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Micro Startups https://microstartups.org Giving Through Growth Hacking Fri, 04 Feb 2022 17:07:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.8.4 How To Sell Photos Online: A New Photographer’s Guide https://microstartups.org/how-to-sell-photos-online/ https://microstartups.org/how-to-sell-photos-online/#respond Fri, 24 Sep 2021 09:01:38 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3381 Photography is a fantastic hobby for so many people around the world. It’s fun, creative, and viable no matter where you live. 

It’s also very accessible at this point, with a half-decent smartphone being capable of taking high-quality shots in most lighting conditions. The days of needing a dedicated and expensive camera are gone. But what if you want to make it more than just a hobby? Well, there’s an easy route to take: you can sell photos online.

In this guide, we’re going to cover what you need to know about this money-making avenue, explaining how you can go from a new photographer to a competent professional in less time than you might think. Is it the right path for you to take? This should help you decide!

Why should you sell photos online?

Firstly, we need to cover the central question of why you should try to sell photos online. Money is a simple answer (though perfectly legitimate), but there are plenty of ways to make money. Why might you choose this? If photography is a key ingredient, couldn’t you just sell photos offline? Here are some of the key reasons why you should monetise your photos online:

  • The market for digital media is bigger. There are still people who like to buy printed media, but not that many — and when they do get printed media, they can use print-on-demand services to print the digital images of their choice. 
  • You don’t need to travel for it. There’s already enough travel involved in top-level photography, with photographers always on the hunt for great locations and strong lighting. Needing to travel to sell printed photos can be a bit much.
  • The distribution costs are minimal. Paying to get your photos printed in great quality can be expensive. You can lower costs by buying in bulk, but then you might have too much stock. Putting your photos online, however, doesn’t cost much.
  • It’s great for growing your brand. You don’t actually need to sell many photos to make the whole thing worthwhile. Simply having a site (or page) with photos for sale can bolster your credentials as a professional photographer.

If it doesn’t work, then, you don’t really lose anything — and if it does work, you can make some extra sales. If you have photos you think people might like, why not give it a shot?

How much money can you make from photos?

This question is important if you’re hoping to make selling photos online your primary generator of income. If you can’t make enough for that to be workable, you’ll need to look at it as a side hustle at best. Now, while there isn’t a definitive answer (after all, you get to decide what you charge), you can get an idea of how much you can make by looking at what others are charging for images similar to the ones you intend to offer.

On iStock photo, for instance, the “Signature” photos (which are considered to be “on-trend”) are available for £20 each without a subscription. That’s around the top that someone will pay for something generic, so if you’re not targeting a niche then you can’t expect more. And that’s just the amount charged, not what you’ll make as the creator: when you use such a site, you get royalties that start at 15% for photos and top out at 45% in rare cases.

If you partnered exclusively with a stock photography site and earned a 25% rate, you could earn £1-£5 each time someone licensed one of your photos. Keep in mind that royalty-free schemes mean you don’t profit from subsequent uses. To earn money at a sufficient rate to achieve a minimal full-time income (depending on your location, of course), you might need to sell at least 15-20 licenses on an average day. That’s daunting — but not impossible.

And then there’s the option of cutting out the middleman by licensing your images through your personal website. The main obstacle isn’t complexity, since it’s a simple arrangement: you charge a certain amount to allow someone to use your photo without legal action. Instead, it’s a matter of visibility. Companies like Getty Images have massive reach, and someone who wants a stock visual is more likely to use a mainstream service than look for individual photographers.

Getting started: how to sell your photos online

So, let’s say you’ve decided to go ahead and start selling photos online. Good call! Let’s get into how selling your photos online actually works: how you can choose your photos, how you can find the best places to sell photos, how you can work on your brand, and (very importantly) how you can handle photography copyright (even though it’s actually quite simple). Here we go:

How to create good stock photography

If you want to sell stock photography, the first thing to do is decide what topics you want to cover. Do you want to take photos of people typing at their desks, knowing that such images are extremely popular but unlikely to make a lot of money?

Or do you want to target specific niches using more artistic creativity, reducing interest but allowing you to charge more (and market your services more effectively) if you sell your photos independently or use relevant niche-specific stock image sites?

Whatever you decide, there are two things in particular to focus on: quality and framing. The former requires you to use the best camera you can get (even if it’s a smartphone, of course) and max-out the image size: an HD image might be enough for a basic blog post, but screen resolutions keep rising and it’s best to go future-proof.

The latter tasks you with lighting your scenes well, picking nice backdrops, using photogenic models if they’re needed, and putting scene elements in sensible places to avoid interfering with title overlays. Remember: even if you’re going creative to target a niche, stock images need to be fairly straightforward to be worth using as illustrations.

How to find buyers for your photos

If you decide to upload your photos to an existing stock photography website (e.g. Adobe Stock, Getty Images, iStock photo), all the prospective buyers will be there waiting, meaning that your job will be to attract them to your photos. 

This will need you to use SEO, tagging your images with the right terms. A hit stock photo shows up for top search terms: every stock photo quest starts with a search along the lines of “Professional smiling while holding an iPad”, after all.

If you opt to make money selling photos through your own website instead of stock photo sites, you’ll need to engage in much broader SEO for your website in general instead of your images. You can’t earn any income if no one ever finds your site in the first place. Flesh out your site with block content about choosing the right stock photos. Look for requests for stock photos on forums to see what people are missing, and use that information to guide you.

Google Trends will be a huge help here, but you’ll also need to turn to a further place to sell: namely the social media world, one of the keys to making decent profits these days. Any photography business should take full advantage of the reach of services like Instagram and Pinterest — but that’s a slightly different matter, so let’s get to it.

How to market yourself as a photographer

There are two ways to make money by selling photography: you can sell your images, or you can offer your photography online as a paid service. If someone needs a photographer for their wedding, a sporting event, or something else entirely, they can bring you in. If you can carve out a decent reputation, you needn’t become a contributor to a stock website to build a brand.

This approach is significantly harder, of course. You need to get active on social media, taking full control of every facet of your online presence instead of sitting back and waiting for people to find you. Being a freelancer isn’t easy in the slightest. You could start a fully-fledged photography business, but that would incur further expenses and complications.

The best thing you can do if you want to operate a successful photography business is impress your clients enough to send you referrals. Having your website rank for relevant terms is a reasonable long-term goal, but that won’t help you in the immediate future. Focus on offering a reliable service and target a niche if you can. That’ll help you get started.

How to handle photography copyright

Lastly, you need to know how to handle photography copyright — but it’s thankfully fairly easy. 

Copyright law tends to be automatic: once you’ve taken a photograph, you own exclusive rights to copy it, display it, print it, distribute it, or (and this is key) create derivatives of it. There’s no need to submit a request of any kind. There are two copyright issues you may face:

  • People using your photos without permission. Because anyone can just copy photos off other websites, this is a problem you’ll encounter if your images start to get popular. If so, you need to be proactive, contacting those who use your photos without permission and asking them to stop (making it clear that you’ll take legal action if they don’t).
  • People creating derivatives of your photos without permission. In an effort to get away with copyright infringement, people will sometimes take photos and edit them to make them look slightly different. If your photo is still definitely there, it’s still copyright infringement, and you need to address it in the same way.

In this piece, then, we’ve covered the basics of how you can start to make money from your photos through the online world. Give it a try. It might be to your liking!

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Charity Of The Month: Trust Leeds https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-trust-leeds/ https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-trust-leeds/#respond Tue, 31 Aug 2021 08:59:00 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3371 Our August 2021 Charity of the Month is an organisation that helps to build “financial independence, confidence and self-reliance”. 

Trust Leeds achieves its goals by offering microfinance and nurturing self-reliant groups (SRGs), so people have the tools, opportunities and support they need to change their lives. 

Our profile explains the mission, methodology and projects that make Trust Leeds a very worthy addition to the charities we highlight. 

Trust Leeds helps adults who are unemployed & impoverished   

Trust Leeds website features a video that explains “who we are and what we do”. The headline to this video is that there 17,000 adults in Leeds are unemployed, while a further 43,000 struggle with in-work poverty. 

Trust Leeds is clear about what the impact of this is, with its video stating that these numbers mean more people in Leeds are experiencing “loneliness, lack of purpose, poverty, digital exclusion and a lack of joy”. 

The charity was founded to tackle these issues and it does so through the provision of microfinance and self-reliant groups.

Trust Leeds builds independence via financial & social support

Unemployment and in-work poverty is a significant issue in Leeds, with thousands of families trapped in an existence that doesn’t allow them to achieve their full potential. Trust Leeds offers the financial and social support people need to shine. 

Trust Leeds uses two methods to help people experiencing unemployment and in-work poverty: 

  • Microfinance: the charity provides small, ethical loans for business ventures  
  • Self-reliant groups: the charity nurtures groups where local people help each other 

Visit Trust Leeds now and head to the charity’s ‘About’ page to learn more about how the organisation helps people to achieve their full potential. 

How can I help Trust Leeds to continue its good work? 

Trust Leeds uses microfinance and self-reliant groups to give people the support they need to lift themselves out of poverty. But the charity needs support from you to continue helping the thousands of people affected by poverty in Leeds.

You can support Trust Leeds by making a donation to the organisation today. The charity even explains what your money goes towards, stating that these are the things your gift could provide to the people of Leeds: 

  • £10 pays for a self-reliant group meeting where local people support each other
  • £120 gives you a one year membership of the Trust Leeds Supporters Club 
  • £1,000 helps Trust Leeds to offer microfinance loans to people 

Show your support for Trust Leeds by donating to the charity today. Your contribution will help impoverished people to become independent, confident and self-reliant. 

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How To Set Up A YouTube Channel For Your Startup (& 5 Big Benefits) https://microstartups.org/how-to-set-up-youtube-channel/ https://microstartups.org/how-to-set-up-youtube-channel/#respond Fri, 20 Aug 2021 07:39:06 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3367 If you’re wondering whether your startup should have its own YouTube channel, the answer is almost definitely, yes. YouTube has a vast audience, and people are consuming millions of hours of video content every day. If you’re not using YouTube for your startup then you’re missing out on one of the biggest and fastest-growing platforms for connecting with your audience. 

In this article, we take a look at how to set up a YouTube channel and how you can maximise its success. 

Why should you have a YouTube channel for your startup? 

Producing high-quality videos and sharing them on YouTube can take a lot of time and resources, which often puts small businesses and startups off. But there are a number of really good reasons to use YouTube and it can make a big difference to the success of your marketing plans. 

Video is more engaging 

Video is one of the most engaging forms of content marketing. Your audience is far more likely to remember the key details from a video that they’ve watched than an article. And video can often reach new audiences that wouldn’t read your blog content usually. 

YouTube has a huge audience 

YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google, which means it has a huge number of visitors every month. So by creating a YouTube channel for your startup, you have the potential to access a very wide and engaged audience that is looking to consume video on a regular basis. 

YouTube videos appear in Google search results 

Not only are a lot of people searching on YouTube, but your YouTube videos can also rank in Google search results pages as well. Video search results are very prominent, so it’s a good way to get your startup’s content near the top of the page. 

Video content is shared more 

If you’re producing valuable or entertaining videos, they are far more likely to get shared than other forms of content. This means it’s a great way of reaching even more people and increasing brand awareness for your startup. 

Videos can help existing customers

Setting up a YouTube business channel isn’t just about connecting with potential customers and leads — it can also be a good way to engage your existing customers. You can produce guides and tutorials that are relevant to your products and services, and provide extra value for them. 

How to set up a YouTube channel

Setting up a YouTube channel for your startup is fairly straightforward. Just follow these steps and you’ll be able to upload and share videos in no time. 

Create a YouTube account using a Google account 

You can either use your existing Google account or create a new one that’s specifically for your YouTube account. Either way, use a Google account to sign into YouTube and create an account. 

Once you’re logged in to YouTube, go to your profile in the top right-hand corner and click on ‘Create a channel’. You can then enter the name that you want to use for your startup’s YouTube channel. 

Make sure that you set up a YouTube brand account so that you can give other people admin access to your YouTube channel. A brand account will also allow you to use YouTube Analytics and get insights into how your videos are performing. 

Setting up your YouTube channel 

To finish setting up and customising your YouTube channel, go to your dashboard and click ‘Customise channel’. There you can make edits to your channel’s layout, branding, and basic details. 

Writing a channel description 

Put together a channel description using relevant and descriptive keywords as this will help your account to appear in search results. These keywords should cover the topic and industry that your content is targeting, as well as any key questions or interests that your videos will answer. 

YouTube channel branding 

Under the ‘Branding’ section, you can add your own channel art and channel icon. These should be eye-catching but also aligned with your startup’s overall brand so that it connects with the rest of your online presence. Make sure that your images are the right size so that they don’t appear blurred or distorted. 

Image: Pexels

Upload your first YouTube video 

Once your YouTube account is set up with the right name and branding, you can start to upload your first video to your new YouTube channel. 

To get started you just click ‘Create’ in the top right-hand corner and then you can upload your video files. You’ll also be able to add a title and description for your video, as well as tags, which can also help people to discover your videos.

How to make the most of your YouTube channel 

Setting up your YouTube channel and uploading great video content is a good starting point, but there are a few things you can do to maximise the reach and engagement with your YouTube videos. 

Optimise your videos 

Every time you upload your videos to YouTube, make sure that you write an optimised title and description for it. You have up to 1,000 characters to write a description so you can cover details about your brand and the content of the video. 

This description can be used across YouTube when people are searching for content to watch, and it will also be indexed by search engines — so optimising your video descriptions is a good way to make sure your content is found. Use relevant keywords that people might be using to search for your videos, and make them sound interesting and engaging for your target audience. 

You should also create custom thumbnails for each video that are eye-catching for potential viewers. Use appropriate tags so that they shop in relevant categories and searches, and add captions or transcripts to make them easier to find and watch. 

Add links to your website and social media 

It’s important that your YouTube videos are directing viewers to find out more about your startup. 

Make sure you include links to your website and other social media accounts. You can add these into your profile details, but you can also have up to five links in your channel banner as well. 

Include a channel trailer 

Adding a channel trailer is a good way to tell visitors to your YouTube channel exactly what your content and your brand is about. It should give them a good overview of your startup and what they can expect to see in your videos to encourage them to keep watching and subscribe. 

You should also make sure that you write a great description for your channel trailer as it has a prominent position on your YouTube channel’s homepage. 

Share your video content 

Add a link to your YouTube channel on your website and in your other social media profiles so that your existing audience knows about your videos. You can also include your YouTube videos in blog posts or share them on social media to increase their reach. 

Image: Pexels 

Create playlists for your videos

You can organise your videos on YouTube into playlists so that people can easily find the content they’re looking for. Group them into relevant categories and when someone is watching your playlist, the next video will automatically start playing once the first one has finished.  

Review your YouTube Analytics 

Regularly review the data you have about views and engagement to understand what videos are working and which ones aren’t doing so well. You can also use analytics to find out the best time to post your videos and then schedule them in advance so that you’re sharing regular content. 

Setting up a successful YouTube channel takes planning and preparation, but it’s an amazing opportunity to reach a wider audience and grow your startup.

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Charity Of The Month: Golden Futures https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-golden-futures/ https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-golden-futures/#respond Fri, 30 Jul 2021 07:45:57 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3360 Our July 2021 Charity of the Month works with organisations in Cambodia, pioneering and funding projects that support disadvantaged children to lift themselves out of poverty. 

Golden Futures provides Cambodian children with mentoring, financial support and loan scholarships, promoting self-reliance and self-advancement. 

Our profile explains how Golden Futures was founded, what projects it operates and how you can support this great charity.

Golden Futures founded to give Cambodian kids a bright future 

Golden Futures was founded in 2007 by two university students who wanted to do something to ensure that the Cambodian children they had been volunteering with had a brighter future. 

The pair hit upon the idea of launching the charity after volunteering in Cambodia and seeing that vulnerable children weren’t getting a fair chance in life. 

Denied the access to support and education many of us take for granted, many Cambodian children risked being trapped in a life of severe poverty and extreme working conditions.  

Golden Futures puts that right with projects that provide kids from Cambodia with the mentoring, financial assistance and scholarships they deserve. 

Golden Futures gives children financial & educational support

Education is perhaps the most powerful weapon in the fight against child poverty. Education gives children the support, confidence and tools to empower themselves. 

Golden Futures helps Cambodian children to gain access to higher education and career support, so they can design and build their own careers and businesses. 

The charity operates a range of projects to help children in Cambodia, with these being some of its most successful ones: 

  • New Future for Children (NFC)
  • Countryside Education Project (CSEP)
  • Phnom Penh University Guide
  • Advanced Centre for Empowerment (ACE)

Visit Golden Futures now and head to the ‘Our Projects’ page to find out exactly how these projects are helping Cambodian children to earn the futures they deserve.  

How can I help Golden Futures to continue its mission?

Golden Futures supports arguably the most noble cause a charity can get behind — helping disadvantaged children to shape their lives and careers in the way they want to. 

The charity can’t do all its good work alone. It needs people like yourself to continue its mission and you can provide your support by making a donation today. 

Head over to Golden Futures’ donation page now and help Cambodian children to enjoy a brighter future. 

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Community Management 101: What You Need To Know As A Startup https://microstartups.org/community-management-guide-startups/ https://microstartups.org/community-management-guide-startups/#respond Fri, 23 Jul 2021 13:00:00 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3348 Community management can be a great tool for startup businesses — it allows you to build brand awareness and build up a base of interested and loyal followers.

Not sure what community management means or where to start? This guide covers everything you need to know as a startup.

What does community management mean?

If you’re running a startup and looking into ways to use social media to boost your marketing efforts, you’ve probably heard the term community management.

It’s often used interchangeably with social media management — but it goes far beyond just managing your social channels, and it should be a key part of your social media strategy as your startup grows.

Social media community management is an important part of establishing and developing relationships, building up an online presence, and making people aware of your brand.

Your ‘community’ refers to current customers, your target audience, and anyone who interacts with your brand online. This is primarily on social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or Pinterest. But it can also cover channels like YouTube, forums, and people that read and interact with your blog content.

Social media management vs community management

When you talk about social media marketing and management, you’re referring to creating and publishing content across your social media channels. You’re focusing on what kind of content you can share that engages followers and potential customers, what will drive engagement and encourage people to visit your website.

Community management is the next stage after you’ve published that content.

It involves interacting with your followers, responding to their comments and messages, encouraging them to engage with your content, and participating in relevant conversations online. It’s about building up a community around your online content and your brand.

Why community management matters

Community management helps your brand to stay relevant and involved with current conversations and trends. It also adds credibility to your brand and can help establish you as a thought leader. You’ll be able to share your opinions and insights, and demonstrate your expertise through the content you’re posting, as well as interacting with other people and brands within your industry or niche.

You can also use community management to make your brand seem more personal and human, through real conversations with your followers.

Three people stood in a park looking at their phones

Image: Pexels

How can community management increase brand awareness?

One of the biggest advantages of community management is increasing brand awareness. It’s often a slow process to build up a community, but it leads to a lot more engagement.

Publishing regular content online is a good starting point, but taking the time to engage and manage a community is what will really help to build stronger connections with your followers.

This means more people are likely to start following you, your followers will share and recommend your content and your brand to others, and you’ll organically develop a loyal and enthusiastic following over time.

What does a community management strategy include?

You need to be able to put the time and effort into building up your community over several months or years, but here’s how to get started with a community management strategy.

Choose which social media channels to focus on

As a startup, your resources are probably limited, and it’s important not to stretch yourself too thin.

You want to focus on one or two social media platforms to build up your community at first so that you can be as proactive and involved as possible. Consider which social media channels are most used by your target audience and make those the focus of your community management efforts.

Set goals for your community management plan

You need to be able to measure the success of your community management so it’s important to set out some goals as part of your strategy.

These should align with your overall business plans and marketing goals. You might keep track of your progress towards them by focusing on these metrics:

  • Number of followers on social media
  • Sign-ups to your email newsletter or subscribers to your blog
  • Mentions and discussions about your brand online
  • Engagement with your social posts — likes, comments, shares etc
  • Awareness of your brand
  • Traffic to your website from social channels

Whichever metrics you choose, make sure there’s a reason behind them — celebrating achieving metrics is pointless if they don’t tie into your marketing strategy and your wider business goals.

Post regular content

Your community management should be closely aligned with your social strategy; you need to be posting regularly on the channels that you’re trying to build a community on.

Put together a calendar for your social media content and schedule it ahead of time so that you are constantly posting on each channel.

Someone using a laptop at a desk to plan out a community management strategy.

Image: Pexels

Engage with your audience

You should respond to all the comments and posts about your brand on social media, to demonstrate that you’re listening and engaged (plus, it’s just polite). If you want, you can also interact with the content that your audience is sharing as well.

Using user-generated content (UGC) — for example, sharing photos that customers have taken of your product on your Instagram or Stories — is a great way to engage with your community and celebrate them, as well as generating fresh visual content on your grid.

Measure your progress

To make sure your community management strategy is effective, you need to measure the results against the goals and targets that you set out.

These are some of the ways you can measure your community management:

  • Social platform analytics: each social media platform will have built-in analytics tools so that you can measure how well each post does
  • Analytics tools: tools like Google Analytics will help you to measure the traffic that comes from your social media and community management channels to your website
  • Social listening: you can monitor your social accounts and track the number of mentions, keywords used by your audience, customer feedback, and any discussion about your brand

Using these different tools will give you an insight into your audience and how you can connect with them better in the future.

Community management best practice

These are a few best practice tips to ensure effective community management.

Create guidelines for your community

The online community that you build needs to align with your brand and its values — as does how any of your team communicates with this community on behalf of your brand.

As such, it’s important to create a set of guidelines to ensure everyone who works on your social media channels and community management is on the same page. The type of guidelines will depend on the channels you’re using, your brand, your audience, and how you are creating your community.

You can develop this as you grow, but a good starting point is creating a document for your community managers and team members that outlines:

  • How they should communicate
  • The tone of voice and brand guidelines
  • Responses to common questions and comments
  • How to deal with any issues

Try and cover as many scenarios as possible to start with so that the guidance is there for anyone new working your accounts — then you can add to it as more questions or scenarios arise.

Consistency

It’s important to be just as consistent with your engagement as you are with publishing content.

Set aside time each day to go through all the social networks and channels you’re trying to build a community on. Make sure that you don’t miss any comments or messages and you respond to them within a reasonable time.

Authenticity

Ensure that you’re paying attention and engaging in an authentic way — copy and paste comments aren’t very personal and won’t make your followers feel valued, especially if they see that you’ve just posted the same message to everyone else.

To build up a community you need your followers to feel like you’re listening to them and that you really value them.

Establishing a community

Once your audience on certain channels grows, you might want to think about ways that you can clearly establish a community for your brand — for example, setting up a Facebook group that people who are really interested in your brand and content can join. Alternatively, you could create a forum on your website for people to discuss your products and other relevant topics to your brand (though beware, forums do take extra time to run and monitor).

If you do set up a community group or forum, you will need to create a set of guidelines that covers the purpose of the group, and rules about what members can and can’t share.

Community management is an effective way to build up awareness of your brand, which should be a big priority as a startup — but it takes time and consistent engagement to create a loyal community that’s really invested in your brand.

That’s why it’s essential to plan out your strategy and ensure you have enough resources to dedicate to your community management. Do this though, and your startup will definitely benefit in the long run.

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What Is Salary Sacrifice & Why Is It Important For A Micro Business? https://microstartups.org/salary-sacrifice-for-micro-business/ https://microstartups.org/salary-sacrifice-for-micro-business/#respond Fri, 09 Jul 2021 09:00:00 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3343 Nowadays, most privately-owned companies in the UK are micro businesses, which is a classification that describes a business operating on a small (or very small) scale. 

These small businesses are responsible for 13.3 million jobs around the United Kingdom — but how, despite their micro-stature, can these organisations maintain growth and support the needs of their talented employees? The answer: salary sacrifice. 

While the definition of a micro business is broad in scope (there are around 5,936,545 according to the latest government figures), these many millions of operations share the same challenges — namely, cash flow management, recruitment, and retention. 

So, with these factors in mind, we seek to explore how your business can use salary sacrifice to help employees get more value from their role when money becomes a blocker.  After all, it’s unrealistic to think a micro business (or fledgling startup)  can keep pace with the salary packages offered by big multinationals. 

Instead, you should focus on creating a people-centric work culture that, of course, fulfils basic physiological needs like food, water, and security, but also self-fulfilling, psychological needs such as community, prestige, and accomplishment. 

Read on as we outline what salary sacrifice is and why it’s important for your micro business. 

Salary sacrifice definition

First and foremost: what is salary sacrifice? 

Salary sacrifice is an arrangement between you (the employer) and your team members to trade part of their salary in exchange for non-cash incentives. This can include gym memberships, access to company cars, and additional pension contributions (but more on that later). 

One truth is clear at the crux of this arrangement — your current (and prospective) employees earn less money. And while this is a deal-breaker for many professionals, such “sacrifice” opens the door to a range of exciting opportunities your business — and your staff — may not otherwise be able to afford. 

For instance, salary sacrifice, when properly tailored to your team’s wants and needs, is an effective tool that gives employees more control over their role and helps them earn tax breaks on rewards they can genuinely benefit from. 

Benefits and challenges associated with salary sacrifice

Salary sacrifice isn’t for everyone. Not least because giving up part of your salary is a serious consideration to weigh up, but also you cannot offer it to an employee if the reduced earnings would take them below minimum wage — a stipulation that may restrict your ability to offer salary sacrifice to your employees.

With that said, there are many benefits to salary sacrifice if your business fits the bill: 

  •  Reduced Income Tax and National Insurance (NI) contributions
  •  Paying less in salary means funds can be reinvested into the business

Despite these benefits, salary sacrifice does present your micro business (and its employees) with a set of challenges: 

  • Lower salary might affect mortgage rates and how much people can borrow
  • State benefits entitlements like statutory maternity pay could be affected

Think of salary sacrifice as a two-sided coin: tails provides the flexibility for your team to enjoy benefits they wouldn’t otherwise have access to — and heads? Well, this presents a situation where your team earns less money, which can prove detrimental to financials in their private life, like mortgage applications and various state benefits. 

Salary sacrifice ideas for your micro business

While your micro business cannot provide the large salaries offered by competing corporations, nor likely buy a shiny new company car, you can create a more enticing package for current and prospective employees. 

Here are four popular examples:

1. Employee pension contributions

It’s now your legal responsibility to enrol employees in a workplace pension scheme — but why stop at the bare minimum? If your micro business wants to improve employee retention then it needs to secure finances over the long term. 

With this in mind, providing additional pension contributions in place of a pay rise is a tax-efficient way to help your team save for retirement. This often manifests in an arrangement where your business pays an additional percentage, equal to the salary your employee has sacrificed.

2. Cycle to work

A cycle to work scheme encourages healthy living and pollution reduction, which contributes to your business corporate responsibility — a major step, especially if your micro business aspires to become a B Corp

Moreover, with a cycle to work programme, employees tend to save 25-39% on the cost of bike ownership, maintenance, and accessories, which eases the burden of travel. 

3. Gym membership

Care about the physical and mental wellbeing of your team? Well, your business can offer gym memberships at corporate rates via salary sacrifice. 

Savings for these memberships tend to vary. For example, some are completely free, while others place a discount on fees. 

4. Childcare vouchers

Parents in your team can save by paying for childcare with their pre-tax salary — but how does this work? 

As the employer, you source tax-free vouchers that can be used by your team at a childcare provider of their choice. While there is lots of flexibility with this scheme, it’s important to take note that there are limits to how much can be claimed. For instance, each parent can request a maximum of £243 per month that is exempt from tax and NI contributions. 

So how can salary sacrifice support your micro business? It all depends on the needs and wants of your team. Salary sacrifice, after all, is a flexible concept that allows you to tailor benefits to an individual. 

With that said, salary sacrifice is also a divisive topic that does not suit everyone — this is particularly true for micro businesses with employees working on (or close to) the minimum wage. If your business does fit the bill, however, then you can approach employee satisfaction in a more affordable, people-centric way. 

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Charity Of The Month | LifeLine Network International https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-lifeline-international/ https://microstartups.org/charity-of-the-month-lifeline-international/#respond Wed, 30 Jun 2021 09:00:00 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3334 Our June 2021 Charity of the Month has been supporting people in Sierra Leone since the 1980s by giving them the tools they need to live sustainably. 

LifeLine Network International builds individual connections with the people it helps and doesn’t subscribe to the idea of providing faceless aid. It creates genuine, long-lasting relationships and forges real success in the communities it supports. 

Our profile explains all the great things LifeLine Network International is doing to make a positive difference in the world. 

LifeLine Network International helped victims of the Sierra Leone civil war

LifeLine Network International was founded in the 1980s, but it was the beginning of the 1990s when the organisation’s overseas charity work really began to grow. 

Sierra Leone was gripped by a violent and long-lasting civil war throughout the 1990s, with the conflict beginning in March 1991 and lasting until January 2002. 

The use of child soldiers was perhaps the greatest tragedy of the Sierra Leone civil war, with the UN estimating that over 10,000 children were forced to fight in the conflict. 

During this time, LifeLine Network International helped to reintegrate child soldiers into their local communities. This experience allowed the charity to develop its skills in supporting people through training and it continues this work to this day. 

LifeLine Network International uses a range of methods to support people  

LifeLine Network International’s supportive work truly began by helping to reintegrate child soldiers from the Sierra Leone civil war into their local communities during the 1990s.

But, while Sierra Leone remains a key focus for the charity, LifeLine Network International now runs projects in 17 countries and uses a range of methods to support people. 

LifeLine Network International runs a variety of projects to help people, including health care, education, agriculture and micro-finance. These are some of the many projects run by LifeLine Network International:

  • Mentoring pregnant teenagers
  • Overcoming crISIS
  • Capacity Building Farmers in Sierra Leone
  • Gender Based Violence Victim Support in Dominica
  • The Betteh Tumara Vocational Training Programme
  • Building Bakeries in Refugee Camps
  • Building an Ebola Community Care Unit
  • Feeding Families Quarantined by Ebola
  • Ebola Education
  • Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Mozambique
  • Micro-finance in Egypt
  • Mentoring Child Headed Families

You can find out more about these projects by visiting the LifeLine Network International projects page on the charity’s website. 

How can I help LifeLine Network International continue its great work? 

LifeLine Network International is a registered charity. This means that it needs your help to continue running its projects and providing support to a huge number of people. 

You can show your support for LifeLine Network International by making a donation to the charity today. 

Your generosity will allow LifeLine Network International to continue its great work and gives you a chance to make a real difference to the lives of people in 17 countries across the world. 

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5 Important Lessons On Online Safety For Micro Businesses https://microstartups.org/online-safety-lessons-for-micro-businesses/ https://microstartups.org/online-safety-lessons-for-micro-businesses/#respond Fri, 25 Jun 2021 08:05:26 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3329 Running a micro business can be extremely exciting. You’re in at the ground floor of something with immense potential for growth, and you get to shape so much of its development. Sure, you might fail in some ways, but at least those failures will truly be yours — and if you can reach the point of great success, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you genuinely earned it.

It’s also scary, though, particularly if you’re new to the whole thing. So much can go wrong, and you might have a lot of time and money invested in getting results. The area of concern we’re going to look at in this piece is online safety, something that’s grown massively in significance as the business world has steadily moved into the online world.

If you’re going to run a stable micro business in today’s digital landscape (and maybe even grow it substantially), you need to know how to cover the basics of cyber security. To that end, let’s take a look at five key online safety lessons that micro businesses need to learn:

Personal and professional accounts shouldn’t mix

When you’re running a small operation and there aren’t many business protocols in place, you’ll inevitably have a much looser way of working. Your near-total autonomy will allow you to work on things however and whenever you want, and the pressure of getting a business off the ground will push you extra hard. In pithy terms, you’ll have less oversight and more overtime.

And when you’re hammering away at business projects in your kitchen on a Sunday morning, you can easily forget any kind of meaningful delineation between your personal and professional tasks. You can subscribe to a podcast with your usual email account, then unthinkingly sign up to a business service with the same account. This is a problem (as many people who’ve only recently started working from home are discovering).

Working from home doesn’t mean you should mix the personal and the professional.

Image credit: Pexels

Personal and professional accounts must be kept separate. This is due not only to data regulation concerns but also to the need for business accounts to be given maximum protection. If you use the same password for most of your personal accounts, well, no big deal — but if you use those accounts for business matters, you’re courting disaster.

Every business website needs SSL certification

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, but you don’t need to know exactly what that means to know that every business website needs an SSL certificate. When a website lacks that certificate, your browser will object upon loading it up: it’ll say that the site may not be what it claims to be, and that you should probably avoid it just to be safe.

Most website builders these days provide SSL certificates by default, but not all of them. If a business owner uses a free CMS like WordPress, they’ll need to add one manually. Thankfully, there are free SSL certification services available, so it isn’t too difficult.

Customers need reassurance when you’re unfamiliar

The smaller the business, the less likely it is to benefit from numerous reviews and an established brand reputation. This doesn’t mean that it can’t convince people to buy from it — if it did then it would be impossible for any small business to grow — but it does mean that it has a steeper hill to climb when it comes to wrapping up a sale.

When you buy something from Amazon or another big retailer, you don’t need to think about whether you trust the company. It’s a known quantity. Of course your order will go through successfully — it’s Amazon. But when you look at a product on an unfamiliar site, you can start to worry about the prospect of being scammed. How can you know it’s safe?

Everyone knows that Amazon is reliable.

Image credit: Scottish Government

This means that micro businesses need to put in the effort to reassure site visitors. They need to talk about their customer protections, list the precautions they take, and generally show that they care about keeping shoppers safe.

It’s important to set out security policies

Playing everything by ear can work fine for a small team, but it can’t work indefinitely — and as it starts to expand, the need for set policies grows even more rapidly. What does a strong password look like? How can you spot a phishing attack? How should admin privileges be shared? All employees need to know these things.

It can take a while to jot down a solid list of security policies for everyone to follow, but it’s a vital task that should be done as early as possible to save time in the long run. The alternative of trying to figure it out for a team of thirty employees doesn’t bear considering.

Black-hat SEO generally isn’t worth it

SEO, or search engine optimisation, is obviously a big deal. If you’re going to bring in business, you need to be competing for relevant rankings in Google. 

It’s such an intimidating task, though, that micro businesses can be tempted to engage in what’s known as black-hat SEO — in other words, using questionable tactics that Google would undoubtedly frown upon.

Black-hat SEO presents a huge danger.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

They need to understand, though, that black-hat SEO isn’t generally worth it. It can have solid short-term results, bringing in valuable traffic, but those results won’t last — and the more sketchy tactics are used, the more likely it is that a site will earn a Google penalty and end up ranking much lower than it would have (if it still ranks at all).

This list of online safety lessons for micro businesses isn’t exhaustive, but it can certainly point a new business owner in the right direction. If you’re in that position, learn what you can and work to make your business as safe online as it can be.

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Quick & Easy Startup Business Ideas For Mums https://microstartups.org/easy-business-ideas-for-mums/ https://microstartups.org/easy-business-ideas-for-mums/#respond Fri, 18 Jun 2021 07:22:25 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3325 Looking for work that fits in around your family commitments? If you’re a mum, there  are plenty of opportunities for you to start a business and work from home on a flexible basis that suits you and your lifestyle. 

In this article, we cover some of the best business ideas for mums and how to get set up.

Sell online 

One of the best business ideas for mums is to start selling online. It’s really simple to set up an online store and you can run the whole business from home.

To make a success of selling online you need to identify a gap in the market or choose a niche product that you know there’s demand for. You can then use an online store builder like Shopify to set up your website, or you could sell through third-party platforms like Amazon or eBay.

If you don’t have a lot of space to buy products in bulk and store the inventory, then you could run a dropshipping business where you order the products from a supplier who delivers them straight to your customer.

Start a blog

If you like writing, why not start your own blog? It’s relatively quick and easy to get going — you just need to decide what you want to write about, set up a simple website (probably WordPress), and then start publishing blog posts. 

Blogging doesn’t require a lot of investment upfront, and it easily fits around your other commitment. However, it can take some time before you start to earn money from a blog.

Focus on writing engaging content that connects with the audience you want to reach and share your posts on social media to get more people reading your blog. As you start to get more visitors to your blog, there are several different ways you can start making money. 

One way is by including affiliate links — this is where you get a commission if someone buys something you’ve recommended. Alternatively, you could publish sponsored blog posts, and add advertising to your site.

Become a consultant 

If you’ve got a lot of experience in a particular industry or role, you could offer your services as a freelance consultant. There are plenty of companies out there that will be looking for an outside consultant to give them expert advice and help them to improve their business.Consider what skills and insights you have that could be valuable to businesses and how you can offer these as a service.

Get started by setting up a website that outlines your expertise and what you can do. If you’ve worked in a certain industry, reach out to your network of contacts within that industry to let them know what you’re doing and find consulting opportunities.

Depending on the type of consultancy you’re offering, you may need to visit workplaces and offices occasionally, but a lot of the work can be done online from home.

Freelancing

Freelancing is another great business idea for mums. If you’ve got quite a bit of experience doing a certain type of work, you can probably find opportunities for the same job as a freelancer. This gives you the flexibility to choose which jobs you take — and make sure that your work is fitting in with the rest of your life.

Put together a portfolio of your previous work and experience on a website and then start looking for freelance opportunities. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are a good place to find freelance work — or you can reach out to your existing network and let them know what you’re doing.

Virtual assistant (VA)

Becoming a virtual assistant is another solid option when you’re considering work from home opportunities. All you really need to get started as a virtual assistant is a computer and an internet connection.

As a virtual assistant, you’ll probably be doing a wide range of administrative tasks like answering emails, organising calendars, and arranging meetings. It’s generally pretty flexible and can fit in well around looking after children.

You can find opportunities for virtual assistants on freelance sites (like the ones we mentioned above), and once you’ve got a bit of experience you’ll probably find that people will recommend you to others.

Copywriting and editing

A mum sat at a laptop working as a copywriter.

Image: Pexels

If you’re an excellent writer with an eye for spelling and grammar, you could launch a business as a self-employed copywriter and editor. There are lots of businesses and organisations that need written content for websites, blogs, marketing materials, guides, research and more.

This is a really flexible business idea for mums as you can pick up the writing assignments and projects that fit with your schedule and take on as much or as little work as you’d like. 

To get started, it’s a good idea to put together an online portfolio of your experience and writing samples. Once you’ve sorted then, you can use it to find work on freelancing sites or start networking and promoting your services on LinkedIn.

Event planning

Love organising and know how to put together a successful event? Event planning could be the perfect home business opportunity. 

You’ll also need excellent time management skills, the ability to juggle lots of tasks at once (which you’re probably already very good at as a mum!) and to be able to talk to vendors and suppliers. Once you’ve established a good relationship with venues and suppliers, you’ll often be able to do most of the event planning from your home.

Set yourself up with a website and social media profiles to promote your business, and consider sending out flyers in your local area or reaching out to local community groups. 

Lacking experience? Try planning out some events for friends and family. Plus, there are plenty of online event planning courses you can take to brush up on your skills.

Photography business

A camera on a desk next to a keyboard for home based photography business.

Image: Pexels 

If you love taking photographs and know how to capture that perfect moment, then you could consider starting a business as a photographer.

Photography offers a lot of different business opportunities. You could become an event or wedding photographer, and fit this in around your other commitments (just beware that weddings are very weekend-heavy, so might eat into family time). Alternatively, you could take photographs and run a business from home selling them as stock images or prints online.

Take an online photography course to improve your amateur skills, and with some practice, you’ll be able to take high-quality shots that you can make money from.

Tutoring

If you’ve got some teaching experience, or you just know a particular topic really well, then you could launch an educational business and become a tutor. There are plenty of students — of all ages and subjects — that are looking for a bit of help with their studies, and you can schedule your tutoring sessions at times that suit you.

To get started, you should decide which area you want to specialise in, whether it’s a particular age group, subject, or qualification. Once you’ve decided where your talents lie, you can set up your own website and promote your tutoring services in your local area.

Social media manager

Spending a lot of time on Facebook or Twitter and know how to put together an engaging post? Becoming a social media manager is another flexible job that’s perfect for mums.

You’d be responsible for managing a business’s social presence across all platforms. In some cases, the business might want you to create and implement their whole social strategy, or you might just be responsible for writing and scheduling posts, monitoring responses, and engaging with followers and other accounts to build up their audience. The hours are usually easy to fit in around your schedule and you’ll be able to work from home.

If you want to brush up on your skills, you can take online courses in social media management — and, of course, it’s a good idea to make sure your own social profiles are up to scratch. 

If you want, you can create your own website to promote your services, but you could just use social media as your base, or look out for opportunities on freelancing sites.

Tips for starting a business as a mum

There are plenty of different ideas out there for mums that want to work part-time or flexible hours and want to stay at home. These are a few things that will help you to get started:

  • Figure out how much time you can commit to a business. Do you need it to be flexible every day, or do you need to in the evenings and weekends? This will help you choose the right opportunity for you.
  • There are lots of online courses out there for all sorts of skills and professions. Take a look at Udemy, LinkedIn Learning, and Skillshare if you feel like you need a bit more training before launching your business.
  • Set up a professional-looking website. A website is a place to showcase your portfolio and experience and can make you look more legitimate when you start out. Use a good website builder with clean templates that make your website look organised and professional.
  • Networking is a great way to find work. You probably already know a lot of people that might be able to connect you with work opportunities if you’re starting a freelance business. You can also reach out to local groups and connect with people in your area. 

While it can be difficult to juggle being a mum and working, these home business ideas should help you to earn some extra income while fitting in around your schedule. 

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Want To Start A Photography Business? Here Are 7 Pieces Of Kit You Need https://microstartups.org/photography-business-kit/ https://microstartups.org/photography-business-kit/#respond Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:44:00 +0000 https://microstartups.org/?p=3319 Many people with a love of photos dream of becoming professional photographers and earning a living from their passion for images. 

But if you want to start a business selling your photography skills then you need more than just a dream. You must have the right equipment to be able to make your dream a reality. 

We’ve listed seven key pieces of photography equipment you have to invest in to set up the business you need to become a professional photographer:

  1. Camera 
  2. Tripod 
  3. Lighting 
  4. Smartphone  
  5. Computer 
  6. Editing software 
  7. Website 

This is the gear you need to get started. 

All seven pieces of equipment give you the tools to create your online portfolio, market your skills, win customers,  take pictures and run a successful professional photography business that makes money and earns you an income. 

We explain each of these pieces of kit in more detail in the following sections. 

Camera 

Having a good camera is the foundation of being a professional photographer. Whether your ambition is to join the legion of wedding photographers or sell arty portrait shots in New York, if you want to make money from your photography then you need the right camera. 

There’s an enormous range of cameras you can choose from and it’s not simply a case of picking the most expensive one you can afford. You need to research things such as the mount system it uses, the lens it requires (which is where money can quickly rack up) and the accessories you can get for it. 

However, the most important thing is that it takes the type of photos you want to capture. It needs to allow you to get images that both allow you to express your creativity and make a profit from your work. So, research the cameras on the market and pick the right one for you. 

Tripod 

Even the sturdiest of hands can’t stay steady at all times and this is why it’s vital to invest in a quality tripod. If you don’t then you’ll find you shoot plenty of images that lack the clarity your clients demand, which will cost you time and money. 

Tripods are particularly invaluable if your business is to rely on shooting big events, such as weddings. They give you the freedom to rest your camera, get people into position and then take your photos. But they’re also useful for those overhead table shots if you’re a food photographer, or catching beautiful sunrises if you’re into your landscapes. Basically, tripods are a must. 

Durability is perhaps the most important thing to look for in a tripod. You need it to stand firm against the elements (which is a genuine concern if you’re working outside) so look for one that has a solid structure to make sure you spend your money sensibly. 

Lighting 

You can control many things as a photographer. You can buy the right equipment, train yourself to take the best shots and use your charm to manoeuvre your client(s) into the right positions.

One thing you can’t control, however, is the weather — which is why lighting equipment is key. 

Lighting kits range wildly in the equipment they include and the price they’ll set you back. Some feature the absolute basics and are at the lower end of the scale, while others include loads of kit and cost the earth. 

A sensible approach is to start by focusing on quality over quantity. This means getting a few high-quality essentials, rather than lots of low standard kit. You can then build your way up as you take more pictures, earn more cash from your work and splash out on more expensive lights that can help you to get the lighting perfect.

Smartphone  

Many photographers will have looked down their nose at the idea of using a smartphone to capture professional photos. However, hostility to using smartphones for photography work should have ended years ago because these devices are invaluable pieces of kit.  

There are few reasons why smartphones are so important to a modern photography business. Firstly, many smartphones now have excellent cameras that can capture high-quality images. Secondly, smartphones are a great admin tool that allows you to record data, present your work and communicate with clients. Thirdly, you can hook up your camera to your smartphone while on a shoot so that your photos come through and you can see if an angle or image works — very handy. 

Your main decision you need to make with your smartphone is whether you opt for Android or iOS. Each offers some great, free tools you can use for your business and it’s a good idea to see what’s available before you decide which operating system you choose. 

Computer 

Every full time photographer needs a computer to run their business. As good as smartphones are, you simply cannot do your job effectively without having the power and size you get with a computer. 

While costs are a significant factor in deciding which computer to use for your business, the most important consideration (as with your smartphone) is the operating system you use. Namely, if you want an Apple or Windows computer. 

Many creative businesses prefer Apple devices because their layout can be personalised, which saves valuable time by allowing you to put a range of shortcuts in place. The main thing is that you choose a computer you’re comfortable with and that supports the software you need to run your company, such as editing software. 

Editing software 

No matter how brilliant your eye is for an excellent image opportunity, you need photo editing software to ensure that the finished product you deliver to your client(s) is exactly what they want it to be.

As with all the pieces of kit you require to run a successful photography business, the price you pay for your editing software ranges wildly. There is some great free software available to you (like GIMP) and some world-renowned options (like the Adobe Suite) that you have to pay for. 

Keeping on top of costs is essential when starting a business, with every penny potentially being the difference between making it to the next billing period. With this in mind, you may wish to start with the free software and then work your way up to those you have to pay for. 

Website

All great artists need a portfolio and all successful companies need a place to advertise their services. That’s why you simply have to set up a website for your business. If you don’t then your potential clients won’t be able to find you. 

Your website is a valuable piece of real estate that serves a huge range of functions for your company, including: 

  • Displaying your contact information 
  • Listing your different pricing options 
  • Advertising your expertise as a photographer 
  • Showing testimonials from your clients 
  • Housing your marketing materials 

Setting up a website is a pretty straightforward process but it’s one that can’t be explained properly in a couple of paragraphs. You need the right software (like your CMS), the correct hardware, and the technical know-how to bring it all together. 

That’s why we recommend you watch the below video, so you can get an idea of what steps you need to take:

These seven pieces of kit aren’t everything you need to run a successful photography company. 

You have to know what type of photography you’re going to offer, must have a business name, certainly need a business plan, should know what your brand identity is, could really benefit from social media accounts and might want to think about getting business cards. 

But you simply can’t start your company without a camera, tripod, lighting, smartphone, computer, editing software and a website. 

So, start by picking the right camera then work your way through the other six bits of kit. And once you’ve set up your website you’ll be ready to kickstart your photography business.

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