Think about the people and companies you buy from. You buy from people and companies you like. You buy from people and companies that represent credibility and authority. You buy from people and companies who have created a strong image in your mind.
Your customers buy for the same reasons. They buy from companies that have a strong online brand. Here are five strategies to establish a strong online brand:
#1 Publish off site
Publishing is a wonderful way to establish a brand. Each piece of content you create represents who you are and what you stand for. Your personality carries through in your content. If you publish on other websites, you’re able to reach out and attract more customers. You’re able to develop a strong brand. Publish on:
* Article directories
* Other websites
* Syndicate your content
And don’t forget offline publications too, including:
Networking, both online and off, helps establish you as a real person. It helps you connect with others in your industry and your community. The more people you connect with, the stronger your brand will grow.
And don’t forget social networking sites. Each interaction, post and comment is an invaluable opportunity to strengthen your brand. In fact, social networking is one of the most effective tools you can use to strengthen your brand.
#3 Be consistent
Consistency establishes a strong brand. If your personality changes from communication to communication, your prospects and customers can become confused. However, if you’re consistently thoughtful, funny, controversial, or serious then your brand will get stronger. This includes social networking interactions, email, articles and content, video and interviews.
It’s one of the most important reasons why you should be your authentic self when branding your business. If you brand your business to be controversial but that’s not your personality, it will be difficult to hold onto that brand image. A small business owner’s brand is most often their personality. It may be emphasized but it’s still uniquely you.
One of the best ways to strengthen your brand is to share. Share a photo or video of yourself instead of a logo or a graphic image. Share stories and experiences as they relate to your topic. Also share your knowledge. Host workshops and seminars. Host online classes. Share information that’s important to you as well. The more people get to know you and who you are, the stronger your brand will grow.
#5 Give stuff away – especially content
Finally, consider giving things away. Everyone likes to get something valuable for free. And you can brand your giveaways. Encourage people to share your freebies with others. For example, you could write an e-book and brand it to you and your business. Give it away for free and encourage others to share it and the information inside. Each person that reads your amazing information will gain a positive image of you and your brand.
There are many strategies to strengthen your online brand to attract customers. Remember that we buy from people we trust and we like. Embrace your unique personality as your brand and apply it to everything you do. You will attract customers naturally through your brand personality.
Julianne Alvarez-Wish is a military wife, mother, business owner, professional writer, blogger and legislative advocate. She is the Director of Communications for Our Milk Money, the Colorado State Leader for the National Association for Moms in Business and the owner of Buy By Mom and Buy By Mom Blog. She is the Colorado Springs Stay-at-Home Mom Examiner for Examiner.com. She also blogs at A Wishful Thought. Her passion, purpose and goal is to help parents work from home so they can be home with their children.
Think about the people and companies you buy from. You buy from people and companies you like. You buy from people and companies that represent credibility and authority. You buy from people and companies who have created a strong image in your mind.
Face it, you are not the person that you used to be.
Ever since you became a parent, you have a hard time recognizing yourself. Perhaps there is a bit of sadness because you’ve lost your own childishness, but there is no denying that you’ve developed a maturity that has absorbed itself into every fiber of your being.
You’d been in love before, but when you children came along, this love encompassed you in a way that you never could have predicted. This metamorphosis might have even been painful for you, but only because the intensity of this love was so vast and unanticipated, perhaps even astonishing.
Becoming a parent has driven you in ways you never thought possible. Parenthood has made you more devoted, more committed and more determined to succeed in providing for your family.
For some of you going back to work was never an option. For others, working for someone else to get that steady paycheck seemed like the only option. It doesn’t matter what kind of parent you became.
We understand your devotion to your children and the intense fervor you feel to provide for them.
Our Milk Money is an Organization that was built for parents like you.
But we are much more than just another business directory. We are an organization that provides a support network for parents who have chosen to stay home with their children, and we do what we can to encourage each of our members to make their purchases from each other- keep the money we are already spending “in house” because it’s more valuable to families than it is to large corporations.
We believe that we have a chance to make a difference, but we must all work together.
Our concept will succeed if everyone does their part. No other group has taken on a task so great, and the reason WE WILL SUCCEED is because we all have one thing in common: Our devotion to our children. We must not fail them.
You don’t have to be a member, or even a parent to participate in this concept. If there are children in your life and you want to make a difference, we welcome you to take part in Our Milk Money. Link your site to us.
We are not just another business trying to move up the ranks. We are an organization dedicated to parents who need support their children. If we all commit to this concept, we all have a better chance of rising up TOGETHER.
Imagine the possibilities.
We’ve started a campaign that will educate consumers on the value of purchasing from a mom or a dad. We believe that in time we will have created a mini-economy, and a better means of survival- especially during this recession where every dollar counts. We want parents to feel that they can make their own choices in how to raise their children, provide for them, and how much time they spend with them. Not be a slave to a job that promises a paycheck, or a boss that represents keeping that job.
Join the Our Milk Money Organization, and you will know immediately that you are contributing to a good cause, because it’s your own.
(Or What to Expect When You Are Expecting to Work from Home)
Written by Ally Loprete
First, let me say that I realize that the title to this piece may seem a bit partial, and while I supposed that it probably is, my intention is not to be inequitable against those who don’t have children and wish to be self-employed. However, this article is not really about becoming a wealthy entrepreneur. It’s about earning legitimate revenue to contribute to the survival of your household while balancing parenthood.
If you are a parent looking to be self-employed, my guess is that you are willing to make sacrifices. You would like the option of spending the majority of the time that you are awake with your children, and would prefer that your child not see a nanny, or the inside of a daycare more than they see you. This is not about how you may or may not feel judged by society. It is about what you innately desire as a parent, which is not in the least bit selfish. It’s a parental instinct, and there should never be any shame in that.
You are not alone in wanting more for yourself and your children. If you are like most parents you would give up your job in a heart beat to stay home with your children, but you probably believe that you cannot afford to do so. Or maybe you have already decided to stay home with your children, but you promised your spouse you’d find a way to earn an income, and it has yet to happen. Maybe it’s harder than you thought, and the research that you’ve done online has given you an overload of work-at-home “schemes” that has succeeded only in information overload. Well, I am here to give you some good news: Becoming a self-employed parent is a possibility….yes…even for you.
It’s a scary leap to make, yes. But you are no slacker, and you are willing to work hard…if only you had some sort of inkling how to go about it, knew for sure that quitting your job to start over wouldn’t be the worst mistake you ever made in your life. If all that you are missing is some necessary information to help you make that leap, than you’ve come to the right place.
To be clear, this list will not make you self-employed, but it will open your eyes to the possibility. It requires is diligence, focus, and some risk.
Here is the truth about what to expect:
- Stop looking online for the perfect work-at-home job. It doesn’t exist. There are a million companies that will tell you otherwise because they want you to buy into one of their programs, take their courses, or purchase a franchise. They promise all sorts of things, and make their programs sound really good…too good. Your instinct is to stay away from them, and there is a good reason for that. You know it can’t be that easy, and you don’t have the luxury of wasting any amount of time or money on something that won’t pan out in the end. Time and money are more precious now than ever. The key here is to find a legitimate way to bring in an income….it may not be a substantial amount, but it will be enough to contribute to the survival of your family while you are staying at home.
- Multi-level marketing opportunities are not scams, but recognize them for what they are before investing in one. There are millions of people who have found success in MLMs, and if they help to provide an income for a family, terrific! We support them, and we do not judge. However, don’t jump into the business of one without realizing what it is going to take to be successful. If your business relies solely on recruiting your family and friends, they may start to feel the need to avoid you because they are afraid of being “sold.” Unless you come from a sales background and you are already surrounded by a supportive network of family and friends who has no problem buying all of your MLM products, this may not be the best choice for you and your family. If you DO choose to go this route, don’t blame your relatives for not investing in your products. It’s not fair to them, nor is it their responsibility to grow your business.
- Realize that you already have what it takes to become self-employed. You don’t need to invent a new product, or come up with a new concept that has never been tried before. You have skills and the ability to do exactly what it is you have already been
doing. You don’t have to have a business degree to be a CEO, you just have to know how to offer a service. The question you need to ask yourself is this: “What am I currently doing for someone else that I can be doing for myself?” You are skilled at something. Accounting, marketing, graphic design, administrative support, dog grooming, hair cutting…Just to be clear, this is not a question of what you’ve always wanted to do, it’s what you are ALREADY doing. Chances are, you know how to do it well, and you know what it takes to keep doing it. Remember that this is a REALISTC approach to becoming self-employed. This is most likely NOT going to make you millions. It is simply going to allow you to survive doing exactly what you want to do- earn a bit of revenue while raising your children.
- Take a look at your finances. Don’t just ponder it for a moment and try to add up things in your head. Really, take out a piece of paper and write out what you are currently spending on things, paying special attention to the categories that will shrink once you are working from home: business attire, dry-cleaning, gas mileage and car maintenance, car insurance (yes, it will go down if you no longer have a long commute each day), daily lunches eaten out, daycare, etc…) Don’t judge the situation just yet, just do the task. You can also take into account that if your spouse becomes the sole provider, The family will get a significant tax reduction. Letting go of your stable paycheck will be the scariest thing of all, but if being at home is truly where you want to be, you’ll be able to make the sacrifice.
- Make some cuts. This is one of the hardest first steps to becoming a self-employed parent, because it means you are going to let some things go. First, realize that just because you have to cut down on some indulgences does not mean that you are living in poverty. You will survive. Look at your credit card statements, your cell phone bills, your other spending habits. Lower your cell phone plan minutes, brew your own coffee, use the library to borrow books and videos. Consider how often you use your gym membership and if your physical activity can be replaced by taking the kids for a walk, or joining a weekly stroller strides group. You will not be seeing as many movies, so invest in a video service such as Netflix, which is significantly less expensive. Instead of meeting friends out for drinks, (which has suddenly become even MORE costly from the need to hire a babysitter) invite them over for a game night. Let go of your season tickets and watch the games on TV for free, or check your local listings for community events such as free concerts in the park. You must learn to change your lifestyle a bit, but now that you have become a parent, your life has already changed and you may have found that you have said goodbye to a lot of these luxuries anyway. It won’t be long before you may actually prefer a night in with the kids and an animated video. Most likely, you will begin to enjoy the creative activities that you are able to come up with as a family. On the rare occasion that you are able to hire a sitter and get out with your grown-up friends, it will mean more to you than it ever did before.
- Start with the basics. Make a list of the things you need in order to offer your service- even just on a limited basis. Hold off on hiring that webdesigner for just a bit, and ordering those businesses cards. Start with the basic tools you need to
be able to provide your service. You may find that you already have much of what you need. If not, then make a small investment in these basic tools. This is a lot more cost effective than purchasing a franchise, or renting an office space. You can always upgrade later, as your business grows. Once you become self-employed, you will be your own boss, and that means you will be able to create your own rules. You can charge less that your competitors, because you will be working out of your home, and your overhead will be absorbed into what you are already paying for rent. You can choose your own hours, and re-arrange your schedule around naps, playdates, or your spouses work schedule. Remember to get creative. You are the boss, so you call the shots. For example, if you are a hairstylist, you can offer to go to you clients home. This will circumvent paying rent at a salon so you will be able to charge less than your competitors (which your clients will appreciate). You may even be able to bring your kids with you to play with your client’s kids- a playdate while you work! It’s a win-win.
- Start slow. Offer your services for free to family and friends- just in the beginning. This will help you build up a client base, as well as give you a chance to get the hang of things without the added pressure of being perfect. Send out an email to friends and family telling them of the service that you are offering, and tell them that you are willing to waive your fees just so you can gain a bit of necessary experience. In exchange, you may ask for them to support you in another way such as contributing to an email campaign, or watching your kids for a few hours a month. If you have never done anything like this before, give yourself room to grow, and don’t be so hard on yourself if you mess up. You will learn from the mistakes that you make, and this will make you a better entrepreneur.
- Barter your services. This is a great way to minimize those start-up costs that you were worried about. It’s also a great way to network, and get testimonials, not to mention gain experience in your chosen field.
- Use the internet and become a master of online research. You can get just about anything you need to start your business for free. Basic websites, templates, voicemail boxes, advertising opportunities, legal advice, newsletter services, even business cards. Some services are free for only a certain amount of time, so take advantage while you can. Check out the OurMilkMoney.com Resource Page for a list of services that are free or minimal. Talk to other parents and ask them about the resources that they use. Everything else can be bartered – especially with other self-employed parents- and that is who you want to be supporting from now on, anyway. It’s good karma. Trust me, it always comes back to you.
- You are not in this alone. There are currently more than 5 million work-at-home parents and that number grows every single day. These are not your competitors, this is a large support network of people, who are just like you. They need you just as much as you need them. Reach out, ask for help, and be ready to listen and learn. There is an abundance of information out there at your finger tips FOR FREE. This can sometimes feel like information overload, but it can provide you with exactly what you are looking for the moment that you need it.
Remember to pat yourself on the back often. As your own boss, you will need it. Rome was not built in a day. Earning a revenue will take time, so expect to struggle for a few months. Even the most successful businesses take time to become profitable. Finances will be tight, and it may seem like you are working twice as hard for less reward. But keep your eye on the prize, and trust that you are as good as anyone else who has chosen to work from home. Your greatest reward may not be the income, but the abundance of time you can now afford to have with your children, and being able to call the shots in your own life.
I was a working parent, and struggling with one of the most difficult years of my life. As much as I dreamed of winning the lottery and being able to spend time with my beautiful new baby boy, only 5 months old when I returned to my day job, I did not believe that I had a choice. I searched online often for the perfect opportunity that would make me stand up and go, “this is it! This is what I’ve been looking for! This is the perfect way to make money from home. Now I can quit!” But I never found it. It felt almost paradoxical that I was getting a decent middle income salary but I really only worked 10% of the time I was actually at my office- the other 90% just did my best to make myself look busy so that I wouldn’t be “found out.”
I needed the stable paycheck to pay for daycare. I grew to rely on that income, and not because I needed extra indulgences. Once we became parents, we cut out a lot of extras – going out to eat, we commuted in one car to save on gas, we gave up morning starbucks when the office coffee was just fine and free, and we stayed above water, but barely. So, believe me, it’s not as if I didn’t want to give up a posh lifestyle. With the cost of daycare, we were paycheck to paycheck and our incomes were the only stability we knew.
I was pretty convinced, even with all that internet searching that there was no alternative to this life. Although I found ads for millions of companies promising to give me EXACTLY what I needed, ironically, it was the very reason I didn’t feel that I could trust any of them. I wasn’t trying to be difficult and talk myself out of a good opportunity just because I was afraid. As a reasonably intelligent person, I know nothing was a guarantee, but there were just too many gray areas…the fine print that one doesn’t discover until AFTER you’ve already made the leap and are knee deep in your new “woops” career that will go nowhere and will eventually be shrugged off as, “well, I wanted to try.”
As a new parent, I couldn’t take that risk. Not when I had to think of my family. I’d made mistakes falling for the wrong get rich quick schemes before, and although it stung a bit, I would eventually get over it.
But this was different. I couldn’t afford a mistake this time. Not when I had a son, a mortgage, and job that gave me group health insurance.
It wasn’t until I was suddenly laid off and was forced into finding a new alternative that I saw things differently. With the severance I received, a bit of unemployment, and the daycare expense now non existent, I now had time to stay home with my son, at least for a little while – until I discovered what my next move would be. I had time to breath, even if only for a moment, and I wanted to take advantage of every second that I was able to stay with my son until the day I had to go back to a new job. I knew that day would come fast, but for the time being, I was just going to hug my son and breathe…just for a moment.
6 months later, I had a new viewpoint. After seeing my son flourish, my husband and I both feeling less stressed, time to actually spend weekends together rather than a frantic rush to finish laundry and grocery shop for the week, I called a family meeting and made a very important announcement.
“I am not going back to work.”
I didn’t care if I had to live in a cardboard box. I would never work for anyone else again, and leave my son. When I told my husband this, he stood there quietly staring at me, as if he was waiting for the punch line at the end of the joke.
Finally, he said, “Um, okay. That’s a nice thought, but…you can’t just DECIDE not to work again…”
Yes, I could. Every fiber in my being told me that I belonged at home with my son, and that if there was any way to make it work, I wanted to find it.
As a recent mother, I became intensely aware of the “maternal instinct” which fascinated me to no end. I had watched myself transform into everything a mother is supposed to be- even though a year later I was sure that there were things I wouldn’t be able to adapt to. I also learned in all my prenatal classes, how important our instincts really are when caring for a child, and how listening to them will almost always guarantee your best parental performance.
It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that extreme pain and turmoil I was in when I first dropped my son off at daycare to return to work after my maternity leave. This pain was unlike anything I’d ever known- and yet, I did my best to ignore it just to get through my work day. NOW, I was seeing in clearly- my instinct was shouting and pleading with me – “NO! Don’t leave your son. You aren’t ready and neither is he!” As much as I tried to avoid it, it followed me every where for an entire year. Once I went back to work, I couldn’t stand any “down time”. Infact, it made me crazy…so crazy that I’d walk in and out of every office asking if anyone needed any help with anything. I was afraid that if I stopped for a spilt second to think, my mind would take me to the one roomed home daycare where my child was growing up without me. So I kept myself as busy as I could to avoid that reality.
Yes, being at home with my son and living off of an unemployment check may have seemed irresponsible, but I was certainly earning that paycheck. And the more I thought about the kind of work that was involved in being a stay-at-home parent, the more it angered me that I wasn’t going to be able to keep that income flowing in. Didn’t I deserve it as much as anyone? Especially when I’d spent the last 5 years at my day job doing approximately 75% personal stuff, anyway?
NO! I wasn’t leaving my son again. I didn’t care what it took, I’d find a way to stay home. I’d even be willing to sell our house, our 2nd car, shop at thrift stores and garage sales. Nothing else mattered. I would not leave my son again. I knew, beyond any doubt that I would find the answer I so desperately tried to find on all my internet searches 6 months before. Because this time I HAD TO.
Literally keeping me up at night, I couldn’t shake the idea that there had to be others who were just like me, not knowing that it was possible to make a change and have a better life. It made me horribly sad to think that had I not been laid off, I’d still be working, surfing the internet and praying that the miracle answer would come save me. Ironically, my lay off was the answer to my prayers- even if only temporary. It brought me home to my son and showed me that I clearly didn’t belong anywhere but here. I began jotting down some ideas.
Although it’s easy to blame others, for the situation I was in- Bosses who should have promoted me, or been more flexible, allowing me to telecommute, better and more affordable daycares, politicians who didn’t spend our tax money in areas that would have helped better our situations, our government for not making paid maternity leave longer, my parents and inlaws for not being able to retire, move in from out of state and become permanent babysitters… the fact was, I didn’t know who to blame.
We live in a democracy, and what that means to me is that no one is allowed to tell me what career to have, or what role to have in my life. Although they may not be easy to find, there is always an opportunity to work, to make money, to seek a better education. We all know we can do anything we want if we put our mind to it, so then why aren’t we doing it? Why are so many of us struggling? What are we missing? These are the questions that kept me up at night.
I also couldn’t shake the feeling that others out there, just like me, even less fortunate than I- who weren’t lucky enough to be laid off, and might never have the chance to experience what I had- and be given the answer that I had. I wanted others to know that they did have a choice and despite their fears in leaving their stable cor
porate jobs, they had no idea that it was seriously necessary. Thinking that I might never have been given the gift of knowing what it was like to stay at home would bring me to tears.
I had to do something. Now that I was seeing things so much more clear than the year before, I knew I had to find a legitimate way to bring in a supplemental income, at least as much as unemployment would pay. I had to use my passion to help others.
But, what could I do? Somehow get everyone fired from their day jobs so that they could collect unemployment, too? No- obviously not the answer.
I want to not only help other parents have the opportunity to stay home with their children, but to help them realize that they are not wrong in wanting to do so. I want for other parents to be able to stop denying themselves the truth in what they deserved. I want them to know that they do belong at home with their children and their families deserve to flourish.
We have listened to politicians from every group talk about family values as if it was the one thing that was ripping our country apart, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any concern for the fact that the average educated family with two parents and at least one child need 2 incomes to survive. If family values are really what our country needs to get itself into a healthier place, then why isn’t there more focus on keeping children at home with their parents rather than at a daycare?
In my frantic search for some answers, I found that there were many people who felt the way that I did, and some very smart groups had already formed movements to get themselves heard. I encourage you to check out some of these groups: www.momsrising.org and www.moveon.org
That is a good place to start.
Welcome to my brain. It keeps going and going and going- like the energizer bunny. I am anxious to see if OurMilkMoney helps the situation the way I believe it will. But if it doesn’t… you can bet I will keep on tweaking until it does make some sort of impact. I won’t give up trying. None of us should. Our families are counting on us to save the world.
There is going to be times where we lose the momentum and we forget what we were working for, but right now we have it, and we feel the energy from all of you. It’s feeding itself. We can see very clearly what we are able to accomplish. This takes everyone’s support. We are giving memberships for only $25 for the year, because right now your passion and excitement is worth more than any amount of money. We will lead you in anyway that helps you stay committed to the over all goal, and your faith in us keeps us accountable – so we thank you for that. We need you just as much as you need us. If everyone does there part, we will succeed as a team.
We’d like you to do what you can to adopt our philosophy and our way of thinking. In this virtual world of intra-personal communication, we need to believe that there is a force that binds us all together. I believe it’s the love we have for our children…because, let’s face it, none of knew this kind of love until we became parents. It changed everything about who we are as people and what is ultimately important in our short time on this planet. No matter what you personal goals are for your family, what kind of house you want to live in, the monetary limit you’ve put on yourself to feel successful, we all have our children in common, and no one should ever be able to tell us how much quality time we are able to give to our families. No one’s priorities are more important than yours and your children’s. Sometimes we get confused by what we have to give up in order to have the things we need for our families. “I need to keep working at this terrible job because it allows me to pay for food and clothes for my children.” Throw out that way of thinking! You are in charge of your achievements. You are not in this alone. There are others just like you who are passionate about a real network to give you the support you need. Your team won’t let you down, because you are one of us, we know that you won’t let us down. By helping others, you will be helping yourself. It is your responsibility to recognize the opportunities in which you can contribute, and act on them. Then you can trust and know for certain that when you are in need, someone will be there to help you, too. So many of you have already done exactly that, and we are incredibly grateful to have found you. You’ve told us how excited you are about our mission, you’ve put your faith in us by asking to be a part of a website that doesn’t even exist yet, you’ve written blogs about us, you’ve passed out our fliers, and you’ve referred new members to us. You wouldn’t believe how it’s transformed us, every little thing you have done for us, we’ve noticed and taken it to heart. We are more excited now than even the day we came up with the concept for ourmilkmoney. You helped us bring our idea to reality and we will never forget you for it. It’s the yin and yang, and the balance of the universe. We believe that we can create any environment that we want and the more positive it is, the more inspired we will all be.
You have already pushed us beyond what we thought was possible with ourmilkmoney, and because of that we can’t contain our excitement for what lies ahead…whatever that may be. We haven’t bound you to any contract, you don’t HAVE to contribute in anyway, but we trust that you’ll bring something to the table when the time is right. You believe in us, and we believe in you. That is what sets us apart from other organizations, and that is why we will succeed beyond anything else.
Help us to show the world that it is possible to belong to a network that is based on a common goal, and trust in each other. We know that we will be rewarded for our integrity and our commitment to our families and each other. Your success means our success. We can’t do this without a team. YOU are our team. Congratulations on becoming a part of something that matters and may shape the world into something we can be proud of giving our children.