Practical Tips For Finding a Professional Business Writer

Writing for businesses is serious business. At least that’s what most business owners think. Unless their target market shows measurable and verifiable proof of possessing a sense of humor, which then requires content created by a light business writer written specifically with a niche readership in mind for the purpose of connecting with a familiar audience already seeking and appreciating a lighter side of their preferred product, service or industry at large.

However, the main feature to look for in a good business writer is the ability to connect with industry specific clients by creating a positive brand impact on your readers through his or her style of writing.

This can include effectively using writing techniques like witty copy, content with pertinent links to news or current affairs related headlines for an industry specific story, writing local interest copy with research that underlines the worth of the feature and including relevant statistical data to establish the main subject of the text.

Some freelance business writers may specialize in creating product reviews, interview based feature writing, or company profiles. Others may deal with creating Press Release or newsletter content while still others may be experts at writing original articles for your company’s article marketing efforts on the top article directories and offer submission services too. Depending on the kind of business writing you are looking for, you can follow the below mentioned 2 practical tips for finding a professional business writer.

But, how does one go about finding a good business writer for a new enterprise without exactly breaking the bank? Or, avoid getting stuck with a wannabe business writer with a handful of clips in the local paper’s latest town gossip section?

Simple! Just read and apply the 2 practical tips given below, for finding a professional business writer with a strong portfolio of verifiable writing clips to show for his or her proven expertise across a specific industry.

Read through and apply these for your small business promotional campaign through positive branding and customer connect efforts that great copywriting can assuredly offer you.

Tip # 1: Go to Local Business Seminars or Attend Online Business Shows (Webinars)

Many local businesses regularly host business seminars in collaborative efforts with trade organizations in a bid to increase awareness about a new product or service and these present great opportunities for finding potential business writers. Many professional business writers attend such seminars for covering commissioned stories or for networking with new companies and often have a ‘writing pack’ handy with them, containing contact and writing samples.

Look and ask around seminars or web based business promotion events for good business writers and marketing copywriters offering a quick preview of their work and you can look forward to finding a professional business writer for your company.

Tip # 2: Attend Charity Functions and Non Profit Promotional Events If Yours Is An Alternative Business

For small business owners looking for a good business writer that can deliver great copy for their alternative business model, such as a non-profit business, museums, local galleries, NGO, social service organization etc. attending charity functions or promotional events held by enterprises similar to theirs is a great way of sourcing good business writers for their niche. From business plan writers to promotional writing experts and grant writers, one can find great business writers in many familiar, but often overlooked places – Yes, good business writers can be contacted many places you wouldn’t normally look out for them in – including teleseminars advertised on your favorite social networking sites, like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – so keep an eye out, won’t you?

Home Business Startup – The Essential Steps to a Successful Venture

This article shows you how to build a successful home business from scratch. By following these instructions, you should get a business that is suitable for both you and your customers. This business plan covers the essential steps. However, the success or failure of this endeavor is your responsibility.

This business plan consists of three stages, which contain the 16 individual steps. Follow these stages and steps in sequence. Then you will minimize your effort, resources, and risk.

Stage 1: Selecting a suitable business idea

Purpose of this stage is to satisfy your requirements and the apparent needs and desires of prospective customers.

Defining your requirements — Make a list of the things you want from your home business. This might include how much of your time the business will take, how much cash profit it should produce, and how much it will cost to get started. I recommend a low-cost, low-risk business idea for people just starting out.

Include in this list the skills and other resources you already possess. It is best to start a home business that does not require much more than your existing abilities and assets.

Finding a potential idea — The business idea should allow you to satisfy your above requirements. You might look in the classified advertisements in the local newspaper or yellow pages of the telephone directory for possible business ideas. You might want to review the hobbies and other activities that you enjoy doing.

Reviewing the market — Your business idea should have a ready market of customers willing and able to pay for the product. By product, I mean goods, information, or services. The best way to verify the demand for your proposed product is to see if this product is currently being advertised. This review of current advertisements should also give you ideas on how to promote your own product.

Stage 2: Preparing the groundwork

Purpose of this stage is to perform a suitable amount of planning and advance preparations. This planning should include ways to limit cash expenditures.

Refining the product design — This means making the product more desirable without incurring excessive costs. The best low-cost products would be information you have acquired and services that you provide personally. It is difficult for the average person to make a good home business from selling goods.

Developing the sales program — At this point, you have reviewed the advertisements for comparable products and refined the product design. Now you are ready for developing the sales program. Your advertisements should emphasize the best features of your product. You should consider providing a satisfaction guaranteed policy.

It can be risky to offer a low sales price to get customers. People may think the product is inferior and not even worth the low price. A way around this would be to have a good reason for the low price. Thus, you may have a contest where winners (there should be several) can get a reduced price for your product. Another way would be to have a TGIF (thank god it’s Friday) sale, or some other type of sale.

Designing business operations — As the owner you will be the main boss of the business. However, your spouse might answer telephone calls, keep the books, remind you about appointments or other promises you made, and so on. If you have a large family, you may choose to assign certain duties to the older kids.

Listing the startup requirements — You need to determine and list all the requirements before you start business operations. The most important of these would be any governmental and insurance requirements that apply to your home business. You also need to know what equipment and supplies will be needed to set up your home office and provide your product.

A good way to determine these needs would be to talk to an accountant or bookkeeper, professional friend, or retired businessperson. You can also go online and research the home business rules for your city, county, state, and the federal government.

Planning costs and expenses — it is vitally important to keep your startup costs and expenses as low as possible. You want to resist splurging on a fancy home office, new computer, or other unnecessary items.

The best kind of cost or expense is one that will rapidly pay for itself in increased sales. An example is low-cost advertising, such as using the craigslist.org website.

Stage 3: Achieving the desired results

At this point, you should know whether you have a viable business idea. If so, it is time to get serious about your home business. First, you will complete all startup requirements. Next, you will start business operations, fine tune the business, and start increasing sales and cash profit.

Being able to produce the product — Before proceeding with the startup, you must be able to produce a quality product. This is a product that can satisfy the needs and desires of likely customers at a price they can afford. I recommend that you select a business idea that uses mostly your existing abilities and resources. However, you might have to go through a training period to acquire any missing skills.

Gathering the needed resources — These resources include the equipment and supplies shown on your list of startup requirements, and the cash needed for other startup costs and expenses. You also need a personal commitment to complete the remaining steps in this business plan.

Setting up a home office — Your first home office should include only the bare essentials to do business. You might use a kitchen table and chairs for a desk. Your file system could consist of boxes filled with large envelopes for the various categories of paperwork. At some point, you will want a separate business phone for your business.

Setting up an accounting system — If you have a computer, you might want to download a free program to keep your books. Otherwise, you could use manual ledgers and journals. To maintain control of your business you might want a daily cash report, a weekly report of new customers, and monthly financial statements (balance sheet and income statement).

Completing the startup requirements — During this step, you will satisfy all remaining items on your list of startup requirements. It is especially important that you satisfy all governmental and insurance requirements. However, you may wish to delay purchasing certain equipment and supplies that won’t be needed until your business really gets going.

Starting business operations — At last, you can start business operations. This means to advertise your product, get customers, provide your product, and be paid. You will also have to pay your bills, keep track of your business transactions, and file any required reports with the government.

During this time, you may want to test various advertising messages is to see which one gets the best results. You also want to correct any operational problems that appear.

Improving customer satisfaction — Now that your business is operating smoothly, you need to concentrate on improving customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers will give you good word of mouth advertising and may refer you to other potential customers. Keep in mind that customers probably have different needs, desires, and viewpoints than you have. So be on the lookout for any indications that customers are dissatisfied with your business operations or product. Above all, keep any promises you make to customers. Also, be sure that the product you supply to customers is what they really want.

Increasing sales and cash profit — Now that you are operating successfully, you probably want to increase sales and cash profit to reach the goals for your home business. You notice I say “cash profit” rather than “net profit.” Cash is the lifeblood of a small business. If the cash runs out and you can’t get a loan, you are out of business. This is so even if your business shows a “net profit.” Net profit is an accounting concept that is mainly important for a large business. For a small business, cash profit is what matters. You want more cash coming in (sales) than is going out (costs and expenses).

AFAB Is a Four-Letter Word, So Say Focus Instead

AFAB (A-fab) noun:

1) a sale of “anything for a buck” in order to generate revenue and keep billable employees busy

2) a business situation which can impede company growth, differentiation and/or profits

3) in more mature firms, a symptom of lack of focus on specific product or service offerings

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However you define it, AFAB (anything for a buck) is a condition, which typically impacts a business at some point or points in its life cycle. It is essential to recognize when your firm is suffering from AFAB in order to take corrective actions. Failure to do so will impact your firm through lower gross margins, increased opportunity costs, and lack of brand and services differentiation. Even better, learn the warning signs (e.g., flat revenue growth or always needing different skills to staff projects) in order to avoid the condition whenever possible.

The remainder of this article addresses business growth and where AFAB can occur, AFAB’s causes, symptoms and treatment, and the benefits from minimizing AFAB in your firm.

Business Growth and Maturity

The growth cycle of an IT professional services firm encompasses four phases. Many firms never experience the full cycle, which does not say they are not successful. It just means they probably did not reach their full potential. Also, it is possible that a firm can jump into the marketplace with a unique offering and rocket through the growth cycle. This situation would clearly be an exception.

The four phases of growth generally occur in the following sequence:

1) Business Initiation

In this phase the business is just getting started either from scratch with some form of business plan or seeded by one to two initial accounts you have already presold. Attention is given to marketing and sales activities and quality of project delivery. Scope of services is based on what your team knows best, but to continue to drive revenue you sell what you rationalize you can deliver, even if you have to use third party contractors.

This is the most typical scenario for AFAB. It is easy to justify, and it helps you generate revenue to fund the business. On the upside, you may begin to develop some long-term client relationships. On the downside, you have trouble differentiating yourself, because it is hard to define what you do in terms other than the breadth of technologies you use. To prospective clients, you sound like everyone else. In addition, you typically undervalue your services based on the price you can command.

2) Practice Development

At this point you recognize that there are some patterns to your technology work. You have specific focus on certain vendors and their products, so you decide to increase the firm’s depth of experience in these few key technologies. Practice managers are assigned to lead the development of solutions, the management of people within their practices, development of partnerships (e.g., product vendors and training companies), and ultimately the profitability of the practices themselves.

It is during this phase that the firm starts to become known for its technical expertise. Most, if not all, of the company’s work is done in the local market. Your technical expertise begins to narrow down the competition some, but differentiating the firm is still quite difficult.

3) Business Expansion

This phase is characterized by growth into business solutions and/or geographic expansion. Just as you recognized technical specialization in the earlier phase, your firm now has a pattern of performance in industries (i.e., verticals) and business functions (e.g., sales, human resources, etc.). The intersection of a technology and one or both of these other areas allows you to focus in on specific business solutions. For each one you assign a practice manager as you did for your technology practices.

These business solutions begin to provide the firm real differentiation. You narrow the field of competition down significantly and can begin to command higher fees for the work you deliver. In addition, as you master these more unique offerings in the local market and are recognized for your expertise, you are afforded the opportunity to take them to regional and national markets, especially those you view as being underserved.

4) Continuous Improvement

Your business is growing, profitable, differentiated and known in the marketplace. The competition is aiming for you. You need to constantly re-evaluate all aspects of your business from service offerings to marketing and sales to delivery to operations. Typically, the two biggest areas requiring focus are adjusting your offerings to meet market needs and improving efficiency in delivery and support services.

This is a time when you can more confidently introduce new ways to provide offerings to your existing and target clients such as managed services (e.g., application support or network infrastructure) and SaaS (i.e., software as a service).

AFAB is prevalent in the first phase, Business Initiation. It can also occur in the other phases co-existing with specific practices or business solutions. In some circumstances, AFAB can be justified on a temporary basis. For example, if your firm is exclusively projects-based and you are experiencing the down side of the “roller-coaster” sales effect, then you might need to take action to improve utilization by accepting work outside of your normal scope. In this case, keeping a constant eye on resource allocation is vital in order to minimize the time AFAB is prevalent.

Causes of AFAB

There are several reasons AFAB can surface in your organization.

Being in the Business Initiation phase of your firm’s life cycle (where AFAB is a normal occurrence)
Not defining your scope of services and just assuming that over time it will define itself
Lack of attention to business planning and analysis of results – you are busy working in the business and unable to dedicate the time necessary to work on the business
Unassigned billable consultants on the bench
Relatively lean sales pipeline
Having a good management team, but lacking someone with the experience to proactively manage your services portfolio

Symptoms

The warning signs of AFAB are numerous. The issue is having controls in place to recognize them as soon as possible. Among the symptoms are:

Revenues are flat or are growing at a decreasing rate over time
Each project you sell is a one-off (i.e., unique where you have not done the work before) or is another variation of prior work – there is little repeatability in delivery
You never seem to have the right staff to fill the available project roles
Gross margins are flat or decreasing due to increasing cost of delivery – you are using more third party consultants at a higher than budgeted cost
Sales cycles remain relatively long and key opportunities are bunched together under the same sales stage or two
Qualified lead generation is inconsistent (e.g., limited marketing activity) signaling another roller coaster wave in the sales cycle

Treatment

Eliminating AFAB and avoiding future business plateaus require diagnosis of the condition, treatment and preventative measures designed along three concepts:

1. Focus

Review historical information on projects (i.e., numbers and revenue) to identify patterns of technologies used, industries served, and business functions and issues addressed
Review historical client information (i.e., numbers, revenue, industries, company size, buyers, issues, length of time as a client, etc.) to identify an ideal target account profile
Factor in current sales pipeline activity and knowledge of other areas (e.g., pending changes in technology, potential marketplace changes, etc.)
Refine your services portfolio to include the offerings that best support the direction you set for the company
Identify and assign practice managers to lead each area in further development of solutions, management of their consulting teams, development of partnerships, sales support, service delivery, client relationship management, and producing favorable financial results

As elementary as it sounds, it is surprising how many IT services firms do not perform an analysis of their projects and clients to ascertain this important information.

2. Alignment

Assure that the company management team is in sync on the direction of the business and decisions made around your services portfolio
Provide clear definition of goals and objectives to the business areas that will support the practices, especially marketing and recruiting
Communicate the newly refined business strategy internally, then to the marketplace when ready

3. Metrics

Enhance your monthly performance dashboard to include indicators of a potential AFAB situation (e.g., growing use of third party contractors)
Manage the sales pipeline to notice the ebb and flow in new leads, delays in closing opportunities, etc.
Develop performance reporting for each practice to enhance the manager’s ability to run his/her business

Each of these three areas (i.e., focus, alignment and metrics) requires ongoing attention as part of leadership’s responsibility within the business.

Benefits of Minimizing AFAB

While AFAB has a place in the Business Initiation phase of a company’s life cycle and can be justified at other times on a temporary basis, you must develop the discipline to manage AFAB to a minimum, which means learning to say “no”, an uncomfortable thing to do. The potential benefits of preventing or limiting AFAB by developing solutions addressing specific industries, business functions and technologies in your firm include:

Enhanced differentiation of your service offerings
Greater opportunity to work with client executives when you sell business-oriented solutions
Increased repeatability of projects and work components
More efficient projects, thus lower costs of delivery
Reduced risk on projects
Better pricing opportunities based on differentiation
Increased revenues
Improved gross margins
More efficient on-boarding of new consultants

These benefits are real and do not require significant incremental investment in your business.

Do you suffer from AFAB?

Jay has over 30 years of management, business, & information technology consulting experience. He has enabled successful change in more than 140 clients capitalizing on growth opportunities in service offerings, sales & marketing, operations, and mergers & acquisitions. As a former partner at Accenture, Jay has worked in both large & small IT services environments. His experience crosses several industries with a special focus on services companies & healthcare.