Are You A Micro-Entrepreneur?

As someone who left his corporate job for many of the reasons listed… this article REALLY resonated with me!  Enjoy.

The Rise Of The Micro-Entrepreneurship Economy

(by Jamie Wong on FastCoexist.com)

Years ago, Russell Howze was working as a creative at an advertising agency in Atlanta when he got laid off due to budget cuts. He then spent years piecing together work through various corporate jobs, until he decided to follow his heart. He founded a nonprofit organization for artists, and now supplements his income running street art tours through Vayable, the company I founded, in his extra time.

The first part of this story is one that has come to define the reality of so many in the wake of the recession. But the second part–where the discontented worker leaves behind the “security” of a corporate job in favor of his or her passions–is a new and growing behavior in post-industrial countries, particularly in the United States, Europe, and Australia.

The media has named the growing trend toward micro-entrepreneurship “the Rise of the Creative Class,” “the Gig Life,” or “the freelance economy.” All of those refer to the nearly 4.1 million workers (that’s 14 out of every 100 workers) who were self-employed this past year, according to the Office for National Statistics, and millions of others currently supplement their income with freelance work. While the trend has been spotted before, there’s one stark difference between micro-entrepreneurs today and the “Free Agent Nation” citizens of the late ’90s: technology.

Data on self-employment and freelance is limited because labor reporting has yet to adapt, but one indisputable metric is the rise of micro-entrepreneurship platforms and its contribution to a Do-it-Yourself Economy. During the past year, startups such as Airbnb (vacation rentals), Taskrabbit (home services), Uber (car service), and Etsy (handmade goods), have catapulted from niche use to household names. And a handful of newbies including Skillshare (education), LooseCubes (co-working), Getaround (cars), RelayRides (cars) and my company, Vayable (tours and activities), are also growing month over month.

What defines this new economy is that it’s built on the empowerment of individuals and the technology that enables this. It’s allowing individuals to create their own jobs. It’s a celebration of life and time, and a shift in perspective of money. Technology now provides an opportunity for people anywhere in the world to monetize their passions. And it’s not just the artists and under-employed flocking to these platforms, but professionals who seek a higher quality of life, greater flexibility, and more time with their families.

There are five main reasons that I think make micro-entrepeneurship so appealing:

  1. Flexibility: The ability to focus on what’s important (family, health, self-care) is not only about have having more time, but also about having more flexibility in your schedule.
  2. Following your heart: The opportunity to spend more time doing what you love.
  3. Making money: Being able to cash in on the goods, knowledge, places, skills and passions that people already have.
  4. Enrichment: Many people, especially those who have been in the workforce for a long time, are looking for new, sustainable ways to enrich their knowledge, skills and experience in life. Those who are retired or unable to work full-time love an alternative way to stay active.
  5. Creativity: Being your own boss means being the visionary behind your own business, rather than merely following marching orders.

The value proposition of self-employment is so compelling that it’s precisely what drove the corporates-gone-creatives entrepreneurs behind the aforementioned companies to empower others to strike out on their own, while providing a business structure, resources, and guidance through the platforms that are otherwise unavailable to the self-employed trying to do it solo.

But of course, as in every economy, the growth and survival of micro-entrepreneurship will be determined by the market. Do customers have a palate for the smaller, more custom, and unique experiences that these platforms offer? So far, the verdict is a strong yes.

As our appetite for labor swings away from the corporate culture and structure, so does our taste in buying. Customers use micro-entrepreneurship platforms for many of the same reasons that the entrepreneurs themselves do:

  1. Price: Buying from individuals on these platforms often means getting a much better deal than buying from a large company or professional service.
  2. Flexibility: Customers crave greater personalization and customization in goods and services than ever before. They want to choose when they get it, how, and for how much. These platforms accommodate individual needs much more than old ways of buying.
  3. Ease of use: One of the top reasons people like these platforms is because they make it easy to search, find, and purchase exactly what you’re looking for in once place. And user-friendly design makes all of these platforms easier to use than many e-commerce sites.
  4. Authenticity: Buying directly from the individual artist, homeowner, painter, or food enthusiast often provides greater quality and the confidence that you’re getting the real deal.
  5. Unique experience: Transportation, accommodation, getting groceries, and visiting local sites are no longer commodities but memorable, enriching experiences that last forever.
  6. It’s good for the world: Responsible commerce is important to a growing number of consumers, and with these platforms they have the satisfaction of knowing that money goes back to small business owners and the local community, thereby fueling the economy and reducing waste.

Certainly the move away from the 9 to 5 and toward self-employment invokes a host of ideological, political, and social enthusiasm that have helped give rise to a movement. The Occupy Movement and a growing mistrust in government further swells the fervor around a new economy, amplifying the message that change is imminent and necessary. But the reason micro-entrepreneurship platforms are growing in size and variation is because it’s an economic imperative.

This new freedom economy is working because it’s good for economic growth, and it’s growing because it can lead to better lives. But this technological revolution that enables greater autonomy and flexibility will also require a humane infrastructure to survive.

What’s necessary to make a DIY economy work:

Trust: Trust in big business has been on the decline, but the collapse of the financial sector may have been the final straw for many (especially those who lost their jobs). As we shape the freelance economy, building and maintaining trust between buyers and sellers is critical to the success of its growth.

Collaboration: Even employees of large companies cannot always depend on them to provide for benefits, quality of life, and ensure that basic needs are met. Instead, we rely on each other, on our community. As the DIY economy grows, we will need to work with government to ensure that policy and practices take basic needs such as health care, disability, and retirement into consideration

Accountability: New forms of accountability are required, instead of outdated accreditations, licenses, degrees, and other credentials that are increasingly losing relevance. People will accredit one another through reviews, repeat business, and other forms of reputation tracking and social buying.

Security: Both online security (secure payments, personal information) as well as offline safety are imperative to empower the growth of micro-entrepreneurship.

Technology: This is really at the heart of the freelance economy. Continuing to fuel technological innovation and creative application of technologies is the most important thing for future growth and sustainability.

New companies that empower individuals to become micro-entrepreneurs not only stimulate the economy by creating new revenue streams and disrupting outdated models of business, but provide individuals access to more fulfilling, rewarding, and authentic lives. As my late grandmother used to say: “Life is how you spend your time.”

Three Ways to Avoid Disastrous Customer Service

Customer Service Tips“The company clearly understood the market,” writes Barbara Bix at MarketingProfs. It had created a new product with all the right features and benefits, one that was earning rave reviews for its performance. “The name was short, crisp, and evocative. The logo was memorable. The promotion was compelling, frequent, and consistent.” Persuaded of its usefulness, Bix made an immediate purchase.

But there was a problem: Unable to install the product, she called the customer service number and spent several hours on hold as her issue was passed from manager to manager. Finally—a full 24 hours after her installation ordeal began—a service person authorized to fix the problem did so with a few taps on the keyboard.

By then, however, the damage was done. “Due to a series of post-sales mishaps,” notes Bix, “the company had counteracted months of well-executed marketing investments.”

To protect your brand from similar harm, she has this advice like this:

Test all aspects of delivery before going to market. Bix’s problem was simple: The authorization code she received with her purchase didn’t match any in the company’s database—a glitch that should have been discovered and resolved before the product went on sale.

Don’t direct customers to an FAQ page. There’s a good chance they won’t find the answer they actually need, and this will only fuel their frustration. Phone support—ideally 24/7—is what they want. “Many customers will forgive product failures if they can reach an empathetic support person who remedies the situation,” she says.

Empower employees to take corrective action. Why didn’t a frontline customer service rep have the code Bix needed? Bringing supervisors into process only served to add unnecessary complexity and irritation.

Don’t let a negative customer experience undermine your carefully crafted marketing plan.

Source: MarketingProfs.

How a Typo Can Hurt Your Business

Email Typos“Have you noticed spelling errors on the websites of major, legitimate retailers and/or service providers?” asks Julia Rubiner in the Editorial Emergencynewsletter. “The answer is almost certainly ‘no.'” Large corporations set a high bar for the rest of us: A single error looks sloppy and unprofessional to visitors, who are used to polished online copy. But the ramifications can be worse than making a bad impression.

Typos on your homepage, landing pages and product pages aren’t just embarrassing; they might actually hurt your business. Rubiner points to a BBC News article that provides anecdotal—but startling—evidence of a misspelled word’s negative impact on income: After a spelling error was corrected at tightsplease.co.uk, the online retailer’s revenue per visitor doubled.

“I like to think this is attributable to widespread disdain for spelling errors,” she notes, “but it’s not; it’s attributable to shoppers wary of fraud.” According to Rubiner, many people associate typos with phishers and con artists. “[I]t positively screams ‘fly-by-night operation,'” she explains.

In an ironic twist, customers who notice misspelled words might suspect your website is merely pretending to be your website. Or—if they’re unfamiliar with your brand—they might worry that you’re not even a real company. That’s when they’ll decide to withhold their personal information and credit-card numbers. And a valuable click-through becomes a lost sale.

Clean it up. Any copy destined for your website or your email campaigns should be spell-checked and then printed out for a hard-copy proofread. “Your bottom line will thank you,” Rubiner concludes.

Source: Editorial Emergency.

Why Surprising and Delighting Customers Isn’t Enough

Customer Relations“As much as creative marketing and promotions can help a product, service, or company stand out,” writes Linda Ireland at the MarketingProfs Daily Fixblog, “it always comes down to a simple premise: Did you solve the need that triggered the customer to act in the first place?” In other words: You can surprise and delight customers all you like, but it won’t matter if you don’t fix what they asked you to fix. So keep your focus on this goal with tips like these:

Do what you said you would do. You’ll impress customers by providing the product or service you promised, on time and without any surprises along the way. It would seem self-evident, but this oft-forgotten concept forms the foundation for every positive customer experience.

Don’t create more work for your customers. They’re paying you to make a pain point go away—it won’t seem that they’ve gotten their money’s worth if they have to jump through hoops to get anything done.

Don’t tout unnecessary benefits. A slew of new features won’t excite a customer who doesn’t need them; if you insist on discussing them, it’ll start to feel like tiresome oversell. “Keep it simple,” she says. “Fix their problem. Then stop. Then solve another one.”

Don’t forget the emotional aspect of customer experience. Inspire loyalty and satisfaction by matching your actions to the way a customer should feel at each stage of the process.

The surest way to surprise and delight a customer is to roll up your sleeves and solve her problem.

Source: MarketingProfs Daily Fix.

Three Email Message Types That Keep Subscribers Engaged

Engaging Emails“It’s easy to bore your customers to death with email,” writes Karen Talavera in an article at MarketingProfs. “Just send them the same type of message repeatedly, and you’ll succeed.”

Many companies, for instance, fall into the easy rhythm of sending e-newsletter after e-newsletter, never adding anything else to the mix. While there’s nothing wrong with an e-newsletter, your campaigns start to feel stale if you don’t offer a variety of message types. Here are three that can work well for you:

Announcements, alerts and reminders. Whether you’re hosting an event, launching a new product or promoting an offer, Talavera recommends a three-message series that: “(a) gives your audience a heads-up as to when your initiative will ‘go live,’ (b) tells them when it’s official, and (c) reminds them before it’s over or expires.” It sounds like a lot of email, but she downplays frequency concerns by noting most marketers don’t send enough messages like these.

Helpful, educational content. You’ll increase customer loyalty and engagement if you intersperse sales-oriented messages with information that explicitly benefits subscribers: articles, blog posts, white papers, videos, webinars and podcasts.

Triggered up-sell and down-sell offers. Encourage existing customers to make another purchase with automated messages that suggest complementary products or services. “For those who don’t convert on the up-sell offer,” Talavera advises, “especially after a free trial, proceed to a down-sell offer (usually a lower-priced, lower commitment than the up-sell or original purchase).”

Don’t be a bore. If you want to hold subscriber interest, you’ll need to create a diverse, engaging mix of email campaigns.

Source: MarketingProfs.

What Does Opt-In Really Mean?

Email Opt-inThe debate between opt-in and opt-out email marketing strategies isn’t simply about one choice or another. The reason? Any two marketers might have strikingly different definitions of opt-in. “[N]ot all opt-ins are created equal,” writes Maria Pergolino at Marketo. “In fact, it’s quite the opposite.” What one marketer considers strong opt-in permission might be, from another marketer’s perspective, barely up to CAN-SPAM standards.

Get on the same page by determining which opt-in category you’re discussing:

Unconfirmed opt-in. This is as close to opt-out as opt-in gets because visitors don’t actively subscribe to your newsletters or offers. Instead, their addresses are added to your list when they register at your website for other reasons—like downloading white papers. “You may be in keeping with the law but you’re not getting high marks for credibility,” Pergolino notes.

Single-confirmation opt-in. With this much better option, you add visitors’ addresses to your list only when they actively subscribe by checking—or not un-checking—a box. “To make that opt-in easier,” she advises, “have the permission box pre-checked and be sure to highlight all the reasons they will benefit from continuing a dialogue with you.”

Double-confirmation opt-in. Pergolino considers this the best of all—a policy that removes any doubt about new subscribers’ intentions. They’re only added to your list after they confirm their subscription by clicking on a link in a follow-up email.

It should be up to them. You won’t sell anything to a list of people who can’t figure out why you’re sending them newsletters, so focus on building a list of engaged customers who actually want to receive your relevant information.

Source: Marketo.

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