FREE Digital Business Course

Learn How to Run a Business Online

starting-a-new-cafe-or-retail-business
It doesn’t matter whether you have a specifically online business, or a gift shop, clothing store, cafe or other bricks and mortar business, as a business owner, we can help you understand the digital economy.

In a post I published about starting your own business in January 2017, I said that all small business owners should have an understanding of traditional and digital marketing. You’ll be surprised how many don’t!

All businesses have a digital aspect to them these days so it’s vital that business owners and managers know how to manage the digital aspects of their business. This starts by understanding some of the terms used and how websites, domain names, hosting and the Google search engine works.

It doesn’t matter whether you intend to start a fully digital business (i.e. a home based bookkeeping business or online shop for example) or if you will start a more traditional bricks and mortar business (a cafe, retail clothing or gift shop, or some other business with office or retail space), you need to understand how to use the internet to develop new leads, engage with your existing customer base, and build your presence online.

Register for Our FREE Digital Business Foundations Course

I created a free Digital Business Foundations Course to help new and existing business owners understand how to digitise their business. You can register for our free Digital Business Foundations Course (scroll about half way down the page) to begin receiving the free course content. Some of the things you’ll learn include:

  • Insights into websites
  • Domain names
  • Web hosting
  • How Google Search works
  • How businesses use Content blogs for SEO
  • What SEO really is, plus much more.

Each of the principles discussed in the free Digital Business Course were applied to EzyLearn, when it transitioned from a bricks and mortar training centre business to an online only training business, and have been used by 123ezy, which provides content marketing for real estate agents, content writers and bookkeepers across Australia.

Case Study: Baby Massage Business

baby-massage-helps-new-parents-bond-with-their-newborn-child-wordpress-training-courseI wrote about Sonia Mitterdorfer and her baby massage business in August this year. For most of her working life, Sonia had been a registered nurse. After raising her family she wanted to return to the workforce in some sort of meaningful capacity and heard about baby massage. Her first introduction was a seminar (incidentally, run by a middle aged bloke holding weekend retreats helping new parents understand and bond with their babies!)

Sonia had her website created by a registered BAS agent who wanted to have add another feather to her bookkeeping bow (and wanted to do more “creative” work). Sonia’s website has been pivotal as a means for her to demonstrate her credibility and explain about the nature of her work.

There’s Much More to Domain Names

So many business people think (wrongly) that a domain name is simply the cost of a website, but that’s just the name — you need to:

  • point it (DNS) to a web host
  • set up your email at the web host (I prefer to outsource that to Google Apps — now called Google G Suite)
  • install website design software like WordPress
  • create the pages and menus
  • insert images (source them and edit them)
  • write some words (that Google thinks are relevant).

Don’t worry if you feel a little bamboozled — we cover all of this in our WordPress course!

Add an Online Dimension to Your Business

The majority of people, when they’re looking for a product, service, restaurant, cafe, real estate agent, bookkeeper, virtual assistant — online training course, even — will search online. Even if you think your business is already doing well, if it’s not optimised to deliver online leads, then it could be doing much better.

Reach your business’s full potential, register for our free digital business course to start a digital business or transition into one today.

How Bad Do You Want It? (Money, That Is!)

invoicing small business
Don’t do all the hard work and not get paid for it: consult our checklist for what you can do to get paid – and faster.

If you’re working as a contractor and using an Australian business number (ABN), rather than a tax file number (TFN), you’re self-employed, and this means you will need to invoice your customers for the products or services you provide in order to get paid.

If you’ve only ever worked as an employee before, you’re probably used to being able to set your clock to payday, but unfortunately this isn’t often the case when you’re a contractor. Getting paid late — or worse, not at all! — can seriously affect your cash-flow, and in turn, affect the success of your business, which is why we cover things like financial planning in our Small Business Management and Start Up Course.

Designing Your Invoice

When you’re first starting out, getting paid is usually the only thing you can think about, which is why it’s important to remember that the sooner you submit that invoice, the sooner you’ll get paid! But first, how the heck do you design an invoice, anyway?

There was once a time, when contractors and the self-employed had only two options: toil away, creating an invoice in Word or Excel; or buy a rather expensive piece of accounting software, like MYOB. If you’re so inclined, you can still do both of these things — and depending on the scale of your business and your business needs, MYOB could be a sensible purchase — but, behind the door marked ‘internet’, there’s also option number three: use a cloud-based invoicing program.

Introducing Cloud-Based Zoho and Xero

One such cloud-based invoicing program is Zoho Invoice, which we’ve written about previously, and who also offer a range of other small business solutions. There’s also Reach Accounting, which we offer an online training course in, as well as Xero and an infinite number of other online accounting software packages.

Each accounting package makes creating and submitting an invoice, quick and simple. But does that necessarily guarantee you’ll be paid on time? Well, that really depends on the client. However, there are a couple of things you can do to speed up the process and ensure you’re paid on time.

Speeding Up the Time to Payment

Discuss your terms: When you first start working with a new client, discuss your terms with them upfront. We’ve found that a verbal conversation with a customer tends to stay in front-of-mind more than a line in an email or on an invoice.

Make sure you’ve got the right contact: Often the person who commissions or hires you isn’t the person who pays the bills – this is usually the responsibility of accounts payable, so make sure that the person you’re sending invoices to is the person who’ll eventually pay you — you’d be surprised how much time this saves!

Include payment details: This is an obvious one, but you’d be surprised how many invoices are sent out into the universe without details of how to actually pay them. Make sure you include your bank details, or if you’re going to use PayPal, make sure that you set up your payment gateways properly.

Use email: If you usually hand someone a hardcopy invoice, or you still fax or mail your invoices, stop now! This is dated and there’s the risk your invoice will get lost — and that means, no money for you (and also no dinner or hot showers, either!). Most accounting programs, if not, all of them, have the functionality to email your invoices to multiple contacts once you’ve created them. This is extra handy, if, as in the situation above, you have two contacts at the company you’re working with.

Offer incentives: We don’t recommend all businesses do this — and certainly not the cash-strapped freelancer or virtual assistant — but if your business has a high turn-over of invoices, and you’ve reached a place where you can feasibly offer customers who pay before the due date a discount off their next bill (or whatever alternative  you can come up with), do it. It never ceases to amaze just what someone will go through just for a little free loot.

Clean, clear and concise: The cleaner the design of your invoice, the clearer your terms are (i.e. in bold, large font and with a moving GIF, if necessary) and concise your invoices are, the quicker you’ll be paid. If your clients don’t know when to pay you or what they’re paying you for (hint: make sure you make your products and services clearly identified and easily trackable in the item/description section of your invoice) and they have to query these things with you, this is another hold-up in the payment process.

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There are plenty of horror stories from sole-traders, contractors and freelancers who haven’t been paid by clients. To avoid being one of them, it’s important to get your invoices right. If you’ve never invoiced someone before, it’s a good idea to have someone else look over your invoice before you submit it to your client.

Web Analytics Made ‘Ezy’

If your business isn't using web analytics then you're still not using your website to REALLY understand what makes your customers tick.
If your business isn’t using web analytics then you’re still not using your website to REALLY understand what makes your customers tick.

Ok, so you’ve got a website and on it you have all this information about your company — who your people are, what you do, how customers can contact/connect with you — and best of all: you get heaps of page views every month! Talk about winning the Internet! You’ve got this website marketing business down, am I right?

Except that maybe you don’t. And for this reason, we’re currently developing a new Digital Business Course to help businesses transition into the online world. A big part of that transition involves understanding how web analytics work, which is the bread and butter of any successful website — and indeed, successful business.

How to Use Web Analytics

To get the most out of web analytics, you kind of need to change the way you view your website. You need to see it as a form of marketing, just like an advertisement in a newspaper or a piece of direct mail. Once you start treating your website the same as you would any other marketing activity, it’s likely you’ll have some questions you’ll want answered.

Your Conversion Rate – Do YOU Know It?

Somewhere on this list — though we imagine that it would be on the top — should be “What’s my conversion rate?” To answer this question, you need web analytics. We recommend Google Analytics, namely because it’s free and extremely easy to use.

Your conversion rate is the number of people who have visited your website and carried out some form of action — signed up to a newsletter, made a request for more information, downloaded an e-book, and so on. In short, it’s any action that involves the exchange of information that you can later use to develop into a sale.

Constant Improvement

But the real genius of analytics lies in how it allows you to isolate problems with your website’s content and refine them. For instance, if you have a rather average conversion rate, but a high bounce rate (the number of people who leave your website within 30 seconds of landing on it), there’s a good chance that’s there’s something wrong with the keywords you’ve selected for your SEO. Or you’ve selected keywords that your website’s content doesn’t address properly. Either way, you need to fix this.

Finding Out How Your Customers Think

Once you do, you should see you bounce rate drop off and your conversion rate increase, which means more opportunity for more sales. And just think: if you didn’t have analytics, you’d have never known. This is what makes web analytics invaluable for small business owners, because it gives you rare insight into what makes your customers tick — what are they really looking for, and how can you adapt your business to meet their needs? — and provides you with the opportunity to meet those needs.

In essence, small business owners now have the same resources at their disposal as large multi-nationals, who typically spend bucket-loads on research and development, focus groups, and the like, trying to ascertain what exactly their customers are looking for — and even then, often don’t get it right.

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At EzyLearn, we use web analytics extensively to ensure we’re constantly meeting the needs of our students and potential students. Through web analytics data, we ascertained that a number of small business owners were looking for a cheaper alternative to MYOB, so we developed two new cloud-accounting courses: the Reach Accounting Training Course and a Xero Training Course to satisfy that need.

For more information or to receive alerts about our forthcoming Digital Business Course, subscribe to our blog by clicking here.