Tag: Bootstrapping

A Picture Guide To Creating An Effective Budget – Part 1 of 3

Budget.  For many, this is a scary word.  It means numbers.  Making sense of numbers.  Calculating numbers.  And quite frankly, I’ve learned over the years that not everyone is comfortable confronting numbers.  But if you want to have control of your financial situation and use simple concepts that big businesses use to your advantage, you’ll need to be armed and ready to face the numbers.  I’m happy to say that they’re not as intimidating as they may seem!

Even numbers can be visual, and in this Three-Part Series, I’ll show, in pictures, how you can create an effective budget that gives you power and control over your finances.  In Part 1, we’ll address the overview of a budget and why it is important.  In Part 2, we’ll go over how to create a budget; and in Part 3, we’ll address what to do after you’ve created your budget to maximize its use.

So what is a budget, why is it important and why do you need one?

A budget is an itemized financial plan for a certain period of time such as a week, month or year.  You anticipate your income (inflows) and plan your expenses (outflows) accordingly so you can see what you’re left with.  Ideally, you will spend less than you bring in.  Here is what this looks like:

This snapshot of a budget allows you to see your monthly income, itemized expenses and what you have remaining. This makes it easy to see if you’re sending more than what you’re bringing in.

Over time, a budget helps with planning ahead and in anticipating problems that may arise.  This insight allows you to think about what changes should be made and respond by reallocating resources as needed.  For example, if you’re over your groceries amount for the month, you can plan to spend less.  Or if you’re spending too much on cable each month, you can negotiate a lower rate with your cable company.

See how the highlighted amounts changed compared to those in Exhibit A. By planning and reducing your expenses in certain areas, you’ll be left with more to reallocate.

To your benefit, a budget provides an organized and easily understood breakdown of how much money you’re bringing in and how much is leaving your pocket.  It is an invaluable tool that allows you to manage your money and prioritize your spending.  An important point is the fact that the effectiveness of a budget doesn’t depend on your income.  In fact, your financial situation is largely about what you do with your money as opposed to how much you make.  With a budget, you can identify and get rid of wasteful spending, quickly adapt as your financial situation changes and attain your financial goals faster.  You’ll have a more accurate sense of if you’re able to afford your dream vacation or your friend’s wedding.  You’ll know how much you can save for your future.  This financial clarity is especially empowering.

With the reductions made in Exhibit B, additional money at your disposal can help you save more for your future or toward planned expenses.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll go over each step in creating a budget that is tailored to your situation.  Share your experience with a budget or what you would like to see in Parts 2 or 3 in the comments section below!

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12 Ways PodCamp Can Benefit You and Your Business

Registration.  Name tags.  Sign-in sheets. Driving directions.  Hotels. Free stuff.  Business cards.  Does this remind you of anything?  If you attended PodCamp Philly 2011 this past weekend at Temple University, then this is all still fresh in your mind.

PodCamp is a BarCamp-style unconference where people come together to share and learn about new media such as blogging, social media, podcasting, social networking, and videocasting.  The first PodCamp was held in Boston, Massachusetts in 2006 and today enthusiasts can catch it in cities around the world such as New York, Montreal, London, Toronto and Barcelona.  PodCamp is open to everyone – experts and novice alike.

At the event this past weekend, I spoke at one session entitled Bootstrapping 101 – Using Social Media To Innovatively Optimize Your Bottom Line.  You can see a little more about the session here.  The audience was great – interactive, curious and very willing to share information with each other.  So I left my own session with a number of takeaways, thanks to them!

With so much energy and the free-flow of knowledge, unconferences such as PodCamp are packed with advantages. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits, whether you’re attending for yourself or your business.

1. Networking – This is not a day that attendees want to forget their business cards; but with laptops, tablets, and other mobile devices welcome, it is easy to keep up with the professionals, small businesses owners, bloggers, and other content creators you’ll make connections with.

2. Best practices – As you learn from speakers and participate in discussions, you’ll get insight on how your company can better improve processes and workflow.

3. Teambuilding – These events are a lot of fun if you go with a big group because you can decide which sessions members of your group will attend and debrief to share the main ideas after.  With familiar faces around, you’re bound to have a good time.

4. Increase awareness – Nothing is worse than being out of the loop.  Sitting through the various sessions broadens your knowledge and gets you up to speed with the latest and greatest.  You’ll learn what else is out there, what others are doing, and how they’re doing it.

5. Leveraging technology and tools – Because you have the latest gadget or you’re using the newest social media tool doesn’t make you an expert.  You can get tips and tricks to better use your time and become more efficient with these tools.

6. Take the pulse of the market – Do you have a great product or service idea?  What better place to find out if it will have traction than a weekend full of energetic and opinionated people?  Maximize their feedback.

7. Branding – With the opportunity to speak and share your insight during interactive sessions, you can promote your business and position yourself as an expert and thought leader.

8. Training – Some sessions will be very specific with step-by-step guides.   This is a great way to get a crash course for yourself or your team.

9. Big picture analysis – With so many passionate people and ideas floating around, you will leave revitalized and inspired.  It is a great opportunity to take some time to reflect and rethink your overall personal or business strategy.

10. Give back and share – This isn’t all about your takeaways and what you learn.  Add value to someone else’s experience by sharing what you know.

11. Take online relationships offline.  Social media is great because of its reach and the fact that geographic location doesn’t limit who you interact with.  But nothing beats a face-to-face connection which is possible if you plan to meet up with others ahead of time.

12. Take a break, get energized and have fun!  Yes, this is what it is all about.  A community of movers and shakers who want to make a difference is bound to be magnetic!

What is your experience with unconferences?  How have they benefited you?

 


Innovatively Bootstrapping Your Launch With Google

Armed with a dream, the willingness to work hard, and very little in their pocket, many are preparing for their big launch.  Whether it is revisiting and revamping your personal brand or introducing your small business to the market, a launch can take various forms. Keeping costs down and bootstrapping has always been a possible approach, but these days technology and social media have made it a lot easier.  Resources, a long-existing limitation for one-man shops have become more available and you now have help in doing more with less.

To that end,  Google has developed some great products that are of little to no cost and can help you maximize your efforts.  Here are some of them:

Google Email.  Gmail gives you a lot of free email space!  This comes in handy for incoming mail from customers, newsletters you sign up for, personal emails etc.  Better yet, gmail allows you to create labels which help in categorizing all your mail.  You can even have mail bypass your inbox and go directly to the folders you create.  If you have multiple email accounts to keep up with, instead of reading each one separately, gmail allows you to forward them and respond from the email address where you received the email.  You can even prioritize your mail as they come in!  Gmail offers great options, lots of space, and helps promote efficiency since you’re able to organize all your mail in one place.

Google Voice.  Google Voice allows you to set up a phone number and account where you’re able to make and receive calls.  Depending on where you’re calling, it may even be free!  Once you set up your account, you can even have calls forwarded to an office or mobile phone.  If a call goes to your voicemail, you can access it via your Google Voice account or via email after it has been transcribed.  The application also allows you to screen or block callers or have conference calls.

Google Calendar.  Google Calendar gives you multiple viewing options – by day, week, month, etc.  This application makes collaboration easy as you’re able to invite others via email to the events your schedule or even share your public calendar and vice versa.  The calendar also offers notifications whether your preference is via email or a pop up and you’re able to schedule the amount of time prior to your event that you would like to be reminded.  If your email account is linked to your smart phone, you can also easily sync your scheduled event to your phone’s calendar.  Google Calendar is great for managing your busy schedule and it isn’t complicated!

Google Documents.  Google Docs is great if you have documents that you would like to access on the go – whether these are invoices or contracts.  You can open and edit most Office documents such as spreadsheets, word documents or presentations.  It saves your work and you’re even able to share it with others.  And when you’re back at your computer, you can easily sync your documents!

Google Alerts.  If you’re looking for an efficient way to keep up with what others are saying about you, your business, or your blog, Google Alerts is the way to go.  Similarly, you can keep up with your niche market or competitors.  You can set up key words and you can choose how frequently you would like to be emailed.  You can choose the sources of your alerts such as blogs, web searches, or news stories.  As you’re able to manage your alerts, you can always change your preferences or even add more!

Google Analytics.  If your business is engaging in social media, it is important to measure and be able to speak to your return on investment.  Google Analytics allows you to see who is visiting your site and where traffic is being driven from.  Globally, you can see where your best visitors are located and you can see how people are moving about your site.  You can see your most popular content and see at which point customers leave the shopping cart.  Altogether, Google Analytics provides useful feedback and information that you can use to better serve your customers and ensure you satisfy your market.

As always, Google provides great applications to keep you efficient as your grow your business and brand.  And if keeping costs low and bootstrapping is part of your strategy, Google is on your side as a lot of these applications are free!

Which Google products have you used and how have these added value to what you do?


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