s not true. The fact is, I have just finished reading the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book for the third time – and I only got the book a couple of weeks ago.
My method of reading a business book is that as I read the book, if there are tips and advice I think I can apply to my business, I turn a page corner over. Then when I am done – I go through the turned page and turn them into ToDo tasks which I action over the course of a few months or weeks. However, when I got to the end of Dee Blicks book, I found that the majority of pages were turned over. So I re-read it, trying to find the key elements which I can apply. You know what? I didn’t know where to start, there were that many.
The fact is, this is one of the best Business Books I have read. From the very first page (and I mean the first page – before all the copyright and print edition nonsense), its all good stuff. Everything you need to know about marketing, selling, branding, and growing a small business.
Subjects include a Marketing Master class (what you are selling, why, pricing), using strong sales words in documents and proposals, Sales letters (including lumpy sales letters), newsletters, turning bin-able sales correspondence into must keep and respond items, branding, blogging, on-line promotion, exhibitions, and lots more – it’s all covered. On every page there are ideas, backed up with examples of what won’t work, what will, and what will work in different situations. There are hints, tips, tricks, examples and more advice than you could possibly imagine is in one book.
Which leads me to a problem. With most books, I have between 1 and 20 ideas to improve and grow my business – easy to add to my Do list. After reading this book, I have at least 100 (if not more) – so where to start?!? So I am going to re-read it slowly, a page a week, and I am going to implement all the ideas I have highlighted, one at a time. I have no doubt that these improvements will drive my business forward and generate even more sales.
If you need just one marketing book that covers it all, buy this book.
But if you can only buy one business book which will help grow your business, you should still buy this book: the Ultimate Small Business Marketing Book by Dee Blick.
If you are a Freelancer or Small Business Owner in the UK, it may interest you to know that a new magazine has been created just for you. The BritishSME magazine is very new, with just 2 issues under its belt, produced every 6 months, with lots of great information for all types of small companies.
The initial two editions covers such topics as tax changes, staffing, insurance, bank lending, and all kinds of other small business news. What is also useful is a range of ‘Best Buy’ tables for company banking, credit cards, mortgages (for Buy to Lets) and insurance.
The magazine is produced in both electronic and printed versions – you can read the editions without signing up but by signing up you can have the magazine delivered to your in tray or letter box.
As a say, it’s a new magazine, but I for one wish them the best of luck. You can read/download existing issues or sign up for future issues here.
I read a lot of Business Books – normally around 1 or 2 a week. I find most are fairly so-so (with out of date ideas, or concepts which I don’t apply to me, or even no real content). If I get 100 pages into the book and I find there is nothing which applies to me, I will stop wasting my time, will bin the book and will move on. Clearly, I will never recommend those books.
But now and again, a book really strikes a cord with me. It gives me ideas. It takes me in new and interesting directions. The Creative Professionals Guide to Money by Ilise Benun is such a book. This book arrived yesterday evening, and once I picked it up, I didn’t put it down until I reached the last page.
Now let me start by saying that it’s not a big book. The text size is big with big spaces between the lines – so it’s a book which would just about fill less than 100 pages on a normal printed book. But, what it contains is a feast of useful information. Lots and lots of ideas and thoughts on Money for Freelancers, Contractors and Small Business.
The book tries to cover most subjects to do with Money – other than direct money management and accounting. Topics include working out your rates, how to charge (day, hour, project etc), budgeting, talking about money as part of a sales process, prospecting, proposals, getting paid, discounting, negotiating and the difference between spending and investing. Whilst none of the topics are covered in a lot of detail, it is covered in a way which points you in the right direction to take positive steps.
Now there are parts of the books I don’t agree with. For instance, it says when producing a proposal to round up the figure (10,000 instead of 9,955), which to me would appear as a ‘made up’ number, but on the whole, it provides very useful advice.
The book includes some exercise pages to step you through some tasks (such as work out money goals, questions to ask prospective clients, work out when is the best time to broach the subject of money, working out your net worth), and links to external web resources for completing some tasks.
As I say, the book will not give you all the answers, but what it will do is make you think more about your business money as a whole, and point you in a direction to start working out some answers. If you are looking for a book with lots of details about Money, this is not the book you need (instead look at the 30 day MBA). But if you want a new perspective on Money within your business, this book is a good read.
Don’t you wish there was a BIG MANUAL called “Everything you ever need to know about running your freelance or small business”? It would be huge, but it would cover all the sections – from the first chapters on starting your business, through to growing the business, finding customers, through to eventual selling it off (taking the cash and running)? Of course there isn’t such a book – but there are numerous books which when combined, can cover much of what you need to know.
One such book is the 30 day MBA. Now I am not personally sold on the idea of an MBA courses as a concept. I am not sure you can attend a university, do an MBA course and come out ready to run any sort of business. BUT, MBAs are a really good foundation for business knowledge. The 30 Day MBA by Guy Cornwall takes what is covered in these university courses, and boils it down into bite sized chunks which anybody can understand.
It covers most of the topics you need to know to run any form of business. Whether you are a contractor, a freelancer or (like me) run a small business, this book will cover a lot of the subjects you need to know. Finance (how balance sheets work, what is a P&L report, how to use an aged debt report), sales, marketing (advertising, customer retention, etc), growth, legals – everything is given a good foundation.
Even for seasoned freelancers and small business owners/managers, this book is well worth a read as it refreshes ideas and knowledge which can help you grow your business. In fact, sometimes it makes sense to read chapters with your real business data to hand – it will help pull everything together.
If you want to get a handle on your business or want to get some ideas for driving it forward, this book is recommended.
Most (but not all) of my own personal marketing is currently through Google AdWords. I have other forms of marketing in play as well, but over the last 6 months, Google AdWords has pulled in far more new work than any other form of marketing.
Google likes to promote their Adwords service as easy to use, and it can be. But by being easy to use, it’s also very easy to get things wrong and to waste an awful lot of money on adverts that don’t work, or result in a high level of bounces (people who hit your web site and then bounce right back to the Google search results as they don’t like what they see).
One of the reasons I am having more success now than in my initial use of Adwords is through the tips and tricks I obtained from Perry Marshall’s book: The ultimate Guide to Google Adwords. It really has made a difference to the number of leads I have obtained and number of sales closed.
This book is packed with so much information, tips and useful resources that I updated my own campaign and straight away (or within a couple of days) I started to see the results. The book covers all kinds of Adwords related terms and tricks including:
- Peel and Stick: creating a new campaign for different sets of keywords appealing to different sets of searchers.
- Keyword selection, searching and linking to landing pages
- Using Negative keywords and exact matches, to improve your relevance, click through rate, your average position and reduce your cost per click.
- Split-testing, making sure you are always testing out which ad is better for your campaign by battling two against each other and testing their performance.
- Writing an effective ad- by promoting benefits first and features second.
From this book, it is very easy to see why Perry Marshall is the king of adwords and is well-renowned around the world. Both new and experienced Adwords users should consider buying this book. Just one of his tips can make a huge difference to your sales and therefore to your bottom line.
The only word of caution I would offer is that some of the ‘add-on value’ (outside of the printed page) is very American and geared towards selling you more information and courses. The book is great, but I just didn’t like the add-on ‘benefits’.
But if you want to land more customers, I can recommend Adwords. And if you want to get the most of adwords, I can recommend this book.