Work From Home – Writing Business Plans

Before I was introduced to writing web content, I made a part-time income writing grants and business plans. My chance meeting with a state division of vocational rehabilitation counselor offered me a steady supply of customers. His clients needed help applying for grants to fund their self-employment start-up ventures. A narrative style business plan with three years financial projections would need to be written.

It helps to have the knack to think like an entrepreneur. Creating in your own mind a mental picture simply from listening as a person tells you about their dream or passion is a unique talent. You also need to embrace the talent to communicate”…” no make that to educate.

Separate out the work that you need to do (write the plan) and give part of the work back to the client. This not only saves them money but takes some of the burden off of you. Coach your clients to do the research, locate facts and report to you the financial data portion of their plan. Give them deadlines and hold them tight or you could waste countless hours waiting.

I often had to make payment accommodations and to adjust my fees. With some practice, I got to where I could turn out a decent business plan outline in a few hours for about $250, my minimum fee. Writing the narrative after the outline was the easy part.

If you have some experience in the financial, marketing or administration of a business, you can write a decent business plan. There are a multitude of free business plan templates out there on the Internet for you to use. Or, go buy a decent software program for around $100.

The Internet also contains good tutorials on the essential components of a business plan. You can make your own outline template.

Don’t be tempted to just “fill in the blanks” on the template or software program. You need to tailor the plan to suit the needs of your client. I have yet to meet a client that knew what they wanted or wanted the right bits and pieces put into their plan.

When you get some experience you will likely begin to write business plans for which you can charge $2,000 – $3,000 per plan. This scope of work usually involves a banker, financial planner, accountant, CPA or similar professionals leaving you the business plan writer, to put it all together.

Start-up costs are minimal even if you don’t have your own computer. That is what libraries are for. Run an ad on a free classified site under services offered. Have some business cards made up. Go visit the local or state vocational rehabilitation counselor and the veteran’s service organizations (VFW) and make them aware of your services. You will get work. Start out with small projects until you are comfortable with the templates or software you are using.

Asking myself what I would have done differently, or what wisdom I can pass on to you; it would be to start with small projects, have a signed contract, insist on deadlines and take one-half of your fee upfront!

In my opinion, writing business plans is one of the best work from home job opportunities in today’s job market. There is such a need for this service as people who are unemployed or under employed strive to improve their situation.

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How to Make a Great Website For Your Home Improvement Business

When people are planning on making home improvements to their houses, they usually do an online search to find a good company to do the work. Whichever websites are found on the first page of a Google or Yahoo listings, these companies will usually get the phone calls and requests for quotes.

When choosing a domain name it helps in the search engine rankings to use your town’s name in the domain, for example best SanDiegohomeimprovements.com. Once you have registered your domain name, you’ll need to sign up for web hosting. Host Gator is a very reliable web hosting company, and their hosting will only cost you five dollars a month.

Next you’ll need to find a good HTML template. Just do a web search for “contractor HTML template” and have a look at the results. You should be able to find a nice looking one for 40 or $60 or maybe even free. Then download it and save it to your computer and open the index file with your HTML editor and add your company’s information. Be sure and fill out the title tag with your town and state and specialty of your home improvement. Also, fill out the meta tag descriptions and keywords as these are very important in having your website rank well in the search engine results pages.

Here’s a killer tip to set your company apart from other home-improvement businesses, have someone help you make a one or two minute video of you talking about what exactly your business does and why your prospects should call you and upload that video to youtube.com and then embed the code onto your index page. People will be impressed and you certainly will get more calls to your business.

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Essential Elements of a Successful Home Based Business Plan

If you are planning to start a business from home then its best that as early on as possible you come up with a business plan. There are many reasons that can be given as to why you really need to lay out your plans before the business is put up and all of them actually equate to one thing – success. So if you really want your company to last and grow a home based business plan is something that you should come up with first.

As mentioned, writing a business plan is essential for many reasons, some of these reasons include:

It is required by banks and lending establishments if you are considering to seek funding.

Will allow you to focus and think about how you will be able to improve each aspect of your business.

Will help to deal with possible problems giving you the ability to find solutions and preventive measures even before they occur.

Business plans will vary from one another and will depend on the type of business that you are planning to establish. This means that while the business plan you have now will be effective in pushing your home based business towards success, they will generally be useless when you are trying to establish a different one.

The plan doesn’t have to be very long either, but it does have to present you and your business, including your goals and targets for both long and short-term as well as intent, and well detailed information regarding your business in the best possible light.

So what are the elements of a home based business plan? These include:

Purpose of your business:

In establishing your business, what exactly do you plan to accomplish? Are you offering the business online or offline? What type of services are you offering? What are the goals that you have? You will need to answer questions like these if you want to come up with a clear-cut definition of your businesses’ purpose. So think about how you will be able to answer them sufficiently first while putting you company in the best possible light at the same time.

Describe your business:

Try to describe your business as accurately as you can. The last thing you would want to happen is losing sales and potential clients just because they aren’t able to really see if your company or services are what they are indeed looking for. Talk about when it was formed, who operates it, and its legal structure to make things clearer.

Define your market:

What are you planning to sell? Is it a product, service or both? You need to accurately describe what it is exactly that is going to be sold. How much do people need your service? Who will be able to benefit from what you are offering? Why will it have the competitive edge over other similar businesses? Explain clearly how you are planning to meet those needs.

These are just a few of the elements that you will need to have in your home based business plan. Other elements will include staffing, time tables, financial requirements etc. it is important that you have all the answers and elements within your business plan in order to guarantee that no issues or problems will catch you off guard later on when the business is already in full swing.

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Home Improvement Project Planning

So you’ve decided to make some home improvements. It is an exciting prospect to upgrade and bring your home closer to the image of your dream home. Begin by considering the changes you want to make. You may already have an idea of the things you want to improve, but now’s the time to fine-tune your ideas.

Think about how your home already supports the way you live, and which existing elements you really like. Write down each item you want to keep, and what you want to change. This will not only help you prioritize the projects you take on first, it will also help you better define the details of each project. No matter how large or small your project, planning is crucial. Developing a detailed plan will insure that your project runs smoothly forward and that your results will be a success. Having a clear image in your mind of what you want to achieve will help guide you in the steps you must take to attain your goal.

Determine your goal

Once you know the project that you want to take on first, you can begin to make decisions about what you want to change. The more clearly you can envision what you want to achieve, the better prepared you’ll be in making necessary decisions;Think about traffic patterns, furniture placement and size, colors, lighting and how you plan to use the remodeled space. Draw out your completed idea to get a clear picture of what you hope to accomplish.

Cost Estimation

You probably have a basic idea of how much you want to invest in your home improvement project, so base your estimate on that budget. Nothing is more disappointing than not having enough money to finish the entire project, so plan well, beginning with the most costly or most important items. To get a good idea of material cost, simply check out your neighborhood home improvement center. If you have any questions or concerns, most of their employees are able to either give you answers or guide you to someone who can. When pricing your necessary materials, remember to include any hardware and finishing products you might need. Don’t forget nails, adhesives, tape, stencils or paint.

Gather your tools

Be sure that you have the proper tools available before you start. If your current toolkit does not have certain specialty tools to do the job properly, you might have to invest in them to complete your project. You could also consider borrowing or renting them. Some jobs might also require two people for safety reasons, so you will need to line up additional help before you work on that part.

Consider Eco Friendly Building

Green remodeling is a sound choice, for both, a healthier life and as an investment in your home. Currently, in traditional construction, indoor air quality is often worse than outdoor air, due to various building materials, inadequate lighting, and a variety of other variables. Some eco friendly choices do require purchasing special equipment or materials, but many upgrades are just a matter of knowing the most environmentally conscious choice to make. Using recycled materials where available, (glass, stone, plastics), choosing carpet low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC), and installing more efficient, low water plumbing fixtures are a few Green options that cost little or no more than the non-Green.

Anticipate your needs

Most home improvement projects require a variety of different skills. If there is a task that requires more skill than you have and you would feel more comfortable with expert guidance or proficiency, a contractor can usually do just the portion of the job that you are unable to handle for a portion of the cost of the entire project. You might consider hiring a plumber, electrician or heating specialist, or even a general handyman for a job that requires additional manpower.

Hiring a Contractor

If you do plan on hiring a contractor, you must get a written contract. A good contract includes a detailed description of the project, start and expected completion dates, labor and material costs, and any warranties of workmanship. Including a right to cancel clause of three business days is a good idea. The more detailed you make your contract, the less room for problems you will allow.

Building Permits

Before you actually start tearing down walls or running electrical wire, check with your local or state building department to learn if your project requires a building permit. A building permit is a license required by city code that grants legal permission to construct, enlarge, alter, repair or demolish a structure or equipment installed in a building. If you are working with a contractor, find out if his services include obtaining permits.

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Internet Marketing Methods to Grow Your Home Improvement Business

Last month 22,200 people searched online for “Home Improvement contractors New York” and 33,100 people searched for “Contractors New York” indicating a strong demand for home improvement related services. The fact is another Contractor in your local area is ending up with this business. Most Contractors entered into the profession thinking that they would open up a business and the business would generate from word of mouth and referrals. This may be true for a select few Home Improvement businesses, but it is more likely that if you want to compete, you need to market your services.

Traditionally, Contractors are not marketers! But if you do what I recommend in this article, you can not only stay competitive, but you can also potentially blow away your competition. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 4% of Contractors market their business, and most are NOT doing it effectively. The key to Home Improvement marketing is to acquire, retain, and re-market. If you do all 3, you will have a steady stream (or even a flood) of leads coming into your Home Improvement business.

The best way to grow your Home Improvement business is by using Internet marketing. Forget TV ads, expensive Radio, or Newspaper advertising. We know very few Contractors for whom these marketing mediums have actually ever worked for. In fact, their lack of accountability, measurability, and limited geo targeting capabilities will leave you wondering where your investment went. You need to be where your prospects and clients are, which is online searching for the products and services they need.

Marketing Methods:

Conversion Focused Web Design

To effectively market on the internet, you need a conversion focused web site. What you DO NOT need is a website that collects dust. Think about it, just about every home improvement business has a website of some kind. Most are poorly conceived by graphic designers or stock templates, and were implemented with no strategy, no calls to action, and are basically just like brochures. A brochure is not going to cut it as we move forward into a more competitive marketing space on the internet. Most of your competition has a brochure, but to convert traffic into prospects and then into customers, you need a much stronger pull to get the prospect to want to do business with you.

An internet marketing consultant can help design and organize your site to move you beyond a simple brochure to a highly productive lead generation machine. Also, an effective web solution should put you in control of your site and content. Make sure your site is built with a Content Management System (CMS) that will allow you or your control staff to make simple edits without having to hire your designer at $100+/hr for each little web change needed.

Organic Search Marketing

Organic or Natural Search Marketing is similar in concept to Pay Per Click, but for organic search marketing results you do NOT have to pay per click. It is a much longer and slower process, but it is where 80% of your prospects are going to find you. Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a process by which your site is engineered to show up for certain keywords in the search engines. Organic search results can lead to a consistent stream of leads for your practice, but patience and time working on your site (and off of your site) is required to take advantage of this strategy. Make sure if you outsource your SEO work, you deal with someone who understands your business, will not spam the search engines, and is someone you can trust with your message and reputation. One wrong move here could leave you black listed by Google and the other major search engines.

A solid SEO strategy is rooted in delivering good quality keyword rich content to your site. Writing content for the web is a lot different than writing content for a brochure or off line marketing collateral. Make sure you work with an SEO team that understands the complexities of search engine optimization, can create a realistic plan, understands your business, and can measure the results.

Pay Per Click Marketing

Thousands of potential customers are searching online every day for Home Improvement contractors and related services in your local area. With the right message and a conversion focused Pay Per Click marketing campaign, you can get immediate leads and new clients into your practice. Pay Per Click marketing delivers ads in the search engines to prospects that are not only local to your business, but looking for exactly what you are offering at the exact time they want it! It is highly targeted, and a highly measurable marketing technique unlike anything else in existence.

The problem is Pay Per Click marketing, or PPC, is extremely competitive and you really need someone who knows what they are doing to make it successful. If you are going to invest in PPC, you need to make sure you track conversions (emails, phone calls, web forms, downloads, etc.). Without tracking this data, you will not know how effective the campaign really is. Also, PPC marketing needs to be constantly monitored and optimized every day to avoid stagnant and lack luster results. If you do this, you will not only compete in your market, you will dominate.

Landing Pages

Internet marketing for Home Improvement business is competitive, and if not done correctly, you can squander your marketing dollars pretty quickly. Developing a custom landing page is a technique to develop a small 1 or 2 page website focused around a very specific service (Plumbing, Roofing, Kitchen Remodeling, etc.), and developed around a strong call to action.

By utilizing a focused page to send targeted traffic to, you are properly aligning what someone is searching for in the search engines with the exact result they are expecting to see when they click on the pay per click ad or organic search result. Conversion rates can increase 100% or more using a landing page strategy. Landing pages tend to work best when used in conjunction with a Pay Per Click marketing campaign. When it comes down to it, effective marketing is all about doing it better than your competition. Landing pages, when used correctly, can dramatically accelerate your lead generation efforts and squeeze more out of your Pay Per Click budget.

Social Media

Social media sites are where your prospects and customers are spending a lot of their time. So how come most contractors are not utilizing this marketing strategy? It is most likely due to a lack of time and lack of knowledge on how to use Social Media to your advantage. Get on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and at least start engaging with your prospects and customers. Post relevant articles and quick tips on troubleshooting your AC unit, or post excellent bathroom tips for remodeling and renovating your bathroom. You can realistically post whatever you want to talk about that helps present you as an expert. Social Media is all about engagement. Also, Social Media can help your organic search results, build your email marketing database, drive more traffic to your website, and help with reputation management.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is a great strategy to use for retention and re-marketing, and a way to present yourself as an industry expert. You need to stay in front of your existing customers and potential prospects every month. The average prospect needs 6-7 touches from a business before they actually do business with them. Mailing out letters is not the answer and it is very expensive. Email marketing is quick, measurable, and extremely effective. Keep your customers engaged and aware of all the services you have to offer and any new exciting breakthroughs in the field of home improvement.

When developing an email marketing strategy, you need to plan it out carefully and make sure every campaign is created with a strong offer or call to action. Don’t be too pushy or overburden people by sending out more than one email campaign per month. Email marketing is a key piece to the internet marketing puzzle and can help maximize all of your marketing efforts.

If you are a Home Improvement contractor, I encourage you to implement all of these proven marketing strategies into your business today. The longer you wait, the more your competition will gain a larger share of the market (and their friends, family, co workers, etc.). All of these strategies need to be worked on and improved upon over time, so do not think that what worked today will always work tomorrow. Create a clear strategy to maximize your internet marketing investment and set realistic expectations. With the right plan and execution, internet marketing will not feel like you are taking a risk by spending your money on it, and hoping for something in return. Internet marketing is a tried and true investment that will deliver consistent returns for your business.

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