5 Home-Based Businesses for Animal Lovers

businesses-for-pet-loversThis is a guest post by Holly Reisem Hanna.  Thanks for the great ideas Holly!

It’s no secret that Americans love their pets! In fact according to the American Pet Products Association, Americans will spend an estimated $55.53 billion dollars on their pets in 2013 alone. So if you’ve been looking to launch your own home-based business and you love pets, here are 6 different pet careers to try on for size.

Franchises for Pet Lovers:

Do you want to have your own pet business, but you’re not sure where to start? A pet-based franchise may be the perfect work at home business opportunity for you. A franchise is a turnkey operation where you pay a designated amount upfront and then you’re given all of the tools to launch your very own home-based business.

Here are three different pet-based franchises to check out.

  • Fetch Pet Care is a home-based franchise that offers a variety of services to pets and their owners including: daily small pet visits, private dog walks, in-home overnight sitting, day and evening care, private boarding, pet taxi services, home care, yard cleanup, and medication for pets. Franchise cost $20,295 – $36,500.
  • Doody Calls is a home-based franchise that offers pet waste removal services for residential, commercial, and kitty litter boxes, as well as deodorizing and brown spot treatments. Franchise cost $42,230 – $59,030.
  • Zoom Room is a home-based franchise that offers dog training, agility, obedience, enrichment and puppy classes. As well as socialization events for dogs, such as indoor dog parks and parties. Franchise cost $35,000.

Pet Sitter:

Do you love interacting with animals? Launching your own home-based business as a pet sitter maybe your calling. Pet sitters generally take care of individual’s pets while they are at work or on vacation. Ensuring that pets are well taken care of, pet sitters will deal with feedings, cleanings, elimination needs, as well as nurturing and loving pets. Some added services that you could include with your pet sitting business are dog walking, grooming, or even pet massage.

Direct Sales Consultant:

Would you love to have your own pet boutique, but don’t have the funds to invest in a brick and mortar storefront? No problem. The direct sales industry has made it easier than ever to have your very own home-based business within the pet industry.

Companies like Life’s Abundant and Flint River Ranch offer a home-based opportunity selling pet products like, health and beauty aids, treats, toys, accessories‚ apparel items‚ beds‚ and gifts. As a direct sales consultant you will be paid a commission on each product that you sell. Most direct sales companies will also pay you a small bonus commission from consultants who you refer into the program.

Create Pet Wares:

Do you have a creative flair? Then perhaps designing, creating, and selling custom pet gear online is your calling. From pet carriers, animal beds, embellished tags and collars to clothing, toys, and feeding bowls – pet owners love to spoil their pets with unique products. To get started, use an e-commerce store platform like Volusion, Etsy, or Shopify. Once you create your account, you upload your photos and descriptions for your products, hit publish and you’re ready to go.

Gourmet Pet Treats:

Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Then consider starting your own gourmet pet treat business. Pet owners love to give their pets the very best from dog biscuits and speciality decorated treats, to gourmet cakes, natural chews, and kitty kibble. You could even specialize your treats for dogs and cats with special dietary needs. Set up your own website or use an e-commerce platform and you’re ready to start selling your custom treats.

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5 Ways Calendars Can Help Market Your Business

When we think Calendars, we often think our personal calendars, using it to manage our promotional calendar or share with our virtual assistants or project partners. But it doesn’t always have to be that ‘dry’. Many marketers online use PDF’s, videos and audios to get their message out, hope they turn viral which eventually brings traffic back to their web sites and their name in front of others. This method works and works well. Guess what? Content can be in other formats too like calendars.Calendar

Here are a few example ideas I came up with that you can use a shared Google Calendar to help promote your web site or business.

  • If you are a speaker, publish a speaking schedule. You are probably already doing that through Google Calendar already. Maybe you are publishing the calendar to your website. If you are, people can also subscribe to the calendar via Google Calendars or iCal. Promote and publish those links too.
  • Is your site or blog all about soccer? Create a calendar around the different soccer matches either around the world or the locality that your readers are most interested in. Let them know how they can subscribe to that calendar.
  • Maybe your visitors are mostly business people or marketers. How about creating a calendar that shows when quarterly taxes are due, a reminder when to start their holiday marketing planning and when to start promoting? Enter the dates and weeks of holidays and observances they can use for promotions.
  • Similarly, if your visitors are moms, how about a calendar with suggestions of places to visit, things to do, seasonal reminders or shopping and menu plans.
  • If you are a coach. Create a calendar around a program let’s say, a 60 day organizing program that users can subscribe to and they be reminded or things they need to do each day or each week to help them move along.

Use your imagination. Think of the calendar as a free reminder tool for your visitors. Remember that you can enter a link in Google Calendar entries. This can encourage subscribed users to click through to visit your site, an offer or simply lead people to read old but timely posts.

Don’t think it would work? This is the third year I am creating a calendar for bloggers of the many blogging opportunities throughout the year. It is very popular and I get people asking when it will be updated each year. Great tool to keep you in front of your audience at all times through the year as well. You can get a PDF copy of this calendar as an example for your own project. This year, I will be creating both PDF and a online ‘live’ version using Google Calendar.

Image courtesy of yalcin Eren

Lynette enjoys discovering new ways to use technology or new technologies to use in a business and in turn help her clients apply them. You can find also Lynette at her blog, Twitter and Facebook

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Make an Information Product With Me

Tonight (Tuesday the 15th) at 9pm I’m kicking off a six week group coaching program that will lead a group of bloggers and new internet marketers through the steps to develop, promote and sell an entry level information product.

The program is my 42 Day Launch Incubator.  I created the curriculum last year, led my first group to great success and then made the whole thing available as a self study course.  The group coaching option is only available two or three times a year and I would love to have you join me for this session.

I know that there are literally hundreds of you reading this who have been thinking hard about creating an info product.  I don’t normally put a lot of pressure on you – but I want to apply some right now – fall is a great time to create a new product.

Maybe you want to create something like…

  • A Beginner’s Guide to a Frugal Holiday Season
  • Ten Simple Steps to Total Computer Security
  • Sixteen Homeschool Science Projects Under $10 Each
  • Top Blogging Secrets: How The Pros Get More Readers
  • Five Videos You Should Star In This Fall And How It Will Help You Promote Your ________.
  • Common Social Media Blunders And How To Come Back From Them
  • Web Time Wasters: Tips for Getting More Done Online
  • Turning a Wipeout into a Win!
  • Top Guest Blogging Strategies For Traffic & Profits

Whatever it is that you’ve been thinking about sharing with others, I can help you chunk up the process and get it done at last.

Come check it out.

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What Good Is A Wiki For Your Small Business?

According to Wikipedia…

A wiki is a website that uses wiki software, allowing the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked Web pages, using a simplified markup language or a WYSIWYG text editor, within the browser.

So, in other words, it is a web site builder. What’s so special about that?

The web site building feature is not the interesting part. The interesting part is the fact that anyone can create, edit, add on and correct the information on the page anytime, anywhere using just a simple web browser. It’s kind of like Bob writing a proposal which he then sends out to Nancy and Jack for them to look over. They scribble their notes or cross out lines of text and send it back to Bob. Many people working on one document. The only difference is, the document is web based and everyone who has access to it can view it – instead of being passed around.Meeting

Yet how does something like this fit into a small, solo entrepreneur business like most of us have? The best answer – a wiki would make a fantastic knowledge repository. Here’s why.

We solo entrepreneurs carry an awful lot in our heads. I used to think this was great but these days, I don’t want to remember. I want to offload because my memory is not always accurate or reliable ;-), it helps a lot to unload what’s in our heads onto writing. Writing (or in this case typing) things down makes us more relaxed since we know the information is filed away safely and not forgotten. When you have less to remember, you’ll also function better. Kind of like our computer memory. The more you load it, the slower it becomes until it finishes processing everything.

Writing things down is also great when you outsource your tasks. Now, you don’t have to spend so much time training someone. We still have to invest a little bit of training to get someone new up to speed but if you have tasks and procedures documented, your personal time commitment is reduced. You can tell them to study/read the document and ask you questions if unclear. Great time saver.

Again, where does the wiki fit in? I think a wiki is perfect for internal documentation like this especially when you outsource your tasks because then, the burden of keeping accurate documents is distributed. Sure you can just as easily write up documentation on your word processor and send it out but if your VA makes a suggestion that you decide to implement or if there’s a change in policy or a simple edit for clarity, you still have to edit the document.

Using a wiki, your VA can edit the document without having to wait on you or have files sent to each other. This can reduce email volume plus, any edits become live immediately. The result, your team always has access to the latest information.

How do you set up a wiki? You have the option of installing the scripts on your own web site. This is probably better if you’re not comfortable storing information on a third party site and aren’t afraid of a little geek speak. You could check these out:

Or you can have completely hosted wikis like:

Image by Sigurd Decroos

Lynette enjoys discovering new ways to use technology or new technologies to use in a business and in turn help her clients apply them. You can find also Lynette at her blog, Twitter and Facebook

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Making Client Appointment Scheduling Painless

Have you ever called up your hairdresser or fitness trainer, got the voice mail, put on hold and wished they could just go online to set up an appointment yourself? You’re not alone. Playing phone tag is a pain and not very efficient. The good news is, there are many, many appointment scheduling systems you can take advantage of, some with very little investment.Schedule

My favorite is Genbook. This is a pretty complete system. They offer a free basic account where you can take advantage of most of their features. You can start scheduling appointments online in a matter of minutes. I love the ability to assign staff to certain services. It is super simple to use but not lacking in customization. Just tons of features for free. Premium accounts start at $39.99 a month and you also get the ability to take payments before scheduling the appointment. Perfect for any offline service who doesn’t have an e-commerce component yet.

Other services in this area include

  • Acuity who also offer a free account have have two other levels at $10 and $19 a month.
  • Schedulicity at $29/month for one user and $49/month for 2-20 users.
  • Appointment-plus who has three plans beginning at $39/month.

Prefer to do it yourself? Whenever there are fully hosted software, you will usually find standalone software that you can pay for a one time fee, get it installed on your own web site and managed yourself. Here are a few I came across.

Photo by jenny w.

Lynette enjoys discovering new ways to use technology or new technologies to use in a business and in turn help her clients apply them. You can find also Lynette at her blog, Twitter and Facebook

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Should You Crowdsource Customer Service

Let’s get the jargon out of the way. Crowdsourcing is a term that’s used to describe the process or soliciting the mass or your own network of friends, followers, fans, customers, prospects and so on, to accomplish a task, project or maybe just answer your questions. So what does it mean to crowdsource your customer support?

Great examples of this is how opensource software have formed communities where everyone tries to help each other out. Technically, this is not something brand new, but the tools can be. Traditionally, forums have been the tool of choice. But these days, you have great tools like Get Satisfaction and UserVoice.

These are very well built tools that allow users to post their questions, let other users to chirp in to say “me too” or answer questions. As a business, you can set up your company and use it like your official help desk. It is kind of like a merge between a forum, a personal Yahoo Answers system and a help desk.

The pros:

  • You don’t have to maintain the software
  • You get the ability to tap into the knowledge of the masses – since there’s already a user base there, if they are familiar with your product, others can answer your customer support issues for you, alleviating your work burden
  • You get to use a pretty cool and well built piece of software that would cost you to build or set up on your own and you get started quickly
  • You get to establish a professional support system where you can manage requests and provide support in an orderly and organized method
  • You get to see what the people actually think and feel, granted, you already see this using your own system but user sentiment and feedback is better captured by these systems which means you can get a better overview or what people are actually saying.

The cons:

  • If you’re using the free option, you do not get to moderate any posts made by others. This is good and bad. Good in the sense that it encourages transparency but bad in a sense because even if you upgrade and get moderation turned on, you have to provide a reason. To me, it’s like having a ‘boss’ over your shoulder – not exactly my preference.
  • It can get pricey. Get Satisfaction starts at $99/month. UserVoice does have a much more affordable starting point at $19/month but if your system is pretty busy, you may find yourself hitting the limit pretty quickly.
  • You can lose your branding. Branding options only come with paid accounts and for that, refer to con #2. Your customers are directed to a site where they can quickly get distracted with other things. On your own system, you can better control what you present.

What’s the verdict?

I’m not entirely sure. I think it is great if you don’t already have a system in place but want to setup something where you can organize and respond to people effectively. But if you already have a system, then you fragment your support by also setting up on these sites. While I love the idea of crowdsourcing, it is very enticing to me, including the transparency, I’m not sure I like having someone looking over my shoulder when it comes to support issues.

Also, crowdsourcing works a lot better if you actually do have a big following and user base. For smaller companies with limited exposure and user base, at the end of the day, you or your staff will still end up providing the bulk of the support. I’ve decided not to take advantage at this time.

Lynette enjoys discovering new ways to use technology or new technologies to use in a business and in turn help her clients apply them. You can find also Lynette at her blog, Twitter and Facebook

Photo by sanja gjenero

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Interview with James Chartrand of Men With Pens

picture-11

I did an interview with, James, one of the founders of MenWithPens.ca. This organization epitomizes the lifestyle that Sparkplugging.com is focused on. Their four employees, one of whom is a woman despite the name, operate from four different locations in two different countries thousands of miles apart. We talked about what they do, remote work advice, free content, and what a new entrepreneur should focus on. Read on and when you are done please go check out their site at MenWithPens.ca

Would you say that you focus more on one particular topic between wordpress customization, web design, and copywriting or is it more evenly divided?

We began our venture with content writing services, but it wasn’t long before we’d expanded that to offer website content (our specialty) and copywriting. Design came along shortly after, but with WordPress gaining ground as a way to offer people affordable sites they can control easily, the move to include it into our service offerings seemed natural.

Now our business offers just about anything anyone needs for online business, from rockin’ copy to slick design to technology that makes everything a breeze. I really enjoy having a full-service business, too, because we can definitely help more people get ahead and achieve their goals.
[Read more…]

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