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Did you miss this week’s worship at your local Church? Listen now to inspirational sermons that will teach & guide you through your week...
click HERE.


Hay House, Inc. 
Earn, Learn & Succeed - Click now to find out more!

Spiritual Cinema Circle
Hay House, Inc.
Hay House, Inc.

Ode to Be Listed As a Freelancer at Toptal

Commitment is a powerful word and a challenging assignment. Yet, once a commitment is accomplished it can raise you up personally, spiritually and sometimes even financially.

I am committed to joining Toptal because, even though I am a career graphic designer/illustrator of many years, I have been buried in the masses. There is an unbelievable number of designers of all shapes, sizes and colors “out there” all banging on the doors of companies and individuals who want to hire a designer of some sort, or who think they want to.

Employment, whether on-staff or freelance, is quite different nowadays than it was even a mere 15 years ago. No doubt, due to the fact that sooooo much technology has spawned and massively changed, the face of the graphic design field.

This is an awesome and daunting time in this modern-day industrial age to be working in. I personally exalt technology even though I am many times, a very artistic and hands on graphic/web designer. I spent many years pushing my technology envelope constantly and now it seems that tech is dancing right on past me.

I have worked hard, and continue to do so, at absorbing the latest and greatest trends, learning the newest technologies, and working the most recent opportunities while still melding my unique hands on and humanistic style into my work.

Thus, I most definitely aspire and am committed, to join the Visual Designers Group at Toptal. Not only would it be an honor since they only accept the very best. But, it would also be an amazing opportunity to meet and work with the very best companies and people who build and support them.

In this awesome age of technology, the competition is incredibly fierce simply because as a freelancer, I am no longer limited to competing on a local level — I have to compete with the entire world!

Therefore, in closing, should I get accepted into Toptal and placed in the Visual Designers Group, it would break many barriers for me as a modern-day freelance graphic/web designer and illustrator trying to compete against nearly every other designer on the planet.

The Best Way to Handle Last Year’s Business Failures…

With the new year still in its infancy, it is the perfect time to contemplate last year’s “good, bad and ugly” proceedings!

Even though time seems to just fly past us: we go to bed in January, wake up in August, then its time to decorate the Christmas tree… Poof! the year is now done, get ready for the next flight! I really do love the end of one year and entry into the next though, it gives me the excuse, no, the cause to really, REALLY evaluate my businesses. I find this process cleansing. It fills me with optimistic anticipation and a constructive exhilaration to take on the upcoming year.

I think about what I did, what I wish I had done, what I should have done and what I couldn’t have done no matter how badly I wanted to.

Here’s a great list of what to think about, when you’re giving your business the mental once, twice, thrice over:

  • How did your business perform overall throughout the year? Was it up to your expectations? Did it exceed your expectations?

When reviewing the questions above, think about why it did or why it did not perform the way you wanted it to. Then ask yourself the following…

  • How’s your brand? Do you have a professional presence in the marketplace (or even a presence at all?!?) — Do you brand your business consistently everywhere it is promoted? — Is it time to update your brand/does it truly convey and represent who or what you want it to and what it needs to? When someone sees your logo or hears your tagline, does it reminiscently bring your company/or you to mind?
  • Are you promoting your business, and if so, how? Start advertising and marketing if you’re not already – no one knows your business exists if you don’t tell them! If you are promoting and it’s not working, change your campaigns, your verbiage, your venues, track your advertising so you can see if you have results or not before it’s time to decorate next year’s Christmas tree!
  • How satisfied were your customers? Did you have many returns of merchandise or refunds for services? — Did you have returning customers? Awesome if you did! If not, think about how you can get those who have been willing to pay you at least once already, to do it again. Offer coupons, incentives, frequent shopper cards and discounts, freebies, sales, specials — take advantage of the Holidays, the weather, your birthday even — any excuse to cause a ruckus and get some attention to your business.

Here’s a real scary topic for you to peruse, but a very necessary one…

  • How did you do managing your business? This can lead in many ways to the success or failure of a business. Is your accounting up to date? Is it accurate? — Did you have time to get things done you needed to, or put off, put off, put off until you forgot why you needed to do them? Do you need equipment, supplies, repairs to really produce and function at 101%? — Do you have employees? Are they happy, rewarded, working hard for you and your cause? There are many things that could be added to this list that appear to not be directly in need of adjustment in order for your business to excel, but… these items are the infrastructure of your business and if you let them rust and waste away gradually your foundation will fall!

Make any necessary adjustments to these items as soon as possible so your 2014 can start out with a strong, supportive foundation, you’ll feel good about what you’re doing and excited to really apply yourself to your “real” business needs and functions.

These items I have listed are more the internal organs of a business. And I feel good every January after I have reviewed the health of these items and listed them out literally and figured out and written down action items for each and every one of them. I am human too, so of course I don’t stick to all of my plans either, but going through the process of evaluation and mental adjustment is healing and refreshing to the maddened mind of the harried business owner.

Well between us all, I am sure we’ve read thousands of articles that give us business advice and suggestions, especially at this time of year. The best and most straight forward item I came across this year was put simply, but will not be done so simply by many of “us”. Here’s the best way to handle last year’s business failures…

“Make a clean break from those things that don’t work. Period.”

Ha! Easier said than done, I know it. As humans we are creatures of habit, whether it’s eating too much, smoking cigarettes or repeating an action with our business that never, ever works!

I’d love for you reply to this post and let us know your techniques for quitting some bad business habits or problems cold turkey — we could all use some more advice. The wise business owner is always open to suggestions. Being open doesn’t mean we have to apply all suggestions, merely that we have an open mind and open ears to listen and consider advice, good or bad!

 

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Some Days are Just Weird…

don’tcha’ think? Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day outside for December 2. It was incredible — sunshine, no wind, 64 degrees! These are the days I don’t miss my east coast home, and savor, with this type of temp in December. I want more! Give me more! LOL!

So the day’s weirdness began, well, from the start. I woke up a bit late needless to say probably, and for some “strange reason” my son did too. Getting up late always ruffles my feathers and probably is what set the mood for the day. Although, we did get ourselves out the door in the a.m. just fine regardless.

He got to school on time, and my snapshot of errands, or so I thought would be, commenced.

While running around town, I for some “strange reason” got in the wrong lane of traffic and had to turn around and back track to get where I needed to go and got to my first stop late — oil change turned into nearly double the regular bill, plus an order to go get new tires ughhhhh. Oh, and the repair place said my vehicle is leaking oil for some “strange reason – from somewhere”!?!?!? :(

Did a bit of shopping next at a busy store and I had to pick the self-serve aisle that had the only non-working station, so a crazy guard/employee/something??? tried to help me out – that was interesting and weird.

Then, I went to pick up some cable equipment I had on order, they told me the order was cancelled for some “strange reason” — two minutes into a 30+ errand.

Probably should have just headed home at that point in time. But I had a couple more to go, so I made it through one store smoothly, no weirdness per se anyway – LOL!

Finally, I went to pick up a few items at a nearby superstore and a customer in line in front of me ran a card she didn’t want to use and got flustered because the checker processed the payment — then the checker started arguing back at the customer about how she did hate her personally and ran the card on purpose — you guessed it yup — for some “strange reason”!?!?!? My turn with the checker, and I swear, if she wasn’t on ‘ludes then she was certainly on something, ’cause she was talking slow and asking me weird questions for some “strange reason”!?!?!?

So my 2 hours of errands turned into nearly 4 1/2 for some “strange reason”!?!?!? But with all that weirdness going on, I saw no need to get angry or flustered myself. I simply went with the flow and survived. Found it all a bit entertaining actually.

It was still a beautiful day, I came home and ate my lunch outside. Since I missed most of the workday getting caught up in zany circumstances all morning, I figured I’d just continue the flow of zero productivity and relax for a few. Good thing! Today’s temp dropped by about 50 degrees and right now it’s actually 13 out and snowing. No more 64 degrees and sunny here for a while!

Thank God for weirdness! :)

________________________________________________________

 

Easy and Affordable eCommerce Solution for Your Business

Today’s entrepreneurs and established businesses are quickly grasping the internet — not only to showcase their products — but also to make direct sales quickly, easily and in an affordable way.

And, with this onslaught of businesses looking to sell their products online, comes what seems to be an equal amount of internet Shopping Cart vendors for business owners to sift through and “hopefully” find the right one or, at least a good one, at a price they can afford.

I personally, have spent countless hours seeking out the “right” eCommerce Shopping Cart service for my own businesses. And, it seems I never did find one that was suitable for my needs, that was also within my budget because I never did set up my own online webstore — so who knows how many sales opportunities I have missed!

But, I have recently discovered 3DCart and am very pleased with everything they have to offer. Their system enables businesses to have a unique, versatile, all-inclusive, and professional shopping cart system to help them monetize their businesses online.

The 3DCart software is scalable so it works perfectly for businesses of all sizes. They offer multiple pricing and feature options to accommodate those folks just starting their first online sales venture, as well as full blown plans set up for unlimited products and a huge amount of bandwidth for extremely busy shopping sites.

Here are just a few of 3DCart’s offerings that make them a step above the others when it comes to eCommerce Solutions:

  • 24/7/365 Phone Support for all package levels, ’cause hey! the internet (with your online store on it) never closes, so why should 3DCart close!?!
  • Industry leading design resources, myself included!
  • Multiple + Effective Sales Features to Choose From: Daily Deals, Group Deals, Make an Offer and many more, choose one or use all to maximize your sales!
  • Hosting is Included - No Hassles, One Vendor: No need to get your own hosting plan elsewhere and then have to also pay some tech to upload a script to your host and then try to juggle multiple systems.

As a small business owner, I particularly like this one…

  • No Contracts and No Hidden Fees - this one explains itself!
  • Easy Setup – Gets your business online quickly. And, if or when you do have questions, they have Phone Support, Live Chat Help, FAQs and videos to help you keep moving forward.
  • Helps You Market with loads of features to help you promote effectively, including SEO functionality, Social features for sharing content, YouTube integration and more!
  • Maximum Security with PCI Compliance, and if you wish you can also add SSL certificates.

Other awesome features included in all of the 3DCart plans include (Corporate Plans do include a few extras listed below*):

  • Variety of Integrated Payment Portals - plus, a single checkout page so customers are less distracted when making their purchase.

This one is one of my favorite features too…

  • Comprehensive Customer Outreach Setup - Provides an auto-responder system that helps you automate your email marketing based on customer behavior; plus, the software links to many popular email systems if you want to hook into a current one that you already use. So this software is not just a Shopping Cart, but is a business building and customer retention system!
  • Get a Free Trial – Try before you buy for 15 days!
  • Drag and Drop Editing  - quick and easy to manage your content.
  • Collect and Track to Learn More and Offer More - Collect customer information, integrate Google Analytics, view customer behavior and more!
  • No Per-sale Fee - You pay your monthly package price to 3DCart and that’s it. All your sales are YOUR sale$!
  • And of course, Inventory and Stock Control – which is vital to online selling.

So be sure to check out 3DCart’s generous variety of eCommerce Shopping Cart packages. Like most other eCommerce software providers, your number of products desired to sell and traffic allowed to your site are the main factors in how you choose your best suited eCommerce package.

And remember, no contracts, no hidden fees,
and a 15-day FREE trial — so take a moment today to check out 3DCart for your eCommerce solution — you’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain
for you and your business!

Click here now!

* Corporate Packages include all of the above, plus: hourly backups, personal account manager, livechat, enhanced statistics, Quickbooks plugin and 3dROI tracking

Get a 15 Day Free Trial at 3DCart.com

 

What SEO Is and Why You Need it for Your Website

SEO, an acronym for “search engine optimization”, is a series of techniques used to increase the amount of visitors to a website. There are many methods in which to do this and almost as many terms to describe it. I will not take your time up in this article on the various ways to achieve SEO — the process of SEO is very extensive and warrants its own broadcast — but I will mention the importance of website optimization to you as a business owner.

First, lets look at the term “optimization” and what it means. Simply put, optimization means to make the best use of. Thus, SEO helps your website “earn its keep” for being online by directing targeted visitors to it.

Search Engines, as I am sure you know, are basically the way that internet users find what they are looking for. When your website is positioned properly on the internet, it will be found via the search engines quickly and effectively by those searching for your product, service, information, whatever it is your goals are – for your particular website.

There are literally millions of websites on the net all competing for visitors — therefore, you need to ensure your website appears at the top of the list for your particular niche so that your business will not be lost in these masses. This is not, impossible to do for those who are in the know.

Why Websites Are Important for Businesses

Nowadays, websites are an integral part of any business’ branding and marketing programs. So not having one simply because you figure no one will see it in the internet jungle is just bad business sense.

Websites are an amazing boon to 21st century business owners! They are a cost-effective, constant entity that can easily be updated with sales, specials & announcements. Websites can also be loaded with new products and services as needed, and equally important, old inventory and information can be removed instantly from the public’s eye.

Especially pleasing to businesses of all shapes and sizes, is the fact that websites can act as a storefront for those who do not have the means or the inclination to run a brick & mortar shop — or in addition to their physical stores.

Even if a business provides a service or product that cannot be accessed specifically online, websites are still the perfect branding and business fact tool. Full contact information, hours, location, mission statement, testimonials, and other distinct details about a business can be published online and accessed literally by the millions, from all over the globe! Additionally, websites can capture leads on auto-pilot, grasping your website visitors’ contact information for you to connect with them directly either on or offline.

This is unlike most other forms of business promotion such as newspaper and magazine advertising or direct mail which can convey one message, to a limited audience, and usually gets set aside and forgotten, or tossed in the recycle bin never to be seen again.

Website Ownership & Website Optimization
Must Go Hand in Hand

So now you can see why website optimization is such an important process that every business owner should employ. Both your potential clients and your current customers can make use of and benefit from your business website providing they can find it on the web.

The bottom line is — without internet traffic (visitors), websites are simply a waste of time and money.

I just entered into a partnership with a company called SEO Miracle. This gives me access to the best SEO out there, which in turn gives my clients access to the service when they to join SEO Miracle.

This new partnership allows me to deliver excellent SEO results for you. I am able to manage and monitor the work reports and rankings for my clients as well, so that I know you are being taken care of.

SEO Miracle has gotten amazing results for hundreds of competitive search terms for clients and comes highly recommended. I have found that they are the only SEO company right now that gives transparency to SEO by creating a platform for both my clients and myself, to see the work being done on my clients’ websites. Plus, there are no contracts to be locked into like so many other SEO services require.

Let’s talk further! Please fill out the form below and I will contact you to answer all of your questions regarding this essential business service.

Your Website Spokesperson

Is it Tolerance or Self-induced Ignorance?

Professional Freelance Web and Print Graphic Designer, Illustrator and Writer

 

This is the first post in my new blog category Claudia’s Commentaries. As described, it will be opinions and observances from a not so naive art and internet junkie — myself. I hope to inspire you with this column; spark thoughts, flames and positive maneuvers in you and your spirit.

This section is not for the faint of heart or mind, nor is it to slander any entity, but only to post onto my blog my observances of life in real-time. Legal? I think so! Andy Rooney even got paid to do this.

As always, your comments and your own opinions of my posts are welcomed and looked forward to. Let’s discuss these fierce topics together! :)

Tolerance is a strapping talking point to start with. This word has been in the top headlines for years now. Whether it is referring to illegal aliens, religion, spousal preference or any of another sundry top-news topics, you can’t help but hear and read about it about as often as we do the overused or newly coined terms such as “awesome” and “widget”.

Thus finally, I have quit tolerating the tolerant anymore because, after being forced to study this term in action over the last several years, I now realize that those who preach tolerance are in actuality suffering from a commonly known brain disorder called Ignorance — also known as the “Head in the Sand Syndrome”.

Tolerance is an extremely vague yet convenient word for many to use, particularly politicians, corporations, or any other character who needs to ensure they have the backing of the masses. They are sure to tolerate — a.k.a. “sweep under the rug” — any illegal, offensive or outright irrational behavior of the offenders to ensure they themselves are agreeable to their voters, users, shareholders, whoever it needs to be for their own advancement or success.

Claiming to be tolerant, wards off the need for confrontation, action, or simply
standing up for real rights.

We are told by someone??? (whoever that may be, an ancient Mayan simpleton I am presuming) to, “just let people be who they are — don’t tell folks what to do, do you like being told? — give ‘em a break, they’re only human”. Human, hmmm… that’s where the real problem starts.  Well “someone” — no — I won’t do these things, not when it directly interferes with another being’s rights or lives, including mine.

We all have sinful habits and putrid obsessions, after all, we’re only humans. But, that does not mean any one of us has the right to impose them onto others either bluntly and publicly, or cunningly in the background. And entities who are foolish enough to “tolerate” these impositions, let alone think we actually enjoy them, should themselves not be tolerated by anyone.

It IS our right and our duty, as human beings, to stand up for ourselves and for those who cannot stand up for themselvcs, especially children. Think this is not true? Next time someone spits in your face, see how well you tolerate that. That is the problem right there — unbeknownst to most. They are being “spit on” every day of their lives thanks to this media culture we are enveloped in: television commercials, radio personalities, internet social media sites, the list goes on.

So go ahead public exploiters, if you want to pick your nose, great, go ahead! Just don’t smear your contents on me, or in my space — leave the world in peace also. Stay out of my TV set, off of my radio, out of my internet and email, and in your own closet if need be. Sometimes that really IS the best place to conduct some behaviors “humans” simply cannot control.

Website Smarts Re: Email Addresses

We are all trying to do so much these days to advance our businesses to the next level ourselves. Thus, sometimes we just don’t have the time it takes to learn everything about everything!

So I will be posting tips that I have personally learned along the way mainly from my “set-up your own business” trials and tribulations.

The first one is in regards to setting up your websites. This applies whether you use a pre-made templated website service or create your own site from scratch.

Website Smart: Never put your actual email address(es) within the text of  your website — anywhere.

Why? Because this is where and how the bulk of spammers get your email address. They can spider websites with automated, email sucking systems — a.k.a. bots — to get your email address or they will just copy them from your website manually. The internet world is full of enough spam as it is, therefore you need to protect your email address in as many ways as you possibly can from the crooks, while still making it easy for your customers and potential customers to find it so they can contact you.

How then can your website visitors contact you if you hide your email address? Here are a couple of quick-to-do website changes that makes it basically the same to contact you, if not easier:

1.) Simply put a link to your email address from text that says “contact me” or “email us” or something to that effect.

2.) You can place a clickable graphic that has a link to your email address. A picture of an envelope or a mailbox or whatever you like and, the graphic itself can say “email us here” with the text created in your graphics program — not — text overlaying the graphic in your html editor.

These are not 100% foolproof methods to completely stop others from obtaining your email addresses from websites, blogs and networking pages, but it will stop a huge amount of email thieves. As surely as there is night and day, internet criminals will continue to waste their time on ways and means to steal your information, abuse the system and make life miserable for many honest business owners.

I had a “contact@…” email address that I removed from a site quite a long time ago once I discovered this fact, and over a year later I was STILL getting spammed from that mistake.

Be sure to note: email addresses need to be changeable simply because of all the spammers who like to waste your time, my time and apparently theirs too! Revise them when your spam gets overwhelming or even sooner. Email addresses are easy to come by, and even easier to get rid of old ones and create new ones. But remember where on your sites you have linked or listed your email address, and when you revise the addy, be sure to update your sites too.

EMAIL TIPS: Keep one email address as private as you can and for the use of your current paying clients only. Do not use this one in any on your public sites, blogs, networking sites, etc.

This will help you sift through the garbage that comes to your email inbox every day and you can pick out the important emails quickly.

Also, by using email filters that sort according to your various email addresses, you can have the additional confidence that you are getting to the important emails quickly.

I hope this will help many of you avoid making this webmaster mistake to begin with. My email box gets full enough every day with important emails, I don’t need all the garbage that comes in too — and I am sure neither do you!

Have an email tip for our readers? We would love to know about it! Please post it below in the Comments section for this article. Thank you. :)

 

Your Website Spokesperson

 

10 Easy Ways to Get Repeat Web Traffic

1. Update the pages on your website frequently. Stagnant sites can be dropped by search engines. Many website visitors never bookmark places they have visited and simply do a quick Search Engine search each time for sites they like.

Did you know? Blogs, aka “weblog”, originally came about as a method to keep websites continually active when the products and / or other content really could not be updated very often.

You can easily set up your blog to directly help your website — simply create your blog as a page or subdomain of your website so as you write and update your blog, it will be translated throughout the internet as an update to your website.

2. Encourage bookmarking of your site by your visitors. Add a link to your home page and any of your primary pages with a Book Mark Us or Add This Site / Page to Your Favorites script.

3. Ensure that each page on your website has appropriate titles so that your customers can find their way back to your site if they have bookmarked it, but lost the location of the bookmark. When they search their Bookmarks section in their browser, if you have titled your pages well, your pages will come up in the search.

4. Offer additional value on your website. For your affiliate programs and partners, you can place links to their sites and products, plus ask them to do the same for you. You can also advertise their informational or instructional eBooks or videos if these products relate to your industry, and are not in direct competition with your own product. Be sure to add “alt” tags to your ad links and graphics when possible to help your pages get indexed properly and to add to your organic seo efforts.

Did you know? The internet’s original purpose was for those in search of information.

So be sure to offer content on your website in the form of articles and tips that relate your your website’s topic as additional “value”. This not only encourages your visitors to spend more time browsing your site, and presents you and your business as an authority on the subject, it also helps the search engines pick up your webpages based on the article content. For this reason, be sure you have keyword rich written articles within your website.

5. Set up your site for visitors to be able to ‘opt in’ to get discounts and special offers. Place a link on your site that invites customers to ‘opt in’ to get a monthly newsletter, valuable coupons or other specials you can offer them such as frequent buyer rewards. Today’s modern internet technology allows you to create squeeze pages and lead capture forms quickly and easily grab your visitor’s opted-in information.

6. Add a ‘Recommend this site to a Friend’ link so that the visitor can email your website link along with a rewritten title such as: “Thought you might be interested in this” to other internet users they personally know who might also enjoy your products or services. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.

7. Brand your website so that visitors always know they are on your site. Use consistent colors, logos and slogans and always provide a ‘Contact Us’ link on each page.

8. Create an ‘Our Policies’ page that clearly defines your philosophy and principles in dealing with your customers. When you have everything out in the open, folks browsing your site feel and know you are not hiding anything. Also by posting your Privacy Policy as well, your visitors will know how you handle their personal information if they place an order with you or sign up to your mailing list.

These actions create a trust factor between you and your potential customers. When people trust you they feel more comfortable spending their money with you. Chances are, if they are ready to shop for a product or service such as yours, they will choose your site or come back to it soon to shop.

9. Create a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page which clarifies any of the doubts and questions about your product or service, and your company, that are likely to be asked about by first-time visitors. This helps to resolve most of their doubts immediately, and arms them with information that they can then compare to other companies which are in the same business as yours. Many internet consumers shop around more than one website before making a buying decision so be sure to do everything you can to please them with products and customer service.

10. Never spam a client who has opted-in for newsletters with unsolicited emails. Later if they decide they want to ‘opt out’ of the mailings, be sure you honor their request and take them off the mailing list promptly. They may still come back if they like your products even if they are no longer on your list, but they will certainly not come back if you continue to flood their email inbox with mails they no longer wish to receive.

 

Hay House, Inc.

 

Beware the Band Wagon

“Don’t let your business get run over by the bandwagon.”

Original Quote by Claudia Beck, Business Owner & Artisan, Sunflowers and Seagulls Promotional Services

 

Spiritual Cinema Circle