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It is that time of year again when, depending on your industry, business either speeds up or slows down and many business owners prepare to spend special time with family and friends.

For those of you who are experiencing a slowdown –  you may be forgiven for wanting to go into hiding.

Indeed, a client asked me the other day whether it’s worth going to networking events in the festive season especially as nobody makes decisions at this time of year.

For me – whether it’s quiet or busy- this is the season to have some fun and meet people!  My diary has filled nicely with leisurely one-to-ones and seasonal events that replace the formal networking events.

Christmas Lunch

I tend to spend more time and money on networking at this time of year than at any other – why, you may ask?

I find that this is the one month where people seem more relaxed and happy to get to know each other in a less work-oriented atmosphere.  This represents a great opportunity to join in, particularly for those who don’t usually enjoy networking.

I have learnt over the years that networking in a social way at this festive time will pay real dividends in a few months (maybe even as soon as January!)

So if you’re considering slowing down your networking this month – especially if your diary is also crammed full of family commitments – please think again.

Don’t write this time off just because you are too busy – try to think of new and imaginative ways to put yourself out there.

And another myth I’d like to dispel for those of you who are wondering, please don’t write off this month for social networking either.

Not everything stops and not every decision maker takes a digital break over Christmas, even if it may seem that way to you.

If you want to connect or stay in touch, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and all the other platforms will be there to serve you, as usual.

Some of my best leads and referrals often come from being visible and eager to connect with people during traditional, and supposedly quiet, holiday periods.

If you would like to keep a step ahead of your competitors, always try to be flexible, and open to new ideas and new ways of doing business. You never know, this could be your mantra not just for the festive season, but for the whole of next year!

Ute Wieczorek-King | Success Coach, Trainer, Mentor, Blogger & Owner of Success Network. Ute helps busy women to be visible, focused and profitable in business. Connect with Ute via Twitter, or Success Network Recipes on Facebook. Or sign up to her monthly newsletter on the Success Network website.

Copyright 2011-16, Ute Wieczorek-King

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Great bloggers are not awesome on Day 1

Have you started a blog to help you promote your small business? Or are you a personal blogger who’d love to turn her blog into a commercial venture?

Many people have great hopes for their blog but in reality they struggle to keep it going.

Whatever the reasons, as Darren Rose said “99% of great bloggers are not awesome on day 1. Their awesomeness is the accumulation of the value they create over time.”

It’s so true… you’re not ‘awesome’ from day 1 and to achieve results can take some time. You don’t just have to ‘create value’, you also have to be able to promote yourself and your blog effectively.

Many women (especially those who are older and a little shy) don’t know how to do that. Or how to attract the right readers in an authentic way that feels comfortable.

If that’s you, please let us inspire you via Attract Readers™ – it’s where Marketer Jean Wolfe, Fairy Blogmother Alice Elliott and I (Ute Wieczorek-King) help female bloggers to promote themselves and their blog better.

Here is a just small selection of our blog posts:

How a blog can help the ‘know like and trust’ factor

Four reasons why consistency is important in blogging

How to explain confidently to others why you blog

10 reasons why writing lists posts is good for your blog

How not to let lack of motivation stop your blogging

We’ve also written about why you don’t need to be pushy or worry about SEO,  whether you need images, how to make blogging easier, and much more!

And if you like our posts you may also like our complimentary download “Four Key Mistakes Bloggers Make Who Fail To Attract Readers”

Mistakes bloggers make

Come on over and let us know what you think!

www.attractreaders.com

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Three years ago I compiled a blog called “How not to fail in business”, with useful tips from some of my Inner Circle members how to survive the recession as a solopreneur.

During those tough years most of us with established businesses had to adjust our approach to getting and keeping clients. You just couldn’t take anything for granted.

And it seems you still can’t three years on! That’s despite the fact that the economy appears to be improving.

But spending is not yet back to pre-recession times and many business owners are still feeling a little cautious. Even consumers must be wary as the seasonal sales show – here in the UK they seem to be starting earlier every year!

So whether you run an established solo-business or a new start-up, you probably want to know the best ways to win and keep new customers … and naturally keep your existing ones too.

Here are five useful strategies

  • Avoid undercutting your competitition

Firstly, it’s worth remembering that whatever you offer, your customers are bound to be able to find cheaper suppliers.

Please don’t ever let that put you under pressure to reduce your fees! Be confident, stick to your pricing and focus on making sure you really know and understand your customers and their needs.

That way you can be sure to deliver something that’s 100% relevant to them and they will value that!

  • Research what else clients might need

Do this at least once every year and set some time aside to think about all the options. The summer period (or the end of a year) can be a perfect time to do your research.

20130405-124223.jpgWhen your service is always fresh, innovative and up to date, you make your offering potentially more desirable than your competitors’ and it will be highly relevant too – whatever the state of the economy. (Being innovative has worked well for me for over 20 years!)

  • Try different ways to grow your business

Two great ways to get more work and grow your business are to either identify new offerings for current clients or to sell more of your current offerings to a new target audience.

This can be especially worthwhile when potential customers in your new market are willing to pay appropriate or higher fees than customers you currently sell to.

  • Care about your customers … and care some more

Every week I hear stories of business owners who have lost business. Sadly they often realise too late that they should have communicated better and more regularly with their customers.

The solopreneur businesses I see flourishing are the ones who do that really well. They talk to their customers and listen attentively too.

So try to fully understand what your existing customers really want, then go the extra mile in order to provide added benefits and greater value.

Whether the value is in how you deliver or how you maintain the customer relationship after delivery, it can help to differentiate you from the competition. And it may then also lead to new referrals and new business. (There are several added bonuses here!)

  • Make the payment process really easy

This is such an easy but often over-looked way to add value. For example, you could break big projects into manageable and affordable chunks (where applicable), and work with stage payments – a method often used by web designers.

Several of my solopreneur clients have adopted this approach, much to their customers’ delight!

Offering different payment options can be useful too – for example, don’t refuse cheques, credit card or PayPal payments because they are costly or inconvenient for you.

By understanding YOUR customers’ preferred choice of payment you will make getting paid much easier which may also help with your cash flow.

So, I’ve shared with you five important strategies to help your solo-business win and keep customers and … ultimately… thrive!

What are yours? Why not share your ideas in the comments below?

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

PS. The above is an updated version of a post first published here in 2013.

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In recent years we have seen an explosive rise in social media use by freelancers and micro-businesses in the service industry. It seems that many small business owners are now casting their net wider and further afield in an attempt to make new connections and, thus, attract new business opportunities.

It probably goes without saying that to win new business you need to be known and trusted, and be ‘seen’ regularly in different places.

However with the lure of so many online opportunities, I think many people don’t realise that looking closer to home can actually be much easier, quicker and potentially more rewarding too!

People often forget about their existing network, both virtual and real, especially when it hasn’t yet delivered new business.

The thing is, the people you know may already trust you — a real bonus when you would dearly love to receive more leads, referrals and new business. But sometimes we expect contacts to provide us with leads, when they are not quite ready to do so.

Perhaps our relationships aren’t quite as strong as we think they are. Or they are too busy and you are not the first person they think of when a business opportunity presents itself.

Here is what you can do. Start by asking yourself some important questions:

  • How can I help my existing contacts to get to know me better as a person as well as the ‘expert’ in my field?
  • Do I share my knowledge and expertise fairly regularly and am I generous enough?
  • Do I really understand their needs and desires so I can help them accordingly? How can I get to know them better?

Enhancing existing relationships can be quite simple:

  • IMG_0971Arrange regular informal 1-to-1 meetings over a coffee or lunch.  You’ll find out about your contacts’ latest developments and how you can add value to their business
  • Always follow up after each meeting — it will help them to remember you!
  • Stay in touch by forwarding articles or blog posts (not just your own!) that they will find useful
  • Invite them to events that you think they’ll be interested in
  • Refer them when you know that they would benefit from meeting one of your other contacts

Keeping in touch with people you already know on a regular basis (without selling to them) really does pay off!

If, reading this, you think that all this may be too time-consuming for you, then my guess is you haven’t yet enlisted the help of online social networks for networking purposes.

If you treat social networking as your personal assistant and use it to stay in touch with your existing network, you simply can’t go wrong!

  • Status updates help you to give people bite-sized updates on what you’re up to
  • Wall posts or brief private messages on sites such as Facebook Messenger, Twitter or Linked-In allow you to communicate much quicker and more efficiently than via email (and there is no danger of your message disappearing in someone’s junk mail folder either!)
  • A blog or newsletter may be less personal but they will remind your contacts of your expertise and your ability to help them

Building strong relationships, both offline and online, always takes time but ultimately, it is generally much harder and more time-consuming to start relationships from scratch than to re-connect with people who already know you.

P.S. Why not add to the above tips or share your own experiences by commenting below?

Ute2013-150x150

About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is an experienced business coach, mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd.

If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

Please note, the above article is based on an older version first published here in October 2010. 

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I often get asked this question – how do you find something to write about in your blog?

Once you start blogging, you need to change how your view the world. I call it clicking into my blogging mode.

You need to train your mind to be always on the look out for possible blogging fodder. You should become susceptible to recognising suitable post material wherever you go, what you read, what reacts with you or whatever you bump into.

There’s nothing more irritating than forgetting a brilliant idea. So whenever something pops into my had, I scribble it down in a notebook so that I remember it later. It will remind you what you want to write about when the time comes, rather than scratching your head and kicking yourself for forgetting.

So where can you find stuff to write about?

1. Your in- and out-boxes in your email system is a fabulous place for content. You’re probably fending off questions at work all the time, and if you’ve managed to write a successful or relevant reply to a particular query, why not rewrite it as a post so that more people can benefit from your wisdom?

2. Subscribe to as many blogs as you can within your industry or niche.  It’s good to read what other people write about in similar subjected blog. This could inspire you to write about the same things in your own style and from your own point of view. What other people are writing about is probably what your readers will want to read.

3. Set up Google Alerts to receive prompts from other blogs.  Subscribe to ScoopIt, Feedly and other news feeds as well. This is how you’ll find out which projects and topics have successfully caught the search engines. Reading and commenting on ‘hot news’ will draw attention to yourself, but show you are riding the wave of ‘now’.

4. Be vigilant on social networking sites. Visit and participate on various social groups and communities to find out what’s happening. I got the idea for this post from a LinkedIn group. Check out the bookmarking sites such as Digg and StumbleUpon, where there will be lots of new material to read, learn, respond to and share with others.

5. Researching which keywords are ‘a la mode’ right now. Go to Google Keyword Tools to find out popular long-tail keywords the search engines are responding to at this moment. Base your blog post around it, but remember to write for your readers, not necessarily for the search engines. Using too many keywords could be detrimental.

6. Go for a walk with the dog to let the creative juices flow. A change of scene can work wonders. Doing things outside of work will stimulate new ideas, and sleeping on a problem will allow your subconscious to work overnight. Speak your ideas into a dictaphone or scribble them in a notebook so to not lose them before your write your next post.

–o0o–

Alice ElliottAbout the author: Alice Elliott is a Digital Marketer whose award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog provides jargon-free and highly visual WordPress training to solopreneurs. She is well known for her ability to “explain things really simply” to inexperienced bloggers and enables them to increase their visibility and reputation through successful blogging.

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Image by Ute Wieczorek-King

We are all exposed to so much information these days that it is tempting to skim read emails, blogs or newsletters in the same way as a fast-moving Twitter stream – a vain attempt to take in as much information as quickly as possible.

Reading and writing information online can be fraught, particularly for non-native English speakers like me. But even native speakers are at risk of causing misunderstandings, by inadvertently misreading the written word in front of their eyes.

Online communication is confusing

We may see two messages – the message that is conveyed by the words you read, and the unwritten message, or meaning of what’s potentially being said between the lines.

English is a very subtle language where a simple sentence such as “They will never agree to that“ can mean lots of different things depending on whether you stress the word ‘they’, ‘never’ ‘agree’ or ‘that’!

So, when writing you may mean one thing but your reader may read another into it.

For example as a German speaker and otherwise confident writer (and reader) of English, I don’t find it easy to understand emotions in written communications, such as when someone is subtly trying to hint they are angry or sad without explicitly using the words to say so.

My personal preference would be to actually say that I am angry or sad but unless you come from a culture or work in an environment, where direct communication like this is the norm, it is better to be a little less direct and explicit.

I therefore rely on emoticons such as 🙂 to show that what I am saying is to be seen as a light-hearted rather than serious remark. But some people ignore these – perhaps they don’t understand them, find them irritating, or have a preference for a more formal writing style such as in letters.

One way to avoid misunderstandings in business communication is to reserve emails and social media updates mostly for facts and leave anything else to be discussed in person where both parties can clarify and ask questions to avoid misunderstandings, wrong assumptions or judgments.

If ever you have received an irate blog comment or email because something you said has been misunderstood, and you are finding yourself having to clarify, you know how confusing and frustrating this can be for both parties.

Worse still, what if the receiver goes quiet and doesn’t reply because for them – perhaps for cultural or personal reasons – it is not the right thing to do?

So what can you do?

Next time you are skim reading a blog, email or an online update and think the information is crystal clear, think again… or read again.

And if you are not sure about something (and it is important for you to get the meaning right) simply ask the question….’Can I clarify that I have understood XYZ please’ before replying with potential accusations or assumptions.

And when you know somebody it’s probably best anyway to pick up the phone to ask a question.

If you are the writer, don’t just assume that your message is clear and will be easily understood. Or, if you don’t receive any comment or replies, that your reader is purposely ignoring you.

Let’s face it … your blog, update or email may not have been read yet because the reader is simply too busy. What is a priority for you may not be a priority for them!

And if that’s not the case and for whatever reason you’ve upset someone, you can count yourself lucky if they tell you. Then, perhaps, the only way to move on from this is by apologising or contacting them directly and keeping the communication as open as possible.

I’d love to read your tips or hear more about your experiences with online communication. Why not share them below. 

 

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is a UK-based German mentor and blogger who helps passionate midlife women to stay focused, work smarter and stand out from the crowd. If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

PS. The above is an updated post – the original was first published in 2011.  

 

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I once read a networking tip on the Harvard Business Review site which literally stopped me in my tracks:

Build outward, not inward. Don’t waste time deepening connections with people you already know*

As someone who has built a strong offline and online network for years, I question that statement on two accounts.

  • Firstly, how do you gauge that you know people enough to not have to deepen the connection?
  • And why would you ever not want to deepen that connection?

If you build your network outwards, you’re not unlike a spider that keeps growing a web in the hope of increasing its chances to catch prey.

Photo by Sophia King

Photo by Sophia King

But just like a spider web, a network grown outwards can also be quite fragile.

In fragile relationships you may not know enough about how you can help your contact, whether they would help you if you asked or who their connections are – and, importantly, whether they’d allow you to access those connections.

By diluting your efforts you may miss something crucial: the glue that holds relationships together and that creates the “know, like and trust” effect that leads to referrals and people helping each other generously and willingly.

So, the best way to win new clients is to build inward, not outward!

Don’t keep making the mistake I see so many (not just new) business people make: spreading themselves thin, like a butterfly moving from one networking opportunity (or social media platform) to another.

Let me share a secret with you!

Even when winning new business from new contacts seems easy, it is never as personally or financially rewarding as business that comes from strong, long-term relationships. These are far more likely to lead to referrals and repeat business which makes building your business much easier in the long-run!

One of the key themes from the ebook From Contact to Advocate™ I co-authored a few years ago, is how to build authentic relationships, online and offline, with the people who matter.  

I know from personal experience and the recommendations and repeat business I get, that the principle works!

Ute2013-150x150About the author: Ute Wieczorek-King is a UK-based German mentor and blogger who inspires passionate midlife women to achieve business success by simplifying and staying focused on what really matters.

If you’d like to take your small venture from good to great, why not download Ute’s free “Passion to Profit” ebook.

New this year: Online blog coaching programme ‘Attract Readers; Gain Impact’ with The Fairy Blog Mother Alice Elliott, Marketer Jean Wolfe and Ute Wieczorek-King.

PS The above post is an updated version of a post first published here in 2011.

Copyright 2011-15, Ute Wieczorek-King

*http://web.hbr.org/email/archive/managementtip.php?date=091611


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