Dec
05
Posted on December 5, 2014
Filed Under (Advice, Marketing, Networking) by jennifer

Help me please!I have been writing for print and online publications for over 20 years, and I am always on the lookout for great sources for my articles. I also spent several years (more) doing pubic relations (PR) on both the agency side and for a variety of businesses and have an excellent track record of getting my clients cited by reporters. So I am intimately familiar with what it takes to get a reporter’s (or writer’s) attention.

Yet I am constantly amazed — and annoyed — by how many PR people, especially in the modern digital age, when finding out the names of reporters, the areas they cover, and what they are working on, has never been easier, waste my time.

Herewith…

11 Ways to Piss Off a Reporter (and ensure she will never quote your clients)

1. Don’t bother to Google the reporter, to find out what she writes about — or actually read any of her articles (even though they are easy to find and plentiful).

2. Add the reporter to your email list without her permission and bombard her with emails and press releases that have nothing to do with the beat(s) she covers.

3. Do not follow the reporter on Twitter. (Because if you did, you would know what she was working on.)

4. Do not look for her queries on Help a Reporter. 

5. Repeatedly email the reporter to ask what she is working on. (See above.)

6. Ask the reporter to ping you whenever she is working on an article — even though chances are you will be working with different clients or at a different agency six months from now (or less).

7. Pitch her ideas that have nothing to do with her beat(s). (See above.)

8. Send replies to her Help a Reporter queries that have nothing to do with her query — and/or clearly demonstrate that you, the PR person, have not taken the time (less than 5 minutes) to read any of the reporter’s articles.

9. Send an angry or whiny email to the reporter questioning why she didn’t quote your client in her article.

10. Do not thank the reporter for including your client in one of her articles.

11. Do not promote the article on social media. (FYI: Many, probably most, writers these days get paid based on the number of page views their articles get. So we really appreciate when sources and PR folks publicize articles on social media and put links to the article on their websites.)

Also, be sure to read “How to Pitch to a Reporter (and Get Good Press for Your Business or Client).”

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Jun
11
Posted on June 11, 2013
Filed Under (Advice, Finance, General Business) by jennifer

The following is a guest post from Financial Journalist Doreen Oppenheimer.

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Choosing which credit card to use for your small business can be a difficult decision for entrepreneurs. While there are no shortage of credit card options, you want to choose the one (or possibly two) that best suits your particularly needs or desires be it low interest rates, a cash-back program or frequent flyer miles or reward points, no annual card fees, or discounts on gas and/or office furniture.

To help make the decision process a little bit easier, here are four small business credit cards that can help you save money and earn points.

American Express Plum Card

Many of the AMEX small business credit cards are perfect for startups. The American Express Plum Card offers cardholders flexible payment options and offers rewards for paying early. For every statement paid early, cardholders earn a 1.5 percent discount off the next billing statement, which could equal big money. For instance, if your business charged $100,000 for the month, you would receive a $1,500 discount on the next statement. Talk about the great news for small businesses! With the Plum Card, you can also opt to take up to 60 days to pay without interest. The annual fee is waived for the first year; however after that it’s $250 annually.

Capital One Venture Card

The Capital One Venture Card is great if you are looking for a card offering rewards, including travel. There’s no annual fee during the first year — and the fee is only $59 each year after. If you spend at least $1,000 during the first three months of obtaining your card, you’ll receive a $100 bonus (or possibly 10,000 or more rewards points, depending on the offer). Among the benefits of using the Venture card is the Purchase Eraser tool, which allows you to use points to reimburse yourself for travel-related expenses. You can also use your rewards points to purchase gift cards (perfect for end-of-year gifts to employees) or merchandise.

Chase Sapphire Preferred

The Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers new costumers a great incentive to join. During the first three months if you rack up at least $3,000, you’ll be rewarded 40,000 bonus points, which are redeemable for $500 in travel rewards or a $400 statement credit. And the perks don’t end there. Benefits include: two points per dollar on travel and dining purchases, one point per dollar on all other purchases, and a 20 percent discount on travel purchases when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals, and cruises — great perks for those who frequently travel for business. Also, during the first year, there’s no annual fee (though after that the annual fee is $95.)

SimplyCash Business Card from American Express

If you love cash incentives, then the American Express SimplyCash Business Card may be the right option for you. During the first year, there’s zero APR on all purchases and no annual membership fee. Cardholders will receive 5 percent cash back on all office supplies as well as mobile purchases, 3 percent back on all gasoline charges, and 1 percent back on all other purchases. And if during your first year you spend at least $12,000, you will be rewarded with 1 percent back annually.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: After looking at various credit cards for my new online retail business, Prepster Pineapple, I went with the Merrill Rewards for Business VISA Signature Card. Primarily, I chose this card because I am a Merrill Lynch customer and Merrill made it easy for me. The benefits: the card has no annual fee, allows me to earn rewards, offers 24/7 concierge service (handy when on the road), and I can order additional cards for employees. Definitely a card to consider if you are a Bank of America or Merrill Lynch Customer.    — Jennifer L. Schiff

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Jul
24
Posted on July 24, 2012
Filed Under (Advice, General Business) by jennifer

I love when I receive a thank-you note or gift from a happy client or vendor. And I know I am not alone.

Indeed, a while back when I asked small business owners how they encourage customer loyalty and get customers to continue to purchase from them, among the top responses I received was “I send them thank-you notes” and “I offer them a 20 percent discount or gift for making another purchase or referring a friend.”

So when I started up my e-tail business, Prepster Pineapple Clothing & Accessories, I created custom Prepster Pineapple note cards, to thank each customer who ordered a shirt. (I also plan to offer discounts on future purchases and for referrals.)

And while thanking your customers is a great way to engender loyalty, I believe it’s also important to thank your vendors and partners, the businesses (many of them small businesses) who help make your business possible. So…

Thank you to Enterline Design for the outstanding logo and design work.

Thank you to Shoreline for doing such a great job with the embroidery on my Prepster Pineapple polo shirts and for the excellent screen work on my Prepster Pineapple t-shirts.

Thank you to Custom Couture Label for weaving my Prepster Pineapple private labels. You did a beautiful job.

Thank you to Universal Tag for creating the best-looking (and possibly only) die-cut pineapple hang tag I’ve ever seen.

Thank you to BigCommerce for your terrific (and easy to use) shopping cart software.

And thank you to BC Mod Squad for designing and coding the Prepster Pineapple ecommerce site. You guys rock!

So, have you thanked your customers and vendors today? If not, take a minute to do so.

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Apr
26

A bad video — one that is poorly lit, that you can barely hear or is deafening, that rambles or doesn’t make a point — is worse than not having any video on your website (or YouTube). So to help you create a video that will get customers talking and clicking are 12 helpful tips from the experts.

1. Know who your target audience is. “Think how your video can help your end user, the customer,” says John Sarkisian, CEO, SKLZ, a sports training product manufacturer. In SKLZ’s case, its how-to videos, which showcase its sports training products, are geared to customer representatives at sporting goods retailers. That exposure – or brand awareness – led to SKLZ getting increased shelf space at national sporting goods retailers, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, which boosted sales.

2. Script it. “A script for a video is like a blueprint when building a house,” explains Edward Schlesinger, script writer, OnlineVideoScriptwriting.com. “It will let you see what the finished product will look like before you start.” In addition, “changes on paper are much easier and cheaper to do than once production starts.”

3. Have a clear call to action. “What do you want people to do after they’ve watched your video?” asks Schlesinger. No matter how short your video is, “make it clear what you want people to do – pick up the phone, sign up online, walk through your doors. Don’t throw away this opportunity to convert potential customers.” (For a great example of how to get your message – or call to action – across in 1:34, see Dollar Shave Club’s recent viral video, which was viewed over 2 million times in just over 48 hours, and is prominently featured on Dollar Shave Club’s home page.)

4. Shoot in a quiet place. “Always try to shoot in a quiet place away from machines, large crowds and traffic noise,” says Rob Ciampa, vice president of Marketing, Pixability, a video marketing company and the authors of Video Marketing for Dummies. Also keep in mind that “putting the right [or wrong] microphone on your subject can make a big difference.”

5. Light it well. “Make sure you are using all available light sources,” advises Ciampa. Remember that right – or wrong – lighting “will shape the mood of your video.”

6. Choose the right music. “A widely ignored but great way to move the needle for brands through video marketing is to integrate music,” argues Bryan Boettger, Chief Creative Officer, The Buddy Group, a digital engagement agency. Brands “should budget at least 5 percent of their video spend on professional music,” he argues. Though that doesn’t mean you need to feature The Who or One Direction; someone no one’s ever heard of is fine – better even – if it’s the right song to help get your message across. “By choosing the right music, brands have an opportunity to not only… engage consumers, but they also come across surprisingly relevant if they break an artist who has yet to connect with a larger audience.”

7. Less is often more when it comes to effects. “Building a story is the editor’s number one objective,” explains Ciampa. “Stay away from snazzy effects and [focus on delivering] a professional and polished story.”

8. Keep it short. Try to keep your videos to around a minute and a half. Although if it takes 30 seconds or two minutes more to properly demonstrate your product, use the extra time. Just remember that many (if not most) of the people you are trying to reach are at work, and have short attention spans.

9. Use your customers – especially if they are well known and/or social media influencers. Do your customers love your product or service? Ask them to star in a video for you. In order to reach its target demographic, young first-time home buyers, Oak Mortgage Group of Dallas, Texas, shot video testimonials of every loan it closed with clients who fit its target market. Then the mortgage bank inserted the video testimonials in its newsletter and posted them on its Facebook and Twitter pages (with the customers’ permission). Clients loved it and shared the videos – and told their friends about Oak Mortgage Group. Indeed, because of the customer video testimonials, “word of mouth grew and Oak Mortgage Group became a leading mortgage bank in Texas,” says Merrick Pickens, PR & Marketing director, Oak Mortgage Group.

D’Artagnan Foods, an international fine foods purveyor, also has enthusiastic customers, many of whom are well-known celebrity chefs. So in order to help promote D’Artagnan, its owner and founder, Ariane Daguin, a personality and chef herself, enlisted fellow chefs Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson (among others) to star in a series of how-to videos with her – showing food lovers how to recreate some of their favorite dishes, using D’Artagnan products. To date, the videos have been very successful, helping to increase brand awareness and sales for the company.

10. Use humor – if or where appropriate. To advertise the fact that its food is fresh, not microwaved, Moe’s Southwest Grill created an entertaining video titled “Microwaves Ruin Everything.” The video reached more than 1.5 million views on YouTube in only a few weeks, going viral faster than anyone anticipated. Soon after the video’s release, sales jumped 8.5 percent. And while Moe’s Southwest Grill cannot directly attribute that increase in sales to the video alone, the company believes it definitely contributed.

11. You don’t need to hire James Cameron to produce (or direct) your video. While it’s a good idea to work with a professional videographer or video production agency that knows what they’re doing, if you don’t have someone on staff, don’t go overboard. “Too many organizations feel compelled to produce Hollywood-grade corporate videos,” says Ciampa. “Unless you’re a luxury brand, most prospects not only don’t care,” they may be turned off by over-produced, overly slick videos. “Focus on great content and clear presentation while ensuring the proper lighting, audio and camera techniques. With this approach, you’ll be able shoot more video much more economically,” he says.

12. Include a video sitemap on your website. “Ensure videos are indexed by Google by submitting a video sitemap,” says Melody King, vice president of marketing for Treepodia, a provider of e-commerce video solutions. (Instructions for how to do this are available on Google’s Webmaster Tools’ page.)

For more information about video making and marketing, read my article, “How to Make Video Marketing Work for Your Business.”

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Feb
06
Posted on February 6, 2012
Filed Under (Advice, Marketing, Social Media) by jennifer

While there are many benefits to using social media, having a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, and/or a Google+ account and regularly posting to them does not guarantee your small business social media success — that is, more customers and sales. You want to know the real secret to Facebook and Twitter success? Absorb these 6 Inconvenient Truths About Social Media.

1. It helps if you are famous or well-known outside of Facebook or Twitter. The reason celebrities, athletes, successful entrepreneurs/business owners and venture capitalists have so many Facebook and Twitter followers? It’s not because they’re Facebook posts or tweets are so brilliant or informative. It’s because the people whose names are on the Facebook and/or Twitter account are famous, and people (both famous and not famous) love to attach themselves to famous people. So unless you are a star in your industry, don’t expect people to follow you as if you were one, even if your Facebook posts and/or tweets are stellar.

2. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Not famous or well-known outside your family and circle of friends? If you have a famous or well-connected friend or family member — people Malcom Gladwell referred to as Connectors (well-connected people) and Salesmen (people who are good at influencing buying decisions and opinions) in his book The Tipping Point — that’s almost as good. Just make sure these Connectors and/or Salesmen (or Saleswomen) believe in your brand and are comfortable posting about your products or service on Facebook and Twitter. You don’t want them sounding like paid endorsers.

3. It’s not quantity but quality, though quantity doesn’t hurt. Let’s face it, we’re all impressed (at least most of us) when we see someone with lots of Facebook and/or Twitter followers. But as many small business owners (larger ones too) will tell you, it’s not the number of people following you, it’s the quality. That is, it’s better to have 500 Twitter followers who believe in your brand, have lots of connections, and retweet posts they like than 10,000 followers who each average 100 connections, never retweet, and are unlikely to buy from you. So instead of focusing on the number of Facebook and Twitter followers you have or would like to have, focus on getting the kind of Facebook and Twitter followers you’d like to have, by following them and thoughtfully commenting on their posts.

4. Delegating only goes so far. While it’s perfectly okay to hire someone to regularly update your Facebook page and post on Twitter, especially if they love your business or products or service, you should be monitoring what is being said about your business on social media — and making sure whomever is managing your social media presence is doing a good job and accurately portraying your business. Also, try to post yourself, as much as possible. People like hearing from the boss.

5. It’s not what’s in it for you; it’s what’s in it for them (i.e., your customers). Instead of telling customers how great your business or your products are, provide information that will pique their interest — make them think or laugh or reply (to a question). For example, if you own a bakery, maybe ask “Which pie should we feature this Friday: Key lime, Boston cream, or cherry? The pie with the most votes wins!” And be sure to let people know which pie was chosen. Similarly, if you are on Foursquare, think about offering people who voted for the winning pie a free or discounted slice. Another good social media tactic: offer Facebook or Twitter-only discount codes or promotions.

6. Be prepared for a lot of criticism and vitriol. When you use Facebook and Twitter for business, be prepared to hear a lot of negative things — and have a strategy for dealing with complaints. Facebook and Twitter can be wonderful customer relationship management (CRM) tools, but you have to know how to use them — and not ignore or rebuke those customers with negative things to say. Instead, turn negative comments or complaints into opportunities, using Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s wrong and make it right.

Have additional tips for how small business owners can successfully use social media? Please leave a comment.

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Dec
27
Posted on December 27, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, General Business, Marketing, Social Media) by jennifer

These 11 inexpensive yet highly effective marketing tools are the perfect way for your small business to ring in the New Year — and ring up increase sales.

[To learn more about each marketing tool, read my latest article, “Small Business Holiday Wish List: 11 Marketing Tools and Services” on SmallBusinessComputing.com.]

  • An SEO strategy
  • A video camera — with a good light sensor and microphone
  • A YouTube channel — dedicated to your business
  • A mobile website
  • A business Facebook page
  • A Google Places page
  • A LinkedIn profile and company page (especially for B2Bs)
  • A wiki for online collaboration
  • A business blog
  • A free app
  • Online scheduling software (such as Schedulicity or Appointment Plus)

Have another must-have marketing tool for small business owners that you’d like to recommend? Please leave a comment.

Wishing everyone a prosperous New Year!

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Nov
29
Posted on November 29, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, General Business) by jennifer

* Guest post from Ashyia Hill of CreditDonkey *

For many aspiring entrepreneurs, who thought running their own business would be fun, having to manage a budget often comes as a rude awakening. But balancing books and making ends meet are two very real concerns that every small business owner needs to contend with — and many simply fold under the pressure. Many see a budget as a fixed target that needs to be met no matter what. From this misconception stems many problems that small business owners face: from a lack of funding, to getting too hung up on unnecessary spending, or simply going overboard with the expenses. But with some careful planning and help, managing a budget can be quite… manageable.

Following are 10 tips on how to rein in your cash and stay within budget.

  • Don’t think of a budget as set in stone. In its essence, a budget is simply a way for you to keep track of how you’re spending money. It’s unthinkable to let a huge order pass you by just because you have limited capacity and expansion is not permitted by this year’s budget. You can’t plan for events like these and an inflexible budget can cripple your decision-making process. There is a fine line that separates a spending restraint from a business constraint. A budget is supposed to be the former and never the latter.
  • Don’t let last year’s figures be your sole guide. A better guide for drafting a budget would be your business plan. Your short- and long-term goals should dictate the funds that you will need. Your budget should yield to your goals and not the other way around. The opportunities that open up to you now are never the same as last year. So why allot for the same potential expenses?
  • Be transparent, especially with budget cuts. Nothing saps employee morale more than finding out that your funding is going to be less next year. If times are tough and you can’t avoid making cuts, at least keep everybody informed. Make it clear to everyone involved why the cut was necessary and where the money will be diverted. If the reason is acceptable, and if it’s for the greater good of the company, most employees will accept it.
  • Get input from others. It’s not a good idea for a single person to set a company’s budget alone. Gather representatives from every division and let them plead their cases. This way, you draft the budget utilizing different perspectives. Even if you only have a handful of employees, a budget meeting is always in order. Also, don’t be afraid to consult with other small business owners in your industry who have been in business longer than you have.
  • Get everybody on the same page. How can your cost-cutting methods work when nobody’s doing them? Plans to cut utilities spending, for example, have to be made clear to everybody. You have explain why turning the air conditioning off a lot earlier or keeping the thermostat at a certain level is necessary. Small sacrifices to get through tough times are made clearer when employees are made to see the greater scheme of things.
  • Be familiar with your lifelines and know when to use them. A businessman can never fully get away from debt. But in the world of business, debt is not always a bad thing. Take your credit card, for example. Though always keep an eye on interest rates — and find a card with a low one. Even the most careful planning can sometimes go awry and some financial obligations can creep up on you. By having a few contingencies on hand, you can preserve the working relationships you built with suppliers and avert potential crises.
  • Know when to outsource. Many support services are better off outsourced. Even big companies have foregone maintaining a dedicated courier and messenger division in favor of just getting logistics services from UPS or FedEx. The reasoning behind such decisions is that you will never match the efficiency and level of expertise of companies dedicated to specific services. Also, you waste limited resources when you insist on doing something that doesn’t contribute to the bottom line in-house. You save – and make – more money when you get support services out of the way and concentrate on your core business.
  • Keep in mind that a budget is also flexible with regards to time. You can stretch out limited funds by getting into a credit agreement with your suppliers. This allows you to take in goods and materials and start profiting from them even without cash on hand. A budget will serve as your guide so that you can time cash coming in with debts that are getting close to their due dates. The ability to juggle funds is a requirement for all successful businessmen. Budgeting allows you to perfect this skill and use it to your advantage.
  • Make your spending leaner and more streamlined with the help of last year’s budget. Through hindsight, you can prune unnecessary expenses or those that turned out to be duds.
  • Keep business expenses and household expenses separate. You may want to pump money into your business for expansion, but the mortgage is calling for your attention. Nobody said that you have to spend your own money. The U.S. Small Business Administration acknowledges the economic contribution of the more than five million firms that employ less than 20 people. The government offers many loans with different terms suited to every need. Learn what applies to you and get some help in expanding your budget.

Budgeting is a necessary business exercise. Trying to get around it will only net you hardships and more confusion. Instead of avoiding the issue, gain some experience and have your budget work for you. Learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly. Before you know it, you already have complete control over your expenses. All it takes is a little practice.

Ashyia Hill helps small business owners find the best business credit cards at CreditDonkey, a comparison website.

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Oct
24
Posted on October 24, 2011

Banner ads and print ads can be expensive. And they are not necessarily the best way to advertise your small or mid-size business. So to find how to get the greatest return on your advertising dollar, I asked small business owners to share their tips. Following are the top 10 results from my survey — 10 great, inexpensive ways for small and mid-sized business owners (SMBs) to advertise on a tight budget.

1. Invest in Google AdWords
2. Try Facebook Ads
3. Look into StumbleUpon Paid Discovery
4. Publish articles online
5. Donate products or volunteer services to a worthy cause
6. Cultivate bloggers
7. Claim local listings on Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local
8. Use community sites and local directories
9. Link up with LinkedIn Ads
10. Distribute flyers

For additional, detailed information about each SMB advertising tip, read my article for Small Business Computing titled “10 Inexpensive Ways to Advertise Your Small Business.”

Have an additional advertising tip you’d like to share with small business owners? Please leave a comment.

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Jun
21
Posted on June 21, 2011
Filed Under (Advice, General Business, Tools) by jennifer

So you’ve made the decision to give online invoicing a try. How do you choose the right solution for your small business?

“Choosing an invoicing solution purely depends on the user’s business requirements,” explained Raju Vegesna, the evangelist for Zoho and an online invoice expert. “If you send out invoices in multiple currencies, it is important to pick a system that supports multiple currencies.”

Similarly, if you regularly send invoices to the same client or clients, it’s important to choose a solution that supports recurring invoices. And if your customers prefer to make payments online (for example via PayPal or Google Checkout), or they prefer to receive printed invoices (via the mail), choose an online invoicing application that supports those things, he said.

Other questions to ask or think about when choosing an online invoicing solution include:

  • How long has the vendor been in business – and has it received favorable reviews from users? Before choosing an online invoicing service, read what others have to say (by doing a Google search or checking out online forums) and ask fellow small business owners which service they use and if they are happy with it.
  • Has the vendor had problems with security and/or data loss or an outage of service? Don’t be afraid to ask the vendor about security and outages – and check with other users if they have experienced any outages or loss of data.
  • Does the service support online payments – and which online gateways does it integrate with? While most online invoicing solutions integrate with PayPal, if your clients use or prefer another payment gateway, make sure the online invoicing solution you choose can support it.
  • Does the service provide online time tracking? This feature can really save users time – and makes generating an invoice simple.
  • Can you customize invoices, beyond just adding your logo? If having a unique-looking invoice is important to your brand, make sure you choose an online invoicing solution that supports easy invoice customization.
  • Is the solution flexible and scalable? Put another way, can it grow with your business (or shrink) – that is, allow you to upgrade or downgrade – without a hassle?
  • Does the service generate automatic reminders? “Automatic reminders solve the etiquette problem and awkwardness of asking your client to pay an overdue bill,” and can save you time, noted Karen Schoellkopk, Community Manager, Harvest.
  • What level of customer support can I expect? If you run into a problem or have a question, is there a number you can call? Or can you only send an email, or submit a question via a form? Are customer service representatives available 24/7 or just during normal business hours (e.g., 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central Time), or does it depend on the level of service you purchased? These are important questions to ask up front.

Perhaps most important, find out – by doing a free trial – if the online invoicing service you are thinking of using will actually save you time. “Evaluate it like any business decision,” stated John Coates, the Marketing Communications Lead for FreshBooks. “How does the new solution compare to your current solution for invoicing? If it saves you more hours in billable time than the monthly subscription, it’s worth it.”

For additional information about online invoicing, including how to decide if it’s right for your small business, as well as an overview of three of the leading online billing services, FreshBooks, Harvest, and Zoho Invoice, read my article “Small Business Guide to Online Billing Software” on SmallBusinessComputing.com.

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Today’s guest post was written by Uri Foox, the founder of Pixafy, a NYC-based web development and technology firm.

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If you are a business owner who is not an expert in web development, finding someone (or an agency) you can trust to build your website is critical. To help with your vetting process, here are eleven questions to ask your would-be developers before making a decision.

Hiring a Web Developer – 11 Questions You Must Ask Ahead of Time:

1. What do you do? Developers should be able to explain what they do in terms you can understand. Don’t let them confuse and/or bore you into working with them!

2. Can you break down the process for me from start to end? If there is too little developer/client interaction, chances are the final deliverable will resemble the developer’s vision of the project, not yours. Choose developers who use an iterative approach rather than a ‘waterfall’ — or one giant deliverable — approach.

3. What are your goals for my website and how do you intend to accomplish them? Asking this forces them to outline their future plans… It’s important to know they have some!

4. What part of your job excites you? You can teach coding but you can’t teach passion. Look for a developer or team that will treat working on your site more like a creative challenge than ajob task.

5. How reliant will I be on you after my site launches? A good developer installs a CMS to give the clients a level of control over the day-to-day operations, while still forming a partnership for any technical needs down the road. You shouldn’t have to wait a week for your developer to change a letter on your site.

6. Do you work predominantly with open source or proprietary software? One of the main benefits of open source software is being able to pick up where others left off. Should you choose a firm working with proprietary software however, you may be locked in with that company for good. They might be the only people in the world who know how to update, troubleshoot, expand, and train you in this particular piece of software.

7. Can I see examples of your work? Look at sites that the developer or agency has built.

8. What is the discovery process and how will you learn about my business and business goals before we start the project? Make sure they understand your business goals before engaging with them.

9. How long will it take you to respond to emails? If you find yourself waiting around awhile for answers, chances are your developer team has not been working on your site or has taken the project in a different direction.

10. Do you outsource? Web companies that outsource their projects tend to subscribe to the ‘one size fits all’ approach, and you are unlikely to get the custom solution you desire.

11. Will my website be scalable? Your developer should be familiar with the combination of hardware/software needed to ensure full scalability so that your site doesn’t crash the instant it gets some traffic. Important systems like database clustering, memcache, query optimizaition, and others shouldn’t be foreign concepts to them.

Uri Foox is the founder of Pixafy, a NYC-based web development and technology firm.

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