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7 Tips to Help College Seniors Prepare for the Real World

7 Tips to Help College Seniors Prepare for the Real World

Though it may seem far off for college seniors, life in the real world is coming at you fast. Sure, you may be thinking about your next steps to become gainfully employed, but are you really taking action to prepare yourself? Right now is the best time to put the effort into doing everything you can to make yourself as employable as possible.

Here are seven tips to help college seniors prepare for the real world:

1. Brand yourself.

Your senior year in college is the prime time to create your own professional brand that you can carry with you into the real world. Students often stop at creating a resume and cover letter and maybe doing a little job searching each day. There’s a lot more you can be doing!

For example, create a personal website, polish up your Linkedin profile, create personal business cards (which you can often get for free!) and start a blog. As you make a name for yourself, employers who will be doing their research on you will be impressed by what they find online.

2. Clean up your social media.

Let’s talk a little more about what potential employers may find online. If you’ve really been enjoying your college experience, chances are you have a little social media housekeeping to do. Be your own private investigator and dig deep into your archives of photos and posts. This is everything your employer could find as well. Clean it up!

Though you may never be fully able to dust up every last crumb, let’s make sure you’re not leaving heaping dirt piles lying around. Put some serious effort into scouring your social media profiles and get them ready to be spot-checked by employers.

3. Control your online presence. 

Beyond social media, you also need to be thinking about other photos and content that may appear online that include your name or image. These can be both good and bad for an employer to find. I highly recommend every college senior preparing for the real world to utilize www.brandyourself.com. This allows you to see the highest ranking search results for your name online, and choose the ones that you want to remain associated with you, and work to bury the others. For example, you’ll want to raise the rankings of articles that mention your awards and accomplishments, and remove the ones that shine a negative light or aren’t associated with you at all.

4. Leverage your adult networks.

By now you’ve likely gotten pretty good at socializing with your peers. Now it’s time to shift gears and get comfortable socializing with your adult networks (i.e. past employers, family friends and your friends’ parents). As you approach graduation, it’s smart to issue your own “press release” – which is a more professional take on the standard graduation announcement. It doesn’t need to be formatted like a typical press release, rather think of it as an intelligent message that communicates your education, accomplishments, talents and ambitions. Then, share it by mail and email with your adult networks.

They may not be hiring, and maybe they’re not even someone you’d want to work for; however, combined they know A LOT of other people who could be the perfect connection or you. Don’t overlook this!

5. Be accountable and consistent.

One of the most simplest, yet most often overlooked things that college seniors need to be doing to prepare for the real world is to exemplify their “employ-ability” by demonstrating they are accountable and consistent in their actions. When you meet someone at a networking function or job fair, be sure to follow-up. So many students I have met and spoken with at similar events are so excited to be connected, yet only a fraction use the information on the business card I gave them to follow-up with me. The ones that do really stand out. It’s so important to demonstrate early and often that you are a mature professional who is ready for the real world.

6. Let go of your idea of a “dream job.”

This is an important one, so listen close. You need to let go of whatever idea you have spent the last fours developing as your “dream job.” Foremost, it likely doesn’t exist. I’m sorry to serve up the truth like this, but it’s better that you hear it early.

Refocus this energy on doing your research of what an entry job in your field really entails – both in pay and in responsibilities. Now readjust your expectations. If you begin your job search with unrealistic expectations, you are going to turn off employers and potentially walk away from a really great opportunity just because the pay is less than what you want and the responsibilities are more.

7. Unemployment is not an excuse to be unproductive. 

Until you land your first job out of college, there is always, always something you can be doing with your time to put you one step closer. Unemployment is not an excuse to be unproductive. Aside from scouring job postings, you can be investing your time into creating a blog or digital portfolio to house your work. You can freelance your skills to gain experience. You can also volunteer your time on projects that align with your education and career aspirations. I’ll say it again, there is always something productive you can be doing while unemployed until you find your next opportunity.

Are you or someone you know approaching college graduation this semester or next year? What tip do you find to be most helpful or do you have a different idea to share? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Be sure to share this advice with fellow graduates, too!

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Love or Hate Infographics, They Work! Here’s Why.

infographic

Infographics hold a very unique place in communication strategies. By now, just about every industry has produced an infographic of some sort. A quick Google search will confirm that. I came across an article written in 2011 that said infographics are a dying trend. Now in 2018, I would say they are as strong as ever and are getting more and more sophisticated in design and dissemination.

Love or hate infographics, when it comes to communicating information, they work! Not every occasion is right for this type of communication strategy, but in various instances, it’s your best shot at getting people to listen to your message. What are the benefits of using infographics? Take a look!

Reach Audiences with a Short Attention Span

With absolutely every piece of your communications strategy, you need to know your target audience. In doing so, you’ll also uncover how they like to receive their information. For audiences who are busy or inundated with various communications on a daily basis, they likely have a short attention span, especially when it comes to understanding data and numbers. Giving these people a white paper, brochure, article or press release will not yield the best results for you. They are likely to lose interest and move on to the next tasks before they are even a faction of the way through your content.

With an infographic, you can quickly convey your message by boiling down this content into 10 (or fewer) main points. Concise content combined with a slick design that moves the reader through the main points is far more likely to result in comprehension. When you want to reach audiences with a short attention span, an infographic is a strong strategy for this.

Make Data and Numbers More Visually Interesting

Let’s face it, only a very small percentage of people get excited and inspired by sifting through data. In order to effectively reach those who do not, you need to do the sifting for them. With an infographic, you have the ability to make data and numbers more visually interesting. Highlighting some of your most compelling numbers and explaining their importance with a concise statement is a highly valuable way to get people to digest data like a delightful snack, not a bogged down Thanksgiving dinner.

Break the Ice for a Deeper Discussion

Many people stress about the fact that a single infographic won’t hold all the information they feel is important. Nor should it. An infographic is meant to be simple, visually appealing and really just a conversation starter. If a deeper discussion needs to happen, use an infographic to break the ice and get people interested in the topic. For example, a client used the following infographic to send to state legislators to get them to care about a particularly issue. This alone isn’t enough to change their mindsets, but it was a great lead into follow-up meetings where this deeper discussion could occur and questions could be answered. Best of all, the legislators had a foundation of knowledge on this topic, thanks to the infographic, so that the conversation could immediately begin at a deeper level.

CWD Facts

Be Memorable

Any content that combines words and images is more likely to be absorbed and remembered. The visual element helps people to quickly understand the data. What’s better yet, is incorporating an audio elements as well. This boosts your memory even further! Though this takes some more time and resources, I’ve seen interactive infographics that people can click on a fact to learn more and even hear an audio clip that offers additional information beyond the written content. Depending upon the topic and amount of information you need to get across, this could be a worthy investment to maximize the effectiveness of your infographic.

Make It Easy to Share

Finally and most importantly, infographics package the content in such a way that’s very easy to share, whether in print, by email or on social media. And if you’re putting in the time to create an infographic, you want to be sharing this everywhere! Infographics provide great content for your website or email newsletter, they offer strong SEO (if done right) and give you content you can trickle out, piece by piece, on your social media. This is not true of other forms of communication, which is why infographics offer some really unique benefits!

How do you feel about infographics? Have you incorporated them into your communication strategy? Do you enjoy receiving information this way? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 

 

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How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews on Social Media

social media reviewWe live in a day and age when most people turn to technology to answer just about any question they have. Siri, Google and Alexa are usually within arm’s or ear’s reach to answer everything from “What’s the weather in Seattle on Wednesday” to “When was George Washington’s birthday?”

Not receiving immediate input on something drives us crazy! Think about the last time you couldn’t recall an artist or song title. You likely went straight to technology to provide an answer, rather than waiting for it to eventually come to you.

Let’s not forget about social media. We spend an increasing amount of time on social platforms where we absorb a wide variety of information from life’s most previous milestones to utterly useless, yet highly entertaining videos and articles. What’s important about social media to ecommerce businesses is its influence over people’s buying habits. And while sponsored posts and advertising campaigns will continue to be highly influential, people will still gravitate toward a business’s customer reviews on social media before they ultimately purchase a product.

According to this infographic created by 16Best.net on “Social Networks and their importance in Ecommerce Gateways,” positive social media reviews increase the conversion rate by 133% for mobile shoppers. Additionally, the more people that positively respond to reviews through comments and likes help to improve the brand perception for 71% of shoppers. Positive product reviews also bump up a product price by 9.5%.

how social reviews increase sales

It’s clear that positive customer reviews on social media pack a powerful punch for increasing brand value. But this begs one very important question…What can I do to get more positive customer reviews on social media?

  1. Foremost, focus on delivering exceptional service. Don’t fall into the trap of misplacing your focus on simply collecting as many customer reviews as possible. Your primary focus should be on delivering quality and satisfaction to your customers. As a result, these happy customers are going to be far more inclined to take the time to leave a review.
  2. Make your product review process easy and immediate for customers. Identify your most influential social media platform and direct your customers to leave reviews there. Customers don’t have the patience to leave reviews on 5 different sites, so be sure your call to action is clear and direct. Next, make sure you spell out the process for them in minimal steps. If you email them asking to leave a review, include links directly to the page to leave a review. Keep it short, make it easy and you will earn more customer reviews on a consistent basis!
  3. Give customers an incentive. We live in a “What’s in it for me?” culture. Applying this to customer reviews means to want to offer an incentive to leave a timely and helpful review of your product. Some business offer a discount or free sample as a thank you. Think about what’s feasible for your business and be sure to promote this incentive.
  4. Don’t expect it to happen organically. Very few customers take it upon themselves to offer a product review without any sort of ask or reminder to do so from the business. Furthermore, these unsolicited reviews tend to be polarizing – either very positive or very negative – because those extreme cases are when most people feel the need to provide a review. Don’t miss out on the “silent majority” by failing to directly solicit customer reviews as part of your marketing strategy.
  5. Monitor and respond to customer reviews. Make sure that someone in your business is assigned to monitoring customer reviews. For the positive ones, respond with a thank you or possibly follow-up with the customer to see if they have the potential to be a brand ambassador. For negative reviews, also be sure to follow-up quickly to address any issues and right the customer’s wrongs. In doing so, the customer may choose to leave a follow-up review that’s positive. If nothing else, other people browsing your reviews will see your commitment to customer service which will counteract the review’s negative impact.
  6. Show gratitude! Thank each and every customer for their review, either by commenting on the review or sending them a follow-up email. If you choose to implement an incentive program, this provides the perfect opportunity to touch base with the customers and offer thanks when you provide them with their discount or sample product.
  7. Integrate customer reviews into your marketing strategy. After investing your time, and possibly some free products to build up your customer reviews on social media, be sure to get the most out of them by integrating your reviews into your ongoing marketing strategy. You may choose to share some of the reviews on your website, in e-newsletters or feature them as part of your paid social media advertising campaigns. Given how influential customer reviews are to ecommerce, you want to put a spotlight on the great ones to increase the impact they have on new customers.

Are you struggling to engage your customers to consistently leave reviews on your social media pages? Share your hurdles or ask a question so we can help lend some advice!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2018 in Business & Success, Social Media

 

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How to Use Data to Improve Your Public Relations and Marketing Strategy

data

We have more data available to us now than we ever had before. While this sounds like it should enable us to create stunningly sophisticated public relations and marketing campaigns that are fine tuned to attract our target audience, I have found that rarely is the case.

Rather, I often meet clients when they are completely overwhelmed by the data available to them. Instead of doing anything with it, they spend hours reviewing each morsel until they’re simply paralyzed by the thought of making a meaningful assessment of it. The following phase is frustration. Where do I find my data? What data really matters? How do I analyze my data? And what do I do with my analysis?

These are all valid questions and ones I aim to answer in this blog. What I’m about to say might shock you and that is that data alone will not be what makes – or breaks – your public relations and marketing strategy. While data absolutely plays an important role, don’t let it overwhelm you to the point you feel you aren’t qualified to learn how to extract its most important information – quickly and easily. Let me show you how!

Where do I find my data?

As you might have already learned, and the reason you’re reading this blog, is that data is available to you just about everywhere these days. “Analytics” for your website, “insights” for your social media profiles, “statistics” for your blogs and then you can get into highly sophisticated and targeted data tracking like heat mapping for your website and much more.

My point is not to make you feel like you need to be monitoring all of this data each and every day, rather I simply want you to be aware that data is available virtually everywhere you have an online presence. By first learning how different platforms refer to and present their data to you, you will have taken the first major step toward taming the “data monster” and turning it into a powerful ally for your business.

What data really matters?

Who is you target audience and what do you want to know about their behaviors? The data that shows you this is the data you should pay the most attention to. Say I am a local plumbing business what a small service area that’s about a 60 mile radius. I look to Google analytics to tell me who is visiting my website and if they are people who reside within my service area. If I find that a large percentage of my pay-per-click (PPC) ads are pulling in people from 100+ miles away, this data matters to me a lot! Why? It means I need to refocus my PPC campaign to target only people in my service area. If I don’t, I’m throwing money away on clicks from people who I’ll reasonably never take on as customers.

It all ties back to your PR and marketing strategy. Knowing your ideal customer allows everything else to fall into place. If you’re looking to hit millennials, you’re going to place a higher value on your Instagram insights than your Linkedin business page. Know your audience and you will know the data that really matters.

How do I analyze my data?

First, you need to establish a baseline. What is “normal” traffic to your website or interactions on your social media? Spend a few months first tracking what takes place prior to implementing anything drastic. What do these results tell you? If you’re like most small businesses, these results are going to be pretty boring, even borderline depressing.

Now the fun begins! Based on your PR and marketing strategy (because everything, and I mean everything you do should align with this), you may start to roll out a social media advertising campaign, contest or promotion, or a Google AdWords campaign. Give it 30-60 days and compare your new data against your baseline. What changed? What didn’t? You’re likely to be surprised by the answers to both of these questions. This is when you need to take your data analysis and use it to refine your PR and marketing strategy. And this brings us to…

What do I do with my analysis?

So you’ve made it to the point of actually analyzing your data on a regularly basis. You’re on your way! You will likely have identified quite a number or trends, good and bad, that you want to adjust in some way or another. But what changes need to take place and how do they fit into your overall PR and marketing strategy? This is a critical question to answer!

Let’s look at an example. By tracking and analyzing your blog’s traffic over the last quarter, you see that two of your blog posts received substantially more views than the rest. You dive deeper into the data to find most of the traffic was because another website linked out to these posts from their own blog. Without looking at the data, you might not have known your blog got a back link! Seeing that this website gave your blog a new burst of traffic, you should reach out to the owner and start a conversation. Work to build a relationship with them where you can collaborate on future blogs and cross-promote them to your audiences. Though driven by data, ultimately it’s the human relationships that result from the data that are most valuable.

Here’s another example to consider. When analyzing your Facebook insights, you see that a recent photo you shared of your staff got a significantly higher engagement from your fans than other posts that shared things like links to other articles, quotes or a promotion. Take note! Your fans appreciate seeing the “human” side of your business and want more of it. Change up your social media content calendar to include more personal photos of you and your staff, biographies and the story of how your business started.

While these are two pretty brief examples, I hope they give you inspiration for how you might take the analysis of key data and turn it into beneficial change for your business. Though we would be foolish to ignore the data available to us, be careful you don’t lose focus – or common sense. Data is merely one of many tools we must learn to use appropriately. Consistency, quality and authenticity should always remain the backbone of your business’s PR and marketing strategy.

How do you incorporate the analysis of data into your public relations and marketing strategy? Share whether this is something you do – or don’t do well and why!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2018 in Business & Success, Life

 

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Facebook’s Latest Changes Favors Person-to-Person Contact – and You Should Too!

Facebook changes

In a video announcement released by Facebook earlier this month, Mark Hull, Director of Product Management, opens by saying “People come to Facebook to connect with the people who matter to them.” The video goes on to explain that over the next year Facebook intends to implement a series of changes to alter the way we receive and interact with the content that comes across our newsfeeds.

My first reaction was that this would be some new marketing strategy to enable businesses, and maybe even individuals, to promote their content in a highly targeted and intensive way. However, it’s quite the opposite!

Rather, it appears that Facebook has done their homework and came to the same, glaring conclusions as the rest of society (whether we choose to fully acknowledge it yet or not). And that is we have become, for the most part, addicted to social media in a serious and life-changing way. At minimum, scrolling through Facebook and taking in everyone else’s highlight reel causes us to feel negative about our own lives. From there, it can quickly progress to people who weigh their entire self-worth by their social media engagements and suffer severe depression and anxiety as a result.

Social media is the drug of choice for many, and Facebook has taken responsibility for helping us rehab from this. While I see these changes as having real potential for positive change, it’s important that we, the users, understand the method for how things show up in our newsfeed so that we can (somewhat) take control of what we’re exposed to.

In light of the changes Facebook plans to implement over the coming year, here are 5 things we must learn to do differently to attain the best (and by that I mean healthiest) user experience.

Prioritize your person-to-person contact.

Sometimes I login to Facebook with the intent of seeing how my friends and family have spent their weekend and all of a sudden I’ve spent an hour watching “Tasty” videos of instructions for how to make casseroles and cheesecakes. Can you relate? Facebook has identified that most of us get sucked into viral videos and articles that have nothing to do with our personal community. While this content is fun temporarily, their research has proven that it’s harmful long-term.

This next step is going to be hard, but when scrolling through your newsfeed try to pay the most attention to your connections personal shares of photos and posts – a family selfie, photo album from a recent vacation or a call for advice on a topic. By scrolling to, and spending more time looking at this content, you will help Facebook better curate a more personal and meaningful newsfeed for you. The next step builds upon this further…

Engage with the content – if you like it, show it!

When you come to personally shared content that you enjoy, take the minimal extra effort to click the “like” button. It’s silly how challenging or awkward that feels for most of us. For example, my Facebook connections have grown quite a bit over the years from just my closest friends who I’ve spent years of my life getting to know, to people that are maybe one or two degrees removed from a friend and quite likely I’ve met them once in person, if at all.

I enjoy growing my network, but I don’t feel close enough to all my contacts to engage with their content. This shouldn’t hold me back! I’ve seen relationships grow through mainly Facebook interaction where you do start to feel like you know the other person. So long as you’re not crossing any major “stalking” boundaries, people will appreciate your likes and comments. I know I love seeing how people engage with my content, and we could all do a better job of reciprocating.

Why this is important for Facebook’s new changes is that the more you engage with your contacts, the more you will see these contacts show up in your newsfeed, and vice versa. Again back to curating your own newsfeed, you can help customize what you want to see more of by showing Facebook what you enjoy.

Put effort into your communication.

Facebook is now telling us that engaging with content through likes is good, but commenting is great. It takes maybe one whole second to react to post and throw a thumbs up or heart up there. But by taking the time to write a couple sentences in the comment section shows Facebook this is a genuine connection, someone who you feel comfortable engaging with on this level.

As a result, these interactions will be ranked higher than a mere post like. What hopefully will result is that people will be inspired to start a dialogue with one another, even if it’s through private messenger. This is way better than everyone posting photos of their “highlight reel” which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can make people feel pretty bad about the reality of their own lives.

Don’t be a passive scroller – it’s for your own good!

All of this being said, you “passive scrollers” out there won’t be doing yourselves any favors by standing in a corner. You’ll need to jump in and engage your contacts if you want to have some control over whose content you see most often in your newsfeed.

Some of my newer friends to Facebook, who haven’t felt comfortable reaching out to request contacts beyond their own family, often complain that their newsfeed is filled with just one or two people who post “all the time.” The reality is, if you only have 30 Facebook friends and 5 of them post once or more per day, you’re going to feel like they are bombarding your newsfeed. If you really want more variety in your newsfeed, you need to grow your Facebook connections. You should still be careful with how you do this, but if you open up a bit, you’ll realize that friending a co-worker is not the same as giving them keys to your house. Be authentic in real life and on social media and you will have nothing to hide.

Login with a purpose and a time limit.

Here’s a novel idea. Get serious about limiting your exposure to social media. This is easier said than done, I know. I would likely be appalled by the number of hours I spent on Facebook that I don’t even account for.

Here’s my challenge to you, if you really want to reduce the negativity and anxiety of being dependent upon social media for entertainment. Establish a purpose for surfing Facebook and set a time limit. Your purpose doesn’t have to be “marketing my business” (and that’s a pet peeve of mine that will have to be a whole other blog series). It can still be completely social, but at least login knowing your purpose. For example, maybe you want to catch up with a friend you haven’t reached out in a while. Don’t just stalk their profile, send them a message or comment on their latest post! Or maybe you need some parenting advice or a recommendation for an HVAC company. Though still social, these purposes lead your mindset and your engagement on social media and keep you from getting lost down a Buzzfeed rabbit hole.

Through these changes, Facebook actually anticipates the time their users spend on the platform to decrease! However, they feel the time users do spend on Facebook will result in a healthier, more positive experience.

How do you feel about these changes to how Facebook shares, and favors, content? Do you think it will be an enhancement to user experience, a setback to businesses or a little of both?

Jump in the conversation!

 
 

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Strategic Communications for Crowdfunding Campaigns(Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who left her HR career behind to pursue freelance writing and to spend more time with her young daughters at home. This article is based upon her own entrepreneurial journey and communication expertise.


People crowd

Few things are more disappointing in the life of an entrepreneur, than having a brilliant idea that never makes it off the ground. Research shows that 82% of businesses can fail to bring in enough funding to sustain themselves, forcing them to close down because they simply didn’t have the investment they needed for take-off. Crowdfunding, via websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, have made it far easier to raise money for a startup, yet with the plethora of startups and new businesses competing for the attention of investors, strategic communication strategies are key.

Does a Jack of All Trades Truly Exist?

You may have a brilliant tech idea or invention, yet struggle to find the right way to share your passion for your product or service with others. Telling your story is one of the most important considerations when starting a business or commencing a crowdfunding campaign. You need to let potential investors know the market need you are fulfilling, why you believe your idea is unique or better than what rival businesses are offering, and why you need a specific amount of funds. You will need professional looking imagery, a catchy video, scripts that succinctly cover all the important points and set you apart as a forward-thinking brand. For all these reasons, you should consider investing in a strategic communication specialist.

One of the biggest mistakes companies make is cutting back on marketing costs when their budget is low. It is precisely at this point in time (when you have yet to build brand awareness and a client base) that you need to get word out to your target audience – slick, professional communication is vital if you want to stand out from the rest of crowdfunding campaigns, many of which will also offer interesting ideas and offer to fill existing gaps in the market.

Learning Skills vs Outsourcing

Strategic communications will help you once your crowdfunding business attracts investors  and you take your first steps towards bringing your idea to life. To make it in business, notes Forbes, you need these top seven marketing skills: SEO, HTML, WordPress, video, design, and SQL. If you are a sole proprietor or part of a very small team, how many of these can you realistically master? Outsourcing time-consuming jobs such as SEO, content writing or design, will give you time to leave a personal mark on your website, for instance, by contributing regularly to your blog. A large percentage of crowdfunded campaigns flop because teams lack specialized skills. When calculating the investment amount you need, make sure to include a budget for marketing, design, and other specialized areas you don’t master yourself.

Because the success of a crowdfunding campaign depends on its ability to attract interest and inspire potential investors, strategic communications – with the right content, visuals and style – needs to be a priority. Startup and small business founders should avoid taking on more key roles than they are prepared for, opting to rely on professional communications providers so they can concentrate on their area of expertise: ideas.

Do you agree that strategic communications is critical to the success of a crowdfunding campaign? Do you have a personal experience to share that demonstrates this? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment!

 
 

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7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

7 Things I Will Never Have as a Business Owner

While there are many advantages to being your own boss, there are also certain things you may never experience again (for the most part). Depending upon how you look at it, this could be a win-win scenario. Either way, now six years into running my own business, I’ve realized that there are a few things I will likely never have as a business owner.

A Day Completely Free From Work

The upside to running my own business, I can work from anywhere. The downside, I can work from anywhere. For this reason, my work followers me anywhere I have internet access. And even without internet access, it’s still on my mind. I’m not likely to ever go completely “offline” for more than a day, but that’s because I prefer to stay on top of my work and grow my business. When you’re passionate about what you do, you’re not always craving that next vacation!

Limited Vacation Days

Speaking of vacation, I can time off whenever I feel like it and as often as I want to. It still holds true that my work will be something I carry with me, but I doubt anyone feels too sorry when I’m checking emails from the Bahamas. Being a business owner is about balance. I can take unlimited vacation days, but I’m still responsible for delivering what I promised to my clients. Time management is key.

A Tax Return

I gave up hope a long time ago that I would ever see a tax return. As a business owner, I pay not only at tax time, but I pay quarterly throughout the year leading up to it. It’s important to point out that my clients don’t withhold taxes in their payments, so it’s strictly on me to make sure I am paying the fair and appropriate amount of taxes based on my income. Similar to having unlimited vacation days, I don’t expect anyone to feel bad for my tax situation. After all, if I’m paying more it means I’m earning more. But I have to laugh at the commercials that suggest I use my tax return for this or that. It’s been nearly a decade since the IRS wrote me a check.

Normal Work Hours

For better – and worse – I don’t have set “normal” work hours. It works out for the most part that I’m in front of my computer between 9 and 4, but there will be times I’m taking a 8pm conference call or I’m online at 6am to clean up my inbox. On the upside, I can also go offline for a couple hours in the morning to get in a work out, or in the afternoon to catch a nap. I’m so far removed from the concept of a 9-5 job that I doubt I would last long in that work environment again.

A Fixed Income

As a business owner, my income is anything but fixed. I have a meager paycheck I receive each month from my business for tax purposes, but I also receive distributions throughout the year however I see fit. Every year and every month, my income is up to me. I have to constantly and consistently satisfy my current clients and keep my pipeline full of new clients. In a crazy scenario, every client could decide to discontinue their services and I would be left at square one. On the flip side (and the more common scenario), I take on additional clients each month and grow my income.

It’s not common that many people can increase their monthly “salary” by a couple thousand dollars in a month by providing the same services they’re already providing to others. For this reason and many others, I love owning a business, and owning my income.

Someone Else Controlling My Schedule

Because no single client owns 100% of my time, they do not have control of my schedule. I remember my life prior to entrepreneurship where I would have someone slap a meeting or conference call on my schedule and so long as it was during normal work hours I had no leverage to push back. I had to stop whatever I was doing to be there. Now, when a client requests a meeting, they provide me with several options and I have the ability to select what works best for me. If I can’t make a meeting, my clients don’t know if it’s because of a work conflict or a hair appointment (or more commonly it doesn’t work with my toddler’s nap schedule). I control my own schedule and strategically plan my days to be efficient and convenient.

A Boring Day

As a business owner, there is no such thing as a boring day. Often the excitement comes from exceeding a client’s expectation or receiving a great lead for new business. Other times, “excitement” is the rush of an emergency or crisis that you have to resolve. Even if I carve a free afternoon to go offline from work, I’m not strapped to my office. I can run errands, do something relaxing or spend time with my kids. Every day and every email is different. The hours fly by and I wouldn’t ever want to return to the days of watching the clock!

Are you a business owner? Can you relate to some of the things I’ve mentioned or do you have an idea of your own to add? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment!

 
 

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