“In Today’s Competitive Market” Doesn’t Exist

By D. Kendra Francesco

We’ve all heard the phrase:

To keep up with what your customers want most in today’s competitive market, you need [insert bright shiny product/ course/service].

But, what if it wasn’t true? What if the only things different in “today’s competitive market” were the speed of the Internet, and the whole “global economy” thing? After all, when hasn’t the market – any market – been competitive? When active bartering (aka haggling) was the only form of commerce, there was competition.

Even today, local farmers’ markets are competitive: look at how many booths sell produce, honey, nuts, bread, fresh fish, or smoked meats! At craft fairs, look at how many booths sell hand-crafted necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, plus all the household items you could ever dream of owning.

What if the fear-mongerers who use the phrase don’t want you to know the truth?

What is the truth? To be successful in your business, you only need one thing:

Customers, Hungry ones

You want customers who want what you’re offering. Customers buy only three things: physical products, knowledge, or services. That’s it. (Go ahead, think about it a minute; took me a few to realize that everything I’ve ever bought was one of those three things.) Sometimes there are combinations of those three. But, the customer buys at least one of them.

Any physical product you offer must be useable, and stand up to that use.

Any information you offer must meet the customer’s need, and continue to be of value to that customer.

Any service you offer must be efficient, ongoing, and worth it to the customer.

If your product, or information, or service is useless, worthless, or out of date, then you’ve lost a customer.

It doesn’t matter how many [bright shiny products/courses/services] you buy to improve your Internet presence, or touch on the global market. If you don’t have quality, your competition will take over your market. It’s always been that way. (Don’t believe me? Watch Disney’s “Aladdin” and watch the vendors trying to entice Princess Jasmine to buy “a pretty necklace for a pretty lady!” or a handful of pistachios.)

You Still Need to Keep Up With Progress

I’m not saying that you should ignore the products or courses or services that will make your business stand out. In fact, it’s because of the Internet – and its long reach – that you need to be aware of what your customers want. If it means taking an online course, then do so. If it means going to local sources to think global, then do that.

Just be sure to study as many of the possibilities before buying into the next [bright shiny product/info/service]. As in anything else, buy what you need as inexpensively as you can (not cheaply – that’s poor quality and you don’t anything to do with that), to get the most out of it that you can.

Then, go out and find your hungry customers – in any market!

What bright shiny object have you fallen prey to lately? Did you regret it afterwards, or did it actually help you improve your business? Let me know in the comments.

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What Playing Solitaire Taught Me About Running a Business

by D.Kendra Francesco

Since I write every day, I need a way to calm my mind when I’m done for the day. Sometimes I spend a couple of hours making jewelry. When even that is too much, I play Solitaire (Klondike, Spider, or Free Cell) on my Kindle. There’s something soothing in the swift decisions: Which card do I play and where?

Recently, however, I realized how much business is like Klondike Solitaire. Here are 13 similarities:

1. Replay hand is often allowed.

Before you’ve finished playing a hand, you’ll see where you could have played the game better. Go ahead. Replay the hand; make those better decisions.

2. Every move counts for or against you.

It isn’t necessarily good or bad, but every move you make prepares you for the next move, and on and on. Every move is a positive move forward, or a mistake taking you backward. As such, every move counts.

3. Time is a factor.

The old adage is still true: Time marches on (and on and on). Even if what you’re doing doesn’t require that you keep track of time, you’re still using time. Make the best use of it.

4. Sometimes it’s faster to let the “auto-complete” take over.

If all the necessary cards are in place on the board, although not necessarily in the right order, the question pops up, “Auto-complete? Yes / No” (or “No / Yes”; you have to pay attention which command is where). You can pop each card to the finishing line, or you can let the app do it. Sometimes, it’s faster to let the app finish the game for you.

(Auto-complete are all the little, non-descript, they-just-exist kind of end-of-job things that you do by rote.)

5. If you have room for all the Kings, don’t put the Jack on the Queen if leaving it means one less move against you.

If all the Kings are up, you can leave other lines half-finished while you run with the board. It’s a shortcut, but this one doesn’t count against you.

6. Sometimes you have to play all the cards yourself without the auto-complete.

Once in awhile, tapping each card to go to their respective finishes is faster than the auto-complete. Especially if you’ve had to play down to the last five or six cards. The auto-complete won’t show up until all cards are up and in play on the board. Just finish up the last little bit yourself by saying “No” if the auto-complete pops up.

7. Sometimes, you simply don’t win.

The number of games possible is innumerable (someone with massive math skills probably knows the exact number of games possible). Is it any wonder that some of them just aren’t winnable? Business is the same way. You won’t win over every client, you won’t get every coveted assignment, or you just won’t make the cut. Move on and play another game.

8. The numbers in the game (time used, moves, and points) don’t start until you do.

While time continues, whether you work or not, the billable time, doing the work, and making the money doesn’t begin until you do.

9. Pay attention to your up cards; use them to open up the next line before turning over a deck card.

It’s too easy to ignore what you have on your board and go straight to the deck at the side. Or forget that you have useable cards at the end of your lines. But, it’s often the cards already in play that will give you your best options. It’s the same with your business, whether yourself or your employees.

10. It’s okay to use the backup/re-do button to see your options.

There is only one thing in life without a backup button or a re-do option: death. Everything else? You can make other choices when you uncover what else is possible. It takes up time, so it might not be financially feasible, but you do have that ability and option to take another look elsewhere.

11. Keep track of your best scores, and keep trying to better at least one of them every week.

The “score” is better money, better clients, or better press; all are scores that help your business. But, you won’t know if you’re doing better unless you keep track of what you’ve done. Once you know those factors, you can improve at least one every week – or every day, if possible.

12. The obvious move isn’t always the right move.

This especially applies when you don’t know all your options. Think it through. If it’s obvious to you, then your clients might also think it’s obvious – and feel cheated out of getting your best work.

In all of this, the final thing I learned is the hardest to master:

13. It’s only a game.

Occasionally, we get so caught up on winning, that we forget: it’s only a game. There’s frustration for losing, but it’s not a life-or-death penalty. Business is the same way. Your business may fail if you make the wrong decisions too often. A dead dream hurts. But, if you’ve played once, you can play again. If you’ve owned a business once, you can do it again.

What “games” do you play? What do you feel are your best “rules” for running your business? Tell me how and what you do

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You Don’t Get to Keep the Rights in Writing-For-Hire

By D. Kendra Francesco

No Rights in Writing-for-Hire
Excuse me?

You give up your rights – serial or otherwise – when you’re hired to write for someone else. That isn’t the same as being given article assignments from a magazine editor. It also isn’t the case when one of your pieces ends up in an anthology. Those rights, beyond whatever you sell (think serial rights, and syndication rights), belong to you. In writing specifically for another person, you have no rights to the piece once it’s paid for.

Did you understand this when first getting into copywriting? Or did you learn about it the hard way? If you’re still unsure, read Circular 9. It’s one of several publications put out by the Copyright Office. Work-for-hire includes writing-for-hire. Writing-for-hire means you don’t get to keep the rights once your client pays you.

Up until payment point, yes, the rights are yours. Once payment exchanges hands, however, you have no more rights to that piece. None. Nada. Zip and zilch. The key is the payment: once a client pays you for whatever you wrote for them, it belongs to the client. Not you.

Now, I’m not a lawyer. I don’t even play one on TV. Look into it yourself (click on the link above). Hire your own copyright-savvy lawyer and get the full information.

Does this information surprise you? Or did you find out the hard way? Share your experiences with me.

(comments close in 120 days)