Archive for May, 2012

This is mostly for our US friends but it might be worth checking out options in your own country.

Think you’ve exhausted all your money-raising options? Think again. Here are seven alternative ways to fund your home based business.


While the old saying “It takes money to make money” has some bearing on starting a home based business, how much money it’s going to take depends on the kind of business you’re starting. But before thinking about how to fund your home business, you have to determine how much you need–and that may not be as much as you thought.

For example, the startup costs for some home businesses–like cleaning services, daily money management and pet sitting–are quite low, costing in the hundreds of dollars to launch. Other businesses–like medical transcription, private investigating and mobile pet grooming–will cost $10,000 or more. And neither of these estimates includes living expenses, which you’ll need to take into account when calculating your startup costs if you don’t already have a job to cover those costs.

The most common sources of startup funds are tapping into your own piggy bank, retirement funds, insurance policies, employee severance package, a loan from a family member or friend, credit cards or a home equity loan. If you’ve already considered or drawn from those sources but still need additional funds, here are some other types of wells you might be able to draw from:

First, think about assets or resources you own or are entitled to, such as:

  • Taxes. While still employed at a job, you can reduce withholding taxes by changing your number of allowances. Each additional allowance on a $1,000 paycheck is worth about $20; on a $2,000 paycheck, $25. So you can unlock an instant cash stream by increasing your allowances in line with the deductions you expect to have available when you file your annual income taxes. Simply follow the instructions on the IRS form or consult with a tax professional for more information. Calculate these at
  • Collectibles. For almost instant cash, you can sell collectibles you’ve acquired yourself or through an inheritance. This could be anything from your childhood comic book collection to your great aunt’s silver tea service, so check your attic! You’d be surprised what people will pay money for, so don’t overlook things you might just consider “junk.” Auction sites like eBay, as well as sites specializing in the type of collectible you have, make it easy and inexpensive for you to get a good price for your belongings.
  • Disability help. If you’re disabled, you may be eligible for a program that provides you with counseling, classes and capital with which to start a business. Check with your state’s Vocational Rehabilitation Agency to determine what it offers. You can find your state’s agency by checking the Social Security Administration’s website.

Second, you may be able to tap into:

  • SBA loans. Probably the loan program most suitable for home based businesses is the SBA’s Microloan Program, which is administered through local non-profit community lenders. The average microloan size is about $10,500, but loans can be for as much as $35,000. When this program was started, loans were character-based, that is, they didn’t require collateral. Most programs now require some type of collateral, as well as the personal guarantee of the borrower. You can find the agency administering these loans nearest you on the SBA’s website.
  • Angel investors. While most angel investors, such as those you’d find through sites like and are interested in companies that already have a track record, if you have a hot, innovative idea, you may be able to interest a well-to-do person in your community, like a doctor or a group of doctors, to invest in your venture.

Finally, you may be able to line up prepaid work so that your customers can help finance your startup. For example, you can:

  • Get deposits on contracts you line up. This might be in the form of a purchase order on which you may be able to get a bank to advance your funds. Or, if you’re a service provider, such as a professional speaker, it’s common to require and get half your fee in advance from clients. This can also be done if you have a product your customer will be reselling, giving the customer confidence that they’ll get back the money they pay to you upfront with something they believe their customers will gladly pay for.
  • Barter for the products or services you need. For example, if you provide lawn-care services, you may be able to get printing, web design or equipment you need by your trading your own business’ services.

When it comes to funding your home based startup, thinking creatively could help you achieve your financial goals.

Authors and career coaches Paul and Sarah Edwards are’s “Homebased Business” columnists. Their latest book is The Best Home Businesses for People 50+. Contact them at

By Eric Markowitz

Are you guilty of information overload? Do you abuse Clip Art? Here, the experts weigh in on how to create a pitch-perfect PowerPoint presentation.

Getty: Steve Jobs speaking at a Press Conference On Apples iPhone 4

Getty: Steve Jobs speaking at a Press Conference On Apples iPhone 4

“There’s something in the air.” With these five words, Steve Jobs opened the 2008 Macworld conference.  Jobs is often cited as one of corporate America’s greatest presenters, and that’s simply because he understands one thing: how to tell a story. Like any great sales pitch, an effective PowerPoint offers a compelling narrative; it elicits an emotional response from the audience, even if the subject is, say, debt consolidation, or finance derivatives. The trick is to understand how to engage your listeners, keep them focused, and use the right visual imagery to convey your message. So whether you’re pitching an idea to investors, introducing a new product to your clients, or simply reviewing your company’s quarterly results, a great PowerPoint presentation will leave your audience feeling inspired.

Creating a great PowerPoint is simpler than you might think. More often than not, you don’t need to be a great designer, writer or orator to come up with an attention-grabbing presentation. What you do need, however, is an understanding of how to capture an audience’s focus—and perhaps a bit of their imagination.  Here are a few tips on how to create a PowerPoint that your audience won’t forget.

Dig Deeper: 10 Ways to Make a PowerPoint Presentations Powerful

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Create a narrative.

“One thing I like to do is make sure there’s a logical story,” says Janet Bornemann, the creative director of PowerPoint Studio, based in Acton, Massachusetts. Bornemann, who designs PowerPoint presentations for corporate clients, says that just like any piece of good writing, there needs to be a beginning, middle, and an end to your presentation. Traditionally, in the beginning of the presentation you tell the audience what you plan to cover, in the middle of the presentation you tell them, and in the end, you tell them what you’ve told them.  One clever tip Bornemann recommends is to use five words per line, and five lines per slide.

Guy Kawasaki, a venture capitalist and Inc. contributor, has his own technique for creating a storyline for an entrepreneur’s PowerPoint presentation to investors. His method, which he calls the 10/20/30 rule, is a great way to structure your presentation’s story. “It’s quite simple,” Kawasaki wrote on his blog, How to Change the World. “A PowerPoint presentation should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.”

Kawasaki’s recommended structure for any entrepreneurial presentation is as follows:

1.    Problem
2.    Your solution
3.    Business model
4.    Underlying magic/technology
5.    Marketing and sales
6.    Competition
7.    Team
8.    Projections and milestones
9.    Status and timeline
10.   Summary and call to action

Regardless of a specific structure you choose for your presentation, your story needs to accomplish three goals: frame the issue, present the challenge, and explain how you will solve the problem.

Dig Deeper: Pump Up Your PowerPoint Presentations

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Less is more.

At some point or another, we’ve all sat through a PowerPoint presentation flooded with an endless stream of bullet points, sentences, or even full paragraphs. It may seem obvious, but according to Bornemann, this is one of the biggest—and most common—mistakes made by presenters. And when the presenter lists too much detail on the slides, few people will be able to retain any of it.

A great presentation “should really just give the highlights,” says Bornemann. Steve Jobs, for example, is famous for using virtually no text at all— an icon of a new product or two or three “big picture” words will suffice. “People are afraid to use a slide with one word, but it has merit, because we have to process information before we go on to the next idea,” Bornemann says. It’s also good to segment presentations in places where your audience’s mind can sum up—and process—the information, so that they’re actually able to think about what you’re telling them.

“It’s very important for the mind to be able to rest on an idea or a thought, so if it’s a constant flow of words, people will grow tired,” she adds.

Jim Confalone, the founder and creative director of ProPoint Graphics, a graphic design studio based in New York City, says that people simply stop paying attention to slides with too much text on them. “It becomes like wallpaper,” he says. In other words, it becomes easy to tune out.

Your audience needs to digest information. Don’t be afraid to linger on a slide or create a slide with just one picture and nothing else. Taking risks like these will help sell your presentation to your audience, and keep them from getting that “glazed over” look of boredom.

Dig Deeper: 4 Great PowerPoint Tools

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Branding is key.

Clip Art: the enemy of any great PowerPoint presentation. When assembling slides for a presentation, Clip Art, slide transitions, and other tacky animations are an easy way to pollute your brand’s message. While they’re easy to use, they make your brand seem generic and outdated. After all, anyone with Microsoft has access to the same catalogue of images, and more than likely has seen it all before.

“You don’t want to have a circus of effects,” says Bornemann. “Be consistent with colors and fonts. Focus on the message—everything has to have a reason.” And, she adds, “effects ‘on steroids’ don’t have a reason.”

It’s also easy to fall into the trap of overusing charts and graphs to illustrate a point. However, if the graphic doesn’t support the information or push the presentation forward, it’s not necessary to the ‘story.’ “As soon as it turns into an arbitrary thing, we throw it out,” says Confalone. “If the content is not there, nothing you do is going to work. ”

Dig Deeper: Making Your (Power) Point

Creating a Great PowerPoint: Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse once more.

The presentation on the screen is just as important as the speaker’s presentation off the screen. When giving the PowerPoint Presentation, it’s essential to add a little flavor to the speech.

“Most speakers get into presentation mode and feel as though they have to strip the talk of any fun,” Carmine Gallo, a communication coach, wrote in his Business Week column recently. “If you are not enthusiastic about your own products or services, how do you expect your audience to be?”

According to Confalone, there are two ways a speaker can fail in his or her presentation: a lack confidence, or a misconception about what the audience will retain from the speech.

The only real way to boost confidence is to practice. If you spend 15 hours putting together the presentation, spend another 15 practicing it. Don’t rely too much on notes, since the audience will be looking at you to engage with them—not your script.

Confalone also stresses to his clients that most viewers will walk away from a presentation with only the very key points. Therefore, it’s essential not to confuse your audience with the minutia or details that are best left for a handout.

All PowerPoint presentations are trying to sell you something, even if it’s just an idea, product, or the presenter himself. A “boring” topic is no excuse for a “boring” presentation. “Sexy or not, you need to distill the key points in the conversation,” Confalone says. “That element of persuasion is the key to it.”

Dig Deeper: Grist: More Power Than Point

Eric Markowitz reports on start-ups, entrepreneurs, and issues that affect small businesses. Previously, he worked at Vanity Fair. He lives in New York City. @EricMarkowitz

Friday Humor: Coffee Machine

Posted: May 25, 2012 by Alison in Just For Fun
Tags: ,


by Ann Fottler-Pierce

Image from Designer Daily / Click for more infoThere is hardly a company out there that couldn’t make excellent use of a good product or service brochure. In fact, a well designed, informative brochure is often the cornerstone of a company’s marketing effort. They can be used for a single purpose, such as a leave-behind piece for sales calls, or for multiple uses. They can be mailed to prospects to spark interest, handed out at events and trade shows, mailed to fill information requests and more. A really good brochure can do a lot of heavy lifting for marketing and sales, the operative word being GOOD.

A marketing piece as important as this will be viewed carefully and will reflect the quality and value of your company’s products and services in the recipient’s mind. It can establish your credibility and professionalism, or destroy it. It can make the big sale, or break it. So, when it’s time for your company to produce a new brochure, make it a top priority to get it right the first time.

What goes into the design of a high-quality brochure?

pullquotes-good-brochureA quality brochure will use a combination of design, visuals, text and layout to create a look and feel that emphasizes your marketing objectives – introducing a new product, selling a service, creating brand awareness or soliciting donations. The objectives can vary as widely as the designs, what matters is that your brochure communicates effectively to your target audience. Often, having an outside firm write and design your brochure will help you avoid the trap of using industry jargon and acronyms. They will help you to view things from the prospect’s point of view instead of a salesperson’s.

Image from Designer Daily / Click for more info

When starting your brochure project begin by identifying your target audience. Who is this brochure aimed at? CEOs, housewives, human resources managers, affluent males over 50? Know your audience and speak to it, specifically. You may find that you have more than one distinct target audience you need to engage, such as a CEO and an IT manager. These two individuals would have very different concerns and levels of technical expertise. In that case think seriously about creating more than one brochure to appeal to each audience and address their specific questions and concerns. Remember, you need this heavy-hitting brochure to be effective. Creating more than one version may get you a higher ROI than producing just one, all-purpose brochure.

When you’ve determined who you are talking to select the most valuable benefit they derive from your product or service. You may want to do research here with past customers to determine that benefit, it’s not always what you think it will be. Your product may help a busy executive stay organized, but the real benefit to the customer may be the time your product saves him, or the freedom that organization gives him. If you take the time to identify why past customers bought your product it will pay off with new prospects. Then your new brochure can make use of text, pictures, colors and design to emphasize what that benefit will mean to them.

In the initial design process be sure to involve any high-level decision makers right from the start to get the buy-in you’ll need for approval. This will help you avoid costly redesigns and other changes at the end of a project when they are the most expensive and time consuming to make.

As we said in the beginning your brochure will do some heavy lifting for your sales and marketing departments, so don’t strain it too much. Avoid the temptation to overload your brochure with every fact, feature and detail of your offering. Give prospects the information they need to get excited about your product and persuade them to take the next step in your sales process. That could be calling to place an order, visiting a web site, setting up a sales appointment, or visiting a store location. Whatever your sales cycle calls for, make sure your brochure prominently asks your prospect to move forward – this is a Call To Action. That’s what you’re really after, so be sure to ask for it.

pullquotes-designcopyA brochure allows you to leave a lasting impression on your prospects. That means a poorly executed brochure will actually do more harm than good, costing your company much more than the price of producing a high-quality piece in the first place. Be sure to check out the materials of the competition. The idea here is not to copy them, you always what to differentiate your company, but to make sure that your materials are as good or better than theirs. You will get the best ROI by using professional designers, photographers, copy writers, proofreaders and printers for your project. Help them gather all the information they need about your company, brand and product, then with guidance from you, let them do their stuff! The next time a prospect asks you for more information, you’ll be proud to present them with your impressive new brochure and you’ll know your well on your way to a new sale.

Ann Fottler-Pierce is founder and creative director of Xtreme Brand Makeover and its parent company, Piercing Communications.

by Maro Onokpise

What you do or say within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone could mean the difference between getting the job or just being another face.  There is a reason Super Bowl commercials command millions of dollars for a 30 second spot.  Because that’s all the time you need to deliver a compelling message.  The problem is that most of us don’t work on our 30 second message.  This goes beyond your elevator pitch.  Think about it.  If you had 30 seconds to speak with the CEO of the company of your dreams, what would you say to him/her?  You may not have an ad agency at your disposal to help with crafting your 30 second spot, but that’s why you have Jobtrakr.

I took an Advertising class my junior year at the University of Central Florida, and learned a lot.  Most of which I apply to what I do today, and you can to.

Here are a few tricks of the trade that advertisers use to get your attention within 30 seconds.

Capture Your Audience’s Attention

Think about some of your favorite commercials.  For me, we have a super market here in Orlando called Publix.  Hands down, they have some of the most compelling and heartwarming commercials I have ever seen (look them up on Youtube.  You won’t be disappointed).  For you, your favorite commercial may have comedic elements to it. Whatever it is, think about what drew you in and how you can use those techniques during your next important conversation.

Convey a Clear and Concise Message

The worst thing you can do when you’re trying to deliver a message is to be all over the place.  The companies that are successful have a laser focused message. Anything that deviates from their core message doesn’t enter the conversation. Now think about your message.What is your core message?  Would you be able to articulate a clear and concise message?

Focus on Differentiation

Marketers work relentlessly to try and differentiate themselves from their competitors. This is what drives them to be the best in their business.  What is your differentiatior? Why should Florida Hospital, Lockheed Martin, Apple or any other company hire you over your competition?

Hopefully the aforementioned points got your mind moving and hopefully in a place where you are beginning to think about your 30 second message.  When you combine these elements, that’s when you have the makings of something that opens the doors for future conversations.  Your’re not going to always be able to sell everyone on you within the first conversation.  The goal is to make a lasting impression on that first conversation to make them want to learn more about you.

About Maro Onokpise

Maro Onokpise is the founder and Editor of Jobtrakr. He oversees all editorial content and is responsible for hosting hiring and recruiting events throughout Central Florida. Prior to turning his sights on the job industry, Maro was an Associate Manager for Banana Republic where he was responsible for Men’s Merchandise. In 2010 Maro was featured on the cover of Career Magazine and was also named to Orlando Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Maro Onokpise is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.