Blog :

Essential Resources for Women Small Business Owners

Essential Resources for Women Small Business Owners

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, a chance to recognize and celebrate the 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the US.

 

While the 45% increase in the number of women-owned businesses in the US since 2007 is a cause for celebration, women still face gender-specific challenges when setting up their own businesses, from defying social expectations and owning their accomplishments to achieving the right work-life balance.

 

The essential resources listed here will help women small business owners find the support and community they need to develop and grow their businesses.

 

ORGANISATIONS

There are a number of organisations and communities set to encourage, empower and help women business owners in the US and all around the world:

 

COMMUNITY-MINDED CO-WORKING SPACES

Co-working spaces have traditionally been male-dominated environments, but women-only spaces have been popping up everywhere to empower women entrepreneurs and welcome them into a community based on support over competition. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely journey, and co-working spaces are a fantastic way to meet other like-minded women who will inspire you, encourage you to accomplish even more and celebrate your big wins. Here are some fantastic female-focused co-working spaces built around a strong community in the US and abroad.

 

BLOGS

There are many useful blogs run by women who want to share their experience, tips and advice on setting-up, growing and successfully running your business. Great for various tips and tricks!

 

PODCASTS

Who doesn’t love an honest podcast full of inspiration and advice for a good start to the day? The podcasts listed below focus on the challenges of setting up and running your business as a woman without ever being patronising or condescending.

 

MEETUPS

Women entrepreneurs can often find themselves isolated. This is especially true for those who are in the early stages of starting a business or can’t afford to rent a desk space to get out of the house and meet other professionals. Meetups are a great way to meet other women who are facing the same challenges and can offer advice and support, or even just to have a relaxing chat. Here are some of the best groups for women small business owners on MeetUp:

 

FACEBOOK GROUPS

If you can’t make meetups offline, Facebook groups offer a good alternative. You can take part in discussions, give and receive advice and support as part of a community of like-minded women ready to take their businesses to the next level. Here are some of the most popular groups for women entrepreneurs on Facebook:

 

LINKEDIN GROUPS

Alternatively, LinkedIn groups can also be a good way to grow your network while getting advice from fellow female small business owners willing to share their experience. Join one of these groups to get started:

2017 Online Marketing Trends

2017 Online Marketing Trends

The four online marketing trends you can’t afford to ignore in 2017 – explained!

If you’ve been a bit startled by New Year marketing checklists filled with buzzwords and little strategic advice, you’ve come to the right place. Bijou Collective offers tangible business advice to passionate individuals, and we’re here to help you cut through all the clutter. In this article, we have selected the four major online trends that will help you stand out in 2017. Read on to discover the next steps to take to grow your business or organization.

VIDEO
Video became a hot topic in 2015, and it really took center stage in 2016, with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announcing that “we see a world that is video first with video at the heart of all our apps and services” – an important announcement coming from the most frequented social network, and one of the most important websites on the Internet.

This year, it is estimated that online video will account for 74% of all web traffic [1]. In other words, if you want your message heard, you’ll need to use video to convey it to your audience. Your business therefore needs to get comfortable creating video content, and not just once a year. But the good news is that videos don’t all have to be artistic films professionally shot with an expensive camera.

On social media, they are widely used to provide users with information in a condensed and engaging format; some contain mostly text, or still images. Many software programs – like Animoto or Biteable – allow you to create your own professional-looking videos without any technical knowledge. And with most smartphones now equipped with high quality cameras, it’s easy to snap a video to promote your business.

And don’t forget that videos can be a great tool for SEO too: make sure to optimize the name of the video and its description as well as the text around it if you’re embedding the video on a website, and provide a transcript or subtitles.

HIGH QUALITY STORYTELLING
2016 has, in many ways, shown the limits and the dangers of fake news and clickbait. Millennials and younger consumers are wary of these unsubtle marketing tactics, and Havas recently revealed that 60% of worldwide consumers think that the content produced by brands is “poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver.” [2]

In response, marketers have to commit to creating meaningful content, instead of creating content for the sake of it. As the study conducted by Havas shows, brands need to step back from the content they create and ask themselves why they create content. Many brands see it as another way of entertaining consumers, but for many consumers content is an opportunity to get educated about a company’s ethos, operations, products and more.

Content also needs to be more approachable. Many companies use content as a way to lure in customers and get them to scroll through layers an irrelevant blog post or click on several links. Marketers should focus their energy on creating high quality content that will make visitors want to come back for more, instead of forcing them to subscribe to a newsletter or to leave their contact details. As more and more content is produced, companies will have to focus on quality, rather than quantity, to get noticed, remembered and trusted.

MOBILE-FIRST DESIGN
Mobile has been on every marketer’s mind since February 2015, when Google announced an upcoming update to its algorithm that would give priority to mobile-friendly websites. While it “only” accounted for 35% of global web traffic back then, mobile traffic now accounts for just over half of all web traffic, with a 30 percent increase year-on-year.

It is therefore crucial that your website should work well on mobile. And that doesn’t just mean having a sleek design and a hamburger menu: mobile-first design focuses on the mobile user experience as a whole, improving readability and loading time. A responsive website not only improves your SEO, it adapts entirely to the device to make the customer experience seamless. Moreover, mobile-first design easily fits in with the minimalist web design trend that has grown over the years. The two keywords you should keep in mind are : seamless experience.

INCREASED AUTHENTICITY
Echoing point 2 about high quality content is the ever-growing search for authenticity. In terms of content, authenticity translates as providing genuine, honest information that truly relates to your business, as well as replacing cringe-worthy, stereotypical stock photos with original pictures and adding more identity to your web design.

In the Information Age, authenticity goes hand in hand with transparency. Be open about who you are and what your company stands for, and make that information easily available. Small companies can use their websites to showcase their crafts (using videos, photos, infographics or beautifully-written text) and break down the walls between their customers and themselves. If there’s anything you’re not comfortable sharing, try changing it rather than hiding it: if you lie about something, it will come back to haunt you sooner or later.

Honesty, accountability and open-mindedness are important for today’s consumers. Don’t fake it: remember to be real, consistent and ethical. Communicate with your customers, be ready to answer their questions and take notes of their suggestions. See criticism as something positive that will help you tailor your business to your customer’s desires and expectations.

CONSUMERS WANT TO HAVE THEIR SAY –
so make it possible for them to interact with you and seek their advice to help you grow, and you will be rewarded with a faithful base of customers who think – and talk – highly of you.

Social Media Publishing Tools

Social Media Publishing Tools

Is a social publishing tool the right investment for your business? 

Social publishing tools seem to be a must for any company that is serious about distributing its content on social networks. There is no denying that automation makes life much easier for social media managers and executives, but what about the downsides? Let’s look at the pros and cons of using a social publishing tool and review some of the most popular ones on the market.

 

THE ADVANTAGES OF SOCIAL PUBLISHING TOOLS

– Managing all your social media accounts in one place

With the help of a social publishing tool, you can publish content on your various social media channels from a single platform. This makes it much more practical than having to log onto each individual website, and also allows you to see your different feeds, notifications and statistics in a single location.

– Scheduling posts to go out at the best time

This means that you can publish content at the best possible time – when your audience is online and scrolling through their feed – without having to be at your desk or even logged in to your account, and easily reach out to audiences on a different time zone. Many applications even suggest the best time to post based on when your followers are most engaged. It makes your life easier, and your posts more effective.

– Organizing and scheduling content

Publishing tools make it simple to organize and schedule content to make sure that you’re posting regularly and have enough posts scheduled to keep you going for a few days (or weeks). Regularly publishing quality content will help establish your reputation as an expert and generate more trust in your business.

But as great as these benefits are, there can be some downsides to using social publishing tools, especially as marketers tend to rely on them too heavily.

 

THE DOWNSIDES OF SOCIAL PUBLISHING TOOLS

– It might not be the most cost-effective solution for your business

If you run a small business, you might not actually publish that much content every day, have a presence on twelve different social networks or an international audience to talk to. If that’s the case, you can probably handle posting from each site individually. You can organize your upcoming content just as well by creating a content calendar in a Google spreadsheet, and that will not cost you a dime. Sophisticated publishing tools can cost up to $500 a month for a small team so it’s worth considering whether you actually need one before committing.

– You could be missing out on real time conversation opportunities and trending topics

If you’re happy to have all your content automatically published and aren’t actually following the conversations on social networks, you’re missing out on opportunities to engage with your audience and community in a more genuine way. Providing quality content to your customers is good, responding to what they are saying is better. You might also be missing trending topics that you could take advantage of by sharing relevant content and using a popular hashtag, allowing you to widen your potential audience.

– Your scheduled post might end up not being appropriate

If you’re using a publishing tool, you’ll have to keep up with the news to make sure your scheduled content isn’t going to sound inappropriate. After a dramatic news event, for instance, it may not be appropriate to promote your webinar, or your “inspirational quote” may appear to be in bad taste. You’ll need to be quick to react to delete your automated posts if you don’t want to sound insensitive.

Take, for example, Foursquare’s famous faux pas after the 2013 Boston Marathon: they had queued up a post to be automatically published after the race, asking users how the event was. When the bombing happened, they were not quick enough to pull down the message, and it was pushed out to Foursquare users who had checked in at the marathon. Although companies can always apologize for communications mistakes, in situations like this, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

There are downsides to using social media publishing tools: scheduled post might end up not being appropriate
REVIEWING THE MAIN SOCIAL PUBLISHING TOOLS

If you decide to use a paid publishing tool, here’s what you should know about the most popular social publishing platforms.

Buffer

Buffer lets you schedule and monitor your content across various platforms (including Instagram and Pinterest) and boasts a very user-friendly interface. With premium plans starting at $10/month for one or $99 for a team of five, it’s a very solid standard publishing platform but doesn’t provide many extra features.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite’s layout can be a bit difficult to navigate at times, but it offers a wealth of features, especially in terms of analytics. Paid plans start at $19.99/month for single professionals, $49.99 for a team of three or $99.99 for five.

MeetEdgar

Edgar is a very useful tool, allowing you to organize your content by category (blog posts, quotes, etc.) and recycling your “old” content when you run out, making sure that your social channels never go silent, and saving you precious time. However, Edgar only works with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and is pricier than some of its competitors, with plans starting at $49.99 a month. A good solution for mid-size or larger businesses with high volumes of evergreen content looking to save a lot of time.

SmarterQueue

Recently released SmarterQueue lets you categorize and recycle your content, like MeetEdgar, and offers an impressive list of features, including analytics, visual calendar and bitly link shortening. They offer a Solo plan at $19.99, a Business plan at $39.99 and an agency plan at $79.99, but you can also choose the Custom plan (starting at $19.99) and decide how many daily posts, categories and queued posts you need.

SproutSocial

Finally, SproutSocial has a very user-friendly interface and allows you to schedule, monitor and analyze your activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. SproutSocial also boasts a great reporting dashboard with colorful charts and graphs to help you track your progress, and is a fantastic platform for teams. The main downside is its price – the Team plan for 3 users is $500 a month – but the Deluxe version at $59 per user offers all of the standard features.

Your Guide To Using Images Online

Your Guide To Using Images Online

With pictures being so easy to share on the Internet, many people don’t think twice about the way they use other people’s work, let alone credit them. While this is just about forgivable for students putting together a presentation, it is an absolute faux-pas for professionals using images to illustrate their website. Following our guide to correct image attribution will help you avoid making a mistake.

 

HOW RISKY IS IT TO USE AN IMAGE WITHOUT PERMISSION?

Just because it’s on Google doesn’t mean you can use it. Plagiarism laws also protect people’s work online, including images, and using someone’s image online without their consent is theft. Photographers and illustrators who have had enough of seeing their work being used by someone else without permission are trying to fight back. They could contact you to ask you to credit them or remove the image, get in touch with your web host and get them to remove the image, or take you to court.

It’s also worth noting that Pinterest takes Flickr’s rights attributions very seriously, so if you embed an “all rights reserved” image in a web page, it won’t pull through to Pinterest. If you’re using Flickr as your image manager and embedding on your own website, and you want people to be able to pin your content, be sure to change your usage rights to one of the Creative Commons licenses.

 

HOW CAN YOU CREDIT AN IMAGE’S AUTHOR?

Short of contacting the author to ask for their permission, you can use a Creative Commons license. Creative Commons licenses make it easy to find online resources – not only images but also videos and sounds – that you can use and reuse in all legitimacy. Works that are licensed under a Creative Commons license (look for the “cc” logo) can legally be used, but you still have to provide attribution.

There are six different CC licenses, here is what they mean:

– Attribution (CC BY)

This is the simplest attribution as you can use the work in any way you like. The author only requires that you credit them the way they request, without any suggestion that they are endorsing you or the use you’re making of the image. If you want to be able to use the image without crediting the author, you’ll need to get their permissions first.

– Attribution ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)

Images under a BY-SA license can be copied, distributed, displayed and modified only as long as you are distributing the modified work on the same terms.

– Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)

You can copy, distribute or display only original copies of the image. If you want to modify the image, you’ll need to get the author’s permission.

– Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)

This license means that you can modify and build upon the image but cannot use it commercially. Your new work must acknowledge the original author but the derivative works don’t have to be licensed on the same terms.

– Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)

The image can be modified and build upon but cannot be used commercially. You have to credit the original author and license new creations under the exact same terms.

– Attribution NonCommercial NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)

This is the most restrictive license, allowing you to share an image if you credit the author, but depriving you of any right to change the image in any way or to use it commercially.

 

WHAT IS THE ETIQUETTE AROUND IMAGE ATTRIBUTION?

Ideally, you should mention the title of the image, its author (with a link to their profile on the platform where you found the picture), the image source (the original page on the platform) and the license used. You’re still doing a good job if you don’t provide the title or a link to the author’s profile but still link to the original picture and mention the license. If you’re only crediting Creative Commons or the website where you found the image, it’s not a correct attribution.

Take a look at Creative Commons’ detailed guide on correct attribution for a full list of what to do and what to avoid.

 

WHERE CAN YOU FIND FREE STOCK IMAGES?

With many stock photo libraries offering high-quality pictures for free and even attribution-free, there’s really no excuse to use an image without permission. Here are some of the best places to look for free stock images :

Pexels: with thousands of beautiful images uploaded by talent photographers all around the world, Pexels is one of the most popular free stock photo websites out there. You can even do a color search to find images that will complement your website’s colors. All the images on Pexels are attribution-free.

Unsplash, like Pexels, offers thousands of gorgeous high-resolution photographs that you can use for free. Use the search bar or browse the collections organized around a specific theme such as workspaces, pastel or minimalism. All the images on Unsplash are attribution-free, but attribution is encouraged to help the photographers gain recognition.

Nomad Pictures‘ website is full of stunning copyright-free pictures available free of charge. You can also take a look at their premium packs if you want to support their work or find an image that no-one else is using.

Create Her Stock boasts over 1,300 images curated for female creatives, entrepreneurs, and influencers of color. All you have to do is enter your email address to access the free gallery,  or create an account to go premium and enjoy unlimited downloads and special promotions.

Burst is a free stock photo site powered by Shopify to help designers, developers, bloggers and entrepreneurs create dazzling websites. You’ll also find whole collections available to download from their Business Idea section to help you kickstart your online selling business, with bonus advice on how to build your brand.

Pixabay is a great resource to find not only photos but also vector graphics and videos that you can use for free. Pixabay isn’t 100% copyright-free, however, so make sure to double check how each image is licensed before use.

Everystockphoto is a search engine for free photos sourced all over the web. Like Pixabay, Everystockphoto isn’t copyright-free but you can filter your search by type of license in the advanced search settings.

Flickr is an amazing photography resource and lets you filter search results by license type. If you’re not looking for images to use commercially or to modify, you can either select “All Creative Commons” or “No known copyright restrictions.” If applicable, make sure you’re crediting the author as requested, if applicable.

Even Google makes it easy to find pictures you can use for free: simply click on “tools” when searching for an image, and filter the results by usage rights. If you’re just looking for an image to illustrate your website that you don’t wish to modify, you can choose the filter “labeled for noncommercial reuse”. Be sure to click-through to the source site to see whether and how the author wants to be credited.

Finally, there is a non-exhaustive list of websites licensing images under the Creative Commons licenses available on CC’s own website.

The Importance of Self Care (Even When You’re Busy)

The Importance of Self Care (Even When You’re Busy)

When you’re working really hard, it’s easy to forget about yourself. Sure you know that you can only hope to live a healthy life if you have a balanced diet, and that you need to take care of your body and mind if you want to be productive, but are you actually practicing what you preach? I’ll easily admit that I often don’t, but I’ve been trying to do a little better lately. Here are some strategies I’ve been trying to take good care of myself even when life gets a bit hectic.

 

GET UP AND STRETCH (DO IT NOW!)

If you’re reading this article, chances are that, like me, you do most of your work sitting down at your desk, looking at a computer screen, and you’ve probably already heard a thousand times that it’s bad for your posture and your body as a whole. You should get up, stretch and move around regularly, but it’s not that easy to just get up and take a walk, especially when you really have to get this report done by tomorrow. The trick is to find excuses to get up and move, even just for a minute. Take regular bathroom breaks. Go fill up your water bottle. Make yourself a cup of coffee or tea. If you work in an office, go say hi to your colleagues on the third floor (and yes, use the stairs!).

 

SAVE YOUR EYES!

The blue light emitted by screens (akin to that emitted by the sun) can be a real strain on the eyes, so try to look away from your screen as often as you can (you could set up an alarm every hour as a reminder). Short of that, if you tend to work late, I highly recommend installing f.lux, a free software that makes the color of your computer’s screen adapt to the time of day: it will be “normal” during the day but will get progressively warmer at night. This will be a real relief for your eyes, and might also help regulate your sleeping pattern as too much blue light in the evening tends to keep you up at night.

 

GO FOR A WALK

I know I’ve already said you should get up and move around throughout the day, but this time I’m talking about a real walk, one that will be good for your body and your soul. You might think that you only ever have time to take walks on a Sunday, but why not change your midday routine and take a stroll around the neighborhood instead of eating a sandwich in front of your screen? Alternatively, you could walk a longer way home or skip a bus stop and walk the extra distance. If you work from home and find it difficult to take long breaks, organize your walk around something you have to do today, like going to the post office, buying some food, listening to a podcast or giving your best friend a call.

 

EAT YOUR GREENS

We all know that a healthy diet is crucial to a healthy lifestyle. But have you been eating your greens? Put a fruit basket on your desk, or in the office space you share and try to make your lunchtime meals as colorful as possible. I like keeping some dried fruits and nuts near my desk for a quick, easy and healthy snack, and I’ve been trying to incorporate fruits into my breakfast to make sure I get enough.

 

DRINK MORE WATER

I usually drink a lot of water, but if I’m busy I can sometimes find myself dehydrated in the evening. As it turns, out I feel much better when I drink water regularly throughout the day. I usually like to have a bottle of water on my desk, and I drink as much as I can. I try to refill my bottle as soon as it’s empty, as it’s an excuse to get up (see point 1) and prevents me from (wrongly) thinking that “I’m so busy I don’t even have time to get up”. Staying hydrated helps prevent headaches too.

 

BREAK AWAY FROM SCREEN TIME

You know you should take breaks throughout the day, and you probably do. But while broswing Pinterest is great (I love it too), it might not be exactly what you need to freshen up your mind. Try to look away from the screen, go outside, focus on something really different from what you’re doing. I find that manual or creative activities are fantastic because I can literally feel my brain reorganizing all the information (like a Tetris game) when I engage in such an activity. If you work from home or in a creativity-driven office, you might be able to play an instrument for ten minutes or stroke your pet. If not, try drawing, reading, writing, knitting, going out for a brisk walk or calling a friend.

 

KEEP ESSENTIALS NEARBY

Overheated offices can make your skin very dry. Make sure you’ve got a hand cream on your desk. If you’re too often picking at your lips when you’re stressed, get into the habit of using lip balm instead by putting a stick on your desk. And if you get dry eyes because of your contacts, keep some eye drops handy.

 

NURTURE YOURSELF

This one is easier said than done, especially when you’re very busy and are facing a tight deadline. But do try to take every opportunity to take good care of yourself. Watching TV might seem like a good way to relax after a long day of work, but if you’re not too tired, taking the time to cook a wholesome meal, bake some cookies, take a bath or do your nails will offer extra benefits that you’ll be able to enjoy for longer. If you don’t have much time to yourself, use it wisely.

 

ORGANIZE YOUR WORKFLOW

My final tip for managing to take care of yourself when you’re busy? Organize your workflow to limit the amount of pressure you’re putting on yourself. Try to keep on top of your work schedule by allowing enough time each day for what you have planned. Don’t be too strict with yourself, and make sure you account for regular breaks in your schedule.

If you’ve enjoyed this article, please leave your tips in the comments and tell us how you find little ways to take care of yourself when you’re busy.

Five Simple Strategies to Reduce Business Liabilities

Five Simple Strategies to Reduce Business Liabilities

Creating and running your own small business is undoubtedly very rewarding, both professionally and personally, but that doesn’t mean that you can afford to overlook the risks. However, you can reduce those risks and your own personal liability by managing your business the smart way. Although no blog article can replace professional legal or tax advice tailored to your own needs, here are some of the strategies that small business owners generally find useful and easy to implement to reduce business liability.

 

INCORPORATING

The first thing to do to reduce business liabilities is to select a business structure that limits your liability : by incorporating your company, you are protecting your personal assets from any debt or liability incurred by the business. Make sure you do your own research to decide which structure is best suited to your business. If you’re just getting started, we recommend using Incfile, an excellent resource for researching options and incorporating your business. Once you’re ready to move forward, you’ll find that their system is easy to use and that they provide competitive prices with no tricky hidden fees.

 

PUBLISH YOUR LIABILITY AND PRIVACY POLICY ON YOUR WEBSITE

This is particularly important if you own a service-based business as you will need to make it clear what your services do and do NOT include. If your business provides services or information related to coaching, nutrition, health, etc., you should clearly state your education, experience and credentials, and explain whether or not your services can be intended as a replacement for seeing a health professional. You should make all of that information available on a “Terms of Use” page on your website, and should also provide details about the information you are collecting and using on a dedicated “Privacy” page.

 

MAKE YOUR CONTRACTS CRYSTAL CLEAR

In order to avoid any confusion, you should draft contracts or work agreements that very clearly state what you are “promising”, what will be delivered and what is out of scope, as well as payment terms and refund policies (if applicable). Please note that this is an important step, no matter who you are dealing with, even family and friends. Providing a crystal-clear contract doesn’t mean you don’t trust the other party, it means you are doing your best to avoid any misinterpretation. People may overlook the importance of written agreements between family and friends, but it is just as crucial, and may save your relationship should a misunderstanding occur.

 

REQUEST A LAWYER’S HELP

Leave it to the experts and hire a lawyer to review your contract templates, as well as your liability and privacy policies. In this particular area, a pinch of prevention is truly worth more than a pound of cure. “Hiring a lawyer” might sound like a daunting task with a heavy price tag, especially if you are just starting out in business, but do not be discouraged! If you really need to watch your finances, you can turn to LegalCorps for volunteer legal advice. If you’re on a limited budget but have a little bit of wiggle room, Avvo offers on-demand, fixed-fee legal advice and their lawyers can provide help on a variety of issues. Rates start at $39 for a quarter-hour conversation and you can browse the forum for free advice.

 

OBTAIN BUSINESS INSURANCE

Even if you think all four strategies above are watertight, insurance is your parachute when all else fails. Business insurance comes in all shapes and sizes, so you should do your own research to make sure you subscribe to a policy that truly suits your needs. If you already have home, car or life insurance, check whether your carrier can offer you a bundled rate. Popular insurance carriers in North America that also offer small business insurance include State Farm, Progressive & Nationwide.