Should I Start a Blog?

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Most businesses and individuals have a blog. It’s a fun, productive hobby and can be anything you want it to be. Your blog could be a place where you document your children growing up, share your day-to-day life or write articles on subjects you’re passionate about to share your knowledge. You can spend a little time on it or a lot.  

It’s Free and Accessible
As far as hobbies go, blogging can only cost your time or can be as expensive as you want. Sites like Blogger and WordPress allow you to set up a blog for free to test the waters.

You’ll Meet Like Minded People
The blogging community is very social. Through sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram you’ll quickly become acquainted with others and soon find you have a network of like-minded colleagues. Start by joining Twitter chats, at different days and times various chats are held to discuss different topics or ideas. There are occasionally events run by brands which might receive an invitation to attend. There are also local meetups to meet other local bloggers. Unlike journaling or writing a book, blogging has a social side to connect you with others.

You’ll Learn New Skills
When you’re regularly blogging, it goes without saying that you will improve your writing skills. Over time you will develop a “voice” which makes you unique and sets you apart. This is something new bloggers (especially business-focused bloggers) forget. Your customers and readers want to read your views and opinions. If you’re lucky, you’ll gain you a loyal following. In addition to improving your writing, you will have lots of opportunities to improve your photography skills, basic marketing strategies and social media use through techniques like SEO. This can be tricky, so in the beginning, you may need to enlist the help of a professional company, if not research and read and teach yourself. You will likely also gain some basic html coding knowledge over time. 

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Tips for Leading a Team

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

Leadership can be difficult. Managing people with a variety of emotions, feelings and ideas can be overwhelming, and leaders often fear they won’t be respected or listened too. However, it can also be a rewarding experience. There are a variety of ways to improve your effectiveness as a team leader and to inspire confidence.

Don’t be a jerk
Most of us have encountered somebody in authority who is overbearing and driven by power. Don’t be one of those people for the sake of the people working for you. Being a leader isn’t about bossing people around. Fun as that may be for a while,  you are going to annoy your team members, and they will probably walk away from you when you need them the most.

Many leaders misuse their role by humiliating people in front of others. They also overly criticize small mistakes. This will only lead to people feeling unmotivated and an unproductive workplace. We all need to be treated with fairness and respect. The very concept of power is misleading when used in the context of a team or workforce. People don’t come to work to be driven into the ground by an obnoxious dictator. They come to work to make money, to be part of something bigger than themselves and to hopefully make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Treat people with respect
We all have the right to be treated with respect, and that is true of leadership. To be respected by our team, we need to return that same respect back to them.

People work better when given positive reinforcement. A kind word of encouragement for doing something well often inspires us to work harder, as opposed to negative reinforcement which can lead to resentment. Within your team, find the time to praise them for a job well done. Should mistakes be made, talk to the team or individuals as to the reasons why. Perhaps their skills are better used elsewhere, or maybe some training is needed. Consider finding inspiration, such as these customer service quotes.

Communicate effectively
Without proper communication, a team will fall apart. A leader doesn’t have to be an extrovert with a loud voice. They simply need to convey to others what is required of them and to listen in return.

As a leader, you probably have a vision for the future of the work in which you are involved. Share that with your team, ensuring they understand what is required of them individually and collectively in moving forward with you.

People often need a reason for doing something. When asking people to commit to a task, explain the importance as to why especially if it isn’t obvious at the outset.

Have regular meetings with your team, on an individual and group basis. These times are critical, not only for you to convey important information but also to listen to what others have to say. They have a voice too so let them use it. Use active listening skills, using your body language to show your interest in what they are saying, such as giving good eye contact. Genuinely listen to them, and don’t bide your time for them to stop talking so you can get your point across.

Respect the opinion of others. Not everything has to be seen from your point of view, so understand what others are trying to say. If you disagree, be honest and say so and explain the reasons why. Alternatively, if you agree, thank them and incorporate their ideas into the future of the work.

Appreciate individuals
There is nothing more frustrating when an employer can’t even be bothered to learn your name. As you get to know your team, make sure you do remember their name as well as other important details. For example, celebrate somebody’s birthday. Seemingly small gestures can make a big difference. 

Remember, you don’t have to be a friend to everybody on the team, and it is sometimes easier if you’re not. That doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate each person and take an interest in some aspect of their lives. We all need to feel cared for, especially at work.

Be humble
You might be the leader, but that doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes. You are human, after all. When you mess up, it is better, to be honest, and own up to it, rather than keep quiet and hope nobody notices what you have done. Say sorry to those you have wronged and try to make amends. You might lose face for a short while, but you will ultimately gain respect for showing integrity.

You don’t need to know everything, either. If you are struggling with a work problem, there is nothing wrong with asking for help. For example, should you have an issue with your computer, somebody on your team may have the technical know how to help you.

Lead by example
Finally, but by no means least, be a good role model. It is no good asking your team to behave in a certain way if your behavior falls short of those standards. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and take on the menial tasks that other’s don’t like. Treat everybody with fairness, and they will do the same to you. Show initiative, and encourage others to do the same. Above all, inspire your team to be better, and with your example, they will be.







 

Three online business mistakes almost everyone makes

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

You may think that running an online business is very easy. However, there are plenty of ways in which you can trip yourself up on your path to success. There are three online business mistakes almost everyone makes, but you can avoid:

Inactive Websites
You’ve got a website, that’s great! But you have a few pages with basic information that’s rarely updated. This is a huge mistake if you’re running an online business. You must continually update your site and keep things fresh. Even if this means setting up a blog and posting new content now and then. The more active your site is, the easier it will be for search engines to add you to the results. Google loves websites that are active and updated, and these sites get rewarded with improved rankings while inactive ones get pushed down the pecking order. Plus, you need to ensure you’re providing up to date information for your customers, and an inactive site doesn’t do this. So, keep your site active for the good of your SEO and to help your customers stay up to date with the latest goings on.

Poor Web Design
The way your site looks and feels is so important when operating an online business. A lot of this revolves around how you build your site and where it’s hosted. A good idea for people just starting out is to use WordPress as there are plenty of ways you can enhance and improve web design using WordPress. Plus, it’s the easiest place to set up a site for beginners. If you’re more advanced, then you might have other ideas of doing things, remember, web design is important, don’t make the mistake of having poor website design as it can cost your business a lot of customers. Good SEO and marketing can bring loads of traffic to your site but good web design is a huge factor in converting that traffic into paying customers.

No Reviews
A huge mistake that a large proportion of online businesses make is they don’t display positive reviews on their site or a link to the reviews. This is a passive way to acknowledge you take criticism and praise in the same way. Almost every consumer is influenced by reviews, particularly when dealing with online businesses. 

Thinkific Review

Part of my full-time job and consulting work is helping people find ways to share in-person courses online.

I’ve personally used the two text-based platforms and each have different merits. For this post, I’ll be specifically reviewing the Thinkific platform.

I found the Thinkific platform to be intuitive and easy to use. It’s set up logically for non-computer science types from both the instructor and student perspective.

As a course publisher, the options to include coupons and subscription payments as part of the publishing tools is a very beneficial feature. These features are an additional expense on some other platforms.

More importantly, I found the customer service to be top notch. Thinkific customer service is incredibly responsive to feedback and requests.

There are a number of support options for Thinkific: a Facebook group and a contact us via email and phone option. The phone option is unique for a platform and the response time for email inquiries is much faster than others.

For example, I needed to unpublish a course while I revamped the content. In this case, it made the most sense to go beyond the unpublish option and instead downgrade my subscription. I reached out to customer service about my options and the response was very helpful. I wanted to be clear that the content would remain even if I unpublished and downgraded (another feature that isn’t available on other platforms).

The customer service response explained that is exactly what would happen, “your actual course content will remain on the site, and you can upgrade again when you’re ready! To downgrade, you just need to go to your My Account page within your dashboard and choose the free Starter plan.”

Regarding course design, there are a lot more options on Thinkific than on other platforms. If you are comfortable with designing a page using CSS or Javascript you can. This means you can customize how your course looks in ways that other platforms don’t allow.

Finally and most importantly for most course publishers is how student payment is processed, received and paid out to the course instructor. Thinkific pays the course publisher within 24-48 hours, unlike other platforms that take up to 30 days to pay the publisher.

Ultimately, I will continue to recommend Thinkific for courses because it is easy to use and the support system is excellent.

This post contains affiliate links, please see our affiliate policy here.

Tips for Blogging as a Business

Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question, “what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.

You might not think of running a blog as a small business of its own though in many ways it very much is a business. The blogging landscape is much different than it was five or 10 years ago but there is still room for new voices. If done correctly, a blog can be profitable on its own or help you launch the next phase of your business. There are a number of things to keep in mind if you choose to pursue a blog as a side business. 

Choose that perfect niche
Your blog’s niche is, by far, one of the most important aspects of it. You want to pick a niche that is unique but also that interests many different groups of people. For instance, blogs aimed at businesses are always popular, especially if the content offers useful information and advice about running a prosperous business. Of course, to launch a business blog, you need to have an in-depth knowledge of the business industry. The key to success in blogging is picking a niche that interests you, is interesting for other people and is something that you have a good knowledge of. Don’t try to just copy what’s out there. Be sure to add your unique perspective. 

Get the design just right
If you want your blog to stand out for all the right reasons, it’s crucial that you get your site design just right. There are various options for website/blog design, from building the site yourself using a website builder that offers hosting to hiring a website designer to create a customized site for you. What you need to consider is your skills and knowledge of design, as well as your budget. If you’re on a budget, it could be best to use a website builder and then if in the future you want to redo your site and can afford a web designer, then you can have a custom made site created.

Treat it like a business
The truth is that blogs can offer income potential, be a hobby or be the first step to launching your business. If you want your blog to be your main income stream, then treat it like a business from the start. This means putting in dedicated hours each day, working in a professional manner and keeping yourself motivated no matter what, just like you would need to running any business.

Offer more than just content
Many successful bloggers offer more than just content on their sites. Many offer services, ebooks and courses. Regarding ebooks, if you’ve got a topic that you’re highly skilled and knowledgeable in and links to your blog in some way, creating an ebook could significantly increase the traffic that your site gets. The same can be said for courses, both paid and free.