Monthly Archives: January 2017

Some Business Fads That Are on Their Way Out

when there was a frozen yogurt chain in almost every town? Today, many of these once-popular establishments are out of business; like fashion, business is subject to the ebb and flow of consumer hype, and such fads tend not to last very long.

“Don’t assume your fad is going to have revenue beyond a pretty short time,” Mary Gale, a lecturer in entrepreneurship at Babson College in Massachusetts, told the Asbury Park Press. “Plan for the demise of that business, and don’t fool yourself about when it’s going to be.”

Owning of a fad business could diminish your entrepreneurial spirit, but there are ways of bouncing back. Here are the business trends that entrepreneurs think will die off in the coming years, and how they can be adapted to fit the changing market.

Box subscriptions Subscription services are all the rage right now, but Jeff Neal, creator of a mud-run series turned project manager and estimator, said box subscriptions — a business where a company sends subscribers a curated box of items every month — will taper off because they are more interesting than practical. Over time, he said, you will end up with way more of a certain product — like coffee, wine or cleaning products — than one person could possibly need or use.
If you run a box-subscription company, you might want to consider finding a “common denominator” with another type of business and adapting, said Neal.
For example, you could branch out into retail sales: Subscription services like Julep (cosmetics) and Blue Apron (meal ingredients) allow subscribers to skip their monthly deliveries and instead purchase related products individually from the service’s websites. Daily deals The trend of e-commerce “daily deal” websites hit complete market saturation in 2014, said Mike Catania, co-founder and CTO of savings community Promotion Code. However, with so many ties to small business communities, daily deals sites could easily morph into location-based apps that curate retail deals nearby, he said. “Entrepreneurs in the field could also diversify by moving into the popular rebates arena, as they likely have significant amounts of purchase data from their existing daily deal customers,” Catania added. Tanning beds The emerging information about the dangers of UV tanning has decreased the demand for traditional tanning beds.
However, it is possible to stick with the tanning business and remain profitable, said Eric Anderson, CEO of Unlimited Tan. Switching the focus to spray tanning can increase business and even bring in a whole new clientele that would normally not visit a tanning salon. “Adding a spray booth or custom spray tanning is a must to adapt to the changing needs of your customer base,” Anderson said. He added that creative marketing and partnerships will keep customers engaged. Laser and bleach teeth whitening Although the teeth-whitening market has been alive and well since the days of the ancient Egyptians and Romans, today’s health-conscious consumers are wary of modern methods like bleaching and laser treatments.
Max Robinson, owner of Teeth Whitening Belfast, said he does far less traditional laser teeth whitening than he used to do, because most of his customers are now looking for natural treatments. As a result, he has had to diversify his business, he said. “We use a lot of coconut oil, charcoal and baking soda, and provide different [whitening] treatments,” Robinson said.
Nostalgic gaming apps Pokémon Go was without a question the most popular new app this summer. But how many people do you know who still play the game regularly? AJ Saleem, academy director of Suprex Learning Houston, said he expects gaming apps capitalizing on nostalgia to die off in the coming year, if not sooner, because the games eventually lose their popularity (again). “There are definitely ways to prolong its popularity, such as adding new additions and updating, but eventually the game will die out,” said Saleem. “Those popular games aren’t meant to last forever.”

Some Online Business Ideas

When you dream of opening your own business, you might envision four white walls and a mess of boxes to unpack in a commercial space. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. With today’s technology, you can start and run a business online, often with little to no cost.

By focusing on your strengths, you’ll be able to build a client roster and get your online-based business started. Here are 15 great ideas you can run with.

1. SEO consultant
Do you know the ins and outs of search engines and have skills in platforms like Google Analytics? The owners of a lot of smaller companies don’t realize how much of an impact search engine optimization (SEO) can have on their business. Educate those business owners on the power of SEO to help transform their websites into a more SEO-friendly property. Use your skills to show business owners how to read and use their analytics data the right way, and how to properly use keywords and structure content to get more traffic.

2. Business coaching
If you possess a great deal of business experience and knowledge, why not create a business that helps aspiring entrepreneurs find success? You can use your skills to help new business owners get off to a good start and help experienced entrepreneurs keep up with demand. To show off your knowledge and skills and bring in clients, you can also write articles about business on platforms like LinkedIn.

3. Specialized retailer
There’s an audience for everything, whether it’s making dollhouse furniture or creating organic dog food. With a specialty e-commerce store, you can reach those customers who are seeking your specific products. All you need is a web-hosting service with an integrated shopping cart feature or with e-commerce software, and your business will be operational in no time. You can even work with vendors to ship products to customers on your behalf, which means you don’t need to own a lot of inventory. [See Related Story: A Small Business Guide to E-Commerce Shipping]

4. Social media consultant
Larger companies can hire an agency or full-time staff member to run their Facebook and Twitter accounts, but small businesses often have to handle their own social media marketing. With so many responsibilities, business owners are often too busy, overwhelmed or undereducated about the importance of social media to spend time developing and implementing a great social media strategy. As a consultant, you can help them determine the best tactics, posting schedules and content for their target audience. As their follower count grows, so will your business.

5. Web design
There’s nothing more off-putting than a poorly designed website, and often, it kills credibility. If you know HTML and have a good eye for design, you can launch a service to create attractive, easy-to-use websites for small businesses. Put your skills to good use for business owners who want to take their online presence to the next level. Build a comprehensive portfolio, and then create your own website to show it off and attract a steady stream of clients.

6. Resume/cover letter writing
It’s a tough truth to swallow, but a standout resume and cover letter can make all the difference when you’re applying for a job. While listing career accomplishments might seem like an easy task, the fine art of “humble bragging” eludes some of us. Find work by helping others to get hired with the aid of stellar resumes. Capitalize on the increasingly important social media branding bandwagon and offer to fix LinkedIn profiles as well.

7. Assistant/task manager
Do you have impeccable organizational skills? What about cleaning skills? Can you quickly and efficiently carry out these tasks? Maybe it’s time to put those skills to good use by becoming an online personal assistant or task manager. Companies like TaskRabbit or Zirtual allow you to sign up for tasks you want to complete — including data research, virtual assistant or running errands — and begin building clientele.

8. Professional freelancer
You might not think of freelancing as a business, but with more and more companies turning to part-time contract workers to fill their skill gaps, it’s not hard to imagine making a living providing businesses with a variety of freelance services. Depending on your skill sets, you could work for multiple companies in a variety of fields that offer you flexibility and a refreshing change of pace. According to the freelance job listing website Freelancer.com, tech services, content creation and web design are popular fields for contract work.

9. Affiliate marketing
If you’re a person who loves leaving customer reviews on sites like Amazon, stop doing it for free. Word-of-mouth advertising is still a huge lead generator for many companies, and a lot of businesses are willing to share a portion of their profits with persuasive individuals who will promote their products to the public. If you have a personal website with a large following, this might be easier to accomplish (PR reps are always seeking out brand advocates they can send free samples to). Smart Passive Income breaks down three types of affiliate marketing and explains which one is most profitable.
10. Remote technical support
Many small businesses don’t have room in their budget for a full-time IT employee, so when their systems go on the fritz, they’ll usually call a computer-savvy friend or family member. If you have experience working on computers and networks, you can eliminate their need to call in a favor and offer immediate remote technical assistance.
11. Virtual consignment store
Bargain hunters and thrift store enthusiasts can turn a nice profit reselling their vintage clothing finds. Brand yourself by setting up an independent website as your virtual storefront, but use a managed service like Google Checkout to handle transactions. High-resolution images and catchy copy for your products will make you stand out in the sea of internet users trying to sell their used items.

12. Handmade craft seller
Online sites like Etsy and ArtFire are platforms that make it extremely easy for crafters who can produce a steady supply of quality handmade items, like crocheted blankets or unique painted glassware. Startup costs are extremely low if you purchase your materials in bulk from a craft supplier, and if you can turn around orders quickly, you’ll be making a profit in no time at all. It’s even possible to turn your store into a full-time gig.
13. App development
Mobile applications are more popular than ever, and people are willing to pay good money for ways to manage their lives from their smartphones. If you have a great idea and happen to know coding, you can run with it and create your app yourself. If you just have an idea and don’t know the ins and outs of how to turn it into a reality, there are plenty of software developers looking to collaborate with people on app creation.

14. Blogger

If you have ideas and words bursting within you, you’ve most likely thought about starting a blog, at the very least. With the freedom to create your own beat and style your platform the way you desire, you can completely personalize your blogging experience and reach millions of people across the world. The larger the audience, the higher the chance you have at creating a successful business out of it.

15. Bridal Concierge

The wedding industry is booming, and with all of the stress and pressure that piles on every couple during their engagement, it’s nearly impossible for brides-to-be to enjoy their wedding planning. However, if you have a knack for organization and a passion for weddings, you can start your own career as a bridal concierge, dealing with the nitty gritty wedding details so the bride doesn’t have to.

Tips to Start a Photography Business

Starting your own photography business is a great way to add a second income or a main income, if you work hard. While the photography market is competitive, many photography business owners have been able to find their niche and build a sustainable career. Like most creative endeavors, you need to balance your passion for photography with real business skills in order to be successful. To build and grow your business, you need both raw talent and a knack for marketing. One photographer we spoke with said an ability “to market yourself” was one of the most important factors in success. You should continually be working to improve your craft and evolving your product, and work consistently on your own branding, online marketing and people skills. Without the two, the results will likely just be an expensive hobby rather than a viable full-time business.

Startup costs
Quality photography equipment is notoriously expensive, so you’ll want to start off with the minimum: Buying a $5,000 lens doesn’t make sense if your business isn’t making money yet. Many professional photographers say to plan on budgeting about $10,000 to start your photography business.

According to professional photographer Austen Diamond, “building slow and smart” will help you stay nimble. Allow the organic growth of your business to fund gear improvements, and avoid debt if possible, he said.

Based on interviews with professional photographers, here is a basic budget for starting your business, not including studio or office space. All prices are yearly estimates or one-time purchases.

Two cameras: $1,500 to $2,000 each
Multiple lenses: $1,000+ each
Two flashes: $700
Multiple memory cards: $50+ each
Two external drives: $120 each (keep one backup off-site)
Computer or laptop with sufficient memory: $2,000
Website (Wix, PhotoShelter, SmugMug and/or Squarespace): $60+
Lightroom and Photoshop subscription: $120 per year
Business licenses: $150 (varies)
Insurance: $600 per year (varies)
Accounting: $300+ per year (varies)
Contracts: Free to $1,000+ (varies)
Online proof gallery, such as ShootProof: $120 per year
Business cards: $20+
Optional expenses:

Business training, such as Lynda.com classes
Photography workshops and classes
Stylish camera bags and straps
Second computer
Printed marketing materials
Studio and office space
Other things you’ll need to do (that may be free or low-cost):

Market your business via social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, to start)
Create your business name and logo
Research the best business structure (LLC, S corporation or other)
Acquire sales tax permit and employer identification number (EIN)
Obtain image licensing and usage contracts; Creative Commons offers free services
Set up business bank accounts
Find a way to manage client contact information and emails (see BND’s list of the best CRM software)
Choose a spreadsheets and scheduling solution (Google Docs is free)
Find an expense tracker (mileage, expenses, billable time), such as Expensify or BizXpenseTracker
Research credit card payment processing, such as Square or PayPal Our expert sources offered the following advice for building your personal brand and reputation as a professional photographer.

Your person and gear: If you work with people, you are your brand. Even the little things affect your reputation, and most of your business will come by word-of-mouth referrals. When you go to a shoot, dress appropriately. Iron your shirt. Wash your car. Be organized. Bring your own water and snacks. Charge your electronics. Thank-you and referral gifts should be classy. Being ready shows respect and professionalism.

Being timely: Always arrive to the shoot early, and don’t fail to deliver your product when promised. Print out directions so you don’t get lost. Ensure that your clients understand your production schedule and how long it will be for them to receive their proofs and final product, and stick to your agreements. Answer phone calls and emails in a timely manner.

Online: Anonymity is nearly impossible these days. Many potential clients will be searching for you and your work online. The images you post online should not only be high-quality but also the kind of images you want to be taking to attract the kind of work you want to be doing. Avoid contentious social media posts, and keep your language positive. Keep your LinkedIn profile and contact information on all sites up-to-date.

Pricing
Many photographers have difficulties with setting their price and determining their value. Certainly, you should never price work to result in lost money or less than minimum wage, but many do. You can research your area to see what your competitors charge, but ultimately, you’ll need to charge what you are worth.

Generally, you’ll want to estimate 3 hours of editing time for every hour of shooting. Some photographers use a gauge of roughly $50 per hour to cover standard costs. Be sure to factor in travel and preparation time. Consider your ongoing costs, such as insurance, gear, accounting services and your website.

Once you start adding up the numbers, you can see why undercutting your competitors may not always be the best strategy and may result in you losing money on a gig. If you cannot seem to make the numbers match, you’ll either have to consider whether you are OK with having an expensive hobby or if you need to branch out into a different, more profitable market.

You should also always require an upfront deposit for high-priced gigs. To avoid credit card stop payments, you should require cash, cashier’s check or bank transfer for paying the deposit.

Customer expectations and contracts
Managing your clients’ expectations is important to your success. Your clients should know exactly what to expect of you and also what is expected of them. For weddings, timelines and group pictures should be organized in advance. For infant photos, your customers should know what clothes and accessories to bring. If you are taking corporate headshot images, people should know how to dress.

For contracts, your clients should know how much is due in advance and how to pay it. You should set terms on how far in advance you need them to commit so you can schedule. Contracts should be explained carefully, and if applicable, your customers should know how they are allowed to use the images — and that should be in writing as well. While not everyone is comfortable with legalese, your professionalism will help make this necessary part of your business agreement go as smoothly as possible. You can find free contracts online, such as model release, photo licensing, wedding agreements and other common photography contracts, on sites like Less Accounting.

Finding your niche market not only allows you to focus on a specific skill set but also offers the opportunity to find networking prospects in a specific genre. Wedding and infant photographers are abundant. You can still book these types of gigs, but if you can offer something that others do not, you may find more work.

The product you offer may cover a specific genre, such as sports, or even a style or mood, such as humorous photos. Or perhaps you are also a writer and can create beautiful picture books with family stories. Maybe you work in the medical industry and have the knowledge to create quality educational medical photography.

Where to find work
A note about wedding photography
With weddings, you get only one chance to do it right. If you have issues with your camera or memory card and don’t have the proper backup gear, you may miss the whole thing and damage your reputation quickly. If you are not prepared for lighting challenges or the chaos of working with emotional, opinionated family members, you will not produce your best work. Although weddings are usually profitable gigs, many experienced wedding photographers recommend that you start as a second shooter with an established wedding photographer before going solo. Many part-time or freelance photographers are trying to get in the wedding game, but there are other ways to make money while you work on your skills and purchasing the proper gear.

It’s also important to note that the wedding market is seasonal, and business will likely fluctuate in the fall and winter. If you’re getting into this market, be sure to plan ahead and save for the off-season.

Other photography markets
Not interested in competing in the oversaturated wedding or baby market? Here are some other avenues you can explore:

Stock photography: You can start your own stock-photo website or sign up as a contributor to popular sites such as Shutterstock or iStock. Pay may be low, but licensing is managed for you, and you can sell in volume.

Contract work: Some photographers have obtained contracts that pay a set monthly amount to cover local events or to be on call. For example, perhaps your local tourism or business development department may pay you monthly to cover local events.

Commercial photography: All businesses need web images these days. You may be able to find work capturing images of their products or services, facilities, and even headshots of their board members and management team.

Real estate: Oftentimes, real estate agents will contract with photographers to capture professional images of homes, business properties and land. They may also want you to capture 360-degree or interactive video footage.

Pets: People certainly love their pets, and some pet owners want professional images of their furry companions, either as portrait-style images or on location with natural movement and action.

Boudoir or glamour: Many people like sensual pics of themselves or images taken of them with their hair and makeup professionally done. These can be done in a studio with other professional artists if you cannot do hair and makeup yourself.

Sports: A wide variety of sports organizations want professional images and video. You may even be able to obtain contract work to cover a full season or a specific event, such as a local marathon, rodeo or bike race. Keep in mind that lenses for capturing sports moments can be costly.

Local news: Local print, TV and online news sources may pay you for images of local events, weather disasters or crime scenes. It would require you to go out and cover events upfront on your dime, but it could pay off later.

Image or video editing: A busy local photographer may need assistance with his or her workload. The pay may not be ideal, but it is a good opportunity to work on your editing skills.

Product images: Many local artisans and retail businesses sell products online and need good product images for their own websites or shopping sites, such as Etsy or Amazon. The pay per image would be low, but the work is relatively easy.

Food images: Like every other business, restaurants need to have an online presence. You may find ample work in helping restaurants create online menus and promotional images.

Music: Working bands need promotional images for their websites, CDs and media packages. Some also desire video of their live performances.

Paparazzi: To some people, “paparazzi” may seem like a dirty word, but someone has to snap pics of the Kardashians in their less-than-flattering casual moments. If you live in a city such as Los Angeles, New York or Las Vegas, you may be able to make money from selling your celebrity photographs.

Prints: Some photographers have found success selling their prints. It’s a tough way to make money but worth exploring if it fits your genre. Prints can be sold online and in galleries.

Contests: If entering a photo contest is easy and doesn’t cost you anything, it may be worth trying to garner a little extra income.

There is a lot to know about becoming an exceptional photographer and making money doing it. With skill, careful marketing and a professional reputation, you have a good chance of creating a lucrative photography career.