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New business owners just aren’t giving themselves enough cushion for time and money and they end up feeling overwhelmed without a back-up plan.

7 Ways To Gradually Get Serious About Your Side Business

Did you know that most new businesses fail? It’s some staggering number like 80%.

In fact, many fail within the first 6  to 12 months, and many times, the reason the businesses fail is because of a lack of planning and a lack of time. New business owners just aren’t giving themselves enough cushion for time and money and they end up feeling overwhelmed without a back-up plan.

New business owners just aren’t giving themselves enough cushion for time and money and they end up feeling overwhelmed without a back-up plan.



Having a business plan before you start your business is something you should do.

You might read from a lot of bloggers that they just sort of started their business and it was magically successful. Wow, wouldn’t that be great. It’s not true and should be considered the exception and not the rule. Building a business from a blog is not magic.

Having a plan and creating your map to business success will not only take the guess work out of it for you, but it will also make it easier to see the future, plan for potential market changes, and understand where your customers are.

Knowing these things and making them part of the business plan will help you know what type of content you should be creating, how much income you can possibly make, and allow you to swerve when things don’t go your way.

Doing your research prior to establishing your business plan is just plain smart.


Chances are that when you started your blog, you had no idea what you were doing. So, as a result, you have old content and blog posts that don’t match your future business goals.

Don’t delete your old blog posts until you’ve attempted to repurpose them.

By repurposed , I mean using the same blog post (link and all), but redoing the content and graphics within it. You’ll keep the same URL and Link but will change the published date too. You can do this in your blog posts by editing this box on the right of your wordpress posts:

This type of reposing works well if the blog post is at least somewhat related to your future business.

As an example, let’s say you used to blog about your family recipes  and now you want to start a business for coaching other bloggers. You can take your old recipe posts (with a link that is something like  and redate and repurpose the content to be geared more towards coaching tips for foodbloggers. You would change up the graphics and the content so that it aligns with something your target audience (like food bloggers?) might be searching for.

It takes some creativity, but you’ll thank yourself for not deleting old blog posts so that your website and blog feels more established and your links don’t get broken.


Once you establish your business plan and website, you should establish and register a business name, track your income and your expenses, and pay your taxes .

This is key to any business and if you want to be legal and legit, you should make sure you do your proper research on what’s required in your state. It doesn’t cost very much and it’s a fairly easy process…  you’ve just got to dive in and do it.



If you want to see success in your business, establishing a cohesive brand that people engage with and understand is going to be key. You’ll want to create a brand and a brand experience.

Part of that is establishing your target audience, but it’s also about having a logo, creating a mood board, using consistent colors, imagery, having a brand story on your about page, a brand message , so on and so forth. There is quite a lot to it, but taking it one thing at a time will make it easier.



New businesses are often a one-person show, and if you’re lucky, you might have a partner that you can trust like a spouse or friend, but sometimes those don’t go all that well.

So, chances are you’re a solo business owner / entrepreneur. That’s all good, but you’re can’t really do it all, right?

What every solo entrepreneur needs to figure out is what they’re good at and what they’re not good at! If you’re not good at writing for your blog, you may want out source a lot of that, and perhaps to a virtual assistant.

Other items you may want outsourced are images for your marketing by hiring a photographer or subscribing to a stock photo service, like mine.

Nevertheless, figure out what you’re good at, what you have time and passion for, and then outsource the rest.



Starting an online business and being successful means spending money and investing in your business. It’s important to realize that consistently trying to look for all the free options out there is only going to be a distraction.

Do your research and purchase tools that are going to help you grow, and grow properly. It’s not going to help you grow a business if you keep bouncing from one free product or trial to another free product that only gets you halfway there.

If it helps, go ahead and focus on one item at a time.

For instance, if you think your target audience is on Instagram, go ahead and upgrade your plan by getting an Instagram scheduling tool, or outsource your photos, and start paying for those tools that are going to help you grow your business where your target audience is.

Figure out what tools you need to grow, that other successful business are using for success, and start investing in those tools. Established the areas that you need to grow in and know that the best tools are probably not free.

Even though they may not be free, they might also not be expensive. You can always read my recent blog post about some of the cheapest tools that have the biggest impact.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

Facebook groups for small businesses and bloggers is the best!

Networking is a key to business and brick and mortar business owners do it all the time. However, they do it in person and blogging is an online experience. So, you have to find people online to network with. The good news is that your network just got a whole lot bigger than any brick and mortar business because the people you’re going to network within a Facebook group, in some type of a forum, or on social media are across the country or across the world.


Now that we’ve covered nine different ways you can gradually get serious about your side business, where are you going to start?




How can you possibly start a small business and be the entrepreneur of your dreams whilst keeping a day job? Well, with these five easy steps.

How To Start A Business Without Quitting Your Day Job

It seems like in the last couple of years start-ups and entrepreneurs are everywhere. Every new business was started by an amazing, inspirational go-getter who risked it all and made it to the big leagues seemingly overnight. But the truth of the matter is, most small business and start-ups fail in the first four years. It’s not the best idea to follow in the footsteps of those “risk everything – win big” game changers like Elon Musk and Richard Branson.

Sometimes it’s best to play it safe when you’re starting your side hustle. But how can you possibly start a small business and be the entrepreneur of your dreams whilst keeping a day job? Easy!

How can you possibly start a small business and be the entrepreneur of your dreams whilst keeping a day job? Well, with these five easy steps.

#1 – Schedule Like A Boss

There’s a reason why the first chapter in almost every entrepreneur’s how-to book is about organization and scheduling. If you’re not organized you’ll barely succeed at your day job let alone your side hustle.

You simply have to make a schedule and, most importantly, stick to it. Make sure you’re getting all of your day job work done while you’re there so you can set aside after hours and weekends for your start-up without burning out. If it means shortening your lunch break from an hour to 30 minutes, it’s worth it in the long run.

#2 – Separate Your Tasks Into “Done” and “Not Done”

Ever get panic attacks just thinking about your To-Do List? You’re not alone. But it’s time to face the music. Figure out what is on that list and then prioritize. Then schedule. Trust me, To-Do Lists aren’t a panic attack on paper! You’ll get a serious thrill in no time whenever you get to cross a task off the list.

#3 – Revisit Your Reasons

Getting burned out and exhausted from working at your day job and being an entrepreneur? Revisit why you started in the first place. If it’s not getting you motivated, maybe it’s time to rethink your side hustle. If it is, then make sure you don’t get burned out again by taking a quick break to give your mind a rest and doing something creative.

Put together a vision board that spells out your reasons for starting in photographs to keep you going. A picture tells a thousand words so make sure your vision board is telling you countless words of motivation, determination, and drive.

#4 – Start Small

You’re not going to be opening a department store in your first five years so remember to start small. Of course, keep those amazing dreams of success but don’t overextend yourself immediately. If you’re having to take out huge loans to get the thing off the ground then it’s probably not getting off to a good start.

Instead of opening a bricks and mortar store, start an online shop. Even better, start a Shopify online store which takes the hard work out of setting up an e-commerce site.

#5 – Keep Your Supporters Close And Your Inspirations Closer

Got a strong support network? Great! Lean on them when times are tough. I don’t mean getting them to bail you out but simply have a drink and unwind with them when you’re feeling stressed out to the eyeballs. Even better – educate yourself.




When your logo design is processed by the viewer, a million subconscious thoughts rush through the mind, these thoughts can connect positively or negatively

Logo Design Basics for Startups

When someone thinks of your brand they’re seeing the lifestyle you represent. Often the success of a brand is not due to the products it sells, but the emotional connection the audience creates with the brand message. Whether your brand represents power, luxury, or playfulness your logo can act as a great marketing tool to promote that message and evoke emotional engagement with your target audience.

When your logo design is processed by the viewer, a million subconscious thoughts rush through his or her mind, and a well-designed logo has the ability to make these thoughts connect positively or negatively. One of the best ways to send a specific message to your customers is through a strategically designed logo that communicates your brand’s message in an instant.

When your logo design is processed by the viewer, a million subconscious thoughts rush through the mind, these thoughts can connect positively or negatively

Why does my startup need a logo?

It’s worth arguing that the smaller the business, the more vital great logo design is. Well-established brands already have advocates who connect with the brand emotionally and don’t need to communicate their message as loud as smaller companies who are fighting for their share of the market.

A logo inspires trust in your brand. Without the initial enticement of a great logo, will customers choose to engage with your product/service? It’s unlikely you would choose to trust a brand or product that has no clear representation, so don’t fall into this trap when starting your business. It’s very easy to push these things to the back burner, but trust is a vital part of growing the success of your business and a logo-less company is, essentially, a faceless company. A visual identity creates a familiarity with your brand that you can’t afford to miss.

What color should my logo design be?

Human minds respond amazingly well to visual stimulation, with color affecting our decisions both consciously and subconsciously. We instinctively attach meaning to colors, so ensure you’re using a color that is in line with your target demographics.

  • Red is passionate, high energy, and demands a call to action. Therefore, choosing red for your logo can make it feel more dynamic. A staggering 38% of Forbes’ Most Valuable Brands of 2015 used red in their logo design.
  • Blue evokes trust, authority and stability. It’s often seen in financial and technology sectors.
  • Yellow acts as a stimulant and is highly recognizable. This could be why McDonald’s logo is placed high in the skyline.
  • Green connotes compassion, nature, and wildlife. The user feels safe when engaging with this color, and it can be seen in organic brands like Whole Foods Market.

What should my logo look like?

Your logo must be unique so it can stand out from the crowd. The aim of a logo is to distinguish your brand from competitors. Why not think outside the box? Some of the top brands in the world don’t have generic industry logos: Apple does not have a computer as their logo, yet their brand is synonymous with luxury technology and not apples.

In today’s day and age it can be more difficult than ever to come up with unique designs as some version of your design may already exist. Don’t let that stop you: add your own touch and trust your process.

Where can I find inspiration for my startup’s logo?

Fortunately, there are many talented curators spotting great logo designs and featuring them in online galleries. These websites are free to access, and you should check them out in various stages of your own logo design process to gather inspiration from other practitioners.

What font should I use?

When setting up a small business, it’s useful to include the name of your brand in the logo. Not until you’ve gained control of the market will your brand be recognizable without it. Think Nike and Mercedes.


Avoid typefaces which appear gimmicky, or those which are seen too often to be memorable. In 2010 Gap rebranded and used the Helvetica font only to be shamed publicly for lack of imagination. Six days later and $100 million USD down, they reverted to their old logo. On the other hand, world-famous brands such as Coca-Cola and Disney have become known for their unique lettering. Follow their footsteps and create something unforgettable and of course, legible!

Keep it simple

One of the best pieces of advice when creating your logo is to keep it simple. Today your brand might be a startup but in five years’ time you could be printing your logo on merchandise, receipts, or even entire buildings. A logo that can transcend paper, such as Chanel’s simple design, can be used in the digital and physical worlds and will enjoy more success than an overly complicated logo.


Logo design is a complicated task to undertake, and crafting your brand’s visual identity is a nerve-wracking experience for new businesses. Consult a professional logo designer and discuss your target market, brand message, and design ideas. They will be able to use their plethora of knowledge and expertise to guide you through the process and help you avoid expensive logo fails that could misrepresent and hurt your brand’s success.




Today, I’ll focus on reasons to open your own business. I’ll start with 5 reasons to start before quitting your day job, although there are so many more.

5 Reasons to Start Your Own Business (Before Quitting Your Day Job)

If you want to be an entrepreneur, go for it. That’s me, encouraging you—the very short version. I know (trust me, I do) that there are pluses and minuses when it comes to starting any journey in the start-up world. And no matter how many times you’ve heard it, this is very much how everything is in life, in general.

But today I’ll focus on reasons (the ‘pluses’, which, by the way, put together can always kick the ’minuses’) to open your own business. I’ll start with 5, although there are so many more.

Today, I’ll focus on reasons to open your own business. I’ll start with 5 reasons to start before quitting your day job, although there are so many more.

  1. Tax Benefits

OK, tax benefits vary from country to country, but usually entrepreneurs can take advantage of some sweet tax perks. It’s a pretty long list of expenses you can write off. Top of the list: travel, phone bills, (even) food, and so on, and so on. Certain start-ups also qualify for various incentives from local authorities or governments. But do your homework here, and study thoroughly the tax benefits your start-up brings along.


  1. Skills Upgrades

The ones you’ll have to learn, you’ll want to learn and those you’ll develop. I mastered quite a few areas that were not in my repertoire when I started my business: SEO, PR, pay-per-click, balancing budgets, working with spreadsheets, etc. It does take time, but it also pays off.


  1. Job Security

Well, if you’ve never been laid off or downsized or… lord knows what other term they found for it, you’ll probably think I’m joking, but a big reason is job security. After all, you are your own boss. Go figure.


  1. Financial Independence

This one is a bit connected to being your own boss: financial independence. It’s a big reason. Probably the biggest for myself, and for many others. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be incredibly rich, it’s about being in control and planning ahead, knowing for sure what your boss is thinking.


  1. Spare Time

And last, but not least: spare time. I’m crazy about my spare time. I particularly like the fact that I can choose when to take it. It won’t happen overnight, but you can easily master your working hours and… freedom.


So, will/did you take that leap of faith? Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section.

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When you have your business goals clearly mapped out, you will have a much easier time. So here are 5 Genius Ways to Fund Your Creative Side Hustle.

5 Genius Ways to Fund Your Creative Side Hustle

You have the ideas, you have the motivation–but the money isn’t all there yet. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to fund your creative business if you know where to look.

But before you rush out on your search for money, you’ll need to spend some time figuring out how much you will actually need to set up shop.

What essentials do you already have, what do you still need, and what can you do without for now? Crunch the numbers and find out how much time it will take you to become profitable. Also an important question: how much money do you want to make? What is your goal? Because that will make a big difference in how much work you will be doing and how many clients you need to secure.

When you have your business goals clearly mapped out, you will have a much easier time. So here are 5 Genius Ways to Fund Your Creative Side Hustle.

When you have your business goals clearly mapped out, you will have a much easier time moving forward and making your business successful. So here are 5 Genius Ways to Fund Your Creative Side Hustle:

1. Crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding can be used to raise an impressive amount of money, in exchange for rewards, and to raise awareness of your business. But crowdfunding platforms are specifically for the funding of your products and not for help with the basic operational costs of your business.

As a photographer, for example, you can ask for funding for the creation of a coffee table photography book that showcases your best landscape shots. Crowdfunding will work for you if you have a very specific project in mind, to be delivered within a specific time frame, that you haven’t been able to complete due to lack of funds. And of course, the way you present and describe your project is key to meeting your fundraising goal.

Since there are many platforms out there, you’ve got to know which ones are right for you. The biggest platforms used by artists, Kickstarter(about 13 millions monthly views) and Indiegogo (about 9 million monthly views), both offer similar services and charge fees of 5% and 4% respectively on the money you’ve raised if you reach your goal.

Paypal or credit card processing fees are between 3% to 5%. If you are hoping to reach an international audience however, Indiegogo offers more flexibility in payment options compared to Kickstarter. And, most importantly, with Indiegogo you can still use the partial funds raised, even if you don’t fulfill your fundraising goal by the expiration date.

Then there’s the more recent platform Patreon, which takes a 5% fee (plus payment processing fees) for its unique subscription service that allows fans of your work to donate per month or per creation. This is great for sharing with the social network you already have in place.

2. Creative Entrepreneur Grants.

Across the country, various arts councils are catching onto the growth of creative entrepreneurs as a powerful cultural and economic force in their community and offering funding opportunities specific to creative entrepreneurs.

Here are some examples of creative entrepreneur grants in the real world:

The City of Chicago’s Individual Artist Program offers up to $2,500 under its Professional Development track, with the goal of supporting “professional artists and creative entrepreneurs to develop or deepen artistic, administrative or organizational skills to become more competitive in the creative marketplace,” according to the website.

In June, Colorado Creative Industries, the state’s arts agency, awarded 12 grants totaling over $22,500 to support self-employed creative entrepreneurs.

The Creative Economic Development Fund in Los Angeles will offer $100,000 in grants to those, including self-employed artists, whose work will make a positive economic development impact in the city.

You can check here for arts councils at the state and regional level, here for national level art councils and private arts foundations in the US, and here for arts councils all over the world.
To apply for any of these grants, you’ll need to figure out how to correctly and convincingly fill out the grant application forms. The Ohio Arts Council offers more advice for successful grant-writing here.

And don’t forget to find out if your grant is considered taxable, although the grant giver may provide you with that information and can direct you to the appropriate tax forms.

3. Small Business Micro Loans.

Everyone loves free money, but if the grants don’t come through, a reasonable amount of borrowed money is also a feasible option to help get you going in your creative venture.

Unless you’re a startup offering equity, you probably won’t need to seek out venture capital money to fund your business. You could hit up a family member or friend for a small loan, but that could potentially land you in an awkward situation.

For a small-scale creative business, a micro loan may be a more fitting solution if you are seeking a limited amount of funding. Micro loans can be anywhere from $500 to $50,000—and you don’t need perfect credit history. However, keep in mind that the interest rate may be a bit higher on micro loans compared to larger loans, and there may be extra fees involved. The Small Business Association (SBA) offers a micro loan program, as do private lenders like Accion and CAN Capital.

Especially when you are starting out, a loan, even a micro loan, isn’t something to take lightly. Be sure to carefully read the details of the loan program and ask plenty of questions before you start an application with any lenders. The Denver Office of Economic Development offers a helpful 10-step approach to setting up and financing your small business.

DIY Funding Options

Grants and loans aren’t the only way to fund your creative business. Initially, you may have to rely on your own financial resources. You’re a creative person, so it’s time to get creative about how you can uncover hidden cash in the different facets of your life…

4. Downsizing Your Life.

It’s not a new idea, but minimizing your lifestyle can truly open up more mind space for your art to flourish and free up some major cash that you can invest back into your business.

If you aren’t ready for dramatic changes like cutting up your credit cards, getting roommates, moving into a smaller home (a tiny home perhaps?) or ditching your car for a bike, you still have plenty of money-saving options.

You can de-clutter your home and sell off items you no longer need, disconnect your cable service and use Netflix (or watch nothing and spend that time on your growing your business), borrow library books instead of buying them, enjoy meals (straight from your own garden) and drinks with friends at home instead of going out and use clever apps to help you save money in every aspect of your life.


5. Ask for Donations.

If you have a professional blog or website with a decent amount of followers, put in the time to write a few posts about the process of setting up your business, and then add a donation button to your site.

To help attract more attention to your site, you can try a few marketing tricks, like running a contest and offering the winner your services for free or a free item from your online shop. Having an active social media presence across various channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook page, etc) will, of course, help you bring in more donations.

Being an artist might feel like the complete opposite of being a “business owner,” but if you want to earn a living doing what you love, you’ve got to figure out how to set yourself up in a way that will connect with those people who are just waiting to throw money at you and your art (obviously).

It’s true that there is a lot of competition for funding out there, and the process of applying for grants and loans isn’t always simple. But the most important thing to remember is that there are always more ways to scrounge up some cash than you think!

Those same creative powers and that entrepreneurial drive that got you this far in your creative business will also help you in your hunt for funding.

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Starting your own business might be something that’s crossed your mind, but are you ready? Here are a few ways to know that you’re ready.

5 Ways To Know You’re Ready To Start Your Own Business

For many, starting your own business might be something that’s crossed your mind… but are you ready? Becoming self-employed or even starting a home based part time business takes preparation and planning, it’s not just something that you should jump into blindly.

Starting your own business might be something that’s crossed your mind, but are you ready? Here are a few ways to know that you’re ready.

Here are a few ways to know that you’re ready to dive into your new adventure:

You’ve Got The Motivation and a Plan

Of course, you can’t start any new project without motivation! If you haven’t got that, then what the heck are you doing trying to make a go out of your own business?!

When it comes to creating a new business, you should feel extremely driven to make your ideas a reality, but remember to stay realistic about your expectations. Motivation without some sort of plan could lead to a quick failure. Think intensely about possible scenarios and try to have an answer for every question that pops into your head relating to the business. Write them down to reference later!


You Can Handle it Financially

You probably won’t start making a living wage right off the bat, so it’s important to determine whether or not you can actually handle your own business financially. Are you able to cover any start up costs, and if not, are you able to sort out a loan of some kind? It’s true what they say — you’ve got to spend money to make money.  Every new business comes with at least some start up costs, so budgeting for these before you begin is a good place to start.

What about your own living expenses? Are they going to dwindle if you choose to focus your energy on starting a new venture? A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have at least a few months worth of income saved up in case your plan fails to launch. A lot of new entrepreneurs will toss all of their savings into the business pot and hope for the best. This isn’t really a smart way to go about things since there is no possible way to predict whether or not your own business will take off.


You’ve Got The Time To Start Your Own Business

Even part time businesses take time, and if you haven’t got enough of it to dedicate, then it’s a good idea to make some! Plan your working schedule and try to get into some sort of daily routine with dedicated hours that you work on your business. This will help to propel your startup and lay a good foundation for your success. Some people have more time than others to contribute to a business, so also make sure that it can work around your life, family, or current job.


You’ve Done Your Research

Before you settle on a business idea, doing extensive research about it will help you get off to a running start. That’s not to say that you won’t still have to figure things out as you go, but being really knowledgeable about your chosen business topic will definitely give you an advantage. Research competitors, suppliers, shipping options, and read articles or advice from others in the same field if possible.

What about taxes or employees or business registration? Advertising, or costs of building a web presence? You should look into every option and aspect of these things before you dive in as it will save you a lot of headache in the future!


You’ve Got That Entrepreneurial Spirit

It takes a certain type of person to handle being an entrepreneur. Being your own boss is a burning desire that you really need to have. If you’re the type of person who is better at taking commands from someone rather than being your own leader, it’s time to rethink this whole self employment thing.

Owning your own business means that you’ll be the one to make all of the calls. You need to have a great sense of independence as well as responsibility to make the decisions required to keep things running. The success of your business is entirely dependent on YOU.  You must be confident with your ideas and disciplined enough to get stuff done. If you possess all of these qualities, you are well on your way to becoming your own boss!

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If you don’t have enough dough in the bank to pursue an expensive content marketing regime, then try giving some of these creative strategies a whirl.

7 Strategies For Shoestring Budget Startup Marketing

Online marketing is fantastic. It popularizes your business, gets you all sorts of publicity, and is easily one of the biggest factors to achieving financial success. But unfortunately, it can also be quite expensive, especially when you’re a cash-strapped, budding entrepreneur trying to bootstrap his or her way to financial freedom with a day job on the side.

The costs all add up: blogs + ebooks + infographics + web design + PPC + SEO + ? = $$$$$

For instance, an average digital marketing agency of good repute will often be unwilling to take on clients with budgets less than a mid-sized, four-figure sum.

If you don’t have enough dough in the bank to pursue an expensive content marketing regime, then try giving some of these creative strategies a whirl.

However, just because marketing can be expensive doesn’t mean it has to be. While it may not always be easy to operate on a limited budget, most entrepreneurs will at some point or another be forced to start their startup marketing in a cash-strapped setup, and such situations are just another challenge to overcome.

So if you’re currently working with a tight purse and you need some budget startup marketing strategy ideas, read on. In the following post, I’ve collected seven creative marketing ideas that you can start implementing in your business at minimal cost, right away.


Social media is easily one of the most budget-friendly marketing strategies around. If you stay away from any advertising opportunities, then the cost of social media marketing is often $0.

However, you will need to invest a lot of hours of your time before you start seeing any significant results.

The first step to take, of course, is simply to sign up on social networks relevant to your niche.

Remember: don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to be active on every network out there. There are simply way too many networks for that to be possible. Instead, select the three to five networks that are most popular with your audience and your major competitors.

A business in a clothing industry, for instance, may choose to target Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, and Instagram.


Vine, if you’re not familiar with it, is a pretty popular social network among teenagers and young adults, particularly in the US. It is a Twitter-owned company and not dissimilar to Twitter as a social network. Just as Twitter users have 140 characters to write in a tweet, users have seven seconds of video to produce in a “vine.”

Unlike traditional video marketing, Vine can actually be quite low-cost. Because each video is extremely short, any business that uses it doesn’t really need super-expensive professional recording equipment in order to make high-quality vines that will become popular.

Nearly all of the videos that go viral on Vine inspire either laughter (e.g. a funny video centered around a pun or a quick joke) or awe (like an extremely difficult or flashy sports play). The average business will want to target the former.

If you can get the humor part right, then you’re pretty much guaranteed an audience, because hilarious vines spread like wildfire.


Referral marketing is a super-powerful marketing strategy that also involves very little cost. The driving idea behind it is rewarding current customers/clients when they bring in new customers/clients.

One such company that uses referral marketing well is Sidekick, an email tracking and management app from the HubSpot team. Whenever a Sidekick user gets someone else to sign up for the service using a unique referral link, both the existing and new user each receive a free month of Sidekick’s premium features.

Not only is this sort of marketing a great way to get some free publicity from your users, but it can also help to establish rapport with your customers. This rapport is established in two ways. First, the inviter begins to love your business because he/she gets rewards from it (keep in mind that the quality of the reward is key). Second, the invitee is also happy with your business because he/she has been referred to it by a friend or an acquaintance. Thus, the invitee has an established connection with your business, and will therefore be more hesitant to leave it or switch to a competitor.

The two main costs involved in referral marketing are 1) the software to maintain the system, and 2) the cost of providing rewards (e.g. free service) to your inviters.

The first cost is not too significant if you choose the right referral marketing software, and the second one is only a small loss that you will eventually recoup from all the customers your inviters bring to your business.


Another way to promote your business on the cheap is to constantly run special promotions and deals. Give out coupon codes, institute seasonal pricing, or offer a buy-one-get-one-free deal.

After you’ve setup the deal, make sure that you work to create awareness of it by submitting relevant information to sites that aggregate coupons, like Groupon and RetailMeNot.

Once again, the only major cost here is footing the bill for the deals that you run. Just remember that in the long run, the outpouring of new customers obtained from a new promotion will often recoup any losses you incur while running it.


One more low-cost marketing tactic comes in the form of contests. Like referral marketing and deals/promotions, contests have great potential to go viral.

Take, for instance, the example of AppSumo, a website that arranges discounts for B2B software. One day, they decided to run a small giveaway of Dropbox Pro subscriptions: 10 lucky entrants would win a 50GB Dropbox for Life subscription.

At first, their expectations for the contest weren’t very high. However, all of that changed when the giveaway collected 200,000 new email signups in just a single week.

Prior to this giveaway, AppSumo’s average cost per subscriber stood at around $5. The cost of the subscriptions they gave away was approximately $60,000, which droppped their cost per subscriber during this period to just a measly $0.30/subscriber!

Of course, you probably have less than $60,000 to spend on a single giveaway, but no worries. You can always start at a smaller scale (even one prize with a $100 value can make for a popular giveaway) and then work your way up as profits start rolling in.

What’s more, contests are now super-simple to setup on your website, thanks to certain WordPress plugins. Personally, I’d recommend using AppSumo’s own plugin called KingSumo Giveaways.

At $198, the plugin is a little pricier than some of its competitors, but it makes up for that with stellar customer support, zero recurring fees, and a long list of testimonials from successful customers.


Word of mouth marketing is an especially important strategy if you operate a local or regional business. When your customers sing your praises, it’s impossible to not succeed.

But how, exactly, do you get people to sing your business’s praises from the rooftops?

The answer is simple: provide superlative customer service.

And when I say superlative, I mean it. You shouldn’t have good, great, or even excellent customer service.

Instead, you need to provide the absolute best customer service in your industry: the quality of your service must be unparalleled, unequaled, and unsurpassed. Nobody should be better than you, because stellar customer service is what inspires word of mouth marketing.

Let me provide a poignant example from where I live, India. Right now, the top two eCommerce retailers are Amazon and Flipkart, respectively. In India, Flipkart has been around for much longer; Amazon only started selling here in 2013, while Flipkart launched in 2007.

However, Amazon India’s incredible level of customer service has enabled it to grow leaps and bounds in the short while since its arrival. Compared to Amazon, Flipkart’s customer service is quite poor. Just browse through a few Quora threads like this one to see what I mean.

Although it’s impossible to tell whether Flipkart has been totally displaced from the top position yet, from the way things are going, it most certainly will be within the next couple of years. All because Amazon’s unequaled customer service has caused its customers to spread the word about it in a major way.

The best thing about this strategy is that it doesn’t cost a red cent. Not a single penny. All you need to do is make the customer the #1 priority in your business, and then the results will follow.


Hey, SaaS (software as a service) and membership business owners: listen up. This tip is especially relevant to you.

Decoy pricing is a pricing strategy that leverages the use of a “decoy” pricing plan/product to encourage the purchase of a more expensive plan/product.

The Economist is famous for using decoy pricing in its subscription sales. At one point, they priced subscriptions in the following structure:

  • $59 for an online subscription
  • $125 for a print subscription
  • $125 for a print + online subscription

Do you spot anything irregular? That’s right: both the print and the print + online subscriptions cost the same amount!


To show people the value in selecting option #3 (the most expensive one), and to discourage them from selecting option #1 (the least expensive one).

Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist, ran a test to see just how much of an impact this sort of pricing model can have on revenue.

He got 100 MIT students in a room and showed them the above pricing model, telling them to pick a subscription. Sixteen opted for the online subscription and 84 for the print + online subscription. As expected, nobody selected the print-only subscription.

Total revenue: $59 x 16 + $125 x 84 = $11,444

He then got together another group of 100 students, and changed the pricing to as follows:

  • $59 for an online subscription
  • $125 for a print + online subscription

In essence, he removed the print-only option (the decoy). This time around, 68 students chose the online subscriptions and 32 the print + online subscription.

Total revenue: $59 x 68 + $125 x 32 = $8,012

The pricing structure that used the decoy, therefore, resulted in a staggering 43% more revenue ($3,432). Just imagine what you could do with nearly 1.5x more money from your business!

And best of all, decoy pricing is quite easy and cheap to setup, especially for those who run SaaS or recurring membership businesses.


Even though marketing almost always produces better results when you have a large budget, being cash strapped doesn’t mean that you’re totally out of the game.

If you don’t have enough dough in the bank to pursue an expensive content marketing regime, then try giving some of these creative strategies a whirl. None of these will break your bank, but all of them certainly have the potential to thrust your business into the limelight.

Try them out, and let us know how they’re working for you in the comments below!

When you’re starting out, remember to start small and try to think of your side hustle as an experiment. After all, not every side hustle will be a winner.

The Secrets To A Susccessful Side Hustle

The term side hustle comes across as a hobby, or half-serious pet project, or even wasteful distraction, but in the entrepreneurial world, such a thing often evolves into something career changing—heck, even world-changing. For example, some of the products I, and probably you, use day in and day out were started as side hustles. Here are just a few examples:

  • Gmail
  • Adsense
  • StumbleUpon
  • Instagram
  • Unsplash

They frequently will unexpectedly surge in popularity, or emerge as priceless gems that were hiding in plain sight all along, supplementing, overshadowing, or even supplanting the primary project.

In fact, the team at Crew, who made Unsplash as a side project for sharing high-quality, copyright-free images, say side projects saved their startup.

The Crew team was struggling to keep the lights on. Their product, a marketplace for hiring freelance designers and developers to build your product, wasn’t gaining the traction they’d hoped it would.

When you’re starting out, remember to start small and try to think of your side hustle as an experiment. After all, not every side hustle will be a winner.

But when Unsplash was launched as a Tumblr created in an afternoon, the response was overwhelming. Here’s what CEO Mikael Cho said about the experience:

More people cared about us in a few hours than in the entire last year. We made Unsplash to give something valuable to people. We thought even if a few hundred people find it useful, that’d be a win. But we didn’t expect it could have this level of impact.

That day, we not only experienced the immediate benefits of creating value but also a much bigger shift in how marketing needs to be done today in order to be heard.

The Crew team has since gone on to launch various other side projects. These projects have become the main sources of referral traffic to the Crew website, and Cho now sees them as an important part of Crew’s marketing approach, right alongside content:

Marketing today is defined by how useful it is to your customers. And the bar for useful has risen substantially. Where blog posts, infographics, and webinars were once marketing gold, websites, apps, and tools are taking over.

But running successful side projects doesn’t come easily to everyone, and it’s kind of an art. It requires a combination of zen and dedication, letting things percolate and develop on the periphery, while steadily nudging the idea forward. To help you get the most out of your side projects, I’ve compiled wisdom from some of the best side hustlers out there.


So how do you choose a side hustle? What makes it different from any other project? Here’s what serial side projectors have to say about getting started.


David Hieatt is primarily focused on making jeans at Hiut Denim Co., but he’s no stranger to side projects. Hieatt and co-founder Clare Hieatt started another clothing company called Howies in 1995, but it wasn’t until 2001 when they first received a paycheck from the secondary project.

In those six years, both David and Clare worked their day jobs to keep the bills paid, and ran Howies on the side. But it caught on and picked up speed. Eventually they sold Howies to Timberland, using the profits from that sale to fund other side projects.

David has three rules for starting a new side project:

  1. No pressure to make money
  2. No deadline
  3. Labor of love

The first rule fits with the Hieatts’ approach of keeping a day job while building a side project. If you don’t put pressure on your side project to pay your bills, it doesn’t matter if it fails. This gives you more freedom to experiment without risk, one of the core reasons side projects tend to be so creatively rich.

Having no deadline similarly opens up possibilities for experimentation, since you have room to breathe and try on new approaches. As David says, “As there is no time pressure, you don’t revert to your usual formula.”

And finally, Hieatt says side projects need to be a labor of love, because “this thing will require you to keep plugging away at it, maybe, for years.” Working on something you care about will make it easier to keep coming back when there’s more work to do. Think of it almost like an old roadster in the garage you tinker with for relaxation, or a yacht you sand and polish on the weekends with a twinkle in your eye.

Yar, she’ll have a beautiful IPO one day…

Unlike the common startup mantra of “fail fast,” David says side projects are all about “succeeding slowly.”


Having built more than a handful of side projects mentioned above while at Crew, Mikael Cho has some great advice for getting the ball rolling. He has two main rules for designing a side project for your company (though they’re equally useful for individual entrepreneurs):

  1. Small scope
  2. Minimal updates

Cho says for side projects, “The best approach is to keep it simple.” Each project you create should be just 1–2 pages, minimal complexity, minimal coding, rather than a sprawling web app.

Nothing wrong with being small.

Cho also suggests looking for a way to solve a problem with a much simpler approach than what anyone else is doing. “Reduce features to the minimum,” he says, and don’t worry about handling user accounts. Make the project simple to build and simple to interact with.

Simple will be your edge.

In terms of maintaining the project, Cho also insists on simplicity. The smaller your initial scope, he says, the more you’ll reduce the need for maintenance in the future.

“We only update one of our projects if it’s doing exceptionally well and the update has the potential to make it much better,” Cho says. “Exceptionally well” for the Crew team generally means the project is one of their top five sources of Crew referrals.

Unsurprisingly, Cho is a fan of moving on to building new side projects when possible. He says before working on a project you’ve already released, you should ask yourself whether your time would be better used building something else.

It’s often more efficient to move on to a new project, he says, if you release something that doesn’t resonate with your audience.


If you’ve worked on a side hustle before, you’re probably thinking this all sounds great, but how will you ever find the time? I hear you.

As if working your day job or running your company isn’t enough, you’ve got family and friends to spend time with, hobbies to work on, and your health to look after. In what dream world does it make sense for you to add even more onto your plate?

Well, aside from the previous advice of maintaining small scope, simplicity, and a lack of deadline, there is some prioritization and logistical tips that can help you manage a successful side project.

“We find the time for those things we place importance on,” says Rachel Andrew, founder of If you have many important things competing for your time and attention, you’ll inevitably make a decision about which ones take priority. If your side project is at the top of the list, you can be sure you’ll find a way to make time to work on it.

Andrew says if you’re struggling to make progress on your side project due to lack of time, “take a reality check: is this something you really want to achieve?”

To stop a project from stagnating, Andrew believes it’s important to make it a “first class citizen.” Even if you can’t spend as much time on it as you do on your existing business, Andrew says giving it the same priority as your other work will ensure it keeps moving forward.

She also suggests setting aside regular time each week to work on your project so it doesn’t get overlooked, and finding ways to make better use of downtime, as she did in her studies:

Several years ago I earned a degree with the Open University in the United Kingdom, via distance learning. I did all of the reading for my courses while waiting outside my daughter’s ballet classes.

Andrew says the best way to make better use of your downtime is to always keep an up-to-date to-do list for your project, so you know what needs to be done whenever you have some free time. She also suggests making sure your workspace is prepared ahead of time, since we tend to find small slots of free time to work on side projects:

Spend some time at the start setting up a great workflow for the project, sign up for any API access you need, install any software. Make sure that those short bursts of activity on the project can be used to drive it forward.

Product manager and entrepreneur Jason Shen also has some advice about finding time for your side projects. He suggests focusing on consistency more than intensity. So, rather than working on your project for several hours once or twice a month, try putting aside half an hour, or even 10 minutes every day.

You’ll make more progress in the long run if you keep at it a little bit each day, than if you immerse yourself once every few weeks.

Before Shen built his first web app, he says he spent around 100 hours over several months to learn enough programming for a prototype. But if he squeezed all that effort into 50 hrs/week for two weeks, Shen doesn’t think he could have stuck at it.

He also points out how small chunks of time can easily add up in the long term:

You really only need average 35 mins a day on your side project to net 4 hours a week on your side hustle. That’s 200+ hours over a year – which would allow you to do a tremendous number of things.

Whether you want to build the next Gmail, or broaden your company’s marketing approach like Crew did, side projects can be extremely valuable to you as an entrepreneur. Even if your projects don’t blow up into huge hits, simply pursuing them helps you learn new skills and lessons you can apply to your main business.

When you’re starting out, remember to start small and try to think of your side hustle as an experiment. After all, not every side hustle will be a winner. But keep at it every day, and you’ll be surprised at the things you can accomplish on the side.

Got a question or tip for running a great side hustle? Let’s hear it in the comments below!


In the U.S., 53% of employees are overworked. Smart startups avoid this by doing more with less time. This guide will help you understand how they do it.

How To Get More Done At Your Startup

Work smarter, not harder. As a startup owner, you may not run a normal work schedule. But that doesn’t mean you have to risk burnout. In the U.S., 53% of employees are overworked or nearing burnout. Smart startup avoid this by doing more with less time. This guide will help you understand how they do it.

In the U.S., 53% of employees are overworked. Smart startup avoid this by doing more with less time. This guide will help you understand how they do it.

#1- Stop multitasking

Multitasking has become more common than ever before because the majority of Americans own smartphones. With nearly unlimited access to the internet, smartphones help you do multiple things at the same time. But contrary to what many people think, multitasking can be harmful. Multitasking makes you inefficient, not productive. Focusing on one task at a time will allow you to get more done and achieve more in the long-term.

#2- Meditation is not just for hippies

Talk about meditation and people automatically assume you are some sort of new age hippie. But meditation can actually help you a become a better entrepreneur by giving you a mental breather. Meditating twice a day for a few minutes can enhance your mental stamina, improve your memory and boost focus.

#3- Don’t make work your life

As an entrepreneur, it’s simple to allow work to take over your life. Entrepreneurs are more likely than anyone else to compromise their work-life balance because of looming deadlines or a desire to get more done. This is okay every so often but it does come with some serious consequences.

When you make work your life, it brings you closer to burnout than ever before. You may occasionally feel like a robot, but you’re not. You will never feel more human than when you approach that burnout phase. The easiest way to avoid overworking is to limit your time. Create a sense of urgency and stop working at a certain time of the day.

#4- Schedule your productivity

Everyone has certain times when they feel most productive. Some people work best in the morning or and others function better late at night. You probably already know when you are most productive so you should take advantage of that.

Schedule your work day so you are completing the most draining tasks during your most productive period.

It’s unbelievable how many people will work best at night yet force themselves to get up early in the morning. By only working during your most productive periods, you will grow your startup quickly and waste less time.

#5- Make startup work fun

Fun is something that entrepreneurs so often fail to take into account. Work should be something that you enjoy. As an entrepreneur, you have no excuse to not have fun at work because you are in control of what you do.

You don’t have to throw a party every day, but little things like working from a coffee shop or dressing casually once a week can make work more enjoyable. By improving morale and making sure work isn’t a drag, you will get more done in less time. Time really does fly when you’re having fun!

The takeaway

Do not underestimate the importance of time management. Go out of your way to do more in less time. You will become more productive and ultimately create a better company.

What productivity tips do you recommend? 

It all seems overwhelming at times but here are some top tips to help you build a successful startup


Starting your own business is always a difficult prospect. You want to make it the best place to work in the world but that’s easier said than done. You have to build an online reputation and protect yourself from defamation. On top of that, you have to constantly increase the value of your sales to ensure that you can fund expansions and take your company to the next level.

It all seems overwhelming at times but here are some top tips to help you build a successful startup

It all seems overwhelming at times but here are some top tips to help you build a successful startup:

#1- Start with a solid plan

Every good company starts with a good plan. Writing a business plan for the first time can be daunting, but it’s really about just writing down what was in your head to start with. It should include both your short-term and long-term ambitions.

The short-term part of your business plan should include details regarding what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. The long-term plan for growing your startup quickly can be more flexible, but you should aim for it to be as accurate as possible.

Take note that there’s no reason you can’t change the plan later. In fact, chances are you will change your plans going forward. That’s what pivoting is all about, and that’s what can make a successful startup.

#2- Begin networking as soon as possible

Professional networking is the way forward. Business is about the connections you have because your network will push your company to the next level. Word-of-mouth marketing has never been stronger. Right now 88% of people trust reviews from online consumers just as they trust recommendations from family and friends. You need to start networking for all the right reasons.

You should also start networking because this can turn you onto a lot of great talent going forward. The big companies tend to have the best talent because that talent never reaches the open market. They are there to headhunt this talent and claim it before anyone else can.

So how do you begin networking?

Start by signing up for a LinkedIn account and joining groups there. You should also try to attend dedicated networking events in-person in your local area.

#3- Surround yourself with the right people

Running a business is hard and you need to make sure that you have all the right people around you. Mentors and strategic partners will become crucial during this initial growth phase. The right team can help you to accomplish far more than you can do alone.

If you want to transform your business, you need the right team. Part of that comes down to networking, but it’s also about hiring the right people in the first place.

Build up an environment in which everyone participates so you can form a positive corporate culture. Together, you can achieve a great deal.

#4- Stay ahead of everyone else

To be successful, you need to be able to pivot and keep up with the latest trends. There are so many companies that go extinct just because they couldn’t keep up with what was going on in their field. Make sure that you’re studying your competitors and the major trends in your industry.

You don’t have to react to every change, but when you come across the right change you have to embrace it to be successful.

#5- Maintain a balance between work and life

The balance between life and work should be roughly equal. It’s difficult as a startup owner to disengage from your business. After all, this is your baby and it is hard to leave it alone for a single second. However, you can and you should.

Maintaining your hobbies and downtime will leave you feeling refreshed for longer and help you avoid burnout. Your business can run without you for a while, whether through auto-pilot or delegation of work.

How to avoid startup failure

Founders that want to succeed have to be able to change with the times, maintain a healthy balance, and surround themselves with the right people. Even with these five strategies in place, there are never any guarantees of success. Startup failure is extremely common, with 90% of startups failing within five years, but by adopting these strategies, you increase your chances of success.

What do you think is the most important thing to consider when launching a startup?