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How to Know if a Product or Service Will Sell Before Launching It

You’re naturally excited about your new product or service idea — but how do you know if anyone will actually buy it? You don’t have to sink a lot of money into it to test it out. Here’s how you can figure out before launch whether there’s a market for your product or service.

If you have an idea for an innovative new product or service, you probably have stars in your eyes. It’s fun to think about the reaction that your creation will receive once it is unleashed upon the world, and it’s even more fun to daydream about spending all of the theoretical money that your product or service will generate. Unfortunately, the rollout for these types of endeavors needs to be slow and meticulous. The last thing you want is to send your creation out into the world and have it land with a dud because you didn’t do your homework, misjudged the market or failed to advertise properly.

In order to give your new idea the best chance to succeed, you need to accurately test the market and plan your launch accordingly. While you could shell out a lot of money to consultants or marketing strategists, you can also study the market on your own, and this do-it-yourself approach may be easier and cheaper than you think.

Start With Friends and Family

The vast majority of market research starts with discussing the idea for your product or service with the people in your life. This conversation can be done informally, over a meal or in the car, or it could consist of a more targeted brainstorming session, trying to mine the best ideas to enhance your creation. In general, you just want to get a feel for whether or not your idea has legs. Do other people think that there is a need for it? Would they spend money on it? Is the product or service something you could deliver? Theoretically, the people in your life are going to be the most positive about your new endeavor, so if the answers to these questions aren’t generally “yes,” then you may have a problem right out of the gate.

RELATED: How to Conduct Market Research the Right Way

Small Scale Testing

Once you decide you want to move forward with your idea, you’ll want to start market testing on a small scale. If you’re creating a physical product, have prototypes made so that people can test it out and give you feedback on its design and functionality. Alternatively, if you’re creating a service, online business or mobile app, make a simple, streamlined version and have people start doing beta testing, providing thoughts on the interface, ease of use and overall satisfaction. Use all of this feedback to your advantage. Don’t outright dismiss criticism without considering it, and remember that if multiple testers have the same compliant, it’s probably a problem worth solving.

At this stage, you’ll also want to move outside the sphere of your friends and family. You want to start getting the opinions of people with whom you don’t have a personal relationship. For this stage, you can have the people in your life enlist their friends and family to provide feedback, or you can use social media to recruit a list of volunteers. Hopefully, by getting these unvarnished opinions, you can start to refine your creation so that it’s suitable to be unveiled to the public at large.

Testing the Market Online

The Internet is a virtually limitless resource for testing the viability of your idea, and this research can be done in a number of different ways. One of the best places to start is with online forums that deal with topics that are related to your product or service. Check out the most popular forums on the topic, paying close attention to the number of members and the frequency of posts. These metrics will tell you how active the forum is, which will give you some idea of how much public interest there is in your product.

Additionally, online tools such as Google Insights, Google Trends and the Google Keyword Planner will show you how often people are searching for specific terms, where those customers are located and whether the topics are growing in popularity. To be sure, the data provided by these tools won’t perfectly predict the success of your product or service, but it can be incredibly useful as you start to strategize the best ways to brand and market your creation.

If you want to get more specialized information, sites such as Quantcast and Market Samurai can be invaluable resources. With Quantcast, you can get a demographic breakdown of your potential customers. Once you find a website for a product or service that is similar to yours, Quantcast can tell you a wide array of information about the visitors to that site, including age, gender and income level. Understanding these metrics will help you to better launch and advertise your idea. Additionally, Market Samurai can tell you how many customers are looking for the type of product or service that you’re offering, as well as how likely they are to spend money on it.

RELATED: What to Charge for Your Product

Don’t Fear Competition

After you’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a new product, you may be disheartened to learn that there are already similar products on the market. Rest assured, you’re likely to encounter competition in one form or another, and the overall consumer marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded. In fact, according to one set of metrics, the iTunes App Store alone receives over 1,000 new app submissions every single day.

Far from being discouraged, however, you should actually be excited to discover that your creation has competition. The fact that there are already versions of your idea on the market means that there is a need and a desire for it among consumers. Additionally, a crowded marketplace should push you to be more creative and work harder on your own endeavor. In order to succeed, you just need to differentiate your product or service by branding it in a new and unique way, helping it to stand out from the crowd.

All of this market research may not sound particularly exciting, especially compared to the exhilaration you feel when you think about your new innovation. Remember, however, that testing the market is a necessary and important step. By taking the time to do your research and plan your launch accordingly, you can give your endeavor the best chance to succeed.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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Starting a Business After You’ve Been Laid Off

Lost your job and considering starting a business instead of looking for a new job? This guide will help you get started.

Being let go from your job can be tough. After all, most of us put an immense amount of pride and effort into our work, and being laid off for any reason is painful and embarrassing. In the aftermath of getting fired, many people flounder as they decide what move to make next. Searching for a new job is often a full-time job in and of itself, and it can be a very long, frustrating process, with jobseekers routinely spending over a year looking for a new career. Given these challenges, many people decide to make immediate use of their skill sets and start their own businesses in the wake of being laid off.

What Type of Business Should You Start?

If you’re going to go into business for yourself, you must first decide what type of company you want to create. In general, most people decide to leverage their existing skills and experience to create a consulting or freelancing business that is closely tied to their old career. For example, if your previous job was in marketing or IT, you can build a business around providing those services on an individualized basis. Typically, this approach is the easiest way to go about starting a company.

Alternatively, you may want to use your recent unemployment as an opportunity to start a business in an entirely unrelated field. On the one hand, this path presents more challenges. On the other hand, motivation is a necessary ingredient in starting any new business, and losing your job can incite unprecedented levels of motivation and productivity. If you feel like being laid off was the wake-up call you needed to start following your dreams, then use that motivation to start a totally new endeavor.

Regardless of what type of company you create, just remember that passion will only get you so far. Ultimately, if your new enterprise is going to be successful, it needs to provide a good or service that is valuable. Don’t just follow your heart. Be strategic and carefully consider all of your options when starting a company.

How Do You Get Your Business Off the Ground?

Once you’ve decided on a plan for your business, the next step is to get it up and running. Fortunately, the U.S. Small Business Association provides a number of tools for emerging entrepreneurs, including tips for starting and managing your company as well as information about applying for loans and grants to serve as seed money.

Also, early on you’ll need to make a list of the practical elements your business requires, such as an office space, a computer, supplies and maybe a dedicated phone line. Also, you’ll have to decide whether or not your company needs a website. While many businesses have their own web pages, it’s sometimes more of a luxury than a necessity. In fact, a lot of entrepreneurs get by using a combination of existing social media sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, all of which can add legitimacy to your business.

Most of the other major questions you’ll need to answer involve finances. From a practical perspective, you’ll need to make sure that you have enough money to start a company. In addition to the initial startup costs, it takes a little bit of time for many small businesses to become profitable. By going into business for yourself, you and your family will need to accept the fact that there might be some lean days in the immediate future.

Before getting too far down the road on your new business, you’ll definitely want to talk to an accountant. Not only will a CPA help you to better understand the financial ins and outs of the business you’re about to start, but he or she can also provide invaluable advice about the taxes that will eventually arise from your new endeavor. Additionally, it’s wise to invest in small business accounting software, such as QuickBooks or, if you’re watching your budget, Wave, which offers many basic functions for free.

What if Your Business Fails?

If you’re going to start a business, you need to go in with your eyes wide open. The fact of the matter is that most small businesses fail, but even if your new company never turns a profit, it can help your career in the long run. After going into business for themselves, many workers re-enter the traditional corporate world with a new set of skill that are highly desired by employers. By running your own company, you’re gaining invaluable experience in marketing, sales, finance, and management, all of which can translate into necessary skills in virtually any business setting.

In fact, many entrepreneurs create their companies with the knowledge that they will only be temporary. If you know that your job search is going to take six months or a year, what better way to cover that employment gap than by starting your own business? While some hiring managers may look down on the six months or so you spent freelancing, others will respect the hard work and ingenuity it took to run your own company. Also, explaining your freelancing or consulting business is much easier than explaining a glaring gap in your work history.

Starting a new business under any circumstances isn’t easy, and the aftermath of being laid off can be a particularly trying time. However, if you have the motivation and the financial stability, creating your own business, even on a temporary basis, can be beneficial. Plus, in the event that your new enterprise is wildly successful, you can work for yourself indefinitely and never have to worry about getting laid off again.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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Overcoming Major Startup Obstacles

Starting a small business under normal circumstances is challenging, but starting a business when you’re dealing with chronic illness and are of retirement age adds a whole new level to the challenges. Here’s how one Long Island man is overcoming those obstacles while starting and running a retail store. Play the video, then scroll down to read more about how and why he started his business.

Is it a good idea to start a business when you’re 65? What about starting a business when you are 65 and have Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a serious debilitating illness?
That would be crazy, you say? That’s what a lot of people told Greg Davis, too. Greg was diagnosed with MS in 2009. He opened his retail shop Your Trike Spirit in 2015 when he was 65 years old.

Why did he do it? Why did he start a business at an age most people retire?

The answer grows out of his own struggles with MS and the exhilaration he experienced when he discovered that a recumbent tricycle (trike) gave him back some mobility that MS had taken away.

Before developing MS, Greg was a district manager for a major seasonal gift business operating throughout the country. He was responsible for 12 locations across all of Long Island and developed and conducted in-house training programs as well

MS was a heavy blow, one that ended that career. Greg struggled to do everything he could to minimize its effects. He changed his diet, did extensive physical therapy, had acupuncture and took up meditation. He improved, but he still had difficulty with balance and walking.

“I thought a lot about what I could do to get mobile and be able to get out and about again,” Greg explains. “I prayed. Then, I thought about a ‘vehicle’ I had seen once on the streets of my community. What was it? It seemed like some sort of a bicycle but it had three wheels and was very low to the ground. Was it some sort of trike? Was it possible that this ‘device’ could be some sort answer to my prayer?”

With a bit of research, Greg learned that what he had seen was a recumbent trike. After calling dozens of bicycle shops on Long Island, where he lives, he finally located a store that had one. “I found, to my surprise, that I could get in it and pedal it very easily. Within minutes I was zooming around the parking lot in this trike,” he explains. “I was moving faster and farther than I had in years!”

He bought it on the spot. “It was so great to get out and about again. To be able to move blocks at a time, and even miles. It was a miracle. I was able to ride around my neighborhood, meet the neighbors, ride on the boardwalks, see the beach, and ride beside my wife when she went for walks.”

Startup motivation: Helping others

“Then I thought about the others,” Greg goes on. “Those with debilitating illnesses or injuries that have caused them to be sidelined. Those whose only options were struggling to go a few feet with a cane or walker, as I had done previously, or those waiting for someone to push them in a cumbersome wheelchair. Could I help them discover this option for mobility, too?” 

Your Trike Spirit founder Greg DavisGreg became an advocate for using recumbent trikes to enable people with certain disabilities to get around and improve their joy of life, but there was a problem. When they asked, ‘Where can I get one?’ I had no answer,” he says. “Of the thousands of bike shops on Long Island, none stocked recumbent trikes.” (The trike Greg had bought was a lone model that had been in the shop for “a while.”)

Greg decided to open a recumbent trike shop. It was the only way to help others experience the joy and freedom of a recumbent trike, to give them the opportunity to have the ‘trike spirit experience.'” From that realization came both the store and the name of the shop, “Your Trike Spirit.”

The need for research

Although he had extensive retail sales and management experience from his former career, Greg didn’t know anything about selling bicycles or tricycles. So he spent some time researching the business before he started it. He read everything he could about recumbent trikes, went to numerous events where he could ride and meet fellow “trikers”. He asked lots of questions and got to know dealers and operators.

“I told them of my interest to start a shop, and they were very encouraging and were very candid and straightforward. I visited several shops and became friends with the owners and they were extremely helpful. Everyone expressed their passion for this business but also the honest challenges that were involved. They also expressed the level of “personal reward” that they experienced, on a human level.”

His research convinced him that starting the recumbent trike shop would be worthwhile, but he couldn’t help wondering if this would this be too big a step to take, given his age and his ongoing struggle with MS.

“Could I actually make it work? Could I actually build and run a business to do this?”

He decided to move ahead when several friends who were excited about his intentions and vision offered him some startup capital.

RELATED: How to Conduct Market Research the Right Way

Opening the retail location

Greg knew that the only way that someone with limited mobility would be able to tell if they’d benefit from a recumbent trike was if they could try one. So he knew he had to operate his business from retail space. Looking to keep costs down, he first talked to some other bike shops about sharing space, but nothing came of those talks. So he rented space in a small strip mall on a busy side street off a main thoroughfare. A sign on his door, a road-side sign, and trikes on display where they can be seen from the road helped him gain visibility.

Finding customers

Greg’s shoestring budget doesn’t leave a lot of money for advertising and promotion. His daughter built and maintains the store’s website. The store has a Facebook page where Greg and some volunteers and fellow recumbent trike enthusiasts post regularly. And to gain awareness from more people in the store’s Long Island, NY service area who might benefit from owning a recumbent, Greg runs Meetups, and networks with other service providers and groups who reach his target audience. In addition to free social media, he’s tried some limited online advertising, and plans to run classified ads in local publications.

Biggest challenges?

Fear was one of his biggest challenges, Greg says. But when his friends offered the money that would let him rent space and put in a small order for trikes to stock the store, “I silenced the voice of fear and here we are ready to start year two. It’s still scary, but somehow I have great faith, that thousands of Long Islanders (for a start) need to have these trikes.”

As with most startups, financing is still a challenge. Greg has no employees, and puts the money he makes selling the trikes back into the store. He doesn’t pay himself a salary yet. He’s running a funding campaign on GoFundMe to get more money to grow, market and advertise the business.

RELATED: 10 Tips For Running A Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

Startup advice for others

Starting a business is a big decision for anyone, but it’s a decision people who have some limitations in their abilities should be particularly cautious about making.

“It takes a lot of mental, spiritual, and physical energy, especially if you have limitations,” Greg says. “Make sure you are ready to do what it takes to set-up, open, and run a business.”

“Spend a good amount of time thinking about what it is you want to do. Be aware that it might be harder to do what you want to do than you might think. Ask yourself, ‘Am I really up for this?’ Make sure it is something you genuinely care about, something you are passionate about, something that you would do even if you didn’t get paid.

“And do your homework. Study, learn about what it is you want to do. Talk to others who are ‘doing what you want to do,’ do hands-on research (work for somebody – for free if necessary) and get experience doing what it is you want to do. Educate yourself about all you can: your products, your market, your competitors. Get support, moral and otherwise, from family and friends.“

Once you’ve researched and feel confident that you do want to go ahead, Greg advises: “Turn off the voice of fear and go for it! Get out of your comfort zone. Work as hard as you can. You will never know until you try.”

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. May not be reprinted without permission from the author.

About the author:
Janet Attard is the founder of the award-winning  Business Know-How small business web site and information resource. Janet is also the author of The Home Office And Small Business Answer Book and of Business Know-How: An Operational Guide For Home-Based and Micro-Sized Businesses with Limited Budgets.  Follow Janet on Twitter at


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5 Steps for Launching a New Business or Product

Your business or product launch is the first impression people will remember. These five steps can help you make your launch a success.

It’s not enough to create a great business or product. If you want to be successful, you need to take steps to plan and execute a well-timed, memorable launch that will bring your product to the attention of more people in more locations.

In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to begin their promotional efforts before they actually start selling their wares. Additionally, companies need to find ways to stand out from the noise while making the right first impression on early adopters.

Here are 5 steps for launching a new product in a way that’s smart, strategic, and most of all effective:

1. Conduct Testing

Just because you’ve created an ingenious product that (you believe) fills an existing dearth in the marketplace doesn’t mean you’re ready to start selling. Savvy business owners take time to test their new items and perform necessary adjustments. Before listing a product for sale on your website, or stocking it in your retail store, send out complimentary versions for trusted clients to test and evaluate. The goal is to collect feedback from surveys and focus groups so you can make any needed improvements before releasing the product wide.

One of the reasons that testing is so crucial is that it ensures a product’s first impression with buyers will be a positive one. After all, if you release a flawed or buggy item, customers will remember that fact and be loath to try future versions. The internet means shoppers have virtually endless options, and they are unlikely to give a second chance to a disappointing company or product.

RELATED: How to Know if a Product or Service Will Sell Before Launching It

2. Contact Influencers

Blogs and social media sites are great for marketing new businesses and products online. However, if you only post about your brilliant invention on your own website, you’re unlikely to generate the sales results you desire. Instead, startups should target key influencers, or trusted brand advocates, in their chosen industries.

Start by creating a list of popular bloggers, social media mavens, and even high-profile customers who have shopped with you before. You can then email or message these individuals and ask them to review a free sample of your product. If they like the item, the chances are good that they will blog about it or share details with their social followers. The goal is to generate buzz and excitement about a product before you launch and identify any outstanding issues that could affect your item’s ability to generate a profit.

3. Get Your Team Excited

It doesn’t matter how strong your product is if your marketing and customers service teams aren’t behind you. Before launching your new item, it’s important to educate your employees and get them excited about the item. (Ideally, you will also involve product managers and sales staff throughout the item’s development, so they can weigh in on aspects.)

To prepare your team members for launch, sit down with them to discuss the product ahead of time and ensure they have the resources needed to support customers and answer their questions. If your staff is going to be selling products over the phone, consider creating new talk tracks to aid in the process. For best results, create a number of small but attainable goals so employee morale stays high throughout the launch.

4. Create a Schedule—and Stick to It

It’s easy to lose sight of your goals while trying to launch a new product. Smart business owners create detailed production schedules to ensure tasks are completed on time and team members are held accountable for their roles. Additionally, you should review your timetable to ensure it covers all the necessary tasks, from performing market research on your target audience to contacting your favorite blogger or YouTube star, and set clear objectives. If you want to sell 1,000 products in the first month, put that goal in writing and commit to achieving it.

While it’s important to ensure your schedule is realistic, entrepreneurs also need to consider the best times of year to release their new products. For example, depending on the item you’re selling, you might want to consider seasonal factors or the timing of trade shows or pop culture events. And of course, you will want to ensure you are properly staffed for the launch. The last thing you want is to find yourself struggling to release a new product because several of your employees are out for summer vacation.

RELATED: Tips for Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business

5. Identify Your Marketing Channels

Gone are the days when businesses could market their wares on one or two sales channels only. Today, savvy startups maximize potential sales by targeting as many potential channels as possible. Along with traditional outlets like TV, radio, and mailers, modern businesses promote their goods on websites, social media pages, and online retail sites. They create email marketing campaigns, utilize PPC advertising, and even contact customers via text. The more channels you target with your marketing materials, the more opportunities you will have to find new and profitable audiences.

RELATED: Marketing Strategies That Work

Following these tips can help your business go the distance.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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Is Starting a Business Right for You?

Do you dream of starting your own business? Before you take the plunge, be sure business ownership is right for you by analyzing these five key areas.

Starting a business offers the exciting opportunity to pursue your passions while building something that’s uniquely yours. Still, entrepreneurship isn’t something to be taken lightly.

According to a recent survey, more than 500,000 startups are launched in the U.S. each month. Unfortunately, many of those don’t survive to see their five-year anniversaries.  Moreover, some startup founders lack the personalities and traits needed to excel at being their own bosses.

If you want to avoid being another statistic, it’s important to assess all the factors that contribute to a business’ success before quitting your day job. Here are some steps to take before deciding if starting a business is right for you.

Consider the Timing

The fact that you have a creative idea and the willingness to work hard doesn’t mean it’s the right time for you to start a business. Before embarking on a career as an entrepreneur, take a moment to assess other factors in your life, such as family concerns, financial issues, and the availability of those team members who will play a vital role in the formation of your company. After all, you don’t want your dream business to fail because your focus is on personal issues, such as taking care of a new baby or an ailing parent. Similarly, you don’t want to waste time waiting around for business partners to do what they promised.

For best results, if you discover that personal factors could prevent you from devoting your full attention to the business, consider delaying your launch for a few months until the timing is right.

Consider Your Finances

Starting a business is expensive, and entrepreneurs need to get their financial ducks in a row before launching their dream companies. Because it’s often months before online businesses become profitable—and even longer for brick-and-mortar establishments—aspiring founders need to take stock of their finances and determine how long they can afford to go without working. To protect yourself and your loved ones, it’s wise to save at least several months’ worth of expenses before quitting your day job. That safety net will help ease your anxiety during the early, stressful days of business ownership and allow you to take the risks that are sometimes necessary to succeed.

Along with a nest egg for living expenses, startup founders need to sock away money for costs associated with their businesses. In addition to production costs, strive to save money for marketing and promoting your company to prospective buyers.

RELATED: Where to Get Money to Start a Business

Consider the Market

The success of your business depends in large part on the state of the market you hope to enter. Before launching your startup, take time to study the market and determine if a niche exists for your goods and services. Consider what items your audience is already using and how your invention would fit into the existing market. In some cases, it might be necessary to adjust your product, your audience, or your timeline to ensure the best results.

Consider Your Personality

Not all personality types are equally suited to careers as entrepreneurs. Along with creativity and ambition, startup founders need to possess a natural talent for leadership and the ability to communicate with those around them. After all, you can’t get people excited about your ideas if you don’t have the talent to share them in a way that’s clear and articulate. Additionally, the best entrepreneurs are good collaborators who know how to work in a team environment to accomplish their goals.

Of course, even the most skilled startup founders are unlikely to excel in every way. If you aren’t a good listener, you can boost your odds of succeeding by choosing a second in command who shines in this area. The goal is to choose partners and teammates who complement your skills while supporting your unifying vision.

Consider Your Support Network

The stresses associated with new business ownership can be overwhelming. As a result, it’s important for aspiring entrepreneurs to make sure they have strong support networks in place. Before starting a business, check in with family and friends to discuss your plans and make sure they are going to be there to offer support. In particular, it’s important to make sure your significant other is on the same page. These individuals can help you maintain a healthy work-life balance—and even your sanity—during the early days of business ownership.

The fact is that failure rates are high for startups. However, founders might be able to boost their odds of success by joining forces. According to a recent study, companies with two founders raise 30 percent more investment money and grow their customers bases three times as quickly as those with just one. A partner might be just the support system you need to help your business succeed.

RELATED: How to Build a Business by Networking, Online and In-Person

Take time to consider all the factors that could affect your small business’ success before launching the company of your dreams.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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Advantages and Disadvantages of Self-Publishing

Self-publishing is a way for authors to get their work published without using a traditional book publisher. In some ways it is even better than traditional publishing, but it has downsides, too. Learn the pros and cons of self-publishing here.

Gone are the days when self-publishing was viewed as a route for those who couldn’t hack it in the mainstream. On the contrary, even highly successful authors are choosing to self-publish their new titles today. Moreover, small indie presses are gaining steam on the industry big boys. According to a recent article, just a quarter of Amazon e-book sales come from titles published by the five largest publishing companies, while indie presses account for 45 percent of sales. The market has spoken, and authors are listening.

Still, self-publishing is not without its challenges. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing over more traditional routes of getting the word out is crucial if you hope to make the best possible decision for your financial future.


Faster Exposure

One of the benefits of self-publishing is that your book gets to market faster than it would via traditional methods. The internet means you could (theoretically) complete a book today and publish it online tomorrow. And while we don’t recommend this tactic—even the most talented authors need time to edit and proofread their works—the speed of self-publishing can translate to faster exposure and cash in your bank account. On the other hand, publishing a book through one of the big houses takes six to 18 months at minimum.

Greater Creative Control

One of the best reasons to self-publish is that it offers you greater creative control over the book’s content and appearance. When you publish through one of the larger houses, you need to meet the requirements of multiple parties, including editors, marketers, and designers. On the other hand, self-publishing affords you the opportunity to craft and control your content every step of the way. Not only can you make decisions regarding the text and cover art, but you can also opt to publish your material in whatever format you desire, from booklets to workbooks and even multi-book series.

RELATED: How to Make Money as a Writer

Better Royalties

Traditionally, publishing houses pay authors royalties on the books they sell. For example, you might receive 10 percent to 15 percent of the list price of each book sold, while the rest of the profits go to the publisher. On the other hand, when you self-publish with Amazon, you receive up to 70 percent of the list price. Additionally, self-publishing through Amazon or another site enables you to retain the rights for adaptations like films, TV shows, and even comic books. 

Longer “Shelf Life”

One of the biggest benefits of self-publishing over traditional publishing is that it gives your book a longer period in which to find its audience. When you publish through Random House or another large company, your title will likely only have a shelf life of one to two months in the bookstore, as these shops are constantly moving out old inventory in favor of newly published works. On the other hand, digital books remain on Amazon’s virtual shelves indefinitely. Because potential readers can find your work with the click of a button, you have more time to build up a following—and a lucrative writing career. This ability is especially crucial for newer writers who haven’t yet found their audiences.


Less Editorial Support

Of course, self-publishing is not without its downsides. One of the main drawbacks of publishing on your own is not having the benefit of an editorial team at your back. In the traditional publishing world, authors work with editors and proofreaders to smooth out story issues and ensure the final product is free of typos and other mistakes. If you’re planning to publish a novel or nonfiction book on your own, it’s important to arrange for a trusted party to copyedit your book. Additionally, you will likely want to hire a designer to create appealing cover art. The goal is to make your e-book appear just as professional and error free as a title coming from one of the big publishing houses.

Less Marketing Support

Just as self-published writers are on their own when it comes to editing, they have to take the reigns for marketing and distributing their products. Not only do publishers boast their own platforms from which to launch your titles, but they also have the money and resources to set up bookstores and arrange for media coverage. Additionally, publishing companies can arrange for their authors to secure third-party testimonials and reviews. These endorsements are crucial for marketing your book to your target audience.

If your goal is to self publish, you will need to seek out your own testimonials by sending copies of your e-book to authors and reviewers. Before launching your title, strive to make contacts with other writers in your field. You can also send free copies to interested readers in exchange for unbiased reviews. By putting some time and money into marketing your book at the start, you boost the odds of earning more revenue down the line.

Less Acclaim

It’s no secret that self-publishing has a bad rap in certain circles. While the self-publishing stigma certainly means less today than it once did, certain readers will still refuse to publish works that didn’t originate with Penguin or one of the other bigwigs. If you’re determined to capture the widest possible readership, self-publishing might not be for you.

Self-publishing is not without its challenges, and naturally, not all books are going to be bestsellers. However, with 1300 authors who made their Kindle debuts in 2013 now earning $10,000 or more from writing annually, there is definitely an opportunity for talented writers to cash in. Do your homework to boost your odds of finding self-publishing success.

Want to learn what it takes to be a successful self-publisher? Start with this free ebook from the Author’s Marketing Club. Business Know-How is an affiliate (and a premier member) of the Author’s Marketing Club and may make a small commission if you become a paid member of the club.


© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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7 Reasons to Turn Down Freelance Work

As a freelancer, you want work. But not all freelance gigs are good. Here are 7 situations when you should turn down freelance work to avoid unprofitable or time-wasting assignments.

There’s plenty of work to go around but not all of the work is worth your time. Some jobs you should “just say no” to. On the other hand, most new business owners understand that bills have to be paid and the only way to grow a business is to take on work, and some of that work won’t be the highest quality clients at the beginning.

But even for the newest business, some jobs just aren’t the jobs you want.

Let’s Talk About Your Time

Time is in short supply for all business owners. If you could buy more of it at the store, you probably would, but your only option is to maximize what you have.

Maximizing your time means choosing your actions with great intention. Every choice impacts your time. Saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else. With that in mind, taking the wrong gigs may take you out of the running for the right gigs because you’re simply out of time. But what is a wrong gig?

1. The pay is too low

In your business, there are market rates that often come with a range based on education and experience. If you’re new in the business, you’ll be on the low side of the market rates but that doesn’t mean you should work for considerably less than the low end of the range.

Don’t forget, you have taxes, insurance, retirement, and other overhead to pay and they aren’t giving you a discount. Working at a loss holds very little benefit.

And most business owners will tell you that people who try to undercut on pricing are often difficult customers. Don’t commit your valuable time to people that don’t want to pay reasonable rates.

2. They want to pay you in “free advertising”

Bartering with other businesses can be beneficial, but typically, working in exchange for “free advertising” isn’t. If the New York Times calls and offers to exchange work for advertising, that might be an arrangement you’re willing to entertain. A small business, a website, or the side of some local organization’s trailer have no value to you as advertising space.

3. They want you to work for free or at a discount because “It’s for the kids”

Part of being a responsible business owner is giving back to your community and those in need. There’s absolutely no doubt that you should give of yourself, but set a reasonable percentage of your time to set aside for those endeavors. They might not even be connected to your business. For all of the other requests that come in, politely decline and wish them the best.

4. They tell you “I’ll give you equity in my company”

Again, you might be passionate about helping up and coming business owners like others helped you but as a form of payment, just say no. If they can’t afford to pay you, the equity in their company probably holds no value.

If their new company does something that could help your business grow, offer to exchange services for free. If they want you to make an investment of time into them, ask them to do the same.

5. The spotty client

Some businesses are the type where clients aren’t regulars—a car dealership for examplebut if that’s not you, look for regular clients that have constant business as the cornerstones of your revenue. Getting to know new clients and customers means investing your time into learning what they want and developing the relationship. Established clients are faster to service because you’ve already done the discovery process.

You should always be looking for new customers but don’t fill your business with the small accounts. That’s too much work for too little reward.

6. The Jerk

You can’t turn away every customer who isn’t like you but you can say no to people who somehow missed the life lessons that teach basic decency. If a client mistreats you or your employees repeatedly, let them go. If they have a reputation for being overly difficult, politely decline their business when they call.

That doesn’t mean that a client doesn’t have the right to question your product or service but they should do it in a respectful way.

7. Products/people you don’t believe in

As the old cliché says, the only thing you have in this life is your character. It goes without saying that you shouldn’t take on a job that is illegal or bordering on illegal but what about the immoral? This comes down to a personal judgment but remember this: At some point, years down the road, you will look back at the legacy you left.

You will ask if you live a life that your family can be proud of? Were you the role model to your children that you wanted to be? Did you treat others in a way that you’re proud of? Did people see you as upstanding or shady?

At that time, the money won’t matter so as you’re making business decisions today, just say no to projects and people that you aren’t willing to talk about to others. You’re not likely to build a successful business by making decisions you’re not proud of. There’s plenty of work out there to choose from.

© 2016 Attard Communications, Inc. All Rights Reserved. May not be reproduced, reprinted or redistributed without written permission from Attard Communications, Inc.


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Chart of Accounts for a Service Business – Accounting

A well-designed chart of accounts for a service business limited liability corporation, or LLC, allows for easy reporting and income tax preparation. The chart of accounts is a catalog of all accounts to be used by a business during the year. It’s organized to provide a centralized place to accumulate financial information. The accounts are generally identified by numbers and a brief description, such as 1010 Cash – Bank of America, 2010 Accounts Payable and 5020 Insurance Expense.

Verify what reports you need.

A proper chart of accounts for a business service LLC should provide information for reporting internally and to external parties. You first identify what you need for tax returns and then set up the chart of accounts around this need. Then, check out other government reports, such as sales tax or equipment reports and be sure the chart of accounts can help you in these processes. If management or investors need a specific financial report, be sure that the accounts setup in the chart can be compiled to create such a report. You may need to separate sales by type or to provide more granular information, such as sales by locations, or sales by type and you will need to create separate accounts to accumulate data in this fashion.

Assets, liabilities and equity accounts

Set up balance sheet accounts in your chart of accounts, such as assets, liabilities and retained earnings. Identify ranges for assets, such as from 1000 to 1999. Liabilities could run from 2000 to 2999 and retained earnings would run within the 3000 to 3999 range. As you create accounts, use these ranges to keep the accounts straight. Within the assets, you should have at least one cash account, which could be a 1001 Cash – Bank Alliance. Don’t set up a liability account using the range for assets, or you will end up with a mess. If you’re not clear about what accounts to create, search for a balance sheet template online to get ideas.You can also review your tax return for balance sheet accounts.

Income and expense accounts

Create income statement accounts in your chart of accounts. These are revenues and expenses related to the service business. You decide on an account range for your revenues, such as 4000 to 4999 and set up these accounts within this range. For example, a service revenue account would be 4001 Consulting Revenue account. Expenses would have a range of 5000 to 7999 and are created to track expenses separately. For example, if you pay for rent, office supplies and insurance, these transactions are recognized in three different accounts, such as 5010 Rent Expense, 5003 Office Supplies Expense and 5010 Insurance Expense. Don’t use the same account number on more than one account. If you’d like to know what accounts belong to the income statement, take a look at your own business tax return or at the Internal Revenue Service Form C, filed with a 1040.

Note that commas are not used with account numbers.

Creating a chart of accounts can be a challenge, but doing it on a systematically way will help you get the results you need. You could test your chart of accounts by running reports and making sure information is placed in the right spots. You could also have an accounting professional review your chart of accounts before you start using it.


Sheila Shanker CPA, MBA, based in Southern California, is a consultant with over fifteen years of solid experience in many industries, including nonprofit organizations. Her latest book, “Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide” was published in 2015. Sheila writes online self study CPE courses, and her articles have been published online and in national magazines, such as “Journal of Accountancy”, “Nonprofit World”, and “Architecture Business and Economics”. You can contact her at her website

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Are You Ready, WILLING, And Able, To Be A True Leader?

Why is it, many appear to want to attain a position of leadership, yet, so few, are ready, willing or able, to do, what’s necessary? Nominating committees, today, often face the task, of identifying, and qualifying, those fit to serve, but, rather than maintaining the highest ideals, standards and expectations, end up, settling for someone, who may be Not ready for prime time! There is no such thing as a born – leader, and, therefore, like most acquired assets and/ or skills, requires a commitment, to undergo extensive training, learn from what they are trained to do, gain relevant experience, and transform it to quality expertise. Let’s briefly examine, using the mnemonic approach, what goes into being WILLING, to serve, to the best of one’s abilities and potential.

1. What; when; Do you know what you need to do, and/ or what your group needs? How will you make that determination and decision? Will you procrastinate, or when will you begin to consider, the best, most viable course of action to take, and to do so, in a timely, well – considered manner?

2. Intentions; integrity; ideas; ideology: Examine your true intentions, objectively! Will you maintain the highest standards of absolute integrity, and proceed, with these ethics, even when tempted to take an easier, more expedient path? How carefully will you consider the best course of action, and will you consider a variety of options and alternatives, with an open – mind, and introduce quality ideas, which make a significant difference, for the better? Is your course of action, in sync with the ideology of your organization?

3. Listening: Are you so focused on making your point, or will you carefully listen, to what your constituents say, perceive, need, are concerned about, and consider a priority?

3. Learning: It is a fatal flaw, to believe you know – it – all, and feel, you need no further learning! Will you commit to transforming your training, education and experiences, to effective, meaningful learning?

4. Ingenious: Will you only proceed, with the same – old, same – old, approaches and philosophies, or proceed, in an ingenious, relevant, open – minded manner?

5. Needs: Focus on the needs, concerns and priorities, of those you serve, rather than your personal, self – interest, and/ or agenda!

6. Generate goodwill; growth: True leaders realize, unless their group is constantly growing, and remaining relevant, it will fail to be sustainable. A real leader, therefore, must prioritize generating goodwill, and seeking sustainable growth!

Are you ready, WILLING, and able, to serve, as a meaningful, true leader? Why do you believe you’re up to the task?

Richard has owned businesses, been a COO, CEO, Director of Development, consultant, professionally run events, consulted to thousands of leaders, and conducted personal development seminars, for 4 decades. Rich has written three books and thousands of articles. His company, PLAN2LEAD, LLC has an informative website: and LIKE the Facebook page for leadership:

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